Author: Cyndi Harles

Pistachio Cranberry Scones

These Pistachio Cranberry Scones are easy to make at home and have all the flavor of a classic baked good but without sugar. Seriously, they are so scrumptious! Homemade deliciousness! As a result of no sugar, you can eat these with less guilt than sugar-filled ones or store-bought versions.

     Pan of Pistachio Cranberry Scones

There’s something irresistible about the combo of cranberries and pistachio. You’ll love the pop of sweetness from the cranberries and the distinct taste of the pistachio nut.

  • flour
  • granulated sweetener
  • baking powder
  • cream of tartar
  • salt
  • orange zest
  • heavy cream
  • dried cranberries
  • pistachios

Scone Ingredients

You make this recipe in one bowl and on a lightly-floured surface.

Close up of Scone Mixture

They’re simple and easy to shape but not basic tasting. They deserve high marks! Maybe even a blue ribbon!

Closeup: pan of Pistachio Cranberry Scones o

With this Pistachio Cranberry Scones recipe having no added sugar – using Splenda products – it’s perfect for those living with diabetes, I also recently read that pistachios are good for lowering blood sugar levels. Check out the article here.

Mini Cheesecakes

Mini cheesecakes make great after-dinner desserts.

Mini Cheesecakes 2

Their size is small enough so you don’t feel like you are over indulging. At the same time, their richness and creaminess will easily satisfy your sweet tooth. With the paper liners, they transport easily and work well at parties as easy-to-pass-around desserts.

Mini Cheesecakes 3

You’ll love the texture and tang of these mini cheesecakes. You can credit that to the sour cream or Greek yogurt. Another great thing about them is how easy they are to make. There are just three ingredients in the crust: graham crackers, butter and brown sugar. In seconds you are half-way done making this dessert.

The filling has just four core ingredients (cream cheese, egg, sugar, and vanilla), plus whatever flavoring(s) and food color(s) you choose. And that’s the added beauty of this recipe. You can flavor your mini cheesecakes in so many different ways. With all the extracts and compatible ingredients, the options are endless. I’ve made many coconut versions with this coconut extract from Frontier-Co-op, plus a lot with citrus extracts. Key lime anyone? Chocolate is another go-to. And think of all the fruits you could feature. Any berry would work, or banana, or even mango. You could go the cookie/candy path, with crushed Oreos, Reese’s peanut butter cups, or Snickers.

For this version and because of my state fair love, I did cotton candy mini cheesecakes. I’ve been in love with cotton candy as a flavor since my first taste at the since closed, Izzy’s Ice Cream. In fact, I confess to not liking cotton candy itself, at all! But put cotton candy flavoring in something creamy and I’m all in. One of my favorite products to use is Amoretti’s cotton candy “artisan flavor.” It gives the cheesecake almost a raspberry meets cotton candy.

Mini Cheesecakes 4

I hope you get to enjoy these soon!

-Cyndi

 

Toasted Pecan Shortbread Cookies

Toasted Pecan Shortbread Cookies: these are an outstanding winning recipe from the Wisconsin State Fair, created by Joan Giesfeldt. They are an all-time-favorite from our archives, winning 1st place a decade ago, 2014.

They are an impressive cookie, and Joan shared a few tips about preparing them:

Toasted Pecan Shortbread Cookies 2

Toast the pecans ahead of time to bring out their nutty aroma and flavor. (Note: Browning the butter for the filling is going to boost that nuttiness also.)

Toasted pecans

For the vanilla ingredient, Joan says she prefers a Madagascar version. She also used an ultra-fine baker’s sugar for sprinkling on the top half of the cookie.

Bowl of flour

With the richness of the dough, her other tip is to handle the dough as little as possible once it comes out of the freezer. The cookies will keep their form a bit better.

Toasted Pecan Shortbread Cookies Step 3

When we test ran these toasted pecan shortbread cookies, they were a favorite among our tasters. Let’s just say one off them said they were magical!

Cookie lovers and baking fans: take the time to bake a batch of these sooner rather than later. They are totally worth your time!

-Cyndi

P.S. Looking for more Wisconsin winning recipes? Don’t miss this one, yet another all-time favorite.

Lemon Lavender Cookies

Lemon Lavender Cookies. Don’t those sound delicious? They are from Indianapolis hobby baker Jennifer Dickie, who won several special contests we organized at the Indiana State Fair. Jennifer grows her own lavender and puts it into her cookies. She says they’re deceivingly simple but have a big wow factor when people taste them. They are a light, delicate cookie and not overly sweet.

4 Main Ingredients:

  • Butter
  • Powdered sugar
  • Flour
  • Salt

Ready to make these lemon lavender cookies? Here are the main steps:

  • Beat the butter until fluffy, then slowly add the powdered sugar, flour and salt, mixing until just combined.
  • You stir in the zest and dried lavender by hand.
  • Last, you chill the dough before rolling out with granulated sugar, then cut into desired shapes.

