Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Cake Balls Recipe

Two years ago, much to my delight, I discovered Oreo Balls.   I made them at Christmas and the following year whipped up a batch using fall Oreo cookies and deemed them Halloween Oreo Balls.  They are a popular party food down here in Texas and are gaining popularity in Maryland thanks to my sister-in-law.  Now I am venturing into the world of cake balls.  Although I've sampled a few at friendly gatherings, I had never actually made any, until now.

Today I created Pumpkin Cake Balls to share at a Halloween party that my family and I are attending tonight.  My inspiration comes from Carly a fellow blogger who left me a comment on my Roasted Pumpkin Seeds post and invited me to join her "12 Days of Pumpkin" link party.  I love anything pumpkin and thoroughly enjoyed drooling over all of the posts last night.  Her "Pumpkin Cheesecake Truffles" appealed to me because they are a slightly healthier version of the a fore mentioned and  oh-so-lovable Oreo Balls.   Unless you are sharing with someone who is watching their weight, there is really no need to promote to your family and friends that these treats have less fat, more nutrients (including iron, vitamin A, and fiber), and fewer calories than the coveted party food that shares the same shape.  

I adapted Carly's recipe a bit by using a Spice Cake mix instead of a yellow cake one.  Also, in order to save time, I adorned my pumpkin cake balls with Halloween sprinkles instead of drizzling them with orange tinted almond bark. For Thanksgiving, these autumnal treats could be adorned with a few reserved cake crumbs and added to any dessert buffet.

I was skeptical that mixing just a dry cake mix and a can of pumpkin puree would actually bake into anything, but it was successful. Crumbling the resulting moist cake and then mashing it together with low-fat cream cheese was oddly therapeutic and although I think my kids would love joining in on this process, this time I kept all the fun for myself.  I then fully embraced the slightly time consuming process of hand rolling the mixture into balls and dipping them into white almond bark while listening to my new favorite radio show "The Splendid Table" on NPR. The results are scrumptious pumpkin cheesecake balls that can be enjoyed with a cup of hot tea or popped into one's mouth while perusing a party.  Either way they are delicious!

If you would like to join in on the pumpkin fun, head on over to Carly's "13th Day of Pumpkin".  Be inspired, try a new pumpkin recipe, and then prepare to add Pumpkin Cake Balls to your Fall party food  repertoire.  The results will be spooktacular!

Pumpkin Cake Balls
Believe it or not, mixing a dry spice cake mix and a can of pumpkin will bake into a cake.
Mashing the cooled and baked cake is oddly therapeutic.
Mixing the crumbled cake and cream cheese is also quite enjoyable.
No these aren't meatballs, they are pumpkin cake balls.
I melt my almond bark in a double boiler and place it back on the heat if it starts to thicken.
Place the finished cake balls in the fridge for about 30 minutes before plating.

Pumpkin Cake Balls Recipe

1 Spice Cake Mix
8 ounces cream cheese, softened (low-fat or regular)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  3. Combine dry cake mix and pumpkin puree.  Beat on medium speed until fully combined.  Mixture will be thick.
  4. Pour batter into prepared baking dish and smooth surface.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until top is slightly browned.
  6. Cool cake completely.
  7. Crumble the cooled cake into a large mixing bowl.  If using crumbs for garnish, reserve about 1/2 cup of cake crumbs.  Break up the cake with your hands or two forks until fine crumbs appear.  Add the softened cream cheese, mixing well with a large wooden spoon or your hands until mixture is fully combined
  8. Roll cake and cream cheese mixture into small balls (about 1 Tablespoon per ball).  Set aside.
  9. Melt almond bark in double boiler or microwave.
  10. Using two forks dip each ball into the melted almond bark and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  
  11. Adorn with reserved cake crumbs, sprinkles, or tinted melted almond bark.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Smoked Gouda and Caramelized Onion Salad Recipe

Six days ago nothing about this salad would have appealed to me.  Even if I had seen it featured on a two-page glossy spread in my favorite magazine or watched it prepared by a celebrity chef on the Food Network, I would not have had any inclination to fix Smoked Gouda and Caramelized Onion Salad.  Yesterday, however, my mouth was literally watering as I prepared it and as I savored my first bite, I was thinking that this might be one of the best salads I've ever eaten.

