November 25, 2013

November Mystery Dish: Cherry Slab Pie

I had a really hard time with the mystery dish ingredients this month! Over the past couple of months we have only had to choose 2 of the several ingredients, but this month we were required to choose three, and that was tough. You can see a full list of this month's ingredients at Joyful Healthy Eats.

In the end I chose to use frozen puff pastry, cherry pie filling, and frosted flakes. Enjoy!

Easy Cherry Slab Pie

Recipe Source: © Amanda Jenks

1 frozen puff pastry sheet
1 large can cherry pie filling
1 cup frosted flakes
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup slivered almonds
pinch of salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) salted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Thaw puff pastry according to package directions--- this usually means letting it thaw in your refrigerator overnight, so plan ahead. 

When puff pastry is thawed, preheat the oven to 400˚F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Unfold the puff pastry on the prepared pan and roll out with a plastic cup or small rolling pin, just a little on two sides so that the crust is a rectangle, not a square.

Using a small sharp knife, score a 1/2" border around the edges of the rectangle. Poke the middle of the puff pastry all over with a fork, like you would before blind baking a pie crust.

Bake for 7 minutes. Meanwhile prepare crumb topping. Crush frosted flakes into a bowl with your hands. Add the oats, flour, brown sugar, almonds, and salt and mix with hands to combine. Stir the extracts into the melted butter, and slowly pour the melted butter mixture over the dry crumble ingredients using a wooden spoon to make sure it is incorporated well. The mixture should be crumbly.

Remove the crust from the oven. Spread cherry pie filling into crust, leaving the border around the edges. Top with crumb topping. Bake for 10-15 additional  minutes or until cherries are bubbly and crust and crumble are golden brown.

Let cool slightly. Serve warm with ice cream and/or whipped topping.

Serves: 6

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October 29, 2013

October Mystery Dish: Better Than... Caramel Candy Corn Poke Cake

Peanut butter cake drizzled with caramel and sweetened condensed milk, then topped with cool whip, roasted salted peanuts, and candy corn!

It's that time of the month again: MYSTERY DISH. I have to say that this month the ingredients were a lot more challenging to work with. I went back and forth for weeks about which ingredients I wanted to use. In the end I opted to choose caramel and candy corn.

Caramel Candy Corn Poke Cake //

Then real life happened and I didn't have a whole lot of time for experimenting in the kitchen. Regardless I think you'll find that this cake is outstanding. If you love Better Than... cake, then you'll love this cake even more (especially if you are a fan of candy corns). If you aren't a fan of candy corn, make this cake and top it with sliced or diced leftover halloween candy bars. It'd be just as amazing!

Be sure to stop by all of the other Mystery Dish Bloggers and see what they came up with! We even have a guest poster this month!

Caramel Candy Corn Poke Cake //

Caramel Candy Corn Poke Cake

1 peanut butter cake, recipe below
1 (12 ounce) jar caramel ice cream topping
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (8 ounce) container cool whip, thawed completely in the fridge
½ cup roasted salted peanuts
½ pound (8 ounces) candy corn

Bake cake according to directions below. Remove from oven. Stir caramel ice cream topping and sweetened condensed milk together in a small bowl. While the cake is still very warm, poke holes all over the top of the cake with the stick end of a wooden spoon. Pour the caramel mixture evenly over the cake making sure that some caramel gets in every hole. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 2 hours at room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-4 hours or until completely chilled. I cut the cake into 12-15 squares before I top it with cool whip so that it is easier to serve. Spread all of the cool whip over the cake. Sprinkle cake with the peanuts and candy corn just before serving so that the candy corns don’t start to bleed color.

For the Peanut Butter Cake:

1 (15.25 ounce) yellow cake mix
1 (6 ounce*) can evaporated milk
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup water
2 large eggs

Grease a glass 9x13 pan with non-stick cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350˚F. Combine all of the above ingredients using a hand mixer until completely smooth and combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake according to package directions (for me, depending on the brand of cake mix, this can take anywhere from 25-35 minutes). When the cake is done a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean. Be careful not to open the oven too soon during cooking time or the center of the cake will fall.

