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Vanilla Cupcakes

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I’m so predictable. It’s Friday and I’m giving you a dessert recipe. I think its because I secretly hope that you will make these on Friday and eat the entire thing over the weekend so I will feel better about having nothing but these for lunch two days in a row.

I actually made these for the 5-year-old that I nanny for. When I asked her what she wanted to bring to school for her birthday, the conversation went like this:

Her: VANILLA CUPCAKES!!

Me: Vanilla cupcakes? Are you sure?

Her: Yes!!

Me: Well…do you want me to throw strawberries in? I can make pink strawberry cupcakes!

Her: No. I want vanilla.

Me: Do you want me to add some sprinkles?

Her: No! Just vanilla

Me: Pink Vanilla?

Her: JUST VANILLA!!

Me: fine…

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I was so underwhelmed. Vanilla cupcakes are never my go to recipe. Ever. I think because all the really bad store-bought cakes and cupcakes that are always brought to parties and events are plain, ol’ stale vanilla. I’ve been scarred.

So I grudgingly made these with some serious trepidation. When they came out amazing, I was really, really surprised. Of course, I flat out ignored her request for all vanilla and paired them with the strawberry frosting from this recipe, which is hands down my favorite. She loved them.

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Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes
from Food.com
makes 12

  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 350 F and line a muffin tin with liners.

Stir the non-dairy milk and the apple cider vinegar together and set aside for a few minutes to curdle.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the milk/apple cider mixture, oil, sugar and vanilla together. Add the flour mixture and beat until no large lumps remain. (if you taste the batter after it’s all combined, it tastes just like a box cupcake mix!)

Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for 20 to 22 minutes until done.

I had to make 3 dozens of these puppies. Of course, after I made the first batch of vegan ones, I remembered that one of the 5 year-olds classmates is allergic to nuts, which means no almond milk. I had to scrub everything really well and make 3 new batches with regular milk. Thankfully, I only made 1 dozen of the vegan version before I remembered this.

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The cupcakes pictured are frosted with this Coconut Frosting, which I had left over, and some chocolate frosting from a left over cake that was made. All the strawberry frosting went onto the non-vegan cupcakes so I decided to use what I had instead of making a whole new batch. The vanilla cupcakes went beautifully with all of them but my favorite was definitely the strawberry.

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Now, go make these and report back with how many you ate so I can feel better about how many I had. Kthanks

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Happy Friday, everyone! I’m made you something with fun sprinkles to help you celebrate the end of your week. I hope you have some awesome plans for this weekend. I think I have not 1, but 2 fun things in the works that I am looking forward to sharing with you on my next Travel Tuesday-Staycation post.

Ok, now let’s get down to business. The family I nanny for often has chocolate chip cookies in the house. They are good. Real good. Like, I’m pretty sure in one day, the Dad and I can make a fairly large dent before the kids even know I restocked. They aren’t vegan and they aren’t healthy. Thus, they are my worst enemy. They whisper to be from the very top of the cabinet saying “psst, Erin. You worked out this morning. You can totally have 1. Or 3. I’m yummy and chock full of chocolate chips…”

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It’s the worst.

peanut butter + maple syrup

peanut butter + maple syrup

So I’ve been trying to make some cleaner, healthier-sorta-kinda, desserts that I can keep around the house that I don’t have to worry about sharing. This way, when I’m being taunted by store bought chocolate chip cookies, I have a better option.

peanut butter/maple syrup + coconut flour

peanut butter/maple syrup + coconut flour

Healthy-ish Peanut Butter Balls
from Oh She Glows
serving 20-25

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup 100% natural peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, I used Teddy’s. You want it to be the all natural kind that is kind of drippy.)
  • 3.5-4 tablespoons pure maple syrup, to taste (I only tried maple syrup so I can’t vouch for other liquid sweeteners like honey and Agave Nectar)
  • 2-3 tablespoons coconut flour (I used 2.5)
  • fine grain sea salt, to taste (I used 1/8 teaspoon because by PB was already salted)
  • 6 tablespoons rice crisp cereal
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil

Instructions:

