Best Birthday Cupcakes with Fudge Filling

16 Oct

First, I have to apologize for my lack of posts last week. But I have GREAT news to share… I started a new job last week! It’s my first job since our relocation and I’m super excited about this opportunity.

I promise these cupcakes will more than make up for my absence! :)

Our neighbor recently celebrated a birthday and I wanted to make something special.  The birthday “boy” requested his favorite treat: Duncan Hines Yellow cake with chocolate frosting.

Since I don’t do boxed mixes (especially not for special occasions), I went on the hunt for the perfect replacement. These cupcakes truly are the best birthday cupcakes ever! I filled the cupcakes to make them extra special.

The instant fudge frosting is a winner too. It’s not too sweet because of the unsweetened chocolate and is easily whipped up in a food processor.

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Cottage Cheese and Egg Breakfast Muffins

7 Oct

You know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But you probably don’t have time for a sit-down breakfast so you just grab something on-the-go.

These egg breakfast muffins are the perfect solution. Not only are they a quick, portable breakfast option but a satisfying snack too. 2nd breakfast anyone? Count me in!

You already know that I never miss this all-important first meal. But with Mike’s crazy schedule at the hospital, he has to squeeze in food whenever he finds the time. So as his doting wife (cue the “Awww’s”), I try to provide him with healthy and filling options. These really hit the spot!

Don’t let the word “muffin” fool you. These don’t taste like a typical muffin. The cheese provides a nice crust and the inside tastes like an omelet—rich and flavorful. Also, if you’re not a fan of almond meal or cottage cheese, don’t turn away!  I couldn’t taste either in this recipe… just a yummy omelet in a pretty package.

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Simple Marinade: Honey Lime Chicken

5 Oct

Chicken is the standard staple for our weeknight dinners. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but chicken can get pretty boring. So I like to mix it up, especially with what’s handy in the pantry.

This marinade was super simple to prepare and used only a few basic ingredients: olive oil, lime juice, honey, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Bonus: the chicken is marinated overnight, so all you need to do on the day of is grill it and serve. Voilà!

The citrus marinade made the chicken tangy and juicy with the honey creating a slight crust. We enjoyed the honey lime chicken on a bed of salad for dinner and lunch the next day.

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Friday Fun: Food Facts About Me

30 Sep

After posting a new quick idea every day this week, I wanted to close with some fun food facts about me. Here’s a few random facts to help you get to know me better:

  1. Hold on to your seats… I don’t drink coffee. I think it smells good and sometimes tastes good (with lots of sugar and cream), but coffee makes me ultra-hyper and then I crash hard. I’m talking about shaking hands when trying to type and dancing in the halls (at work). Not good. I’m already naturally energetic and don’t need the extra caffeine. I do enjoy a cup of tea in the morning and love iced chai lattes with soy milk.
  2. Speaking of milk… I love milk. In fact, I just finished a glass while writing this blog. I grew up drinking a carton of milk at lunch everyday at school and it stuck with me. I crave glasses of milk. I fill my cereal bowl to the brim with milk—2:1 ratio of milk to cereal. I should be the next “Got milk?” spokesperson. Just saying.
  3. I hate lima beans. I think I was scarred as a child by this bean. I really despise the texture. But I love brussel sprouts, especially when they’re roasted with olive oil. I hate black licorice. I much prefer the red stuff. I love seafood, just not mussels, clams, or raw fish.
  4. Some people hate the grocery store. I spend hours at the grocery store. Sure sometimes I make quick pit stops, but usually I’m in there for a solid 1-3 hours. No joke. I read the nutrition labels, compare product prices, look for new products, sample food, chat with strangers, and linger in the bakery isle too long. Me and the G-store are tight.
  5. I love tapas. I like trying new things and eating lots of variety. A girl needs options! When we go out to eat, Mike and I usually share different appetizers as our meals.
  6. I recently tried nutella for the first time. And I’m hooked. Chocolately hazelnut goodness! But I’m not sold on their current ad campaign about being a “healthy” breakfast choice… that’s a stretch in my mind.
  7. I never miss breakfast. I usually eat it within 10 minutes of waking up because my stomach is almost always growling.
  8. I’ve always said I could survive on the three C’s: cereal, cookies, and condiments. I almost named this blog after my love of the three C’s. I eat cereal constantly. Right now I have 7 different kinds in my cabinet (that’s for 2 people). Dare I say this, but cookies are probably my favorite dessert. In fact, with that glass of milk I just finished, there were 3 cookies too. I am a condiments girl. The more options, the merrier. From wasabi sauce to banana ketchup from our St. Lucia honeymoon (more about that later), there are 34 different condiments in my fridge right now just on the side door alone. Which leads me to…
  9. I keep enough food in the house for a family of six. I seriously love food and need variety. However the budget can’t handle it, so I’m on a journey learning to scale it back for just two people. Any tips?
  10. I struggle with making homemade whipped cream. I’ve done it perfectly once for a tres leches cake (to die for!), but lately I’ve missed the mark. Sometimes the cream stays liquid and other times turns to butter (which isn’t a total waste—super yummy on toast or waffles). I will conquer whipped cream once again. It’s on my Lofty Goals list, so there’s no hiding.

