Sunday, February 19, 2012

Triple C Cupcakes

It has been a long, long time since I made a fun cupcake. My two cupcake cookbooks are in storage, so it was time to get creative. I dusted of my Joy of Cooking book and started with the buttermilk cake recipe and went from there.

Triple C Cupcakes
The three C's are Coconut, Chocolate chip and Creamy frosting, making this cupcake super crazy awesome. A moist chocolate chip buttermilk cake injected with melted chocolate and topped with coconut vanilla buttercream frosting makes this cupcake an irresistible treat.

Chocolate Chip Cake batter: 2 bowls
Bowl 1: Combine...
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 1/2 cups cake flour)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 cup white sugar
Pinch of salt

Bowl 2: Combine...
1 cup buttermilk
1 stick softened (not melted) butter
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 t. almond extract
2/3 cup shredded coconut (I broke this down into smaller bits in the food processor...up to you.)

Preheat the oven to 350 and line/spray 24 muffin cups.

Using a mixer (or your beefy forearms), combine the dry into the wet ingredients. Blend on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, or until the batter is smooth. Add in 1 cup of chocolate chips (I chopped 'em a little to go farther and to prevent them from dropping to the bottom of the cupcakes while baking.).  

Bake for 13 minutes. Remove them from the pan after a minute of cooling and let them continue to cool on a wire rack.

Coconut Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 1/2 sticks of softened butter (I know, Paula Dean is so loving this recipe!)
1 t. almond extract
Zest of one lemon
1 pound powdered sugar (1/2 of a medium bag)
1  cup shredded coconut

In a mixer (or using bulging aching forearms and a whisk), blend butter for a few minutes, to get it nice and fluffy. Add almond extract and zest. Slowly add sugar, little by little. After a couple of minutes of blending, add the coconut.

Chocolate Middle (1 1/2 cups chocolate chips)
Easiest step...1 1/2 cups chocolate chips in a microwave-safe dish. Heat in 30-second increments in the microwave, stirring until all chips are melted.

Assembling the cupcake (1/2 cup shredded coconut)
When the cupcakes are cool (or not hot--I'm so impatient), core out a small circle, about 1/2 inch in diameter. Spoon the melted chocolate into the small hole. Repeat in each cupcake and let chocolate cool for 5-10 minutes.

Using a teaspoon (trust me) or a fancy tiny pastry spatula, spread 2 TB worth of frosting over the top of each cupcake. 

Top with a button-sized drop of melted chocolate and a sprinkling of coconut.

Step back and gaze at how Suzy Homemaker you are! Then devour at least two (you earned it...). 

Note: In the top photo of the single cupcake, I cut the cake in half horizontally and spread a layer of melted chocolate in between layers. This was messy, TOO sweet and coring out the top was better for me. However, this is an option if you like!!

WONDER why I decided to make these? Why I would torture myself with buttery-baked happiness (and not a vegan alternative)?? Lent, my friends! I've never given up anything for Lent, so this year I'm going to cut out sweets (except for fresh fruit). 40 days of no cookies, cakes, or cinnamon rolls. Cutting out my main indulgences (except for Real Housewives) will give me time to be still and connect...and get a little healthier. Wish me luck.

Hope your week is happy, fun, and completely FULLfilling.

Happy eating!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Spiced Apples & a Happy Egg Sammie

 Happy Saturday afternoon!

Today included sleeping in and having a little brunch. Our take on the classic diner special...the egg sandwich.
Blue Plate Special!

 On this quick sandwich, we cooked to eggs over hard, added salt, pepper and a little dried cilantro. We had some organic farm cheese (tastes like mild cheddar) on hand and I added some spinach leaves for a little green. Quick and easy!

Happy Egg Sammie
makes 2 sammies
4 eggs (with or without yolks)
Dash of salt, pepper, and cilantro/basil/rosemary (pick one!)
4 slices of wheat (or your fave whole grain) bread
4 small slices of cheese
handful of spinach leaves

1. Toast the bread. Preheat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat.
2. While bread is toasting, crack the eggs in the skillet (I sprayed with Pam). Let cook until the eggs are not runny and solidify. Split eggs into 2 parts, one for each sammie. Flip over and let cook on the other side for a few minutes.
3. Assemble sammie with spinach, cheese, eggs and the top piece of toast. Enjoy!

 On the side, we needed a non-boring/healthy choice. So I cut up an apple into quarters and sprinkled:
  •  cinnamon on two pieces
  • ground ginger on one piece
  • and paprika on a piece
The verdict??
  • cinnamon--always good
  • ginger--different, but a nice flavor on the tart apples
  • paprika--okay, but smoked paprika would've been better; it's like smoky with sweet (a la barbecue sauce) 

Hope your Saturday is bright and sunny...send some sunlight to Dallas, please. :)

Happy eating!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Chocolate Chia Pudding

There are a few really perfect foods out there...margherita pizza, blueberry muffins, and vanilla ice cream. Chocolate pudding makes the cut for me, too. Creamy, not-too-sweet, chocolatey happiness. When I saw a recipe for chia pudding, about a year ago, I meant to try to make it and got distracted by life. It didn't even make my "will try to make in the future" list, and I admit that I have one of those that grows monthly. But Susan over at Fat Free Vegan posted a recipe a few weeks ago, and I knew that it was time to stop procrastinating and try it! Susan is good at making healthy (or not unhealthy) recipes for her family that are simple, classic and do-able. Thanks, Susan!

