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Pumpkin cheesecake blondies

With Thanksgiving less than 3 weeks away, pumpkin pie is on many people’s mind. Why not surprise your family and friends with a new decadent pumpkin dessert. (Plus this can be made ahead so you don’t have to worry about it on the big day.)

 

What you need:

– For the Blondie base:

1 Off Kilter Blondie mix

1 cup pureed pumpkin

½ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp cloves

– For the Cheesecake topping:

1 block (8oz) cream cheese at room temp

¼ cup sugar

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla

½ cup pumpkin puree

– For the Candied Pecan topping:

½ cup pecans (chopped or whole)

1/8 cup sugar

½  tsp cinnamon

 

Start by mixing the blondie mix as directed adding ½ of the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.

Pumpkin cheesecake blondie ingredients

Spread the batter into a 8×8 pan lined with parchment.

Next make the cheesecake topping: cream together the cream cheese, sugar, egg, vanilla, and pumpkin.

Mixing the pumpkin cheesecake batter

Now top the blondie mix with cheesecake topping.

Topping the blondies with the pumpkin cheesecake topping

Bake until the cheesecake is set, approximately 30 minutes.

While this is baking, make the pecan topping.

Start with a good stainless steel or non-stick skillet. Add pecans, sugar, and cinnamon to skillet with heat on medium. Watch closely as the sugar heats and begins to melt.

Pecans and sugar in pan

This will happen very quickly so watch closely. As the sugar melts stir coating pecans evenly. When sugar is completely melted pour candied pecan mixture onto a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Candying pecans

When pecans are completely cool place them in a zip lock bag and crush with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin until almost powder. You can also grind in a small food processor. I actually used my smoothie cup on my ninja! Worked like a charm.

As soon as you pull the blondies out of the oven sprinkle with the pecan dust. This give them a nice little crunch.

Now slice and enjoy.

These taste even better if you leave them in the refrigerator over night. Perfect for a make ahead Thanksgiving dessert!

Pumpkin cheesecake blondie

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Cheesecake brownies

It might be obvious that we love brownies in our family. However, I can honestly say that I love cheesecake just as much! Combine the two and WHOA!!!! The perfect combination!

Cheesecake brownie

Here’s what you need:

OKB Brownie mix of your choice mixed as directed

1Tbsp water

8oz cream cheese, room temperature.

1/4c sugar

1egg

1/2tsp vanilla

Prepare your brownie batter as directed. Separate ¼ of the batter into a separate small bowl. Add 1 Tbsp water to this smaller portion of brownie batter and mix thoroughly. Set aside.

To make the cheesecake batter, cream together the softened cream cheese and sugar with a hand mixer. Then add the egg and vanilla, continuing to beat until mixed well.

In a parchment lined 8×8 square pan spread the larger portion of brownie batter evenly.

Top the brownie batter with cheesecake mixture.

 

 

Pouring cheeesecake batter

Take the remaining ¼ of thinned brownie batter and dollop over the cheesecake mixture. In approximately 5 spots.

Brownie batter with cheesecake batter

Using a knife or back of a spoon gently swirl into the cheesecake mixture.

Bake at 350 for approximately 1 hour or until middle of brownies are set.

 

Cheesecake brownie batter

While it may not be my husband’s favorite this is my personal variation to date!!!! Can’t wait to play with some fruit variations to share with you later 😊

~Liesl

 

Cheesecake brownie

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German Chocolate Brownies

German chocolate brownies

With my own personal German heritage and the fact that Octoberfest is upon us what better way to spruce up already delicious brownies than with this “German” twist.

 

What you Need:

OKB brownie mix made as directed.

1 egg

5oz can (⅔ cup) evaporated milk

⅔ c sugar

¼ c butter

1 ½ c shredded coconut

½ c chopped pecans

 

As your brownies are cooking and cooling you can whip up your german chocolate frosting. To make mine I used my tried and true Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. Why reinvent what is already delicious, right? I have been using this cookbook since I made my first biscuit as a toddler.

