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Box of Chocolates Cupcakes

Box of Chocolates CupcakesValentine’s Day is finally here.  What are your plans for tonight?  We’re having dinner in and then heading to the local frozen yogurt shop for their buy one get one free deal.  Yep, I said it.  I’m not making our dessert tonight despite all of the Valentine dessert recipes I’ve been posting!  Tonight, I’m getting treated!  🙂

Box of Chocolates Cupcakes2Today, I’m giving our friends this box of chocolates, which are actually cupcakes.  I bookmarked this a few years ago in my Hello! Cupcake book and never had the chance to make them.  This year, it was a must.  It’s an absolutely adorable idea and super easy despite what it may seem.  Just make a batch of your favorite chocolate cupcakes in miniature cupcake pans (even a box mix will do) and then frost them with chocolate icing.  Decorate as you prefer, then place them in a heart shaped box.  The Hello! Cupcake book suggests using chocolate jimmies, red and white jimmies, marshmallows cut in half then dipped in melted frosting, Valentine’s candy corn, red Dots, Valentine’s M&M’s and other Valentine’s candies.

Hope you have a fantastic Valentine’s evening!


White Chocolate Raspberry Heart Cheesecake

White Chocolate Raspberry Heart Cheesecake
I have to apologize (or do I?) for all of the sweets I’ve been posting lately.  When Valentine’s Day approaches each year, I find myself leaning towards desserts more than anything else.  You now know the way to MY heart!

I’m guessing there are many of you who would like to save your pennies by cooking dinner at home instead of emptying your pockets to one of those packaged Valentine’s “deals” that restaurants seem to hype up.  And, since Valentine’s falls on a weekday this year, you more than likely will lean to something quick.  So, why not plan ahead and make a dessert this weekend that will be ready for you right after that romantic dinner you whipped up?  This cheesecake can be made up to four days ahead of time.  Just store it in your fridge and pop it out about an hour before serving (if you like cheesecake at room temperature) or just a few minutes before serving (if you prefer it cold, like me).

The springform pans I used were clearance items I picked up last year at Target.  They are miniature heart shaped springform pans by Wilton.  Even though these are only 4-inch pans, and the original recipe is for an 8-inch circular springform, I decided to make the whole recipe and filled a few silicone pans I had with the extra cheesecake to freeze for later.  The recipe below reflects the original 8-inch sized cheesecake, with notes added on baking for the 4-inch heart shaped pans.

Another change I made was using regular sour cream instead of the reduced-fat that it called for.  Not that I was opposed to using reduced-fat, I just had regular on hand and didn’t want to run to the store again.  It turned out just fine!

The raspberry sauce is not pictured above, except for the marbled hearts incorporated into the cheesecake filling.  To create these hearts, use the same method I showed you for the sugar cookies the other day.  Just use the raspberry sauce to create circle drops around the border of the cheesecake, then run a toothpick through them to create the hearts.  Simple as that!

White Chocolate Raspberry Heart Cheesecake

Printable Recipe

For the Raspberry Sauce:
1 (12 oz) bag frozen raspberries, thawed
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 1 Tablespoon water

For the Crust:
1 1/2 cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar, or less to taste
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the Filling:
3 (8 oz) packages 1/3-less-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sour cream (reduced-fat is fine)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz white baking chocolate, melted according to package directions

Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Spray an 8×3-inch springform pan with cooking spray.

For the Sauce:
Set a fine strainer over a small saucepan.  Press the raspberries through with a rubber spatula.  Discard the pulp and seeds, then stir in the sugar.  Heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, then stir in the cornstarch mixture.  Bring to a boil, stirring until thickened.  Set aside and let cool for later use.

For the Crust:
In a small bowl, mix together the graham crackers and sugar.  Pour in the butter and stir until equally moistened.  Pat into the bottom of the prepared pan and press up sides about 2 inches (does not need to be even).  Set aside.

For the Filling:
Using the whisk attachment of your mixer, cream together the cream cheese, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl on medium speed.  Scrape down the sides and mix until smooth.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, just until blended.  Mix in the sour cream and vanilla until incorporated, then add in the white chocolate.  Mix until blended.  Pour the filling into the prepared crust.

Decorate with the raspberry sauce:  Starting 1 inch from the edge of the pan, drop 12 evenly spaced 1/2-inch round puddles of sauce in a circle on the cheesecake filling.  Run a toothpick through the circles to create marbled hearts.  Make a second and third circle of hearts, going the opposite direction, if desired.  Store the sauce in the fridge in an airtight container to serve later with the baked cheesecake.

Bake the cake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 250˚F. Bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the center of the cheesecake barely jiggles when shaken.  Turn off the oven (leave oven door closed) and cool cake inside the oven for 1 hour.  Remove pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours.  Remove both cake and sauce from fridge one hour before serving, if you prefer the cheesecake at room temperature.  Otherwise, remove the cheesecake just before serving.  Run a knife around the edges, if necessary, and remove the sides of the pan.  Serve each piece drizzled with the raspberry sauce.