Jennifer suggests dipping your cookie cutters in granulated sugar for easier release. Once baked, which you do for about 20 minutes, you allow them to cool. As an optional finishing step, you can make a simple glaze for on top.

Another great thing about these cookies, you can customize them by changing up the flavors, like we did, morphing them into holiday shortbread. Get creative with the flavors and colors to have various version of this cookie. You are going to love them!

-Cyndi

 

Creamy Curried Cauliflower Soup

Creamy Curried Cauliflower Soup: this recipe is a must-make on a cold or wet night.

I’m a Minnesota girl who loves the heat of spicy foods. I’m so comforted by creamy soups, especially in the winter months.

For many of my go-to creations I use sweet potatoes or cauliflower and steam them first. It could me my imagination, but the texture seems more “velvety” than when I roast them. (Hint: I remove the leaves and use the entire head, including the stalks.)

This creamy curried cauliflower soup is a soup-er easy recipe. I throw everything, minus the coconut milk, into a big pot, i.e., the cauliflower, broth, onion, and spices.

Creamy Curried Cauliflower Soup 2

Then I just crank up the heat and let it stew. In 10-15 minutes, once the onions are soft, I whip out my immersion blender and let it work its magic.  That tool is an essential one for me. This way, you don’t have to transfer it to a food processor or blender.

This is a party size recipe, so know you can feed a large group with it or eat what you want and freeze the leftovers. Search for soup or stew on our site here to find more recipes like this.

Enjoy!

-Cyndi

 

Chocolate Pudding Cups

Say hello to these sensational and succulent-inspired Chocolate Pudding Cups!  Pudding never tasted this good or looked as cute!

Plated Chocolate Pudding Cups

This easy, homemade dessert will wow your dinner party guests every time. They will want to dive their spoon into these the second you set them down.

Low-To-No Sugar

With no added sugar, these chocolate pudding cups also come with less guilt than your typical dessert like these. At the same time, they are rich, satisfying and deeply chocolatey.

You make “them,” or should we say “it,” with a handful of high quality ingredients. The recipe is not unlike a custard. In fact, with both eggs and cornstarch as ingredients, it’s both. Some would call it “budino,” the Italian term we also love. But alas, we grew up calling it pudding so we’re sticking with that.

The main ingredients?

  • semi-sweet chocolate chips – use ones with less or no added sugar, like these
  • egg yolks
  • Splenda Magic Baker, our favorite zero calorie, zero sugar sweetener
  • salt
  • heavy whipping cream
  • cornstarch
  • vanilla extract

Those 7 ingredients are all this decadent dessert requires. But then, the extra fun really starts. You can make whipped cream and pipe it on top of the pudding, in any way you desire. We love simple dollops or spiral tops that resemble succulent plants, like what we did these.

Closeup of Chocolate Pudding Cups

Chocolate bar shavings make an excellent garnish. A drizzle would be dandy as well.

However you deck this low/no sugar dessert out, you’ll enjoy every bit of it!

-Cyndi

 

Best Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

For holiday baking – or any time of year – these “Best Chocolate Orange Cupcakes” are a sure-fire favorite. Seriously. Total crowd pleaser!
8 plated Best Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
The batter has vegetable oil and buttermilk in it, creating a rich, fudgy cupcake that practically glows.
Batter in cupcake pan
Best Chocolate Orange Cupcakes - Mid Frosting
With a thick citrus buttercream frosting and festive chocolate orange section on top, you get an eye-catching dessert everyone will love.
Decorated Best Chocolate Orange Cupcakes
Baker Tips:
  • Use a high-quality cocoa powder for a rich chocolate flavor to the cupcake. We used a combo of Dutch cocoa powder and black cocoa and loved the results.
  • Stock up on Terry’s Chocolate Oranges when you find them. They’re seasonal and can be hard to find
  • Because the orange extract goes in both the batter and the frosting, use a high-quality brand for a natural tasting citrus flavor. We like these citrus oils from the King Arthur Baking Company. Fresh juice and zest is key also.