  1. Combine natural peanut butter and the maple syrup in a medium bowl and stir vigorously for about a minute until the mixture has thickened.
  2. Add the coconut and stir until well combined. The amount of the coconut flour will depend on the consistency of your peanut butter. Start with 2 TBSP, combine and let sit for a minute or two. The coconut flour will continue to absorbed the moisture in the mixture and will continue to thicken. Add a bit more if the peanut butter remains sticky. You want to be able to roll the peanut butter into a ball without it sticking to your hands (add more flour if this is the case) and without cracking or crumbling (add more maple syrup). See my picture below for a reference on what your dough should look like.
  3. Add salt and combine.
  4. Add cereal and gently combine.
  5. Shape into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I was able to make 20 but I would suggest going smaller for a better Peanut butter/ chocolate ratio). Place in freezer while you prepare the chocolate.
  6. On medium heat,melt the chocolate and coconut oil in a double boiler. Once the chocolate had begun to melt, stir the chocolate around until it becomes smooth then remove from heat.
  7. Remove the peanut butter balls from the freezer. One at a time, drop them into the melted chocolate, roll around until it is covered, then roll it gently up the side to help remove excess chocolate.
  8. Place in the fridge or freezer for another 10 minutes or so for the chocolate to harden. Keep chilled.

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I had been eyeing this recipe since I received two large jars of Teddy’s peanut butter from home for Christmas. I sort of forgot about it with the craziness of the holidays but the other day, I realized I was down to my last 1/2 of a jar and knew I had to make this before it was too late.

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The filling is straight up peanut butter goodness! The rice cereal adds a nice texture but the best part is, because it’s so peanut buttery, I’m good with one. It’s the perfect little afternoon snack!

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AND peanut butter is a very American thing and most of the family doesn’t particularly like them so they are all for me! Yesssss!

PS. did you notice in the first picture the condensation on the Peanut Butter Balls because it was SO hot here when I was photographing them? It reminded me of this skit. LOL! Happy Friday.

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I know it’s 7:30pm in the States and the day after Valentine’s Day in Australia but I am physically incapably of letting a holiday pass without making a corresponding dessert. I think it may be a problem. Chronic Seasonalbakingaholic? Sure, that sounds about right.

For this Valentine’s Day, I wanted to make something a little different. EVERYONE makes red velvet something or other. I’m totally guilty of that as last year I made Red Velvet Nutella Breakfast Rolls in the shape of hearts. (side note: the Aussies say “Love heart” when describing the traditional Valentines Day heart…weirdos). They were to die for. I think I had a dreams about those breakfast rolls for days after. BUT, they were kind of cliche.

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So this year, I decided to branch out a little and leave the red velvet for others (my pancakes were technically not red velvet since they don’t have food dye…even though you could easily add it). I decided to go for passionfruit since you want passion for Valentine’s Day? Get it? Get it? Cool. And thanks to this handy cook book I got for Christmas (thanks Matt!), I know that passionfruit and coconut pair well together. Thus, the Coconut Passionfruit Cupcake with Coconut Milk Buttercream was born.

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Coconut Passionfruit Cupcake with Coconut Milk Buttercream Frosting
veganized from SBS.com.au
makes approximately 15

cake ingredients:

  • 1½ cups self-raising flour
  • ½ cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened, whichever you prefer.
  • ¾ cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup passionfruit pulp (approximately 3–4 large passionfruit)
  • ¾ cup vegan butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 Ener-G eggs

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Whisk together the flour and coconut in bowl, set aside. Combine the coconut milk and passionfruit pulp in a small jug and set aside. Whisk together the vegan eggs and set aside.

Cream butter for 1–2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the caster sugar a third at a time and beat for 1–2 minutes after each addition.

Add 1/2 the egg mixture and beat for 1 minute. Add the rest and beat for 1 minute.

Add ⅓ of the flour and coconut and beat on low until just combined. Add half of the coconut milk and passionfruit mixture and beat until combined. Repeat this again and then finish with the final third of the flour and coconut. Do not over beat the mixture or it will become tough.

Line cupcake pans with papers and fill liners 3/4 full. Bake for 15–20 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when tested. Allow cool on a cake cooler.

 Coconut Milk Buttercream Frosting*:
adapted from Dairyfreecooking.about.com
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free soy margarine, room temperature
  • 4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • food coloring (optional)
Beat the butter until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add half of the powdered sugar and beat for another 1-2 minutes until well mixed. Add the coconut milk and vanilla extract. Beat for another 1-2 minutes. Add the remaining powdered sugar and beat for 1 minute or until well mixed and fluffy. Add food coloring if you wish.
*One of the batches of cupcakes I made come out super fluffy and moist. It was almost the texture of pound cake and suspect I over mixed something. If that happens with yours, I would recommend saving the buttercream for another recipe and going the coconut whipped cream route. I haven’t been able to find an Aussie brand of coconut milk that will separate which is why I opted for buttercream but most in the US do separate.
To make the chocolate hearts:
vegan chocolate, preferably melting chocolates
Line a cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment paper and set aside. Place some vegan chocolate in a plastic baggy and stick it in the microwave. Heat for 15 seconds. Pull it out and mush the chocolate around. Repeat this process until the chocolate is fully melted. Snip the corner of baggy. Pipe hearts onto your prepared cookie sheet. Put it in the fridge to solidify. Once hard, decorate your cupcakes!
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Hope everyone has a great Valentine’s with their special someone or with friends! I’ll tell you how I spent my Valentine’s Day next week. It was kind of hilarious.

