Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

This is the best and easiest cheesecake recipe ever.  I’ve made it a few times, and it is always a hit.  When Geoff and I were dating, he said he liked cheesecake.  So I started looking at recipes.  When I come across words like “water bath,” I almost scrapped the whole thing.  But then I found this one which looked too easy to be good, and it was delicious! 

I love the tartness of the lemon and the sweetness of the blueberries.  It is just the perfect refreshing little dessert snack after a big meal.  

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Ok, they may not be the prettiest bars, but I am not a pretty cook.  We know this.  If you want a prettier bar, skip making the sauce and just put the blueberries on the cheesecake before baking, as shown in the link listed.  I wanted there to be more of a blueberry flavor, so I opted for a sauce. 

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Bars – adapted from Epicurean Mom

  • Butter, for greasing
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 9 graham crackers (about 1 1/2 cups when crumbled)
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 9 by 9-inch baking pan with butter.  Then place parchment paper over the top, pressing down at the corners.  In a food processor, process the sugar, cinnamon and graham crackers until you have the consistency of breadcrumbs.  Add the melted butter and pulse a couple of times to fully incorporate.  Pour into the lined baking pan and firmly pat down with the bottom of a glass.  Bake for about 12 minutes, or until set.

Add cream cheese, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar to the food processor and pulse until well combined.  It should have a smooth consistency.  Pour onto the cooked graham cracker base. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the center only slightly jiggles.  

In the meantime, heat your blueberries in a saucepan over low to medium heat.  Once warmed, smash around half of the blueberries, leaving the remaining ones intact.

Once your cheesecake is done, remove it from the oven.  Let cool slightly before pouring your blueberry sauce on top.  Then, let your cheesecake come to room temperature and then refrigerate it for at least three hours.  Once set, remove from pan using the parchment lining and slice into bars.

Strawberry Shortcake Cake

Ok y’all, I made the best cake I’ve ever made (not that I make cake that often) for Easter Sunday:  Strawberry Shortcake Cake, modified from The Pioneer Woman’s Recipe.  My favorite desserts, other than cookies, usually involve fruit and a whipped-textured icing/topping.  Give me pound cake with freshly whipped cream and berries, and I’m a happy girl.  

For Easter, I was going to a crawfish boil – yes, here in ole’ Charleston whoooo – so I knew I wanted a lighter, i.e. not chocolate, fruity dessert since we’d be outside.  Mom saw The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Cake, and I was sold.  Two thin layers of crumbly cake, which become soaked with fresh strawberries and their juices and then topped with a cream cheese frosting.  UM YES.  I did make some modifications from her recipe based on the two complaints in the reviews (always read the reviews of recipes for modifications!): a bit too sweet and the icing was too heavy.  I cut some sugar from the strawberry mixture and changed the icing for a more whipped textured icing, though still cream cheese based.  The icing was from Divas Can Cook

I also took advice of making the cake the night before and letting the cake sit in the refrigerator overnight so the cake becomes thoroughly soaked with strawberry juice.  When I cut into the cake, the middle verrrry slightly fell from being soaked into the juice.  Hey, this made it delicious, and I never claim to make a pretty dessert. 

Go buy fresh strawberries and make this now! 

Strawberry Shortcake Cake – adapted from The Pioneer Woman 

  • 1-½ cup Flour
  • 3 Tablespoons Cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 9 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, Softened
  • 1-½ cup Sugar
  • 3 whole Large Eggs
  • ½ cups Sour Cream, Room Temperature
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla

Icing and filling ingredients:

  • 2- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 pound strawberries
  • Extra sugar

Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and cornstarch.  Cream 9 tablespoons butter with the sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each egg.  Add sour cream and vanilla and mix until combined.  Add sifted dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just barely combined. 

Pour into greased and floured 9 inch cake pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for around 45 minutes, or until no longer jiggles when lightly shakes.  Remove from oven and place on cooling rack, allowing it to cool completely. 

Stem strawberries and slice them in half from top to bottom.  Place into a bowl and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of sugar.  Stir together and let sit for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, mash strawberries with a fork.  Allow to sit for another 30 minutes. 

