I love Valentine’s Day desserts because most of them include chocolate: chocolate with raspberries, chocolate with strawberries, chocolate with more chocolate. Although berries and chocolate is one of my favorite flavor combinations, I wanted something different this year. I made these red velvet seven layer bars a few weeks ago and they were such a big hit, I knew I had to share them in time for Valentine’s Day! Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of chocolate in these bars, but the pop of red from the red velvet base was too perfect for a red-themed holiday to resist.
In all honesty, I’m not a huge fan of red velvet anything. I’m a chocolate girl at heart and red velvet tends to be underwhelming to me. These bars are definitely an exception. They start off with a thick, cookie-like red velvet base. If you’re unfamiliar with the flavor of red velvet, it is mostly vanilla with a little hint of chocolate. The subtle chocolate flavor is usually what I don’t like about it, but in these bars, it’s the perfect match for all of the sweet, flavorful toppings. Speaking of toppings, these bars are loaded with chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, coconut and pecans along with sweetened condensed milk to keep everything together. As the bars bake, all of those delicious toppings melt together to make a decadent dessert.
Whether you need a dessert for just you and your sweetheart or something to share with a crowd, these red velvet seven layer bars are quick to make, delicious and worth every single bite! Happy Valentine’s Day!
Red Velvet Seven Layer Bars
1. I think this recipe would have been even better with toasted coconut. If you have the time, here’s how! Preheat oven to 325ºF. Place shredded or flaked coconut evenly on a large baking sheet that has been lined with a parchment paper.Bake on middle rack for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes, gently stir the coconut with a spatula. Bake until the coconut is golden brown, about 3–4 more minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Coconut toasts quickly so make sure to pay attention to it!
2. It’s very difficult to tell when these bars are done. I added a range for the bake time because my bars were just barely done at 25 minutes. If your oven tends to bake slow, I’d recommend baking the bars for slightly longer.
3. Recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (225g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (12g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup + 1 tablespoon (225g) granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon (15ml) liquid red food coloring
1 and 1/3 cups (120g) sweetened shredded coconut*
1 cup (180g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (90g) white chocolate chips
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup (130g) chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line the bottom and sides of a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides.
Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl until combined.
In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat the butter for 1 minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy.
Add the granulated sugar and beat on medium high speed until fluffy and light in color.
Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
Beat in the food coloring until combined.
With the mixer running on low speed, slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until combined. The red velvet dough will be quite thick and sticky.
Using a rubber spatula, spread dough in an even layer into the prepared baking pan. It’s very sticky, so take your time pushing it to each corner of the pan.
Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave the oven on.
Sprinkle the coconut over the cookie layer, followed by the chocolate chips, then the white chocolate chips. Pour the sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top. Sprinkle with pecans.
Bake until set and top is lightly golden brown, 25-28 minutes.*
Cool on a rack for at least 2 hours before cutting into squares.
Things have been quite around here for awhile, but what better way to come back than with two of my favorite things: pumpkin and cake! I made this beautiful cake for a friend’s baby shower a few weeks ago and it was so delicious, and quintessentially fall, that I had to share it. Not to mention, I’m loving the semi-naked cake look. It’s elegant and rustic all at the same time!
First, let’s talk cake. A lot of pumpkin recipes can be dense because pumpkin provides extra moisture, but that’s not ideal for a three layer cake. Instead, this cake is fluffy and moist. It’s also loaded with all of the warm, fall spices that we’ve come to know and love as “pumpkin spice”. It may seem like a lot of spices, but I promise they just blend together with the pumpkin and give it that perfect pumpkin flavor.
Pumpkin cake would not be complete without cream cheese frosting, but this frosting brings the cake to a whole new level. I’ve made a lot of delicious frostings, but this one might actually be my favorite. I’m talking about browned butter cream cheese frosting. Yum! Browning the butter gives the frosting a nutty, caramel flavor which pairs amazingly well with the tangy cream cheese. Add in the fluffy, pumpkin spice cake and it’s a match made in heaven!
I know baking a cake isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun afternoon, but this cake is so easy and freezes really well. These turned out great as cupcakes too, if that’s more your thing, or you could even call them “muffins” without the frosting 😉 (check the notes section for adaptations). This cake would be a great addition to a Thanksgiving menu, especially for people who don’t like pie (and you can make it ahead!). It was perfect for a fall-themed baby shower and would even be great on a rainy, fall weekend (I’m looking at you, Pacific Northwest). However and whenever you make this cake, I really hope you do!
Pumpkin Spice Layer Cake with Browned Butter Cream Cheese Frosting
1. I scaled this recipe back so it would yield 3, 6-inch layers of cake. The original recipe would have made 4 layers, but 3 layers was tall enough for my liking. If you would like a fourth layer of cake, or extra mini-cupcakes as shown in the pictures, scale the recipe up by 1/3 (multiply all ingredients by 1.333). You’ll find the directions for mini cupcakes below.
