Category Archives: Desserts

A Fourth of July Cake the Crowd will Remember

Heavenly. That is how I describe this cake. First, I took Vanilla Oreo’s and lined the bottom of a pan. Then I topped those with sweet shredded coconut. I whipped together cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar and then blended that with a package of cheesecake flavored pudding and a package of white chocolate pudding and whipped topping.

The result is sweet, creamy, light and refreshing. This is a cake your family will remember this holiday weekend.

There’s a funny little story that goes along with this cake that I shared in my column this week. Here it goes:

One of the joys of being a parent is passing on traditions.

I was so excited to write this patriotic desserts column because I planned to create them with my 3-year-old daughter Bella.

Growing up, every holiday was festive in our home.  The traditional American flag cake was a Fourth of July favorite.  Typically, we’d make a white cake topped with whipped cream and then decorate it with blueberries and strawberries but since I was writing a column, I wanted to create something special.

I came up with a Flag Sheet Dessert which was inspired by coconut cream pudding and dirt cake (a Halloween tradition).

I thought my daughter would be excited to help me but after placing two blueberries, she was done. I finished the cake.

But the kicker was when I proudly displayed the finished product and she looked at my flag and told me I had done it wrong. The background should be blue and the stars white so she told to make it again with cream on top this time. She even picked up a flag napkin I’d been using as a prop to prove she was right. I laughed my head off.

During my photo shoot, she grew jealous of the attention I was paying to the desserts and came over and tried to sit on my lap, then took the red dish cloth I was using and placed it on her head like a hat to make me laugh.

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The day didn’t turn out as I expected, but luckily the desserts did.

 

Flag Sheet Dessert

Serves 12

1 package Vanilla Oreos

1 cup sweet shredded coconut

1 (3.4 ounce) package cheesecake flavored pudding

1 (3.4 ounce) package white chocolate pudding

1 package cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered sugar

3 cups milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (8 ounce) carton whipped topping, divided in half.

½ cup fresh blueberries

1 pound strawberries

First, line a 9 x 13 inch pan with vanilla Oreos. Then sprinkle shredded coconut over the cookies.

In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla.

In another bowl, whisk together both pudding mixes, milk and half of the container of whipped topping.

Then beat together the cream cheese mixture and pudding mixture. Spread it over the bananas. Top it with the last half of the whipped topping. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours or more. This can be made a day in advance but shouldn’t be decorated until the day you are going to serve it because the strawberries may bleed into the topping.

Healthy Chocolate Pudding- it’s dairy free, gluten free and still fabulous

A healthy chocolate pudding?

Yes. I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but I can’t. My husband is a teacher and one of his colleagues brought this to a meeting. He came home and told me I had to get the recipe for this rich, incredible chocolate pudding.

What makes it so special? Avocados.

The basis for the pudding is actually avocados but you cannot taste them because the flavor is disguised by cocoa powder. This recipe is easy to make- all you do is blend the ingredients.

You can serve this chocolate pudding for dessert or even breakfast (for those of you who must start your day with something sweet). This is a healthier alternative to cinnamon rolls or doughnuts. While the pudding is high in fat and calories, it’s an excellent source of fiber (16 grams), potassium (contains 36 percent of DRV), and contains 7 grams of protein and 24 percent of your daily vitamin C and iron needs.

If you compare that to a chocolate doughnut which is high in fat and calories too, the doughnut has virtually no redeeming properties- it’s high in sodium, has almost no fiber, no potassium and no vitamin C.

And if you eat it with sliced strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate seeds, or a banana, you boost the health benefits and already have one serving of fruits and one serving of vegetables for the day.

I adapted the original recipe, cut out some of the sugar and dairy (replaced it with almond milk), and came up with this version.

The key is it needs 8-12 hours to marinate so make it before you go to bed. It’s shockingly good. If you don’t want it for breakfast, it makes a great dessert.

 

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Chocolate  Pudding

2 ripe avocadoes

½ cup cocoa powder

¼ cup Silk Dark Chocolate Almond Milk

4 to 6 tablespoons agave syrup

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Serving suggestions: serve with sliced banana, ¼ cup pomegranate seeds, ½ cup sliced strawberries or 1 teaspoon orange zest.

 

Slice avocados in half and remove pit. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh of the avocado. Place in a food processor with cocoa powder, almond milk, agave and vanilla extract. I start with 4 tablespoons and add more sweetener if needed.

Pulse until smooth. Cover and refrigerate 8-12 hours before serving.

Serve with fresh fruit.

 

Calories: 411; Fat: 23.7 g; Cholesterol 0; Potassium 1269 mg; Carbs 57g;  Fiber 16.3g; Sugar 1.5 g. Protein 6.8 g. Also contains 24 percent of DRV of vitamin C and iron.

Halloween Fun: Assorted Dipped Spooky Pretzels

My Assorted Dipped Spooky Pretzels are a combination of pretzel rods dipped in chocolate with an almond sliver that makes it look like a finger, and pretzel ghosts dipped in almond bark with miniature chocolate chip eyes.  The great thing about Halloween is it’s the one time of year that if you mess up what you’re making it doesn’t matter because it can just look scary. For example, misplaced eyes on my pretzel sticks don’t look bad but that would be a completely different story if this was Christmas and those were snowmen. They’d look deranged.

