Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Time to bring out the fall candles, buy some pumpkin puree, and make some pumpkin theme things!
What better way to do that than with this amazing fall-in-a-pan dessert? The original recipe was too sweet with not enough cheesecake for me so I cut some sugar out and doubled (bam!) the cheesecake component. Making for some absolutely amazing cheesecake bars.
The star of these bars is the Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce (pictured in background). This stuff is SO good and thick (required for this recipe) with the perfect hint of saltiness.
Bring on the pumpkin themed baked goods! Fall is here!

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from: averiecooks

For the crust
1/4 cup brown sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup graham cracker crumbs

For the cheesecake
12 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
1 tablespoons flour

For the salted caramel swirl
1/3 cup salted caramel sauce – recommend Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel sauce!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 8×8 pan with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang so that you can pull the bars out later without disturbing their shape. Combine the ingredients for your crust and press into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes.

Cream together your cream cheese and sugar until well incorporated. Slowly add in your vanilla, pumpkin, and spices. Add in your eggs one at a time. Finally, add in the flour until well incorporated. Pour this fall mixture on top of your crust!

Using your favorite thick caramel sauce, make 4-5 vertical lines of caramel sauce. Then, going 90 degrees to your lines, take a toothpick and gently drag your toothpick through the sauce and pumpkin cream cheese. Like in elementary school making marble paper! Flip your pan another 90 degrees and repeat until desired marbling is achieved.

Now, if you’d like to avoid cracks on the top of your beautiful pattern, boil about 6-7 cups of water in a tea-kettle. Place your pan of cheesecake inside a larger pan. Place this set up in the oven and pour your hot water into the larger pan, creating a water bath. You want the water to come about half way up your cheesecake pan. You can bake it without the water bath, but then cracks will happen. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the middle stops jiggling (very scientific, I know).

Let cool for at least a few hours (overnight is best) before cutting into these and serving. They’re delicious and beautiful!





Tomato Basil Bread


I love fresh basil! So much so that I bought a plant at the store for a couple dollars and have been trying to keep it alive since summer. But alas, basil likes a lot of sun and hot temperatures, which is just not in the cards this fall. This is why I find myself trying to consume an entire basil plant, which isn’t as easy as it sounds (just kidding, sort of). This bread is very flavorful thanks to the herbs, sun dried tomatoes, and cheese. And it’s really not that hard to make but looks very fancy!
Ideas combined from here and here.

For the bread
3/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees )
1 (1/4 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2-1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried Italian herbs
2-1/2 cups bread flour (I substituted about ½ cup with white whole wheat)
1 egg
1 tablespoon olive oil

For the filling
3.5 ounce package sun dried tomatoes, chopped
¾ cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 to ½ cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced garlic

In a 2 cup measuring glass, combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Let proof in a warm place for about 10 minutes until it becomes bubbly and starts rising.

In a large bowl, combine about 2 cups of the flour with the salt and herbs. Add in the egg, olive oil, and yeast mixture. Mix to combine. Add in the remaining ½ cup flour (more or less) until a dough forms that doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl.

Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes. A smooth dough ball will form.

Place the dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in a warm place and allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until about doubled in volume.

For the filling, combine the sun dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese in a small bowl. In another small bowl, combine the fresh basil and minced garlic.

Punch the dough down and knead out the air bubbles. Roll the dough out on a floured surface into roughly a 10 by 24 inch rectangle (you may need to pause while rolling it out to allow the dough to relax out into shape). Sprinkle the dough evenly with the tomato and cheese mixture, followed by the basil garlic mixture.

Starting with the long end, roll up the dough up tightly into a log. Pinch along the long seam and at both ends. Place the log seam side down onto a baking sheet covered in parchment (this is REALLY great for making sure the bread doesn’t stick at all). Using a serrated knife, cut along the top of the log (I cut through the top and second layer of dough…definitely do NOT go all the way through!). Curve the log into an S shape (this helps the filling stay where it’s supposed to).

