0 Whole Foods Market

I was invited to a blogger event to experience Whole Foods Market, only minutes from my home.  Whole Foods Market is not only a healthy grocery store, it offers so much more.

Near the entrance, there was a festive bar for patrons to enjoy a quick bite to eat.

There is even a place for kids to play while you shop!

Whole Foods was prepared to offer samples, and I enjoyed this non-alcoholic Pink & Black.

Gelato? Yes, please! Even better with Gingerbread waffle cones!

Pre assembled, ready to decorate Gingerbread houses ~ how cool is that?

I cannot get over how darling these holiday cupcakes are!

Yes, this Whole Foods market has a brick oven! These crusty pizzas are kept hot on a 165ºF counter.

Fresh sides...get a little or get a lot!

This place has THE largest OLIVE bar I have ever seen!

I love bulk bin shopping....I tend to get a little bit of everything!

Freshly ground nut butters available here! No sugars allowed!

I can live on cheese and crackers.  This is especially good cheese!

Whole Foods is more than food, it has some of my favorite beauty products...

...beautiful fresh cut flowers, and much much more!

I discovered that you can shop online and pick up at your local store.  Awesome!

This pretty much sums up my Whole Foods Market experience.  Thank you!

I received this cute little bag of treats from Whole Foods and invited to write a post to share my experience. All opinions expressed are 100% mine.


0 FAST Homemade Maple Syrup


Uh, oh.  Hubby's in a panic, opening and closing each and every kitchen cupboard.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

"The syrup.  We are OUT of pancake syrup!"

Hubby loves pancakes, especially Peanut Butter Pancakes and Corn Muffin Pancakes.

He HAD to have his maple syrup, but....we were out.

And the pancakes were already made.

"Let's make our own syrup," I suggested.

He gave me this look, like...."are you kidding me?"

My mom used to make pancake syrup all the time ~ hubby grew up with the Aunt syrup or the Mrs. Something or other syrup, which is thick and buttery.

The problem with those syrups is they have a bunch of stuff that I can't pronounce, and besides, we were OUT of any kind of syrup.

Let's see.  All we need are four simple ingredients:

Brown sugar (light or dark, you choose) and cornstarch.

Cornstarch will act as the thickening instead of corn syrup.  Mix in the cornstarch with the brown sugar and add...

Cold water.  Put over a medium-high stove and bring to a boil.

Stirring constantly, boil for one minute.

Add in your maple flavor.  This is the brand my mom uses....but after reading the ingredients, you may want to use something else. I use it in my Maple Oatmeal Bread.
Mc Cormick Mapleine 2 oz (Pack Of 6)

Cook's Pure Maple Extract 4 oz  has simple ingredients and nothing artificial.

I love this Maple Syrup recipe because I know I made it and what goes in it. I love that it is fast, easy to make and HOT syrup always tastes better on HOT pancakes and waffles!

Thick & Rich Maple Syrup
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon natural maple flavor

Put the brown sugar into a medium saucepan. Put the cornstarch and mix with brown sugar, making sure there are no lumps.  Add water.

Stir or whisk constantly over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Boil one minute, still stirring.

Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add syrup flavoring. Serve.

Store in the refrigerator.
Makes 2 cups

Recipes you may want to try:

Make Your Own Pancake Mix
Corn Muffin Pancakes
Peanut Butter Pancakes

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0 Kitchen Tip: Soften Brown Sugar in a HURRY!

I live in a dessert.  Occasionally, I will have rock hard sugar, but I love using a Brown Sugar Bear keeper to keep my brown sugar soft.  

However, the brown sugar you see above is DARK brown sugar, and I only use it occasionally for when certain recipes call for it.  When I dumped it out of the bag, it came out in four large chunks.

Thunk.  Thunk.  Thunk. Thunk.

Now, I can either put a piece of apple or a slice of bread in this container with the brown sugar and let it soften the brown sugar over a couple of days, but what if I need the brown sugar NOW?

If you have a wet paper towel, and a microwave, you can soften these large chunks of brown sugar in minutes...not hours.

Cover with a lid and microwave for 20 seconds.  Give it a stir. If you can.

This photo is after about 3- 20 second bursts.  You can see that some of the brown sugar is melting. Not to worry, stir it back in and reduce the microwave bursts to 15 seconds.

