Tag Archives: Holiday

Eggnog Cupcakes with Eggnog Buttercream

4 Dec

Happy Holidays!

Right now I’m looking forward to nothing more than tuning in to watch the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show!  I am not ashamed to admit I look forward to it every single year.  You also better believe I’m the girl who dreams about walking down that runway.  With those gorgeous angel wings.  And of course abs of steel!  One day, one day 😉  Expect a full recap from me after the show!

Ok, ok, off the fantasy for now, and on to my day.  It was a busy one, and I’m glad to be home.  I work as an NMD Assistant at a small clinic for the two most amazing Doctors anyone could ever hope to meet.  They just got back from a vacation/honeymoon in Hawaii after tying the knot there over Thanksgiving.  Congrats to them both!  I have no idea how that transitions in to talking about cupcakes, but I feel like cupcakes really need no segue anyway…they pretty much fit in with anything and everything.

These eggnog cupcakes with eggnog buttercream were a HUGE hit around here, and by that I mean, comments like “Those are my favorite so far.  Of anything you’ve made… recently” were made. (He knows who he is, so I don’t feel the need to name names!)  Nevermind the fact that I have no idea what the timescale was on “recently,” and how it could just as easily have meant within the last 2 days as within the last 2 years.  Details.    What I’m trying to say is this:  Either I haven’t made anything good lately, or these really are awesome.  At the risk of opening myself up to comments from certain people, I think I can honestly say it’s the latter.  Or at least hope.  Actually, you should make them and then let me know, just to be sure!

Eggnog Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cups flour

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 egg

1 1/8 cups eggnog

1/4 cup canola oil

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup sugar

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350*F and line a 12 well cupcake pan with paper liners.

Add canola oil, and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until combined.  Add in the eggnog, egg, vanilla extract, and apple cider vinegar, and mix again until well combined.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and salt.

Add dry flour mixture to the wet mixture, turning mixer on low between additions.  Mix until batter forms.

Add 1/4 cup-fulls of batter to each well of the pan.  Bake about 20 minutes, rotating the pan in the oven half-way through.  Allow to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before removing cupcakes and setting on a cooling rack.  Do not frost until completely cool!

Eggnog Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 stick margarine

3 Tbsp eggnog

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Pinch of salt

Directions:

Cream the margarine in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add in 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix until crumbles form.  Add in salt and eggnog, and mix again.  Add in remaining 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, and then the vanilla extract.  Whip on high until smooth.  If buttercream seems too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar – if the opposite is true, add a little more eggnog.  Add in the nutmeg and whip again.  Store in refrigerator until ready to use!

5 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day!

22 Apr

Happy Earth Day!

I’m of the mindset that every day should be considered “Earth Day,” in that it’s important to be conscious of our impact on the planet all year long!  Much like the sentiments of many holidays  (the thoughts, feelings, and considerations that are brought to light) I feel would  ideally be best displayed every day, sometimes we lose focus and need the reminder of a “special day” to nudge us in the right direction!  In that case, I’m all for a holiday that brings our priorities back in line!

 

Today seemed like a really great day to get outside and enjoy the weather, the wildlife, and the sunshine.  I normally try to get outside for a walk or a jog down the street and back (2 miles, haha) every day, today it was way too toasty out to lug my camera with me.  So, for the sake of me returning alive, but also giving you a peek at some of the cool plants, animals, and scenery I get to appreciate every day, I decided to show you some pics from a few days ago when the weather was MUCH cooler!

I don’t like to be in too much of a hurry when I’m walking outside – there are too many interesting things going on that I’d probably miss out on if I rushed.  Long.  Straight. HILLY road!  When I do run, those hills get me every time!

The California Poppy is currently in full bloom!  Takes a lot for me not to pick a few for a vase on my way home….!

To date, this is my favorite horse in the world.  I have no idea what his name is, but we’ve developed a relationship that transcends the need for names.  It goes a little something like this: I bring him treats (carrots, apples, etc) and he runs to the fence, pretending he’s excited to see me.  See how that works?  I get the satisfaction of convincing myself we’re friends, and he gets a carrot.  Win-win, right?!

 

In reality, we get along because he’s exceedingly sarcastic and quick-witted.  We talk a lot.  He gets me!

