frosted pumpkin cheesecake bars with chocolate crust

With a hefty title comes a hefty dessert.
No doubt judging from the photos these bars are rich and delish.
The original bars came from the cookbook Baked Elements and they have a plain vanilla shortbread crust but I wanted to see if a chocolate crust would work and it did.
Also since I'm still on my pumpkin butter kick, I wanted to see if using pumpkin butter would work in these and yes it did. Saves a lot of time using a few tablespoons of pumpkin butter than using pumpkin.
The original recipe can be found here, and my modifications are below.
Not too many steps, the crust is fairly easy to make.
All that stuff about baking the crust with pie weights, nah, I'm not into that, I don't have any pie weights and my crust turned out fine.
This is a really good frosting base. Tasty.
See that wasn't too hard, right?
When it all comes together it's really good. Three nice layers of flavor.  Makes a lot, so you can share without feeling you will short yourself.  LOL!  I tease.

And congrats to the winners of the G.H. Cretors Popcorn Giveaway!
#33 BeeBubba and #70 Lisaiscooking.
I'll be emailing you today!

frosted pumpkin cheesecake bars with chocolate crust
adapted from Baked Elements
print recipe

chocolate crust:
2 ¼ cups flour
5 TB high quality cocoa powder (not dutch process)
½ cup sugar
¾ ts salt
16 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large eggs

pumpkin cheesecake filling:
1 lb cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
½ cup canned pumpkin (plain, not pumpkin pie)
3 oversized TB of pumpkin butter
½  ts salt
2 large eggs

cream cheese frosting:
4 oz unsalted butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 TB pure vanilla extract
1/2 ts salt

Grease the sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan. Line with parchment paper and then grease again.  Or do whatever greasing method works for you.

For the pastry dough, put the flour, cocoa powder, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined. Add the butter and pulse a few times, until it resembles coarse sand. In a separate small bowl, whisk the eggs. Add it to the food processor and pulse just until the dough starts to come together.  Pat the dough into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.  I did all this by hand, using my hands to incorporate the butter with the flours and then the eggs; worked fine.  I also left dough in fridge for 3 days and it was fine.
When ready to use dough, roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment paper until it is a bit larger than the pan (9x13-inches). Turn the dough into the pan and lightly press it into the bottom and corners. Trim off any excess. Freeze for 30 minutes.  After I rolled out the dough, I used wet fingers to push the dough into the corners.  Then back into the freezer to set up again before baking.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Line the dough with aluminum foil and fill it with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
I don’t have pie weights and this step was NOT necessary at all, my crust came out perfectly.
Allow the crust to cool while you make the filling.
Reduce the oven to 300.
For the pumpkin cheesecake filling, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium until it is smooth. Add the sugar and beat again until combined.
Add in the pumpkin, and the pumpkin butter, and mix. Add in the salt, and then the eggs and mix again until nice and smooth.
Pour the cheesecake into the prepared crust and bake for 20-27 minutes, or until set and the middle is not runny; a little jiggle is ok.
You must let this cool for at least an hour and it needs to go in the fridge to set up for at least 2 hours.
For the cream cheese frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (I don’t have a mixer so I mixed all this by hand):  cream together the butter and cream cheese until well combined and fluffy. Add in the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt and mix until smooth.
Using an offset spatula spread the frosting over the pumpkin cheesecake filling. Allow to set up in the fridge for 30 minutes before cutting and serving (I skipped this step).


friday links

Happy Friday!

I get so excited when I see Whole Foods Markets across the USA are becoming more and more proactive about displaying what foods have GMO's. Like this sign (above) as seen in my local
Whole Foods at the produce station.
Keep your eyes out for them; they are super informative.
I know they have a labeling system in place and it should be appearing soon on hopefully all their foods in store.
We have a right to know what foods are made/grown with GMO's.

