ANNOUNCING: Change is part of life, and apparently, it's part of blogging, too. As of September 5, 2013, I'm merging The Virtual Goody Plate with Disco Mom Takes on the World and whatever else may henceforth spill from my fingertips (and kitchen), into one great new blog. I hope you'll join me there in exclaiming, "THIS IS AWESOMELAND."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kiwi Pops

How do you describe the taste of a kiwi? No idea. But you know they're good. And intriguing. I love the taste and texture of a perfectly ripe kiwi, and those teeny crisp black seeds make them oh-so-exotic!

But they are an oft-overlooked fruit. Which is why I was thuh-rilled to find a popsicle all to themselves. OK, so there's lime juice in there. And sugar, of course. But it's just for support and doesn't overwhelm. We served these up at a playdate at our house, and all five kids age 3 to 5 ate them up. Three cheers for fruit in any form! Especially this one.

Kiwi Pops
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups sliced kiwis, with or without peel (that's right!)
3/4 cup fresh lime juice

1. In a saucepan, combine 1 cup water and the sugar. Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate for 10 minutes or longer to cool.

2. Combine the kiwis and lime juice in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth.

3. Add the sugar water and 1 1/2 cups cold water to the kiwi mixture and process again to combine.

4. Pour the mixture into your pop molds. Insert the sticks. Freeze for at least 6 hours.
5. Remove from the freezer; let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before removing the pops from the molds. Makes six 8-oz or eight 6-oz pops
Kiwi & Strawberry Pops: Reduce the kiwi to 2 cups. Add 1 cup strawberries in step 2. Add an additional 1/2 cup sliced strawberries to the molds in step 4.
Kiwi & Pineapple Pops: Reduce the kiwi to 2 cups. Replace the water with pineapple juice. Add 1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple chunks to the molds in step 4.

Recipe from POPS! Icy Treats for Everyone by Krystina Castella

Friday, July 23, 2010

Root Beer Float Pops

Does anything say "carefree summer," or if you went to BYU, "low-budget refreshments" better than a root beer float? Gotta love 'em. Well these pops are just what they say they are: frozen root beer floats in popsicle molds. Just a slightly more portable, slightly less spillable, version for the kiddos. Plus I had to try out my new swirly molds. Absolutely perfect for your next FHE.

Beware the foam, though! You know the foam. Well the foam is too bubbly to freeze solid. So to cut it down you must carefully lower the ice cream into the root beer and scoop any foam that does form off the top. Not a huge hassle but it really must be done.

Obviously this popsicle has a million variations - replace the root beer with pretty much any soda, like orange, birch beer, cream soda, etc. Or replace it with lemon-lime soda or ginger ale and then replace the ice cream with any sherbet, yum. Now go forth and FLOAT!
Root Beer Float Pops
4 cups root beer (about 3 cans)
6 or 8 maraschino cherries, stemmed
2 1/2 cups vanilla ice cream

1. Pour cold root beer into a pitcher and put it in the freezer for 10 minutes. This will make it very cold and reduce the ice cream melt factor.

2. Put a cherry in each mold. Pour some root beer into each mold until half full.

3. Gently lower a small scoop of ice cream into each pop mold so it is about 3/4 full.

4. Slowly add more root beer until the molds are full. Scoop off the foam with a spoon. Freeze for at least 6 hours.

5. Remove from the freezer; let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before removing the pops from the molds.

Recipe from POPS! Icy Treats for Everyone by Krystina Castella

Makes six 8-oz pops or eight 6-oz pops

Monday, July 19, 2010

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

I honestly don't know what more I can say than the pictures convey. It was my friend's birthday so I got to make one of the truly decadent recipes in my file, a cake that I just can't get away with every day. We had recently gone to The Cheesecake Factory so I had creamy rich indulgence on the brain. And I had finally learned my lesson that you have to have the right size springform pan for the job, so I was pretty sure it would turn out well. And it did, very, very well. (Yes, that's a thick layer of caramel on the bottom there, mmm...)Chocolate Caramel Pecan Cheesecake
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 T butter, melted

1 pkg (14 oz.) KRAFT caramels
1 can (5 oz.) evaporated milk (2/3 cup)
1 cup pecan halves, chopped
2 pkgs (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
4 squares (1 oz. each) semi-sweet chocolate, melted, cooled slightly
1 tsp vanilla
Thawed Cool Whip, optional

Crust: Heat oven to 350. Mix crumbs and butter. Press onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch springform pan. Bake 10 minutes.

