When summer saunters into fall, my sister Kalli is one of the first people in line for a pumpkin latte. And while pumpkin reigns as the season’s flavor royalty, gingerbread lingers nigh as we wait to shepherd in winter with a fluffy blanket of snow.

In comes the gingerbread latte and an even longer line. So put down that thermos and get out of line. Grab a fork and let the cozy flavors of molasses, gingerbread, and coffee percolate your holiday senses. Gingerbread KAHLÚA Cheesecake If you also want to skip the pumpkin latte line, enjoy one of my favorites, KAHLÚA Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake.

Gingerbread KAHLÚA Cheesecake


1 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs

1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake filling:

4 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 eggs, room temperature

1/4 cup unsulfured molasses

1/2 cup KAHLÚA (or any coffee-flavored liquor), OR 1 tablespoon coffee extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1-1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Make the crust: (If you don’t have a food processor, you can make crumbs in a blender.) In a bowl, combine gingersnap and graham cracker crumbs with powdered sugar and melted butter. Toss to combine. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom of greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Make the filling:

In a tiny bowl combine salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.

In a mixer bowl, beat room temperature cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add sugars and vanilla and beat until light. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, being careful not to overbeat.

Stir in molasses and KAHLÚA. Slowly beat just until combined. Sprinkle in the spices and stir gently to mix in.

Pour cheesecake filling into crust. Place in the oven and bake at 350° for 60-65 minutes or until center is barely jiggly anymore. Carefully run a knife between the springform pan and cheesecake. Cool on a wire rack for an hour or two.

Refrigerate at least 8 hours before removing from springform pan and serving. Sprinkle crust crumbs on top. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks or in freezer up to 3 months.

Cozy fall wishes,

Since you continued reading even after seeing the title, I appreciate your sense of humor. Last week my sister and I decided we need a puking emoji (we suppose there’s one out there but it didn’t come loaded on our iPhones) and we would also like to see a new Facebook relationship status titled “married but he’s cheating on me.” We are confident it would be a commonly used selection. To be fair, if Facebook would like to make a “married but she’s cheating on me” status, we don’t discriminate.

On the sweeter side of the week, I made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies in a pan and Paula Deen’s Georgia toffee.

Georgia Toffee

Georgia Toffee

(from my all-time favorite Paula Deen’s Chocolate Celebration special 2008 issue)

13 graham cracker sheets

1 cup butter

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I like to use the mini chips)

1 cup chopped pecans (I use pecan cookie pieces)

Preheat oven to 425˚. Line a 10×15-inch jelly-roll pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Place graham cracker sheets evenly over foil, breaking crackers apart as necessary to cover bottom of pan; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; boil for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in condensed milk. Immediately pour evenly over crackers. Sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips and pecans. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting.

pumpkin chocolate chip cookie bars

The pumpkin bars are made using my son’s favorite soft pumpkin chocolate chip cookies recipe.

Pumpkin Chip Cookie Bars

1 1/2 cups butter, softened (3 sticks)

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup sugar

1 can (15 oz) solid-pack pumpkin

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups quick-cooking oats

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (this is my own addition)

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups (12 oz) chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars. Beat in the egg, pumpkin and vanilla. Combine the flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread batter in a greased 15×10-inch jelly roll/bar pan. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting into bars.

These cookies are also quite fabulous as sandwiches with marshmallow maple cream.

I’ve got a classier post for you next time.

Sweet & sarcastic wishes,


Like many of you, I spend Monday through Friday at the office. We use our lunch hours to email teachers and coaches, call dentist and doctor offices, scratch out lists and to-dos in our planners, and sprint up the post office stairs just in time to run back to work with disheveled hair, looking like we were out for a dash of afternoon delight.

grilled turkey cheddar bacon sandwich

You and I share a common bond. We want tasty and effortless weekday meals—simple to plan, easy to shop for, and speedy to toss together. Sandwiches are becoming exceedingly ingenious but we don’t always have time to invent something outlandish.

I like to recreate my favorite restaurant meals at home. That way, I have control over the quality of ingredients. There used to be a restaurant in Pipestone, Minn. called the Villager. A simple turkey melt was my favorite.

Whether you have a short half hour at home for lunch or are jetting off to the ice rink after supper, you have time to grill yourself and your family a crisp, melty sandwich. Since you need precooked bacon, fry up an extra pound of bacon on weekends and store it in the freezer. You’ll love how many times it comes in handy.