This can be made up to 4 days ahead.

Note:  If using the 4-inch springform pans, bake only 20-30 minutes at 350˚F and 45 minutes to 1 hour at 250˚F.

Source: Adapted from Woman’s Day

Strawberry Valentine Cupcakes

Valentine Strawberry CupcakesThese strawberry cupcakes are not new to Pennies on a Platter.  In fact, they are probably the favorite cupcake in our household.  I first made them a few years ago for Ben’s graduation party where they were a huge hit.  Since then, they have made an appearance in my oven quite a few times.  This week was no exception.  After making the heart shaped cookies (see previous post), I couldn’t resist but to also make miniature hearts to adorn the top of our favorite cupcakes.

I brought these to our neighbor’s Superbowl party.  Since the Bears fell short in making it to the big game, and I could care less about either team, I decided I wasn’t in the mood to bring something with a football theme.  I was over that.  Instead, it was more fun to bring a little girlyness (I make up words all the time) to the party and speed up the arrival of Valentine’s Day.

Valentines Strawberry Cupcakes2Everyone seemed to really enjoy the cupcakes.  There was so much yummy food at the party, that I really forgot about pitying myself regarding the Bears and instead enjoyed chomping on whatever I could fit in my stomach!  🙂  Plus, did you see that adorable Darth Vader commercial?  That cute little kid made the Superbowl for me.

Click the links below for the recipes.  The frosting is a little more pink than what shows in the photos above.  I added more powdered sugar to thicken it up this time in order to hold the cookie toppers, causing the pink color to fade.  You can also add food coloring to achieve your desired level of pink.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting
Sugar Cookie Hearts

Sugar Cookie Hearts

Heart Shaped Cookies2Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and you might be on the search for a treat to bring to work, school, church, the neighbors, etc.  If you’re looking to impress, these are the choice for you!  Would you believe me if I told you that these cookies are extremely easy to decorate?  It only takes 3 colors of royal icing (red, white and pink) in 3 squeeze bottles and a handful of toothpicks.  An off-set spatula to spread the icing is also helpful.

Royal Icing Squeeze Bottles

I saw these cute hearts originally on Karen’s Cookie blog.  Karen’s Cookies is my latest favorite discovery.  I’ve bought a few baking items from her store and plan to purchase more in the future.  She recently started a blog to share photos of her delicious creations, including these cookies.

To create the marble hearts, you simply flood the cookie with the royal icing and then quickly dot the background with another color.  While it’s still wet, run a toothpick through the dots and they magically become hearts!  Below is a quick photo tutorial on how to create the marble hearts on the cookies…

Heart Cookies Steps

…and then a few photos on how to create the tie-dyed look.

Heart Cookie Swirl

Again, just make sure you are working one or two cookies at a time so that the icing is still wet.  This causes the different colors to set into each other for flat results.  A few more helpful hints?  It helps to keep the bottles tipped upside down in glasses so they are ready to go.  Additionally, keep paper towels nearby to wipe your toothpick(s) after each use. For more detailed instructions, visit Karen’s Cookie blog.

Heart Shaped Cookies3I am now a fan of the royal icing recipe provided by Karen’s Cookies and her sugar cookie recipe.  Although, I do still like the original royal icing I used and will continue to use both.  You’ll be very proud of yourself after making these cookies.  And, you’ll have a hard time eating them since they’re so pretty!

Sugar Cookies

Printable Recipe

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar (or granulated sugar processed in food processor for 30 seconds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract, optional
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar and salt at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg yolk and beat until fully incorporated.  Mix in the whole egg, vanilla and optional almond extract.  Beat until full mixed.  Add the flour, then beat at low speed just until combined.  Be careful to not over-mix.  Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap.  Store in fridge until firm, at least one hour and up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 375˚F.  On a floured work surface, roll the dough to 1/4-inch thick, sprinkling with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking.  Use cookies cutters to cut into shapes and place on parchment or silicone-lined pans.  Bake until cookies appear dry on the surface and are light golden brown on the edges, about 10 minutes (or a few more for larger cookies).   Let sit for 2 minutes before removing from cookie sheets.  Allow to cool completely on cooling racks before decorating.

Source:  Karen’s Cookies

Royal Icing 2

Printable Recipe

3 tablespoons meringue powder
4 cups (1 lb) powdered sugar
6+ tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional

Beat all ingredients together until stiff peaks form (about 10 minutes).  Divide into separate containers, depending on how many colors you plan to use.  Mix in food coloring.  Add water to thin each color out so that when it runs off the spoon it quickly dissolves back into the remaining icing within 10 seconds.  Add powdered sugar if need to thicken.  Pour into squeeze bottles and decorate cookies.

Source:  Karen’s Cookies

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Pumpkin Spice CupcakeLast month, I made these pumpkin spice cupcakes for Judah’s first birthday party.  Somehow, I forgot to share the recipe with you.  Because I also made vanilla cupcakes, I wanted to make an easy icing that went along with both, so I used just a basic buttercream frosting.  But, don’t let the word “basic” fool you.  The frosting was marvelous, super quick to whip up, and a perfect compliment to both cupcakes.  It’s now my go-to frosting when I need something fast.  (I’ll share this recipe sometime later.)

