Cupcake Friday! Everyone make vanilla cupcakes – with a gazillion photos!

While bored one summer, and at the requests of several Facebook friends, I made an album on how to make cupcakes.  I hope for people who are a little freaked by the idea of baking that this post gives a clear, step by step explanation.  No, you don’t need a Kitchenaid… well you do as far as potential partners out there are concerned.  My husband knows that if I didn’t have one, I would not have the culinary ability to make him a sandwich.  Scary stuff, people!

First things first… gather the ingredients listed on the recipe card (the other column is for chocolate cupcakes – don’t worry, the ingredient list is complete), and preheat your oven.  Set the oven to 325’F on convection or regular bake setting – I personally like convection, but every oven is different.

A t is a teaspoon, a T is a tablespoon, a c is a cup, and bp is baking powder.

The reason the batter is purple in this post is because I’m using violet food colour.  I’m also using princess cake flavour for kicks (in equal amounts to the vanilla), because I saw it online and just HAD TO HAVE IT!

Line your cups before baking.  Having to nip to the store for more is annoying.

Cream butter on a medium speed until it’s nice and fluffy – then add in the sugar and whip it until pale and fluffy and awesome, like this.

Add in the eggs, with the Kitchenaid stopped, and beat, one at a time.

After adding in the eggs and vanilla (or princesses!), your batter will look like this – not so fluffy, but nice and smooth and luscious.

How I measure flour – pour spoonfuls into the scoop until overflowing, then level off.  Nice and easy.

Whisk in half the dry ingredients.  Now is the time to not overmix.  If there is a downside to Kitchenaids, it’s that you lose the feel of the cupcake batter.  Bread, too…

Don’t panic after adding in the milk.  Things will get better.

I like to finish mixing by hand for the remaining half of the dry ingredients, to avoid overmixing and ending up with dry, hard cupcakes.

A scoop.  How I get evenly sized cupcakes, and it’s faster than the two-spoon method we all learned in Home Ec all those years ago.

Here they all are, getting ready to bake in the oven.  Sneaky – do you spot the minicake for my son to decorate? 4-inch springform pan – fun!

The cupcakes will probably take 19-22 minutes or so.  You want them to spring back when you touch them, or use a toothpick that comes out dry – whatever works for you.  And don’t open the oven door!  That will deflate your cuppies.

Wait until they are completely cooled before even thinking about icing them.  Coffee, Facebook, do whatever you need to do, but leave the cupcakes alone!

Cupcake On!

 

Foodie Penpal Awesomeness!

I just love foodie pen pals!

This month, I sent goodies to Lynn and received treats from Maggie.  November has been pretty busy with report card writing, 2 trips away (1 business, 1 pleasure), and just life in general, so I’m ashamed to say that I had completely forgotten about foodie penpals the day I checked the mail and found I had a package!  Pretty sure that my awful memory made the whole experience so much brighter – and that’s saying something, as I love foodie penpals.

In this month’s sort-of-surprise package, I received some Somersaults, mini cookies with sesame seeds in them.  They’re lightly sweet and lightly salty at the same time, and perfect for snacking on.  I’ve had these only once before, and haven’t managed to find them again, so I’m trying to pace myself and let them last, being that I don’t know when I’ll see them again!

The Zevia pop was the first to disappear – that evening in a glass with some ice – very tasty, and refreshing.  It tasted quite a bit different from traditional sugary pop, which was a nice surprise.  The tea was a nice treat too, as I am trying to have tea right after eating lunch to encourage me to at least sit down and take a bit of a break in the middle of my day!

I enjoyed the quinoa bar with a friend – delicious – super crunchy, and with a sweet-savoury flavour.  I will be looking for more of these!  The body candy bar is fun – nicely moisturizing with a deelish scent 🙂

As of writing, I haven’t had a chance to try the blueberry licorice.  I’m thinking it will be good to savour slowly on an upcoming day roadtrip!