Grilled Turkey Cheddar ‘n’ Bacon

1 tablespoon butter

2 slices bread

2 slices cheddar cheese

deli turkey, approximately 1/4 pound

2 or 3 slices cooked bacon

onion salt


dashes of pepper sauce to taste (my favorite is Cholula Hot Sauce)

  1. Melt half a tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat.
  2. Place one slice of bread in the melted butter.
  3. Top with one slice of cheddar.
  4. Lay out deli meat on the cheese.
  5. Dash with onion salt,  pepper, and pepper sauce.
  6. Arrange bacon on meat.
  7. Top with cheese.
  8. Cover with second slice of bread.
  9. When the bottom bread is golden brown, lift up the sandwich with a spatula and toss the other half tablespoon of butter in the saucepan. Let it melt and then put the sandwich back down, flipping it on the ungrilled side.
  10. When both sides are golden brown, remove from pan and eat.

I also like to dip my sandwich in Arby’s sauce. (pictured above)

Sweet & simple wishes,

It’s not just that a giant skillet cookie takes less prep time than baking a few dozen cookies, there’s something cozier than a childhood teddy bear about scraping your fork across the bottom of a cast iron skillet, digging out a messy, melty triangle of chocolate chip cookie.

skillet chocolate chip cookie

Get my new favorite Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe from Lori Lange at RecipeGirl.com. (In addition to the chocolate chips, if I have one on hand, I chop up a Hershey’s candy bar and toss it in.)

Lori’s cookbook, “The Recipe Girl Cookbook: Dishing Out the Best Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday” is always near the top of my pile. It’s because of her recipes for cinnamon roll pancakes, tomato-basil soup with garlic-cheese croutons, slow cooker french dip sandwiches with peppers and caramelized onions, blueberry-pineapple tequila punch, bacon-wrapped tater tots, triple berry salad with sugared almonds, roasted cauliflower with lemon-brown butter, pan-fried lemon-garlic rib eye steaks, and butterfinger brownies that you will love her book too.

I better go tell the rest of the family the cookie is ready to eat.

Sweet skillet wishes,

You are enough. Have you ever really thought about what you mean to people – what you really mean to people? Not how they like your shirt or boots (not boobs either), or if they think you are thin enough or are having a bad hair day? Not what car you are driving or if it has a mound of gravel dust on it?

You may not know who, but you ARE an inspiration to someone. I bet you’ve uplifted or made someone smile today. Isn’t that enough?

Sweet wishes,

Not everyone cooks for a family of four. Or five. When it’s just you on a cozy Saturday morning and you crave the nostalgic waft of cinnamon drifting from the kitchen, a small batch of monkey bread with warm caramel seeping down the sides will appease.

Monkey bread when flying solo

One tube of biscuit dough and a few sweet ingredients and you can’t even take a shower in the time it takes to bake them.

monkey bread cinnamon sugar

Bake in mini pie tins, 4″ springform pans, mini loaf pans, one loaf pan, cookie sheet, mini muffin tin, or any other small oven-proof pan.

mini monkey bread before baking

I used mini pie tins – three of them – and I’m glad I baked them on a cookie sheet because the caramel oozed over the top. Next time I’ll still only make three, but I’ll drizzle some of the caramel in between layers instead of dumping it all on top. You might like it better in four.

half gone monkey bread

I confess, two of us ate this batch. Now go take your shower.

Sweet Saturday wishes,

Flying Solo Monkey Bread 

Serves 1 or 2 people depending on how much you want to share

5 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 (7.5 ounce) package refrigerated buttermilk biscuit dough

  1. Grease 3 mini pie tins or whatever smaller pan you choose to use.
  2. Melt butter and brown sugar together. Stir until brown sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Set aside.
  3. Stir together white sugar and cinnamon.
  4. Cut each piece of biscuit dough into four chunks and drop into the cinnamon and sugar. Lightly toss around until each is completely coated.
  5. Toss dough into pans, using equal amounts in each pan if using more than one. Pour some of the melted butter mixture over the biscuits before all of it is in the pan.
  6. Once all the biscuits are in the pan(s), drizzle the remaining caramel over the biscuits. Place pan(s) on cookie sheet.
  7. Bake at 350° until top of biscuits are slightly crispy. For mini pie tins, that’s approximately 12-14 minutes. Do not over bake. For one loaf pan, it may take approximately 20-22 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and turn pan(s) upside down onto plate, remove pan, scrape the excess caramel onto the monkey bread.

Maybe I should carry a flashy No Raisins picket sign when I go to the farmers market. Who thinks to ask, “What’s in your monster cookie?” It’s not a trick question. (farmers market monster cookie below)

farmers market cookie

Wouldn’t you expect peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chips, and most definitely M&Ms? That’s how I make my monster cookies. (pictured below)

Monster cookies

I mean, who puts raisins in monster cookies? And were they hiding them from me? Remember, raisins ruin everything. History has already taught me to beware of bran muffins and those fancy, swirly loaves of cinnamon bread.

bran muffins | Random Sweetness Baking

Maybe the bigger question is, why didn’t I notice that the tower of cookies in the jar labeled “monster cookies” weren’t flecked with M&Ms? That should’ve tipped me off that something sneaky was going on.

Keep your eyes open out there cookie lovers.

Sweet summer wishes,

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