Allow the log to start rising about 30 minutes. While doing this preheat the oven to 350. Bake for 20 minutes. At this point, you might want to cover the loaf with tin foil (the sun dried tomatoes get toasty quickly). Return to the oven and cook about 15 minutes longer. The loaf will be golden brown on the top and bottom and sound hollow when tapped with you finger.

Allow to cool before cutting.

Layering the filling on the rolled out dough…

Rolled and cut…ready for the oven!

Close up!

Fresh from the oven!



Key Lime Pie

One last summer post even though it absolutely feels like fall outside!

A classic key-lime pie (okay, made with normal limes) with some fun whipped cream decorations! It was sweet, fruity, and brought summer back to my taste buds.

The homemade graham cracker crust brought a delicious balance of flavors and who doesn’t love graham cracker crust?

The original recipe was a little too sweet for my taste so I cut down some the added sugar with a much improved result!

Time to bring on the fall posts! I think a pumpkin cheesecake shall be in order.

Key Lime Pie

Adapted from foodnetwork

For the crust
1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs (bought pre-crumbed or crush your own)
6 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly combine your crumbs and melted butter until the butter has lightly moistened the crumbs. Then, dump your crumbs into a pie pan and press them into the pan and up the sides. Bake for 10 minutes and then let cool completely. Wasn’t that easy? I’d recommend placing the pie pan on top of a baking sheet to allow for easy transfer and minimal destruction of the edges of the crust during moving.

For the pie
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
6 egg yolks at room temperature
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
2/3 cups lime juice (5-6 limes)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Combine your condensed milk and eggs until well incorporated and slightly fluffy. Add in the lime zest and juice until well mixed. Pour this mixture into your cooled pie crust and bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool overnight or for at least a few hours.

For the whipped cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Incorporate all ingredients into a bowl and using an electric mixer, or by hand for an arm workout, beat until stiff peaks form. Then, simply spread over the top of your cooled pie or pipe into fun patterns.


Pumpkin Spice Kiss Blossoms

You know those delicious peanut butter cookies with the milk chocolate kiss pressed in the middle? Well, here is a FALL inspired version! The Pumpkin Spice Kisses were an impulse buy (that’s what happens when you go grocery shopping hungry!) that I thought would be SO cute featured in a blog post. The cookies taste like a snickerdoodle, and the pumpkin spice kiss is the perfect complement to them. I added the spices I had on hand in my cupboard, so feel free to adjust to your taste. Do follow the advice about freezing the kisses though…they melt pretty easily! 
Based on this great recipe from Bakergirl. 
1 package Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice Kisses
½ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon ground ginger

Sugar and spice (and everything nice) for rolling
½ cup granulated sugar 
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Unwrap some pumpkin spice Kisses and put them in the freezer to get them nice and cold.

Mix together the sugar and spices for rolling the cookies in later and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs and beat until light and fluffy.

In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, allspice and ginger. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until combines.

Shape the dough into tablespoon sized balls. Roll them in your prepared sugar mixture. Place on baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until tops start to crack and bottom is golden brown.

Remove from oven and let them cool 3 to 5 minutes on the baking sheet. Transfer the cookies to a plate. Push one of the frozen kisses into the middle of the cookie. Put the plate of cookies right into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes so the kisses don’t melt!

Look at that sugar sparkle!

See, the kiss gets slightly melty!

Om nom.


Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Can you believe these don’t have any butter or oil, and there’s vegetables inside? Me neither!
For the cake:
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
½ cup sugar 
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup cocoa powder (I added a couple extra tablespoons…why not?)
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups grated zucchini (I did not peel it first; pack it into the measuring cup and drain off excess liquid)
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
Based on this recipe.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease an 8×8 square pan or a 7×11 rectangular pan.
Combine the eggs, vanilla, sugar, and applesauce.
In a separate larger bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add the wet ingredients, zucchini, and chocolate chips.
Top with the chopped chocolate.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  

Final product!