Desserts · Hospitality Food | Meal Trains · Recipes

Sopapilla Style Cheesecake Squares | Meal Train & Comfort Food

Okay, so I say lots of things are my favorite… but these really are my favorite. If you’ve been to ANY holiday that we have hosted at our home, I will have made these. I LOVE them, because I always have cream cheese, and I always have crescent rolls. And they’re CHEAP. A couple bucks for crescent rolls, a couple bucks for cream cheese, and you have yourself a $4 – $5 dessert.

cheesecake pin real

 

They’re also my favorite to make for meal trains, because they are so easy to make right alongside a main dish. As a very low-investment dessert, that’s always what I want when I am trying to multi-task.

 

I have tweaked my recipe over the past 4-5 years, and have decided this one is my favorite.

Tip: You can use different sized dishes to create different thickness levels of cream cheese. Personally, I like a very thick layer of cream cheese, but Drew likes them when there is more flaky parts. You can play around and decide what size works best for you (and also how many squares you will need.)

Sopapilla Cheesecake Squares

  • Servings: 15-20
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

2 packages of 8oz cream cheese, room temperature
2 cans crescent rolls
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
1/4 cup melted butter, unsalted
1/2 cup sugar, mixed with 2 tablespoons cinnamon (if using unsalted butter, I add a couple pinches of salt to the mixture)

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
2. Grease your baking dish. (13×9 is recommended.)
3. Unroll one can of crescent rolls, and spread it across the entire bottom of the pan. Pinch any seams, and make sure all areas are covered.
4. (Optional) Bake for a few minutes (usually 4-5) or until layer is just starting to rise and look less doughy. I let them get slightly golden, then remove them from the heat.
5. In a stand mixer (or by hand) mix together cream cheese and sugar until well combined. Scrape the bottom at least once.
6. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the baked crescent roll. There most likely will be some lumps of cream cheese left- that is fine.
7. Roll the second crescent roll over top of the mixture, and pinch any seams together.
8. Pour melted butter over the top, and spread evenly with a brush or spoon.
9. Mix together sugar-cinnamon mixture in a bowl.
10. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture evenly over the top of the butter. Some parts will still be gooey, some will just look like sugar.
11. Bake 24-25 minutes, or until the top begins to brown.
12. Let cool first in the fridge, or eat warm. It is highly debated on which is better, but I think they are better cold!

Enjoy!


 

1. Gather your ingredients, and preheat your oven to 350°F. Make SURE that you leave out your cream cheese to come to room temperature. I typically take it out of the fridge 1-2 hours before prepping. This makes your cheesecake mixture blend SO much easier.

2. Grease your baking dish. I make sure to spray my dishes really well, because the squares just really seem to come out better when cooking spray has been used.

I usually use a 13×9″ glass pyrex or cake pan. I do occasionally make these in my round pyrex deep-dish, but to get a nice, even layer of cheesecake, I recommend a 13×9″.

3. Spread your first layer of crescent rolls over the bottom of the pan. Pinch together any seams.
4. Bake the first layer of crescent rolls until just barely brown. This is optional, but personally I think it makes them SO much better. I like to give the bottom a little extra baking time, just because I like these to have a fully baked bottom. If you don’t choose to prebake, they will still be baked in the regular cooking, but will likely be bit more doughy.
Thus, this isn’t 100% necessary, but I think it makes them so much better.

5. Mix together your cream cheese and sugar in a stand mixer. You can beat by hand, but cream cheese is rather hard to get lumps out of- so my KitchenAid really comes to the rescue for this recipe.

One of my favorite things about this recipe (and Henry’s) is that there are no eggs- so licking the spoon & bowl as much as you want is TOTALLY fine.
He knows every time that I make these that he will get to lick the bowl, and he stands and watches me as I make the mixture every single time.

6. Spread the mixture evenly over the baked crescent roll layer. There will still be small lumps of cream cheese- that is perfectly fine, they will bake well.

7. Roll the last crescent roll evenly over your cream cheese mixture. Pinch together any open seams. I like to try to pinch the corners to the pan a little bit too- it keeps the butter from rolling down the sides when you pour it on.

8. Spread your butter evenly over the crescent roll. I choose to use unsalted butter, and add a pinch of salt to my cinnamon sugar. You can use salted butter, but in my experience I feel it gives the squares too salty of a taste.

9. Mix your cinnamon and sugar together, and sprinkle evenly over top of the butter. There will be dry places and wet & gooey places.

