Tobins' Tastes

Friday, September 23, 2016

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Dip

So apparently it is "fall" all around America. Target has the Pumpkin Spice M&M's and Candy Corn on display. People are putting out door wreaths and taking in summer patio furniture. Every other post on Pinterest is fall this or pumpkin that. But here in South Florida? It's humid, sunny and 90 degrees. Not quite my idea of fall.

One thing fall-ish I can get into are apple desserts. Not Hot Apple Cider type treats but cool, crisp apples and no need to turn on your oven treats. And this Caramel Apple Cheesecake Dip fits the bill.

This was actually the very first recipe I ever posted on the blog. And since it's been a few years and a name change, I think it is high time I reposted this recipe with photos that don't look like they were taken in a root cellar.

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Dip is one of those recipes that people see set out at a party and are like, "Oh, apple dip how healthy!" And then they take one bite and realize that the only thing healthy about it is the apple slice they are using as a shovel to get the dip into their mouths.

And once the apples run out (and they inevitable will, because really, who ever gets the dip to dipper ratio right?) people will start using spoons, forks, knives, cookies or even their fingers if the evening gets late enough to scrape every last bit of caramel covered, powdered sugared, cream cheese off the plate. And why shouldn't they? The apples were healthy.

I got this recipe from a friend at a summer cookout and then have adapted it over the years. I make it at least once a month or more and each time it turns out a little bit different depending on what I have on hand. Feel free to spice it up with whatever toppings make you happy. And then serve it to your friends with a limited amount of apple slices and watch the social experiment begin : )

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Dip
  • 8 oz. brick of cream cheese softened
  • 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • caramel syrup (I find the caramel dip/topping to be a little too thick)
  • mini chocolate chips
  • Heath Bar Toffee Bits
  •  Granny Smith apple slices (I buy the presliced CrunchPak for ease)
1.) Beat together cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth.

2.) Spread mixture onto a serving dish and smooth out into a thin layer.

3.) Sprinkle on chocolate chips and toffee bits.

4.) In a pretty pattern, drizzle on the caramel sauce to lightly coat the candy pieces.

5.) I chill it in the fridge for an hour or so before surrounding it with apple slices and serving it.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Making Your Trip Magical With The Help Of Disney World Baby Care Centers

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MagicalFamilyFirsts #CollectiveBias

The first time we took Easton to Walt Disney World he was a teeny, tiny 8 week old. He still wore newborn diapers and needed to eat (nurse) every few hours. We completely relied on the Disney Baby Care Centers to help make our days in the park as smooth and as enjoyable as possible for everyone in our family.

Now that Easton is older, our trips have changed a little bit. He is more active, more aware of all the fun things to see and do and he generally just loves being at Walt Disney World. While we may not need to stop at the Baby Care Center every hour and a half anymore we still use them multiple times a visit.

I originally used the Baby Care Centers for nursing and pumping but now that Easton is almost one I find that they are great for older babies and families too. Here's some of my tips and suggestions for using the Disney Baby Centers with older infants.

1.) Know where they are located before you get to the park. Visit Walt Disney's website for the location of each center in each of the parks. They are usually near the entrances but detailed maps can be found online. Every minute counts when you have a screaming baby or a smelly diaper.

2.) Strollers have to be left outside so be sure to have everything you need in the diaper bag. It isn't difficult to head back outside to grab things but you might be in a bit of a bind if you are mid diaper change and realize the wipes are in the bottom of the stroller.

3.) All members of your party can join you in the Baby Care Center. Some of them are smaller than others so usually just Justin and I go in with Easton if we are at the parks with friends. The communal nursing/pumping areas are for moms only (Epcot & Magic Kingdom have these) but dads and other children are welcome everywhere else.

4.) Take advantage of all they have to offer. Each Baby Care Center has a clean and designated place to change diapers or outfit, an air conditioned space to feed babies and toddlers including high chairs and sink and microwave for food prep. They all also have places for parents and older children to use the restroom, as well as a water cooler where we like to fill up Easton's sippy cup with water (and mom & dad's water bottle too).

5.) They are the go to place to purchase anything you may have forgotten to pack. Each one has a fully stocked store just in case you forget diapers, wipes, formula, food, snacks, outifts and more. The Baby Care Centers are sponsored by Kimberly Clark so you know they will always have your favorite Huggies products on hand.

