On Health {lemon blueberry cupcakes with cream cheese frosting}

Dear readers, can I tell you something awful?  Though you wouldn’t know it from the likes of this blog, I think I’m becoming a healthier person.  Not just because my pants are much looser around my waist (#purebarreproblems), but because I can’t eat sugar in the same massive quantities as before.  Here is what I know for sure.

1.  I started going to Pure Barre in September, thanks to Ali.  I went about 2 or 3 times a week.  Now I go 4 or 5 times a week, and I love it.  It’s a challenge, it makes me stronger, and I am crazy more flexible now than every before.

2.  Since my mother in law has assumed responsibility for 2/3 of my daily meals, I eat healthier.  But it’s healthier in the foodie-way in that it still involves plenty of fat and calories.  They’re just sourced from better food than, say, Doritos, and other neon-orange, artificially flavored cheddar foods.

3.  I drink a ton of water every day.  Lemons, please.

So somewhere in the six months between starting to act like this, and now, I became healthy.  Whatever things people say about exercising and eating well and drinking plenty of water must actually be true.  I can now tell when I am starving and need to inhale everything in sight, and when I can’t.  I can say no to baked goods (but not M&Ms).  I don’t even know myself.  I swear, we are going to move into our house and all will go to hell and a hand basket because all of a sudden, I’ll be the one controlling what we eat again.  But for now, I’m enjoying these couple months of living like the other, healthier half lives.

lemon blueberry cupcakes.

This is all a really long-winded way of saying thank goodness for my sister-in-law.  Whilst drowning in a sea of chocolate oreo peanut butter nutella drizzle caramel girly and super sticky sweet and sugary cupcakes, she requested a bright, fruity mix for her birthday.  The funny thing about the birthday cupcakes I make for people is that I could take or leave most of them.  Rarely do I get too worked up over a flavor someone has chosen.  But these were instant faves.  Not too sweet, super bright-tasting, and almost sort of muffin-like and healthy.  Introducing, lemon blueberry cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

To make 16, you will need:

For the cupcakes:
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided
¾ cup cake flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Zest of  1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. lemon juice
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. milk, at room temperature
1 cup fresh blueberries

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 large lemon
Additional fresh blueberries, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the ¾ cup all-purpose flour, the cake flour, baking powder and salt; whisk together and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar and lemon zest. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lemon juice. With the mixer on low speed, mix in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Blend in the milk. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients, beating just until incorporated.

In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Using a spatula gently fold the berries into the cake batter. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners, filling each about ¾ full. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired. (I used a large, unlabeled star tip to frost these cupcakes.) Garnish with fresh blueberries.

On Willpower [pumpkin spice latte cupcakes]

The (Not So) New Girl has better willpower than anyone I know.  Our workplace is often overflowing with cookies, brownies, and whatever leftover piece of grocery store sheet cake from your grandma’s birthday celebration your family didn’t want.  Once Mrs. CV(D) and I decide something is worth the calories, we go all out, and eat to our heart’s content.  But not The (Not So) New Girl.  She values restraint and moderation, and I do admire her for that.

pumpkin spice latte cupcakes.

I just don’t know how she does it.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that The (Not So) New Girl had a birthday, and it took a full 363 days of life after it happened for me to make her cupcakes.  We had to find a window in which I had time to bake and she deemed it acceptable to consume the calories.  And if that day was two days before her next birthday, then so be it.  She requested Pumpkin Spice Latte cupcakes.  I’m affectionately titling them “basic” cupcakes, to be best enjoyed while wearing yoga pants and Uggs.

To make 24, you will need:

For the cupcakes:

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. espresso powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs
½ cup coffee or espresso, for brushing

For the icing:

2¼ cups heavy cream, chilled
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

For garnish:

Caramel sauce

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Stir together and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixture on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.

Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full. Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans. While the cupcakes are still warm, brush them two or three times with the coffee or espresso, allowing the first coat to soak in before repeating. Let cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-low speed at first, gradually increasing to high speed. Blend in the confectioners’ sugar gradually. Whip until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-beat. Use a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip to frost the cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.


Celebrate, Day 16 {chubby hubby cupcakes}

On October 10, a coworker and I celebrate an Anniverthday.  What’s an Anniverthday, you ask?  It’s a combination anniversary (mine), and birthday (hers).  This year was even better because another coworker of ours got married as well.  When she came back from her mini-moon, we were ready to celebrate.

The only rule about an Anniverthday cupcake is that it must be some sort of hybrid, as our invented holiday is also some sort of hybrid.

chubby hubby cupcakes.

The new bride requested something chocolate and peanut butter in nature, and I went straight to these.  I love when someone gives me the opportunity to make a cupcake I’ve been waiting for.  I debated splitting the recipe in half and then I realized that there’s no such thing as too many peanut butter frosting-ed cupcakes.

These are some of my favorites.