2. To make cupcakes or mini-cupcakes, line cupcake pans with liners. Bake regular size cupcakes for 18-22 minutes and mini cupcakes for 10-12 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before removing from cupcake pans. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
3. The cake layers freeze wonderfully. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in refrigerator overnight before assembling cake.
Recipe for pumpkin spice cake adapted from Half Baked Harvest. Recipe for browned butter cream cheese frosting adapted from Butternut Bakery.
For the pumpkin cake
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
11 ounce pumpkin puree
For the browned butter cream cheese frosting
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 and 1/2 8-ounce blocks (12 ounces) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
4 cups (480g) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
To make the pumpkin spice cake
Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line 3, 6-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, then spray with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the canola oil, sugar, vanilla, eggs, and pumpkin until combined. Gradually add the dry ingredients until smooth and no lumps remain in the batter.
Divide the batter evenly among the cake pans. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the tops are just set, and no longer wiggly in the center. Remove and let cool five minutes, then run a knife around the edges of the pan and turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack. Cover and let the cakes cool completely before assembling.
To make the browned butter cream cheese frosting
Place 8 tablespoons butter in small saucepan. Melt over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Allow the butter to brown lightly until it smells toasted, about 5 minutes. Stir often.
Remove from heat, and immediately pour into a heat-proof bowl. Refrigerate until solid.
In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the solid brown butter on high speed until creamed.
Add remaining 4 Tbs room temperature butter and beat until smooth.
Add the cream cheese and beat on high speed until combined, smooth, and creamy.
Add 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then switch to high speed and beat for 1 minute.
To assemble the cake
Using a serrated knife, cut off any rounded tops on the cake layers, ensuring each layer is level.
Place the first layer on a cake board, plate or cake stand.
Spread 1/3 of the buttercream over the cake. Repeat with second layer and top with third layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow layers to set.
Frost top and outside of cake with remaining buttercream. Use a bench scraper to smooth out the frosting on the sides of the cake. Chill again for at least 30 minutes to set cake.
Serve cake at room temperature. Store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
I had the privilege of developing a second recipe for a quarterly newsletter to highlight papaya (read about the first recipe I developed here!). Now that I’m a new mom and need a fast and filling breakfast, overnight oats are perfect. These are packed with protein thanks to the addition of Greek yogurt. The combination of honey and almond is delicious with any fruit if you can’t find papaya. I hope you enjoy these as much as I have!
One of my favorite things to do is sit and read through various recipes online and in cookbooks. So when my aunt, who is also a dietitian, asked me to develop a recipe for a newsletter she sends out quarterly, I jumped on the opportunity. The food highlighted for this spring’s issue is zucchini and it did not take me long to figure out what I would make: zucchini noodles or “zoodles”! I know I’m super late to the spiralizing trend, but I love how easy it is to substitute some or all of the pasta with zucchini noodles in many of my favorite pasta recipes. It’s a great way to get an extra serving of vegetables in without sacrificing flavor or texture.
Vegetables, in almost all forms, have sounded very unappealing to me throughout my pregnancy. Therefore, I’ve been trying to “sneak” them into dishes as often as I can. I’ve always loved my broccoli pesto pasta sauce so I was curious how it would pair with zucchini noodles. I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that it worked out great! The sauce, surprisingly, is packed with flavor, even though there are only a few ingredients. It does taste like broccoli, but it also has a hint of garlic, some nuttiness from the parmesan and a little bit of heat. It’s super creamy too! Replacing all of the pasta with zucchini left little sustenance so I chose to just replace half and use whole wheat pasta for the rest. The whole wheat pasta lends a nice, nutty flavor as well as a little bit of bite (the zucchini noodles tend to be on the softer side). The bonus of all of this is that the sauce is super green, so it’s fun to eat, and you get two servings of vegetables without sacrificing any flavor. All of that in 30 minutes of cooking makes this a quick and healthy weeknight meal that I hope you enjoy as much as we have!
1. I frequently serve this with sautéed shrimp or chicken breasts to add more protein to our meal.
Nutrition Information for 1 cup: Calories: 190 Carbohydrates: 27g Fat: 7g Protein: 10g
Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
2 medium zucchini
1/4 lb. whole wheat spaghetti pasta
1 large head broccoli (about ½ pound)
1 tablespoon olive or grapeseed oil, divided
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup (1oz) freshly grated parmesan cheese
Use the fine noodle blade on a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles. If you do not have a spiralizer, you can make the noodles using a cheese grater by running the long side of the zucchini down the grater. Set “zoodles” aside until step 9.
Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta and a medium pot of water to a boil for the broccoli.
Remove broccoli florets from stems and chop into medium florets. Peel stems with a vegetable peeler and slice into 1/2-inch segments.
Steam, for 5 to 6 minutes, or par-boil, for 3 to 5 minutes, the broccoli florets and stems until just tender. Drain broccoli, if needed, and set aside.
When large pot of water comes to a boil, add pasta and cook to al dente, according to package instructions. When pasta is finished cooking, reserve 1 cup pasta water to thin sauce. Drain pasta in colander and set aside.