Frosting

Winner at Minnesota State Fair

These best chocolate orange cupcakes are an award-winning creation from Colleen Jensen.
She had a big win with them at the 2022 Minnesota State Fair. Out of 75 entries, these placed third, bested only by this show-stopper winning cake (1st Place) and a Mexican Hot Chocolate Cake (2nd place) we hope to make at some point. That’s essentially a second runner up or a “bronze medal” Olympic win. =)
Colleen titled her contest entry “Merry’s Chocolate Orange Cupcakes.” The name is a play on the “merry” holidays and the popular Terry’s brand that makes the festive candy that the cupcakes feature.
Terry's Chocolate Orange Popping Candy
Terry’s Chocolate Oranges are quite an experience. Gifting them to family and friends is a long-time tradition in the U.K. The whack/crack way of opening the candy is delightful.
Chocolate Orange Candy
If you don’t have first-hand knowledge of the “tap it and unwrap it” process, be sure try it out soon.
These Chocolate Orange Cupcakes are a “must-bake” for anyone who loves chocolate or citrus sweet treats. Enjoy!
-Cyndi

Spiced Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake

Spiced Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake: Denese Johnson baked this cake for the 2022 State Fair of Texas and won “Best Low-Sugar Bundt Cake.” Ginger, cinnamon, pumpkin, and maple syrup flavor this cake to greatness. Its taste makes it perfect for fall and holiday baking.

Overhead shot of Spiced Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake

Denese sweetened her Spiced Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Splenda Magic Baker, a zero calorie sweetener you use 1:1 for replacing sugar. As a result, this cake is less indulgent than others. Denese used both the classic and brown sugar versions of Splenda Magic Baker. The recipe also calls for canned pumpkin and sugar-free maple syrup, adding to the sweetness and complexity of flavors. (You could also use fresh baked pumpkin also.) You finish this fabulous cake with a rum butter glaze. This makes for a moist, rich bite with every forkful.

Spiced Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Ice Cream

 

This Spiced Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake pairs perfectly with ice cream. My personal favorite is serving it with Kemp’s seasonal cinnamon flavor ice cream. Delightful! We highly recommend you make this soon!

Denese Johnson

Hats off to Denese for this delicious cake you’re going to want to bake again and again. Look for more recipes from Denese in the coming months as she has won MANY blue ribbons in her day. We’re bound to make another soon.

We now have quite a number of winning State Fair of Texas recipes. If you want to peruse more, simply search for Texas in the search bar that you can find on this page, here.

Happy Baking!

Cyndi

 

Apple Pie Cookies

These lattice-topped Apple Pie Cookies are totally tasty and so much fun to make. They won first place at the 2015 Wisconsin State Fair in one of our special contests. The blue ribbon winning cookie recipe comes from Linda Faust. They are an all-time favorite we highly recommend baking.

Linda’s crust calls for coconut oil and uses both white and wheat flours.

Base of Apple Pie Cookies

As a result, the sturdier crust works great to hold the filling and its shape.

Assembly of Apple Pie Cookies

The apple pie cookies recipe is below. You’ll follow these seven easy steps.

  • Pulse the ingredients in a blender or food processor.
  • Roll out into 2 equal 9-inch square portions
  • Cut 1 portion into 1/2-inch strips
  • Cut second portion into 3-inch side-by-side circles
  • Spoon filling into center
  • Weave lattice with strips on top and seal
  • Brush with egg wash and bake

4 Ingredient Filling

The cookie filling has just 4 ingredients:

  • apples
  • cinnamon
  • sugar
  • nutmeg

You cook the apples in a microwave, so it’s ready in minutes. The assembly is the fun part. They’ll be ready for the oven in no time.

The recipe makes 9 cookies. Feel free to double the recipe if you want a bigger batch.

Note: If you’re looking for a whole apple pie, make this blue ribbon winner.

Enjoy!

-Cyndi

 

 

Fresh Strawberry Vanilla Cream Pie

Fresh Strawberry Vanilla Cream Pie: This delightful dessert is a homemade pudding atop a delicious graham cracker crust. You finish it with graham cracker crumbles, fresh strawberries and a dark chocolate drizzle.

Fresh Strawberry Vanilla Cream Pie 1

It’s a super simple version of a stunning Strawberry Napoleon Pie that a home-baker featured at the State Fair of Texas back in 2015. She won best pie honors with an elaborate and amazing recipe from Michele Stuart, author of “Perfect Pies & More.” We made a shortcut version of Michelle’s pie.

Fresh Strawberry Vanilla Cream Pie 2

For my fresh strawberry vanilla cream pie, I switched to a graham cracker crust like my grandmother used for her banana cream pies. You thicken the vanilla cream over heat with flour and egg yolks. Once it’s chilled, you are ready to go. The waiting is the hardest part of this pie. Be sure to wait until the vanilla cream thickens and wait for it to firm up more by chilling it. That said, it is totally worth the wait.

I ended up making this pie numerous times as it was so popular. Sometimes I would vary it and add a homemade whipped cream on top.

Fresh Strawberry Vanilla Cream Pie

Make this and you will enjoy every bite! Want a sensational strawberry cookie? Try this creative one. And if you’re looking for a double crust fruit pie using strawberries, find one here. Both are absolute winners.

Enjoy!

-Cyndi