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Christmas and Thanksgiving are about perfection but anything goes with Halloween, which is why I think I love it so much.

These rods are fun, easy to make and yummy (I am partial to the chocolate). If you have children, they will love helping with these

rods

. I got the idea for the pretzel finger at a Halloween festival I was at last week. A vendor was selling those chocolate fingers and I thought it was a great idea to share. I have long made the bloody finger cookie for Halloween, so thought this was a nice change.

If you want a little “blood” you could always melt raspberry jam and use it as a dip. I hope you have fun with these. My daughter loves them

Spooky pretzel rods

Assorted Dipped Spooky Pretzels

1 (12-ounce) bag of pretzel rods

2 cups of miniature chocolate chips

12 ounces of almond bark (half a package)

Almond slivers to make fingernails

Black icing or chocolate chips to decorate

Parchment paper

Clean a work space and lay parchment paper out over a cookie sheet.

For the almond bark: Melt it according to package directions (there are microwave and stovetop options but I used the microwave because it was the fastest).

To keep the almond bark from getting hard, divide it in two batches and melt it in two batches and make one batch of dipped pretzels and then the other.

When it has melted, dip 2/3 of a pretzel rod in the almond bark and swirl it around to coat it.

Place it on parchment paper. Allow to cool 5 minutes and then add mini chocolate chips for the eyes, if using chocolate chips. If you are using icing instead, allow the almond bark to cool completely before drawing the eyes and mouth on with icing.

For the chocolate dipped pretzels, place chocolate in a coffee mug and microwave 30 seconds at a time, stirring between intervals, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. When it is smooth, dip the pretzel rod in the chocolate and swirl it around to coat 2/3 of it (a spoon helps with this process).

Place it on parchment paper and carefully add an almond sliver at the top to look like a finger nail.

Cool completely before serving (1-2 hours).

Five-Minute Pumpkin Mousse

If you only try one new pumpkin recipe this fall, let it be my Five-Minute Pumpkin Mousse.

Don’t let the word “mousse” intimidate you because this is as easy as it gets: it takes five minutes and has five ingredients. You simply whisk together sweetened condensed milk, canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and whipped topping. Then serve it with gingersnap cookies for dipping (although the velvety mousse is delicious on its own).

I’ve created a variety of pumpkin mousse recipes over the years, but this is my best.

I gave my 3-year-old – who is hesitant to try new things – a bite and asked if she wanted another bite. She said: “I want the whole thing,” and promptly took it from my hands. She licked the bowl clean.

My husband said he could bathe in this; my mom said it was better than pumpkin pie. The rave reviews have ensued every time I make it (and I am sure you’ll get the same response).

This recipe will be a winner this holiday season. It’s even better after a few hours of refrigeration, but can be served immediately, too.

This mousse would be great at your Halloween party. Simply carve out a small pie pumpkin and fill it with mousse and serve it with Gingersnap cookies.

Five-Minute Pumpkin Mousse

Makes 20 (2-ounce) servings

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 (8-ounce) tub of whipped topping, defrosted

Mini Gingersnap cookies to garnish

Beat or stir together sweetened condensed milk, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and whipped topping, until combined.

Pour mixture into 2-ounce glasses and top with a gingersnap cookie. Serve immediately.

Other serving options: If you have a smaller crowd and want to serve larger portions, you can serve pumpkin mousse in wine glasses with or without a cookie. You can also crumble cookies and put them on top.

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Pina Colada Trifle

I invented this recipe in honor of the late Floyd Mahon, who was like an uncle to me (me and so many others). Floyd died two years ago from colon cancer.  He was one of the best men I’ve ever known and ever will know; I say that with certainty because he was one of those rare, exceptional people who had the ability to make everyone laugh, make everyone feel special. You didn’t have to know him long to feel like a longtime friend.

He was a character and an excellent cook.

Because of that legacy of a life well lived, his family throws Floyd-fest each year to honor him. This year, the theme was Cancun which was Floyd’s favorite place.

Keeping the Cancun theme in mind, I whipped up this dessert in honor of Floyd. Trifles are one of my favorite desserts because they are easy, pretty, creamy, versatile and feed a crowd. And of course, who doesn’t enjoy sipping a pina colada on a beach in Mexico?  This dessert just seemed like him: fun, sweet, tropical, different. If you make it for adults only, you can double the rum.

Floyd-fest was a blast. About 80 people came throughout the day and night. There was a spread of amazing food and drinks. He sons and son-in-laws made incredible pulled pork, fish, steak and chicken and there was a taco buffet. There was a salsa competition (I took best overall salsa 🙂 ), and his entire family pitched in to make the day special and fun for everyone.

It was quite the effort of love.

Another amazing thing at Floyd-fest was his family releases balloons with a self-addressed postcard attached that tells a little about Floyd and asks whoever finds the postcard to drop it in the mail and tell them where it landed. The postcards have been returned from other states. It’s such a cool idea. As a world traveler myself, I want my family to do this to honor me one day.