Have you tried Siggi's yogurt yet?
Honestly I cannot stand all those sugar-laden, dye infested yogurts in the supermarkets.
Was so thrilled when I got introduced to Siggi's a few years back.
Just honest, pure yogurt.  The ingredients are what you recognize:
Pasteurized Skim Milk, Strawberries, Cane Sugar, Fruit Pectin, Live Active Cultures:
B. lactis, L. acidophilus, L. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus,
L. delbrueckii subsp. lactis, S. thermophilus
It's a very thick yogurt, a great hefty snack filled with probiotics.
Find out where to buy some, you love them. Plus they have a new coconut flavor AND
now have drinkables & squeezable tubes for kids!  What a great way to get more probiotics
into your kids.  Especially with cold & flu season coming up.

Did you see this?
Freeze dried pumpkin!  The pumpkin craze has gone bonkers.
Has anyone tried this? (saw it at Whole Foods)

More pumpkin craze! (saw this at Whole Foods)
Anyone tried this?  Is it sweet or salty?

This is new Snap Super Candy.
I didn't try it, but heard is was candy in the form of  b vitamins to boost your energy, antioxidants to keep your immune system strong, and electrolytes to help you stay hydrated. With flavors of gummy texture (berry), bean shaped (berry), caramel, citrus, and tart.

Last week I got to see (up close and personal) an RV-7.
An RV-7 is a two-seat, single-engine, low-wing homebuilt airplanes.
They are tiny, but powerful.  I didn't get to up in it....yet.  (working on it).
If you're an airplane nerd (like myself) here is some more info on them.
Pretty neat right?  I mean even if you're not into airplanes you gotta admit this is cool.

Bought some cupcakes from Cupcake Charlies for a party.
My favorite? Hostess with the Mostess (aka Hostess cupcake clone).
They also have cake shots!
And frosting shots.
This ocean shot was too pretty not to share with you all.
Just like glass. (east dennis, ma)

Around the Web:

8 foods high in magnesium
Dad frustrated with daughters tantrum turns it into a very funny video
DIY Halloween mellowcreme pumpkins (oh so clever!)
Wonderful story (true) written by Karrie's Mom (and good for you Karrie!)
Stopping nosebleeds (does this work?)
Snack recipe: yogurt covered cranberries (has anyone tried this yogurt coating--did it work?)
"different" health tips from Dr. Mercola (some good, some ok)
How to be a better cook from Scientific American
4 health benefits of beets (I share this as I'm big into "drinking" beets now, my skin has been fabulous!)
DIY homemade buttermilk & cultured butter
Can we please stop with the fat shaming now?
Why is Denmark considered the happiest country?
Pomegranates reverse junk food damage? Hmmm (I know they are very good for your blood flow)
The cost of eating well: how to eat better for less money
I would LOVE to try this yoga inversion swing for my lower back. Anyone tried this?
Want to find haunted houses in your state? Go to hauntworld
Iconic airports--where are they now?  (love reminiscing over these)
8 things I learned from the Bhagavad Gita (interesting read)
Rob "Gronk" Gronkowski is holding all-womens football camp at Harvard?
Remember that woman that spilled coffee and sued McDonalds?
3 Chinese teachings that can change your life
Want to go to space? In a balloon?
250 ft below 3 feet of ice, Stig Severinsen sets new world record
This Dad made a better Halloween costume for his kid that you can.
Artisan Cookie Butters from Gooey on the Inside!  (please send samples!)
Protein safeguards against cataracts (promising news)
New links between sleep deprivation, immune system discovered
Another great health benefit from snacking on almonds
Slow cooker boeuf bourguignon (printed this one!)
BEST Halloween decoration ever! Turning your quadcopter into a flying ghost
A step towards early Alzheimer diagnosis 
I'm so sad!  The "Moonstruck" Cammareri Bakery files for bankruptcy!
Knowing when your book is finished

Have a wonderful weekend!
Don't forget to enter the G.H. Cretors Gourmet Popcorn Giveaway!


G.H. Cretors Popcorn Giveaway!