Chocolate Chia Pudding
slightly adapted from Susan at Fat Free Vegan
 makes 3-4 servings


  • 2 cups unsweetened  milk (I used vanilla almond milk--unsweetened)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 TB sucanat (or 1 1/2 TB agave syrup)
  • 6 tablespoons chia seeds
  • optional: 1/2 to 1 cup raspberries, cherries, or other fruit
  • optional: vegan or dairy whipped cream and choc chips to top


  1. Place the milk, vanilla, and cocoa into the blender and add sweetener to taste (about 2 servings worth). Blend until cocoa is completely incorporated. (You can also use a whisk, but this takes longer.)
  2. Pour milk mixture into a bowl and add the chia seeds. Stir well, making sure that all the seeds are moistened. Leave out on the counter and stir periodically (about every 15 minutes or so), breaking up any clusters that form. Allow it to stand until the pudding has thickened and all liquid has been absorbed, at least 30 minutes.
  3. Refrigerate. Just before serving, stir in fruit. Serve topped with additional fruit.
Preparation time: 5 minute(s) | Cooking (standing) time: 30 minutes

That's it! So easy. It's a texture like tapioca pudding, a bit seedy but gives you a little something to munch on, texture-wise.

Chia seeds (yes, like the ch-ch-ch-chia pet!!) are 
  • high in Omega-3 oils
  • provide soluble and insoluble fiber (balance your blood sugar)
  • are filling (ancient texts have evidence that European armies provided their soldiers with these seeds to fill their bellies on long excursions, where their feet were their modes of transportation). The seeds expand to up to 20 times their size! Note: It does not expand like bread...this is a healthy full.
  • are relatively inexpensive. I've found them in the bulk sections of grocery stores like Whole Foods and Kroger. Two cups of the stuff lasts me a couple of months and costs $2 or less.
  • are a great addition in puddings, yogurt, oatmeal, even pastas. Get creative!

I hope your weekend is full of fun or work or whatever you need to get done to relax and enjoy life! (Can you tell I have homework? ha)
Happy eating! Laurel

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

(Chocolate) Cranberry Coconut Oats

How was your Valentine's Day?

Matt made a coconut curry with shrimp...muy delicious and muy spicy! It was our first time to experiment with coconut milk (I know, where have I been?), and it turned out pretty well.

We had a little coconut milk left, so I threw it into my morning oats.

Chocolate Cranberry Coconut Oats
The base of these oats is surely the coconut aroma, along with a tangy bite from the cranberries and creamy sweetness from the chocolate. Crunchy pecans give a nutty balance to this indulgent breakfast (or dessert).  

serves one hungry lady (or guy)

1/2 cup raw oats
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
1/4 cup of chopped cranberries (dried can work, too, but reduce to 2 TB)
2 TB chocolate chips
1 TB chopped pecans

Combine the oats, milks, and cranberries on the stove or in a bowl for the microwave. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until oats have bubbled and are cooked. Add the chocolate chips and pecans and cook for 60-90 seconds. Stir and enjoy.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sam's Day

 Happy Valentine's Day!
This has long been one of my favorite days of the year. Aside from the sugar overload and the pretty pink and red decorations on every retail corner, it's a day about love.
How nice, for our society to have so much love in our hearts for each other, bursting out of our chests to share so much that we need a whole day to set aside for our year-round bliss. Right, that's it.
Well, even though we Americans like to commercialize anything sacred and meaningful, it doesn't mean we have to "Debbie Down" this holiday. I mean, we don't have an official holiday for hate, yet, true? We must be doing something right.
So, on this day of restaurant reservations and an overload of wine, flowers, and candy sales, let's just love. All day. And in every way (appropriate).
In order for me to be loving, 
...I have to take a backseat to always being the most right, the funniest, the smartest, and the most important.
...I have to remember that beautiful things come out of really horrible situations and really selfish people.
...I must be reminded of how truly good life is for me today. I have food to eat, clean clothes to wear, access to safe drinking water (and hot water for a shower), and people that believe in me.
...I must share what I have, even when I don't want to give those things up.
...I must remember that the world revolves because God created it, and it revolves around all of us, not just me.
...I need to love myself and my faults, as well as others and their crazy flaws.
Sending much love to you on this day!

 ***Today is also sweet Sam's birthday! Our pooch is five today. He's like a pre-kid, so we pre-parents are so thankful for our little spotted pup. I'm attempting homemade treats today (Why not? They're cheap and easy to make.), so I'll post the recipe if it works out. Happy B-day, Sam!***
***Lesson learned: Don't say "Happy VD Day." People will take it the wrong way.*** :)

Happy Valentine's!!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The DR

Greetings from the Caribbean!