My transformation occurred because during the five days prior to my Gouda salad experience, I was only eating "Fast Forward Meals" as outlined in the book Cinch! by Cynthia Sass.  I first found out about this eating plan in an interview conducted by one of my favorite bloggers, Snack Girl.  After skimming the blog post, I immediately reserved a copy at my local library.  Last Saturday, I picked up the book, read it over the weekend, felt inspired, and started the plan on Monday.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn one way to feel energetic, have a healthier and disease free body, and maintain their optimum weight while preparing and eating tasty meals and snacks.  As I was reading Cinch, I was thrilled to discover that Sass has created a way of eating that involves real food (no artificial sweeteners or 'diet food'),  is based on current health studies, includes many tempting recipes, and is a lifestyle change instead of a diet.

Before reaching the point where I could appreciate my Gouda salad, I ate exactly what is recommended for the "Five Day Fast Forward" portion of the program.  Among other things, I learned to enjoy plain yogurt, look forward to a cup of unsweetened tea, and consumed lots of raspberries.  I also discovered what it feels like to be hungry and eat in order to satisfy that hunger.  As the end of the five days, my allergy symptoms had been drastically reduced, my on-again-off-again back pain was gone, I had boundless energy, and my skinny jeans fit because I had lost nine pounds.  Yes, to sum it up, I felt euphoric!  It was like my taste buds and sense of smell had been reset, I felt lighter and not bloated, and I was sleeping more peacefully.  Now I'm not a doctor and I don't eve pretend to be one on TV, but these are the benefits that I experienced.

Now I am following the Cinch core plan.  I am eating recipes that are included in the book, such as the one for Smoked Gouda and Caramelized Onion Salad, and also creating other tasty snacks and meals following the Cinch! "do-it-yourself 5 piece puzzle".  I wake up hungry and am satisfied by my meals and snacks.  Last night my sons and I curled up to watch a movie and instead of popcorn with M&M's, I prepared myself a recipe from the book for "Cranberry Parmesan Herbed Popcorn".  It was scrumptious and fulfilling in a way that my normal salty snacks never are!  Who knew?

Yesterday as I was preparing this salad for my lunch, I prepped the ingredients in anticipation of having it again the next day.  Now I am looking forward to slowly caramelizing the onions in olive oil until they are transparent and them adding them to my pretty bowl filled with crisp romaine that has been dressed with balsamic vinegar and lemon juice.  I am anticipating my first bite which will include the contrast of the warm onions with the creamy Gouda and the flavors of the freshly ground pepper and balsamic vinegar which will explode in my mouth.

On the cover of Cinch!  it states, "conquer cravings, drop pounds, and lose inches."  To that list I would add "experience the fullness of preparing and eating fresh food".  I am grateful that I discovered this book.  It has reinforced concepts that I already knew about health living, has taught me new research-based principles, and has added to my collection of scrumptious recipes such as, "Smoked Gouda and Caramelized Onion Salad".  I must return my Cinch! to the library but will be purchasing a copy to add to my personal cookbook library.    Thank you to Cynthia Sass!

Smoked Gouda and Caramelized Onion Salad Recipe
     closely inspired by Cynthia Sass in Cinch!

1 1/2 cups torn romaine lettuce
1 cup sliced white or yellow onion
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1 ounce smoked Gouda, diced
freshly cracked pepper
1 serving all-natural whole-grain cracker
  1. Saute the onions in olive oil over medium heat until translucent and caramel colored, stirring often.  Add a dusting of cracked pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, fill a salad bowl with romaine lettuce.  Sprinkle with cracked pepper, lemon zest, and Gouda pieces.
  3. Whisk or shake together balsamic vinegar and lemon juice.
  4. Top the salad with the warm caramelized onions.
  5. Serve with crackers.
  6. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bake Sale Recipes

Grab-and-go items such as these cupcakes are always popular at Bake Sales.
Yesterday my church hosted their annual gift market featuring a bake sale extraordinaire.   My teenage daughter and some of her friends worked the first shift and I stopped by to be inspired by the plethora of home baked treats.  This Autumn Bake Sale featured an impressive variety of cakes, pies, cookies, cupcakes, and whoopie pies.  It was evident that all the bakers had devoted time and attention to each of the desserts that they had lovingly donated.  There was a variety of whole items for sale along with many grab-and-go selections.