Huggies -9.jpg

Now that Easton is older his diaper needs have changed too. He just started wearing size 3's so on a recent impromptu trip to the Wilderness Lodge for the night I grabbed a bag of Huggies Little Movers from our diaper closet (shower gifts) and threw them in the suitcase. We had never tried them before but I thought the Disney characters would be perfect for a weekend at Walt Disney World.

Turns out both Justin and I (and Easton) loved them. He is crawling all over the place and starting to walk too so the double grip strips on the sides were perfect. They are Huggies most absorbent diapers with Leak Lock® for up to 12 hour protection so they were exactly what Easton needed for a busy day in the park.

When we got home I wanted to stock up on Little Movers so I headed to BJ's Wholesale to grab a big box of them. I was shocked at the Huggies diaper and wipe selection they had and the Walt Disney World Annual Passholder in me loved the Disney theming that many of the different diapers and wipes had. Easton was just excited to sit like a big boy in the shopping cart.

BJ’s and Huggies® are all about family firsts and they are teaming up to give one family a chance to experience the magical firsts of Walt Disney World® Resort in Florida. Every Huggies® purchase gets you a chance to win a 4-Day, 3-Night Walt Disney World® Experience.

To enter:
- Buy Huggies® at BJ's Wholesale
- Upload your receipt and visit HERE to learn more

Looking to plan your family's first Walt Disney World vacation? Be sure to visit Disney's family planning page for more information.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Throw Back After School Dessert Party

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ThrowbackSoda #CollectiveBias

When I was little I mostly remember my mom doing the grocery shopping. She always brought a list and with very few exceptions she would stick to it. Every once in awhile my mom would be busy or out of town and she would end up sending my dad to the store to pick up a few things. She would write the list on one of her little sticky notes and I can still remember him sticking them to the handlebars of the shopping cart as we walked through the store.

Most days, my dad would stick to the list. But sometimes he would give in to an impulse buy and treat us or himself to something special and not on the list. One thing I remember he always had a weakness for was soda in glass bottles. I have a vivid memory of him bringing a pack of "limited edition" glass bottled root beer home one summer afternoon and helping us make root beer floats. I didn't even really like root beer back then but I still thought it was pretty much the coolest thing ever.

When I was in Walmart last week and saw these throwback glass bottle sodas, I knew I had to put together a little end of summer party for my family. Back To School season always brings back all kinds of nostalgia for me especially now that I am a teacher. I remember my mom (who was also a teacher) making a big deal out of the last week of summer with ice cream in the backyard with all the neighbors. I decided to recreate some of my favorite childhood after school treats to pair with an ice cream float bar to help celebrate the end of summer.

I set up a table in the backyard using a pink and orange color theme (those colors just scream summer to me). I found some adorable matching straws and napkins with the words "EAT" and "DRINK" on them and they fit the theme perfectly. My desserts were all recreated versions of after school favorites with a grown up twist. I used white and orange cake stands and dessert towers to display them down the middle of the table so everyone could grab what they wanted.

I served:

  • Creamsicle Cupcakes- recipe below
  • Scratch Made "Cosmic" Brownie Bites recipe here
  • Brown Butter Snickerdoodles- inspired by this recipe
  • Grown Up Chocolate Chip Cookies- recipe here

In the middle I set up a bar with a variety of throwback glass bottled sodas including IBC Root Beer, IBC Cream Soda, Crush Orange Soda and Yoo-hoo with chocolate and vanilla ice cream. I frosted the mugs ahead of time so they would be the perfect temperature for making floats. Guests could customize their floats with their ice cream and soda of choice before sitting down to enjoy the dessert table.

The cake for these Creamsicle Cupcakes is made using only two ingredients- white cake mix and a 12oz bottle of Orange Crush soda. The real sugar in the Crush was perfect for sweetening the recipe. The great thing about this combo is you can customize it anyway you want. I can't wait to try it with IBC Root Beer next!

Creamsicle Cupcakes

For the cake:
  • 1 package of white cake mix (just the mix)
  • 1 12oz bottle of Orange Crush soda
For the topping:
  • 1 tub of whipped topping
  • 1 package of vanilla pudding mix
1.) With an electric hand mixer, beat together the cake mix and soda.