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I am SO happy it is Friday! It’s week two of the new school year and waking up early again is hitting me hard. I’ve been in grumpy zombie mode all week. I’ve wanted nothing but a serious nap. I went to bed one night at 9:30 and I still can’t shake it! This weekend I will be lounging in bed late every morning and soaking up the laziness! I think I may also work on some Valentine’s Recipes and check out Wolf of Wall Street. Has anyone seen it? Thoughts?

ok, Friday Favorites:

New Music: New Taking Back Sunday (duh!):

Favorite new exfoliant: Lush‘s Let the Good Times Roll. This was one of my Sydney Lush purchases and I can’t get enough of it. It smells amazing, like caramel popcorn, and leaves my skin so soft. The lady at Lush told me to use it every other day or every three days. It nearly kills me not to use it every night. Ob-sessed!  I think it’s seasonal, though :/

Picture from Lush.com

Picture from Lush.com

Favorite New Make-up: Garnier’s BB cream. I’m not going to get into a big make-up rant because I sound like a commercial. I will say getting up early, working with kids and living in a sunny, hot climate has resulted in me almost never wearing makeup during the day. When I do, I wanted something much lighter and gentler on my skin. This meets all those requirements. Plus, my skin actually looks better after I wear it. True story. Downside- it’s not all natural. Leave a comment below if you have a good all natural foundation you use.

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Favorite Beverage: Boost’s King William Smoothy. It’s just cold, liquid chocolate. Perfect thing to kick my chocolate cravings. To make vegan, I switched the milk for soy milk and the yogurt for sorbet. In this case, I’m pretending all chocolate is vegan. I’m the worst vegan ever.

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Favorite Treat: Popsicles. When I can’t afford the above smoothie, I reach for these. It’s been hot here and I’ve been on a cold treat kick. I made these fudgesicles a few weeks ago and had to force myself to keep them to a snack. A hot meal for lunch and dinner? Nah, bring on the frozen chocolate!

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Mocha Fudgesicles
slightly altered from Take A Mega Bite

Ingredients:

  • 1 (14 oz) can full fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips or vegan chocolate
  • 1 T instant espresso or 2 T instant coffee
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 t vanilla
  • 1/2 T- 1 T sugar, depending on the chocolate used (my chocolate chips were sweet enough so I used 1/2T)

Place the coconut milk, chocolate, and espresso in a saucepan and heat until chocolate is mostly melted. Set aside for 5 minutes for the coffee to steep. Stir in salt, vanilla, and sugar. Taste and add more sugar to taste. Pour into popsicle mold and freeze for a few hours or over night.

If you do not have popsicle molds (like myself), pour into small paper or plastic cups, cover with tin foil and poke your popsicle stick through the tin foil. Freeze for a few hours or over night.

When ready to eat, run the mold under warm water. If you pull a stick out sans pop just run it under water and place back in the popsicle to freeze.

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These were so creamy and delicious. I definitely hoarded them from the children because I didn’t want to share. I mean… because they don’t need the caffeine. yeah…we’ll go with that.

Now, what are your weekend plans?

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Hello all!

I am officially reporting to you from Australia, the land of kangaroos, koalas and no halloween. This first week or so has been interesting!

I will be staying for 6 months in Toowoomba, Queensland and nannying for a family with three kids- 12, 11 and 5. Toowoomba is about 1 and a half from Brisbane and north of Sydney. So far, all is going well.

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I have managed to drive on the opposite side of the road on the opposite side of the car without killing anyone. I’ve been to trivia with a few Aussies where I woefully let the team down by answering every question about American presidents wrong and learned a little about AFL (Australian Football League). See a picture of their field below. All I can say is it sure ain’t like the NFL! I also learned that some slang for the male genitalia is Doodle, which I find hilarious, and Plum. This came up in casual conversation, I swear.

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I also managed to find the only organic food market and place that serves vegan food. I found this on Day 1 and have already eaten there twice. It also has a juice bar. It also makes Whole Foods prepared food section look cheap. So I don’t think this will be a regular habit but it is nice to have at least one go-to vegan eatery.

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As for vegan eats, it has not been easy! I asked for no cheese on my pizza at trivia and they told me no changes were allowed. I do my best.