Filling: Microwave caramels and milk in small bowl on HIGH 4 minutes or until melted, stirring halfway through heating time. Pour over crust. Sprinkle with pecans.

Beat cream cheese and sugar with electric mixer on medium until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each addition, just until blended. Blend in melted chocolate and vanilla; pour over pecans. Place pan on cookie sheet.

Bake 45 minutes or until center is almost set. Run small knife around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim of pan. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with whipped topping and additional chopped pecans if desired. Makes 12 servings.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Denny's Saucepan Chocolate Cake

In 2006 I was temping during the summer break. Temping always pans out some interesting experiences; in this case, it gave me a great recipe. My assignment for most of that summer was to be a personal assistant to this awesome woman, an author and motivational speaker, Denny Kercher. Denny worked from her home office, so every day I would go to her lovely home, greet her friendly dog, put my lunch in her fridge, and get to work. It was a super fun job and Denny kept it interesting with different things to do each day.

One day Denny called me upstairs to the kitchen mid-morning and handed me a plate with every temp's fantasy - a massive cube of chocolate cake topped by an almost equally massive layer of fudge frosting. We ate in near silence. Denny told me this cake was her treat to herself. She got the recipe from her friend Barbara. She always makes a double batch and freezes it so she can have just a little, or more, whenever she wants. It was obvious how much I liked the cake, so I think Denny kept her freezer stocked with it all summer. It was a great, great summer. Thanks, Denny.

The reason I have made this cake this time around is because of my 3-year-old daughter. She was on some medication in the spring that was exasperated by sugar, so we were trying to keep her sugar intake low. We went to my cousin's house for dinner and brought the Dark Fudge Bundt cake and Ginger was super disappointed to get a super-small piece. Anxious to avoid a meltdown while we were company, I promised I would make her her very own chocolate cake sometime when she was done with the medicine. And, being my daughter, she remembered. About a month later she reminded me of my promise to make her own chocolate cake.

I didn't want to make a mix; that is for very desperate times, and I am almost never that desperate. I also didn't want to make a big cake. As a nursing mom, I was watching my own sugar and chocolate so I didn't want a huge cake sitting around. Denny's cake was perfect, because it is 8x8 or 9x9, not Bundt, layer or 9x13. But in addition, it is EASY. The cake AND frosting are both made in the same saucepan, so no mixer or other accessories. Super simple, which was also key with a new baby who sometimes only allows 15-20 minutes at a time of two-hand freedom. And speaking of new baby, sorry there's no picture. In my sleep-deprived state I thought I had taken one; by the time I downloaded my camera and realized I hadn't, the cake was gone. Trust me, it looks good and tastes better.

This cake is chocolate, delicious, easy, and has great memories for me. A keeper for any occasion!

Denny's Saucepan Chocolate Cake
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup butter
1 cup milk, divided
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or double boiler, melt chocolate and half of milk, stirring. Remove from heat; add butter and sugar and stir until melted in warm chocolate.

2. Stir in flour and baking soda. Add remaining milk, egg and vanilla. Mix well.

3. Bake in greased and floured pan: 8x8 40 to 45 minutes; 9x9 30 to 35 minutes; doubled in 9x13 check after abotu 35 minutes. When a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean it is done!

Chocolate Frosting
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
Powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Melt butter with chocolate squares. Add vanilla and sugar until you start getting the right consistency. Alternately add sugar and milk until you have a thick but spreadable consistency. Usually about 1/4 cup milk and 2-ish cups sugar. Just play with it - don't you love pass-along recipes like this?