The cupcakes were delicious as well.  I can’t wait until I have a reason to make them again, but I fear it won’t be until this fall when all things are pumpkin.

Before giving you the recipe, let me thank you for all of the great pizza ideas you shared with me the other day for the giveaway!  I saved a lot of them to try in our own house on pizza day.   Now, let me finally announce the winner of the pizza peel.   The winner, randomly selected, is Rachael who said “I have a BLT pizza recipe that is wonderful! Take the bacon, tomato, shredded lettuce, a homemade pizza crust, and a cream cheese spread (with Italian seasoning mixed in)… delish!”  Rachael, check your inbox for an email from me! 🙂  Congratulations!

On to the pumpkin spice cupcakes…

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

Printable Recipe

Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup buttermilk

Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners; set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.  Mix in the vanilla until fully incorporated.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  In another small mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin and buttermilk until smooth.

Turn the stand mixer on to the lowest setting and alternately add the dry ingredients and the pumpkin mixtures to the creamed butter.  Start and end with the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined.

Spoon the batter into the pans, filling about 1/2 full.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until passes the toothpick test.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.  Once completely cooled, top with desired frosting.

Source:  My Kitchen Addiction

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip CookiesYes, this is another cookie recipe.  I told you I’m addicted! Not much to say about these because they are just this recipe with chocolate chips instead of raisins.  Ben declared these as his favorite cookies the night I first made these.  (Here’s a hint: He says that about every cookie I’ve made lately!)  Flattering, but proof that he’s easy to please.  🙂

I think these are best eaten right out of the oven.  Just don’t burn your tongue. Instead, let them cool for at least 5 minutes then go ahead and indulge while the chocolate is still melted.  Yum!  You can also turn them into sandwich cookies, which is another one of Ben’s faves!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Printable Recipe

1 cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups light brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°.

In a large bowl beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla with a hand held mixer until well blended. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, stirring until just combined.

Fold in rolled oats and chocolate chips. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons about 2 inches apart onto a cookie sheet.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 2 minutes and remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Source: Annie’s Eats originally from Deborah’s Culinary Confections

(This month we are giving back to the King family.  Visit Pennies on a Platter from January 1st to 31st to increase the blog hits which will in turn raise more money for Veronica and her children.  Please read this post for more information. You may also make a monetary donation by clicking on the PayPal button in the left hand column above.)

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

Peanut Butter and MM Cookies

Earlier this week, Ben came home from work and told me we were invited to a friend’s to watch football and eat pizza.  Whenever we go somewhere for dinner or a party, I never like to arrive empty handed.  The catch?  Ben told me this at 4:15 PM and we were expected to be there at 5:15 PM!  I had very little time to think of what to bring and then actually make it!

Enter these cookies.  I had some M&M’s in the pantry that I’ve been wanting to use up.  They were leftover from these Christmas Crunch Cookies where we picked out the red and green M&M’s and left the rest.  I also knew that I needed to find a recipe where I had all ingredients on hand, so these cookies were perfect!  And, perfect they turned out indeed!  They are soft and chewy, but of course with a little crunch from the M&M’s.

Peanut Butter and MM Cookies2

I’m afraid I have become a bit addicted to cookies in general.  It doesn’t help that every Thursday night I bring a batch to the college group we lead through church.  Lately I’ve been leaning on the Perfectly Puffy Chocolate Chip Cookies because the kids love them!  But, I wanted to try something new this time while not having to go to the grocery store.  So, I tried these cookies once again without the M&M’s and used butter instead of shortening.  They were still soft and chewy, but not puffy (because of the butter).  Lesson learned?  If including M&M’s, use shortening so the cookies are thicker and can hold the M&M’s.  If not including M&M’s or any type of addition, use butter which creates a flatter cookie, but is a little tastier.

Do you prefer butter or shortening?  There is a butter-flavored shortening that I use in some cookies, too.  Do you have reservations on one or the other?  Puffy vs Flat?  Chewy vs Crispy?  For me, it depends on my mood.  🙂

Peanut Butter M&M Cookies

Printable Recipe

Yield: 2 – 3 dozen cookies

1 3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup shortening (or butter for a flatter cookie)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons milk
1/2 large bag of M&M’s

Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.

Whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the shortening (butter), sugars and peanut butter.  Stir in the egg, vanilla and milk.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Using a wooden spoon, carefully stir in the M&M’s.

Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheet and lightly press down with a fork to barely flatten cookies.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Source:  Adapted from Baking Junkie

(This month we are giving back to the King family.  Visit Pennies on a Platter from January 1st to 31st to increase the blog hits which will in turn raise more money for Veronica and her children.  Please read this post for more information. You may also make a monetary donation by clicking on the PayPal button in the left hand column above.)