 

Better homes and gardens cookbook

 

In a saucepan add the evaporated milk, beaten egg, sugar, and butter. Slowly bring the mixture to a low bubble stirring constantly until thickened.

 

German chocolate icing ingredients cooking in a sauce pan

 

Remove mixture from heat and add your shredded coconut and pecans.

 

***When I pulled my ingredients I realized I only had sweetened coconut in the pantry. Because my family and myself do not like things overly sweet I cut the sugar in half. If you happen to have the same issue I can attest that cutting the sugar makes themd perfect!!!

 

German chocolate icing ready

 

Pour frosting over prepared brownies and allow to cool completely.

 

Icing the brownies

 

I love this recipe because it’s so simple and delicious!! I enjoyed mine with some vanilla ice cream 🙂

 

German chocolate brownie

 

Have a great weekend brownie crew!

 

Liesl

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Tell me S’more!!!

It’s fall y’all! Sweaters, hayrides, bonfires, and campfires! Need I say s’more? 🙂

Image of s'mores brownie on plate

 

What better way to cut down on things to carry to your next fall get together than to make these delicious s’more brownies. Be careful because they are addictive!

 

S’more Brownies

  •      1 original brownie mix made as directed
  •      1- 1½ cups mini marshmallows
  •      ¼ c mini chocolate chips
  •      2T crumbled graham crackers

 

You can use any graham crackers you would like. I chose to make some gluten and grain free graham crackers from Power Hungry.

 

Baked graham crackers

 

Mix and bake brownies per package instructions. While baking gather your toppings.

 

Smores ingredients: graham crackers, chocolate chips, and marshmallows

 

Top brownies with marshmallows, mini chips, and graham crackers.

 

Brownies topped with marshmallows, chocolate chips, and graham cracker pieces

 

Place topped brownies under the broiler until marshmallows are browned to your liking.

 

Toasted smores brownies

 

The kilted husband decided to get creative and s’mored the s’more, haha! He may have had more than 1 for testing purposes. Needless to say they passed with flying colors.

 

Smores brownies as a smore

 

Happy eating brownies crew!

Liesl

 

 

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Mommy Mousse Brownies

 

Mommy mousse brownies

As a busy mom there are nights, I just need some chocolate and a little decadence in my life! Dads I know you need to feel special too so believe me this is just as much for you!

This week after not feeling well, having a busy day at work, and a full day of volunteering at the kid’s school this momma needed a chocolate kinda night. Fancy desserts can often take a lot of prep, waiting and time. Thankfully this one takes less than normal but you get the high-end restaurant dessert feel 😊

What you need:

Off Kilter Brownie Mix

(2 eggs, 3oz. butter, ½ tsp vanilla)

2 ½ cups HEAVY cream

½ C powdered sugar

¼ C cocoa powder

½ tsp vanilla extract

Heavy cream, cocoa powder, vanilla, and powdered sugar

Of course, I started with our Original brownie, easy peasy, mix. In the oven it went and out it came.

As my brownies are baking and cooling. I work on dinner and whip up some easy chocolate mousse.

Easy mousse? Ya, right! Seriously, it’s so easy!!

OK, there may be some debate as to if it is really mousse or not and I can see both sides. For me, in reality, it is a very simple chocolate whipped cream that has the creamy, silky, and airy texture of a mousse.

To start the mousse, I have one tried and true “trick” I use for whenever I whip cream. I always use a chilled metal bowl. Is this necessary? Absolutely not! I like it because I believe you get a slightly creamier texture. It also cuts down on the amount of time it takes for the cream to whip. I also think there is something magical about a frosty stainless-steel bowl out of the freezer.

Empy stainless steel bowl

Grab your bowl and beat your heavy cream until it is slightly thickened.

Next add your powdered sugar and cocoa powder to your cream.

Sifting powdered sugar and cocoa powder

I prefer to sift my powders so there are no lumps making for a smoother finished mixture. This is not necessary, just another personal preference. Add vanilla and beat mixture until it holds its shape.

Whipping chocolate whipped cream

Spread mousse mixture over prepared and cooled brownies!