Recipe from Barbara Kendall via Denny Kercher

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Icebox Key Lime Pie

Stop it, stop it, stop it. Whatever you are doing, or were about to do, stop it and make this pie.I have moved it to the front of a long queue of worthy recipes so you can have it immediately because it is THE BEST key lime pie you'll ever have (probably) and THE BEST key lime pie you'll ever make (definitely.) I took it to a family BBQ (which explains why the pics are rushed; once this was cut, people wanted their pieces NOW), and it received rave reviews. Even my aunt, who loves key lime pie, said this rivaled her very favorite from California Pizza Kitchen.
The best key lime pie I'd ever had, until now, was from Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies in Brooklyn. What can I say? It was delicious and authentic. I admit mine below was made with Mexican limes from the grocery store. But without doing a side-by-side taste test comparison, I'd say this baby is just as good as Steve's, and certainly more accessible. You will wow and amaze anyone you make it for, especially yourself.

I saw this made on PBS's Cook's Country TV. We all know I love Cook's Country magazine, and on occasion I catch their show. Was I ever lucky to see this one. Not that you have to see it to make it - the directions are straightforward and you just do it all in the food processor - no stovetop cooking; the thickening is done by agents in the pudding and gelatin in the refrigerator, or "icebox" (hence the name.) I had never bought unflavored gelatin before, but it's right where you would expect, next to the Jello and pudding at the store.

This amazing pie has got that rich tart-sweetness and a smooth but substantial silkiness your tongue will love. So so so good. So just stop it and go make you some!
Icebox Key Lime Pie
Crust:8 whole graham crackers , broken into smaller pieces
2 T sugar
5 T unsalted butter , melted

Filling:1/4 cup sugar
1 T grated lime zest
8 oz. cream cheese , softened
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup instant vanilla pudding mix
1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 cup fresh lime juice from 6 to 8 limes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse crackers and sugar in food processor until finely ground. Add melted butter in steady stream while pulsing until crumbs resemble damp sand. Using bottom of dry measuring cup, press crumbs firmly into bottom and sides of 9-inch pie plate. Bake until fragrant and browned around edges, 12 to 14 minutes. Cool completely.

2. For the filling: Process sugar and zest in food processor until sugar turns bright green, about 30 seconds. Add cream cheese and process until combined, about 30 seconds. Add condensed milk and pudding mix and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl. Stir gelatin and 2 tablespoons lime juice in small bowl. Heat in microwave for 15 seconds; stir until dissolved. With machine running, pour gelatin mixture, remaining lime juice, and vanilla through feed tube and mix until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds.

3. Pour filling into cooled crust, cover with plastic, and refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 2 days. To serve, let pie sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before slicing.

Recipe from

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Fresh Raspberry Scones

I admit, I don't always like scones. I like the idea of them. But the reality is too often a dry, crumbly disappointment, and I just think, "Why am I wasting my calories on this?" But when I saw this recipe for quick-and-easy scones full of fresh raspberries, I thought, "How bad can they be; in fact, they'll probably be good."

Yay for my daring spirit because these turned out to be really good. And easy - always a plus. They are neither dry nor crumbly (unless you let them sit around for a few days.) They are slightly sweet, light and tender with a massive raspberry punch throughout. Gorgeous, too, as you can see. We cooked these up for afternoon snack, though I wasn't sure how the girls would take them, not being as sweet as a cake or cookie. But they loved them and had a few each, then finished them off for breakfast. Man, I love love love the ingredients of summer!Fresh Raspberry Scones
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 cup plus 1 T sugar
1 T baking powder
3/4 tsp coarse salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries (6 oz.)

1. Preheat oven to 400. In a food processor, pulse together flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Add butter and pulse until pea-sized pieces form. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and egg yolk. Slowly pour buttermilk mixture through feed tube into processor, pulsing until dough just comes together.

2. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and sprinkle raspberries on top. Knead three times to fold in raspberries. Gather and pat dough into a 1-inch-thick square and cut or pull apart into 2-inch pieces. Place pieces, 2 inches apart, on two parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets and sprinkle tops with 1 T sugar (coarse/turbinado sugar if you have it.)

3. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let scones cool slightly on sheets on wire racks. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Store in an airtight container up to 1 day.)