Make icing:  Beat cream cheese, butter and heavy whipping cream until fluffy and combined.  Add vanilla.  Mix in powdered sugar a little at a time.  Continue mixing on high speed until creamy and light.  Add more cream or powdered sugar to adjust the thickness if needed.

Once cake is completely cool, slice in half through the middle.  Spread strawberries evenly over each half, cut side up, pouring on all the juices.  

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Place cake halves in freezer for five minutes to make icing easier.  (Icing it is a bit tricky, as you don’t want to disturb the strawberries too much.  Apparently, freezing the cake, and even the icing for a little bit, helps with icing.)

Remove from freezer.  Using a little less than 1/3 of icing, spread over the top of the strawberries on the bottom layer.  Place top layer on, then add half of remaining icing to the top, spreading evenly.   Put cake back in freezer for five minutes.  Then, spread remaining icing around the sides. 

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Serve after crawfish and be in spring heaven! 

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I couldn’t stop to take a pic until most of the crawdads were gone.  Some things are just more important than picture-taking. 

King Cake Cookies

Oh well it’s Carnival Time, and everybody’s having fun!  This was my first Mardi Gras season away from Louisiana.  I do not miss the crowds and the four day binges (Muses through Bacchus), but I do miss the family gatherings and parade-watching.  So I had to have a little Mardi Gras partayyyy this weekend.  I looked into ordering a King Cake but did not want to drop $40+ on shipping one.  I found this recipe for King Cake Cookies, and they were ahhh-mazing.

These were some of the best cookies I’ve ever made.  They are kind of like snickerdoodles (cinnamon sugar cookies) with a twist.  I loved the addition of honey and lemon extract.  You could decorate these for whatever holiday it is – St. Patrick’s, Christmas, etc…

You should make these tonight or tomorrow to celebrate Fat Tuesday!!

King Cake Cookies – from Nola Mommy

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1¾ cup sugar, divided
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp lemon extract
  • 2 Tbs ground cinnamon, divided
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cream of tarter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 1 cup warm water (may add more if needed), divided
  • 1 Tbs vanilla extract, divided
  • Food coloring
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In large bowl, cream butter, 1¼ cups sugar, and ½ Tbs ground cinnamon until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg yolks, honey, vanilla and lemon extracts.  Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cream of tarter and gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.
In a shallow bowl, combine remaining sugar and cinnamon.  Form your cookies in a ball, about one tablespoon each.  Roll the ball in the sugar cinnamon mixture and flatten slightly.  Place on greased cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with additional cinnamon and sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes.  These cookies won’t spread much, and you may not think they are done.  Just let them cool completely on wire racks and they will set and harden.
For the icing:
Making three batches, add 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1/3 cup of warm water (add a little at a time until you reach desired consistency), and 1 tsp vanilla extract to each bowl/batch.  Dye each batch purple, green, and yellow with your food coloring.  Place each batch of icing into a piping bag (or a sandwich bag) and cut off a tip to pipe the icing onto the cookies.  Ice your cookies in Mardi Gras colors!  The icing will set.
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Yes, that is my floor.  Limited counterspace in my tiny house means icing my cookies on da flo’.
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Here’s my hubby in his MG gear!
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Happy Mardi Gras, y’all!!!

Fluffernutter Cookies

My sweets weakness is peanut butter – my dessert is usually a spoonful of peanut butter.  These cookies combine delicious peanut butter cookies, melted marshmallow, and a chocolate drizzle. These Fluffernutter Cookies may be my all-time favorite cookies.  They are decadent and dense, not the normal soft, chewy cookie I like, but also not the crispy cookies I avoid.

Be sure not to over bake the cookies as they will dry out.  These are the kind of cookies that may seem under baked but just need to cool, if that makes sense.

