Keep It Sweet Desserts Giveaway

You guys are in for a treat today – and it’s from another blogger and insanely good dessert maker!

keep it sweet 3

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Keep It Sweet Desserts, it’s an online bakery specializing in artisanal mail-order desserts that have a quality and taste that always exceed expectations.  Their products range from classic favorites like Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies to modern day twists like buttercream filled cookie sandwiches. They also offer a Cookie of the Month Club (um…hello, perfect gift!), gift baskets, seasonal gift options, special event catering (in the New York tri-state area), favors and corporate gifts.
keep it sweet 1
From Lauren, owner of Keep It Sweet Desserts:
“I started the Company last spring and it has definitely been a roller coaster!  I’ve catered events for Anthropologie, filmed a TV show pilot, brought desserts onto the set of Royal Pains (we love that show!).  Even Will Forte is now a fan!  There are definitely ups and downs in running my own business but I wouldn’t trade my current situation for my old finance career for a minute.”
keep it sweet 2
Lauren was nice enough to send me some of her desserts to sample before holding a giveaway for all of you.
For our first taste of Keep It Sweet Desserts, we tried the Chocolate Chunk Ginger Cookies, Fudgy Caramel Pecan Brownies, and the Peppermint Mocha Cookies. I would say that the brownies were my favorite….but I’m a sucker for anything mint + chocolate, and those peppermint mocha cookies were some of the best I’ve ever had.

Lucky for one of you, Lauren would like to offer a dozen sweets of the winner’s choice to you or for you to use as a gift for someone else.

keep it sweet 4
Want to see all the desserts Lauren makes? Make sure to check out her website and see all the varieties she has available.
All of the seasonal items can be found here.
She also has a special promotion going on right now.  Customers can get $5 off the Pumpkin Package if they enter WELOVEPUMPKIN13 at checkout.  The offer is only valid through 10/31, so don’t miss out!
To enter the giveaway:
- Leave a comment telling me your favorite holiday treat
For extra entries:
- Tell me the Keep It Sweet dessert that you want to try the most
- Like Keep It Sweet on Facebook and tell Lauren that I sent you
Good luck! And Happy Monday!

Easy Peach Praline Cobbler


I know what you’re thinking.

Easy, Praline, and Cobbler all in the same sentence?

easy peach praline cobbler 4

I know, I know. I thought the same thing. Bu I promise – it really is easy.

Even when I was reading the recipe and looking at the list of ingredients and the steps, I thought “This doesn’t look easy – it’s going to take me forever!”.

And then I started working on it.

easy peach praline cobbler 1

And surprise, surprise. The title is right.

Pecan Trifle with Vanilla Bourbon Custard

If there are ingredients that are tied to a season, pecans and bourbon definitely go with fall. This time of year – when it’s getting into the 40s at night – is asking for a cup of hot tea in the morning, slippers on your feet, and something comforting for dessert. Maybe with bourbon on the side to really warm you up.

pecan trifle 1

While this trifle doesn’t call specifically for it, I used my Bourbon Orange Pound Cake in this, and it takes it over the edge.  If nothing else, I would definitely add in some orange zest to the custard or whipped cream – the tangy orange flavor is meant to go with vanilla and bourbon and pecans.

I never gave much thought to my surroundings growing up. Home was just home – the place I had always known. I had my chores, but nothing was completely dependent on me. I think that’s how it usually is – until you become an adult. And then suddenly, responsibilities that you never even thought of are on your plate along with everything else.


It’s become somewhat of a running joke in our family that I’ve turned into a “country girl”, but it’s true in a lot of ways. I am doing things I never, ever imagined I would be doing. Take the last few weeks – I’ve made jam, frozen figs for later, baked bread, made mayo, and baked up some granola bars for snacks.

Ten years ago, I didn’t know how to cook anything. And if you think I’m exaggerating…well, I wish I was. I could boil water to make boxed mac and cheese, but that was as complicated as I got in the kitchen. So to even think about making bread or cheese at home is still a bit shocking and unreal.

frei brothers zinfandel

After finally learning how to cook and having land of our own to take care of and preserve, Nick and I have found a good balance of using what we have available whenever possible.

