Cream Cheese and Cinnamon Bars

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A few years ago, I attended a ladies luncheon and these bars were served. First thing I thought when I took a bite was… CHEESECAKE! I quickly hounded the hostess for the recipe, and have made it countless times since. I love cheesecake, but do not make it often since it’s definitely not the quickest dessert to whip up. These bars are the perfect solution to that. Whereas cheesecake has all these components to work up, plus the added disadvantage of having to chill for hours, these whip up quick, and can be served warm out of the oven, or chilled. No joke… 10 minutes of prep work later, the smell of warm cinnamon will be wafting through your kitchen and giving you the warm and fuzzies. It is one of my go to desserts when I have to take a dish to a pot luck. I took this to a dinner with friends once and one of the husbands quickly put in a request to have this instead of cake for his birthday. I was thinking “uuummmhh awesome!  No cake to frost… sign me up for that”. A few weeks later, he was a very happy camper on his birthday 🙂

The crust on the bars is crescent roll dough, rolled out on the bottom and the top, with the cream cheese layer in between. Be sure to let your cream cheese soften at room temperature to make it easier to cream with the sugar. I also let my egg sit our with the cream cheese. Cold eggs are harder to separate the egg white from the yolk.  There are a ton of different versions of these bars, but my favorite is still this one. I have added a can of apple pie filling before, and it was delicious. I have also seen where a layer of fruit preserve/jelly is layered over the cream cheese filling, then topped with the crescent dough. I keep coming back to the original though. I hope you will enjoy it as much as my family and I do. The pictures I took are of the chilled version, which makes it easier to cut into bars. It is delicious warm, but does not cut well, so has to be served in the baking pan. Not as pretty, but still yummy. One last note… I have tried using store brand crescent roll dough from different sources but always seem to be disappointed. This is one of those times I recommend sticking to a brand if at all possible. Pillsbury rolls produce a much better crust.

Ingredients:

2 (8 ct) pkg crescent rolls (tube)
2 (8)pkg cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) melted butter
1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
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1. Pre-heat oven to 350 Degrees F. Place 1 can of unrolled crescent rolls in a 9 by 13 inch dish (no need to grease the dish).
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2. Beat cream cheese, sugar and egg yolk until smooth. Beat in lemon zest, juice and vanilla.
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3. Spread mixture over the crescent rolls. Unroll the second can of crescent rolls over the mixture.
4. Pour (or brush with a pastry brush) the melted butter on top and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture and bake for 25-30 minutes.
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You can serve it warm out of the oven, or cool on a rack for a few minutes, then chill in fridge for a couple of hours.
Enjoy!
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Devotion For the Day:
If I could sum up the last few months, I would say that they have been leading me to the point of learning how to TOTALLY surrender my cares to God and know that He truly is able and willing to take care of me. Many are the times in the past that I have run to God with an issue, yet on the back end I was trying to solve the issue on my own. This has been one of these weeks when I’m really fighting the inclination to grab my “stuff” back and handle it. Today’s reading was so appropriate for my situation. Phillipians 4:4-8 says “rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God: and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, breathren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things”. 
If I am truly honest with myself, there is constantly something that I can fret and worry about. The reality is that we live in an imperfect, fallen world. However, it does me no good whatsoever to worry. Instead I am retraining myself to lay my cares at Jesus feet and walk away, trusting that He is more than capable of handling anything that comes my way. I choose to meditate on the things that will lead me to peace, true joy and freedom. It is a daily choice to surrender.
 

Cream cheese frosting …..and a turtle cake!

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of making this pull apart turtle cake for a sweet friend of our family who was turning 3. He got to take the cupcakes to school and share with his friends, and I got to play around with frosting.  It was a win- win situation for all involved:-) The frosting of choice when it comes to any cake at my house is almost always cream cheese frosting. To say we like it is an understatement. My husband for years had always said how much he hated frosting, until I baked him pumpkin spice cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, and now he is the first one to ask where the mixing bowl is when I’m done frosting. I think what we like most about it is that it’s not achingly sweet like some frosting can be.

I made two batches of the frosting. One stayed as vanilla flavored (which I colored lime green) and the other got turned into chocolate frosting. As I mentioned above, I have also in the past added cinnamon, and it is insanely delicious on carrot cake, pumpkin cake or banana cake. Just add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to the vanilla recipe, and you are in frosting heaven. It makes for a good base recipe that you can change up with different extract flavors. Make sure to use cream cheese and butter that has been sitting out of the fridge for a little while and has softened. It makes it much easier to cream together.

I took pictures to show the steps for making the pull apart cupcake cake. I’m totally fascinated by these, and they are perfect for so many reasons. They are easier to frost, easy to serve, and they look like you put waaaay more effort than they really require. I have made a pull-apart bridal shower cupcake cake before, and I’m eager to find more ideas for future cakes. My kids birthdays are in the fall, and I’m already trying to think up ideas. I got the steps for the turtle off the Betty Crocker site. I used M& M candy for the eyes, mini choc chips for the nostrils, a red Twizzler for the mouth, and a green one for the tail. The cupcakes were vanilla.

For best results, keep the cake refrigerated until you need it. The frosting gets soft from sitting out.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 (8 Ounce) Block Cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick (4 tbsp) butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

Food coloring (optional) I used gel that was lime green.

1. Using a hand held mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter until it is well combined. Add in the vanilla.

2. Starting on low speed, add in a cup of confectioners sugar at a time. Increase the speed once the sugar has been somewhat incorporated, or else you will end up wearing half of it 🙂 I’ve been there! Mix until all the lumps are gone and the frosting is smooth.

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3. If adding food coloring, add a few drops at a time until you have the desired color.

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Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

Use the vanilla cream cheese frosting recipe above, but add 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder in with the confectioners sugar. If the frosting is a little stiffer than desired, add a spoonful of milk at a time until it is the right consistency. I added 2 tablespoons of milk to mine.

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Turtle Cake:

Here is the link for the step by step instructions from Betty Crocker.

You will need 12 cupcakes for one pull apart cake.

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Starting with 7 cupcakes, arrange them as shown above and frost them with the chocolate frosting.

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Frost 5 cupcakes green and attach them as shown to make the head, arms and feet. Next, outline the shell and fill in with crack like pattern.

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Add in the final decorative elements for the face. I used twizzlers for the mouth and tail, M&Ms for the eyes, and chocolate chips for the nostrils.

Devotion For The Day:
It truly amazes me how a certain scent or smell will stop you right in your tracks. The smell of freshly cut grass, the smell of the ocean, the hunger pang inducing aroma coming from the bakery across the street. We all have experienced it in one way or another. The smell of warm cinnamon is enough to lighten my mood. With that visual in mind, I was captivated by a verse I read recently. 2nd Corinthians 2:15 says: For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. I read this at least a week ago, but I cannot get that image out of my mind. It has made my prayer each morning that I would be a sweet fragrance in the way that I carry myself out, knowing that I have the opportunity to be the aroma of Christ that day.