One of the best meals I’ve ever had: an authentic Creole/Caribbean meal while on our honeymoon in St. Lucia. I’m sure anything would have tasted good after our 4-hour hike of the Gros Piton Mountain (2619 ft), but this meal was AH-MAZING!

 

Question: What are some fun food facts about you?

 

Quick Ideas Day 4: Classic Hummus

29 Sep

Hummus is one of those staple foods I always buy at the grocery store. We go through so much of it that I decided to start making my own.

I never thought I’d be saying that because Mike used to refuse hummus vehemently, but now he can’t get enough of it. That’s why I say you have to give everything a try, at least once!

Hummus is easy to make and healthy too—high in fiber and chockfull of other nutrients. There are 4 basic ingredients needed: garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas), tahini, lemon juice, and either water or olive oil.

The first time I didn’t have any tahini on hand so I used plain Greek yogurt. The result was tangy and bit sweet—not the authentic taste I was going for. So I sprung for some tahini and immediately after tasting the tahini version, I knew I wouldn’t go back to store-bought hummus.

Classic Hummus

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:

· 2 cans of garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained and rinsed (some liquid reserved, optional)

· 2 garlic cloves, minced (Tip: throw into processor first)

· 1/3 cup Tahini paste (can replace with sesame oil or paste)

· Juice of 1-2 freshly squeezed lemons

· 3 tablespoons water, olive oil or reserved liquid

· Season to taste: salt, cumin, paprika, etc.

· Other additions: cayenne pepper, hot sauce, roasted red peppers, edamame, etc.

· For garnish: chopped parsley, pine nuts, garbanzo beans, lemon wedge, drizzle of olive oil, etc.

Directions:

It’s simple: Throw everything in a food processor (fitted with a steel blade) and process until preferred consistency is reached (creamy to coarsely pureed). Garnish as desired.

Note: Everything is “to taste,” so start processing and taste along the way, adding more seasonings as need.

You can also make your own pita chips like I did. Cut mini-pitas into quarters, drizzle with some olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 375° for about 10 minutes or until slightly browned.

Question: What’s your favorite hummus flavor: classic, roasted red pepper, lemon, garlic…? Do you prefer homemade or store-bought hummus; why?

Quick Ideas Day 3: Pumpkin Yogurt Parfait & Pumpkin Oatmeal

28 Sep

I have an obsession. An obsession with pumpkin. I love everything made with pumpkin. If it isn’t made with pumpkin, I’ll add it. (I’m exaggerating a bit, just a tinsy bit.) 

What I’m not obsessed with: eating pumpkin straight out of the can. Gross. I like my pumpkin sweet.

Pumpkin Yogurt Parfait

Quick steps:

  • Start with a few heaping spoonfuls of yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt for this gal.
  • Add one or two large spoonfuls of the star ingredient. Yes this would be the pumpkin.
  • Top with agave nectar or honey, cinnamon, and granola. One can never have too many toppings.
  • [Side note: If you’re feeling fancy, you can make multiple layers.]
  • Stir together and swoon.

Mmmm… good brain food!

 

Pumpkin Oatmeal

Quick steps:

  • Cook your favorite oatmeal. I’ve used quick-cooking oats and steel oats, but it’s amazing with Chai spice-flavored oatmeal.
  • Add a dash of milk. I like vanilla soy milk for extra flavor.
  • Add a large spoonful or two of canned pumpkin. You want more oatmeal than pumpkin.
  • Top with sweetener and spice of choice and sprinkle with a few nuts for good measure. I like Agave nectar or brown sugar, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, walnuts, and sometimes a dash of ground flaxseed.
  • Mix ingredients together and enjoy!

One can of pumpkin lasted me a little over a week, kept covered in the fridge. Only because I’m not tempted to eat it right out of the can, unlike some other things… but that’s for another post.

Question: Pumpkin — Love it or hate it? (Gasp, if it’s the latter). To what other everyday foods do you add canned pumpkin?

Quick Ideas Day 2: Mixed Berry Smoothie

27 Sep

Smoothies are a simple way to pack in your daily nutrients. Not only can smoothies be healthy and quick, but they are refreshing, portable, and come in many varieties.

With smoothies, the possibilities are endless. Having trouble thinking up a concoction? The Food Network offers 50 smoothie ideas from healthy (carrot-apple, spa cucumber, apricot-almond) to quirky (banana PB&J, mint-jalapeno) to dessert (chocolate chip cookie, strawberry shortcake).

Here’s my version of a quick and nutritious smoothie.

Quick ingredients & steps:

  • 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla soy milk (or other low-fat milk)
  • 1/2 cup non-fat Greek yogurt (any flavor)
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • Optional mix-ins: 1 teaspoon honey, 1 tablespoon protein powder, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Time-saving tip: Freeze several batches ahead of time. Transfer to the fridge the night before and it’s ready for breakfast the next morning. Need more details? Check out the make-ahead smoothies here.

Question: What’s your favorite smoothie creation?

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