A Where the Wild Things Are Birthday

Where the Wild Things Are Chocolate Cupcakes

Yesterday we celebrated my nephew’s 1st birthday!  My sister held an adorable themed party – Where the Wild Things Are.   Growing up, I remember reading that book over and over again as a child, thinking how imaginative his mind was. To have a forest grow within his room, go to another land with beasts,  become their king, only to realize that he DID miss his dinner and decided to calm down and come back to reality.  Funny thing about this story is I don’t see this in my nephew at all, yet. But, he IS only one year old!  Perhaps one day he will be parading around in a wild outfit, aggravating my sister while she is cooking.  I look forward to hearing stories of her wild and wonderful adventure with her beautiful son.  🙂

For the party, I made cupcakes with crazy looking hair similar to the creatures in the book.  At least I tried.  It helped that there were toppers and wraps to outfit the cakes making a nice finish.  The recipe I used was Add a Pinch, and then I added my own spices to the mix to jazz it up.  The cupcakes were a hit!

Jazzed Up Chocolate Cupcakes -makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of All-Spice
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon bourbon vanilla
  • ½ cup boiling water

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Add liners to muffin pan and spray cooking oil on the liners. Don’t overspray. Combine in a stand mixer all dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients and mix again.  This will create a wet mixture, so I poured it into a large measuring cup to pour into the liners without making a mess.  Bake for roughly 20 minutes depending on your oven.  Once cool, add your favorite frosting to top.  I used my own which is a little of this a little of that. I really don’t have it measured out, but I do use salted butter to balance out the heavy sugar load.  Also a splash of milk helps the texture smooth out.

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cupcakechocolate cupcake

A Valentine Treat Recap

In our home, we love celebrating Valentine’s Day!  But not for the reasons that you think; if you missed yesterday’s posting, stop by and check it out.  In our home, the kids and I make the sweets instead of buying them – that is – unless I’m having a lazy type of holiday.  I had fun researching what types of projects I had worked on in the years past, and it made me appreciate why I keep my blog running, even if I don’t find enough time these days to do so.  This year, I believe I’m going to make scones and somehow dress them up to make it fitting for the day, but that remains to be seen on “how.”  Why scones?  Why not?  Actually, I made a batch for a group of people and the reviews came back that they were heavenly.  Some people even said they were the best scones they had ever had, so that must be saying something!  Truth be told, my family was so jealous when I walked out the door with this beautiful batch of scones, and didn’t even get one bite.  So I owe it to them to make a batch.

Enough rambling – break out the recap!!  Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!!

Goat Cheese TrufflesGoat Cheese Truffles – what better way to say, “hey honey, I love you, and I know you love goat cheese! And chocolate!”  True story, I made these for a dinner party, and found my husband eating the leftovers (straight from the bowl, not even rolled up!) and thought, hmmm, there must be something to these little devilishly amazing bites!  These chocolates keep you coming back for more.  Great for a “la-tee-da” type of person, or someone you just want to impress. 🙂  You’re welcome.

 

Red Velvet MadeleinesRed Velvet Madeleines – Need a Valentine Day breakfast that will impress?  Try these little delights!  Perfect compliment with a nice cup of tea, or hot chocolate.  You and your sweet other will enjoy this as a nice change of pace.  Also great for a dessert at the end of the day, especially after a heavy dinner.  Want to jazz it up?  Serve it with vanilla ice cream.

 

 

Chocolate Strawberry ShortcakeChocolate heart shortcakeChocolate Waffles with Strawberries – Seriously, words cannot describe how amazing this breakfast can be.  Or dinner, should you decide to mix it up.  I have two pictures here because I made it the shortcut method with pre-made chocolate waffles, while my lovely blogging friend in Oklahoma showed an even better way to make them if you have the time and equipment.  Here is her link to make her fancy waffles.

 

 

Chocolate Covered Strawberries – a classic, and yet people still buy these rather than try to make them.  Friends, they are not difficult.  Plus your loved one will love you for trying to make them instead of buying them.  Trust me.  If you don’t believe me, look at who is making them in my pictures of that particular blog post.  My kids, when they were tiny!  Don’t like strawberries, roll some raspberries instead, they are a true delight as well.

 

Finished CakeHidden Hearts Cake – Remember when hiding pictures in a cake was all the rage?  Is it still a thing? I’m not sure, but it’s still fun to create, especially for your kids.  Enjoy the tale of my crazy adventure with making this cake. You will definitely get a laugh.