CONTEST CLOSED--Thank you for entering! 
You know I just love when a company approaches me with a substantial giveaway.
Absolutely I say!  And not just one winner but TWO!
I just hate when others come to me with like one bottle or one sample size to giveaway--as if!
G.H. Cretors came to me with a nice giveaway package: 5 FULL SIZE bags of popcorn to TWO winners!  So nice of them.
I was so smitten with this popcorn.  One bag got eaten in one sitting. Hubby downed one too.
Their popcorn is so fresh, so tender and so fully coated.
And it's funny because normally I don't like caramel corn because it's always too sticky, too sweet or too hard on my teeth.
Not this popcorn; it's seasoned and coated just right.
Good deal right?
TWO winners will each get a  5 piece sampler pack/bags of the worlds best tasting, GMO-free, gluten free, full of flavor, they never skimp on the coating popcorn.
Two bags of caramel corn, one bag of just the cheese, and two bags of their world famous chicago mix which combines the caramel and cheese popcorns together in one heavenly union.
There are so many good things about G.H. Cretors popcorn:

-We use Brown Rice Syrup
-No artificial flavors or colors
-No gluten ingredients
-Made with fresh creamery butter
-We use natural sweeteners
-We use locally grown Non-GMO popcorn
-My take? Which I feel is really important because I hate when popcorn brands skimp on the
coating part.  You know you get a little bit of coating or a tiny bit of caramel.  Ohhh I hate that.
G.H. Cretors does NOT do that; every single piece of popcorn is amply coated.  Hey!
This is important to me!
-Also, the popcorn from G.H. Cretors is tender, never too hard.
-Where can you find this heavenly popcorn?  Click here.


Planning a Halloween party?
Think beyond pumpkin desserts and candy corn!
GH Cretors Chicago Mix combines cheese corn and caramel corn in the same bag to create a combo offering delicious hits of sweet, salty, crunchy and cheesy in every bite.
The caramel corn is made the old fashioned way: by hand, in copper kettles.
Cane sugar, brown rice syrup (a non-GMO alternative to corn syrup with a lower glycemic impact) and real butter is heated over a flame and then stirred slowly by hand to develop its rich complex flavor and crunch.
For the cheese corn, real cheddar cheese is melted in special kettles and then gently mixed with locally-grown, air-popped corn.
The result is a perfect combination of tastes, two-cheese to one-caramel in every bag.
And, this treat is all natural and completely free of GMO’s, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives! Just the Cheese and Just the Caramel flavors are also available.
More info at www.ghcretors.com.
Also visit GH Cretors Facebook for a chance to win single serve bags that are great candy alternatives for trick-or-treaters. www.facebook.com/ghcretors.

All you have to do to enter to win:

- leave ONE comment telling us what flavor should G.H. Cretors come up with next?
- ONE answer please
- PLEASE have a valid email address in your post or your signature line
- make sure to like them on Facebook  since they are always running giveaways!
- make sure to like vanillasugarblog on Facebook too!
- anonymous comments will be deleted

Drawing held Monday 10/28/2013  Good Luck!


friday links

Happy Friday!

Krusteaz sent a few samples of their yummy products!
Have you tried them?
I know their pancakes mix is one of my favorites.
And their Molten Deep Dish Cookie mixes which I loved (see post here) as they are so easy to mix up and kick up with your favorite add ins.
Which Krusteax mix one should I make first?
And how should I kick it up?
Tell me!
pumpkin baking humor--love this!
Next time you go to Chipotle and you get the bagged chips, saturate the chips with chipotle tabasco
sauce, and shake bag.  It is so good!  I also heard adding a touch of honey tastes good too.
Sweet Cravings by Kyra Bussanich-- the first gluten free winner of Cupcake Wars has her first
cookbook out.  And boy did this one not disappoint at all.
This is the cookbook I would buy if I had time to go to a bookstore and shop! Amazing recipes!
I hard a really hard time believing this whole cookbook was gluten free.
Some Recipes inside Sweet Cravings:
classic cream puffs
mexican chocolate baked alaska
champagne cupcakes
persian love cakes w/ cardamom buttercream
eggnog cupcakes
peanut butter truffle crispy rice bars
espresso scones
beer bread
and so much more....all gluten free!
Sneak peak of what's inside: lemon poundcake
I skipped work one day last week to go surfing, and it was amazing.
Water temp about 62 degrees, a bit chilly, but the sun is still fairly strong.
I refuse to let go of summer!
Can you see the seal? Right in the middle?  They are harmless and LOVE to have the company of
people swimming with them.  It's the sharks we have to look out for. But most of them have left.
Mmmm dinner!
Isn't that pretty?  This is Chatham, to the left of chatham fish pier, a great place to go clamming.
In the distance is part of the nauset seashore.
Dairy Queen in south yarmouth. One never knows what he'll post next....

