Muffins or Cupcakes?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

This one day, I made muffins (gasp!).  I didn't mean to, please don't be mad at me.  I really wanted to make cupcakes but they just didn't taste like a cupcake.  Also, I felt guilty adding frosting to something providing bit healthier ingredients (double gasp!).  I really don't know what has gotten into me. 

Here's the thing, I decided to try my first gluten free cupcake recipe.  I received this book for Christmas last year and I just got around to giving one of the recipes a try.  I've been asked about making cupcakes to conform to specific diets before.  I really see it as a lot of pressure.  Depending on the reason of the dietary needs, I could really make someone sick.  Some people's bodies just don't process certain ingredients or in some cases with allergies, reject some ingredients all together.  Talk about pressure.  Still, I wanted to give gluten free baking a try.  If nothing else, I now had a reason to buy arrowroot powder.  I don't even know what arrowroot is but I guess I needed it's powder to bake these muffins.

I liked this cookbook because the author was first a cupcake lover.  When she learned she had celiac disease she didn't stop loving cupcakes, she just created her own cupcake recipes to work around her own dietary needs.  Cupcakes for the win!

I don't have any specific dietary needs (well other than coffee, a must have or I die!)  I do need to change a few things though.  I will never not indulge in a cupcake if put in front of me.  I have this idea that everyone probably thinks I eat cupcakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I don't.  I wish I could but I don't.  My biggest food trap is actually snacky type stuff like chips.  Add guacamole and I'm in trouble.  Now guacamole, that I have had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I was in Mexico and it was fresh.  And it was delicious.  And I won't apologize for it.

So back to these cupcakes muffins.  They just had a taste and texture that reminded me of a breakfast muffin more than a frosting topped cupcake.  A suggestion from a friend after trying one was brilliant though.  She suggested adding a cream cheese frosting.  Now that might work.  That might be quite delicious.  For the time being, I'm enjoying the rest of this batch as a healthy breakfast option.  I froze them and can just pop one out as needed.  One little muffin defrosts quickly and it's just handy having stuff like that on hand.  Not chips.  Not guacamole.

I'm going to share the recipe with you but if you are a cupcake lover and are working with a gluten free diet, this is a great little cookbook!  The author, Elana, also has a blog that I've added to my ever growing list of blogs to follow.  Check out Elana's Pantry.  She just posted a paleo chocolate frosting that looks divine!

Strawberry Cupcakes from Gluten-Free Cupcakes by Elana Amsterdam

1/2 cup coconut flour
1 Tbs. arrowroot powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 large eggs
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners.  In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, arrowroot powder, salt, and baking soda.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, agave nectar, and vanilla.  Blend the wet ingredients into the coconut flour mixture with a handheld mixer until thoroughly combined, then fold in the strawberries.  Scoop 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared cup.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Elana says to let cool in the pan for 1 hour then frost and serve.  Frost if you want but these are good without.  Is that what makes a muffin a cupcake?  Frosting?  Are muffins jealous of cupcakes? 


Favorite Things Friday {#4}

Friday, August 24, 2012

It's been a while since I shared some of my favorite things, happenings, musings.....on a Friday....hence the name Favorite Things Friday!  Aren't I clever?  Yeah, I'm feeling a bit spunky today, maybe a little too much coffee this morning?  Whatever the source of the spunk, I'll take it!

#1 Forgotten Photos
O.K. so as a fairly new blogger, I've yet to really find my stride and plan ahead on blogging.  I don't save posts months ahead of time or stock up for when I'm in a blogging funk or in need of a post.  I did however find recently that I failed to share my first cupcake cake that I made back in APRIL...yes APRIL!  Oops!  So here is a look at a cross cake made out of cupcakes I did for a special First Communion.  Carlie picked the flavor and I just went from there.  It's not perfect by any means but it was fun to make.
#2 Funny Stuff
There has been no shortage as of late of funny pictures floating around the internet.  These eCards can pretty much make my whole day.  One of my favorites last month was during the Olympics.  I posted it on my facebook page but will share again here.  It pretty much summed up my days as I sat in front of the TV watching superior athletes perform all while dreaming up new cupcake ideas. 
And another, just because I'm excited for the new season of "How I Met Your Mother". 
Anyone else a Barney fan?
#3 Fall
I'm not wishing summer away or anything, I'm just going to welcome fall with open arms.  I very much enjoy that time of year when you are wearing jeans/sweatshirt but still can pull off flip flops.  And seeing the changing colors of the leaves, beautiful!  Oh and soups and apple picking.....I could go on and on.  I have plans to make some soup soon using some veggies from my family's garden.  Have you had the butternut squash soup at Atlanta Bread?  Yeah, I want to make that but I'm pretty sure they don't go around giving out their recipes, so I'm going to have to experiment a little.

A fall flashback from 15 to 20 years ago (oh hell now I feel old).  My Dad and I took this little puddle jumper to check out the fall colors in our area.