Thank you again to Maggie for the treats, and to Lindsey at www.theleangreenbean.com for organizing Foodie Pen Pals – great eats and new friends – what’s not to love about this program?

Edited: when I first drafted this post, it was well before Lindsey has requested FPP participants donate to Hurricane Sandy relief for the month of December.

pbj – for me, not my son this time – on gluten-free bread with veggies

This whole sugar-, gluten- and dairy-free thing for 2 weeks is something I didn’t really research well in terms of what I would eat for lunch.  I’m doing nicely with breakfast, snacks, and dinner, but lunch is boringly tricky, and I’m not sure why.  Interesting the challenges that come up…  I’m almost halfway through, and feeling really good, so it’s working, but a little boring for lunches.  I have a pretty epic Cupcake Friday! post for you tomorrow, so bear with me!

Peanut butter and jam (oh noes – sugar in each, but portion-controlled… yay) on gluten-free bread, with carrots, celery, and dried figs.  Just a small lunch (gluten-free loaves seem to be smaller than wheat breads) to get me through a shorter Friday.

Egg sandwich, veggies (again?) but with bonus vegan overnight oats how-to

Let’s get the usual over with 🙂  An egg, mixed with light mayo and a bit of black pepper with romaine on gluten-free bread.  I don’t like this one nearly as much as the Udi’s, but will eat it anyway.  Carrot flowers, sliced red pepper, and broccoli complete this basic but tasty bento.  Blah, blah, blah… you’ve all seen these bentos before…so…

For a bonus, here’s how to do a super-thrifty and easy breakfast bento: ooh, overnight oats!

It looks gloppy right now, but in the morning, the oats will have absorbed the milk, and it will all be delicious.

Pour into your bento (use the most leakproof one you have and keep it horizontal; even though the oats will absorb all the milk, the inside of your purse is already treacherous enough without adding bento carnage to it) the following:

  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice (I used almond today, I have used dairy and soy with success too).
  • tasty deliciousness of choice – anything except berries (fresh or frozen – too much liquid) works… nuts, seeds, cinnamon sugar, dried fruit, trail mix…

Leave in the fridge overnight.  Get to work and eat, garnering breakfast envy instead of lunch envy for a change.  That’s it.  If you would like a hot breakfast, you can microwave (container permitting) until it’s all heated through.  This is handy for those out there like me, who recognize breakfast’s awesomeness, but cannot get it down until about an hour after waking up.

Smoked tofu spring rolls

Yummy!  Spring rolls!

I can’t wait to eat this lunch.  Dairy- and gluten-free, and perfect for a cleanse.  Okay, there’s probably some sugar in the sauce (in the cupcake cup), but only a little.  I can do this.

I found a container of peanut sauce in the freezer, and I’m guessing its ingredients are something like this:

  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • sriracha to taste (I suggest 1 teaspoon to begin with…)
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar

Smoosh everything together in your magic bullet – nice and smooth – or whisk it all together in a bowl… which will still be good, but a bit thicker.

Rice paper, smoked tofu, thinly sliced peppers, grated carrots, and assorted romaine lettuce leaves are the ingredients.  I only had a few vermicelli noodles, and decided to be a good wife and put the last of them into hubby’s rolls.  I’m so nice to him.  You can put whatever you like in there, and they’re amazing with fresh cilantro, which unfortunately, I couldn’t find today.

This will be messy to eat, but I plan on drizzling the sauce over the rolls, and eating one at a time.  I also have an egg, as the meal looks tasty, but a bit low in calories.  Snack: banana.

Gluten-free egg sandwich, veggies, orange

I have to confess – even though I have awesome lunches, I haven’t been taking the best care possible of myself lately.  Partly my own fault, partly scheduling; I haven’t been to the gym in forever, and I’m not sure the yoga and scantly scheduled walks I’ve been doing at home is enough!  Breakfast has been a protein bar most mornings, and dinner has been snackish at best.

