Toffee Caramel Cream Cheese Bars

A few months ago, I decided to give Match.com a try. I’d done online dating one other time, and didn’t have much luck. But I thought I’d give it one more shot, so I signed up for a month long subscription. It actually went a lot better than the first time around. I talked to some nice guys, went on a few dates. One of the guys I talked to seemed really great at first. He was my age, cute, had a good job, and seemed genuinely interested in me. After a few days of talking online, we decided to exchange phone numbers so we could communicate more regularly. He was charming, flirty…and then it happened. I had come down with a cold, and he was asking about my favorite comfort foods. I told him I like ice cream. He asked what kind. I said anything chocolate. He asked if I liked fruit in my ice cream, to which I told him that I do like fruit, but not when it masquerades as dessert. I like to keep them separate…which is when he decided to school me on how and why I should be making my desserts healthy. Umm, what?! Who needs that kind of negativity in their life? Definitely not me. And, he thought it was outrageous that I drink Starbucks twice a week. Needless to say, it didn’t work out.

Now, this dessert right here…is probably as unhealthy as it gets, but worth every delicious, creamy bite. I got the idea when my mom brought “Better Than Sex” cake for my birthday. Or, as we call it, “Better Than No Cake” cake. I subbed out the german chocolate cake for a brownie base and created a ganache/frosting to top it off. I don’t like to toot my own horn, but this dessert is my new favorite!

Toffee Caramel Cream Cheese Bars

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What I’m Listening to: “Step Out” by Jose Gonzalez

Ingredients (makes an 8×8 pan)

-1 box of brownie mix (Note: check the box to make sure it makes an 8×8 pan, not a 9×13- I used Betty Crocker Supreme Triple Chunk mix)

-1/4 cup water

-1/3 cup vegetable oil

-2 eggs

-8 oz block cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat…you know, to be healthier)

-1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping

-2 heaping cups powdered sugar

-1 cup Heath toffee baking bits

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 8×8 pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine the brownie mix, water, vegetable oil, and eggs. Pour into the pan and bake for 32-35 minutes, until the brownies have set and a fork inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Pour in the caramel ice cream topping and mix until combined. Add the powdered sugar and beat for 3-4 minutes, turning the speed to low for the last minute. Pour evenly over the brownies. Sprinkle with the Heath baking bits and place in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes. Serve immediately or place in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days.

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Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Dip

So, it seems like One Direction is the hot topic of the week! In case you’ve been living under a rock the past few days (or aren’t a fan of pop culture), Zayn, one of five guys comprising the pop group, has left the band. And everyone is talking about it! Every Buzzfeed article is mentioning it, Facebook is blowing up, and some girl started a GoFundMe to buy out One Direction’s contract, which has already raised 87.8 million dollars! (Seriously.) I played some One Direction in my dance classes this week as a good-faith gesture, and my students were almost in tears. It’s apparently that bad! I tried to compare it to when Kevin temporarily left the Backstreet Boys, but let’s face it: I don’t think Kevin was anyone’s favorite BSB member. So, the world is down one One Directioner…is this the new “day the music died?”

If it is, I’ve got a cure: this creamy, heavenly combination of chocolate and peanut butter, which, in my opinion, is better than a boy band any day! I love to serve this dip when I have company over, and I’ve made it for work a few times too. It’s always a huge hit! It’s very rich, so a little goes a long way.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Dip

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What I’m Listening to: “Show-Off” from The Drowsy Chaperone Soundtrack

Ingredients

-8 oz block of cream cheese, softened

-1 stick of butter, softened

-1/4 cup of creamy peanut butter

-1/2 cup of brown sugar

-3/4 cup of powdered sugar

-1 tsp of vanilla

-1/2 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

-An 8 oz bag of Reese’s minis

Place the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a mixer. Blend together until combined. Add the peanut butter, brown sugar, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Blend until smooth. With a spatula, stir in the chocolate chips and Reese’s minis. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with graham crackers or a spoon…I won’t judge.

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Dark Chocolate Peanut Clusters

When it comes to cooking for a group, I’m a chronic over-planner. A 9×13 pan of lasagna for 3 people. 7 appetizers for a party of 4. It’s a problem. Sometimes, thankfully, I catch myself BEFORE I make my recipe, and use half of the ingredients instead. But, that means I have a lot of random leftover stuff in my kitchen cupboards.

Now that the holidays are over, I’m mourning the holidays being over. So, I went to my cupboard this week to see what I could concoct that would make me feel in the Christmas spirit. I did about half of the Christmas baking that I usually do this year, so I had plenty of things on hand. After a few minutes of rummaging, I came across a bag of dark chocolate chips, and thus, my Dark Chocolate Peanut Clusters were born. I’ll be honest with you…I could eat the entire batch in one sitting, if it weren’t for my New Year’s goal to lose 15 pounds this year. I’m not even a fan of dark chocolate, but the peanut butter takes away the bitterness so it goes down smooth. If you don’t have peanuts on hand, I’m sure any kind of nut would be delicious! The best part? I whipped these up in 10 minutes before work!

Desserts for Beginners: Dark Chocolate Peanut Clusters

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What I’m Listening to: If I Lose Myself (acoustic) by OneRepublic

Ingredients (makes 15-20 clusters)

-10 oz package of dark chocolate chips

-1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter

-2 cups of lightly salted peanuts

Place the chocolate chips and peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds and stir. Heat for another 30 seconds and stir rapidly. The mixture should be smooth, so if it’s not, add 15 second increments in the microwave until it is. Mix in the peanuts until thoroughly coated.

Line a large baking sheet with wax paper. Drop the peanut mixture in spoonfuls on to the wax paper, spacing about one inch apart. Place in the freezer until the chocolate sets. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve…or eat two at a time by yourself.

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Pumpkin Crunch

Guys! I know I normally have a story or something to go with every post, but I’m just too excited about this recipe…because it’s two recipes! Yes! Two. The first recipe, Pumpkin Crunch, is my FAVORITE fall dessert. My mom used to make this all the time when we were growing up, and I make it at least once a year for myself. The original recipe makes a 13×9 pan, so I’m hoping this smaller version will be friendlier to my waistline. (Although with the cup of sugar and stick of butter, I’m not so sure…)  You’ll have leftover pumpkin and cake mix from the Pumpkin Crunch, so you can combine them to make muffins! Two recipes in one…what could be better?!

Pumpkin Crunch

pumpkin crunch

What I’m Listening to: Pentatonix

Ingredients (makes an 11×7 pan)

-1 heaping cup of canned pumpkin (I use “Libby’s”…not pumpkin pie filling)

-1 cup of milk

-2 eggs

-3 tsp pumpkin pie spice

-1 cup of sugar

-1/4 tsp salt

-1 box of yellow cake mix

-1 stick of butter, melted

-Chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the pumpkin, milk, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, sugar, and salt. Mix well, then pour into a greased 11×7 pan. Sprinkle 2/3 of the yellow cake mix generously over the top. Set the rest aside. Pour the melted butter evenly over the cake mix. Top with chopped pecans. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown. Serve with whipped topping or vanilla ice cream.

You can mix together the remaining canned pumpkin and cake mix to make muffins! I threw a handful of chocolate chips in, too. That’s all you need! It made four muffins. I baked them at 350 for 25 minutes. Check back tomorrow for the full muffin recipe!

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