10. Bake for 24-25 minutes, or until the top begins to brown and feels more firm to the touch. If you prefer a more chewy/gooey style, you can shave off 3-4 minutes. There isn’t really a way to underbake these, as long as you make sure the top layer of crescent rolls are fully baked.

And voila! I could eat an entire pan of these in one day, and full disclosure: I have. They’re addicting and SO good for sharing with friends.

Enjoy!

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Health · Life · Recipes

Starting Your Day With Probiotics | How I Get Mine Through My Coffee

Probiotics are our GO-TO during cold and flu season. We cling to the stuff to make sure that our immune system is strong, and our family is protected when that bad bacteria is circulating so rampantly.
I’m a kombucha, yogurt, kimchi, and kefir fan, but never in a million years did I think I could

get my probiotics through my lifeblood: coffee.

Here’s the thing… When I first heard about vitamin-infused coffee, I was totally skeptical. I mean, VITAMINS? In COFFEE? I just knew that as soon as I sipped that first brewed cup, I would be greeted with the bitter, horrible taste you get when you leave a vitamin in your mouth too long and it starts to dissolve.

I’m happy to say that I was SO wrong with that assumption.

I applied for a collaboration with VitaCup a few months ago, tasted their Energy Blend in a French Roast, and fell in love. I HAD to get my hands on their Probiotic Blend, because probiotics are huge in our home, so I reached out to them to collaborate a second time. I must say that the French Roast is still my favorite, but I love their Probiotic Blend, especially with the hints of vanilla I catch every time I take a sip.

So, aside from me genuinely loving the taste, why do I choose to consume probiotics through their coffee?


This post is sponsored by VitaCup, but the opinions are completely my own, and all the research was done by me.  I will never promote a company I don’t wholeheartedly love and believe in, and I actually reached out to VitaCup myself in order to collaborate, because I adore their product so much.

Here are 5 reasons that I choose to drink my probiotics through VitaCup coffee:

1. Not all bacteria is bad

Maintaining a balance of good bacteria in your gut is so important for SO many reasons. Seriously, Google it. Immune system, digestion, weight loss/maintaining healthy weight, brain function… you name it, there is likely evidence that probiotics directly or indirectly support it working properly.
Bacteria lives naturally in your gut, even the nastiest and scariest of bacterias. It’s just a fact of life, they are there! Adding good microorganisms, in partnership with getting good sleep, eating a nutrient-rich diet, and maintaining healthy stress levels can boost your immune system so that you never fall victim to those scary, gross germs that are naturally residing within your gut.

And I mean, who likes gas, diarrhea, or bloating just in general?! Not me, that’s for sure.
Whether you have chronic gastrointestinal issues such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or just face regular everyday digestion issues, probiotics and prebiotics can be one of the greatest things you can put in your body to keep these nasty conditions away.

2. I don’t forget to drink my coffee, so I don’t forget my probiotics

VitaCup knows what they’re talking about when they say that everyone forgets their vitamins, but no one forgets their coffee. I mean, what parent does forget their morning coffee?
When my eyes open in the morning to Henry’s fingers poking my face saying, “wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up,” I can tell you the first thing on my mind isn’t about my probiotics or vitamins. Rather, my first thought is “GET ME SOME DANG COFFEE.”
By consuming your probiotics and antioxidants in your coffee, you can almost guarantee you won’t forget to fill your gut with the good stuff.

3. The probiotic blend used is heat resistant, and thrives in the heat

I mean, duh.

You need microorganisms that can withstand the heat of brewing in order to live and thrive in your gut.
Most probiotic strains are not heat resistant, and several actually even have to be stored in the refrigerator- one of the reasons I never imagined being able to drink my probiotics in my coffee. VitaCup has picked the perfect strain; allowing for the probiotics to thrive in the hot coffee.

The Mr.Coffee website claims that the best tasting cup of coffee, no matter what brewer or coffee you use, is consumed between 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit. As stated in a US National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health article, the particular strain of microorganisms used in VitaCup’s Probiotic Blend have been shown to activate and grow in up to 149 degrees Fahrenheit. So not only will your cup of coffee be the perfect temperature to drink after a few minutes, but the probiotics will be absolutely thriving in the heat of it, too.

4. Prebiotics matter too

Honestly, I have known about probiotics for years, but I had no idea what “prebiotics” were, or why they were important at all.
Prebiotics are almost as essential as probiotics, in the fact that probiotics do not thrive without them. Prebiotics are a form of non-digestible fiber that probiotics feed on, meaning that both probiotics and prebiotics are necessary for a healthy and balanced gut. You can find prebiotics in many forms, mostly through leafy greens.

