Turtle cupcakes…easy!

As you know I’m the birthday cupcake maker at work! We had two birthdays in October. I usually let hem pick what flavor they want. They said just surprise us and use what you have on hand. So I went to the pantry and came up with turtle cupcakes! I’m a semi homemade kinda cupcake maker….I mean why do all the measuring when they do it for you right?? 😉

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rted with a devils food box cake mix and followed the instructions other than I add instant coffee to the water (this gives the chocolate a deeper flavor) and I always sub Greek yogurt for the oil. This makes them healthy right…😂

Another tip is I always use an ice cream scoop to control the size of the cupcakes. It’s a perfect amount for a nice size cupcake and it makes them relatively uniform in size!

Then I bake according to the directions. In my oven they are usually done on the low end of the bake time recommendations.

After they have baked and cooled I cut a small cone out of the center of each cupcake. This will give space to fill the cupcakes with carmel (keep the cone to replace after filling) I could make my own carmel but the stuff they pour over ice cream is pretty tasty don’t you think?? (Sorry I didn’t get pics of the last two steps as this post was an afterthought…😏)

After all the the cupcakes are filled replace the cone into the cupcake and then they are ready to frost! I used a dark chocolate buttercream (recipe below) But don’t feel bad if you decide to use ready made frosting it’s pretty tasty too!

After they are frosted I sprinkled chopped pecans and drizzled more carmel sauce over each cupcake! The girls loved these cupcakes and a few of them said they were their favorite that I have made them! Hope you give this recipe a try! If you do let me know how they turned out!!

Dark Chocolate Buttercream

Ingredients:

2 sticks salted butter

1/2 cup cocoa powder

3 to 3-1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons milk or cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  • With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy – about 2 minutes.
  • Add confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, milk, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low.
  • Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of milk if frosting is too thick.

This makes enough to frost 12-16 cupcakes.

Favorite new side dish! Grilled Romaine…

I may be late to the game but I have discovered Grilled Romaine this summer and just can't get enough of it! It's so easy, it's healthy and tastes great!

Here's the recipe!

  • Romaine heads (1 usually serves 2)
  • Olive oil
  • Cajun spice mix ( I use 'Slap ya' Mama)
  1. Slice Romaine heads lengthwise
  2. Wash and pat dry
  3. Brush with olive oil on both sides
  4. Season with spice mix or desired spices
  5. Grill cut side down until grill marks appear then flip and grill until desired tenderness

I serve mine with homemade balsamic vinaigrette and sprinkle with fat free feta cheese!

Enjoy!!

Shrimp boil packets….

Wanted to do a quick post on a really easy quick recipe that has tons of flavor! I saw this recipe on Facebook so we tried it out tonight…it was so yummy!

You will need some heavy duty foil to make the packets. I used the Reynolds Grill Non-stick foil but you could use any wide heavy duty foil and just oil, or spray with Pam. 

Ingredients: 

  • Uncooked shrimp peeled and deveined
  • Spicy link sausage (I used Oscar Meyer Selects roasted pepper& onion)
  • Potatoes
  • Corn on the cob
  • Onions
  • Chopped garlic
  • Parsley (optional)
  • Old bay spice
  • Salt 
  • Pepper
  • Lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Butter

Slice the sausage in bite size pieces, cube the potatoes, cut the corn into 1-2″ pieces 

Divide all ingredients into 3-4 packets, season, drizzle with olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and put a pat of butter in each package


Fold over and crimp the edges of the packets tight

Cook on the grill for 10 minutes or until all the ingredients are done


Serve! Can’t beat a quick, easy and tasty supper that doesn’t disappoint! Enjoy! 

Don’t squeeze please!!!

The other day I was grocery shopping and was looking at the avocados. There was another shopper looking at them also. They were on sale, so the selection wasn’t great. The other shopper proceeded to squeeze each avocado she picked up, to test if they were ripe…ugh!

I believe an avocado is like a banana or a peach, if you squeeze it you are bruising the flesh and it will lead to dark mushy areas. I personally don’t enjoy dark mushy areas on my fruit that I pay good money for! So, I took the opportunity to tell her the way I select avocados (which has rarely failed me). I learned this trick from the cooking channel years ago. 


If you are buying avocados that have already turned the usual brownish green color, the only way I know to insure they aren’t too over ripe is to flick off the remainder of the stem. 

This is the stem end that needs to be removed

If the exposed flesh is green you have an avocado that is ripe, slightly soft and creamy. Perfect! If the exposed flesh is brown, leave it! It’s over ripe and wil have dark areas inside. 

Left-green flesh under the stem, just right! Right-brown under the stem, leave it!
Perfect!