Specifically, I'm in Santo Domingo on a mission trip. The people so far are beautiful, the water is lovely and the traffic is crazy! Well, about as crazy as Boston driving.

We've visited a lovely church in a poorer neighborhood that is fiery and energetic. And they served Coca cola to everyone after the 2-ish hour service. Can't beat that!

Then we ate McDonald's (I know, we were in a rush), and I learned that there's a Happy Meal called McQueso, which is basically a grilled cheese. Yes, please.

We visited one orphanage and played with the kids and gave them new shoes to run faster and jump higher. The boys were so loving and the staff that is there all the time is so loving and definitely adore those kids.
They sang songs for us, very spontaneously, with one boy playing guitar. These kids are all orphans, whether socially by abandonment or other abuse or physically without parents in sight. As with American orphans, everybody has a story but these kids seemed to be having a good day today.
 We took pictures of them individually and printed them there so the kids could make frames and have a photo of themselves. It's hard to believe that these kids don't have many/any pics of themselves or their housemates. I had a bit of sadness when I think of the ornaments and drawings that I brought home from preschool and elementary with a photo of me on it somewhere...I would immediately give it to my parents to hang up somewhere. Unfortunately, these kids have to hang them up near their own bed because their families aren't around.

The Director of missions in Peru (for the same non-profit I went with) was actually in town today, so she spent the day with us. She was in town to help the DR staff start an in-country foster care-to-adopt program. This will help boys like these to be placed in loving Dominican homes for a long time, hopefully. But it was hard because some of them are 14 and 16 and aren't the cutesy pics of babies you see on TV. They are still beautiful children who just need stability and someone to believe in them. Don't we all need that?

And we ate pizza...with corn on top. It was New York style but with black olives and corn and whatnot. Yum. And I had pistachio ice cream...I think it had coconut in it, too. Caribbean World Series, SuperBowl and Carnaval all in one night around central...I'm staying in tonight. But I'll probably dream in merengue music beats. It DID start in the Dominican Republic, after all. And I've gotta admit, they do it better than America, Guatemala, etc. Sorry, but the kids we've been around have instinctual rhythm. It's kind of crazy.

Goodnight and
Happy Birthday to my sweet, wonderful MOM!
Mom, I finished the 1st Stephanie Plum book, so I'll take you out for lunch & the movie for your bday as soon as I get back, promise! It was cute.

Happy eating and joyful living to you!

Friday, February 3, 2012

To Savor the Day

Good morning!

Yes, I'll admit it. I woke up at 9:30. Mmm, nice. I'm leaving with a group from my internship tomorrow to go to the Dominican Republic. I'm excited! The flight's at 7:30 in the a.m. And I'm also a little sad. I'm going to miss Matt and Sam, since this is the longest Matt and I have been apart (8 days) and certainly the first time we haven't been in the same country. But adventures make you stronger and will get us excited to see each other again. (Pathetic? Possibly.)

We had a day together yesterday and enjoyed every minute of, lounging, eating and playing with was a good day. We also tried out some fun places, too!

 Dillard's Clearance Center
We didn't really know what to expect when we pulled up to an abandoned mall (named Six Flags, ha) with a giant Dillard's attached and the only mall shop with its doors still open. But, oh Lordy, it was like a giant clearance clothes party! Technically, they have men/women/kids' clothing, shoes, and housewares, too, but who's counting? We entered through the men's clothing doors, and my dorky laughing ensued as we passed racks and racks of Dillard's markdowns...not like one rack of polos for guys but 6 long aisles. For places that lack a lot of men's clothing variety (20% of the store for men, 88% for women) :), this is the place for guys to feel important, style-wise. I kept giggling during our entire time there, referring to the "men's swim trunks room," the "women's scarves room" and the "women of the night shoe rooms." (Sorry, the last one is only inferring that ladies parading under the moon have steel ankles that can handle 8-inch stilettos.)

Cowboy Chicken
I was craving some comfort food, which I know is equivalent to "not healthy." We don't really cook this kind of food at home (mostly because I rarely buy real butter...Paula Deen has just gasped) because it's just not that great for you. But it was fun to indulge this once. Cowboy Chicken, a Dallas chain of rotisserie chicken happiness, was where we went. It was DELISH! They roast hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken, so I enjoyed it thoroughly. For $16, we got a whole rotis. chicken and two large sides. We chose twice baked potato casserole (oh, yessss) and creamed spinach (Matt adored it, very cheesy). And we went all out with a large peach cobbler on the tasted so much like my Aunt Helen's cobbler...cinnamony, soft peaches, buttery soft crust, and a brown butter/caramel top. Mm-hmm.

So now it's time to go and enjoy the day with my hubby, two days in a row! No recipes today, but I promise to put up lots of pics from the DR next week. Happy weekend and Joyful Living!