VitaCup’s probiotic blend includes Aloe Vera and B vitamins, which act as “prebiotics,” feeding the good bacteria to keep them growing.

5. VitaCup actually cares

I love that VitaCup is conscious about the environment; and I know this is one of the main concerns that so many have regarding single-serve brewers and pods. After all, those things add up if you are like me and drink several cups of coffee every single day. Their pods are 100% recyclable, and totally BPA free.

And, to top it all off, VitaCup gives back. A portion of their sales goes to Vitamin Angels in order to help provide vitamins to battle deficiencies across the globe. So as you drink your coffee, you are not only helping to provide for your own body, you are simultaneously helping the health of another individual across the globe.


So, it’s pretty clear that I absolutely adore the VitaCup family, and all that they are currently working on. Their company has things pretty figured out, in my opinion. Not only do they have amazing blends, but their customer service is fantastic, they are beginning to expand to major retailers, and their coffee seriously tastes GOOD. (It’s the only coffee I will drink black!)

I’ve linked my two favorite blends below, as mentioned above, but a comprehensive list of all of their blends can be found here.

I mean it, if you are skeptical, give them a try. I didn’t expect a vitamin coffee to replace my list of favorite coffees, but they did just that. Why not do double-duty for your body while drinking your favorite coffee? Win-win in my book!

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The above statements should not be taken as medical advice, as I am not a medical doctor, and any above promoted products should not be used to attempt to treat a medical condition. You should always ask your doctor before beginning a regimen of any vitamins or supplements.

Sources

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-you-take-probiotics
  2. https://www.verywellhealth.com/bacillus-coagulans-for-better-bowel-health-89601
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-health-benefits-of-probiotics#section2
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19091823
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6025323/
  6. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323490.php
  7. https://www.mrcoffee.com/blog/archive/2015/september/how-hot-should-your-coffee-be%3F.html
  8. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264721.php
  9. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/19-best-prebiotic-foods
Desserts · Hospitality Food | Meal Trains · Recipes

Homemade Classic Chocolate Crinkle Cookies | Kid-Friendly Baking

Ah, these are one of my very favorite treats to make. I’m a dark chocolate fan, and love using real cocoa to bake with. There’s just something about the richness of homemade chocolate recipes that doesn’t compare to boxed mixes.

They are Henry-approved, and a definite Henry favorite, too. So addicting, and even when I double the recipe, we eat them all within two-three days.

These are also included in my “hospitality food/meal train ideas,” because these are one of my favorites to bring to families when I am making food through a meal train. They are very easy to make simultaneously with other food, and I usually make a double batch when baking them for others so our fam can enjoy them, too.

pin cookies.jpg

Because I hate blogs that make you scroll through 400,000 photos of the recipe being made before ACTUALLY giving you the written recipe, here is the simplified recipe, followed by my kid and baking photo spam. Ha.

I love making these cookies with Henry, because the rolling of the cookies in the powdered sugar is a super fun way to incorporate even toddlers into the baking process. It’s a bit messy to do with kids, but doesn’t that make it even more fun?

Classic Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

  • Servings: 20-30cookies
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder – (1/2 dark, 1/2 regular is my favorite to use.)
1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar 

Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
    2. Beat together cocoa powder, oilgranulated sugar, and salt until well combined. The dough will look like a gritty soil. Only mix until ingredients are fully incorporated.
    3. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Beat until fully combined after each egg.
    4. Add vanilla and beat until combined.
    5. In a separate bowl, combine flourbaking powder. 
    6. Take the dry mixture, and combine it to the dough slowly. Mix until combined, but do not over-mix.
    7. Roll dough into approximately 1″ balls. If you find the dough is too sticky, you may refrigerate it for a few hours, or simply coat your hands in powdered sugar before rolling.
    8. Pour 1/4 cup of powdered sugar in a bowl, and roll balls in the sugar until they are fully coated.
    9. Place them on a greased baking sheet at least 1-2″ apart, and bake at 350°F for 8-10 minutes. The cookies do not spread out much, so I fit more on a sheet than I usually do for other cookies.
      DO NOT OVERBAKE!
    10. When the tops begin to crack, they are ready to remove from the heat. Centers will likely still be gooey.
      (You can bake them for around 10-13 minutes if you do not like a chewy center and want them to be crunchier- just not my preference for these.)
    11. Let cookies cool on the cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes or so before moving them to a cooling rack. With the gooey center, the extra time on the sheet keeps them from falling apart.
    12. Enjoy! They are 100% enjoyed best with a cold glass of milk!