Mousse spread over brownies

You can serve this immediately or refrigerate and serve at your convenience.

I was feeling the need for some extra special attention so I grabbed ½ cup of frozen cherries out of the freezer and microwaved them for almost a minute until just thawed.

And this is the result!!!!

Cherries topped mommy mousse brownies

Finished it off with some decaf coffee in one of my favorite mugs, propped my feet up and enjoyed some decedent chocolate goodness while letting the stress melt away. Ahhhh mom life. It’s pretty amazing!!!

Of course, this treat truly is good anytime and one to impress!

Happy eating brownie crew!

Liesl

Coffee with mommy mousse brownies

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Oh Joy, Oh Joy, Oh Almond Joy!!!

As a mom of two I can attest that the words “stop playing with your food?” have most certainly come out of my mouth.  So, as I was playing with brownies in the kitchen, I thought to myself, man I really need to work on rewording how I talk to the kids about playing with food, because I love playing with food!!!! I guess I will just have to specify that we play with food at designated times and not at the dinner table.

Creativity in the kitchen is what makes food so much more than just sustenance. We associate food with people, places, and emotions. We are able to express ourselves through food. Have you seen some chocolatiers at work? Master bakers? Pit smokers? Food is an experience: one that can touch all the senses. The obvious is taste; but also the sounds of ingredients cooking, the aromas, the textures, and the presentation.

If we didn’t play with our food, we wouldn’t have the amazing experiences we do. If we didn’t play with our food, we wouldn’t be able to develop specific recipes for those with allergies or for medical conditions that affect digestion, and to provide healthier and tastier options than ever before.

Food can also be an indulgence. We love our brownies and love sharing them with everyone we meet.

I personally love to play with our existing recipes and will be bringing you a variation of our brownies and blondies every week. These variations make them just a little extra special to enjoy.

 

If you love brownies and love the iconic almond joy candy bar then this is just for you!!

 

Almond Coconut Brownie

Picture of an almond joy brownie on a plate

What you need:

1 Off kilter brownie mix made as directed

2/3 cup slivered almonds divided in half

1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

 

Picture showing the addition of butter, eggs, and vanilla to the brownie mixPrepare your brownies by adding, 2 eggs, 3 oz melted butter, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla (you can also use our Vegan version is you wish). After you have mixed your brownies of choice stir in 1/3 cup of almond slivers and bake as directed.

Pouring in the slivered almonds into the brownie batter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While our brownies bake, I would like to take a moment and tell you about how joining the Jarvis family converted me to being a “parchment liner” girl! They use parchment to line all pans for brownies; I never knew how easy parchment paper makes the clean up! I’m totally hooked! Seriously it makes cutting and serving, as well as, clean up so much easier. I will never go back.

Parchment paper lining an 8x8 glass baking dish

Also, while the brownies are baking our resident kitchen fairy has waited patiently to “wick” the spatula and engage in her favorite activity of washing the dishes. Having my kids in the kitchen with me is one of my greatest joys and I love how it engages their mind in so many ways.

Little girl at sink

Brownies out of the oven and now to play!!! Let’s dress up these yummies and finish them off!!! Equal parts of mini chocolate chips, sweetened shredded coconut, and some more slivered almonds. I personally like to sprinkle half the chips first then the coconut and almonds and then the last half to the chips. The melting chips kind of glue all the goodness together.

Slivered almonds, coconut, and chocolate chips in bowlsBrownies topped with almond joy ingredients

After you have sprinkled your toppings over the warm brownies, pop them back in the oven under the broiler on low for a minute or two. Just enough to toast your coconut and melt those chips.  I just leave the door cracked and watch the browning so I don’t burn them.

Almond joy brownies out from the broiler

Here we go!!!! Toasty, crunchy, chocolatey goodness with the sweet sweet taste of coconut for the almond joy lover!

 

We hope you love this variation as much as we do and can’t wait to bring you something new next week.

Have a joyful day!

Liesl

 

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Finding the Best Instant Coffee!

