Chocolate Covered Caramels

 

Chocolate Covered Caramels ~ Pearls + Girls

So yeah…..it’s been awhile!  The craziness of life and the pressure to do more, be more, etc. has been really getting this mama down these days. :(

November was not a good month for me.  Sadly I realized my blog was a major contributor to my unhappiness.  How is that possible?!?!  What started off as such a wonderful blessing for this baking obsessed SAHM slowly transformed into something that felt more like an obligation than a creative outlet.

Pearls + Girls had a great first year, but new years are for new beginnings!  In this case that means falling back into old habits (the good kind, of course!).  I hope you’ll hang with me and continue to follow my blogging journey, even if I don’t exactly know what direction it’s moving in!  There are some big changes on the horizon for my family, and even though I love my little slice of the blogosphere SO MUCH, something’s gotta give.  Such is life.  Oh, and here’s a yummy chocolate recipe to share with your friends and family during the holidays! Enjoy! :)

Chocolate Covered Caramels

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, plus more to grease the pan
  • 2 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate melting wafers (I use the Ghirardelli brand)
  • Edible pearls (optional)

Instructions

  1. Grease a 9 X 13 pan with butter.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, melt the butter.
  3. Stir in the brown sugar until it is dissolved.
  4. Stir in the corn syrup until it is dissolved.
  5. Stir in the sweetened condensed milk.
  6. Continue stirring until the mixture is 240 degrees.
  7. Add the vanilla. The mixture will bubble up a bit. Stir until the bubbling subsides.
  8. Pour into the greased pan and let sit overnight.
  9. Cut the caramels with a knife and place on a waxed paper lined baking sheet.
  10. Melt chocolate wafers in a microwave safe bowl.
  11. Dip each caramel into the chocolate with a fork and place back on the waxed paper lined baking sheet.
  12. Sprinkle with edible pearls. (optional)
http://pearlsplusgirls.com/2014/12/chocolate-covered-caramels/

Parmesan Olive Oil Crackers

Want to impress your friends and family with your baking skills this holiday season?  Make homemade crackers to serve with appetizers or drinks!

Parmesan Olive Oil Crackers ~ Pearls + Girls

I think some of the most impressive dishes can be the most simple.  Anyone can go to the store and pick up a box of crackers, but what better time than the holidays to pull out the big guns and impress with some delicious homemade crackers?!?!  The reason I love baking from scratch is because I get to control the quality and quantity of the ingredients.  Topping these crackers with copious amounts of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese bakes in the amazing nutty, salty flavor.  You just can’t get this kind of flavor from a store bought cracker!  Enjoy! :)

Parmesan Olive Oil Crackers

Yield: about 2 dozen crackers

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 TBSP olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. Add the water and olive oil.
  3. Using a spatula bring the dough together, then use your hands to form it into a log.
  4. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Unwrap dough and place on a floured surface.
  7. Cut dough into 1/2 inch pieces.
  8. Roll each piece as thin as possible.
  9. Place on a Silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  10. Bake until golden brown, about 5 - 7 minutes.
  11. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for one minute, then transfer to a cooling rack.
http://pearlsplusgirls.com/2014/11/parmesan-olive-oil-crackers/

Spicy Stuffed Mushrooms

 Need a great appetizer for the holidays?  Look no further than my Spicy Stuffed Mushrooms!  This recipe has everything you love: spicy Italian sausage, blue cheese, panko bread crumbs, garlic and parsley with a hint of white wine.  YUM!

Spicy Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms ~ Pearls + Girls

I usually provide desserts for our holiday get togethers, but a few years ago I branched out with these stuffed mushrooms for a Thanksgiving appetizer, and everyone loved them.  Next thing I knew I was making them for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Of course, I can’t imagine that any carnivore would not enjoy these spicy stuffed mushrooms, they really are THAT good!   I don’t skimp on the filling (as you can clearly see) and I let it sit in the fridge overnight so the flavors can ‘merry’ (no holiday pun intended hehe).  Who doesn’t love a holiday appetizer you can prepare in advance?!?!  Enjoy! :)

Spicy Stuffed Mushrooms

Serving Size: 8 - 12 appetizer servings

These stuffed mushrooms are a great make ahead appetizer! They can be assembled the day before and stored in the refrigerator, just add a few minutes to the cooking time.