This darling old man is Max.  Max has a lot of friends in the area (dog and otherwise) that he  visits regularly, stopping by to play or for a drink of water.  He wanders up to my garage occasionally and camps out for days at a time, or meets up with me while I’m on my way down the street.  Cutie pie!

This is Max’s friend, pretty adorable, right?!  They often travel together – bff?!  Look at those puppy dog eyes, major awww!

Chickens!  And a rooster.  Wild turkey and chicken are all over the place around here.  They cross the road, too, all the time, but I have yet to figure out why! =p

I had every intention of snapping photos of baby goats that appeared in a neighbor’s yard one day last week, but by the time I did manage to bring my camera with, they were gone!  I was under the impression they were permanent residents, but apparently that wasn’t the case.  Shoot!  I have to say, baby goats (kids!) are super duper cute, and these had collars on!  Another aww!

 

Worth protecting, right?!  I think so!  So, in keeping with the theme here, I’ve compiled a few ways for you to help the planet, and improve your own health at the same time!  Some of these ideas I’ve heard before, but I’ve tried to put my own twist on them where I see fit – often suggestions for helping the planet seem a little out there, and other times, require purchasing more or expensive resources or products to accomplish, which I sorta think often defeats the purpose!

5 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

1.  Reusable cold & hot cups for coffee & tea:

I know I said buying more products wasn’t going to help the planet, but if you’re going to be hitting up Starbucks every day for a coffee fix, or grabbing an ice tea in the afternoon and using their disposable cups, a reusable cup is the way to go.  A nice thermos is great for hot coffee and tea, very affordable and easy to find.  The problem used to be the elusive reusable cold travel cup, which used to be nearly impossible to find.  Now they’re everywhere!  Starbucks carries them at what I think is a bit high for my own price point, but I got one at Cost Plus for super cheap, and Walmart has them in practically every color imaginable!  Get one.  Bring it to the Bux on your next coffee run!

2.  Whip up your own natural, non-toxic cleaning products, or at least buy the friendly lines of products:

Ideally, you would use all-natural, non-toxic, kid and pet friendly cleaners for everything, all the time.  However, there is some grime, and some funk that just seems to be immune to baking soda and vinegar.  I get it.  Just try to use natural cleaners when you can – every little bit helps!  For most cleaning issues, I quickly Google it, and spend a few minutes looking through products I already have on-hand in my kitchen that will do the trick.  If you’re having a cleaning crisis, chances are good someone else has too, and you can probably find a green-cleaning tip about it online!  It’s true baking soda and vinegar won’t work for EVERYTHING, but they sure seem to work for 90% of messes!  If you MUST go the route of store-bought cleaning products (which I do, also – laundry detergent, and dish soap), try the lines that are known for being organic, naturally derived, not tested on animals, non-toxic, etc. such as Method (which is not ALL natural, but close), Simple Green, Green Works, etc.

3. Re-purpoes items you already have:

This is a whole lot like recycling.  In fact, it IS recycling!  It doesn’t work for everything (some things truly must be discarded…and by discarded, I mean put in the recycle bin and sent out to those who know what to do with it – ex: thousands of old phone books!) but try to the items you have no need for anymore as they are, and turn them in to items you need or want!  Old t-shirts are great for cutting down and sewing into a blanket or throw pillows, mason jars work great as glassware or vases for flowers if you aren’t much for jam making.  Instead of going out and buying new furniture, old furniture sometimes just needs a new finish or fresh coat of paint to become special and useful again.  Martha Stewart or DIY shows are often my go-tos for things like this!

4.  Plant your own garden:

I said it!  Cultivate that green thumb of yours, and work to plant a lot of your own vegetables and even fruits.  It takes some work to set up the beds, and maybe a little more work if need to construct raised beds due to the lack of topsoil, but it’s worth it when those tomato plants of yours just won’t quit!  It’s often much more cost effective to grow your own produce (ahem, have you seen the prices of product at the store or Farmer’s Market?!), not to mention you know exactly where your food came from and that it’s not smothered with gross pesticides!  Lots of inspiration onmy sister site, SayitwithSprouts.com if you need it!  If a whole garden seems like too much, or you have space restrictions (umm, that was me, in a tiny apartment!) consider growing a little window herb garden!  Pick up a few seed packets and plant them up in your re-purposed mason jars (yes, tip 3 in action!  Just be careful not to over-water!).  Great for cooking, and cleans your indoor air a bit!  My favorites are Basil, oregano, and mint!  Bonus points if you compost your fruit and veggie matter!