Individual items that are packaged to take away, such as these
Whoopie Pies, are also a good Bake Sale choice.
These Pumpkin Sugar Cookies were baked on a stick, adorned with Fall sprinkles,
and then packaged in cellophane bags that were tied with raffia.
Cute sells!
One clever baker had made chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, adorned them each with a tiny Reese cup, and then packaged them in a clear plastic cup and cellophane bag. This brilliant, economical, and portable cupcake carrier was adorable and durable.  The ones we purchased survived the ultimate test of being toted home by my youngest son to his brothers.  It turned out the cupcakes were also delicious and had an additional Reese cup hidden in the middle

For months, my daughter and I have been contemplating a
cute and economical way to package individual cupcakes.
We discovered our answer at the Bake Sale!  
Disposable pans or inexpensive plates are a good choice
for packaging Bake Sale items.
Another idea is to check with your local grocery store or bakery.
Often they will sell or donate individual baked good boxes.
My contribution to the Bake Sale was four pumpkin cakes with cream cheese frosting that I prepared in disposable pumpkin shaped pans.  According to my daughter they were all purchased within the first hour.  Other popular items included the tried-and-true home baked cookies, whole cakes and pies, and the whimsical whoopie pies. Following is a list of recipes that are sure to be a hit at any Bake Sale.  The most important thing to remember, however, is if you enjoy the process of preparing your item and make something that you and your family love, your baked good will surely be a success.  As always, happy baking!


Linked to the following inspiring blog parties:

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Easy Crock Pot Roast Beef Recipe

We are starting to experience hints of Autumn down here in Texas.  The cooler temperatures (I use the term cooler rather loosely:) and signs of pumpkins prompt me to pull out my Fall recipes many of which involve my crock pot.  Although I do utilize my slow cooker in the summer, it gets used the most during the cooler and busier months of the year.  I love returning from work or church to find that my dinner is prepped and my house smells divine.

This school year I am finding that it is more challenging to gather my whole family around the table for a weeknight supper, so we have made Sunday Dinners a priority.  I cook a big meal and serve it midday on Sunday and then we enjoy leftovers in the evening.  One of my favorite recipes for this is Easy Crock Pot Roast Beef.  It is a family favorite, especially when I serve it with Pioneer Woman's creamy mashed potatoes, a favorite green vegetable, and buttermilk biscuits.

I got this recipe from the Fly Lady who is the creator of a home organization website.  At first glance I was skeptical that I could create a delicious piece of meat out of a can of Coke and a packet of dry Lipton onion soup mix, but it only took one try for me to realize that this recipe is a keeper.  It is super easy and the unconventional combination of ingredients creates a moist and tender beef with a luscious and flavorful gravy. My children deemed this recipe "meaty sweety" and gladly come to the table when they smell it cooking.  Whether you try this recipe or not, I hope you have the opportunity to gather your family around your table this Fall and enjoy a Sunday meal together.

Easy Crock Pot Roast Beef Recipe with Gravy
     adapted from The Fly Lady

3-4 pound chuck roast
1 packet Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1 can Coke (not diet, not Pepsi, just regular Coke) room temperature
  1. Spray interior of crock pot with PAM.
  2. Place chuck roast in crock pot.
  3. Sprinkle dry onion soup mix onto beef and gently rub to coat.
  4. Pour coke over meat.
  5. Place lid on crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  6. Remove meat from crock pot.
  7. For Gravy:  Strain liquid from crock pot into a small sauce pan.  Shake 1/2 cup of flour with 2 cups cold water.  Bring liquid to a boil and slowly whisk in water/flour mixture. Over medium high, whisk gravy until thick.
  8. Serve meat with gravy, mashed potatoes, your favorite green vegetable, and buttermilk biscuits.