 

 

 

DIY Valentine Bracelet – This is a fun little project that you can create with the kids.  I definitely recommend following the instructions to make it work.  Seems simple enough, but can be a bit tricky if not careful.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Valentine Cake Pops – I have found myself rolling into a Starbucks buying my kids these sweet bites, and each time I think, “ridiculous what I am paying for these when I know how much it costs to make them!! TONS of them.”  Are they difficult to make? Not if you follow the rules.  And your freezer is your friend when it comes to setting up the cake with the frosting.  I recommend making a red velvet cake with a dark chocolate outer coating – the best!

That’s it for now!  You can search my site for more delights, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Carrot Cake Cookies

Carrot Cake Cookies Last night, I actually took time to bake! Whoa. Take a picture.  Oh wait, I did – many, and you get to see just two of them.

I have full respect for full-time working parents who still find time to cook dinner, clean up the house, help kids with homework, drive kids to dance classes (or whatever extracurricular class they go to) and find time to do what they love!  For me, the end of the day is not my finest hour.  I am a morning bird, so my nights tend to drag for me, and my comfortable pillow top mattress calls my name – right around 9:30pm.  Which is not exactly convenient when married to a night owl husband (or having a night owl child!)  Either way, I press on some nights like I did last night and finally got around to baking.

I must share my funny story with making these cookies…

I take a box of Duncan Hines Decadent Classic Carrot Cake mix, and was amused that they had a cookie recipe on the box.  I was amused because I was thinking, just before I saw the recipe, that it would be interesting to make cookies with that box mix, and lo and behold, I was not the first to think of this.  What a surprise.  I’m mixing up the batter as it calls for, only to realize that I’m using STEEL-CUT oats, rather than those instant oats with the old man on the package.  No big deal, right? Well, not so much. I also found that their package of carrots, fruits, etc that needs to absorb water, took in only so much water but not most of it.  The recipe (as I followed dutifully) called for me to put the carrot mix AND water into the batter.  I didn’t want to listen, I thought the dough was looking beautiful… WHY DO I LISTEN?  I am not a rebel… So I followed against instinct.  Mix up the batter and have a weird watery dough mess on my hands.  Well, what to do now?

NOW came the baker in me.  I was excited about this problem because it meant I could actually be creative and figure out a solution.  And I did, successfully!  Little measurements of added almond meal, and a hit of AllSpice and bam!  Good to go… Oh, and the kids had no idea.  They were chowing down!! Little did they know that their Mom stuck in some healthy cut oats and a good deal of almond meal.  Heh Heh… That’s our jobs as mom, isn’t it?  Want to try?

Ingredients:

  • One Box of Duncan Hines Decadent Classic Carrot Cake Mix
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened (they called for unsalted, but I used regular and didn’t taste the salt)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup of steel cut oats
  • 1 1/4 cup of hot water (add carrot mix to this)
  • 1 cup of almond meal
  • 1 tsp. AllSpice

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Soak carrot mix in hot water for 5 minutes.  In a large bowl, beat butter until fluffy.  Add cake mix, eggs, oats, and soaked carrot mix (WITH unabsorbed water.)  Beat until combined.  Add 1/4 cup at a time of almond meal.  If dough is standing up, don’t add more!  But if it was a gooey mess like mine, add up to 1 cup of the almond meal.  Add in Allspice.

Place in heaps on greased baking sheet leaving 2 inches apart from each other.  Bake 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool slightly and transfer to cooling rack.  Cookies are somewhat flat when done. And they taste just fine! 🙂

Carrot Cake Cookies

 

 

Mango, Cherry and Blueberry Salad

Fruit salad

There are days… You know the ones, where you look in the fridge and announce to the world that there simply isn’t enough fruit or greens to create a salad.  This was me.  I was trying to be good by eating a no grain breakfast, and I was craving some fruit, but everything looked high maintenance to me.  And then… I looked at the bagels.  NO! I was trying to be good, so I didn’t toast some delightful bagels up that day.

Did I mention I love bagels?  Back to fruit.

I won’t kid you, this salad is TOTALLY high maintenance if you are looking for a quick tossup.  This requires mangos and cherries.  Such a pleasure to cut these fruits, yes?  No.  BUT… completely worth the time.  Trust me, your taste buds will thank you for the blessed change.

What I also enjoy about this salad, is that it could be tossed on top of some lovely greens if you want a light meal, or if you were like me, put a side of pork tenderloin (leftovers) and make up some guacamole for a beautiful and healthy breakfast.  It is such a bundle of flavor, perfectly balanced with floral notes and sweetness.  What is not to love?