#4 Football
This could really fit into the fall  category but I think it deserves one all by itself.  Football is my favorite sport to watch.  As luck would have it, I live in an area where folks worship the Green Bay Packers.  I'm a fan, not a crazy, worship type fan but I have been known to make Packers cupcakes.
I've also been known to make Izzy wear my Clay Matthews jersey.  She didn't stand for really, she refused to stand.  I've learned my lesson, don't dress the dog!
There you have it, some of my favorite things narrowed down to 4 simple things.  It's amazing how cupcakes can always fit into my favorites.  The really are my all time FAVORITE!   They are the reason I started this blog and they just make me happy!  Tell me your fall, football or food favorites as of late!  Also, if anyone has a good soup recipe, please share! 
If you missed previous Favorite Things Friday posts, here are #1, #2 and #3.  Enjoy!

Have Cupcakes Will Travel

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Last week I traveled to Dubuque, IA to surprise my friend Alicia for her birthday.  When we first decided to plan this surprise, I knew I wanted to bake cupcakes for this special occasion.  When I asked Alicia's husband what flavor I should make, he said something with Andes Mints.  I pages through a few cookbooks but didn't find anything that jumped out at me.  Then I remembered the Devil's Food Cupcake Vodka I had bought but have yet to really experiment with.  I knew the addition of this would be a great way to help a friend celebrate her {30th} birthday!  I decided to just head into the kitchen and experiment.  I was very happy that my first batch turned out tasty and perfect, I didn't have to change a thing.  The hardest part of this recipe was figuring out what to call these cupcakes.  My sister came up with, "The Devil Made Me Do It, Mint".  I loved that but wanted something just a tad shorter, I settled on Devil Mint Cupcakes. 

Devil Mint Cupcakes

¾ cup sugar
2 lg. eggs
6 oz.  bitter-sweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup butter
3 Tbs. heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbs. Devil’s Food Vodka
1 cup flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
½ package Andes Mints, chopped

In a small sauce pan, melt chocolate with butter and stir in cream.  Allow to cool.   Pre-heat oven to 350 and prepare pans with cupcake liners.  This recipe will make approx. 14 cupcakes.   In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Using a mixer, combine sugar and eggs.  Beat on medium for about 3 minutes.  With mixer on low, pour in melted chocolate mixture.  Stir in vanilla and vodka.   Add flour mixture and stir until well combined.  Pour into prepared cups. Top each cup with chopped Andes Mints.   Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Devil Mint Frosting

¾ cup butter
2 Tbs. heavy cream
1 Tbs. + 1 tsp.  Devil’s Food Vodka
5 cups powdered sugar
¼ tsp. peppermint extract
Green food coloring
2 oz. dark chocolate, melted
½ package Andes Mints, chopped

Using stand mixer, beat butter until smooth and creamy.  Add 1 cup of powdered sugar.  Blend until well combined.  Add heavy cream and 1Tbs. vodka.  Beat in additional powdered sugar ¼ cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Separate frosting into two batches, leaving half in stand mixer.  No need to be exact, just eyeball it J  To the half in the stand mixer, add 1 oz.  melted chocolate and 1 tsp. vodka.  To the other half, add 1 tsp. peppermint extract and a drop of green food coloring.  Combine the two frosting mixes side by side in a large pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  Pipe on cupcakes in a swirl pattern.  Top with chopped Andes Mints and drizzle with last 1 oz. melted chocolate.

Though these cupcakes contain booze, they can easily be made without IF you prefer.  The booze content in these cupcakes is far less than the drunken gummy bears and jello shots that a co-worker of Alicia's made her for her birthday!  You could also add the chopped mints in the batter but adding them to the top prevents them from sinking to the bottom of your cupcake.  I'm not really sure how you can go wrong with a chocolate and mint combo, so make any adjustments you need/want.  This was one of the first recipes I didn't use a base recipe to adapt from.  I like days like that in the kitchen, when I am feeling inspired and things work out my way. 

These ended up being the perfect cupcakes for a celebration and surprise visit.  As with any visit with far away friends, it just went by way too fast.  There were cupcakes, wine tasting, visiting with "old" friends, and walking along the mighty mississippi, what more could I ask for!

I made it home on another special birthday to celebrate!  Izzy turned 4 last week!  She had a nice Dentastix served on a Birthday plate and a new  s'more stuffed toy!  Maybe next time I'll bake some dog friendly cupcakes too.  
 I love a road trip, even if just for a couple days.  I just got back from another quick road trip to do some shopping with my cousin.....and of course sampled some new cupcakes!  I have a much longer road trip on my bucket list.  I wonder how many cupcake stops I could make driving cross country?!?

**Neither Cupcake Vodka or Andes Mints sponsored this post, just two products I love.**

Cake, Pretty Plates, and Thrifting

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The first time I saw this cake in Joy's Cookbook, I knew it would be a favorite.  I also knew I'd want to serve it on one of my Mom's many cake pedestals.  So this was the recipe this week for Sundays with Joy.  I first suggest you get this cookbook, I then suggest you join this group.  It's a great place to share your love of baking and show off your creations.

