As everyone knows, the holidays are an incredibly busy time of the year. We have Thanksgiving and then a few weeks later are celebrating Christmas. We even have my son’s birthday between the two holidays, which makes it even crazier. While I love the holidays, I also like to take time to relax and enjoy our friends, before things get too stressful. For the last few years we have taken a night off from all the stress, and had a little holiday party where we get together with our close friends, and just enjoy their company and be free of all holiday stress. I usually use this time to do some holiday baking and cooking. As my close friends know, I love cooking, so I love sharing that with them. While this year we only had around 12 people come over, it was the perfect number and we had a great time.
I decided that we would have a ‘Drinks & Desserts’ theme, and I would make some tasty baked desserts and whip up a signature cocktail. I headed to Walmart (make sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of this post for your chance to win a $250 Walmart gift card) where I picked up everything on my list, including the only butter I bake with, Land O’ Lakes. They always have the largest selection when it comes to Land O’ Lakes and the cheapest prices! Can’t beat that!
Before everyone arrived, I finished baking the 4 featured desserts, including the Chocolate Almond Cheesecake Bars (scroll to bottom for recipe). Land O’ Lakes Butter was a star in this recipe and definitely helped in getting the most perfect buttery almond crust on these bars.
I also set up a signature cocktail area, moved the food to the serving table, and finished decorating our Christmas tree…
Right as I set the cheesecake bars onto the table, I heard the doorbell ring! I was so excited for our friends to arrive and start celebrating! Everyone dug right into the desserts and drinks, and we had a great time.
The kids kept sneaking desserts from the table and at one James had his plate overflowing! Audrey loved the chocolate truffles and there was no hiding it!
After everyone was full of delicious desserts the adults chatted and watched football and the kids played and played.
Being behind the camera is sometimes a pain, because you never get to be in any photos with your friends in family! Luckily my husband volunteered to take a picture of me and my 2 friends in front of our tree.
Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the drinks and desserts, and everyone could not stop talking about the Chocolate Almond Cheesecake Bars! They were by far the biggest hit, and all the husbands wanted the recipe (for their wives to cook!). I am not one to disappoint, so I am going to share the recipe below, so you can make these at home too. If you need more holiday baking inspiration you can check out this Holiday Recipe Brochure from Land O’ Lakes. I also love following Land O’ Lakes on Facebook because they are always posting delicious recipes and ideas.
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup toasted almonds, finely ground
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup unsalted and O' Lakes Butter, chilled
- Baking spray with flour
- 6 oz low fat or neufchâtel (found by regular cream cheese) cream cheese, softened
- 4 oz regular cream cheese, softened
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- dash of salt
- 1 egg
- 3 oz semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 TBS 2% milk (whole or 1% would work as well)
- 2 TBS almonds, chopped
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- 1. Combine flour, 1/4 cup ground almonds, and 1/4 tsp salt in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender, two knives, or a fork until mixture resembles coarse meal.
- 2. Coat a 8-inch square baking dish with baking spray. Sprinkle mixture into the dish and lightly press mixture into bottom of pan until firm.
- 3. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until golden. Cool crust completely on a wire rack.
- Reduce oven temperature to 325°.
- 1. Place cream cheeses in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add sugar, yogurt, vanilla, and dash of salt; beat at low speed until combined. Add egg; beat 1 minute or until well combined.
- 2. Pour mixture over cooled crust.
- 3. Place chocolate chips and milk in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds or until melted, stirring after every 15 seconds; stir mixture until smooth.
- 4. Dollop chocolate mixture by the spoonful over cheesecake mixture; swirl together using the tip of a knife. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons chopped almonds.
- 5. Bake at 325° for 30 minutes or until almost set in the middle. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours or up to overnight. Cut and serve as bars.
- By using lower fat cream cheese and milk in this recipe, it reduces the calories and fat. If you prefer the full fat version, go ahead and use regular cream cheese and whole milk. Using the lower fat versions did not change the taste what-so-ever in my opinion.
Now for the fun! To help you get ready for the holidays, you can win a $250 gift card from Walmart!!
1. Follow Land O’Lakes on Pinterest (click here and select follow all)
2. Enter your email in the form below and click “Enter”
3. Pin the image to any of your Pinterest Boards
4. Visit the Holiday Treats Board and share (repin) your favorites.
1 Winner will be selected at random and you can only enter once!
Contest runs 11/25/13-1/14/14
Thanks for visiting!