Caramel Apple Dipping Bar

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Perfect for parties or a fun dessert idea to try with kids, building a caramel apple dipping bar is a light dessert that lets guests create the dessert they want.

I did this as the dessert option on Halloween, when it was my turn to host my a small dinner party for friends as part of our weekly “Lovely Ladies Supper Club” meals. They said it was refreshing change from the over-sugary fare they’d been eating all week. (Check out the Curried Pumpkin Soup I made for that if you’re interested in how it works and why we get together.)

The hardest part of this dessert idea is picking the best caramel. I searched high and low for one that didn’t have hydrogenated oils, but of course it was still pretty sugary. I found my caramel melting bits at Target, and I believe they were called just Caramel Bits, but ask me about that if you want to know, and I’ll check. My friends later told me that a can of sweetened condensed milk can be made into caramel very easily, so that’s another recipe to try for another day…20131106-142911.jpg

Ingredients

1 bag of caramel bits for melting

2 bags of pre-sliced apples (or slice your own and splash with sprite or lemon-lime juice to prevent browning)

small serving dishes for toppings

skewers for dipping

Topping Ideas

mini chocolate chips, or chopped dark chocolate

chopped nuts

sprinkles

shaved coconut

small candies

the list can go on…

Directions

-Prep all the toppings and apples first. The caramel needs to be made directly before serving, so focus first on dividing the toppings into bowls, laying out the skewers and finding a cute matching dish for the apples.

-When it’s time to serve, melt your caramel bits according to package directions (they’ll all be different).

-Bring the caramel over to guests on a serving tray with small serving plates and the topping bowls, and let them have fun creating their own desserts.

Healthier Thin Mint Cookies

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While in the process of going through EVERYTHING I own for my big move down to Texas, I also had to go through a lot of separation. I let go of bags and bags of clothes, books, and surprisingly some food stuffs I’d never used up. With the food, though, I was able to eat my way through a lot of the dried goods I’d accumulated during my two years in this apartment. One of which was a bag of pitted dates. So yummy, and bought with equally yummy intentions for a dessert I had in mind in the spring.CC Pics 009

But that idea passed. The dessert went unmade, and then I remembered a Thin Mint Brownie recipe from the Fabulous Chocolate-Covered Katie, whose cookbook comes out soon, I hope (Katie?).

Well these tasty treats are really good. Just ask the friends I made them for, for a summer picnic in July. And you could ask the other group of friends who tried them, too, at a fireworks show. They were happy to indulge, and I only felt bad when they looked at my little thin mint cookies and then looked at the big, sugary-frosted store-bought ones they bought with a twinge of remorse.

Okay, I didn’t feel too bad about giving friends a healthier alternative they liked just as much. I didn’t want anyone to feel embarrassed about the cookies they brought though. CC Pics 010

To share this positive embarrassment/ healthy kindness with your own friends, check out the recipe I’ve adapted from CCK’s version for a slightly chewier, cholate-ey-er cookie recipe.

Ingredients

1/2 cup walnuts

1 and 1/2 cups pitted dates

1 t vanilla extract

1.5 T cocoa powder

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scant pinch of salt

1 t stevia

Directions

-Combine all ingredients in your food processor. Blend ’til a dough forms.

-Roll into bite-sized balls and flatten between your palms for a flat cookie.

-If you wanted a small pan of brownies, simply press the dough into a small pan and slice.

-Serve cold or even frozen if that’s how you like your thin mint cookies (I do!). Enjoy.

Quick-Fix Angel Food Cake

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Do you every just want an easy dessert? A quick dessert? And ideally, a healthy dessert?

I can help.

I’ve introduced you to my Instant Brownie Trick.This one’s similar, but features angel food cake. I love angel food cake because it’s one of the few packaged cake mixes you can find in stores that isn’t made with hydrogenated oils. I tell people to avoid these modified fats at all costs. Yes, I would like this dessert trick so much better if it was less refined, too, but in moderation–and for the sake of being easy–I like it just fine.SAM_4956

So here’s how easy it is to make: Pick a safe, trans-fat free cake mix (make sure it says 0g Trans Fats AND no hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list), determine an appropriate portions size, divide and portion accordingly, prepare as directed, only reducing bake times and temperatures if necessary.

So for example, if a box of angel food cake gives 12 servings, determine how many ounces are in each serving by dividing the ounces written on the front of the package by 12. Use a measuring cup or spoon that lists ounces on side, if possible. Likewise, if the recipe calls for 3/4 cup of water, you would divide that by 12, too, making it so that you need only give 1 T of water instead of 12 (16 T = 1 cup).SAM_4958

Okay, to do this you obviously need some knowledge (or research skills) to figure out conversions. This could thwart the purpose of quick and easy baking, yes, but every good baker knows his or her conversion rates. I recommend learning them. It can only help, right? And if you like math, it’s kind of fun.

You can bake in the oven as directed, but I’d recommend dropping the baking temperature a few degrees and, of course, cut the baking time down by at least a third of the usual time. I actually made mine in the microwave, believe it or not. Just like my instant brownie, the finished product won’t be as moist as possible, but a minute and a half on high will make it as fast as possible, and it’ll still taste so sweet.

I topped mine with some fresh strawberries and a sprinkle of stevia. I’d love to hear other topping ideas though!

Chocolate-Chip Mug Muffin

Happy Friday to you! Know what you deserve this morning? A healthy mug-sized muffin, but one that you won’t have to wait around for 15 minutes while it bakes. I can’t believe I haven’t posted this recipe yet. I use … Continue reading