Father’s Day AND Day of Birth Celebration! Strawberry and Chocolate Chip Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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I know it has been a longgggg time, but I have been a very busy lady! I have been nannying for a lovely family during the day, and getting my butt kicked by P90x/Insanity at night. I have still managed to continue baking, but I just haven’t had the time for new posts.

But alas, I HAD to post today. Today has been a wonderful day. I woke up to some great news: the woman that I work for delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl! That in itself is a reason to bake. On top of that, it is also Father’s Day! I have always been a daddy’s girl, and I decided to spend the day with him. We went to the driving range (my arms are ACHING), and on the way back we stopped at Wawa for some refreshing frozen iced teas.

Anyways, since I was in SUCH a good mood, I decided to bake some cupcakes. For those who do not know me well: I HATE baking cupcakes. Making the cupcake itself is a hassle; all of that pouring and mixing is a pain in the butt. And then on top of THAT you have to make frosting. Me and the piping bag are arch enemies. But since I had the time, I decided to give it a shot.

I wanted to make something that the family I work for would enjoy. I settled for a strawberry chocolate chip vanilla cupcake. The girls LOVE strawberries, and enjoy chocolate (what child doesn’t??). I topped them off with a vanilla buttercream frosting with some pink food coloring to celebrate the baby’s arrival.

Here’s the thing: I was feeling a little lazy. As stated above, my arms were aching from the driving range, and I didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen, away from my dad. So I did something unheard of: I used a BOX MIX for the cupcakes.

Before you exit out of this tab, give me a chance to explain! I didn’t prepare the cupcakes with the directions on the box. I did something much, MUCH better. I found a link a while back on good ol’ Pinterest that described a way to prepare cupcakes with a box mix that made them taste homemade. It caught my attention and I am glad that I saved the link, because you CAN NOT tell that these came from a box mix.

My dad said that these are “the most amazing cupcakes that he has ever had”.  They are moist, soft, and filled with flavor. Once the sweetness of the berries wears off, you start to taste the rich milk chocolate chips. The vanilla frosting is perfect. I am not a humongous fan of frosting. *Gasp* I know, it is pretty strange. But I find this frosting to have the perfect amount of sweetness; it satisfies your sweet tooth without making you diabetic.

For the Cupcakes:

Ingredients

  • Vanilla Cake Mix (you want a good quality one! Either Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted ( do not use margarine)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 large strawberries, chopped
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Melt the butter in a microwave.
  3. In a large bowl, add the cake mix, eggs, and water to the butter.
  4. Mix on low for a minute, and then on high for a minute. You will already see a difference: the batter is thick and creamy, as opposed to thin and watery when prepared with the box’s instructions.
  5. Add the strawberries and chocolate chips, mix them in throughout the batter.
  6. Fill 24 cupcake wells with paper liners. Evenly distribute the batter. I find that using an ice cream scoop uses the perfect amount of batter, and also makes the cupcakes look nice and equal. It also is SO much quicker, and less messy!
  7. Put them in the oven for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For The Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (Adapted Slightly From Food Network)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tbsp milk
  • Food coloring (optional)
  1. In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
  2. Add vanilla and milk and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more milk if needed for spreading consistency.
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Carrot Cake Oatmeal Cookies to Celebrate Spring!

 

Although there have been a few questionable days weather wise, I think it is safe to say that spring is here! As I type this, I hear birds chirping and a light breeze is blowing in through the window.

I personally love spring- it isn’t too hot, nor is it cold. I don’t last long in the summer; I sit outside for ten-ish minutes and I burn. During the spring I can enjoy the fresh air without the fear of developing melanoma. But what I like most about spring are the desserts! Specifically carrot cake. I LOVE carrot cake. So when my mother (who is a paraprofessional) told me that they were throwing a little bridal party for a teacher at her school, I took advantage of the occasion and decided to try this recipe.

If you read my last post, you would know that I am now a summer nanny! This is my second year nannying during the summer, and I absolutely adore the two (soon to be three!) girls that I watch. The job can be tiring, though; I have been working early hours (which is absolutely fine!) but now I don’t have as much energy, time, or desire to bake after work.

This recipe solves my problems! It is simple, quick and truly one of the BEST things that I have ever baked. I brought some in for the children that I watch, and both of them gobbled it up- even the picky two year old! My mom brought them in to school today and multiple people asked for the recipe (of course I just told her the URL for my blog…nothing like a little free PR 😛 ) The best part of this recipe? It is made with a box mix. But trust me, NO ONE can tell.

The cookie itself is light, soft and filled with flavor. The frosting is rich, sweet (but not overly so!), and is the perfect way to top off this delectable little creation.

Allergic to walnuts? They are totally unnecessary! Don’t want frosting? You can stir the walnuts right into the batter. If you want to change it up a little bit, you can also add in some raisins or chocolate chips. This recipe would be absolutely perfect for a mother’s day brunch or dessert.