Meanwhile, in the medium pot used to cook the broccoli, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil over medium heat.
Add onion and reduce to medium-low, sautéing until tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another two minutes.
Add steamed broccoli, salt and red pepper flakes and turn the heat back up to medium-high, cooking it with the onion and garlic for a few additional minutes. Pour whole milk over mixture and let cook for 30 seconds.
While onion mixture is cooking, heat large pot used for pasta over medium heat with remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil. Add zucchini “zoodles” and sauté for about 5 minutes, until zoodles are soft but still have a slight bite.
Once broccoli mixture is cooked, transfer to a blender or food processor and blend in short bursts until it is finely chopped. Add a little of reserved pasta water at a time until sauce is smooth, but still thick.
Add whole wheat pasta, broccoli sauce and parmesan cheese to large pot with zucchini zoodles. Cook over medium high heat for 1-2 more minutes, stirring frequently, and adding additional pasta water, as needed, to thin sauce and fully coat noodles. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Serve hot with additional parmesan cheese, if desired.
Pumpkin pie is, without a doubt, my favorite type of pie. I always, and still do, greatly anticipated Thanksgiving because that meant there would be pumpkin pie for dessert. Luckily, I grew up in a family of pumpkin pie lovers so Thanksgiving was not the only time we would have pumpkin pie each year. I have a very distinct memory of visiting my Great Grandpa Frank’s house one afternoon and arriving just as he pulled a pumpkin pie out of the oven. Even though I prefer chilled pumpkin pie, I’ll never forget eating a warm slice of pie on a fall afternoon with him.
Thanksgiving is next week and I’m giving you… a salad! I know, typical dietitian move, but you have to hear me out about this salad. For me, and I would assume for many of you, it is challenging to keep my diet in moderation this time of year with all of the delicious sweets and traditional, yet heavy, holiday dishes. For balance, I usually resort to eating salads each day for either lunch or dinner. After awhile though, green lettuce salads start to get a little mundane. Sure, there are lots of awesome salad recipes out there, but I can only buy so many ingredients for one person before it starts getting a little ridiculous. This Thai carrot salad is the perfect answer. I always have these ingredients in my pantry and it changes the salad pattern up just enough to keep things interesting! Another bonus is that carrots are always available, so you can make this salad year round and not have to worry about finding everything that you need.
Fall abruptly ended here last weekend with the arrival of 5 inches of snow. As excited as I am for winter, I’m not quite ready for this beautiful season to end. After missing out on fall for the last 3 years, I want it to last forever! So even if the weather won’t cooperate with my wishes, my baking and the smells coming from the oven can.
I’ve been thinking about making pumpkin cookies since the leaves barely started changing colors, (maybe this little announcement had something to do with that) but didn’t get around to making them until this past week. As soon as I took my first bite of these, I knew I had to share the recipe with all of you!
It’s November, which means pumpkin spice everything has been around for 2 months now. As someone who grew up loving pumpkin anything, long before pumpkin spice was a thing, I really don’t mind the craze. For me though, pumpkin is a food that should be celebrated in November, when Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie are most prominent, hence the reason for sharing this recipe now (It’s definitely not because moving halfway around the world, being new homeowners and filling the important role of Matron of Honor in your sister’s wedding pushes back all of your blogging timelines. Definitely not because of that.) Living in Japan for the past three years meant that we missed out on most of the pumpkin spice things, as their version of the pumpkin craze is much different than America’s (you can read about it here). For the most part, I was totally ok with that, but the thing I missed most was pumpkin spice in my latte (or Americano, if you really know me). I’ve always loved putting cinnamon in my coffee so adding pumpkin spice syrup is even better for this pumpkin loving girl. The only thing that really bothers me about the syrup from coffee shops is, what the heck is in it? Why does it turn my coffee orange?!? As someone who prefers a more natural approach to food and loves to try out recipes, I decided to develop my own pumpkin spice syrup. It’s been in the works for the past few years, so I wasn’t totally deprived in Japan, but I finally hit on my perfect version this year.
Almost every Wednesday night in Okinawa is reserved for one thing: The Bachelor (or Bachelorette, for this time of year). Realistically, it’s just an excuse for my group of friends to see each other every week, talk and eat snacks. My friend, Jessi, would occasionally bring her fabulous granola to our girl’s nights and, I’m not going to lie, I always wanted to steal the entire bowl and not share a single piece. It was that delicious. Luckily, Jessi nicely shared her recipe with me before she moved and, with a few adjustments, now I’m sharing it with all of you!
Springtime around here means rain, rain and more rain. Even on the days we don’t think it’s going to rain, it probably will. That being said, we need something bright and cheery to make up for it, like cupcakes! Lemon raspberry cupcakes to be exact. There’s just something about the pretty pastel colors and tart yet sweet flavors that are perfect for this dreary time of year. I made these cupcakes as a special request for the first time a couple weeks ago and still can’t stop thinking about them. They were that good!