Trying the Best Instant Coffee

I am a coffee snob, self-proclaimed. Much like how I like my brownies or any food, I like the flavor to be deep and nuanced, able to be enjoyed black or with cream and sugar. I drink coffee more for the flavor than for the caffeine. I prefer locally roasted, or at least roasted by people I know. In my opinion, coffee is always best when brewed at home, but sometimes you need that quick pick-me-up, or you just want a good, quick cup of coffee. This is not always easily attainable due to lack of stove, or coffee grinder, or who knows what else!

Enter: “instant coffee”. Just add the weird little crystals to hot or cold water and voila! Coffee! However, if you have been around at all in the last 20 years, you probably know that instant coffee is rather lacking (to put it mildly). So I decided to go on a quest to see what the best instant coffee was (or if there was even one worth drinking) and how they all stacked up.

The Problem

As I mentioned above, the typical instant coffee available is not good. It frequently tastes burnt, is very acidic, and just is not pleasant at all. It certainly would work if you were in an extreme pinch, but my philosophy has been that it would be better to wait and find a decent gas station to get some from or just skip it entirely. I will say, in instant coffee’s defense, that it is pretty useful when trying to infuse food with coffee flavor. In coffee ice cream, a baked good, etc, it does work fairly well, but it’s just not worth drinking an actual cup of it!

What I was Looking For

 

I start my search by looking for “specialty” instant coffee. A quick word on the word “specialty”. We are talking about high quality, excellence-focused coffee. There is no set definition that I know of, but typically this is coffee produced by relatively small businesses, sometimes single operators, whose sole goal is to produce the best coffee possible. They hand pick their beans, frequently going straight to the farmer to find them, and make each batch by hand with great care.

The coffee is typically small batch roasted. Small batches can range anywhere from 1 pound to 150 pounds. That may seem like a large swing, but it is small enough to give a focused look at the process and make sure each batch is perfect. In the end, “specialty” coffee is all about using the best ingredients and the best procedures to produce a coffee that is excellent in all aspects. You could relate that to our brownies being a “specialty” brownie in that regard. If you would like more information you can check out the Specialty Coffee Association.

I wanted something that had a pleasant taste, hopefully with some depth to the flavor. I’m ok with some acidity if it’s from the varietal itself, but not because of the process or because of using super cheap coffee. Some amount of affordability did need to be factored in. Certainly, as with any higher quality good, the price is going to be higher. Typical specialty coffee can easily be $16 a pound vs $4 for something like Folgers. Obviously that is going to flow through to instant as well. Convenient packaging would also be a plus, since I am looking at this as an easy to carry coffee in my car or bag vs just a convenience at home.

The Contenders

After a bit of looking, I decided on 5 different options for the best instant coffee trials: Trader Joes Instant, Regular and Decaf from Swift Cup, Black Rifle Coffee, and Voila. Trader Joes may seem an odd addition, but their coffee is pretty good in general, so I thought that might extend to their instant. Swift Cup was the only one I found with a decaf option. I would classify all of these as “specialty” Instant Coffee with the exception of Trader Joes.

Totally unplanned, but I did end up with basically all Colombian coffees. The minor exception being the Mainstay Blend from Swift Cup, although it is a blend of Latin American and African coffees, so it will produce very similar flavors and probably does contain Colombian beans. The great thing about that is that the basic flavors of each coffee will be similar. I can compare the quality of each brand more and not have to fight through the flavor profiles of each bean.

Traders joes is a traditionally freeze dried, Black Rifle is low acid spray dried, and my understanding is that both Swift Cup and Voila are freeze dried with their own proprietary process.

The Process

I probably should have done a completely blind taste test of them but I did not. I prepared each one at the recommended water amounts. Each package was a slightly different size, with approximately 190 degree water.  I then smelled and sipped each one several times, at several different temperatures to see how the taste changed.

The Cost

Trader Joes Instant Coffee: Approximately 7 cents per cup. $3.99 for 1.5 cups.

