No-Bake Peppermint Bark Gingersnap Bars

No Bake Peppermint Bark Gingersnap Bars
Between my son’s upcoming birthday and the holiday season in full swing, my oven has been going nonstop. I’ve been crossing items off my to-do list only to find more keep appearing. Despite being so busy, I find getting lost in cooking projects in the comfort of my kitchen to be one of the most relaxing things in the world. Once I figure out my recipe and oven rotation, I get in a groove, and nothing beats the satisfaction of accomplishing a task.

To take a little pressure off all that pre-heating, I made a batch of no-bake peppermint bark gingersnap bars. I partnered with Williams Sonoma to share this recipe using their limited edition peppermint bark. With the help of melted butter, I pressed gingersnap crumbs and finely chopped bark into the bottom of the pan for the crust. Then I spread on a layer of cream cheese frosting and added shards of the dark & white chocolate peppermint candy bark.
No-Bake Peppermint Bark Gingersnap Bars
No-Bake Peppermint Bark Ginger Bars
No-Bake Peppermint Bark Gingersnap Bars
Makes 16 bars

For crust
Non-stick cooking spray
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted & cooled
2 heaping cups of gingersnap cookie crumbs (about 1-10 ounce box)
1/2 cup finely chopped peppermint bark

For cream cheese frosting
1-8 ounce package cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

For topping
1 cup peppermint bark, roughly broken into pieces

Line an 8-inch square baking with pan aluminum foil and grease with non-stick cooking spray.

For the crust, stir together the melted butter, gingersnap crumbs and finely chopped peppermint bark. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.

Using an electric mixer beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy followed by the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar. Spread the cream cheese frosting on top of the crust. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Lift the bars out of the pan and cut into 16 squares. Top with broken pieces of peppermint bark.

Store the bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They are best served chilled.

No-Bake Peppermint Bark Gingersnap Bars

This post is sponsored by Williams Sonoma and FeedFeed.

Vegetarian Pho

Vegetarian Pho
Like most people, I wish I made it to the gym more often, but with a toddler it’s a miracle that I get out the door looking presentable. Since I can’t carve out time for exercise, I figured my eating could use a revamp. About 3 weeks ago, I decided to do an experiment focusing my diet on less dairy and more plants. There were times when I cheated, but my plan isn’t to go cold turkey. I am being realistic about my lifestyle and not taking away things that I eat that bring me joy.

I don’t know if it’s the lack of cheese or being more aware of my overall diet, but I have more energy and brighter skin. Basking in veggies might be a good thing, and I haven’t felt like I’m missing out. To be clear, I ate EVERYTHING at Thanksgiving, so I’m not rushing to overhaul my pantry. I couldn’t give up chocolate chip cookies or ice cream, but I am attempting to be a more thoughtful eater especially about snacking and indulging.

One of my favorite new recipes that I tried was vegetarian pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup. I loved the anise, coriander and cinnamon-scented broth along with the rice noodles and cilantro. Soup makes it easy for me to consume more veggies, and now that temperatures have started to drop, I can’t say no to a warm, hearty bowl.
Vegetarian Pho
Vegetarian Pho
Adapted from The Kitchn

Serves 2

For broth
1 large onion, peeled and halved
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 cups low sodium vegetable stock
2 teaspoons soy sauce
4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

For noodles
1/2 pound dried flat rice noodles

For toppings
Baked tofu (optional)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
4 cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
Handful fresh cilantro
2 lime wedges

For the broth, preheat the broiler on high. Place the onion and ginger on a foil-lined sheet pan and cook them until they are slightly charred, about 5 minutes per side. Rinse with water.

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, toast the cinnamon, anise and coriander for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the stock, soy sauce, carrots and charred onion & ginger. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Strain the broth.

While the broth is cooking, make the rice noodles according to package instructions.

To serve, divide the broth, noodles and toppings between 2 bowls.

Wheat Berry Salad with Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes

Wheat Berry Salad
I’m not hosting Thanksgiving, but I am bringing a side and dessert to our family dinner. Yesterday I was trying to come up with ideas for sides. Even though there won’t be a bird hogging my oven space, I wanted something that required little roasting time and could be served at room temperature. Orchestrating the big meal so everything is warm would be nothing short of a miracle.

I decided to make a wheat berry salad with Brussels sprouts & sweet potatoes. Folding in walnuts and dried cranberries were a must for Thanksgiving. The chewy wheat berries and lemon maple vinaigrette can be made up to 2 days in advance. It’s better to roast the veggies the day of, and then all that’s left is to stir everything in a big bowl before serving. This side could not be easier!
Wheat Berry Salad
Wheat Berry Salad with Brussels Sprouts & Sweet Potatoes

Serves 4-6

For salad
1 cup wheat berries
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 large sweet potato (about 1 pound)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries

For vinaigrette
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In a small saucepan, bring the wheat berries and 3 cups water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the grains are tender, about 40-55 minutes. Drain the wheat berries and transfer them to a large bowl.

While the wheat berries are cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes with the olive oil salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes until the sprouts are browned at the edges and the sweet potatoes are tender. Add the Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, walnuts and cranberries to the wheat berries.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the lemon juice, maple syrup, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir the vinaigrette into the salad to combine.

Pumpkin Cashew Pudding

Pumpkin Cashew Pudding
At our Thanksgiving gathering of about 15 family members, there are just two of us who like pumpkin pie, so it never makes the cut for the dessert spread. My mom and I are the only ones. Every year we say we are going to pop into a diner or a bakery for a slice, but pumpkin pie season is so fleeting that we never find time to actually do it.

Since Halloween I’ve been dreaming about that combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves and allspice, so I made vegan pumpkin cashew pudding. It was nutty and had a silky consistency that made me think of pie filling. I topped it with a dollop of coconut whipped cream and granola. It satisfied my pie craving and managed to be healthy.
Pumpkin Cashew Pudding
Pumpkin Cashew Pudding
Adapted from The Full Helping

Serves 4-6

For whipped cream
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For pudding
1 cup cashews, soaked in water
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil

For toppings
Granola, nuts, dried fruit or chopped chocolate

For the whipped cream, place a can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight. Scoop out the solid cream into a medium mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream until it becomes light and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract. (The leftover liquid in the can may be used for smoothies).

For the pudding, place the cashews, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, maple syrup, almond milk and coconut oil in a blender. Blend until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Chill in the refrigerator. Sprinkle with selected toppings before serving.

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