O.K. so enough business, back to this cake!  First of all, I love a bundt cake.  They lend themselves to such simple decorations.  A drizzle of a nice glaze would be fine or swirls of thick frosting like this one I made here.  I didn't have to worry about getting smooth crisp edges like I would with a layer cake.  It looks so pretty and fancy but really is super easy!  I'm not even sure how I can successfully describe this cake.  Let me try....IT'S AMAZING!  The zucchini and cream cheese in the cake make it super moist and rich.  Oh and the frosting?  Brown sugar and cream cheese?  Yes Please!  It's the kind of frosting you you could eat by the spoonful, I'll have you know I did not.  But you could, if that is your kind of thing.  It would actually make a good fruit dip if you wanted to enjoy it on a bit of a lighter sweet treat.  I served this cake to my family after dinner one day last week then promptly brought the rest to some coworkers.  It's sweet, rich, and delicious....a bad combination to have on hand if you just want one piece!

This is the cake pedestal collection I got to choose from for serving this cake.  The collection belongs to my Mom.  A cake on top of a pedestal just makes it that more special I think.  She had 1 or 30 some to share with me for this week's recipe!  I'm not sure where she would put any new ones but I know she is always looking.  Most of these are thrift store and goodwill finds with a few gifts from my sister and I thrown in.  I think this may be one of her favorite things to thrift for though.  She's got a gift for finding treasures like these.  I'm hardly a thrifter compared to her.  I do however get to benefit from her thrifting skills, she's found me some great treasures along the way too.  I have a wicker bench on my porch and three tier table in my bedroom to prove it!  Thanks Mom!

Speaking of thrifting....I participated in a fun little thrift exchange this month.  A group of bloggers organized the Thrifty Love Gift Exchange.  We were all assigned a partner to thrift for.  My partner was Jenn from Passenger Seat Perspectives.  I told her how I was looking for fabrics/cloths that would make good props for some of my blog photos.

Jenn did a great job finding some fabrics, recipe cards, and even a cute little vase.  I already used the red place mat and blue check napkin in last week's post.  It was different thrifting for someone else, someone you've just emailed and never met, but a fun change of pace.  Best part is, I found another great blog to follow.  You can check out some other blog posts on this thrift gift exchange HERE.  I'm new to thrifting but with a great teacher like my Mom, I'll be finding all sorts of great treasures in no time.  I even have a rummage sale find book shelf I hope to transform into a TV stand soon.  Look out thrifting/DIY world....I'm coming for ya!
Any favorite things you like to thrift for?
Any tips for someone new to thrifting?
Does my Mom need more cake pedestals?


S'More Please!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

It's that time again, another Sundays With Joy recipe.  This week, the ladies are baking Joy's S'Mores Brownies.  Brownies are something I usually just make with a box mix.  I'm pretty sure I won't be doing that too much more.  Tasting these brownies reminded me just how much better brownies from scratch are. 

This recipe incorporated bits of graham crackers and gooey toasted marshmallows on top.  What's not to love?  The recipe called for large marshmallows on top and I ended up using minis as I wanted more of those gooey bits.  I think I could have used even more, I just love how they toasted up.  I was nervous they might get too done, I've never been a fan of the charred marshmallows.

The recipe called for allowing the brownies to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting.  I think I made it about 10 minutes before needing to dig in and give them a try.  I think waiting would have given me a nice cleaner edge but really, are  you looking at the uneven cut job I did?  Doubt it!  Nope, you are just wondering how you can get your hands on some of these delicious brownies.  I'm taking the rest of this batch to a graduation party this afternoon so you'll just have to make your own.  Go out and get Joy's book, you won't be disappointed.  You can even join our Sundays With Joy group.  We're baking our way through the whole book so we have a way to go yet.  There are some good recipes (well they are all good!) coming up too. 

As you can see, I used the usual s'mores ingredients for my props in today's photos.  A great photo wasn't all I was after.  I was craving some of these gooey campfire treats too.  I couldn't let those props just go to waste.  Usually I'm a golden brown marshmallow with the usual hunk of Hershey's chocolate sandwiched between two graham crackers.  The classic s'more.  Some like their marshmallow burnt to all holy hell, some use peanut butter cups instead of plain chocolate.  The possibilities for the perfect s'more really are endless.  Next time you are sitting around the campfire, try a new version, oh maybe like peanut butter bacon s'mores.  Doesn't that sound tasty?

Crazy?  Maybe, but they were tasty.  Spread peanut butter on one of your graham cracker squares, top with your chocolate (Hershey's Special Dark is my favorite) and some crisp bacon.  Add a nice toasted marshmallow and other graham cracker square.  You now have the wild child cousin of the regular ol' s'more!  Anyone else have s'more substitutions they like to make?  Anyone plan on trying this peanut butter bacon version?