2.) Line a cupcake pan and fill each one 2/3 full. (I use an ice cream scoop to make it easier)

3.) Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and let cupcakes completely cook.

4.) Mix together the whipped topping and the pudding mix until thoroughly combined.  

5.) Ice cupcakes and sprinkle with orange sugar for color.

6.) Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator until it is time to serve as whipped topping shouldn't sit out.

With a price point starting at $2.75 per 4-pack these sodas are fun way to treat yourself for the end of summer. And if you want to save even more be sure to check out the current Ibotta rebate to earn $1.75 cash back when you purchase two items. Nothing better than saving on a sweet treat for your family.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Scratch Made Cosmic Brownie Bites

Relive your childhood lunchbox dreams with these scratch made Cosmic Brownie Bites!

I can still remember my childhood lunchboxes. I was (still am) a pretty picky eater as a child so I basically had like three lunch options my mom would rotate between depending on the day- Sprinkles Yogurt, peanut butter sandwich no jelly, or a cheese sandwich with butter (?). Sides would include a stack of Pringles, a bag of Cheese Balls, Goldfish or a mini bag of Wise Butter Popcorn.

My mom was a "cool mom" who almost always included a dessert too- Dunkaroos, Chewy Granola Bars or if I was really lucky a Little Debbie treat. I'm not sure what made them so amazing but I have vivid memories of Swiss Cake Rolls, Zebra Cakes, those little frosted Christmas tree cakes. For some reason she was totally cool buying them for us and we certainly weren't complaining. Side note: Please do not think my mom fed us a steady diet of processed food. We drank milk at every meal, weren't allowed to have soda, had home cooked dinners every night and were very active healthy kids. However, it was the 80's/early 90's. 

One thing I don't ever remember her buying us though were Cosmic Brownies. Maybe we never asked for them. Maybe they didn't come out until I was past the age of getting a daily dessert in my lunchbox. Maybe she drew the line at those artificial colors. Who knows what the reason was but the first time I ever tried them was in college from a vending machine during finals week when I was desperate for a late night snack. They were simultaneously everything I had ever imagined they would be but also something I could never see myself eating on a regular basis. My childhood dream fulfilled, I never ate them again.

Every now and then I will pass the snack cake aisle in the grocery store and if I am having a particularly bad day I will briefly consider the idea of buying a box of Little Debbies. Luckily common sense/social acceptability wins out and I keep right on walking. But when I found a bottle of the brightly colored candy coated chocolate pieces in the baking aisle the other day, I couldn't resist recreating Cosmic Brownies at home.

These scratch made brownie bites are so easy and lately I have been making them whenever I need a little treat for an event or get together. They are so easy to customize and you can add chocolate chips, chopped nuts, M&M's, dried fruit or pretty much anything you have on hand. These are made with regular cocoa powder but I've made them with dark cocoa too and they turned out amazing.

Scratch Made Cosmic Brownie Bites
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup  cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • candy coated chocolate morsels
1.) In a large bowl combine sugar, flour and cocoa powder.

2.) Stir in melted butter until completely combined.

3.) Stir in eggs.

4.) Line a mini cupcake pan and using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop fill each liner with batter. Sprinkle candy coated chocolates on top.

5.) Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minute or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.

What was your favorite lunchbox treat?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Salted Caramel Cookie Cups a la Mode

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #mixinmoments #CollectiveBias

Before I had a baby, I could spend an entire day in the kitchen baking and think nothing of it. Especially around holidays and birthdays, I would log hours measuring, sifting, kneading and icing to perfection. Once Easton was born I was lucky to get 10 quiet minutes to preheat the oven for our frozen lasagna. 

Now that he is a little older and life is a little calmer, I have started to get the itch to bake again. Problem is, my child refuses to nap for more than 45 minutes at a time so my reentry into baking needs to be perfectly timed (no pun intended). When I saw the new NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® baking mixes at my Publix last week I grabbed a few boxes and figured I would save them for a night when Justin and I wanted a little something special for dessert

This weekend we went out to lunch with my family at a place where we are known for usually getting dessert. I had mine all picked out but when we finished our entrees Easton and my 1 1/2 year old nephew had hit their restaurant limit and we had to end the meal without anything sweet. Justin and I had both been looking forward to a restaurant quality dessert and so I decided to recreate one at home.