Enough, people!  So, I’m doing a cleanse to help kickstart getting back on track.  No dairy, no wheat, no sugar for two weeks, and herbal supplements morning and night to help stimulate my body’s own cleansing systems.  Yes, I believe our bodies can cleanse themselves if we look after them; I’m just giving it a bit of a boost.  Tons of water, naturally (this has never been a problem for me), and I have managed to get in real exercise 2 days in a row.  Go me!

Consequently, lunch has to change slightly for a couple of weeks (no cheese, how will I survive?).  Here I have gluten-free bread, Udi’s brand – it’s different, but quite tasty – with a sliced egg and romaine lettuce inside to make a tasty sandwich, pepper, broccoli, and an orange.  It feels silly peeling oranges ahead of time, but I have one of those batches where some aren’t good, and you can’t tell until you peel them open.  I’m not going to throw the good ones in the compost, so I’m taking it one baby orange at a time…

I checked the labels – my fave trail mix has added sugars in the cranberries, but the Taste of Nature bars are sucrose-free… that being said, they’re very sweet-tasting, so they’re probably not much better of a choice hehe.

Bet y’all can’t guess what offspring has for lunch tomorrow…

Yeppers, who’d have guessed it would be pbj?  He chose wonder bread texas toast last time we were shopping, with big thick slices, and I have to use my ‘jumbo’ bento box to fit it in there…

Cupcake Friday!

Felicitations a GSP de C-B!  (Yes, my French is terrible…)  Us GSP fans were treated to our favourite mixed martial artist’s triumphant return to the octagon last weekend.  To celebrate fight night with two of my fellow cupcake cultists and fight fans and their spouses, as well as the husband of another one (poor Maegan – she just can’t watch the fights…), I went back to the roots of the cult.  I baked cupcakes from my favourite recipe, with a bit of a twist that I’d never tried before.  There was no selling cupcakes, no taking requests, just pure unadulterated kitchen experimentation time.  I baked 12 regular-sized maple cupcakes, as maple syrup comes from the same awesome province as our MMA hero, and one mini-cupcake for Georges to sink his teeth into.  Cupcake power definitely works, as Georges successfully defended his title!

As I’m currently suffering through the NFL on TV and a husband with a man-cold who apparently needs the restorative effects of American football, I have the time to write out one of my favourite recipes, and then I’ll explain the maple syrup experiment…

Vanilla Cupcakes (adapted from the MasterChef Australia cookbook for North American ingredients)

  • Preheat oven to 350’F on convection or 325’F for ‘old-school’
  • Cream together: 1/2 cup (1 stick) room-temperature butter, 3/4 cup granulated or caster sugar until nice and fluffy and pale
  • Add in 2 eggs, 1 at a time, beating until each is incorporated and the mix is smooth.  Add in 2 tsp vanilla, and mix.
  • Add in 2/3 cup flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tbsp buttermilk powder and a pinch of salt, and mix until just incorporated – overmixing will give you little rocks instead of cuppies.
  • Add 1/2 cup water – don’t worry, it will be lumpy, so overmixing isn’t an issue, but LESS is more, people!
  • Add 2/3 cup flour – and again, careful not to overmix.
  • Scoop into 12 cupcake liners, and bake at 350’F on convection, or 325’F on regular, for 20 minutes until the tops spring back when you touch them in the centre.

* If you cannot source buttermilk powder, then you can use either 1/2 cup buttermilk or 1/2 cup milk with 1 tsp lemon juice added to sour it.  Buttermilk powder can be found online through www.vanillafoodcompany.ca (and I’m sure elsewhere, but their shipping rates within Canada/US are awesome!) or at many bulk food shops.  I use it because it’s convenient and I don’t have to worry about what to do with the other 800mL or so of buttermilk left in the carton…

For the maple cupcakes, I used the above recipe, but instead of the 1/2 cup of water, I used 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 1/4 cup water.  It gave a subtle maple flavour that really worked nicely.