Around the Web:

want souvenirs from a place you've never been?
8 foods even the experts won't eat!
world's most dramatic (and dangerous!!) runways (this was awesome)
your brain on potato chips
best lunch containers for soup (be careful of plastics BPA)
understand nightmares through psychology
the daily routine of the worlds most creative minds
crazy-rich serbian bachelor looking for a bride (I'm sorry this is hilarious)
most expensive halloween costumes
watch an art restoration of a jackson pollock
a fighter in the wind--norman paraisy (love the dedication they do to keep their bodies in top shape)
how flaming hot Cheetos came to be
volunteer for space travel study?
new test for down syndrome
VERY creative! 8 things to carve instead of pumpkins!
my favorite 10-minute morning wake up routine
pumpkin spice crumbcake (paleo)
granny kat's pumpkin roll
can you juice in a blender?
vietnamese coffee tart
wonderful film from Give Back Films about giving $100 to random homeless people
slow cooker recipes & tips from whole foods
31 soup recipes that crock!
how to look more awake! let me know if this works!
make 3D floor plans with your smartphone
researchers find neural activity in brain region that plays a role in recognizing faces

Have a wonderful weekend!


pumpkin snack cake with pumpkin buttercream

Homemade snack cake.
Don't you love that one sentence?
Does that conjure up fond memories as a kid or even as an adult?
What was you best snack cake memory?
I would love to hear.
To me, snack cake has to have a really good, not overly sweet, but fairly sweet frosting.
A frosting that just glides over the tongue, melts instantly in your mouth and never leaves an aftertaste.
And I've been trying to get just the right pumpkin buttercream for a while now.
Tried last year and got nothing.
Adding pumpkin to frosting is tricky because the pumpkin is so moist.
What did I finally use?
Pumpkin butter from Trader Joe's! I'm still on that pumpkin butter kick.
It's just so versatile in baking to use in just about everything.
I have to brag here for a bit and tell you that this is the best buttercream I've ever made.
This pumpkin buttercream will have you craving for it.
I caught myself (and I've been really good all summer long with my eating right)
having a second slice of this JUST to slice off the frosting and devour it.
So good.
The cake is nice and buttery, has a nice light taste of pumpkin.
You know I hate over-pumkiney flavor in fall baking; too much nutmeg or pumpkin spice and
my stomach turns.
Trust me on this cake, you will love it, it will become one of your favorites too.
Gone baby gone.
Cake didn't even have a chance of seeing Day 2 of it's existence!

pumpkin cake with pumpkin frosting
recipe from vanillasugarblog.com

pumpkin cake:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened + more for greasing pan
1 ½  cups sugar
3 Tb pumpkin butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
¾ TB baking powder
¾ ts salt
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk

pumpkin buttercream:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
¾ of a 1lb bag powdered sugar
3-4 TB pumpkin butter
giant pinch of sea salt
1-2 TB half & half (or whole milk)
¼ -1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a 9 x 13 pan; line the bottom with parchment paper and/or grease up with butter. If you use parchment, make sure to butter that as well.

