Hi, I'm Rachel.

A few years ago I could barely boil water.

True story.

Determined to be a kick ass wife, I developed a love for football and learned to cook in my tiny Jersey City kitchen. I spend my days working in Manhattan, my nights and weekends chasing after a rambunctious toddler, and the hours in between cooking with my husband and feeding my TV habit...oh, and I blog about it all! 

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The Pantry

Monday
Sep292014

Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

How was your weekend?

Ours was really nice. Saturday we visited our friends and their brand new baby boy. I forgot what it felt like to hold a baby who weighs practically nothing and it was glorious. We both fell asleep pretty early on Saturday night, but were up early Sunday morning for music class and my brother-in-law's birthday celebration. Sunday ended later than I wanted, as always. I made these bars for Steve's birthday party. It felt really good to get creative and baking in the kitchen again. 

I always love apple desserts. Is it me, or is there just no better smell than apples mingling with cinnamon and sugar? I need to bottle that and carry it around with me. Our whole apartment smelled unbelievable on Saturday evening. While Shaun watched college football, and Penelope snoozed, I worked on finishing these bars with a glass of wine in hand. It felt like old times. Windows cracked with a cool breeze, candles burning, decadent smells permeating the house and everyone feeling sleepy on a Saturday night. It's one of my favorite feelings...all of us home, cozy and taken care of.

I used a bunch of recipes that finally led to my inspiration for these bars. I love bars so much. They are perfect for sampling and snacks, and really perfect for taking to a birthday celebration. They require no cutting once at the party. Instead, they can just be grabbed and eaten, with sticky fingers and cake crumbles tumbling down. I added kosher salt to the tops of these. It melted right into the caramel topping, but make no mistake, the saltiness was the perfect balance to these super sweet bars.

As for the caramel topping? Though you can use caramel from a jar, I really recommend this topping. The key here is that it sets, so you don't have to worry about the caramel running once you cut into them. It's an easy topping and I really think it's worth it. I could just eat it all with a spoon.

 

Salted Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

For the crust:

1 box yellow cake mix, minus 1 cup

3 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 egg

For the apple cheesecake filling:

2 8oz pkg cream cheese, softened

2 eggs

1/2 C + 1 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 baking apples, peeled, cored & chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

For the salted caramel topping:

1/2 C butter

1/2 C brown sugar

3 Tbsp evaporated milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 C confectioners sugar

1/4 tsp coarse salt

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13" pan and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix together the cake mix (removing 1 C of the plain cake mix; set it aside, pack it away. we won't be needing that 1 C here), oil and egg with a wooden spoon. Once incorporated, press into the bottom of the pan. 

Peel, core and chop up the apples. I used Granny Smith. In a bowl, mix them with 1 Tbsp sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese, 1/2 C sugar, vanilla and eggs with a hand mixer until combined and smooth, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Fold in the apple mixture.

Pour apple cream cheese mixture over the crust. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Mine had a few crumbs on it and I took it out to continue cooking in the hot pan while it cooled.

Once cool, make the caramel.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and evaporated milk and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and confectioners sugar until smooth. Pour over the tray of bars and let set. Sprinkle immediately with salt.

Once cool and before cutting them, refrigerate the tray for 30 min to 1 hour, or overnight. Use a sharp knife and cut carefully. Since the bars are now cold, they should cut nicely and cleanly. 

Sprinkle extra salt before serving if needed.

I hope you like these bars. I had a lot of fun creating and baking them! I think they were a hit at the party. Too bad I'm starting back hardcore on Dukan today, or I'd be having one of these babies tonight. Instead, I'll live vicariously through my weekend self, when I devoured many!

How was your weekend? 

What is your favorite apple dessert?

 

Also: chocolate caramel apple bars, apple upside down cake, apple cupcakes + cinnamon frosting, apple cranberry strudel, caramel apple cider shake


Wednesday
Sep242014

Five Things Friday

{Path woes led me to a cool new coffee spot}

 

It's Friday yet again. My week has gotten significantly better since earlier this week. I'm battling some really lame fall allergies but I'm excited to usher in the weekend with a quiet day at work (thanks to the Jewish holiday!) and a low key weekend ahead. Not to mention the Giants are now boasting 2-2! Tomorrow we are visiting friends and their new baby, while Sunday we have music class and my brother-in-law's birthday. I'm excited to get in the kitchen and perhaps...bake something again? After my cookie butter bars of last weekend, I'm really anxious and excited to get creative with apples (hopefully!). I always love apple desserts and so I wait all year long for the season to arrive. I hope you all have a super weekend!