To make the icing, I creamed together a total of 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup maple syrup and roughly half of a 1kg bag of icing sugar in the kitchenaid, on slow to bind without an icing sugar puff, then fast to whip and make fluffy.  I still have maple icing leftover – this makes plenty enough for generously iced cuppies and more.

Cupcake On!

 

Veggie sausage, roasted potatoes, and marinated veggies

I love roast potatoes, and they’re so easy.

  • Preheat the oven to 425’F, and place rinsed and dried baby potatoes in your favourite roasting pan – I am a bit of a Pyrex addict, so that’s my preference…
  • Pour some olive oil over them, and give the pan a shake to coat the tatoes evenly.  Then sprinkle over coarse sea salt and dried rosemary to taste, give another shake to disperse the salt evenly
  • Throw in the oven, and cook, shaking the pan every so often until they’re as brown and crunchy as you like them!  I usually use baby potatoes when roasting this way as the skins don’t stick, so making them brown and crispy is easier on a weeknight:

Today I helped my son with multiplying decimals in Math, and appreciating the detail with colouring on his poster of the UK for social studies while making dinner and lunches.  Busy stuff!

The baby potatoes are with the veggie sausage, and ketchup of all low-brow condiment treats is in the piggy.  I think the sausage could be a bit dry tomorrow due to its vegan low-fat goodness!

I have some roasted marinated portobello mushroom and red pepper with some romaine in the cold tier.  Quite the grocery splurge, but I’ll get a total of 4 bentos out of it, and being that bento is quite the adventure in recessionista frugality, a little frivolity is okay once in a while.

Japanese curry, brown basmati rice, and ketchup peppers

A monochromatic bento… Japanese-style curry (clicky) but with parsnip added in with the carrots, and diced tofu instead of edamame, brown rice with gomashio, and ketchup peppers.  I have a packet of soy sauce too, because I love that stuff.  I’m hoping that the taste will make up for the monotone colours.  I used a vegan seasoning blend on the curry to help perk it up a bit.

What, no cute container?  Nope, as the Rubbermaid Premier containers don’t stain or retain flavours from foods, which makes this the bento of choice for strong-tasting curry, and also a gentle reminder that you don’t need a cute bento box to have epic noms.

Refried beans, brown basmati rice, and salad

Not-leftovers!  I had perogies with shredded cheese for dinner (healthy!).  Therefore, I needed to think new foods for this bento.  Here’s how I do refried beans… not the most authentic method, but quick, easy, and full of goodness.  Black beans are a good source of iron, fibre, antioxidants, and protein, but you could make this with your favourite kind.  I have made this with white beans and kidney beans.  It does not work the same way with chickpeas, although they still taste nice.

  • sautee 1 small diced onion in 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil over medium-low heat until nice and soft – don’t skip this step, as there’s not a whole lot of cooking going on after this stage.
  • grate in 2 small or 1 large clove of garlic, stir it in, and sautee until nice and fragrantly garlicky.
  • Add: 1 tbsp chili powder, 2 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tbsp cumin, and 1 can of drained beans.
  • Mash the beans as best you can.  You will likely need to add water to loosen the mixture up, but try to hold off as late as possible, as the beans are harder to mash once the water is added.

You can see my refried beans are quite a bit chunkier than smooth, but I actually quite like them that way.  I’m the one in the Mexican burrito joint who can’t decide between black beans and refried, as texturally, you’re missing out if you get one or the other…

I have a little feta cheese on top of the beans.  I personally love the contrast between feta and black beans, but acknowledge that I’ve failed in a vegan bento today due to those tasty little cubes!

I have brown basmati rice under the diced yellow pepper, and a simple green salad of romaine, grape tomatoes, and halved snap pea pods (don’t they look awesome?).  Dressing is in the chick.  Just to the side, as it wouldn’t fit in the bento, is a mandarin orange.  Snack is secret, as my foodie pen pal package arrived today, and I have already want to get started on the noms before the post reveal day!