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You wouldn’t think there could be too much caramel in a slab of marshmallows and cereal but unless you want to eat rice krispy bars with a fork, resist the temptation to toss in extra chunks of caramel. See exhibit A below.

rice krispie caramel bars | Random Sweetness

Exhibit A – added too many caramels

The recipe card handed down to me reads “1 pkg caramels.” I assumed bags of caramels, like bangs, were bigger back in the 80s. So I added extra and I was oozingly wrong.

Rice Krispy Caramel Bars

11-ounce package caramels, unwrapped

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 and 1/2 sticks butter or margarine

10-ounce package marshmallows

6 cups krispy rice cereal

Get in the kitchen:

Line 8×11 pan or similar with parchment paper and butter generously. Or skip the paper and butter the pan itself. (You can use a 9×13 pan. I just like thicker bars.)

In the microwave or on the stove top, melt together caramels, condensed milk, and 1 stick of butter over low heat. Stir, stir, stir. Keep your eyes on it or it will burn.

In a large bowl or saucepan, melt together marshmallows and 1/2 stick butter. Stir in cereal.

Grab the buttered pan and drop big spoonfuls of the cereal mixture into the bottom – only use half of the mix. Spray the back of a large spoon with cooking spray and use it to press the cereal into an even layer.

Pour the caramel over the layer. Drop spoonfuls of the remaining cereal on top of the caramel. Use the greased spoon again to press the cereal into an even layer.

Let set at least four hours before cutting into squares. Eat within a day or two.

Weekday mornings at our house start early and they don’t leave time for elaborate breakfasts. Other than dry cereal from a box, muffins come from pouches, cinnamon rolls come from tubes, and pancakes come from a box in the freezer. But with an extra five minutes of prep time, you can make 18 butterscotch cheesecake muffins that taste and smell so delightful you’ll be skipping out the door to work.

butterscotch cheesecake muffins | Random Sweetness Baking

The idea for these came from one of our favorite, butterscotch muffins from Taste of Home. All I did was switch out the vanilla pudding mix with cheesecake pudding mix and instead of the cinnamon and brown sugar topping, I tossed on colored turbinado sugar.

Make your morning even simpler by combining the dry mix the night before. Stir it together in a bowl, pop the lid on, and in the morning just crack open the eggs and pour in the liquids. Of course you can customize these to your liking – just stand in the pudding mix aisle and pick two flavors you want in your muffins.

Butterscotch cheesecake muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 package (3.4 ounces) dry instant butterscotch pudding mix

1 package (3.4 ounces) dry instant cheesecake pudding mix

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

4 eggs

3/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

turbinado sugar (the larger, chunky crystals) or regular white sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, pudding mixes, baking powder, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the water, eggs, oil, and vanilla.

Slowly stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, stirring just until the batter is all wet.

Pour batter into greased muffin cups and sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes. (The original recipe states a bake time of 15-20 minutes but mine have never been done in that time.) Makes 18 regular sized muffins or 12 regular muffins and 12 mini muffins.

 

You know, one of those days when you’re driving down the road pushing the same preset station and not realizing it for half a mile. Happy Friday!

The End.

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It’s a question we ask before almost every family get-together. Between my sisters, my mom, and me, one of us makes an abundant batch (with the hopes of leftovers) of our family’s thick and velvety taco dip.

Remember to grab a couple of bags of your favorite tortilla chips.

Taco dip | Random Sweetness Baking

Taco Dip

2 pounds (32-ounce box) Velveeta

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

2 (10-ounces each) cans chili with no beans

1-1/2 to 2 lbs. ground beef, browned with diced onion or onion flakes

Into a large saucepan over low heat, cut the Velveeta and cream cheese into cubes and melt together. Stir in the chili until thoroughly mixed and melty. Briskly fold in the browned hamburger. Serve hot with tortilla chips. Place in a crockpot if not serving immediately.

Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

You can melt this dip in the microwave but I’ve found it’s creamier, without white chunks of cream cheese, if I melt it low and slow on the stove top.

For a smaller batch of taco dip:

1 pound Velveeta

4 ounces cream cheese

1 10-ounce can chili with no beans

1 pound ground beef, browned with diced onion or onion flakes

Follow directions above.

I got an F in art in middle school and I avoided the subject in high school. As an adult and a mother, I realized I liked buying scrapbooking materials but I never actually scrapbooked. I’m not much of an interior decorator either. Mostly I just slap my framed black and white photography in the hallways and call it good.