Unfortunately the other shopper didn’t heed my advice, and proceeded to squeeze every avocado she picked up, leaving bruised fruit in her wake….

A couple more tidbits I’ve learned about avocados:

  • Don’t buy all of them the same color if you aren’t planning on eating all them right away. I usually buy a couple that are suitable for eating right way and a couple that are more green to have later in the week. 
  • Green avocados will ripen on the counter nicely
  • To stop or slow the ripening put them in the refrigerator 
  • Store an unused half with the seed still in it, in the refrigerator 
  • Wrap the unused half in plastic wrap with the wrap touching as much of the exposed flesh as possible. This will cut down the amount of browning. If it’s too brown when you are ready to eat it, scrape off the brown layer and it will be nice and green underneath!

I love avocados (if you couldn’t tell 😉 I hope I have been able to make choosing the perfect avocado easier for you! Enjoy!

Happy New Year tradition…cabbage rolls!

In keeping with the superstition of eating cabbage on New Years Day we make cabbage rolls. We usually double our recipe so we have extra to put in the freezer for later! Below is the recipe I’ve adapted from one I found on southernfood.about.com

  
Cabbage Rolls

  • 12-15 Cabbage Leaves

Filling:

  • 1 pound ground turkey or lean ground beef
  • 3/4 cooked brown rice
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Sauce:

  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes 
  • 3 tablespoons sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water

Remove cabbage heart and put in microwave dish with a little water and cover. Cook on high for 10-13 minutes until leaves are pliable. 

For filling, combine ground beef, rice, onion, egg, and salt, pepper, and milk. Mix well. Place a portion into the center of each cabbage leaf. Roll leaf around filling, burrito style Place seam side down in a baking dish.

For sauce, combine tomato sauce, tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, and 1/2 cup of water; pour over the cabbage rolls.

Cover and bake in a preheated 350° oven for about 1 hour. Remove rolls with slotted spoon. Place pan juices in a saucepan over medium heat; stir cornstarch and water mixture into the sauce; bring to a boil and cook until thickened. Serve the cabbage rolls with the sauce.

***I usually always add garlic powder to the meat mixture and a little hot sauce to the sauce.  

  

 

Holiday Traditions…Christmas

Every year for the last six or seven ( we can’t remember exactly when we started😳) my cousin, sister-in-law and myself have gotten together to make candy for Christmas gifts. The last three years my daughter has joined us also! 

 We have been doing it long enough now that we kind of have it down to a science! Although over the years some of the candy we make has changed out of necessity due to dietary restrictions we still manage to make A LOT! My Sister-in-law is in charge of the candied nuts, she has done it enough that she can tell by the way they look if they are done or not! I make the carmels and help mix up whatever truffle(s) we are making.  My cousin does a lot of the ‘balling’ of the truffle filling. My daughter helps out with whatever is needed. Then once everything has been balled up and chilled we all begin the chocolate dipping. It’s not really that easy to make them pretty but after a few we usually get in a groove and do a pretty good job if I do say so myself! This year we made 200 bourbon balls, 60 peppermint patties, 100 salted caramels, 3 pounds of dark chocolate bark and 10 pounds of candied nuts. It takes all day and we only stop when the balls are chilling to have lunch. Then after its all done we celebrate with a glass of wine before we start counting up everything and dividing them up between us so we can box them up for gifts.

  

 My co- workers love when I have candy day because they always know I will be bringing in all the rejects. Those are the ones that didn’t turn out so pretty but taste just as good😉

It’s hard work but we enjoy the time together. We don’t get together as often as we’d like but are glad we continue to do this each year. It may change over time to something a little healthier but it’s more about the tradition of spending a day together and having fun! 

Holiday traditions…Thanksgiving

This evening I have been getting a few things ready for Thanksgiving. Since I have to work  all day, the day before Thanksgiving, the more I can get done beforehand the better!  We actually have two celebrations, one on the day for my husbands family which we are hosting. The other is on Sunday with my family. Each celebration has their own traditions in regards to the menu. The menu for my husbands family is traditional. I have in dish they request every year which is, Glorified Cabbage. It’s like a cheesy scalloped cabbage casserole. I was given the recipe years ago by a friends mother (thank you Sharon!) Here it is, I promise I’ll post a pic after I make it Thursday!

 
My family’s relatively new tradition is to have a vegetarian, gluten, soy, corn, peanut free, low cholesterol menu. This will be the second year for this due to dietary restrictions of a few family members. What we have at this celebration is veggies and dip, soups, salads and desserts. I know it sounds like it would be difficult to fulfill these parameters but it’s easier than you think! I make black bean sweet potato chili (Recipe courtesy of Whatsgabycooking.com) and apple crisp.

  

Here is the spread from last Thanksgiving…no one went home hungry!
 