  1. Beat together cocoa powder, granulated sugarsalt, and oil until well combined. I prefer to use my KitchenAid, because the dough is very sticky. Usually I stop mixing, scrape the edges of the bowl once, and mix for a few more seconds to make sure everything is combined well. The dough will be gooey, gritty, and dark, and somewhat resemble muddy soil.
  2. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Beat until fully combined for each egg. Make sure not to over-beat the eggs. 
  3. Add vanilla and beat until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flourbaking powder.
  5. Take the dry mixture, and combine it to the dough slowly. Mix until combined, but do not over-mix. I usually combine about a cup at a time and mix until no flour is visible each time. I will scrape the sides of the bowl once, then mix for a few more seconds before rolling the dough into balls.
  6. Roll into approximately 1″ balls. I sometimes make them a tiny bit bigger, because I prefer gooey and thick cookies.
    If you find the dough is too sticky, you may refrigerate it for a few hours. I adapted a couple of my favorite recipes to make this one so that it normally does not require chilling, though! This one sticks together better, and doesn’t seem to stick to your hands nearly as bad as a few other recipes I have tried.
  7. I start with 1/4 cup of powdered sugar, then add more if I run out.
    I wipe out the inside of the previous dry ingredients bowl, and dump the powered sugar into it, because I hate making more dirty dishes.Henry LOVES rolling the cookies in the powdered sugar. He does a really good job at age two, and even places them on the cookie sheet himself.
  8. Coat your cookies completely in the powdered sugar.
  9. Place them on a greased baking sheet (I linked my favorite air bake sheet that is HUGE and allows for less batches in the oven) and bake at 350°F for 10 minutes.
    DO NOT OVERBAKE!
    When the tops begin to crack, they are usually ready to take out. They will be very gooey, and I find they are not really able to be effectively moved from the baking sheet for several minutes.
    (You can bake them for around 11-12 minutes if you do not like a chewy center and want them to be crunchier, just not my style. I think they lose a lot of their chocolatey richness if they aren’t chewy.)
  10. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes or so before moving them to a drying rack.

    This girl can’t wait until she’s big enough to eat everything Henry eats.
No fun is possible without making messes, right?

11. And finally, ENJOY!

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Drinks · Recipes

Hard Cranberry Pineapple Punch

This is my absolute favorite punch, and it is SO easy to make. I will warn you just like I do any of our guests- this stuff is pretty strong, but you might not even know it’s alcoholic by just tasting it. With the equivalent of over an entire bottle of rum, you would think it would be obvious. This stuff just tastes like regular punch!

I make this for almost every holiday get-together, and I hear often that it is dangerously good. We use my two gallon glass dispenser any time that we have friends over- and I have just adapted the punch recipe over the years to make the perfect amount to fill that 2 gallon dispenser. (I linked the one we have below.) Depending on your glass size, this will produce around 25-30 servings. You could easily cut the recipe in half if you have a smaller crowd- but even with a group of 5-6 of us, we always end up drinking it all.

If kids are over, I like to split the punch before adding any rum and make a non-alcoholic pitcher too. If you do this, add just a little less rum (unless you want it even more potent, but trust me- this stuff is way stronger than you think already.)

Todd likes to photobomb my blog photos. Ellie isn’t impressed

Happy New Year, and drink responsibly!

Hard Cranberry Pineapple Punch

  • Servings: 2 gallons, makes around 20-25 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients
-64oz cranberry juice (one bottle)
-46oz pineapple juice (one can)
-1/2 can pineapple, cut into rings (you can also use fresh pineapple)
-1 lime, juiced
-1 lime, sliced for garnish
-1/2 bag of frozen cranberries for garnish
-2 tablespoons vanilla
-2 cups coconut rum
-1.5 cups white rum
-2 liters Ginger Ale (we only have cans here in Japan, so I use around 6 cans)

Instructions
1. Mix all ingredients together and stir

I like to add a sugar rim to my glass and garnish it with a slice of lime.

Enjoy!

Drinks · Recipes

Slow Cooker Hot Apple Cider

I won’t keep the description on this one long, because it’s Christmas- and I know you’re after one thing anyway- the recipe.