Recipe from Everyday Food, May 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dark Fudge Bundt Cake

"This moist, tall cake is perfect when you want a deep, dark chocolate cake that is free of fuss and doesn't require icing or glaze, just a dusting of confectioners' sugar. This is a pass-this-recipe-down-and-around keeper." - Marcy Goldman

And that pretty much says it all. We were going to a friend's for dinner. I was having a baby in five days and frankly wanted something simple. Ed likes cake with no frosting so I was looking for something good enough to stand alone, and for which I had all the ingredients. This one looked like just the ticket - Bundts are the best!
You'll notice in the ingredient list - 1 3/4 cups warm coffee or flat cola. By fluke we happened to have a lone can of Coke hanging out in the back of our fridge (one can equals exactly 1 3/4 cups), which was easy to make flat - just open and leave out for awhile. However, if you stock neither coffee nor cola in your kitchen, I would guess instant hot chocolate - the kind made with water - would stand in nicely. Just make sure it's warm and not hot. And one additional thing that made this cake so easy - no need to let the butter sit out to room temperature. Since it must be melted, you can start it from any temperature, even straight from the freezer if necessary. However, if it occurs to you, set the eggs out. It's always best to bake with room temp eggs if possible.

Like Marcy said (it's one thing for the author to claim recipe virtues; quite another for a critical home baker), this cake is tall (fills the Bundt to the very top!), moist (yum!) and plenty chocolatey. I love the extra little surprise touch of melted chocolate that ends up along the bottom.Dark Fudge Bundt Cake

1 3/4 cups white sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups warm coffee or flat cola

Finishing Touches
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. Generously grease/spray a 12-cup Bundt pan or a 9- or 10-inch fluted tube pan with shortening/spray and place pan on a parchment lined baking sheet.

2. In a mixer bowl, combine white sugar, brown sugar and butter. Add eggs and vanilla; beat 1 minute until smooth. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir briefly and then drizzle in coffee/cola, stirring at the same time to make a smooth batter.

3. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake 60 to 72 minutes or until top springs back when pressed with fingertips. (Bundt cakes often take longer to bake than tube pan cakes do, but my Bundt was done in 60 minutes.)

4. To finish cake, sprinkle chocolte chips on top (yes, it's really the bottom) of cake as soon as it comes out of the oven and allow to sit on cake to melt. Use a butter knife to swirl melted chocolate. As cake comes to room temperature, give it a gentle shake to loosen it from bottom of pan - but do not remove it from pan. Place cake in fridge to firm up chocolate. Once chocolate is well-set, place a plate on top of pan and invert cake onto plate. When chocolate is cooled and set, dust with confectioners' sugar.

Recipe from:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Firecracker Pops

A dessert with blueberries, strawberries and something white and creamy is a natural choice for the 4th of July. There are parfaits and trifles, shortcakes and sundaes, and of course the ubiquitous flag cake (although, wow, check out this flag cake - I've never seen anything like it.)

This summer I have invested in new popsicle molds. Three different sets, in fact, and I plan to use them. Which means you will be getting popsicles. They are -

1 - quick
2 - easy
3 - not hot

- all requirements for me to get anything made these days. Plus kid-friendly. And, while hardly a requirement on the VGP, it's always nice to find something low in fat (0.6g) and calories (59). My girls love how these look like firecrackers exploding (minus the loud noise.)

Firecracker Pops
1/2 lb strawberries, hulled and quartered (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 lb blueberries (1 1/2 cups)
1 1/4 cups low-fat plain yogurt (I used vanilla)

1. In a food processor, puree strawberries with 1 T sugar. Transfer to a small bowl. Wipe out processor.

2. In processor, puree blueberries with 1 T sugar. In another small bowl, whisk together yogurt and 2 T sugar.

3. Pour the three mixtures, alternating into, into ten 3-ounce ice-pop molds, making 3 to 5 layers each. With a skewer or thin-bladed knife, swirl mixtures together in an up-and-down motion. Insert ice-pop sticks and freeze until solid, 2 1/2 to 3 hours (up to 1 week.)
Recipe from Everyday Food, July/Aug 2010
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