Chocolate Cupcakes and Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Having two toddlers in the house is never easy, so when they both started school I was ecstatic that I would finally get a little time off in my day. But I soon realized that their being in school meant I would be assigned a lot of work as well. Every week they have some theme or other that the parents have to scramble around trying to find things for. For example, for Community Helper Day we had to find a fireman costume for my son…which he insisted be complete with hat and hose. Their class also just had Farmer Day to help illustrate their unit learning about living on a farm. (Sadly I found out last minute about Farmer Day and all we had lying around the house were some bandanas so my poor child ended up looking more like a gangster than a farmer).


But the theme days are nothing compared to what we must do for holidays. For Valentine’s Day we had to make handmade valentines for the whole class, make sure the kids wore something pink or red to school, and make some food for their class party. I decided to make cupcakes as I could easily double the recipe and greedily put aside some for myself. Actually I found myself making cupcakes for almost every holiday and class party. Cupcakes are great as they are the perfect size for little hands and versatile so you can decorate them to fit any occasion. Valentine’s Day? Just plop some heart stickers on top. Easter? Just add a chocolate bunny and some jelly bean ”eggs.”  St. Patrick’s Day? Make some green icing! I generally choose the easiest decoration since I am more of a spontaneous (ahem last minute) person, but now with Pinterest and other cooking and baking sites the possibilities are endless! 


Unfortunately  because there is such a plethora of information online and beyond, one can go crazy trying to find the perfect cupcake and buttercream recipe. For me, I prefer a moist cake and a rich but not too sweet buttercream. I always bake with my kids so I needed something easy to make and honestly something that doesn’t take too long to prepare as I prefer to spend my time eating rather than cooking :). 

After extensive googling I found a recipe that met all my needs. It is very easy to make, and uses ingredients that I always have at home, so if I get a last minute cupcake request as I often do, there is no need to go to the store.  One really interesting thing about this recipe is that it uses no eggs or butter and still turns out amazing moist cupcakes! Apparently the recipe is decades old and was from the Great Depression when eggs and butter were too expensive to buy. But today it makes a great option for vegans. I’m sure they must be tortured souls with no butter or eggs in their pastries…I know I would be. 


I have also included a buttercream recipe to frost the cupcakes. I love it because it uses almond extract which keeps the frosting from becoming too sickly sweet. If you don’t like almond extract, use vanilla instead. If you don’t want frosting, the cupcakes taste great on their own or sprinkled with a little powdered sugar too. 

So next time you have a party or somewhere you need to bring cupcakes, instead of going into panic mode or buying ones from the store, make these. It will be a fun activity to share with your kids and even more fun to eat together.  

Chocolate Cupcakes and 
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting


Cupcakes recipe by : Simply Recipes
 CUPCAKE INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brewed coffee (or 1 cup of warm water mixed with 1 1/2 teaspoons of espresso powder or instant coffee granules)
 *NOTE: If you don’t want to use regular coffee, either use decaf or leave it out completely and use plain water instead. But coffee really makes it taste better!
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 Tablespoon (1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoon) olive oil
METHOD:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Prepare a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
2 .In a large bowl, vigorously whisk or sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt until there are no visible clumps (cocoa tends to clump up).
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the coffee (or water plus coffee granules), vinegar, vanilla extract, and olive oil.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until they just come together. The mixture should be thin and rather lumpy.
5. Ladle the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about two-thirds of the way full. Place in oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Remove from oven and let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and let cool on a rack. Once cool, you can eat plain, sprinkle with powdered sugar, or drizzle or coat with frosting.

Makes 12-14 standard sized cupcakes.
NOTE: If you want to make this a cake instead of cupcakes, double the recipe and use two 8-inch round cake pans and cook for 35-40 minutes.
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting 
Frosting recipe by: Savory Sweet Life
FROSTING INGREDIENTS:
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or ½ pound), softened (but not melted!)
3½ cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
METHOD:
1.Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn off the mixer.
2. Sift 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter.
3.Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla or almond extract, salt, and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.
Makes 3 cups.
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Lemon Muffin Recipe

I have learned that real life communication is often like that game “telephone” we used to play as kids. When you play “telephone”, one person says a phrase in the ear of the person next to him, and then that person whispers the same phrase to the next person until the very last person says the phrase out loud. It’s funny since the phrase said out loud has little resemblance to the original.

Every day I notice we all speak to each other yet the receiving end often gets a different meaning entirely, just like in the game. Just this morning, my son spent hours in class singing “Skip to my Lou” yet when he sang it back to me, said “Lou, Lou, skip to the moo”. Another example is listening to my friend from the UK who supposedly speaks perfect English, but with her accent and slang,  I have no idea what she is saying most of the time. So it was no surprise when I called to order 1kg of onions from the grocery store today, and they gave me 1 kg of lemons instead.

But rather than return them, I remembered the saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” So in the spirit of miscommunication, I changed the phrase from lemonade to lemon muffins, and luckily made a delicious misinterpretation.
Lemon Muffins

Original recipe from Cat Can Cook:

INGREDIENTS:
6 Tablespoons Butter
1 Cup White Sugar
2 Eggs
1 1/2 Cups White Flour
1/2 Cup Milk
Grated zest of 1 1/2 Lemons
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder

INGREDIENTS FOR TOPPING:
Juice of 1 1/2 Lemons
1/3 Cup White Sugar

PREPARATION:
1. Preheat oven to 400 farenheit. Grease muffin tins, set aside.
2. In a bowl, cream together butter, sugar and eggs. Add in flour, milk, lemon zest, salt and baking powder, mix well.
3. Spoon batter into the greased muffin tins, filling them 3/4 full.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.
5. Prepare topping. While muffins baking, combine the lemon juice from lemons and sugar in a bowl. Set aside. When muffins are baked, prick the tops with a fork, and drizzle topping over each muffin.
(**Do not skip this step, this glaze adds a yummy lemony punch to these muffins and makes them from good to amazing!)