Fluffernutter Cookies – from The Novice Chef

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of Jet Puffed Stacker Mallows – basically a bag of flat mallows perfect for this recipe.  You can also buy regular large marshmallows and slice in half, lengthwise

Cookie ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Chocolate Glaze Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

1. Make peanut butter cookies and add marshmallow

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl, set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the butter, peanut butter and sugars for 2 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Add in the egg and vanilla.  Gradually add in the flour mixture on low speed. Chill dough 15 minutes in the refrigerator.

Place by rounded spoonfuls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 7-9 minutes, until edges are very lightly browned (cookies will not spread much at all).  Do not overbake.

As soon as the peanut butter cookies come out of the oven, place 1 marshmallow stacker on the top of each cookie.  You may need to flatten the cookies slightly with a spatula first. Place them back in the oven for 2-3 minutes, until the marshmallow is melted. Let cool completely.

2. Make chocolate glaze

In a double boiler over hot, but not boiling water, combine chocolate chips, butter, and corn syrup.  If you don’t have a double boiler, rig one up with a glass bowl over a pot of hot water.

Stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth, then add vanilla.

Now, add the glaze to the top of your cookies.  You can use a spoon to drizzle the glaze.  To make the glaze look a little more professional (disclosure: I do not make pretty desserts), I use the ziplock frosting trick.  Pour the glaze into a ziplock bag and cut one corner off the bottom of the bag.  Start by cutting a tiny slit on the corner.  If the stream of frosting is too thin, you can always cut more of the corner.  Use this to drizzle the frosting on top.  Let glaze cool.

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Now this is my kind of dessert!!

Grasshopper Pie

I used to love when Memaw would make Grasshopper Pie, a frozen mint pie perfect for the holidays – especially when it is 70 degree weather!!  It has an oreo crust and a frozen mint filling.  A lot of people just throw mint ice cream on oreo cookie crust, but the traditional grasshopper pie has a lighter filling.

Most recipes call for creme de menthe, but I made this on Sunday, when you can’t buy liquor in this state.  DUMB.  So, the recipe I used called for peppermint extract instead.  I was worried about this change, but it turned out delicious!! Just like I remembered.  Even my husband, who does not like sweets, said, while eating his first slice, “I’ll be having a second slice before bed.”  No other compliment needed.

Oh, also, did I mention — NO BAKING!

Grasshopper Pie – from Joy in My Kitchen

  • 2 c. crushed oreo cookies
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
  • 8 oz. marshmallow fluff
  • 1/8 c. milk
  • 1/4 tsp. extract
  • Food coloring – I used the “recipe” on the box for mint green, which was a combo of green and yellow.
  • 1 c. whipping cream, whipped

Combine cookie crumbs and melted butter. Reserve 1/8 C for topping. Press into a 9-inch pie plate.

Combine fluff, milk, extract, and food coloring.  I used a whisk to break up the fluff well.  Fold in whipped cream.

Spread mixture into pie plate and top with reserved oreo crumbs.  Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze overnight or until frozen.

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Ginger Snaps

This is a great cookie for all you weird, crispy cookie lovers!  I myself like soft gooey cookies.  🙂  But, I do admit, this is a great cookie for Christmastime.  Perfect with your coffee in the morning.  And I do love spiced cookies and spiced breads.  This one has ginger (obviously) and cinnamon.

I made these for the people at my work, and they just loved them.  This recipe is from Legacy, the awesome Thibodaux cookbook first published in 1982.  It is a staple in Thibodauxians’ kitchens.  A lot of what I consider my mom’s recipes are actually from Legacy, like this cookie.

Ginger Snaps – makes about 55

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c. vegetable shortening (Crisco)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 egg, well beaten
  • 1/4 c. molasses
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 T. baking powder (make sure it is fresh)
  • 1 T. ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • Powdered sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy.

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Beat in egg and molasses.  Sift together dry ingredients and add slowly to creamed mixture and blend well.

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Roll into balls.  I like to use a little ice cream/melon scooper, so they are uniform in size.  Also, it makes forming the cookies easier.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.  Bake 12 to 15 minutes until tops are cracked and lightly browned, and the cookies have flattened.  (Check at 10 minute mark – again, I think I have an overly hot oven.)