So, enjoy this overly easy recipe!

  • 2-3 mangos
  • blueberries
  • fresh cherries (pitted)

Toss together in a bowl, maybe add with a homemade dressing of honey and some balsamic! YUM!!!
Cheers!

Homemade Churros

Churros

We interrupt this healthy lifestyle for a small sweet treat!  Yesterday, I had fun making a dinner for Cinco de Mayo, and felt it was time to learn how to make some churros.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that they were so simple to make!  And… I was kicking myself for not making them in years past.  Why do some dishes or desserts scare me enough not to create them?  Do you have a dish like that you are afraid to try?  If so, tell me what it is!  Let’s unite on this topic. 🙂

What is not to love about churros?  Sweet, delicate and gives you that “donut” fix… should you need a donut.

I hope you all enjoyed the day yesterday.  If you are craving a donut, I mean a churro, try this simple recipe!

Ingredients (courtesy of Just a Taste):

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 2 quarts vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Directions:

In a low rimmed bowl, add 1/2 cup of sugar and cinnamon.  Mix together and set aside. In a small saucepan, add water, 1.5 Tbsp sugar, salt and 2 Tbsp of veggie oil.  Mix together and bring to a boil.  In a glass bowl, place 1 cup of flour.  Add boiled water mixture to flour bowl.  Mix together to create a dough ball.

In the meantime, put vegetable oil in a large saucepan.  Allow for at least 3-4″ space above the oil line on the pan for safety.  Once oil heats up to 375 degrees, you are all set to cook.

In a piping tool or piping bag (please don’t use a large baggie, it will break under pressure) pipe out – using the large star tip – a 4-5″ churro directly into the oil.  Please be careful!  Cook until golden brown.

Place cooked churros onto paper towel covered plate to catch extra oil and to allow cooling.  Once cool, roll churros into sugar mixture.

Enjoy!!

Paleo Almond Brownie Bites

Paleo Almond Brownie Bites

Day 9 of Paleo… And?  Great news, no issues with the big changes!  I am loving the energy, and the lack of bloating that comes after each meal.  Not to mention, I’m not walking around saying, “Great! Now I have guilt!”  (Thank you Rex, for that lovely quote – Toy Story.)

I have learned how much our taste buds can adapt in such a short amount of time.  By eating salads, lean meats, and low sugar food, it’s easy to see how much is really in our processed foods.  But the sweet tooth that is hardwired in my mind still craves for that flavor at times.  So how do I work with this?  One great recipe is my Paleo Chocolate Chip cookies.  They are so delicious and park that sweet tooth to the curb!  But if you are looking for a simple alternative, try these brownie bites.  They are naturally sweet from the dates, combined with almonds, coconut, vanilla and cocoa.  Great for an on-the-go treat, and no guilt.  I tested them out on my kids, and they came back for more!  Enjoy!

Paleo Almond Brownie Bites

  • 8 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
  1. Get your frustrations out.  Place raw almonds into a baggie, close and bang into bits with a rolling pin.  Feel better?
  2. Dig the food processor out of the back of your closet, blow the dust off of it. 🙂  Toss in the pitted dates, vanilla and cocoa into the processor and mix until a paste forms.
  3. Add almond bits to the mix and blend together.
  4. When the batch starts to cluster together, it’s ready.
  5. Take coconut and place into a separate bowl.
  6. Roll bites into 1/2 inch or larger depending on your sweet tooth!  Then roll the bites into the coconut if you wish.
  7. Eat!  Or place in the fridge until you’re ready to eat them.

Light Cannoli Bites

Cannoli bites

Last summer I had a chance to visit my Dad in PA for a few days, and specifically chose to come up during a time when he was hosting his monthly dinner party.  Each month he would host a party that was focused on a theme, in which each person would bring a food dish around that theme.  This particular party?  Ahem…

… Mafia Mayhem…

Hey, I didn’t pick the theme!  But we sure did have a lot of fun decorating the house with a few items.  Where do you get a horse head?  Yea, it’s a crime and a shame, but we had to saw off a toy horse head to place with the bouquet of oranges.  *no animals were injured in this event… it was just a toy horse that suffered*

So, while everyone went about their business of bringing in Italian dishes, I went with a lightweight dessert, because, I LOVE dessert!  And I’m glad that I chose the bites, as everyone was stuffed full.  These little portions were the perfect ending to a heavy but delicious dinner.

