Rice Krispie Trees and a Holiday Wish

I’ve been slacking off. But, everyone else is baking up goodies this time of year and I really don’t need to be eating more sweets. I’ve decided to take the time to reflect on the year and my goals. But, I will leave you with some pretty Rice Krispie Trees and pictures from a few Holiday treats before my official hiatus until after the New Year!

First, the Krispie Treat Trees!
100_4377100_4363They’re super easy!
You’ll need the basic krispie recipe:

10oz marshmallows
1 stick butter
6 cups crisp rice cereal

Add
green food coloring
Sprinkles
Miniature Reese’s Cups
Large Star Sprinkles
Frosting or candy melts

You’ll also need a funnel. The size depends on how tall you want your trees to be, but I chose a medium sized funnel with a medium spout because I found the medium spout actually created a better point on the trees.

100_4353 I wore gloves and sprayed the inside of the funnel with a little bit of cooking spray, just to be safe.100_4354 I gathered up some of the green krispie mixture and pushed it gently into the funnel making sure there was just a little bit at the spout100_4355 I formed a flat bottom and didn’t fill the funnel all the way because I didn’t want my trees that big, but it’s up to you if you want large and full trees, then fill to the edges!100_4356 Next, I emptied out the funnel by turning it upside down on parchment. The tree should fall right out.100_4357And there you have it! But, it’s far from being a decorated tree.100_4362 I sprinkled on some small round sprinkles while the trees were still warm. If they don’t stick well, spray the trees with a bit of melted butter or water. You don’t want to spray it with a lot, just enough to get the sprinkles to stick. If you stick them right away then you shouldn’t need anything to make them adhere.100_4375 I also used large star sprinkles for the tree topper. And, unwrapped a miniature Reese’s Cup and stuck it to the bottom (like a tree trunk) with a bit of buttercream. You can also use candy melts to get the cup to stick.100_4376 100_4379I didn’t choose to do so, but if you like working with candy melts (and I don’t) then you could even melt some in a piping bag with a very small tip and use it to ‘string’ lights (sprinkles?) or “tinsel” around the trees. Once you have the basic form of the tree, the decorations are completely up to you! You can even have the little ones decorate their own trees!

I leave you with some other festive ideas:

100_4374 A snowman cupcake. Use white buttercream, white sanding sugar, sprinkles and colored frostings to make happy snowman faces. I hand placed the sprinkle mouth, but got lazy with the nose and eyes (they should be black and orange, but I didn’t have time to make lots of different colored frostings, especially when I was only making two of these as a test!)100_4373 Since most of my cupcakes domed when baked, I took advantage of the peaking tops and frosted it like a ‘tree’. The krispie treats turned out more like trees than this cupcake did, but it was still festive and tasty.100_4412 Finally, my family ALWAYS makes these sugar cookies (recipe to follow in the new year!). 100_4416 100_4428100_4430 And we wrapped up the trees individually, added some of my mom’s fudge, my Reindeer Chow, and some freebies from Chik-Fil-A and100_4423Made some cute goody bags to hand out.
100_4425

 

So- whatever you celebrate, have a happy and joyous time with friends and family!

I’m wishing a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Apple Cider Cupcakes

I’ve been waiting to share this recipe. It was featured on Weaver’s Orchard’s Blog late last week. It’s my first featured recipe and I’m so excited about it, and I just can’t stop myself from sharing it AGAIN. I’m hoping to get the opportunity to share more recipes in the future (Wonka wants my Pixy Stix Cupcake recipe once it’s perfected!). To me, it just seems to cement the fact that I’m doing the right thing. This is what I was meant to do.

Anyway- on to the recipe!

Fall means apples. Apples mean orchards. Orchards mean fresh cider. At least for me.

I had my first apple cider donut in Illinois about 12 years ago, but I’ve never forgotten them. I recently found an orchard nearby that makes them fresh daily (and let me tell you- a warm cider donut is practically heaven!). A chilly fall day is perfect for a warm cider donut and a mug of hot cider.
100_3799Yes, I grabbed a few more sweets than I planned- and I really need to recreate that Peanut Butter Cup Muffin recipe (just saying). 100_3802

I think you’ll agree that these are magical donuts. I was never a fan of cider, but coated in cinnamon sugar? How terrible can it be? I even convinced my mom to try one and she thought they were fantastic.