Anyway, I thought my first week would be a transition week but on the second or third day in, the 5 year old girl ended up having to stay home due to several nose bleeds. Which meant I had the fun of entertaining her all day while not knowing a lot about her. Also, without any sort of crafty, artsy materials. No crayons, no coloring books, no nothing! We also had the unfortunate situation of her being out of school because her nose kept bleed but she felt fine! So by noon, she was bouncing around the house full of energy when she was supposed to be taking it easy. I was about to throw in the towel and take her to a park when her nose started to bleed again.

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After we cleaned her up, I became desperate. If I heard the words “I’m booooooored”  one more time I would cry (which is crazy cause I had successfully kept her relatively busy to this point). So I turned to the kitchen! Cause nothing is more fun then making a mess with flour and eating raw (vegan) batter!

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Hence, the vegan brownie cups. It earned me 30 whole minutes of quality entertainment. hallelujah!

Vegan Brownie Cups
from All Recipes
makes 16

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 c.  white sugar
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used 1 tsp vanilla paste which is my new favorite thing)
  • chocolate chips for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325  degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Pour in water, vegetable oil and vanilla; mix until well blended.

Divide evenly into 16 cupcake liners. Top with chocolate chips, if you are using them. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

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These definitely came out more cake-like then fudge-y brownie-like. This has been my constant issue with vegan brownies. The texture is never that of a fudge-y brownie. They are either too fudge-y or too cake-y. These were so tasty and easy to make though that I don’t care. I was able to make them with a 5 year old with the ingredients that were already on hand, no weird flour or ingredients. My pantry is no longer stocked with 8 kinds of flours nor do I want to buy said flour when I know I’m leaving in 6 months, so this simple recipe was perfect.

Also, it was really, really yummy! No one in the family knew it was vegan and that is perfectly ok with me.

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pin some ideas for rainy day/stuck in the house activities on pinterest because I don’t think the mom I’m working for would appreciate baked goods every time the kids are bored! Though, I’m pretty sure the kids  wouldn’t mind.

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I was planning to post a recipe for, you know, real food, no dessert/breakfast food, but this recipe actually came about out of necessity. My parents rolled into Boston Sunday with 1. boots which I mistakenly packed when I was moving locations. I can’t be in fall-like weather without boots, obviously! 2. a brown bag full of peaches fresh from my Dad’s trees. I’ve been waiting FOR-EVER for fresh fruit from my Dad’s trees and 3. pudding shots. Yeap, my mom made pudding shots for a concert and I got the extras. But not just any pudding shots- cupcake pudding shots. Let’s just say I’ve been having “shots” of cake vodka at really weird times of the day and it’s been glorious!

But back to the peaches! So, back in the day when I was in 1st-grade-ish and we were living in MA, my Dad planted some apple trees and I was stoked! Even at 1st-grade-ish, I loved me some fresh picked apples. But then we moved. To a house on the golf course. Down south. There wasn’t any space for gardening and I was bummed. BUT, then we moved back up north and my Dad plopped a few more fruit trees in the ground and I was stoked all over again! “4 years”, he told me. “You’ll have fresh apples by the time you graduate high school”. Then, “well…ok. Definitely by the time you graduate college”.

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My college graduation was over 5 years ago (Oh My God! I’m so old!!) and the fresh fruit is just rolling in now. It’s not apples but I’m not complaining because these peaches are amazing! I’ve had about 3 today and the only reason I’m sharing with my roommates is because there were A LOT of peaches in the bag Dad brought me. I mean, clearly he must have felt guilty after the 9 years of promising me fresh-from-the-tree fruit. Clearly! 😉

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Peach Cornmeal Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze
from The Frosted Vegan

For the Cake:

  • 1 1/4 c. cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking power
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 c. agave nectar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 3/4 c. non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 c. fresh peach jam (or 1 peach, pureed)*
  • 1-2 peaches, sliced

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. coconut milk

* I used 1/2 cup of peach jam that my mom’s friend, Lu, made with my Dad’s peaches. I have not tried the 1 peach pureed.

To prepare the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease a cake pan and set aside.
  2. Combine the cornmeal, whole wheat flour,  salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Stir until combined. Add in vanilla, apple cider vinegar, agave nectar, non dairy milk, and peach jam (or pureed peach). Stir until dry ingredients are combined with wet ingredients. Pour batter into greased cake pan.
  3. Arrange sliced peaches on the top.
  4. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until knife inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Poke 10 holes in the top of the cake, scattered throughout.

