Cherry Chocolate Crumble Bars

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Merry Christmas Eve! For me, this will mark the 3rd day of Christmas celebrations. On Saturday night, my parents, brother, Eric and I celebrated together by exchanging gifts and watching White Christmas and last night we celebrated with my Grandma, aunt, uncle and cousins. And because for us, Christmas is a week long celebration rather than just 1 day, we will be getting together again tonight with some more of the Berendt side of the family. And finally, on Christmas Day we will be celebrating with Eric’s side of the family. Whew! Even typing that makes me tired! But a marathon of Christmas celebrations is just how I like it. But today I have some downtime and am happily spending it in the kitchen. I was asked to bring some cookies to Eric’s family Christmas, so I have spent the day dusting my tiny kitchen in sugar and flour. I decided to bring a batch of my favorite Sugar Cake Cookies and a batch of this new creation. A few years back I worked at the cutest little bakery named Just Delicious. One of my favorite treats from Just Delicious was their White Chocolate Raspberry Crumble Bars. But as per usual, I thought I would switch this classic recipe up a bit. Rather than raspberry preserves I used some Michigan Cherry Jam. I also substitute the white chocolate for semi sweet chocolate as I am a huge fan of the dark chocolate and cherry combination. However, if you prefer the white chocolate raspberry combo, feel free to make your own substitutions. Well, it is almost time for me to get ready for phase three of Christmas 2013, so I will leave you with my Christmas wish for you. May your year be filled with sugar, butter, and all things sweet. Merry Merry Christmas!

Ingredients: Makes 12 bars

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Cherry Jam
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, divided

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, combine first 5 ingredients (flour through salt)
  2. Add softened butter and egg into flour mixture and beat with an electric mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs
  3. Take 2 cups of the crumb mixture and place in a separate bowl, set aside
  4. Press remaining crumb mixture into a greased 9×9 pan
  5. Place cherry jam (or your favorite flavor of jam) in a small microwave safe bowl and microwave until jam becomes slightly runny (about 30 seconds)
  6. Pour jam over the crumb mixture in the 9×9 pan and sprinkle 1/4 cup chocolate chips over the jam layer
  7. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over the jam layer
  8. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until crumb mixture has slightly browned
  9. Place remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or until completely melted.
  10. Drizzle bars with melted chocolate

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Thanksgiving Weekend 2013

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I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! Mine was filled with my four favorite things: family, friends, food and running. My cousins and I kicked off the long weekend by making our Thanksgiving themed costumes for Detroit’s Turkey Trot. The Turkey Trot is held every Thanksgiving morning before the Thanksgiving Day Parade and many of the runners run the 5k or 10k decked out in a holiday costume. I’ve run it several times before but had not yet joined the costume club. But this year, I ran the race decked out in a Thanksgiving tutu and turkey headband.

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We had a huge group running different races on Thursday morning. Kristen and I ran the 10k “Turkey Trot”, Lauren and her boyfriend Alex ran the 5K Stuffing Strut” and my aunt, uncle, Meghan and Eric walked the “Mashed Potato Mile.”

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In true Michigan fashion, we found ourselves running smack dab in the middle of a blizzard. And though it was a bit slippery, it was SO much fun. I even managed to somehow run my fastest 10k yet! I think that had a lot to do with how speedy my cousin Kristen is!

Later on, Eric and I went to his family’s Thanksgiving lunch where we enjoyed honeybaked ham and turkey, corn casserole, fruit, stuffing and mashed potatoes. And we of course enjoyed the company of his hilarious family. They are such a fun group and I am so excited that I get to officially join the Jones clan in less than 5 months! Around 4 oclock we made our way to my parents house for the Berendt Thanksgiving dinner. I usually eat pretty light at Eric’s party to save room for my family celebration, while he goes all out at his family’s, and eats a bit lighter at my family party. It’s all about prior planning, folks. At the Berendt festivities, we enjoyed turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Needless to say, by the end of the day I was completely stuffed. But hey, that is what Thanksgiving is for. We then continued our family tradition of watching Home Alone after dinner. And with that, the Christmas season officially began! The next morning I was up early once again to run the Jingle Bell 5k with my friend Annie and our favorite grade school teacher, Mrs. Leblanc.

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It was another chilly, snowy race, but we had a great time catching up. Later on, Eric and I visited Griffin Claw Brewery in Birmingham for a fun date night sampling some delicious brews. My favorite was their Screamin Pumpkin. So so good.

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The next day was my 25th birthday and we kicked off the day with a delicious brunch at the Dearborn Inn, a beautiful hotel right down the road from Greenfield Village. It was all decorated for Christmas, which obviously made me incredibly excited. The breakfast and the company were pretty great too.