And one of the biggest perks we inherited with this house when we bought it 3 years ago? The 2 fig bushes in our yard. Until 3 years ago, I had never had a fresh fig. I didn’t even know they could grow in Virginia! And now, all of a sudden, I’m drowning in fresh figs from August through October and I’ve had to learn to keep up, to use what we’ve been given, and to preserve them for the months to come.

wine poached figs 1

Besides freezing and turning into jam and slicing on pizza (or just eating over yogurt with honey and walnuts), another way I’ve been learning to stretch the fig season and enjoy what we have is to come up with new ways of serving them for dessert. There’s only so many times you want to have the same roasted or chocolate dipped figs. Thanks to a challenge with Kitchen PLAY and Frei Brothers Reserve winery, I came up with my new favorite way to eat figs.

wine poached figs 2

Figs, poached in Frei Brothers Reserve Zinfandel, some honey, a bit of vanilla, and some orange juice, that are then chilled and served over ricotta cheese with shaved dark chocolate.

It’s not complicated. It barely takes any time to make. But it sure does look impressive.

Zinfandel Poached Figs with Ricotta and Dark Chocolate

Looking for a new way to serve figs? This dessert is perfect for a fancy dinner party or a relaxing night at home. The cook time is minimal, and you just can't beat the flavor of the wine sauce paired with the creamy ricotta and dark chocolate.


  • 1 cup Frei Brothers Reserve Zinfandel
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 8 fresh figs
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • ½ oz. dark chocolate


  1. In a medium saucepan, mix the wine with the honey, orange juice, and vanilla bean paste. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
  2. Add the figs to the wine and let them cook, simmering, for about 10 minutes until the mixture has thickened and reduced.
  3. Turn the figs every few minutes so they cook in the wine on each side.
  4. Remove the pan from heat, and pour the figs and sauce into a bowl. Cover the bowl and put in the fridge to cool for at least an hour.
  5. To serve, spoon a ½ cup of ricotta into a shallow dish, top with 4 figs, spoon some of the wine sauce over them, and grate some dark chocolate over the top.
  6. Pair with a glass of Frei Brothers Reserve Zinfandel.

Like my property is my place worth preserving, Frei Brothers Reserve works hard to preserve Frei Ranch where they employ several sustainable practices including their 50/50 giveback program where they preserve an acre of land for every acre they plant in grape vines. Pretty awesome, right?

Frei Brothers Reserve together with National Geographic Traveler is currently hosting a photo contest on their Facebook page, encouraging others to share their “places”worth preserving for a chance to win monthly prizes as well as the grand prize trip to Frei Brothers Reserve winery and Yosemite National Park. Want to find more recipes or share your Place Worth Reserving? Make sure to check out Frei Brothers Reserve online and on Facebook for more information.

This post was sponsored by Frei Brothers Reserve in partnership with Kitchen PLAY. All opinions are my own.

I’ll admit it: I love having shortcuts. If the Easy Button was a real thing, I would own at least one. Maybe two.


Everyone is busy – I get it. We have a 40 minute commute each way to work, 40 hours of work each week, a house and yard and dog and cats to take care of, house projects to start (and hopefully finish), bills to pay, meals to make, laundry to do, and on and on and on. And we don’t even have kids yet! My days may just spontaneously combust whenever that happens.

And while there are some shortcuts I love when it comes to food (frozen veggies, fresh made bread from the bakery when I don’t have time to make my own), there are some things that are worth making yourself.


Things I’ve found that are worth the time:
Homemade breads / croissants / biscuits / pancakes / waffles
Homemade mayo (recipe coming soon – and it only takes 1 minute. I’m serious!)
Homemade jams

And now, homemade lactose-friendly sweetened condensed milk to use in all your incredible home-baked desserts.


I know – it’s another step. But if you have some time when you’re around the house anyway (doing laundry or painting, napping or watching football), it’s easy to whip it up on the stove top to use in your favorite dessert.

Plus, making your own means you get to customize it. Want it fat free? Easy. Lactose intolerant? No problem. Lactose intolerance doesn’t mean dairy avoidance as different people can handle different amounts of lactose. Try a small amount of low-fat or fat-free milk to find the amount that works for your tolerance. You can also substitute with low-fat or fat-free lactose-free milk, which has the same essential nutrients as dairy milk, just without the lactose. Your dessert can still be exactlywhat you need it to be, and it will taste even better since everything will be fresh and homemade.


One of my favorite things to make with sweetened condensed milk are these granola bars. I love having some no-bake options, but these bars are our favorites – they hold together really well, they aren’t too sweet, and you can add whatever mix-in you want to make them different every time.

In this batch, I did some of our top choices: sliced almonds, dried cherries,and chocolate chips. I don’t think a granola bar is worth having if there’s no chocolate….but that’s just me.


Cherry Chip Granola Bars and Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk

Are you still looking for the perfect homemade granola bar? This might be it. After years of trying different recipes, this one has always worked for us. You can change the flavor with spices or different mix-ins and make it whatever you want. Easy to make - and perfect for a quick breakfast or delicious afternoon snack.