Black Rifle Coffee  “Black Powder”: $24.99 for 32 packets (free shipping?). $.78 cents a cup

Swift Cup Instant Coffee: Price varies per type. $11.95 for Mainstay Blend, 6 packets ($4 Shipping), $2.67 per cup. They do offer bulk packs for better pricing, which gets you to about $1.75 per cup.

Voila Instant Coffee: $16 for 5 cups (Free shipping?) $3.20 per cup

Time to Taste

Trader Joes: Just bad, although it is probably better than Nescafé or Kroger brand instant coffee, but it was not good. There was no smell to either the grounds or the coffee, and it tasted extremely burnt. Not recommended.

Trader Joes Dry

 

Black Rifle Coffee “Black Powder” Sticks: Probably the smoothest and best balanced of all of them. There is not much aroma other than general “coffee” scent. There is a slight burnt flavor, but it’s very mild. It does have the lowest acidity of all of them. It does not have a huge depth of flavor, but it does have a nice coffee flavor that is tasty either hot or iced.

Swift Cup: Both the decaf and regular were fairly similar, though the regular had somewhat more depth of flavor, which is to be expected. It had a fairly nice aroma, not quite like a fresh cup of coffee, but there was definitely something there. They were both fairly acidic – as I mentioned above, I’m not sure if that was because of them being a lightly roasted Colombian bean or due to the process. They had more depth of flavor than the Black Rifle, but nothing spectacular. Overall fairly enjoyable other than the high acidity.

Voila: The Voila is absolutely the best overall, which could be surmised simply from the price. Both the crystals and the coffee had a nice, fresh smell to them. It had a pleasing body to it, feeling like a real cup of coffee. While lightly acidic, there was a decent amount of depth of flavor to the Voila. I would say the Voila is the most like a normal cup of coffee in both smell and taste.

The End Result

So what is the best instant coffee? It all depends on what you are looking for. I think the market has now come up with several good options for us to use.

The Best, cost aside: Voila is the winner. With the best taste and aroma of all, this is not terribly far off from fresh brewed.

The Best Value: Black Rifle Coffee Black Powder Sticks: While the taste may be somewhat lacking, I think it gives a good, well rounded cup at a reasonable cost.

The Runner Up: I would still recommend Swift Cup. The flavor is good, if not quite as good as Voila, and it has a mid-range price point. I think if you want something with a bit more depth that doesn’t cost quite as much as starbucks, Swift is a solid choice.

 

Have you tried any specialty instant coffees? What is the best instant coffee in your opinion? Let us know in the comments, and let us know how you would use any of these!

Make it a tasty day,

Chris

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What is your Favorite Coffee Mug?

Some of my Favorite coffee mugs

The humble coffee mug, in many ways, is one of my favorite dishes in the kitchen; it can be so expressive or so plain. You can have them hold 12 pots of coffee at once, or barely a drop. Coffee mugs come self-stirring, self-heating, with faces on the bottom or even ones that change colors when they get hot.

I could probably buy a new mug every place I went. Different sizes, different shapes, especially hand crafted mugs are my favorite.  I still end up only using one or two different coffee mugs every day even with several different options. Why is that? Because we all enjoy the comfort of habit even when we have lots of exciting options available.

One of our coffee mugs that is really cool, I rarely use! It is a large one and I found out, after using it, that I don’t like large mugs because my coffee cools down too fast. My favorite coffee mug is a small mug, maybe 8-10 ozs, fairly sturdy, fun looking but without too many nooks and crannies. Ironically I would still buy large ones based on appearances, but I restrain myself because I know they would just sit on the shelf without being used.

I know others who only use a yeti style mug or other travel mug to drink out of. I do use that style for my coffee when I go places, but not as an everyday mug.

What is your favorite mug? Whats your favorite dish in the kitchen that you are always tempted to buy one more if it’s cool and unique?