I used a box of Nestle Toll House Cookies & More Cookie Baking Mix and baked it into cookie cups using a muffin tin then topped it with ice cream, caramel sauce, Nestle Tollhouse Mini Morsels and a sprinkle of sea salt. It's not often that this happens but these turned out exactly as I imagined them in my mind as I was making them. The crispy outside of the cookie cup was a perfect contrast to the ice cream and the sea salt kept the caramel sauce from being too sweet. 

I use to be known for my elaborate desserts so I have been looking for ways to create treats that look a lot more complicated than they actually are. These Salted Caramel Cookie Cups are just that. They only take minutes of prep time and they can be customized any way you like. I prepared the mix the traditional way but you could easily add in some toffee bits or chopped nuts for a fun twist. I love that the box even has different directions depending on how you want to customize it. 

Salted Caramel Cookie Cups a la Mode

  • one box of NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Cookies & More Cookie Baking Mix with Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • vanilla ice cream
  • caramel sauce (I used this recipe but store bought works great too)
  • Nestle Tollhouse Mini Morsels
  • Flake sea salt or Fleur de Sel
1.) Prepare baking mix as directed on the box. 

2.) Grease and flour a muffin tin. Press dough into each cup (mine were about 2/3 full).

3.) Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until tops are starting to brown. 

4.) Let cool completely before removing from muffin tin. 

5.) Top each cookie with a scoop of ice cream and drizzle with caramel sauce. Finish with some mini morsels and a sprinkle of sea salt. 

6.) Enjoy immediately! 

Nestle Toll House Baking Mixes have no artificial flavoring or colors and come in four different varieties
  • Brownies & More with Butterfingers
  • Brownies & More with chocolate morsels
  • Cookies & More with Butterfingers
  • Cookies & More with chocolate morsels
Make sure to take advantage of the current ibotta offer and earn .75 cash back when you purchase any one box. Ibotta is my favorite cash back app so I was thrilled to see this offer since I was purchasing the item anyways. New to ibotta? Learn more here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Back To School Teachers' Snack Basket

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #WholeGrainWholeDay #CollectiveBias

For teachers, Back To School always starts about a week earlier than it does for students. In a way, teacher workdays might be more stressful than the actual first day of school. There are meetings, trainings, professional development, setting up your classroom, catching up with co-workers. So much is going on that it can be easy to to get three to four hours into your day without realizing that you haven't stopped once to sit down and have a snack or eat breakfast. 

Any teacher can tell you that the teachers' lounge is always filled with not so good for you snacks and empty calorie treats and in a pinch it is tempting to fill up on those instead of making better for you choices. This year I wanted to give my fellow teachers some satisfying snack options that would a little more healthy than the typical donuts, candy and baked goods that are often available during this week. 

Did you know that you are suppose to get at least 48 grams of whole grains a day? In an effort to make that easier for my fellow teachers I grabbed a few Nabisco snack items at Walmart last week that are all made with 5-25g of whole grain per serving.  (I had no idea that even Teddy Grahams have 8g per serving!) Including whole grains in your day can help you get through the whole day even when that day might be a very long teacher workday.

I arranged the snack items in an easy to carry basket and put some Greek Yogurt Spinach Dip and Hummus to go with the TRISCUIT Thin Crisps (25g of whole grain per serving) and the Wheat Thins (21g per serving). I put the Fig Newtons, Teddy Grahams and Honey Maid in individual cupcake liners by portion size so that it would be easy to grab the perfectly portioned snack on the go. The belVita Breakfast Biscuits are already portioned in their packaging and make for a great addition to any workday breakfast along with some fruit or yogurt. 

As a teacher, I know that any workplace would love to get a little back to school love in the form of a Snack Basket like this one so I created a few printable signs to include with a gift basket in case you want to make one of your own.  I had mine printed on card stock because it's a little sturdier and holds up better. All you need to do to print them is to click on the image and you will be taken to a site to download and print them. If that doesn't work you can just click on these links: Chalkboard version or the Lined Paper version

Select Walmarts will be holding in-store demos featuring these products on  August 11th and 12th so be sure to check and see if your local store is one of them! 

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