Into a medium bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until well combined, then add in the pumpkin butter.  Add in the eggs, one at a time until all is well combined.
Take your flour mixture and beat it in in 3 parts, alternating with three parts of the milk.  So add in one third of flour mixture, mix, then add in one third of the milk and mix.  Then repeat.
I had a couple of lumps left in batter, so that’s ok.  I hate to overbeat the batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan. 
Bake about 22-28 minutes.  It does bake up fast, so make sure to check at the 23 minute mark.
Let this cake cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, using an electric mixer,  mix all ingredients, adding in 1 tablespoon at a time the half & half.  You may not need the 2 TB of half & half, so just add in 1 TB at a time.
When cake is cooled, add on the frosting, then garnish with chopped walnuts or pecans.

I have no idea how long this cake lasts as it was gone in one day in my house. But I bet it would do well for a couple days, if nice and covered.


sea salted pumpkin bread bark

Let's just kick things up a notch ok?
I'm tired of pumpkin bread--we have so much at the house.
Why do I keep making it?  Why do people keep ordering it?
Don't they know I'm sick of it already? :-)
I'm already ready for summer; for blueberries, raspberries and warm salty ocean swims.
I know, that's not going to happen--just carry on with the pumpkin making because I know
there are a lot of my readers who love pumpkin and are still just getting started with pumpkin
recipe making.
So this one is for you!
Sea salted pumpkin bread bark.
Well, you can also call it leftover pumpkin bread, or pumpkin cookie bark.
Crazy easy to make too.
I don't do hard recipes, so never worry about that from me; just creative & tasty ones.
Take melted white chocolate, pour on parchment lined baking sheet, drizzle with some pumpkin
butter, take chopstick or other stick thingee, spread and make swirls of said pumpkin butter.
Then drizzle with crumbled pumpkin cookies or pumpkin bread.
Gently push the crumbs into the bark.
Sprinkle the top with a tiny amount of sea salt.
Trust me on the sea salt?
The sea salt goes really well with the butteriness of the white chocolate and the sweetness of the pumpkin butter.
Let sit at room temperature for a while to harden or throw in fridge.
Done and done.
Easy right?
And pretty, so people will think you're an absolute genius in the kitchen.

sea salted pumpkin bread white chocolate bark
from vanillasugarblog.com
print recipe

11 ounces white chocolate, melted
1-2 ts vegetable oil (for melting the white chocolate, optional)
1-3 slices of pumpkin bread or pumpkin cookies, crumbled
1-2 TB pumpkin butter
sea salt, for the top of bark

I melted the white chocolate with a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil (up to you).
Take melted white chocolate, pour on parchment lined baking sheet.
Drizzle with some pumpkin butter, take chopstick or other stick thingee, spread and make swirls of pumpkin butter in the chocolate.
Then drizzle with crumbled pumpkin cookies or pumpkin bread.
Gently push the crumbs into the bark.
Sprinkle the top with a tiny amount of sea salt.
Let this sit at room temp for a bit, then into the fridge to harden up.


friday links

Happy Friday!

I was asked recently to try G.H. Cretors gluten free AND GMO free popcorn.
How could I ever say no?
My stars, this popcorn is AMAZING.
I'll have you know they sent me 5 full size bags and within one day 3 bags were gone.
It's that good.
They have caramel corn and cheesy corn.
But wait!
They have the Chicago Mix which is both flavors in one bag.
Insanely good.  You will never go back to any other bagged popcorn again.
Best parts?
GMO free
Gluten free
and all natural ingredients, no chemicals, no crap, no fillers.  Thank you!
Where can you find them?  Click here.
And you can also order online at ghcretors.com 
Seriously, the best cheese popcorn I've ever had (and no crap or chemicals in there).
Stay tuned!
They've agreed to a giveaway!
And right now they are having a giveaway on their Facebook page.
Go enter!