To make about 30, you will need:

For the cupcakes:
3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups sugar
1 cups malted milk powder
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature

For the filling:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups coarsely chopped pretzels

For the frosting:
3 sticks (1½ cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup creamy peanut butter
4½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of coarse salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. heavy cream

To garnish: 
Mini pretzels drizzled with melted chocolate (I used Flips)

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk to blend and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add in the sugar, about ¼ cup at a time, mixing for 1 minute after each addition. Blend in the malted milk powder. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl and mixing well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Add the cream to a saucepan and bring to a simmer (or warm in the microwave). Remove from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate; let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk together until a smooth ganache forms. Whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until completely incorporated. Let stand at room temperature, whisking occasionally, until slightly thickened.

To fill the cupcakes, use the cone method to fill the cupcakes part way with ganache. Top off each ganache center with some of the chopped pretzel pieces (or a few pretzel M&Ms). (You don’t need to replace the cake tops for these cupcakes but you can if you would like.)

To make the frosting, combine the butter and peanut butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar and salt. With the mixer on low speed, mix in the vanilla and cream just until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whip until light and very fluffy, about 4 minutes. Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip (I used Ateco #809). Pipe a swirl of frosting on top of each cupcake. Garnish with a chocolate drizzled pretzel.

Samoas Cupcakes

And for my next trick, here are some more cupcakes.

I’ll pause while you all take a collective gasp.

samoas cupcakes.

Yes, September is packed with birthdays, and today’s winner picked something Samoas-inspired.  Which was great, as I have had these in the back of my head for about a year now.

They are every bit as over the top as you might think, though I took some liberties with the recipe because I was exhausted and not thinking straight when I made them.  I forgot to put the cookies on the bottoms of the cupcake tins, so I just dunked the top part of the cookie in ganache, added the coconut/caramel topping to the cookie, and “drizzled” chocolate on top.  I thinned out the ganache with milk twice, and it still wasn’t as drizzley as I wanted, so the chocolate drizzles became more like chocolate blobs.  But you know what?  These still taste amazing.

They are absolutely time consuming to make, and absolutely worth it if you love Samoas and can’t wait for Girl Scout Cookie season before enjoying one for yourself. Happy Monday, dear readers!

Valentine’s Day Plans [cherry chocolate granola]

Dear readers, it’s summer break ’round these parts, and that means I’m not tied to my computer like I often am in the colder months.  I’ve been digging deep in the archives to find  some recipes worth sharing again.  These all aired in the blog’s earlier days, but I’m pretty sure the only people who were there to see them go live were CV(D), Wooden Nickels, and Cari Faye.  They are my tried and true staples, and they’ll run for a few weeks while I enjoy the good life.  I’ll check back in with you later this summer dear readers.



What are you up to on Valentine’s Day, dear readers? Do you make a big deal out of the day and get together with your loved ones?  Or do you hide under a blanket with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s?

Valentine’s Day and I have a love/hate relationship.  There are years when it goes unexpectedly well and I concede that maybe it’s not so bad.

And there are others where it seems everyone is making plans to outdo everyone else and I’d rather just put my pajamas on and call it a night.

So far, this is shaping up to be one of the better years.

For one, I helped stage a flower sale/fundraiser at work, and delivered over 700 flowers to some unsuspecting folk.

And for another, there are lots of little ways this particular day will be special.  Starting with breakfast.

Annie posted a recipe for Cherry Chocolate Coconut Granola on her site earlier this year, and I was drawn to it right away.  It was almost identical to a granola I built for myself one morning at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago.  The only major difference I spotted was that Annie’s had chocolate (the minor was that I used cranberries instead of cherries).  So basically, she made things ten times better.  And a million times better than the bowl of Cheerios we were planning to eat.  Even if they were honey nut.

I inhaled a big bowl of this for breakfast this morning, and it was like eating a chocolate chip cookie.  A chocolate chip cookie that tastes like a chocolate chip cookie, but doesn’t have butter, eggs, or added sugar.  And how better to start a day that’s practically dedicated to chocolate, than with a couple of morsels tucked into your first bites?

The best part of this whole granola-making endeavor is that one crunch into my cereal and I realized I never need to purchase the overpriced granola from Whole Foods that I love so much ever again.  The homemade stuff is ten times better, and cheaper, when it comes from your own oven.  Throw on your Birkenstocks and embrace it.  You know you love granola, too.

To make 7 C Cranberry Chocolate Coconut Granola, you will need:

  • 1 C shredded coconut (sweetened, or not)
  • 1/3 C walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 C almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 3 C old fashioned oats
  • 3 T canola oil
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 C dried cranberries
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I had mini chunks so I used those)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a skillet, toast coconut over medium heat, stirring often, until light brown.  Transfer to small bowl, and set aside.  Wipe out skillet and add nuts, toasting 3 minutes, until lightly browned.  Add oats and oil and toast, stirring until oats are toasted, about another 3 minutes.