This is after about 5 or so total bursts in the microwave.  It is now soft and crumbly, ready to use in my recipe!

Happy Baking!


0 15 Minute "Baked" Chocolate Cheesecake

This cheesecake was "baked" in  15 minutes.



The first cheesecake I ever made took over an hour in the oven and it was runny inside. Cut it open and its "guts" just spilled over the plate. I felt like a failure.

Then I discovered what a "water bath" is in cheesecake making circles when making a Sugar Free NY style cheesecake and noticed the huge difference it makes when making White Chocolate Mini cheesecakes.

After reading that Barbara from Barbara Bakes made a Meyer Lemon Cheesecake and Debby from A Feast for the Eyes made a Biscoff Cheesecake in the PRESSURE COOKER, I decided to test the pressure cooking waters so to speak, using my Cuisinart pressure cooker. I love that this bakes in 15 minutes and does not heat up the house in the summer!

Biscoff Caramel Cheesecake

It helps that this is a small 7" cheesecake. Calorie/portion wise and that it fits in my Cuisinart pressure cooker.  You can find this 7" Springform Pan on Amazon or in some kitchen specialty shops. Another pan option is a Push Pan from Fat Daddio's. I find that it is easier to remove the cheesecake from a push pan. 

Butter the springform pan, put a piece of parchment paper on it, butter it again, and press the graham cracker crust mixture into the pan. It helps to use a cup or measuring cup with straight sides.

All the filling ingredients are easily mixed in my Cuisinart Prep 7 cup food processor.  I got this processor for a steal (more than 50% off) on Amazon's Black Friday special, so look for it!

2 cups of water are put into the pressure cooker, creating the "water bath" that cheesecakes love.  You will need to create a foil "sling" to be able to lower/raise the cheesecake from the cooker.

The cheesecake "bakes" for 15 minutes on HIGH pressure, with a Natural release for about 10 minutes. The cheesecake will be puffy, almost like a souffle.  Let it cool on a wire rack, then transfer to the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

*if there is a little bit of condensation on top of your cheesecake, blot it lightly with a paper towel.

This is a cheesecake that will easily serve 8 (or more) people.

What you will find with this recipe is a creamy, moist cheesecake that has an intense chocolate flavor. This recipe uses semi-sweet chocolate, so next time, I may try milk chocolate.

A dollop of whip cream will help balance the intensity of the chocolate flavor....

Thanks to Barbara and Debby for inspiring me to make my own cheesecake in the pressure cooker!

print recipe

Chocolate Cheesecake - Pressure Cooker
A pressure cooker is a perfect environment for making this rich and decadent cheesecake without any cracks or drying out. The key is to make sure all of your ingredients are room temperature and do not over mix the batter.
  • 1 cup (about 10 crackers) graham crackers, crushed
  • 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 pound (two 8 ounce packages) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 10 ounces semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips, or a combo of the two
  • 2 cups water, for the pressure cooker
  • Trivet
  • Foil Sling (18"x 3")
  • 7" Springform pan
  • Parchment paper
  • melted butter for greasing pan
1. Trace the springform/push pan circle on a piece of parchment paper. Cut the circle, using scissors.2. Lightly brush the pan with melted butter. Place the cut circle of parchment paper into the greased pan. Brush the top of parchment paper with melted butter.3. Mix the graham crackers with 3 Tablespoons of granulated sugar, then add 3 Tablespoons of melted butter4. Press graham cracker mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and half-way up the sides. 5. Chill pan with graham cracker crust in the fridge/freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.6. Beat room temperature cream cheese until smooth, stir in eggs, one at a time, being careful not to over mix the batter.7. Gently stir in the melted chocolate. Pour filling into the prepared and chilled pan.8. Put 2 cups of water into the pressure cooker. Place the trivet in, with the foil sling. Place filled cheesecake on top of foil sling. Fold any excess foil sling towards the center of the pot, away from the sides.9. Close the pressure cooker, close the pressure valve, select HIGH pressure and the time for 15 minutes.*10. At the end of cooking time, allow for a 10 minute natural pressure release. After 10 minutes, open the pressure valve to release any remaining pressure. 11. Open the pressure cooker, use the foil sling to carefully lift the cheesecake from the pot and place the cheesecake on a wire cooling rack. Blot any remaining water on top of cheesecake with a clean paper towel.12. Allow cheesecake to cool on the wire cooling rack for 1 hour. 13. With a thin knife, run the knife around the outside edge of the cheesecake. Remove the springform ring. If using a push pan, set the pan on top of a canned good and push the outer pan down to release the cheesecake.14. Place cheesecake, covered, in the fridge for at least 4 hours or over night. *If a 6"3" cheesecake pan is used, increase the cook time by adding 10 minutes.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 - 8 servings