Ingredients

  • 1 link spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 1/2 link sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 24 white mushrooms, stems removed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 TBSP flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil, for drizzling

Instructions

  1. Cook sausage in a skillet over medium high heat until crumbled and cooked through.
  2. Add to a large mixing bowl with the garlic, wine, blue cheese, bread crumbs and parsley.
  3. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 2 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Arrange mushroom caps with the stem cavity facing up on a greased baking sheet.
  6. Drizzle mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
  7. Remove filling from the refrigerator and using a tablespoon or medium cookie scoop, form into balls.
  8. Top each mushroom cap with the filling, pressing down slightly.
  9. Sprinkle tops with panko bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes.
http://pearlsplusgirls.com/2014/11/spicy-stuffed-mushrooms/

Butterfinger Cupcakes

 An elegant dessert for entertaining made with leftover Halloween candy?  Yes, please!  

Butterfinger Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Buttercream ~ Pearls + Girls

Even though I’m a die hard dark chocolate addict, my favorite candy bar is a Butterfinger.  Weird, right?  I didn’t really adopt my love for dark chocolate until I was a teenager, but my Butterfinger obsession goes waaaaaay back.  We didn’t have a lot of candy around the house when I was a kid, so when Halloween came around it was pretty exciting to dump out our buckets and feast our eyes on the gigantic pile of candy.  I always paced myself though, trying to make the most of my beloved candy stash.  Sometimes I even made it last through Easter!!!  Of course by then all that was left were the Twizzlers and Tootsie Rolls, not a Butterfinger in sight! ;)

This year I stole all the Butterfingers from my kid’s candy buckets to make some pretty spectacular cupcakes.  Hey, they still got to eat the candy, so it was a totally justified swipe!  Besides, this way Mom and Dad got to enjoy them, too.  Who knew candy could be transformed into such an elegant dessert?!?!  I purchased the decorative cupcake liners at Home Goods (my favorite one stop shop for food styling accessories) and the paper rosebuds from the dollar bin at Michaels.  Enjoy! :)

 

Butterfinger Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Buttercream

Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 18 TBSP (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 6 fun size Butterfinger candy bars OR 2 Butterfinger candy bars, chopped
  • Milk Chocolate Buttercream
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 TBSP milk
  • 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips, melted

Instructions

    Butterfinger Cupcakes
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line two cupcake trays with baking cups.
  3. Tip: Want to ensure your cupcakes don't stick to the liner? You don't have to buy high end liners, just give the inexpensive grocery store liners a quick squirt of non-stick cooking spray!
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
  5. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the sugar slowly with the mixer on low speed.
  7. Once the sugar is incorporated, increase to high speed and cream until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  8. On low speed add the eggs, 2 at a time, on low speed until just combined.
  9. Scrape down bowl with a spatula.
  10. Add the sour cream and vanilla. Mix on low speed until just combined.
  11. Scrape down bowl with a spatula.
  12. On low speed add the flour mixture until just combined.
  13. Fold in chopped Butterfingers with a spatula.
  14. Fill the baking cups about 3/4 of the full.
  15. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  16. Milk Chocolate Buttercream
  17. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat butter for one minute on medium speed. You could also use a hand mixer with double beaters.
  18. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar, along with the vanilla and milk, and beat on low speed until incorporated.
  19. Add the last cup of powdered sugar, incorporate on low speed.
  20. Add the melted chocolate. Increase to medium speed and beat for two minutes.
  21. Scrape down bowl with a spatula, then beat on high speed for an additional minute. Frosting should be light and fluffy.
  22. For a thicker consistency, add more powdered sugar. For a thinner consistency, add more milk. I suggest you do this VERY gradually, a few tablespoons of powdered sugar and one teaspon of milk at a time.
http://pearlsplusgirls.com/2014/11/butterfinger-cupcakes/

Cappuccino Cheesecake

Have you decided which desserts to serve your family and friends this holiday season?  This Cappuccino Cheesecake would make a stunning centerpiece for your dessert table! 

Cappuccino Cheesecake ~ Pearls + Girls

When I was first married I would spend hours and hours baking and decorating cookies, then carefully packaging them into festive tins to bring to our holiday gatherings.  Little did I know that in a few years I would be baking year round and attempting to make a living at it! :)  We usually spend Christmas Eve at my in law’s house, and after a particularly grueling baking schedule the week prior to the ‘grand event’, I really didn’t have it in me to bake another eight dozen cookies to fill those tins.  So I baked a cheesecake instead.  It was a huge hit!  Thus began the new tradition of a Christmas cheesecake.

