August 29, 2014

Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

I made these cupcakes to celebrate one of our friends becoming an American citizen today.  Not surprisingly, it's difficult to find red, white and blue items in August, but thankfully Amazon had everything I needed and Prime shipping got it to me quickly.

Until now I did not have a go-to vanilla cupcake recipe and was happy to find both a cupcake recipe and frosting recipe from Williams-Sonoma that I will definitely make again.

I prefer using large decorating tips when frosting cupcakes and Wilton's 1M tip is my favorite.  When using the large tips you'll need a 16-inch decorating bag and a large coupler.  All of these items are reasonably priced at places like Michael's and Jo-Ann's.


I love my Wilton Cupcake Carrier and no this post isn't sponsored by Wilton :)  The design keeps cupcakes from smashing into each other and the lid is roomy enough that I was able to leave the flag toothpicks in.  I especially enjoy sending this carrier to work with Chris, as he gets lots of comments from co-workers when he's carrying it :)

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Ingredients (makes 12 cupcakes)
    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
    • 2 eggs (1 whole egg and 1 egg white)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 3 cups powdered sugar
    • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
    • 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with liners.
    • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
    • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the egg and egg white. Then beat in the vanilla.
    • Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the milk in 2 additions, beating just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on a medium-high for 30 seconds (no longer than that, do not overbeat).
    • Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups (I use a large Oxo scoop). Bake for 20 minutes or until the cupcakes are lightly golden on top and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
    • Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Then transfer the cupcakes to the rack and let cool completely for about 1 hour.

    • In the bowl of a stand mixer, add all ingredients. Beat on low for 1 minute, then increase speed to medium and beat for 3 minutes.
    • I use a 1M tip and 16-inch decorating bag when frosting these cupcakes.

    Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma - Cupcakes / Frosting
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    August 21, 2014

    Slow Cooker Lentil Vegetable Soup

    The inspiration for this soup comes from the book Blue Moon Vegetarian which I recently read and recommend.  The author talks about lentil soup a few times, but it's not one of the recipes she shares in the book, so I came up with my own creation which both Chris and I loved.

    Slow Cooker Lentil Vegetable Soup Recipe

    If you're vegan or vegetarian and have annoying well-meaning friends who ask about your protein intake, you can tell them a cup of lentils has 50 grams of protein and a can of black beans has 25 grams, so each serving of this soup has about 12 grams of protein.

    Slow Cooker Lentil Vegetable Soup Recipe

    It's not exactly soup weather here with highs still in the low 90s, however I think soup is a great meal year-round and I'm a big fan of making meals using a slow cooker.  My 4-quart Crock-Pot was a Christmas gift in college from my grandma and it's gotten a lot of use since then.

    Slow Cooker Lentil Vegetable Soup Recipe

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 5 hours on high
    Ingredients (serves 6)

    • 1 cup green or brown lentils, rinsed
    • 2 cups chopped carrots
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped celery
    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
    • 1 teaspoon dried basil
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
    • 15 oz can black beans
    • 4 cups vegetable broth
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon black pepper


    • Stir together all ingredients (except salt and pepper) in the bowl of a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker.
    • Cover and cook on low for about 10 hours or on high for about 5 hours. Then stir in salt and pepper.
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    August 19, 2014

    Piña Colada Sorbet

    I can't believe how long it's been since I've used my ice cream maker.  I'm so glad I finally dusted it off because this piña colada sorbet recipe from the June 2011 issue of Cooking Light is fantastic!

    Don't mind the melted look of the sorbet in the photo photo below, I promise it freezes well, yet it still easy to scoop.  I find it difficult to photograph frozen treats quickly enough in the heat of the summer sun.

    When we first moved to Miami we were all about tropical drinks and determined to make a perfect piña colada.  We tried many brands of cream of coconut before finding Coco Real which I highly recommend.  We bought it a liquor store, however I've also seen it in the baking aisle at The Fresh Market.  Be sure to buy cream of coconut and not coconut cream.

    Living in a 1,000 square foot apartment has made me re-evaluate just how many kitchen items I need.  I recently ditched my juicer but my Cuisinart ice cream maker has a permanent place in my home.

    Now that it's dusted off, I'd like to use it more often.  Especially since it won't cool down here until December. Anyone have ice cream, gelato or sorbet recipe recommendations?

    Ingredients (makes 5 cups)

    • 3 cups roughly chopped fresh pineapple
    • 1 cup coconut water
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1 cup light coconut milk
    • 2/3 cup cream of coconut
    • The day before, freeze the bowl of your ice cream maker.
    • In a blender, combine the pineapple, coconut water and sugar, blending until smooth.
    • Pour blender mixture into a medium bowl, then whisk in coconut milk and cream of coconut. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
    • Pour mixture into bowl of ice cream maker, then process for 15 minutes or according to the instructions for your ice cream maker.
    • Transfer sorbet to a freezer-safe container; cover and freeze for 2 hours or until firm.

    Recipe Source: Cooking Light - June 2011
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    August 18, 2014

    Chewy Coconut Cookies

    Cookies are something I often make on an impulse, so it's ideal if recipes call for ingredients that I typically have on-hand.  My favorite type of cookie is a chewy sugar cookie but the best recipe I've found comes from America's Test Kitchen and requires cream cheese, which isn't something I normally have in the fridge.

    This basic sugar cookie recipe is equally delicious and requires no special ingredients.  Or maybe coconut isn't a staple item in your house like it is mine?  If coconut isn't your thing, mix in some nuts or M&Ms instead.

    When I made these cookies last night, I had no intent of creating a blog post.  Then I tried them and they were so good I knew I had to share the recipe.  Even Chris likes them and that's saying a lot because he is not a sweets guy.

    Chewy Coconut Cookies Recipe

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 10-12 per batch
    Ingredients (5 dozen cookies)

    • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup butter, softened
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut


    • Heat oven to 350 degrees.
    • In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
    • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla, then gradually blend in the dry ingredients and coconut.
    • Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets (I use a small Oxo scoop which holds 2 teaspoons of dough) about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.
    • Let stand on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks.
    Recipe adapted from My Baking Addiction.
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