Make it a tasty week

Chris

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Gluten Free in Houston: River Oaks Donuts

Donuts. Doughnuts. Either way you choose to spell this delicious word, they are high on my list of favorite foods. Sadly, they are not easily accessible for gluten free people. Donuts, even more than most things, are certainly best served fresh. I have very rarely found a local place that has a gluten free donut. While there are numerous brands of frozen gluten free donuts at the grocery store, it is nice to be able to have something available right when you want it. While they are not my favorite and could use improvement, in my opinion, if you are in the Houston area and looking for a gluten free donut go check out River Oaks Donut.

They offer, I believe, 4 different mini gluten free donuts every day. They did say that they tend to run out early on weekends. When I went, they had sprinkles and toasted coconut of both chocolate and vanilla gluten free donuts. When I say mini, I do mean mini. They are about 2 inches wide. The nice thing is, though, that they are only .55 cents apiece. That is a pretty good value proposition, especially if you just want to try them to see if you like them.

Gluten Free Donuts in Houston

Taste and Texture

Taste was, I would say, reasonable for gluten free. It was not amazing, frankly, just a bit bland for the donut itself. It was not bad, though. They do contain both garbanzo and fava bean flours which typically lend a bean flavor but they did not have any of that.

The texture is where these fall short in my opinion. They are still fairly gummy, probably due to the large amount of bean flour. I really do not like things that are gummy; I realize it does not bother others as much. My wife was not bothered nearly as much by the gummy-ness as I was.

The Conclusion

While I do wish the taste and texture were better, I think these are still an excellent option if you need a ready-to-go gluten free donut or sweet breakfast option in Houston. These are especially a good idea if you have a family where some eat gluten free and others don’t.

Make it a tasty day,

Chris

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Grain Free Chocolate Chip Cookie

You know when you get a craving for a chocolate chip cookie? Not a “healthy” cookie, but that one that you grew up eating? Well it happens to us quite a bit! I grew up eating the iconic Toll House chocolate chip cookie – that recipe right off the bag of the semi-sweet chocolate chips – full of brown sugar, butter, and lots of gooey chocolateyness. Well I have good news! Did you know there is a completely equal version that is grain free?! Danielle Walker, the mastermind of Against All Grain, has this grain free chocolate chip  cookie recipe on her blog, and if you haven’t found it yet, it is high time you tried it in all its magnificence!

These grain free chocolate chip cookies are great to make with kids, as the recipe is completely simple enough that even a toddler can make it with a little parental guidance!

Ingredients 

Almond Flour – we always use Costco. They have become the go-to for finely ground almond flour that best substitutes for white flour in recipes where you don’t want to feel like you’re eating ground up almonds. We use this in our blondies, and we recommend it for just about every almond flour application. Did you know that you can order Kirkland products on Amazon? I didn’t until recently, but what a great discovery!

Chocolate Chips – we use Guittard for the entire 1/2 cup of chocolate that this recipe calls for. You can use Enjoy Life, which is a great brand that doesn’t have any allergens/additives/etc, also, or whatever else your favorite brand may be. We like the dark decadent flavor of the higher quality dark chocolate Guittard chips, and we feel ever-so-slightly healthier because we’re using a darker chocolate (and we all know that dark chocolate is basically a vegetable, right?!).

Salt – as always, we recommend Real Salt. It has all the good trace minerals left in it, it tastes great, and it even looks beautiful on the table! Plus, if you use lots of good salt, you can order in bulk in these perfect little 10lb buckets with sealing lids that are the most useful size EVER!!!! Especially if you have little kiddos trying to help move animal feed, water, minerals, dirt, etc around the homestead! Or even if you just need resealable storage for dry goods, craft supplies, or anything else your heart desires 😉

Process 

I won’t try to pretend that I can write a better grain free cookie recipe blog than Danielle Walker, so head on over to her page right now and make yourself some delicious, amazing, take-you-back-to-your-childhood chocolate chip cookies!

Danielle Walker’s “Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies”

One more little tidbit – don’t miss that you can make this dough, roll it into balls, and freeze it for those cold winter nights coming up where you just need one gooey hot chocolate chip cookie to eat on the couch with your tea or coffee.

We’d love to hear about your childhood memories with chocolate chip cookies, or any other cookie for that matter! Share your story below!

The Wife 😉