My last ice cream of the season. Everyone is closing up shop. I'm sad. I want summer back.
From Twin Acres in Sandwich, MA.
My tater tot.
I know, I try and stay away from cheesy pet photos, but come on, look at that face!
Have you seen this at Trader Joe's?
Don't buy it--it's so good!
Let's be honest, most of the Trader Joe salads and sushi are horrid, but this salad was pretty good,
and is my latest crush.  What makes it is that peanut dressing.
My latest crush.
My current handbag is falling apart; I am almost to the point of using tape. Sad.
This bag from Burberry. Way out of my price range, but isn't she pretty?
Cookbook find of the week: The Sardinian Cookbook
A great little cookbook of some the best Sardinian recipes, perfect for upcoming winter.
A little sneak peak. Really good recipes inside.  Nothing too crazy or complicated to make.
Corpse Bride Cake SprinkleBakes SprinkleBakes 1
My friend Heather from Sprinkle Bakes made this corpse bride blue velvet cake with tutorial.
Her talent is astounding. Look at the details!
Love lofthouse style cookies? Ever have them done in a peanut butter version?
Me either.
Head over to Averie Cooks and see how!

Around the Web:

Vegan Nutella?  Why yes please.
Buttermilk chocolate chip crumb cupcakes -- Hello!
Sometimes people are really cruel (be nice to people)
Great smoothie recipe, I tried this but used kale instead of spinach.
Apple cider pancakes--I mean it's Fall right?
What I wish everyone knew about Parkinson's Disease (very informative)
Health benefits of berries. I can attest to this as I do eat 2 cups of berries (raw) 5 days a week
BUT they left out overall body inflammation
The authors that wrote at "standing desks"? (I just loved reading this)
Bicoastal cookie!
Lobmyer experimental sweet factory (art made out of sweets), kind of cool.
Get your toasted pita ready: thai red curry pumpkin hummus
Increase your serotonin with these foods
Waffle baked grilled cheese sandwich
The 2013 Carnegie International Art Museum is open!
You can now make your own Gorditas!
I just love her food blog: creme fraiche, cornmeal & pumpkin coffee cake
Trim your own hair. I am so guilty of doing this the wrong way. Here's the right way.
True Love. (get your Kleenex out)
Power breakfast for your heart. (Love Dr. Weil).
Telekinetic Coffee Shop!
9 items a foodie should always pack while traveling
You should learn more about the MANY health benefits of sea vegetables
Pumpkin donut holes stuffed w/ cream cheese
How to tell if an egg is bad before/after cracking it?
Pumpkin Cake in the shape of a pumpkin (a lot easier than I thought)
11 year old Sean Lew with incredible dance moves and plays it smart by keeping himself in the front of the dance line.
Acorn squash & pecan waffles
How to make cut flowers last
I do this! It has helped my compressed back! The 10-minute morning wake-up sequence
Blocking sugar intake can reduce cancer risk & progression
Lofthouse style pumpkin cookies
Hiker finds over $300,000 worth of treasure in The Alps
Gah!  PizzaCroissants!
Pumpkin snickerdoodle blondies
Pumpkin-browned butter & malt donuts!
8 yoga poses to help with cervical spine & neck issues (already printed these out)
Drive for a cure. God Bless you Steve & Hope Dezember; may you never lose your DRIVE.
I love one-pan easy pasta dishes. This one from Martha.
Tomato-mustard tart (from clotide dusoulier)
Lack of sleep negatively affects weight loss
Pumpkin s'mores bars
What are flavonoids?
How to organize those annoying plastic food containers!
How to deal with people who make your workplace difficult
Malaria vaccine on the way? (let's hope so)
Fall Foliage travel guide (I think this is the peak weekend, right?)
And check out the newest (and funniest) daddy blogger: Daddy Scratches.com (HILARIOUS!)

Massachusetts Residents!
Please help us spread the word about repealing the Mass Gas Tax.
If they get enough signatures we can repeal this.
Did you know that the Mass Gas Tax is set to automatically go up for the next 3 years?
Yes, sad but true. Please visit this website, find out how to add your signature and let's get rid
of this stupid law.

Have a wonderful weekend!


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