 

{peanut bowl midday snack}

 

{brown boot love; my new sam edelman's are getting some good face time}

 

 

{latest book club pick; the original true crime book + a super scary pick for October}

 

{living legend derek jeter says peace out to yankee stadium in style; source}

 

 

 

These 5 ways to make sandwiches more fun makes me wish that I still ate sandwiches

No-bake caramel apple cookie dough bars will NEED to happen this fall

A great way to change up a classic: buffalo chicken & bean chili ; minus the beans, this is Dukan-approved!

Spiked pistaschio cupcake milkshakes. Yes please.

Fudgy pumpkin bars with vanilla bean browned butter glaze. Um...whaaaaat?!

 

Colin Farrell & Vince Vaughn were announced as the leads in True Detective Season 2. I'm lukewarm on this, however, I was also lukewarm on Matthew McConaughey until TD made him a star {in my eyes}

The New York Times responds to calling Shonda Rimes an 'angry black woman'. Here's the article in question. How about we just write an article about how much Shonda Rimes rocks, and not in a snarky, underhanded complimentary way? Seems to me like whatever she touches turns to gold. Girl power!

Meanwhile, How to Get Away With Murder (Ms. Rimes' latest) is receiving glowing reviews.

Monica Potter talks about the final season of Parenthood {we love you Christina!} 

Lena Dunham's book arrives next week and the NYT is talking about it. Will you read it? I probably will.

 

 

 

My policy on spoiler posting or sharing: immediately unfriended on first offense. #ruthless

These 25 ideas to decorate your walls; I really need this inspiration for my home! I especially love the colorful gallery wall

Do you suffer from any of these 5 skincare mistakes? I'm a rabid stomach sleeper!

Emma Watson rules the world

Derek Jeter says goodbye to Yankee Stadium; and here's that commercial that everyone is talking about

 

 

What are you digging this week?

Wednesday
Sep242014

I Forgot About Make Up

In Rachel's Life B.C.,* I used to love make up. Like looooooove it. My sisters, Catherine and I would compare our latest purchases and even record YouTube videos for each other showcasing our latest hauls.

I was never a huge wearer of make up on my face, save for some BB Cream and blush, but my eyes and lips were where I really loved to play. I own so many make up palettes, lots of single eye shadows, tons of eye liners and just found a new mascara that I love. 

In my life A.D.,** I have kind of forgot about make up. I feel like I never have the appropriate time to get dolled up and kind of wonder why I should bother. I forgot why I used to love it so much. My make up routine over the last months (ok, over a year) has been diminished to a few swipes of mascara and maybe a bold lipstick if I'm feeling in the mood. I can usually get away with this in the summer when I'm tan and pleasantly freckled. In my make up avoidance period over the last year or so, I even considered throwing out a lot of my make up because it's really just taking up space.

Then, last week, I was feeling really not so great about my appearance. My eyes are puffy {due to normal Mom-lack-of-sleep coupled with those fall allergies that like to keep me on my toes}, my tan is fading and I just feel...under done. So I decided to throw on a little eye shadow. And then some eye liner. And then some under eye liner. And a little blush.

And then I couldn't help but remember why I loved make up in the first place. I looked better. I felt better. I felt more put together, like a woman ready to take on the world. 

I also remembered that I still love my Naked palette. It's the end all, be all of eye shadow for me, my only complaint being that there isn't a great highlight color for under my brow. I also have the Urban Decay palette pictured at the top and adore that one too. I'm excited to rekindle my love for make up and to replenish my collection. I think that my basket of make up could use an overhaul!

I'm not saying that make up is the answer to all of life's problems, but for me? It certainly helps. And on Tuesday when I had that day that I hated? At least I looked good doing it.

Do you wear make up every day? What are your favorite products? What will you not leave the house without wearing?

 

*Before Children

**After Daughter

 

PS - Thanks for all of your comments on yesterday's post! It felt good to get it all out there and I really felt the support! I'm happy to report that Wednesday was a much better day ;)