This is my favorite at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. I throw it in a few hours before a get-together, and it not only makes a delicious cider, but it is also a free way to make your house instantly smell like the holidays (everybody always thinks we are baking an apple pie when they walk in.)

Also, here is a secret I learned a few years back:
Purchase cranberries when they go on super sale, usually about a week before Thanksgiving. I bought 6 bags this Thanksgiving for 99 cents each. The cranberries are good for up to around 10 months in the freezer, so I always purchase when they are cheap and store them until I’m ready to use them- usually by Christmas.

In addition, if you make my hard holiday punch (will release my recipe for this soon-it’s pretty darn fabulous) you can use frozen cranberries as a chiller for your punch. Win-win.

So without further adieu, the simplest and most delicious hot cider recipe:

Merry Christmas!

Slow Cooker Hot Apple Cider

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients
-3 apples, sliced (I like to slice two apples finely, and one in large rings-as seen in photos-to make the cider prettier.)
– 2 oranges, sliced
– 6 oz cranberries (about half of a regular 12oz bag)
– 4 tablespoons cinnamon (plus I typically throw in 1-2 cinnamon sticks)
– 1 teaspoon cloves (you can throw these in for spice, or leave them out)
– 2 cups water
– 3 cups apple juice

Instructions
1. Put all ingredients into a slow cooker and make sure there is enough liquid inside that the cranberries can be seen floating on the top.
2. Cook on high for 3-4 hours, or low for 6 hours. Depending on when I need it ready by, I do both. I never cook on high if I am cooking it overnight.
3. Scoop cider directly from crock pot- strain if desired.
I add water or apple juice throughout the day as it depletes, and squish down the fruit a little more each time I do. This recipe fits perfectly in my small crock pot, or the 4qt one. I make a double batch for the bigger crock pot. My small crock pot typically produces 4-6 regular sized mugs of cider.

Enjoy!

Merry Christmas!

Desserts · Recipes

Maple & Apple Blondies

Any time I have a get-together that requires comfort food, any time I have a couple apples that are nearing the end of their shelf life, or any time I just want to use my KitchenAid again, (seriously how did I survive without it??) I pull out this recipe for maple iced apple blondies!

Fun fact: eggs come out of vending machines in Japan!! And they are way more fresh than the ones you buy at the grocery store. Who would have guessed?!

Originally I found the recipe on Pinterest, sourced from “A Latte Food.” Can’t forget to give her credit for the original deliciousness, though the recipe below is definitely my tweaked version of the original. As Michelle says on her blog, these taste like warm apple pie in bite-sized form.

Everyone always asks for my recipe, so I figured I would finally share it! Plus we got some absolutely GORGEOUS apples at the local market the other day, and I had to document their deliciousness in photo form.

You won’t regret making these.

Maple & Apple Blondies

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients
Blondies

    • 2 cups flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup softened butter
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 cup brown sugar (I pack mine)
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1-2 tablespoon vanilla extract (I love vanilla, so I use 2 whole tablespoons)
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Apple Filling
    • 2 large finely chopped apples
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Maple Glaze
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1/4 cup maple syrup
    • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 and spray an 11×7 pan. I typically use a deep cookie sheet that we have, and it works perfectly!
Apple Filling
    1. On med-low heat, cook apple filling mixture for about 3-4 minutes. Pull off heat and allow to cool. I prefer to melt my butter completely before adding in the brown sugar- this keeps the brown sugar from hardening.
Blondies
    1. Cream butter until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add sugar and brown sugar and mix until combined.
    2. Add in eggs and mix until well combined.
    3. Add in vanilla extract. Mix until combined.
    4. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together. Add to the wet ingredients and stir until combined.
    5. In the bottom of the pan, spread half the blondie batter evenly. (Batter is typically VERY sticky- I like to keep a little flower on the counter to dip my fingers in. This making spreading MUCH easier.)
    6. Spread cooked apple filling evenly over the batter.
    7. Top with remaining batter and spread evenly. (Sometimes apple pieces show through, this is ok!)
    8. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.
Maple Glaze
  1. Melt butter, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and cinnamon over low heat. Once melted together, pull off the heat. Sift in powdered sugar, and whisk until fully combined.
    **I often keep the mixture on low heat while mixing in the powdered sugar- this helps it combine a little easier.**
  2. Allow bars to cool for about 10 minutes, then pour the glaze over the bars and allow it to set.
    I prefer to pour the glaze while it is still warm, but after the blondies have cooled! I think this makes for the best consistency of both.
  3. Slice into squares and enjoy!