One thing I always make at the holiday time is banana salad, it was my grandmothers recipe. Although, I have written it down on my own recipe card I still pull out my grandmothers recipe card. It’s in her handwriting and has many stains on it but I feel like when I use it she is right there in the kitchen with me.😍 It’s  not really a salad but more of a caramel pudding with bananas and peanuts. So if your a peanut butter and banana lover you should try it!   

I especially love how it says ‘butter the size of an egg’ I figure thats about 1/2 a stick?.?
 
Everyone enjoy your traditions new or old and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving! 

Fall getaway….

I took a few days off last week to get some things done but we took a couple days for a quick trip to Nashville. I had only been there once for just a few hours when I took my daughter on a college visit to Vanderbilt and Mike had never been there.  

 

So we took off early Friday with no real plan in mind.  That is really not like me, I usually have a plan and know what we are going to do and when. We decided to take a look at the Jim Beam distillery on our way since it was less than two miles from the interstate and we both needed a pit stop. 😮  

Jim Beam was more than happy to pose for a picture with us😉
  

We didnt do the full tour but did get a couple free tatses!
         

So once I did a little Christmas shopping in the gift shop we were on our way to Music City!

Again we had no real plan in mind. We aren’t real museum people so we didn’t pay for the tours at the Ryman or the Country Music Hall of Fame (maybe next time). So we went to Broadway to scope it out and had lunch at Jacks Bar-B-Que.  I highly recommend the Brisket…Yum Yum!

 After lunch we went to The Stage and set out on the balcony and listened the band. It was a gorgeous fall day and perfect for listening to good music and taking in the sights.  

We then went to check into our hotel and change to get ready for round two!  Our hotel as only a few blocks from the heart of the ‘strip’ so we walked back downtown.   

    

I thought for sure we would run into Eric Church, Blake Shelton or Jason Aldean while we were there….no such luck😏

It seems like a lot of the bars have multiple rooms and balconies all with a band playing.   

We went to several places that evening. We would walk down the sidewalk and if we heard something we liked we would go in and have a drink and listen for a while then move on. We ended up going to the Stage, Tootsies, Tin Roof, Tequila Cowboy and Full Moon Saloon. We had a great time and look forward to going back! 🎸🎤🎻.  

Pumpkin Cupcakes…Gluten Free!

At work I am the designated cupcake maker for all the birthday celebrations.  This month we had two birthdays and today was the celebration. The two birthday girls agreed on pumpkin cupcakes! We have one co-worker that has to be gluten free, so gluten free pumpkin cupcakes with maple buttercream icing was the choice.


Here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Cupcakes

  • 1 cup All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée

Preheat oven to 350

Beat eggs, sugar and pumpkin together in a large mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients and spices. Add dry mixture to wet mixture beat till combined.

Line cupcake pan with liners and fill 3/4 full.

Bake for approximately 16-18 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean) makes approximately 12 cupcakes

Maple Buttercream Icing

  • 2 sticks room temperature butter
  • 3/4 powdered sugar (more if needed to thicken)
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Combine all ingredients and beat until syrup and sugar are incorporated approximately 1 minute. Increase speed and beat for approximately 5 minutes until light and fluffy. (This works best with a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, but can be done with a hand mixer also.)

Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container.


I always wrap up an individual cupcake for the birthday girl/s.😊

What a great weekend!

Our lifelong friends, Clare and Earl, came for the weekend! It’s very seldom that when they visit do they get to spend two nights, but they did this time! It gave us time to do a lot of catching up, watch the Cubs/Cardinals games, Notre Dame football, do some crafts, have a beer tasting, go on a couple long walks, take tour of the property, and of course eat too much! 

I can’t believe they have never been out back on our property, so we loaded up in the mule and went on a ride around the woods.   

They brought a Leinenkugel fall variety pack so we decided to do a taste test. The opinions were as follows: Heart of Oak-smells like lake water but taste is smooth, Oktoberfest -smooth, slightly sweet, hint of caramel, Helles Yeah- Helles No! Hoppy and bitter,  Harvest Patch Shandy-pumpkin pie in a glass, gingery. 

 So since Oktoberfest was the favorite of the variety pack we decided to taste test the three different ones we had in our fridge. They all were similar but hands down the Sunking Oktoberfest was the winner! It has a nice caramel undertone, no hoppy bite and smooth finish!   

I taught Clare and my daughter, Molly how to make the burlap wreaths.

 And each morning Clare and I went on a 3 mile walk up and down our hilly road talking the whole time and enjoying the turning leaves and crisp autumn air.  

It was so good to see them and I can’t wait til we can get together again! One thing for sure is we will take up right where we left off, like we just saw each other yesterday!