Saturday, April 21, 2012

Raspberry Citrus Cupcakes

I. Love. To. Bake.

It's a creative outlet for me, and I get instant gratification (and a sweet treat, to boot!). Lucky for me, I have a "certified" taste tester living in my house. Being 4 years old, he has a lot of experience with all things sweet. Lucky for my figure, I am usually baking for others and I only get to try what I've made!

Recently, I had the opportunity to make three different delicious gluten free treats for my dear friend, April's baby shower. I love experimenting with new recipes and stretching my comfort zone just a bit and this was a perfect opportunity to do so. Because these were for a baby shower, and lots of people were going to be eating them, I did not let my 4 year old helper assist in the mixing; you just never know when a kiddo is going to sneeze this time of year. ;) Abbott did, however, taste the finished product and gave me his "official" thumbs up, so I happen to know that this recipe is kid-approved.

This was my first time cooking with coconut flour. Although it's very dense, I'm a fan. Coconut flour is high in fiber and protein, not to mention lending a natural sweetness to whatever you're cooking, making your sweet treat more satisfying than one made with traditional wheat flour. Almond flour is also great, giving you the same nutritional benefits as eating whole almonds. It's great for anyone who is worried about cholesterol and packs a good punch of protein and healthy fats. The use of honey in place of granulated sugar is also a bonus to this recipe, cutting back on processed sugar.

I love this recipe because it's such a light flavor and, for all the health benefits of the alternative flours, I still felt like I was eating a sweet treat! I will warn you, though, that my frosting recipe is not the healthiest, nor is it the easiest to make. It takes time and it uses a lot of butter. You could easily swap out my frosting for one of your own, but here is the reason I love this frosting in particular: The use of the egg whites and not much sugar (you could probably get away with less) makes a super light texture, while the butter gives you the indulgence of a buttercream. But, if you're looking for a low fat option, this is not the frosting for you.

I won't keep you reading any longer. Without further ado, I present my Raspberry Citrus Cupcakes.

For the cake:

1/2 c. coconut flour
1/2 c. almond flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 c. grapeseed oil (burns at a higher temperature than other oils so it's great for baking)
1/2 c. honey
zest from 1/2 lemon (I used a Meyer lemon)
zest from 1/2 lime
raspberry jam

Preheat your oven to 350. Line muffin cups with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, salt and baking soda. In a large bowl, combine eggs, oil, honey and zests. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Your batter will be thick. Fill each cup about 2/3 full and spread the top flat to avoid over-browning of the peaks. Bake 18-22 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cakes are cooled, use a small knife to cut a small hole in the middle of the cakes. Make sure your hole only goes about halfway down into the cake; you shouldn't see the bottom of the liner. Fill each cake with about 1 teaspoon of raspberry jam. Set cupcakes aside.

For the frosting:

3 egg whites
3/4 c. sugar (Use raw sugar for a more intense, slightly darker flavor)
2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 16 pieces
zest from 1/2 lemon
zest from 1/2 lime

In a heatproof bowl, combine egg whites and sugar. Place bowl over, but not touching, simmering (not boiling) water. Stir mixture constantly until it reaches 160 degrees. Remove from heat. Using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat mixture until it cools to room temperature and forms stiff peaks. Add butter, 1-2 pieces at a time, allowing time for the butter to incorporate after each addition. Once all the butter is incorporated, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add in the zests. Mix until combined. Frost cupcakes and enjoy!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Soup Experiment

I spent a lazy, rainy Saturday morning on the couch today. Whenever I get to spend a self-indulgent day like that, I usually watch Food Network. It makes me feel somewhat productive because I feel like I am at least learning something while sitting on my rear. :)

This morning I caught one episode of the Pioneer Woman's show. It's all about her ranch life, cooking and home-schooling, the only aspect to which I can relate is cooking, but it was a fun watch. In this episode, she made a broccoli cheddar soup and served it to her "hungry scientists" in a bread bowl. I won't lie, I LOVE bread and all things related to it. I also LOVE soups made with whole milk, cream, butter and cheese, the way she made this one. Being in my last weeks of pregnancy, and on a carb restriction (and just feeling plain guilty about the amount of weight I have gained!), I decided to make my own, lighter version of this soup and serve it in a *regular* bowl.

My ingredient list came from what I had lying around in the fridge and pantry:

1 tbsp unsalted butter (use oil if you want to go dairy-free on this)
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced
scant 1 tbsp all purpose flour*
4 cups plain almond milk (less carbs, more calcium, more protein than regular milk)
salt and pepper to taste
fresh ground nutmeg, approximately 1/2 tsp
3 broccoli heads, florets cut and rinsed
2 whole carrots, peeled and diced

I began with melting my butter in a medium soup pot. I sauteed the onions, garlic and bell peppers in the butter until softened. Sprinkle in the flour and allow to cook for a minute or two. Pour in the almond milk and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Bring mixture to a boil before adding broccoli and carrots. You should have a pot full of vegetables and just enough liquid to barely cover them.