Makes 12 muffins in standard muffin tin. 

Jalapeno Sweet Corn Muffins

I love jalapenos. Growing up in California, they were always around. Even as a kid I loved jalapeno poppers and jalapeno chips. During my second pregnancy, I had such a strong craving that I almost ate an entire jar of pickled jalapenos in one sitting.

I especially love how jalapenos add a little kick to many foods such as burgers, salads, or in this case sweet corn muffins. These muffins cannot be made at a bake sale and left out for hours waiting to be devoured. These muffins need to be eaten fresh out of the oven, sliced open while still steaming, and topped with a nice pat of butter. Or some fresh grated cheddar. Or both. Or eat just as is. Either way you will not be disappointed.

Jalapeno Sweet Corn Muffins



Makes about 18 muffins, Inspired by original recipe by Albers

INGREDIENTS:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2⁄3  cup granulated sugar
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups milk
2 large eggs , lightly beaten
1⁄3 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup pickled jalapeno, chopped fine (more or less to taste)

PREPARATION:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F Grease or paper-line 18 to 20 muffin cups, or a pan for cornbread.

2. Combine flour, sugar, corn meal, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.

3. Combine milk, eggs, vegetable oil, and butter in small bowl; mix well.

4. Add liquid mixture to flour mixture; stir until just blended.

5. Pour into prepared muffin cups filling 2/3 full.

6. Sprinkle chopped jalapeno pieces on top of each muffin. Remember a little goes a long way if you are using really spicy jalapenos!

7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 5 minutes, remove to wire racks to cool slightly. Serve warm and enjoy!

Spinach and Parmesan Cakes

It was around 11am today when Ry gave me the look.  The “mommy I’m hungry” look. So I proactively inquired before the “mommy I’m hungry tantrum” started.


Me: What would you like to eat?

Ry: Green.

Me: You mean like green beans? (Knowing full well he would NEVER ask for those).

Ry: No, like the color.

Ok. So he wants to eat the color green. Not too bad a request. As much as I just wanted to boil some peas and put them  in a green bowl and give him a green fork to eat them with, I decided instead to be a bit more creative. I mean, it’s not like he asked for Chartreuse or Magenta or something. Green had so many options.

I decided to go with something spinachy since it is green, healthy, and most importantly, I already had it at home.  I finally decided on spinach and parmesan cakes. I had found a version of these on Eating Well but mine are much more flavorful and spicier. The best thing about these is that they are great finger foods for kids and easy to pop in a container for a quick snack or light meal on the go.  After I made these, I did end up putting them on a green plate with a green fork and my little man was very happy.
Spinach and Parmesan Cakes


(Using a 12pc muffin tin, Makes 8 cakes if you fill up to the top, or 12 if you fill up half way)
INGREDIENTS:

·         10 – 12 ounces frozen spinach (I used about 11 cubes of the Waitrose frozen spinach), Thawed and drained
·         1/2 cup cottage cheese (low fat ok if you prefer)
·         3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
·         2 large eggs, beaten
·         2 clove garlic, minced (if you don’t love garlic as much as me, 1 large clove is ok)
·         2 tbsp minced red onion
·         Red chilli pepper flakes
·         ½ tsp cumin
·         1/4 teaspoon salt
·         1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
PREPARATION:
1.     Preheat oven to 400°F.
2.     In a medium bowl, mix thawed and drained spinach, cottage cheese, Parmesan, eggs, garlic, onion, and all spices. Stir to combine.
3.     Coat the cups of the muffin pan with cooking spray. Divide the spinach mixture among the 8 cups (they will be very full, or 12 cups half way full. (I usually do 12 since I use the smaller portions for feeding the kids).
4.     Bake the spinach cakes until set, about 20 minutes. Let stand in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and remove from pan. Serve warm, sprinkled with more Parmesan, if desired.

Banana Muffins

Oh, do you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Oh, do you know the muffin man,
That lives on Drury Lane?



My kids love that song. And I must admit it is rather catchy. Luckily it was stuck in my head as I was wondering what to do with my toddler this afternoon. 


Muffins! We will bake muffins! After trolling online through seemingly endless muffin recipes I finally found one that satisfied my holy trinity of baking recipes:  healthy, easy, and delicious! It seemed too good to be true. But these banana muffins from Cat Can Cook looked amazing! So, measuring cups in hand, we hoped to make our muffin magic.


With over 1000 positive comments on her site for this recipe, Cat was right. Not only were these moist and delicious but  they were so easy that my 3 year old practically made them by himself. What a fun and yummy afternoon of mommy-son bonding. 


Banana Muffins (makes 12 muffins) from Cat Can Cook


3 or 4 Large bananas, mashed (the more bananas the moister, so I use 4)
1/2 cup white sugar (original recipe calls for 1 cup, but I don’t like them too sweet)
1 slightly beaten egg
1/3 cup melted margarine or butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
Mix the mashed banana, sugar, egg and margarine together. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Mix wet and dry ingredients all together. Pour into greased muffin tins, and bake in 350 degrees F oven for approximately 12-18 minutes. Enjoy!