If Floyd was alive, I hope he’d say this dish is “El Good-o”, that’s one of his many funny sayings.

I hope you find an occasion to share this recipe. Cheers to Floyd, his family, and his legacy.

pina colada

Pina Colada Trifle

1 white cake made according to package directions

3 tablespoons dark rum or coconut rum (optional)

2 boxes of instant coconut pudding

1 cup coconut milk (use the refrigerated type, not the canned)

2 2/3 cups half and half (can substitute regular milk)

1 teaspoon rum extract

2 1/2 cups finely chopped fresh pineapple

1 tub of extra creamy whipped topping

1 cup shredded sweet coconut

Bake cake according to package directions and 5 minutes after you remove it from the oven, brush it with rum. Set aside.

Empty two packages of coconut pudding and whisk together with coconut milk, half and half and rum extract. Whisk until well combined and cover and refrigerate.

Peel and chop the pineapple into small bits.

To assemble the trifle, break half the cake up and place it in the bottom of a bowl or trifle dish. Top with half the coconut pudding, half the pineapple and a thin layer of whipped topping (using only a third of it).

Then repeat the process to create the second layer of the trifle and top it with remaining whipped topping and shredded coconut. Cover and chill 2 hours before serving.

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Strawberry. Basil Dessert Flatbread

My sweet tooth today has me craving dessert, so I thought I’d make a dessert flatbread. This lovely little dessert has sweetened vanilla cream cheese as a base and is topped with sliced strawberries and basil. Slice of fresh summer peaches would be a lovely substitute for the strawberries. I topped it with fresh basil, which is incredible on strawberries and peaches.

This dessert comes together in minutes and is gorgeous as well as delicious.

I drizzled 18 year old balsamic vinegar on it, but that’s optional. It’s perfectly delicious without vinegar.

Look at that! How pretty

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Strawberry, Basil Dessert Flatbread

1 Stonefire Tandoori Baked Original Naan

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ to 1 cup sliced strawberries

Fistfull of basil

Excellent quality aged Balsamic Vinegar (optional)

Bake Naan according to package directions.

Beat together softened cream cheese, heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Spread over the flatbread.

Rinse, hull, dry and slice strawberries. Place berries on the cream cheese. Slice basil and sprinkle over flatbread.

If desired, drizzle a tiny bit of excellent quality aged balsamic vinegar on the dessert. Slice and serve.

Note: If you use balsamic vinegar, make sure it’s excellent quality and you taste it before drizzling any over the flatbread.

Enjoy with a glass of red wine or port.

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Pavlova filled with lemon curd and Grand Marnier soaked blackberries

I love my rotisserie chicken, but I am also a dessert fan.  I have been whipping up these Easter worthy desserts for my columns in the Joplin Globe, MO and Claremore Daily Progress in Claremore, Ok.

I made a Pavlova, which hails from New Zealand.

Pavlova is a meringue dessert named after the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova (a New Zealand chef created this in her honor). It has a crusty exterior but the center is soft and tastes like a marshmallow. I used vanilla and coconut extract to flavor my meringue, but you can be playful and use anything from almond to raspberry extract (just plan your filling accordingly).

You can fill a Pavlova with anything, too, but I filled mine with store-bought lemon curd, whipped topping and Grand Marnier marinated blackberries. If you don’t have Grand Marnier, it may not be worth buying a bottle because it’s expensive. You could substitute sherry, another orange liqueur, or omit the alcohol and just soak berries in 2 tablespoons orange juice, if desired. This also excellent with blueberries or raspberries or a combination.

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Pavlova’s are light and so even if you’re stuffed after the meal, you can still squeeze in a little dessert.

Enjoy

Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Grand Marnier Soaked Blackberries

For the Pavlova:

5 large egg whites

1 ¼ cups of granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon coconut extract

2 teaspoons corn starch

Parchment paper

For the filling

1 (10-ounce) jar lemon curd

2 cups whipped topping

1 ½ cups fresh blackberries or raspberries

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

For the Pavlova:

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Place a large piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet.

Beat egg whites on high speed (or meringue setting if your mixer has one) for 1 minute. Then gradually start adding the sugar, only 1 tablespoon at a time. Beat until stiff peaks form. Then fold in both types of extract and corn starch.

Spread mixture onto parchment paper, making it an 11-inch circle of oval. Shape with spatula; you want the sides slightly higher than the center because you’re going to fill the center.

Bake for 60-70 minutes. Then turn off the oven, but leave the door ajar and leave the Pavlova in the oven another hour.

The center will be collapsed, which is fine because you want to fill it.

While it cools, place blackberries in a bowl and add Grand Marnier. Set aside.

When it’s time to fill Pavlova, fill with whipped topping and spread that in the center. Then take teaspoons at a time of the lemon curd and drop dollops around the center. Cover with blackberries and serve. Note: for the sake of the photo, I left space to see the lemon curd to show contrasting colors, but I would cover the top in berries when serving.