Place on cooling rack and sprinkle (I use the sifter) powdered sugar on top.  Makes them look so cute.

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I put them in holiday bags for the office workers. 🙂

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Here’s my little baking monkey.  I wish he was baking with me, but he is at home in New Orleans, baking with his Li Li, my mom.  Man, do I miss them!!  One week til I’m home!

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Pecan Pies!!!

I’ve been putting off trying this recipe my mom gave me for pecan pies.  She insists they are “the best” – as you can see from the recipe card.  For a wedding shower gift, my mom gave me a box of recipe cards on which she hand wrote my and her favorite recipes – best gift ever.

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Anyway, I finally read through the recipe.  If mom had told me how they are “the easiest” pies to make, I would have made them sooner.  This recipe comes from our Thibodaux neighbor Betsy Hymel.

Let me tell you about this recipe.  First, it makes THREE pies.  You can freeze them after baking to have on hand for company or give the extras to special friends and neighbors!  I’m making these for Thanksgiving this year.  Okay, second, this recipe ENCOURAGES a pre-made frozen pie crust.  Trust me, if my mom, the queen of homemade, insists I buy a pre-made crust, I don’t ask questions.  She even went so far as to say to buy the cheapest crust you can find.  Something about how heavy a pecan pie is – your homemade crust might not stand up to it.  Go with it.  Third, the instructions before baking pretty much consist of “stir” and “pour.”  Awesome baking words, as opposed to, say, “sift” or “double boiler.”

Ok enough chatting.

Pecan Pies (3)

  • 6 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups, 16 oz, white/light Karo syrup
  • 2 sticks melted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups pecans, or more
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 frozen 9″ pie crusts, thawed (not deep dish)

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Mix all ingredients but pecans and pour into unbaked pie shells.  Divide pecans & put evenly in pies.  Pat nuts down into liquid with hands.

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Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.  Let cool.  Can cover with foil and freeze after baking.

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DELICIOUS!! Happppy turkey day!

Also, it should be socially acceptable to bring your neighbor a pie with a slice missing.

 

Almond Cake Squares

What a great football weekend!  Perfect weather, delish food, and some great Gamecock football (well, a win is a win).

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Just the sight of Steve Spurrier makes me laugh – in a happy, endearing way.  Not to be confused with the incredulous laugh associated with Les Miles and the “scared for the state of humanity” laugh owed Dabo Swinney.

Back to food.  I had my first chicken bog, a low country dish that reminded me a lot of simple comfort Cajun food.  It is basically just a rice and chicken dish, where the rice is cooked with the chicken (and sometimes sausage) and stock.  My kind of comfort food.  I also got to eat gator bites (they were playing Florida) and Frogmore stew, boiled shrimp, corn, potatoes, sausage, etc…   Yummy all around… but i was craving some good ole’ jambalaya and boudin links – I can’t lie.

For my part, I brought the easiest crowd-pleasing dessert – Almond Cake Squares.  My mom has made these for awhile and now it’s my go-to last minute dessert.  This recipe requires no electric mixing, softening of butter, or other things associated with long baking prep.  You pretty much stir some ingredients together, pour it in a pan, and bake it.

Aside: I do not recommend doubling the recipe.  Not sure why, but when I double this recipe, my squares come out very dense.

Almond Cake Squares

  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 Tbsp. sliced almonds for topping
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9″ square cake pan. (You can also use a 9″ round pan and cut your cake into slices, similar to a pie. The squares are just easier to serve and eat.)

In bowl, whisk sugar and melted butter together.  Beat in eggs.  Stir in extracts.  Add salt and flour.  Mix well.

Spread batter in prepared pan.  Sprinkle almonds and sugar on top.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool slightly.

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Carefully run a knife around edges to loosen and cut into squares.

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Geaux Gamecocks!

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Heirloom Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

This is a great recipe to use the last of those heirloom tomatoes before tomato season is over.  I picked up some beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the farmer’s market, as well as some pimento goat cheese.  This recipe was perfect for my fresh ingredients.  But the real reason I wanted to make this was to use two of my wedding registry items.

