Peppermint Cheese Cake Layers: The ultimate holiday dessert!

This layered cake, courtesy of Southern Living Magazine, is pure heaven for both the taste buds and the eyes.  It will make an impressive end to any holiday meal or party!

189285_415990718474592_1250846181_nIngredients
3 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup crushed hard peppermint candies
Sour Cream Cake Layers:
1 (18.25-oz.) package white cake mix
2 large eggs
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
1/3 cup vegetable oil
White Chocolate Mousse Frosting:
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup white chocolate morsels
2 cups whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Garnishes: White chocolate curls, peppermint candies

Directions
1. Prepare Peppermint Cheesecake Layers: Preheat oven to 325°. Line bottom and sides of 2 (8-inch) round cake pans with aluminum foil, allowing 2 to 3 inches to extend over sides; lightly grease foil. Beat cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 Tbsp. butter at medium speed with an electric mixer 1 to 2 minutes or until creamy and smooth. Add 3 eggs, l at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add flour and next 3 ingredients, beating until blended. Fold in candies. Pour batter into prepared pans. Place cake pans in a large pan; add water to pan to depth of 1 inch.
2. Bake at 325° for 25 minutes or until set. Remove from oven to wire racks; cool completely in pans (about 1 hour). Cover cheesecakes (do not remove from pans), and freeze 4 to 6 hours or until frozen solid. Lift frozen cheesecakes from pans, using foil sides as handles. Gently remove foil from cheesecakes. Wrap in plastic wrap, and return to freezer until ready to assemble cake.
3. Prepare Sour Cream Cake Layers: Preheat oven to 350°. Beat cake mix, next 3 ingredients, and 1/2 cup water at low speed with an electric mixer 30 seconds or just until moistened; beat at medium speed 2 minutes. Spoon batter into 3 greased and floured 8-inch round cake pans.
4. Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely (about 1 hour).
5. Prepare White Chocolate Mousse Frosting: Cook 2/3 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Add morsels; cook, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes or until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes), whisking occasionally.
6. Beat cream and 2 tsp. vanilla at high speed with an electric mixer 1 to 2 minutes or until soft peaks form. Gradually fold white chocolate mixture into whipped cream mixture, folding until mixture reaches spreading consistency.
7. Assemble Cake: Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or plate. Top with 1 frozen cheesecake layer. Top with second cake layer and remaining cheesecake layer. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread top and sides of cake with frosting. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish, if desired.
Melodie Belcher; Lagrange, Georgia, Southern Living

Sparking Cranberry Bites: The Perfect Thanksgiving Appetizer!

Take the tartness of cranberries, add in a little sweetness and some creamy brie, and you have one amazing Thanksgiving (or Christmas) appetizer!   Better yet, it’s amazingly easy to make – something to cherish in the midst of the holiday cooking flurry: Simply prepare the cranberries 1-2 days before, then your elegant appetizer is ready to throw together Thanksgiving afternoon.

Sparkling Cranberry Bites

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup good maple syrup
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

Brie of choice
Crackers of choice (*We like Carr’s® Table Water Crackers or Assorted Biscuits for Cheese)

  1. Rinse cranberries and place in a medium bowl. Heat syrup in a small sauce pan just until warm. Pour over cranberries when syrup is warm, not hot, or cranberries may pop. Cool, cover, and let soak in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Drain cranberries in a colander. Place sugar in a large bowl or baking dish. Add cranberries in 2 batches and roll around until lightly coated in sugar. Place on a baking sheet until dry, about 1 hour.

Serve with warm or room temperature brie on crackers. To warm brie, bake in often preheated to 350°, just until melted – about 10-20 minutes depending on size of brie round.

(Recipe from http://clarecooks.wordpress.com)

Set a Festive Fall Table

Naturally, we love good food.  But we also love to enjoy it with people we love.

Fall, particularly, is a time to celebrate: family, friends, the harvest, and the changing of the seasons.  So a festive table setting is only appropriate, and we love these ideas from HGTV:

Add Glitz:
For a sophisticated but not over-the-top look, balance the sparkle of metallics with natural elements, like fall branches or fresh fruit. Erinn’s Tip: “Metallics add a great modern touch to a fall tablescape. Deep copper and bright bronze are a lovely additional to a traditional table. I prefer to bring in natural, textured elements like these seed-beaded placemats so the table doesn’t get too glitzy.” Photo courtesy of Bobbi Fabian. See more of Erinn’s designs in HGTV’s Designers’ Portfolio.

Contrast Colors:
A humble pinecone adds an organic touch to each place setting. Erinn’s Tip: “Have fun with materials; contrast ceramic with glass, wood and gleaming metal. Forgo the old standby tablecloth and opt for glamorous, polished silver chargers and chocolate-brown linen napkins.” Photo courtesy of Bobbi Fabian.

Add an Aromatic Centerpiece:
Who said a centerpiece needed to time-consuming, expensive or even floral? Erinn created this arrangement by grouping scented candles with an earthy potpourri. Erinn’s Tip: “During the fall, natural elements are the best decorations. This potpourri creates a lovely centerpiece and its subtle fragrance is a great addition to the table. Look for large, chunky potpourris and add elements from your own backyard, like pinecones and seed pods, to the mix.” Photo courtesy of Bobbi Fabian.

Accent with Glass:
Golds and ambers pair beautifully with the traditional browns and oranges of fall. Erinn’s Tip: “Glass vases can be found very inexpensively in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes at your local housewares store. They’re fantastic for adding a splash of luminescent color to the room. So go wild! Bring a bunch home, try them out and return what you don’t use.” Photo courtesy of Bobbi Fabian.

A Day in the Life: Steamboat Mud Season

Spring on Emerald Mountain

Steamboat’s “Mud Season” for locals often brings a time of much-needed peace.  The bustle of the ski season is past (for now), and those with seasonal or tourism-related jobs get a bit of a break.  What’s it like for a typical Steamboat “Local” during this time? We can’t speak for everyone, but we’d wager it often goes a bit like this:

6:45am: Alarm goes off!  Mental note: De-program your alarm.  But for now, you hit the snooze and roll over (no work today!).

8:30am: Eyes open.  You should probably think about getting up.

9:16am: You finally do get up.

9:45am: You’re showered, dressed, and hungry!  Head to Winona’s – hey, cash is low, but they have great Mud Season specials.

11:00am:  The day is all yours, and now you have the energy to do something.  Town is empty, so…how about a hike?

11:25am: You park at Emerald, hiking gear on.  An hour on the trails (they’re empty, a bit muddy, but a good workout!) and you’re sweating.  Sure, you skied all season, but that didn’t provide a lot of cardio!

1:00pm: Nap time.

3:00pm: Hunger. Winona’s leftovers!

4:02pm:  You’re feeling s bit of boredom creeping in.  Who to call, what to do?

4:40: After a phone call to a few pals, you’re happy-hour bound! What better than an evening at your favorite spot, with good friends, for some half-price drinks and apps (they count as dinner, right?).

7:10pm: Home. You let out Fido, fill up his dish, and are ready for some TV.

9:55pm: Lights out!  You decide to call it a night, to be ready for an early morning ride.