* You can buy evaporated milk in both a 12-ounce and 6-ounce size. Make sure to buy the smaller size!

Recipe Author: © Amanda Jenks of

View previous Mystery Dish recipes:

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October 22, 2013

Peanut Butter Caramel Snickers Dip for Apples

Creamy peanut butter and greek yogurt combine into an insanely delicious dip that's drizzled with caramel and topped with Snickers candy bars. Serve with apples, graham cracker sticks, and pretzels for an easy crowd-pleasing party dip.

This dip, without the caramel and snickers, tastes like a spoonful of peanut butter cheesecake. Man alive! It's one of my favorite fruit dips and it feels a little bit healthy-ish since we eat it with apples and since it contains greek yogurt instead of things like full-fat cream cheese and whipping cream (both things I'd like to eat by the spoonful, if I could).

We make this all the time during the fall, and since there are only two of us I've included both a recipe for two and a party size dip recipe. Yes, they're exactly the same, just multiplied. But just think of it this way: now you don't have to do any math.


Peanut Butter Caramel Snickers Dip for Apples

Enough Dip for Two:

1 (6 ounce) container plain or vanilla greek yogurt or approximately 2/3 cup measured *I love Zoi brand
2-3 tablespoons packed brown sugar *I use 2 tablespoons but some people might prefer a more sweet dip
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon vanilla *note: you may opt to add a splash more vanilla if you start with plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoon caramel ice cream topping
1 fun size Snickers candy bar, sliced
1-2 apples, sliced for snacking

Whisk the yogurt and sugar together by hand until sugar starts to dissolve and the mixture is smooth. Add the peanut butter and vanilla and keep whisking until the mixture is thicker and whipped but totally combined. Spoon into a small serving bowl. Drizzle with the caramel ice cream topping and top with the sliced Snickers candy bar.

Party Size Dip:

2 2/3 cups vanilla or plain greek yogurt (approximately 4 [6 ounce] cups)
1/2-3/4 cup packed brown sugar *I use 1/2 cup but some people might prefer a more sweet dip
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla *note: add a half a teaspoon more vanilla if you started with plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping
4 fun size Snickers candy bars, sliced
8 apples, sliced

Using an electric hand mixer, mix the yogurt and sugar together until the sugar starts to dissolve and the mixture is smooth. Add the peanut butter and vanilla and keep mixing on medium high speed until the mixture is thicker and whipped but completely combined. Spoon into a large 4-cup serving bowl. Drizzle with the caramel ice cream topping and top with the sliced Snickers candy bars. Serve with sliced apples. This dip is awesome served with pretzel thins and graham cracker sticks too!

Recipe Author: © Amanda Jenks of

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October 15, 2013

Pumpkin Dessert Bars with Cinnamon Crunch Topping

A pumpkin pie in bar form with a cake mix crust, pumpkin custard filling, and a cinnamon cake-mix crunch topping. These bars are perfectly soft, pumpkin-y, and comforting. They are best when served topped with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, and a little sea salt.

Yesterday was a super crazy day. I'm pretty sure I stress fractured my hip... or at the very least my pelvic bone is very bruised after running into something (yes, I'm a total clutz) while chasing after my very speedy running toddler--- don't worry, he's just fine.

My favorite part of yesterday was when I spilt an entire quart of white paint on the cement outside our front door. You see, we've been going back and forth from Walmart the past few days trying to get this quart of paint to match the current color of our walls. We'd like to repair the little nail holes before we move in December so we get our deposit back. In any case, yesterday I promised David that I'd be at the school to pick him up at 3 o'clock sharp so that we could go back to Walmart and get the paint color changed yet again.

Pumpkin Dessert Bars with Cinnamon Crunch Topping: pumpkin pie in bar form with a cake mix crust, pumpkin custard filling, and a cinnamon cake-mix crunch topping. So easy to make!

Like any mom with a toddler, I was ready to go out to the car at 2:40pm... because yes, it just takes time to leave the house even with one kid. 