Granola Bars:

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk (see recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled for a few minutes
  • 1 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Sweetened Condensed Milk

  • 1 and 1/2 cups lactose-free milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch mixed with 3 Tbsp water


For the bars:

  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Spray a 9x13 baking pan with no-stick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Mix the oats, cherries, and almonds in a large bowl.  Add the vanilla, sweetened condensed milk, and melted coconut oil and stir everything together. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes (so the coconut oil can cool off a bit more), then stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Pour the mix out into your 9x13 and press it into an even layer.
  4. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let the bars cool before cutting.

For the Sweetened Condensed Milk

  1. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water together.
  2. Pour the milk, sugar, and butter into a pan on the stove top and cook over medium heat until the mixture just comes to a simmer.
  3. Once the milk is simmering, put 1-2 spoonfuls of the hot milk into the cornstarch mixture and stir together.
  4. Add cornstarch mixture back to milk/sugar and stir.
  5. Bring mixture back to a boil until thickened. Take off the heat and set it aside to cool before using.

Want to know more about LI-friendly dairy dishes?

Join National Dairy Council’s (NDC) Foodies’ Night In #FNIchat Twitter chat with culinary group Cooking with Caitlin on Monday, September 30 at 4 pm ET, featuring the #BeyondLI hashtag. The chat will cover tips and tricks for LI-friendly eating,
cooking, and meal-planning, including:

• Menu-planning techniques for entertaining those with lactose intolerance

• Clever lactose-intolerant friendly spins on recipes to include dairy in classic comfort food favorites

• Simple solutions for making on-the-go lactose-intolerance friendly dairy meals and snacks

And make sure to check out my other lactose-free recipes from this summer! I’ve had fun coming up with these in the kitchen, and they’re definitely part of the regular rotation:

Spicy Iced Chai Tea

Peach Clafouti

Easy Chocolate Coffee Pudding Cups

Cookie Dough Frozen Yogurt with Homemade Magic Shell

Vanilla Bean Pudding with Pineapple and Coconut

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by NDC – all recipes and opinions are my own, as always.

Ethiopia coffee Prize Pack Giveaway!

Some exciting things are happening around here! First, I started a new job this week. Yup. After almost 8 years of working in the same office, I officially moved to a new position / new office / new everything on Wednesday of this week. I am equally crazy excited and a little terrified. Change is always a little scary, isn’t it? But it’s a good change.

On top of having a new job and finishing up the garden and having football again (yay!!), I’ve got a fun giveaway for you guys!


Did you know that this coming Sunday, September 29th is National Coffee Day? Well, it is. And that just gives me one more reason to make a good cup of coffee at home.

Lucky for me (and for one of you!), Starbucks is celebrating National Coffee Day, too. They’ve got a new whole bean coffee, Ethiopia, a single-origin medium roast with notes of chocolate, citrus, and peppery spice. Believe me: it’s good. I’m a big sucker for coffees that have that mix of chocolate and citrus flavors. It makes for a balanced cup that’s perfect with whatever I’m having for breakfast.

If you’re a coffee snob like we are, you probably already know most of these, but if you’re just getting into making really good coffee at home, these tips will definitely come in handy. To make the best cup possible at home:

  • Always, always use fresh coffee. Get coffee that has been freshly roasted, if you can. Buy it whole bean and grind it yourself right before brewing your morning cup. Store opened bags of coffee in air-tight containers, but don’t freeze it!
  • Starbucks recommends using 2 Tbsp of coffee for each 6 oz of water, but that’s a little too strong for us. We normally do about 1 Tbsp for each cup that we’re making. This is just personal preference, so just try different amounts and see what you like the best.
  • Our favorite methods of making coffee are the french press and the coffee siphon. But, honestly, if you’re using fresh coffee and have the right amount for you, you can still have a great cup of joe, no matter how you make it.


On Sunday, Starbucks stores across the U.S. and Canada will be joining in by offering free samples of Ethiopia. Also, customers who purchase a 1-lb. bag of Ethiopia that day will receive a free Ethiopian-inspired commemorative ceramic cup.

And to celebrate even more, Starbucks is letting me give one of you this prize pack so you can try Ethiopia for yourself! The winner will receive:

  • 1-lb bag of Ethiopia
  • Starbucks Siren mug
  • $25 Starbucks gift card

To Enter:

Tell me your favorite place to have your morning cup of coffee.

For extra entries:

Tweet about the giveaway and let me know you did

Share your favorite recipe to have with your cup of coffee in the comments. Coffee cake? Homemade sweet rolls? I want to know!

Good Luck!