Now tell me, what is your favorite spring recipe?

This recipe is from Betty Crocker.

Ingredients

Cookies:

  • One box or pouch of oatmeal cookie mix
  • 1/2 cup of butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots (about 2-4 carrots)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg

Frosting:

  • 4 oz (half of 8 oz package) cream cheese, softened*
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup walnuts

* I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese, and the cookies turned out delicious. It is a great way to cut out a few calories!

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl (or standing mixer), stir cookie ingredients until stiff dough forms.
  2. On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart.
  3. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  4. In small bowl, mix cream cheese, 1 tablespoon butter, the vanilla and powdered sugar with spoon until smooth. Spread frosting over cookies. Sprinkle with nuts. Store tightly covered in refrigerator.

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

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I’m baaccckkkkk! The semester ended last week, which means three things to me. One, my brain can turn to mush. Two, I am unfortunately separated from Nicholas and limited to only weekend visits. And three, limitless time for baking!

Well, not really limitless time- I am a summer nanny. Today I found out that the 2-year old that I watch, Claire, would be attending a play group tomorrow. What a perfect excuse for me to get back in the kitchen! I didn’t want to make something too rich or sweet; essentially I didn’t want the parents to hate me for making their children bounce of the walls.

I decided to utilize this recipe for the occasion. The cookie is sweet, but not too sweet. Most children LOVE strawberries, and parents do too, since it is a simple way to get a child to eat a serving of fruit. They are SO light and airy; they pretty much melt in your mouth. They taste very much like a little mini scone. The best part? There are only 68 calories per cookie! So you can eat  A LOT without feeling guilty or weighed down.

I am planning on giving these to the children for breakfast tomorrow morning. They are light, healthy, and perfectly portioned for their little tummies.

This recipe is from none other than Martha Stewart herself!

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream (if you don’t have heavy cream on hand, don’t worry! I used this simple alternative and the cookies came out perfect.)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining granulated sugar in a large bowl.
  2.  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or rub in with your fingers, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (I simply used my KitchenAid Mixer for this step…it made things a lot easier!) Stir in cream until dough starts to come together, then stir in strawberry mixture.
  3. Use a tablespoon to drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing evenly apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown.

FlufferNutter Brownies

Having a smell-o-puter would really come in handy now...

I didn’t know it could get any better. After devouring MANY slutty brownies, I didn’t know that I could create an even more delicious brownie, until today.

Recently, I had tried my first fluffernutter sandwich. I know, shocking, but my mother would never buy it for me claiming that it would “rot my teeth”.  I can not disagree with the fact that marshmallow fluff is probably at least 50% sugar, but it was delicious. The combination of the creamy peanut butter with the sweet marshmallow captured my heart at first bite. So, when I stumbled upon this recipe, I KNEW I had to try it.

It is an extremely easy box mix recipe. For a college student pressed for time, it is a perfect treat to make. I wish that it was more difficult to make because I will be tempted to make this on a weekly basis. According to myfitnesspal, each brownie (out of twenty total) is approximately 258 calories which isn’t THAT bad…right??? :X

I got this recipe off of BruCrew Life.

Ingredients:

  • 1 brownie mix
  • 2/3 c. oil
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 bag peanut butter eggs (or cups)
  • 1 c. marshmallow fluff
  1. Spray a 9×13 pan with baking spray and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350* In a large mixing bowl combine the brownie mix, oil, water, and eggs. Beat until just combined.
  2. Spread half the brownie batter in the bottom of the prepared pan. Lay the peanut butter eggs on top of the batter. Drop spoonfuls of marshmallow fluff around each egg. Top with the rest of the brownie batter. Spread the batter completely over all the marshmallow fluff swirling slightly.
  3. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool completely before cutting into the brownies.

Easy Peasy (and DELICIOUS) Grilled Salmon

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It has been AGES since I have posted on the blog. I have been tied down with a ton of school work, and every week I manage to find myself a new source of stress.

As of late in the kitchen, I have been doing more cooking than baking; I want to improve my skills and impress my man! When making dinner, I affectionately call my boyfriend “Gordon” (as in Ramsey) since he is relatively harsh on my cooking skills. I appreciate the honesty and the critiques, but it hurts :(. After a few MANY kitchen fails, I finally managed to make a dish that Gordon rated as an A+.

For a novice chef, this recipe is incredibly simple, yet amazingly delicious. With bikini season around the corner, I have been trying to eat healthier. This dish is healthy, yet doesn’t have the stereotypical bland taste associated with healthy meals. All you have to do is marinade the salmon for at least two hours, and throw it on a grill for a few minutes.