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Later that night my family and LT’s family went out for dinner to celebrate mine and Lauren’s birthday. And to cap off an incredibly fun and busy weekend, Eric and I attended the Festival of Trees at the Ford Performing Arts Center.

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Different companies contribute beautiful Christmas trees, all decorated with a unique theme and much of the proceeds from the event go to charity. I loved the classic red and green trees, while Eric was a fan of the Detroit Tigers themed tree.

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All in all it was a fantastic weekend, and I was left feeling incredibly blessed and pretty darn pooped. I think tonight will include a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life and an early bedtime. What are you all up to?

Engagement Strawberry Champagne Cupcakes

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Memories are a funny thing. Some fade away instantly, falling into the corners of the mind as soon as the moment is gone. Others come back as fragmented pieces, allowing you to recall an event or a time, but leaving the details behind. And then there are the memories that stick with you. Perfectly preserved, as clear as the moment they happened. Like everyone else, I have my share of all three of these types of memories. But it is those few perfectly clear ones that seem to have had the most impact. One of my clearest memories occurred three yeas ago. It was a small moment between my Grandparents, my cousins and I, but it’s one I recall nearly every day. My grandparents were more in love than any pair I’ve ever known. They have the type of love story that you read about in books, the type of story that everyone hopes to have. And I remember, as clear as the moment it occurred, a speech my Grandma gave to her five grandchildren about the bond they shared. It was Christmas of 2009 when my Grandma shared her hopes for us. She looked adoringly at her husband, like she always did and said “This is what I want for all of you. For you to find someone that you love this deeply, and have this much fun with. I hope each of you finds your best friend to share your life with. Because when you find this… it is when your life really begins.” Her small speech struck me. Because although I never really considered myself a romantic, the words she spoke resonated with me, because I knew that is what I hoped for too. And then, much to my chagrin, a friend came to mind. Someone I had just met a few months earlier, but was quickly becoming quite smitten with. His name was Eric and even after a few months of knowing him it was clear that he was one of the kindest people I had ever met. I had never really felt quite as comfortable or at ease than when I was with my new friend Eric. And it wasn’t long after that night with my grandparents that it became clear that he was that best friend that my Grandma had described. People always say that when you meet your match you just know. Before Eric, I wasn’t quite sure if I believed that. I thought those amazing love stories were just for a lucky few, and for some reason I wasn’t quite sure if I would find that type of love. But after mere weeks of knowing this kind, generous man, I just knew that in Eric, I’d found my home. And after three wonderful years together, Eric asked me to be his wife. On the Friday before Christmas, he took me to Campus Martius in downtown Detroit, and proposed in front of the biggest, most beautiful Christmas tree around.

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We were standing in front of the tree, and Eric told me to look up at the lights. When I looked back at him, he was down on one knee with a ring in his hand. I was shocked and elated and immediately said “Yes!” He then surprised me yet again, by having both of our families meet us downtown to share such a special night with us. It was truly a night I will never forget.

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And since every New Year’s Eve we often celebrate the new year with  bottle of champagne, I thought Strawberry Champagne Cupcakes would be the perfect dessert to celebrate this new step in our lives. The cupcakes have a subtle champagne flavor and are the perfect dessert when topped with a touch of cream cheese frosting. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 36 mini cupcakes, recipe from The Cupcake Diaries

  • 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, diced
  • 1/2 cup champagne
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • seeds from 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/4 cup milk

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a mini cupcake pan with 36 cupcake liners
  2. In a small bowl, soak diced strawberries in champagne and set aside
  3. In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients together (flour through salt) and set aside
  4. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together until soft and creamy
  5. Add eggs, one at a time to butter mixture
  6. Combine vanilla, vanilla bean seeds and milk in a large liquid measuring cup, set aside
  7. Add one third of flour mixture into butter mixture and beat until well incorporated. Follow by adding one third of the milk mixture. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk mixture into batter until all is well incorporated
  8. Drain the strawberries of excess champagne and pat lightly with a paper towel
  9. Gently fold strawberries into cake batter until well mixed.
  10. Scoop batter into cupcake pan and bake for 10 minutes
  11. To make frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together until well incorporated
  12. Slowly add powdered sugar to butter mixture until all is well incorporated
  13. Stir in vanilla
  14. Use a pastry bag to pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes

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Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