Want the recipe? Check out Emily Bites for her great recipe!

Pumpkin Banana Ice Cream

Pumpkin banana ice cream

My daughter has a thing for ice cream, so much that she could eat it every day.  The best thing I can do as a parent is to guide her sweet tooth to crave the right type of sweets.  It may seem difficult, and it doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t look for a quick fix when making sweet changes.

This recipe is considered clean, and in my book, healthy.  It is made with pumpkin puree, frozen bananas, pure maple syrup (or honey if you like) and some pumpkin pie spice.  How did it fare?  While my batch tasted a lot like bananas, I believe they were overly ripe, which caused the heavy flavor.  I think the freshest bananas would be best to get more of a pumpkin taste out of it.  The original writer mentioned that you can use frozen mango puree instead if you like.  That sounds good to me too!

In any case, I like the batch of ice cream I made from her recipe, and my ice cream addicted daughter does too.  And… I’m a guilt free Mama letting her have some as an after school snack.  🙂

Stop by this site to see her recipe!

Chocolate Avocado Muffins

Healthy cupcakes

If you want to get your kids to eat a better version of muffin, try this wonderful recipe out!  I have, and can say while they are not overly sweet, they are a great guilt-free treat!  I can satisfy my sweet tooth and not watch my waist line “pudge” out just by taking a bite.  This recipe falls in line with my road to healthier eating because of the ingredients chosen within.  Real food!  And to top it off there is no oil in this recipe – thank you avocado.

What a sneaky way to get your kids to eat well!  I tested this recipe out on the kids and they did not know that the avocado was in the recipe, but they did notice it had a taste to it that was different than if you were to make it with oil.  Also, this recipe was made with whole wheat flour, maple syrup and applesauce.  No sugar, egg or or AP flour please.

If you want to kick it up and make it vegan, by all means, this can be adjusted easily.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!  If you find it needing a little something, add some spices in the batch like cinnamon or all-spice to give it a kick.

Chocolate Avocado Muffins (adapted from Live.Learn.Love.Eat)

Ingredients: 

  • 1 medium avocado – ripe
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup organic 1% milk
  • 1/4 cup natural applesauce
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin pan with 12 paper liners.  In a food processor, blend the avocado, maple syrup, cocoa powder, milk applesauce and vanilla.  Stir in chocolate chips by hand to the batch.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and the salt.  Combine the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix.  Spoon in batter into paper liners 3/4 way.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.  Test with toothpick to see when completed.  The batch will be heavy and cake-like.

Makes 12.

Black Bean Brownies and Peanut Butter Swirl

Black Bean and Peanut Butter Brownies

This summer, I had an opportunity to talk with Jacinda Garabito on WCCB News in my home discussing healthier substitutions in the baking world.  This topic hit close to home, as the past year, I have been working on this exact topic!  Eating cleaner, eating healthier, eating real food… And I must tell you, eating in this fashion has really changed the way I feel as well as how much sugar I DON’T want to eat anymore.  Processed sugars (as well as food) has been such a turnoff anymore, that I can officially claim that I have spoiled my family.  Whenever we eat out, we shake our heads and ask why bother?  (Ok, I do have a few favorite outings, and I stick to them when we go out.)

This recipe is slightly adapted from Damy Programs.  I had to run this recipe once, and the peanut butter section TWICE.  I will tell you, that the peanut butter part gave a lot of readers on her site some grief about it not working nicely, and I likewise had the same problem.  I believe it truly has to with the heat applied, and low heat is the best option.

My thoughts?  It’s definitely a new flavor for me, and no, you cannot taste the bean flavor for those wondering.  It has a dark taste to it, and it’s certainly not your typical SWEET brownie.  But, for those interested in eating well, or those with aversion to heavy sweets, this is a winner.

Great benefit to these brownies?  High in fiber, clean, high in nutrients, and gluten free. 

Brownie Ingredients:

  • 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup eggwhites
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp Maple syrup
  • 1-1/2 tsp instant coffee
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Peanut Butter Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
  • pinch of salt
  • splash of vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place off of the black brownie ingredients into a food processor and blend.  Grease 8×8 baking dish, and pour brownie batch into dish.  Spread evenly.  On the stove top, melt peanut butter ingredients SLOWLY on low heat. Once it becomes smooth, take off heat immediately and swirl mixture onto brownies with a butter knife.  Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes.  When top becomes firm and brownies pull away from the side of the dish, they are done.  Let set in baking dish for at least 10 minutes before cutting.