Simmer, covered, for approximately 20 minutes over medium-low heat until vegetables are tender.

When your veggies are tender, remove your soup pot from the heat and use an immersion blender (or if you're a member of my family, use your boat motor) to blend together your mixture right there in the pot. What I love about making pureed soups is that you can leave some chunks if you want or blend it until it's completely smooth. I blended mine until it was completely smooth.

Your soup is now ready to serve! I topped mine with a handful of shredded mozzarella for some extra protein and flavor.

*I tried out the flour to see if it would thicken the soup up a bit. While it was cooking, I wasn't sure that it did any good, but once I blended it all together, the soup was plenty thick. I'm not sure if that was because of the flour or because of the amount of vegetables that are in it. If any of you try this without flour, let me know how it goes! I imagine you could leave this out to eliminate gluten and it would be just as good.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Green Machine Smoothies

Abbott and I both came down with some kind of awful virus the day after Christmas. Our symptoms were not even close to the same except for in one area: eating just didn't sound good. In an effort to quickly and easily get some much needed nutrition into our systems, we made smoothies. Smoothies are really great for times of illness because, in my experience, it's much easier to drink something than eat anything when you're sick. Why "Green Machine" you ask? Well the "green" comes from the raw spinach included in the recipe and "machine" because that appeals to a certain little 3 (and a half) year old boy ... and maybe because it rhymes and I'm silly like that, too. OK so here we go:

Green Machine Smoothies (dairy and gluten free)


A variety of fresh fruits (I used about 1/4 cup blueberries, 1 medium sized kiwi, 1 whole banana, and about 1/2 cup strawberry halves).

Did you know that blueberries, kiwi and strawberries are Vitamin C powerhouses? Vitamin C is depleted from our systems when we are fighting illness AND is a natural antihistamine. Bananas are rich in potassium, which can improve muscle, nerve and digestive function.

1/2 to 1 cup of raw spinach

1 cup of spinach delivers 56% of your RDA of Vitamin A, which is a natural immune booster. It is also a good source of zinc, which improves cell function and immune function.

About 4 oz. of orange juice AND 3-4 oz. of pure pressed carrot juice. Kroger has "lite" mandarin oranges in the can, meaning they are stored in unsweetened orange juice rather than in light or heavy syrup. I just reserve the juice from the can for this step. Truly, the amount of liquid you use is based on your preference for thickness, play with this a bit until you find your happy place. :)

We all know that OJ is great at providing vitamin C in times of illness, but did you know that carrot juice is a powerhouse, as well? Carrot juice is packed with vitamins E, A, C, K and B6, which is a brain booster AND helps to combat nausea!

Abbott loves to help when I cook so I let him add all the ingredients once they've been prepared/measured. In my experience, the things he gets to help with are the things he is most excited to try!

We added about 6 oz. of natural apple juice to thin it out a bit.

Pack all those ingredients in there tightly.

Put the lid on, turn that blender on and watch the colors fly. After blending, Abbott and I tasted it and we decided it needed to be a little sweeter. Normally, I would have added some agave nectar or honey, but we were out of BOTH! I added a few teaspoons of raw sugar and that did the trick.

The spinach turns the smoothie bright green, a color some kids might think is cool to drink, others might be terrified to try it. You can always leave the spinach out until they're ready to try it. This recipe made enough smoothie to fill a 16 oz. glass (Abbott drank on it all day) and fill an entire 12 oz. mason jar, plus a little extra so you may want to scale the recipe down for one person. Also, with there being no dairy in this, it doesn't separate and get all nasty like other smoothies can. Abbott's cup lasted him all day, going in and out of the fridge and I never once had to stir it or worry about something spoiling.

Variations and suggestions:

Try just spinach, a banana, a scoop of peanut butter, some almond milk and a little cinnamon and you've got a protein packed green smoothie. This is one of my favorites for breakfast.

Frozen peaches, strawberries and blueberries work well, too, if they are blended while frozen.

Stay away from fruits with lots of seeds like blackberries, raspberries and pomegranates; use the juice alternative to those fruits instead.

I hope you enjoy! :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Little Valentine's Treats

I teach preschool, and you can't have a holiday like Valentine's Day without a great party! I found these great little individual cupcake boxes at JoAnn and ended up making them each a cupcake Valentine... strawberry, of course :)

Fun times in Pre-K!

Sunday, February 20, 2011


As Abbott puts it: "Running is fun, Mommy!"

I agree, buddy boy. :)