I hadn’t decided on a flavor profile for this year’s cake, but when I found some chocolate covered espresso beans at my local market the foodie wheels in my head started turning.  I’m a big fan of coffee + chocolate desserts, I think the espresso really brings out the flavor of the chocolate.  This cheesecake has an Oreo crust encasing a creamy espresso scented filling slathered with chocolate ganache, freshly whipped cream and chocolate covered espresso beans.  Wouldn’t it make a stunning centerpiece for your holiday dessert table? Enjoy! :)

Cappuccino Cheesecake

Yield: 10 - 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 tsp instant coffee
  • 1 TBSP whipping cream
  • Crust
  • 2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs
  • 6 TBSP butter, melted
  • Filling
  • 2 - 8 oz. packages of Neufchatal cheese, softened
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 TBSP all purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use the Ghirardelli brand), melted and cooled slightly
  • Ganache
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use the Ghirardelli brand)
  • 1 TBSP whipping cream
  • Whipped cream and chocolate covered espresso beans (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter or non-stick cooking spray.
  3. In a small bowl combine the instant coffee granules and whipping cream. Set aside.
  4. Mix cookie crumbs with melted butter and press into the bottom and up the sides (about 1 inch) of the springform pan.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Using a food processor, process the cream cheese, cottage cheese and sugar until smooth, about 2 minutes.
  7. Add the flour and eggs, process until smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the food processor bowl with a spatula, then process again for a few seconds.
  8. Add the vanilla and coffee mixture, process until smooth.
  9. Add the melted chocolate, process until smooth.
  10. Pour cheesecake filling into the prepared crust.
  11. Wrap pan in two layers of foil and place in a large baking pan (I use my turkey roaster).
  12. Add about an inch of HOT water to make a water bath. This will help keep your cheesecake from cracking.
  13. Bake for about 90 minutes, or until the surface is no longer shiny.
  14. Remove from the water bath and cool at room temperature for one hour.
  15. Run a butter knife around the edge of the pan, then refrigerate overnight.
  16. Just before you are ready to serve the cheesecake, remove it from the refrigerator and remove the sides of the pan. Transfer to a serving platter.
  17. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips and whipping cream for one minute. Whisk to combine, then drizzle over the cheesecake.
  18. Garnish with a few dollops of whipped cream (I piped mine with a star tip) and some chocolate covered espresso beans. (optional)
http://pearlsplusgirls.com/2014/11/cappuccino-cheesecake/

 

Nachos with White Cheddar Sauce

 Need a yummy snack for game night?  Skip the convenience food aisle and make this simple white cheddar cheese sauce instead!  It’s great on nachos or fries and would even make a great dipping sauce for raw veggies!

Nachos with White Cheddar Sauce ~ Pearls + Girls

We’re gearing up for football this Saturday night!  Of course, no game would be complete without a beer and some yummy eats.  Tonight we’re munching on some nachos drizzled with the EASIEST from scratch white cheddar cheese sauce.  The sauce is definitely the star of this dish, and even my ‘no meal is complete without meat‘ touting husband gave it a big thumbs up!

Nachos with White Cheddar Sauce ~ Pearls + Girls

Do you love the neon orange cheese sauce typically served with nachos?  No hard feelings, but I challenge you to skip the convenience food aisle at the grocery store or the drive thru window and make this sauce instead!!!  It takes only minutes to chop the onions, shred the cheese and whip together this sauce on the stove top.  Enjoy! :)

Nachos with White Cheddar Sauce

Yield: 4 - 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 2 TBSP red onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 TBSP flour
  • 1 cup milk (I used 2% milk)
  • 2 cups sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 10 oz. bag blue corn chips
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • 2 jalapenos, sliced
  • hot sauce, to taste

Instructions

  1. In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat melt the butter.
  2. Add the onions and saute for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds (you don't want the garlic to burn).
  4. Add the flour and whisk for one minute.
  5. Whisk in the milk and cheese.
  6. Lower the heat to medium and cook for an additional 4 - 5 minutes.
  7. Serve with the suggested toppings or get creative!
http://pearlsplusgirls.com/2014/11/nachos-white-cheddar-sauce/

 

Thanksgiving Green Beans

Sauteed green beans and red peppers drizzled with balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts, it’s a colorful and flavorful dish that’s sure to please everyone for a weeknight dinner or a holiday meal!