5.  Have a plan of attack when running errands:

Now, it’s one thing to live in a small town where you are able to walk or bike anywhere you need to go (hello, Davis!  I miss you!) – it makes running errands super efficient and planet-friendly, but most of the time, that just isn’t possible.  Everything seems to be so far away nowadays, and it’s just not realistic to think you won’t be taking your car out on a day of errand-running.  The key here is to be as efficient as possible with your car usage.  Plan ahead so you know where you’re headed, and travel the most efficient route so you don’t end up back-tracking, or getting half way home only to remember you forgot the dog at the groomer.  Wastes a lot of gas, as well as your precious time!  Oh, and while I’m on the subject, reusable grocery bags, FTW!

There you have it!  There are many MANY more ways you can help the planet and reduce your impact on a daily basis, these were just a few to get you started!

 

How do you like to celebrate Earth Day?  What are your favorite every day tips for being greener & more eco-friendly??  I’d love to know!

 

Zucchini Cupcakes with Avocado Buttercream Frosting (Vegan)

11 Mar

First of all, happy Sunday!

I hope daylight savings isn’t kicking your butt as much as I know it’s going to kick mine once my better senses kick in and realize I’ve lost a sweet, sweet, precious hour of sleep! Hoping this gorgeous, sunny, blue sky weather we’ve been having lasts and helps me through this…with a teeny bit of help from the most giant mug of coffee of all time! =)

Anyway, if this post doesn’t do it, I’d like to make it clear that I’ve taken it upon myself to use March as an excuse for baking with more green foods!  It’s a Leprechaun’s world and I’m just living in it, St. Patty’s Day style.

When you hear “green foods,” there’s a good chance your mind immediately snaps to thoughts and images of leafy greens, herbs, green peppers, and zucchini – rarely ingredients that you’d see featured in dessert foods – but stay with me here.  My biggest concern here was keeping things yummy, somewhat healthy, green-colored, and yet FREE from ARTIFICIAL COLORING!  So the wheels started turning…

At the risk of blog readership plummeting big time, I ruled out spinach brownies (though I’ve heard those are good!), avoided celery ice cream, and didn’t even let my mind wander to a place where I’m 100% sure I’d be spending my entire post trying to convince you to try green onion pie.  You’re welcome.  Also, there’s no possible way I could even convince myself of that, so I’ve also spared myself the guilt of lying my way through an entire post.  I’m welcome?  Nevermind.

Anyway, I did, however, wrap my head around the prospects of zucchini and avocado, and found the idea to be promising!  Afterall, I’ve featured zucchini prominently in several recipe posts like this  and this, waxing rather poetic about the versatility and ease with which it blends into sweet treats.  Avocados hold a special place in my heart, too, and though featured here  as a savory Super Bowl snack, it’s still a fruit, dangit!

Zucchini bread and coffee cake inspired zucchini cupcakes seemed like the perfect choice!  Avocado could have been more challenging, but thankfully its creamy smooth texture practically begs to be made into frosting.  Ideal.  I wouldn’t recommend the frosting if you don’t like avocados, but then again if that’s the case I’d recommend you start liking avocados because they’re super delish and healthy!

 

And so, zucchini spice cupcakes with avocado buttercream frosting were born – TA DA!

Somewhat healthy?  Let’s be real, these are still cupcakes, but made with nutrient-packed plant-based ingredients.

Since we’re talking avocados, I think it’s important to note just a few of the awesome health benefits these powerful little green guys boast.  Not only are they high in vitamins and minerals such as folate (for heart health and prevention of birth defects), B-6, and potassium (helps to regulate blood pressure), they are also host to nutrients that combat oxidative damage, cholesterol levels, inflammation, and even cancer.

So again, healthy?  Ya, check!

Green color without any artificial coloring?  Yessir – Check.

Yummy?  Duh.  I mean, check.