To make the glaze:

  1. Combine brown sugar and coconut milk in small saucepan over medium heat. Continuously stir sugar mixture until brown sugar has dissolved. Pour glaze over cake.

Store covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Yields 8 slices.

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I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this recipe. Cornbread and peaches are not two of my favorite foods and wouldn’t be something that I would normally choose to eat. This cake though is delicious. It’s not super sweet so you could definitely serve it along side your coffee or save it for dessert and serve it warm with some vanilla ice cream. It’s very moist and the glaze on top is oh-my-gosh-I-could-eat-this-with-a-spoon good. I would recommend making extras and putting in on ice cream, or pancakes, or oatmeal, or french toast, or basically anything that allows you to consume it regularly. You won’t be sorry!

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I know I’m making peach cakes this week but don’t be surprised if I start whipping out the fall recipes next week. You’ve been warned!

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Happy summer, everyone!

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Know how I know it’s summer?

It’s not the sweltering humidity that keeps me up at night. It’s not the fact that Boston is blessedly free of a ginormous number of students. And it’s not that the sun is blinding me at 5am because I’m faced with that weird dilemma of keeping the curtains open so I can actually feel the fresh air my fan is blowing in.

Nope. It’s that I’m crazy, insanely, busy! What is it about summer that makes our calendars fill up and has us going non-stop?

Anyway, that would be the reason that I haven’t posted anything in, like, 2 weeks!! And by 2 weeks, I just checked and actually mean 3! Wowza!

What sucks is that I’ve been making some pretty healthy and yummy summer meals that I’ve been wanting to share with you. With that said, you may find this blog relaxing a little more in the coming weeks. In an attempt to get some recipes up and keep on top of things, I may trade the staged, somewhat-edited pictures for cellphone, even-less-edited pictures, making this more of a food journal/blog thing. It’s just a thought. We’ll see where the summer takes us. But if the last few weeks are any indication, it’s going to be taking me to the pool/beach/bars/cookouts/social events and those places aren’t always update-your-blog friendly. So bear with me if things start to become a little more casual around here.

With that said, I did manage to get my crap together for Friday favorites, which ironically, is one of the harder posts to do since I have to pay attention to what I have been enjoying the past week (or three in this case!)

Favorite activity: lounging on the deck with friends and watching the storms come in

porch loungin storm watchin

Favorite beverage: a nice cold beer. My favorite lately has been Shock Tops Raspberry Wheat

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Favorite music (you knew it was coming!): Taking Back Sunday’s new acoustic cd. I know- it’s kind of a cop out since over the years, they’ve released some of these songs live SO many times AND they didn’t put the Ballad of Sal Villanueva. But it’s TBS. I can’t help myself

Favorite read, (definitely wouldn’t qualify as “beach read” I don’t think): Game of Thrones. So…I’m caught up. Watched all the seasons. Ranted to my one friend who watches it. Was left frustrated because seriously, how is one supposed to wait a whole year for new season?! So I picked up the third book, where the series left off, and just started reading the bloody thing! Image and book can be purchased from herestorm of thrones

and last but not least, Favorite summer produce: Fresh strawberries. OMG. SO good. I can’t stop putting them in everything!

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And this is where todays recipe comes in. Strawberry macaroons! It doesn’t have fresh strawberries but it does hit the spot without rotting nearly as quickly as the fresh ones.

Strawberry Macaroons
by Tessa the Domestic Diva

makes between 20-24

Ingredients
  • 2 cups unsweetened grate coconut
  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • 1 bag freeze dried strawberries or raspberries (1.2 ounces), (I found mine at Whole Foods. Also available at Trader Joes and online
  • 3-4 tablespoons of maple syrup, honey, or coconut nectar, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, plus an added vanilla bean scraped (optional)
  • ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients into the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Process the ingredients for 2-3 minutes until the shredded coconut beings to break down. Depending on how textured you like it, as long as the ingredients are well incorporated, the will hold together well.
  3. Drop the batter, about 2-3 teaspoons worth onto a lined cookie sheet. If you find that the ingredients aren’t sticking together easily (mine didn’t), place them in the fridge to harden a bit. They will be more moldable once chilled a bit
  4. Place in the fridge or freezer to harden for 10-20 minutes.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

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I find that once these have been chilled, you can keep them at room temperature for a bit without them melting all over the place, which is nice. I wouldn’t leave them in the sun or anything though.

These little things are light and not too sweet, two things I love when making dessert for the summer. Plus, they are no bake, which is huge! My house is a sauna as it is. No need to crank the oven to 350 also!

What are some things you’re looking forward to this summer? I have some summer concerts I’m pumped for! Also, lots and lots of relaxation (hopefully!)

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