0 Soft Chocolate Sugar Cookies

I searched high and low and all over the Internet for a chocolate sugar cookie.  What I found was Lia Lola's Chocolate Sugar cookie recipe.

One of my readers suggested that I make this cookie, saying it tastes "like a brownie."   Here is a frosted Lia Lola chocolate sugar cookie next to my soft vanilla sugar cookie.  See the difference? It is about half the size in height.

Her cookie has crisp edges (great for intricate shapes) and a soft, dense interior, much like a brownie. The taste?  Spot on for a chocolate sugar cookie; not to cocoa-y.

However, I wanted the texture of my soft vanilla sugar cookie and made up another test batch, using my vanilla recipe and subbing some of the flour for Hershey's Cocoa.  Now, that's more like it!

The flavor of this cookie is not overly sweet, as the buttercream frosting is plenty sweet.  I frosted a bunch of these fall leaves and gave them to my friends and neighbors for tasting.  The acorn and one of the leaves is a chocolate cookie. The rest are vanilla.

The verdict?

Overwhelmingly, many of the tasters loved the chocolate cookie with vanilla buttercream frosting. The rest loved the serious chocolatey taste of the chocolate frosted chocolate sugar cookies.

So, give it a try, and let me know what you think!

Soft Chocolate Sugar Cookies
(4x6 recipe card download)  (Full page printable recipe)


0 Cool Kitchen Tool: Stainless Steel Ruler

A ruler can be a necessisty when you need a straight line. 

Cutting sugar cookie dough, pie or bread dough can be tricky if you try to free hand a straight line.

I purchased a cheapie dollar plastic ruler and quickly found that the markings and numbers wash off.  I searched high and low over the internet for a ruler that would meet my baking requirements.

It had to be durable, made of stainless steel, be 18" long and NO cork backing.  Many of the rulers I found, after close inspection of the description, had a cork backing. 

I finally found THE RULER of my baking dreams!

Introducing the Empire Stainless Steel 18" Ruler!  You can find it on Amazon HERE.

It is currently $8.49, though the price can change any moment.  Add this cool kitchen tool to your baking collection!


0 Soft Sugar Cookie Tip: Keeping Their Shape!

I have a sugar cookie obsession.

Lately, I have been making a ton of these soft sugar cookies for family, friends, and neighbors.

Not only are they requesting cookies, they are asking if I can make a certain shape/color/design.  It has my creative juices flowing, and I thought I'd share with you what I have learned!

First, not every shape works with this soft sugar cookie dough.  Intricate shapes get lost during baking because of the leaving that causes it to puff, rise, and slightly spread.  Chilling the dough for at least an hour (overnight is best), helps keep the spreading under control.

I thought circles would be the EASIEST shape, but I noticed that some of the cookies were turning into ovals, or egg shapes.  Definitely NOT what I want.  Thanks to Google, and the experience of other bakers, this is what I've learned to do.

I love this tip of cutting 1/4" sugar cookies EVERY time.  It has saved me time and my cookies bake evenly and thoroughly every time. Roll out your cookie dough onto a Silpat, baking mat, or parchment paper.  It may help to have your counter slightly damp to keep your mat from sliding around. Transfer your rolled dough onto the back of a cookie sheet.

Why the back?  I use a convection oven and found that my cookies brown/bake more evenly.  It is the same concept as using a baking sheet without sides...

Using your cookie cutter, cut out the shapes desired, leaving at least 1/2" between cookies.

Lift the excess dough straight up, trying to avoid stretching and moving the cut cookies.

Put the cut cookies into the refrigerator for 30 min.

These steps help a lot towards a more perfectly shaped cookie!

Stay tuned for some more sugar cookie baking tips!

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