We’re only two weeks into December and it has already been a flurry of holiday related activities. I’ve indulged in a few hot chocolates and packaged up dozens of Christmas cookies to give away as gifts. I saw the Christmas Tree Lighting in Downtown Detroit and drove through Dearborn’s Holiday Light Show on Hines Drive. I spent an evening at  “Christmas with the Rat Pack” with my boyfriend, Eric and had a fantastic time. I then watched a holiday special hosted by my other boyfriend Michael Buble and also had a fantastic time.  I realized that I strongly resemble Buddy the Elf come December 1st. Anything Christmas related makes me ridiculously pumped. Seasonal items somehow always find their way into my grocery cart no matter how many times I convince myself that the green & red packaging does not, in fact, make it taste like Christmas. But do you want to know what does taste like Christmas? Peppermint and chocolate. Anyone who has tried the deliciously decadent Starbucks Peppermint Mocha know that this dynamic combination makes for one festive treat. So I decided to translate the delicious peppermint & chocolate combo into a cupcake. I used my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe and simply added a bit of peppermint extract. And a topping of fluffy cream cheese frosting accents these cupcakes perfectly. They would be a great dessert at your next holiday party or could even be given as a gift. Enjoy!
Ingredients: Makes 12 cupcakes
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of half & half
  • 1/4 cup of canola oil
  • 1 1/2  teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
Preparation:
  1. In a large bowl sift together dry ingredients (flour through salt)
  2. Add egg, milk, canola oil & vanilla into dry ingredients and beat with an electric mixer until well incorporated
  3. Stir in boiling water (batter will be very runny)
  4. Pour batter into 12 cupcake liners and bake at 350 for 22 minutes
  5. For the frosting, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract together until just combined
  6. Beat in powdered sugar, one cup at a time
  7. Use a piping bag to frost cooled cupcakes and top with peppermint candy, if desired

Gingerbread Cupcakes

For me, the day after Thanksgiving is the true beginning of the Christmas season. Suddenly my music selections consist solely of the yuletide variety, Holiday movies are all I really have a taste for and my kitchen is full of the flavors of the season. And though it isn’t quite December yet, I felt a holiday Gingerbread Cupcake would be a great recipe to share. This spicy and sweet cake is covered in a decadent cream cheese frosting making for one delicious dessert. The recipe is from the Cupcake Diaries, a cookbook and memoir written by the bakers behind Georgetown Cupcakes. The soft texture of this cake and the subtly spiciness is proof that these sisters really know what they’re doing when it comes to cupcakes. So even if you aren’t quite filled with the holiday spirit just yet, I would suggest you give this recipe a try. Because the sweet smell of gingerbread wafting through your kitchen is sure to bring on the spirit of the season in no time.

Ingredients: From Georgetown Cupcakes; Makes 24 cupcakes

  • 2 3/4 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 cup hot water

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Preparation:

  1. In a medium sized  bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour through salt) set aside
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and dark brown sugar together until light and fluffy
  3. Add eggs into butter mixture, one at a time, beating after each addition
  4. Beat molasses into butter mixture until just combined
  5. Alternate adding dry ingredients and hot water into butter mixture until all ingredients are well incorporated
  6. Scoop batter into cupcake liners and bake at 350 for 20 minutes
  7. For the batter, beat softened cream cheese and butter together until creamy
  8. Beat in vanilla
  9. Beat in powdered sugar one cup at a time until well incorporated
  10. Use a piping bag to pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes

Sweet Potato Cupcakes

One more day until the most food filled holiday of the year! I hope you are all busy in your kitchens baking and cooking your way to a Thanksgiving feast. I’ll be whipping up a classic sweet potato casserole later tonight, but I thought I would actually share another recipe that centers around this quintessential autumn ingredient. On Tuesday we had a Thanksgiving potluck at work and I decided to bring along a batch of these Sweet Potato Cupcakes.  I found this recipe over at TheBakingPan and decided to top them with a classic cream cheese frosting.  And I’m happy to report that this recipe was quite a hit. My coworkers were big fans of these cupcakes, which is great, because I’m a big fan of all of them. Finding a job that I love is another thing I’m very thankful for this year. My first year out of college was a bit of a bumpy road and for a while I started to think I would never find a good fit. But somehow, I stumbled upon a job that I actually love going to every day. It’s challenging and interesting and fun every single day. Not everyone can say that about the place the spend 40+ hours every week, so I am incredibly thankful that I found such a great place to work. And they let me bring cupcakes in whenever I want. Major plus. Happy Thanksgiving!

Ingredients: Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes (about one large sweet potato, cooked, peeled and mashed

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Preparation:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg)
  2. In a large bowl, place butter and sugars and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy
  3. Beat in eggs, one at a time
  4. Stir in vanilla
  5. Alternate adding dry ingredients and mashed sweet potatoes into butter mixture until well incorporated
  6. Scoop batter into 12 cupcake liners and bake at 350 for 20 minutes
  7. For the frosting, beat cream cheese & butter together until well combined
  8. Slowly beat powdered sugar into cream cheese mixture until just combined
  9. Stir in vanilla and pipe onto cooled cupcakes

Peppermint Chocolate Cake Balls

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I have a confession. Because it’s Christmas. And at Christmas time you tell the truth. (Hello, Love Actually) Not all of my baking experiments are successful. In fact, a lot of my genius baking ideas turn out to be mishaps. … Continue reading