Pour oat mixture into large bowl and toss with cinnamon, salt, and honey, till combined.  Pour mixture onto baking sheet, pressing till you have an even layer.  Bake, stirring every few minutes (I forgot this part!), for 15 minutes.  Remove baking sheet, toss in coconut and cranberries, stir and move granola to one side of baking sheet.  Using spatula, press granola into flat slab.  Let cool to room temperature.

When cool, break granola into pieces.  Add chocolate bits and serve or store.

P.S.  How great would this be if you’re having people over for brunch?  Just add eggs and mimosas.

*Original post here.

Change it Up

While hunting through the refrigerator the other day, I realized that I needed a new smoothie.  One that would shake up my usual green monster go-to.

peanut butter smoothie

Thanks to Annie I already knew what I wanted to add to my repertoire.  I made several tweaks on her recipe for peanut butter smoothies because we were trying to clean out the Glass of Milk kitchen in anticipation of a little weekend getaway.  And nothing ruins a weekend getaway like coming back to a fridge with a stench of rotten something or other.  Anyway.

This smoothie is a revelation.

It’s pure decadence compared to its oozing-with-health brethren.

peanut butter smoothie

Especially if you’re using your new favorite yogurt.  Or as they call it, yoghurt.  The difference between plain old yoghurt and something magical must lie in that “h” they threw in for good measure.  This stuff is addictive, and just sweet enough to feel special (I use the honey flavor).

You could pack it with spinach if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.  Or you could lace your glass with some chocolate syrup.  It’s not that this smoothie isn’t healthy.  It just doesn’t taste like it.  And if you leave out the green stuff, though chances are next time I won’t, it doesn’t look like it either.

To make a peanut butter smoothie for one, you will need:

  • 1/3 to 1/2 C vanilla or honey yoghurt
  • 1 banana
  • 2 T PB2 (or peanut butter)
  • 1/4 C oats
  • 1/2 to 3/4 C milk (almond milk would have been the right choice here, but I didn’t have it)
  • spinach if you’re so inclined
  • chocolate syrup if you’d rather

Combine yoghurt, banana, peanut butter, oats, and milk in blender.  If using spinach, fill blender the rest of the way with spinach and blend.  If not using spinach, blend as is.  Pour into a glass and drizzle with chocolate syrup.


3-Step Cupcakes

There’s something exciting about eating a 3-Step Cupcake.

What’s a 3 Step Cupcake?

  1. Cupcake
  2. Filling
  3. Frosting
  4. A way to let someone know they’re special to you.

Cupcakes with frosting?  Kid stuff.  Cupcakes with filling and frosting?  Classy!  Fun!  Different!

These 3 Step Cupcakes were for CV’s bridal shower.  I made Annie’s Snickers Cupcakes because a) CV loves Snickers, and b) I don’t.  There’s a lot of baking that goes on in these parts, and yes, it’s gotten to a point where I try to bake things I won’t love.  I’m sure you can figure that out.  Baking foods I don’t love means I’ll try one and move on with my life, leaving the rest of my treats for friends and family, right?

Ugh, wrong!  Despite a lifetime of passing on Snickers bars, I couldn’t get enough of these cupcakes. And my dear, sweet, lovely co-worker went so far as to call them a “revelation.”

When’s the next time you could bake up a batch?

To make 2 dozen, you will need:

For the cupcakes:

  • 1/2 C cocoa powder
  • 1/2 C hot water
  • 2 C flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 3/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 2/3 C sour cream or plain yogurt, at room temperature

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line 24 muffin tins with paper liners.  In small bowl, or measuring cup, whisk cocoa powder and hot water together till smooth.  In another bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and set aside.

In medium saucepan, melt butter.  Whisk in sugar, and stir till combined.  Remove mixture, and beat in bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment till cooled.  Mix in eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, stopping to scrape down sides as necessary.  Add vanilla and cocoa mixture till combined.  Mix in dry ingredients, adding alternately with sour cream, beating just till combined.

Fill muffin tins about 2/3 full with batter.  Bake 18-20 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.  Allow cupcakes to cool completely before filling and frosting.

For the filling:

  • 1/3 C caramel sauce
  • 20 fun size Snickers bars, chopped

Mix caramel and Snickers together in small bowl.  To fill cupcakes, cut out a cone-sized shape in the top of each cupcake.  Place a spoonful of filling in each cupcake.

For the frosting:

  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/3 C caramel sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 2 T heavy cream

Beat butter in bowl of an electric mixer on low till smooth.  Add sugar and beat till smooth.  Blend remaining ingredients and beat till smooth.  Up the speed and beat till frosting is fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  Fill pastry bag with icing and pipe in a swirl, from the outside of the cupcake, in.

Top with additional Snickers pieces, if you have them.