I’ll be the first to admit these aren’t the sexiest little cupcakes – they’re sorta more like the homey looking little sweethearts that have a great personality, ha!  No, really.  Love them!

Zucchini Cupcakes with Avocado Buttercream (Vegan)

(Makes 6)

 Lightly spiced, zucchini-laced cupcakes with a super tender crumb – you’d never guess they were vegan if I didn’t blatantly tell you – really!  Perfectly accompanied by an unexpectedly smooth, delicious buttercream frosting packed with healthy omega-3’s and vitamins.  Double the recipe if you want to make a dozen.

 Cupcakes-

 Ingredients:

*7/8 cup all-purpose flour

*½ tsp baking powder

*½ tsp baking soda

*½ tsp ground cinnamon

*½ tsp ground nutmeg

*¼ tsp salt

*¼ cup granulated sugar

*¼ cup brown sugar

*½ cup non-dairy milk of your choice

*¼ cup canola oil

*1 Tbsp vanilla extract

*½ Tbsp white vinegar

*½ cup grated zucchini

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Line a cupcake pan with 6 cupcake liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, stir together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and canola oil.

In another bowl or cup, stir together the non-dairy milk, vinegar, and vanilla.

Pour the milk, vinegar, and vanilla mixture into the sugar and oil mixture.  Add grated zucchini and mix.  Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, until just combined.  You don’t want to over mix.

Fill lined cupcake wells to just about full.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the pan half way through, until tops slightly spring back when pressed on.  Remove pan from oven and allow to cool about 10 minutes before removing cupcakes and placing on a wire cooling rack to finish cooling.  Allow to cool COMPLETELY before frosting.

Frosting-

This frosting is thinner than a typical buttercream frosting because of the softer texture of avocados compared to margarine or butter, but has just the lightest, yummiest hint of avocado vanilla flavor!

Ingredients:

*2 small avocados

*½ stick non-dairy margarine

*3-4 cups confectioner’s sugar

*1 tsp vanilla

*Dash of salt, to taste

Directions:

Peel avocados and remove pits.  Cream together the avocado and non-dairy margarine in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add vanilla extract.  Slowly add confectioner’s sugar, ½ cup at a time until consistency is as desired.  Add salt to taste.   Frost your little heart out!  Go to it =)

Happy Spring!

Happy March!  Happy St. Patty’s month!

 

 

Valentine’s Day Red Velvet Brownie Bites with White Chocolate Chip Buttercream

13 Feb

Valentine’s Day can be a complicated little bugger, can’t it?

Ask any guy, and chances are good the mere thought of Valentine’s Day somehow warrants a defensive front of epic proportions akin only to that of a man staring down the barrel of a gun ready to strip him of his manhood.  All of a sudden a cute, simple, holiday becomes a bank-breaker, a platform for anti-Hallmark rants, candy and Tiffany’s protests, and a potential one-way ticket to the couch for the night.

 

Dramatic.

 

Now, ask any girl, and chances are good Valentine’s Day probably ranks 1st, followed only by New Year’s Eve (that’s a different story), in terms of expectations for romantic gestures from the fella in their life.  We want flowers, flowers are good.  Candy is doable.  Jewelry will get you everywhere, guys.  Lingerie is a sensitive subject.  We want seductive and lovey, but not tacky.  There’s a fine line…a verrrrrrry fine line between a blissful day and a day spent pasting a guy’s face on a dart board.  Just saying.

And what do girls get their guys on this particular hive-inducing, red alert prompting holiday that won’t be seen as girly or cutesy or a passive aggressive stab to his ego?

 

Dramatic.

 

So what’s a guy to do?  What’s a girl to do?  Can’t we all just love and be cute and wrap things in pretty bows and pink paper and be thankful for one another and cuddle up and watch movies or stare at each other and go back and forth all night about who’s prettier, and then eat these brownies?

 

Sigh.  I sure hope so! 😉

Red Velvet Brownie Bites

Adapted from How Sweet It Is red velvet brownies

Ingredients:

* 1 ¼ cups all purpose flour

* ¼ tsp salt

* ½ cup butter, room temperature (or non-dairy Earth Balance)

* 1 ½ cups sugar

* 4 Tbsp cocoa powder

* 1 ½ Tbsp red food coloring

* 2 tsp vanilla extract

* 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or non-dairy chocolate chips like Enjoy Life)

*****

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Line or grease standard muffin tins or heart-shaped muffin molds.