I've replayed this ready-to-go-out-to-the-car moment in my head a thousand times since yesterday: coats on, shoes on, purse and baby in one hand; package and paint and keys in the other. I could have dropped Joey off at the neighbors and taken the paint and the large package we needed to drop off at the UPS store out to the car first, and then I could have gone back for Joey. But instead I decided to try and pull a super-mom move and carry Joseph, my purse, the giant package, and the quart of paint out to the car all at once.

This was a very dumb idea, which I only realized as I turned my head and watched the quart of white paint slip right off the top of that package. It all happened very much in slow motion. Can't you just see it? I was standing there with baby, purse, and package still in hand screaming "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"(in a very deep, low slow-motion sort of voice). Next thing I knew, the paint bucket hit the ground and instantly broke open. White paint splattered everywhere. EVERYWHERE, and all I could think was, "Can't we just rewind, please? Just give me a 30 second rewind". 

Pumpkin Dessert Bars with Cinnamon Crunch Topping: pumpkin pie in bar form with a cake mix crust, pumpkin custard filling, and a cinnamon cake-mix crunch topping. So easy to make!

Unfortunately life doesn't have a rewind button and I was left there all alone feeling totally helpless. I had no idea what to do. I strapped my baby in his high chair and rolled it over to the open front door, and then grabbed every towel I could find. Then, I started to scrub that paint up with some of my best kitchen towels and a bucket of very hot water. Since it had already been a no-good-very-bad-horrible sort of day I scrubbed and wept for what seemed like eternity. I probably looked and sounded like a total freak.

Here are the miraculous parts of this story. 1: Joseph was a total gem during that whole fiasco. He just sat there in high chair perfectly well behaved, watching me scrub. 2: That paint which splattered EVERYWHERE didn't get on my brand new pants... which also happen to be my current favorite pair and one of only two pairs I own that aren't too big for me. The paint did get on my coat, and my hands and everything else I was wearing, but not my pants. 3: My iPhone didn't get ruined when I started dumping hot water everywhere to wash up that paint without noticing that I'd dropped it on the ground (the case protected it---thanks to my brother-in-law who got me the case as a gift). 4: My husband, who is always very patient with me, was even more so yesterday. He literally witnessed a raving lunatic but he stuck around through all the crazy and that's pretty cool.

AND THE BIGGEST MIRACLE OF ALL is that there's this stuff called paint stripper. Yep, it exists. They make a product that strips dry paint off of cement. Imagine that. I don't think I would have freaked out quite as much as I did if I'd known that. Heck, I probably would've just left all of that paint right there on the ground and walked away, knowing that paint stripper would make it all okay.

Which it did. Life is thankfully much more calm today than it was yesterday. I don't believe in turning to food for comfort, but yesterday these pumpkin bars with cinnamon crunch topping really hit the spot.

Next time you're having an awful sort of a day I highly recommend making them. I'm curious. How was your day yesterday?

Pumpkin Dessert Bars with Cinnamon Crunch Topping

Recipe Source: ©Amanda Jenks (I found this recipe on a really old recipe card in my Mom's kitchen cabinet which gives recipe credit to someone named Angela Larsen; the recipe below is slightly adapted)

For the crust:

1 (15.25 ounce) yellow cake mix, divided
1/2 cup salted butter, melted
1 egg

For the filling:
2 cups pumpkin puree
2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup half and half
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the topping:
reserved 1 cup of cake mix
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, softened

Grease only the bottom of a glass 9x13 pan. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Measure out 1 cup of the cake mix and set it aside for the cinnamon topping.

To make the crust, combine the remaining cake mix, 1/2 cup melted butter, and 1 egg together using a hand mixer. Press mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan.

To make the filling, combine all of the filling ingredients together until smooth. Pour over crust.

To make the topping, stir the cake mix, sugar, and cinnamon together. Cut the softened butter into the dry mixture until the crumbs resemble grains of rice. Sprinkle over the pumpkin filling.

Bake bars for 45-50 minutes or until a table knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely. Serve with vanilla ice cream, caramel ice cream topping, and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.

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