So why in the world I thought I could create delicately adorned petits fours is beyond me. But when my friend Ann asked if I could make them for her stepdaughter’s wedding I said, “Sure, I’ll give them a try.”

imperfect petit fours

To see what petits fours [that you'd actually want to serve at your wedding] look like, check these out on Pinterest.

mess of petit fours

Maybe my confidence and enthusiasm came from the experience I’ve gained making hundreds, actually thousands, of baby cheesecakes like Key Lime Cheesecake with Patrón Sauce, Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake, and Deepest Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Honey Ganache.

A few things I learned in this process:

  • Making sheet cakes and cutting 1-inch by 1-inch squares with a knife just doesn’t work. They are too small to handle the weight of stacked layers covered with fondant, which turns them into leaning and tumbling towers of petits fours. Use a small round or square biscuit cutter instead.
  • It takes a lot more pourable fondant to smoothly cover each petit four than what you’d think. A lot.
  • Petits fours are remarkably more time-consuming to make and assemble than baby cheesecakes.

If you are up to the petit four challenge, these are the websites I used to get me though the trial and error process. Golden Vanilla Cake from King Arthur Flour - a cake that I would definitely bake again because of its full vanilla flavor and soft texture. I used seedless raspberry jam for the vanilla petit four layers.

For the chocolate petits fours, I baked my Heavenly Chocolate Cake and made the Whipped Chocolate Cream layer in these Chocolate Pomegranate Petits Fours from A Spicy Perspective.

For the icing on both the vanilla and chocolate cakes, I made White Chocolate Poured Fondant Icing from King Arthur Flour and used the tips in their their article, “Pointed pinkies only, please: petits fours with poured fondant icing.”

Although the square blobs of cake were a fail in the context of serving them at a wedding, they tasted fabulous. Maybe the bride will come around to offering her guests adorable little cheesecakes instead. Dun dun daadun, dun dun daadun…

Blocks of cheese are a staple in our refrigerator but I’ve always stored them in plastic packaging. Even once we opened cheese, we would store it in a plastic bag. But recently I learned that the way you store cheese has an effect on the taste, texture, and appearance.

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I happened upon Formaticum cheese bags at the General Store of Minnetonka (one of the coolest stores in Minnesota!) on our annual sister’s trip last year. I bought them on a whim, suspecting it was a waste of money but it turns out, there are good reasons to store cheese properly.

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Now we can all cut into fresh cheese!

My daughter loves traditional Snickers apple salad with vanilla pudding, whipped cream, red and green apples, and Snickers candy bars. I was excited to tailor it to other flavors she likes by pouring coconut milk into the pudding and tossing in Butterfinger candy instead of Snickers.

But you’d have thought I added bright red beets.

Me: “Kalani, I made a special salad for you like the Snickers and apple salad you love but it has Butterfingers in it.”

Kalani: “Oh, I don’t really like Butterfingers that much. I like Snickers so that’s why I like that salad.”

Butterfinger apple coconut salad | Random Sweetness Baking

Me: “Um, well, I was excited to make it for you because when we go to the Zesto, you always order a Butterfinger Avalanche with coconut and chocolate ice cream.”

Kalani: “Ya, well that’s because Snickers freeze when they are in ice cream and they are too hard to eat.”

Me: “OK. It’s in the refrigerator if you decide to try some. It has Honeycrisp and green apples.”

The next day…

Kalani: “That salad was actually really good!”

Me: “I’m glad you liked it! Could you taste coconut?”

Kalani: “No.”

Me: “If I make it again I’ll add more coconut milk. I didn’t use too much because I wasn’t sure if the taste would be too strong. I didn’t actually use coconut because I don’t like coconut.”

Kalani: “Oh.”

Butterfinger Apple Coconut Salad

1 cup cold coconut milk (coconut milk is found in the Chinese/Oriental food section – do NOT use cream of coconut)

1/2 cup cold milk

1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

1 (8 ounce) carton whipped cream

2 Granny Smith apples, chopped into bite-sized pieces

2 Honeycrisp apples, chopped into bite-sized pieces (or your favorite red apple)

bag of fun-size Butterfinger candy bars, chopped (or 5 regular size Butterfinger candy bars chopped)

1/2 cup flaked coconut, optional

In a large bowl, whisk coconut milk and milk with pudding mix. Let it rest for 3 minutes. Fold in whipped cream. Gently fold in chopped apples, candy bars, and coconut.

Cover and refrigerate until serving. Best if eaten within 24 hours. Makes approximately 12 servings.

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