Combine cocoa powder, food coloring, and 2 tsp vanilla extract to create a gravely mixture.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter or non-dairy spread and sugar until fluffy.  Add in eggs one at a time, mixing between additions.

Add cocoa powder mixture slowly to the butter and sugar and mix until combined.

Sift the flour and salt in a separate bowl.  Add slowly and mix until just combined.  Don’t over mix!  Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.

Evenly distribute into prepared muffin tins or heart-shaped muffin molds until each well is about full.

Bake about 22-25 minutes depending on your oven.  Don’t overbake!

 

White Chocolate Chip Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

* ½ cup (1 stick) butter or non-dairy Earth Balance

* 2 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar

* 2 tsp vanilla extract

* Dash of salt, to taste

* ½ cup white chocolate chips, melted (I used Ghirardelli) – omit if you’d like dairy-free, or use non-dairy chocolate chips!

* 1 ½ tbsp milk, or non-dairy milk like soy or rice

*****

Directions:

Cream butter or non-dairy spread in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add in one cup of confectioner’s sugar and mix.  Add the vanilla extract and dash of salt, mixing to combine.

Melt the white chocolate chips or non-dairy chips in a microwave safe bowl.  Set aside to cool slightly before adding.

Add another cup of the confectioner’s sugar, and then the milk.  Beat.  Add the remaining ½ cup of confectioner’s sugar and mix well.  Add in the melted chocolate.

Add a splash more milk if frosting is too thick, and a bit more confectioner’s sugar if it’s too thin.  Beat until fluffy.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A note, a hug, a kiss, a call, a text?  Scratch that last one.  A brownie!  Now that’s more like it….share the love!

PS:  No, YOU’Reeee prettier…. 😉

XOXO

Candied Ginger & Pear Gingerbread Muffins

18 Dec

I’ve been moving non-stop the last couple days! Definitely busier today than I have been since finals ended a little over a week ago. Semi-last minute shopping, cleaning, packing, wrapping presents, and lots of baking. I spent a good 5 hours on Saturday knee-deep in flour, brown sugar, and various other baked good accoutrements, trying to make sure I can get a few gits shipped out on Monday! Nothing like hoping for the best in terms of the US Postal Service delivering before Christmas! 😉

In the midst of it all, I managed to carve out just enough time to whip up a few festive-flavored muffins. These puppies have Christmas morning written all over them! They come together quickly and the best part of all is they make your kitchen smell like fresh ginger snaps. Opening presents tree-side with the fragrance of sugary ginger pear wafting through the air? Mmhmm, magical!

Candied Ginger & Pear Gingerbread Muffins

Ingredients:

Dry-
* 1 1/2 Cups All-purpose flour
* 3/4 Cup Whole wheat flour
* 1/2 tsp Salt
* 1/2 tsp Baking soda
* 1 1/2 Tbsp Ground ginger

Wet-
* 1/4 Cup Butter (1/2 stick, 2 oz.)
* 1/3 Cup Molasses
* 1 Cup Milk (I used regular, non-dairy would probably work, too!)
* 2 Eggs
* 1/2 Cup Brown sugar, packed

Add-ins-
* 1/2 Cup candied ginger, roughly chopped
* 1 pear, roughly chopped
* A few Tbsp Turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400*F. Grease or line a jumbo muffin tin with muffin cups.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter with the molasses. Set aside to cool.

Sift together the flours, baking soda, salt, and ground ginger in a separate bowl. Stir in the brown sugar.

Once the butter and molasses mixture have cooled, make a well in the dry ingredients, and pour it in. Slightly beat the eggs, and pour them in. Add the milk, the chopped candied ginger and pear, and stir everything together until just moistened. Don’t over mix!

Spoon the batter in to the muffin tin, filling each cup almost to the top. Sprinkle tops with turbinado sugar. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350*F and bake for another 5 minutes. Check at this point, and if the tops are getting too brown, cover with foil. Bake for another 5 minutes. Remove and allow to cool in the tin before removing muffins and setting on a cooling rack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See, it’s like I pretty much got you all a Christmas gift…early! 🙂