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Just look at that pie dish!

I found a recipe on Williams Sonoma for a pie crust made in a stand mixer, not a food processor (which I don’t have).  For the rest of the dish, I used a recipe from Pinterest.  Hers came out much prettier than mine, but I bet mine was just as tasty!  I am NOT a pretty baker.

Recipe:

  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons very cold water
  • 5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled.  Either buy a flavored goat cheese (I used one with pimento and seasonings).  Or buy plain, and add 1 shallot, peeled and diced, and 1 1/2 teaspoon of diced fresh thyme and stir well to combine.
  • 3 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced in 1/2″ slices
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded – just enough for sprinkling, maybe around 1/4 cup

Pie Crust:

Preheat oven to 375.  Fit your stand mixer with the flat beater, and stir together the flour, sugar and salt in the mixer bowl. Add the butter and toss with a fork to coat with the flour mixture.

Mix on medium-low speed until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with the butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the water and mix on low speed just until the dough pulls together – you may not need to use all the water.  Add 1 Tbs at a time.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disk. (Although many dough recipes call for chilling the dough at this point, this dough should be rolled out immediately for the best results.)  Lightly flour the work surface, then flatten the disk with 6 to 8 gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll out into a round at least 12 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick. Makes enough dough for one 9-inch single-crust pie or one 10-inch galette.

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Place dough in pie dish.

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Using a fork, prick the dough all over.  Bake for fifteen minutes until cooked through.  Let cool.

Filling:

Spread your goat cheese in a layer on the pie crust with a spatula.

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Arrange your tomato slices in a fan pattern, with the edges of the tomatoes slightly overlapping one another.

Drizzle a little olive oil over your tomatoes.  Next, sprinkle a thin layer of Parmesan cheese over the top.  I kept it light on the Parmesan.

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Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove and let cool a little before serving.  (I didn’t wait long enough and served it in a bowl,  instead of in nice slices.  No one has ever called me patient.

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It was delicious!  The creamy goat cheese really complimented the perfect heirloom tomatoes, and the crust was really flavorful.  This would be great to serve at a brunch or ladies luncheon, especially if you can make it super pretty unlike me.  Enjoy!

Rhubarb Turnovers

One of my favorite memories from growing up was my dad’s penchant for late night snacks. When it wasn’t the whirring of the malt maker causing me to run downstairs in my pj’s, it was the smell of apple turnovers.  You know, from that green Pillsbury box.  I remember using a fork to press down the edges of the turnover and fighting over the one with the most icing.

This recipe reminds me a lot of those turnovers.  I wanted to make something special for breakfast since Geoff is having a big day at work, and I knew this recipe on Pinterest was perfect.  It uses puff pastry, so you don’t have to worry about making dough.  It features rhubarb, but you could easily substitute it with your fave fruit.  I’ll be doing blueberry ones next.  If you do substitute the fruit, adjust the amount of sugar you add to the fruit – a lot is needed for the tart rhubarb.

Rhubarb Turnovers – originally from http://www.abeautifulmess.com/2012/08/rhubarb-toaster-strudel.html

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups finely diced rhubarb (thawed if using frozen)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dice up the rhubarb and combine with the sugar and ginger in a bowl, set aside. Cut your puff pastry dough into 9 squares.

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On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or greased, lay out a square of dough, fill with a spoonful of rhubarb and fold over into a triangle. Use a fork to press the edges together.

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Continue until you have filled all the pastry squares. Bake at 375 F for 20-22 minutes. (Mine were done closer to the fifteen minute mark, but I’m pretty positive that my new oven is overly hot.  Check yours at 15 minutes to be sure.)

During the last 3-4 minutes of baking, prepare your glaze. In a small pot melt the butter over low heat. Begin adding powdered sugar a little at a time and whisking to combine.  Continue until you have the consistency you like. Use milk as a thinner if you’ve made yours too thick.

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Remove toaster strudels from the oven and immediately drizzle glaze over them.

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Enjoy!