Since I live in an apartment, I own a George Foreman grill. The salmon only took THREE minutes to grill! Does it get any quicker than that??

I modified this recipe from Allrecipes to cut out even more calories!

Ingredients:

  • two salmon filets, about 1/2 a pound each
  • garlic powder to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  1. Season salmon filets with salt and garlic powder.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, water, and olive oil until sugar is dissolved. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag with the soy sauce mixture, seal, and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
  3. Preheat grill for medium heat. On my George Foreman, I always put the heat all the way up to three.
  4. Lightly oil grill grate. Place salmon on the preheated grill, skin side down, and discard marinade. Cook salmon for 6 to 8 minutes per side (or 3-4 minutes total on the George Foreman), or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Red Velvet Rice Krispies – A Quick, Easy Last Minute Valentine’s Treat!

A festive spin on an old classic.

Yes, I know, two posts in one day. What can I say? I’m on a roll.

Being a baker while at school is difficult. I SHOULD be spending my time studying and working, but I just can’t help but bake! Sometimes, though, I have no choice but to spend the majority of my time focusing on my studies, this is where this awesome recipe comes in.

As everyone and their mothers (hopefully) know, tomorrow is Valentine’s day. As mentioned in my  last post, it is tough to get baking done for a holiday mid week. Whether you are working, studying, or busy being a mom, there are other more pressing things to deal with besides baking.

For those of us who have had no time up until the last minute to bake ,this recipe is perfect. It takes less than twenty minutes, start to finish, to produce these delicious creations. They are simple and quick to make, yet unique, delicious, and not so horrible for your waist line (or at least that is what I like to tell myself! :P).

So if you STILL don’t have anything made for tomorrow, or if you want to munch on some yummy snacks to get through the pain of tomorrow (I don’t judge!),  run to the supermarket really quick and make yourself a batch!

Adapted VERY slightly from Foodbeast

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) bag mini marshmallows
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup red velvet cake mix (you can decrease to 1/4 for milder flavor, or increase to 3/4 for more cake flavor)
  • 6 cups Cocoa Rice Krispies cereal
  • Chocolate Candy Coating or Chocolate Chips (The original calls for vanilla candy coating or white chocolate chips, but I have always been a chocolate kind of gal 🙂 )

1. Line a 9×13-inch pan with parchment paper and coat well with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add marshmallows, cake mix, and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Fold in the cereal until well coated.

3. Transfer sticky cereal mixture to the prepared pan, pressing down until the top is level.

4. Once cooled, drizzle with melted candy coating or chocolate top. Once set, cut into bars and serve.

***Some tips!***

Don’t press down too much on your treats; doing this will make them harder.

Also, use a new bag of mini marshmallows. Previous opened packages often affect the overall outcome of rice krispie treats.

Chocolate Chip Coffee Muffins= Love!

Your whole breakfast in a muffin!

I’ve never been a humongous fan of Valentine’s day; I just don’t understand the purpose. I care for Nicholas every most days, so why does there need to be a day special day to declare my love? I have always thought that this holiday was just a simple ploy by Hallmark and Florists nationwide to boost their economies :P.

Even though I am not a fan, Valentine’s day is a great opportunity for me to do some baking! Being that this year is on a Tuesday, it makes it difficult for me (and many others) to prepare something special. Nick has classes and labs all day, other people work. This is why I believe this muffin is PERFECT for Valentine’s day: it is a great grab-and-go breakfast for your significant other (or just for yourself…I don’t judge!).

For those that do not know me, I HATE waking up in the morning. In fact, I wake up as LATE as I possibly can before class just to get an extra ten or fifteen minutes of shut eye. This leaves me barely enough time to eat breakfast; usually I find myself eating a cereal bar (on a good day!).

Not only does this muffin provide a filling, quick, on-the-go breakfast, but it also contains one of the best morning beverages: coffee. Nick LOVED these muffins! The taste of coffee is definitely there, but not too powerful. And just when you start noticing the coffee flavor, you get a nice taste of chocolate. Chocolate AND coffee in a muffin…does it get any better?! Being that there is only 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in the recipe, the chocolate is not overwhelming, but rather the perfect amount for you to devour in the morning without feeling guilty!

This recipe is slightly modified from Myrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup skim milk (the original calls for whole…it doesn’t matter what type you use, I just like to save on calories when possible!)
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 2/3 cup sugar plus 3 teaspoons sugar (to be used later)
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. 2. Combine first 5 ingredients.
  3. 3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 2/3 cup sugar, the chocolate chips, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Make a well in center of flour mixture. Add milk mixture to flour mixture; stir just until moist.
  4. 4. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle each muffin with 1/4 tsp sugar; this gives it a nice, crisp exterior while adding some sweetness :).  Bake at 400° for 13 minutes or until done. Remove muffins from pan immediately; place on a wire rack

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