Sauteed Green Beans with Red Pepper, Pine Nuts and Balsamic Drizzle ~ Pearls + Girls

Now that I’m a mom, a night out on the town is nonexistent rare. ;)  However, if I get lucky enough to snag a lovely meal with my husband sans kiddos, you bet we’re going someplace with real tablecloths and delicious food!  My favorite upscale diner serves the most AMAZING oven roasted chicken alongside the dish that inspired this post, their famous skillet beans.  I love them so much that I decided it wasn’t fair that I only enjoyed them twice a year!  Lucky for me (and you), it’s very simple to prepare at home.  Continue Reading

Homemade Brioche

A step-by-step tutorial to make homemade brioche!  After all, who doesn’t love fluffy, buttery bread with a golden, flaky crust?!?!

Homemade Brioche ~ Pearls + Girls

Brioche is the kind of bread I’d typically pick up at the bakery.  There are so many steps, and HELLO upwards of 24 hours to prep and bake?!?!  That’s definitely intimidating!!!  And yet I still decided to make it.  I don’t know why I love long, complicated recipes, but I do.  It’s weird, I know.  Don’t judge me.  Good news though…..I’ve got a step by step photo tutorial for you!!!

Continue Reading

Caramel Pumpkin Eclairs

 One of my absolute favorite pastries, with a little autumn twist!  A crispy pastry shell filled with creamy pumpkin mousse and dipped in gooey caramel, this is a treat any pumpkin pie lover would be drooling over in a matter of seconds!

Last weekend we experienced the first frost of the season!  In Ohio you never know what kind of weather you will get in autumn.  Sometimes you are breaking out the hooded sweatshirts, other times you are moseying around town in your flip flops.  Or quite possibly, hooded sweatshirts AND flip flops.  Granted I’m not speaking from experience or anything….I always dressed appropriately for the weather in college, didn’t you? ;)

Caramel Pumpkin Eclairs ~ Pearls + Girls

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Honey Popcorn Balls

Honey Popcorn Balls ~ Pearls + Girls

I have a love/hate relationship with Halloween.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE dressing up the kiddos and carving jack o’lanterns.  I could do without the haunted houses and the sugar highs though.  I had a terrifying experience at a haunted prison in college, and I’m pretty sure it scarred me for life.  Luckily my kids are still little and more interested in happy pumpkins and friendly witches than mummies and escaped convicts.  As for the sugar highs….what’s with all the AirHeads and Tootsie Rolls in the candy buckets this year?  They must have been on sale or something, but the dang things are way too chewy for my kids to eat and frankly, they hurt my teeth and give me a headache. Wah, wah, wah, I know, I’m a candy snob.  We’ve acquired a LARGE bowl of goodies from our Halloween outings last weekend, and I’m proud to say that I threw most of it away (and put aside a few of the Butterfingers for me, hehehehehe). :)

Halloween Girls ~ Pearls + Girls

Looking for a Halloween treat not laden with a ton of artificial gunk?  My mini popcorn balls are made with air popped popcorn and naturally sweetened with honey.  They also happen to be the perfect portion size for little witches, ghosts and goblins!  Drizzle with a bit of  dark chocolate and sprinkle with some festive sprinkles for an impressive addition to any boo-tiful Halloween dessert table.  Enjoy! :)

Honey Popcorn Balls

Yield: about 3 dozen mini popcorn balls

Ingredients

  • 20 cups air popped popcorn (about 1 cup of kernels)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate melting wafers (I use the Ghirardelli brand)
  • Halloween sprinkles

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a roasting pan with foil.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat melt the butter.
  4. Add the honey and salt. Stir constantly for 2 minutes. The mixture should be bubbling.
  5. Add the vanilla and pour over the popcorn. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to ensure all the popcorn is well coated with the honey mixture.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
  7. Using buttered hands, form the popcorn into balls and place on a wax paper lined baking sheet.
  8. Add a popsicle stick to each ball.
  9. Tip: You need to work quickly or the honey coating will harden and make it really difficult to form the popcorn into balls. If necessary, pop the roasting pan back into the oven for a few minutes to soften the popcorn, then continue forming the balls.
  10. Drizzle with melted chocolate and sprinkle with Halloween themed sprinkles.
http://pearlsplusgirls.com/2014/10/honey-popcorn-balls/