But, donuts can be hard work. I’m not a huge fan of rolling dough and I find it tedious to fry things. I don’t have a large supply of oil and it’s just easier to not fuss. So, apple cider cupcakes were the perfect replacement! All the taste, a moist cake…. yum.

100_4013 I topped mine with a cinnamon brown sugar buttercream and a cider reduction drizzle. In a bite sized cake. Or, you can choose the standard size cupcakes– both options are in the recipes below.

It starts simply. Butter, sugar, flour, eggs… and, of course, apple cider!

100_3995 (it obviously wasn’t the first time I used this cider).
100_3996I mixed all the dry ingredients in the bowl of my food processor. I’ve found that using cold butter, cutting it into chunks and mixing it with the other ingredients in the food processor really helps attain a smoother batter. But you can certainly use a mixer if you’d prefer.

100_3998Nice and smooth!

100_4002 100_4000

The batter tastes fantastic and baked into a beautiful moist cake. I know- I keep using the same adjectives!

100_4006I topped my cakes with brown sugar cinnamon buttercream.
And, for a bit of a cider glaze.100_4010

You could use caramel, or skip the glaze altogether, but I think it adds a bit of a decorative touch while being tasy.100_4011

I did end up sprinkling more cinnamon and sugar on top as well.

100_4031

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream 

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
(or I use half shortening and half butter)
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed (I used light, but dark is fine)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla (or to taste)
1-4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

Directions:
1) In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar.
2) Beat in the ground cinnamon and salt.
3) Beat in the powdered sugar slowly, adding the cream gradually. If frosting is too thick, add a small amount of cream until desired consistency is achieved. If frosting is not thick enough, add powdered sugar until desired consistency is achieved. Humidity plays a huge part in the frosting consistency- so you may need to add more or less liquid depending on humidity.


Apple Cider Cupcakes

Ingredients:
1 cup apple cider, room temperature
½ cup (1 stick) of butter, softened
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 pinches of nutmeg
½ teaspoon of salt
2/3 cup of white sugar
2 eggs, room temperature

Directions:
1) Preheat over to 350. Line muffin tin with liners.
2) In a medium bowl, measure out flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk to combine.
3) In a larger mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar at medium-high speed. Once light and fluffy, add eggs, one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated.
4) Reduce the speed to low and add in 1/3 of the dry (flour) mix. Slowly add ½ of the apple cider then mix until incorporated. Repeat with the flour and cider, ending with the flour mixture.
For standard size cupcakes:
5) Use an ice cream scoop (or other desired scooper) add the batter to the lined tin filling about 2/3 of the way.
6) Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
For Mini cupcakes:
5) Use a small cookie scoop to add the batter to the pan- filling 2/3 full.
6) Bake for 10 minutes at 325 until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool completely before frosting with brown sugar cinnamon buttercream. Top cupcakes with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar and cider reduction drizzle.

Cider Reduction Drizzle (optional)
1 cup of apple cider

Over medium-high heat, add one cup of cider to a saucepan and allow to boil until reduced and thickened (about 15-25 minutes). Watch carefully. The mixture will reduce to about a tablespoon or so. It will thicken greatly as the mixture cools. Allow it to cool completely before drizzling over your frosted cakes.

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

100_4179It sounds egotistical to say that I know my cupcakes taste good, but it’s true. And it hasn’t just been me telling everyone– I’ve had several people rave about my cupcakes! I guess there’s no shame in being good at something and knowing it. 🙂
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But, I can now say that I’m a prize-winning baker… it’s legit. Kind of. The artwork prize is from Leslie McCarthy (Please, please, please check out her website for more artwork!)

The weekly ladies Bible study group was holding a ‘snack’ competition. And these little guys won 100_4174“Best Sweet Snack.”100_4172

100_4182(And my kitty sure thinks I’m a winner! She’s been a fan of my buttercream for years! Besides, every time the camera comes out my little girl has to ham it up. It’s just like having a child, I’m sure of it!)

While the last weeks have been filled with more adventurous cupcakes- those with less traditional flavors, like apple cider and margarita- I decided to go back to the basics and stick with what I do best. The original. The signature.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting.100_4176

I begin with a chocolate cupcake recipe. Second to the fudgy beet cupcakes, this chocolate cupcake recipe featuring Greek yogurt is a favorite.

Even though I HATE yogurt, you can’t even taste it in this recipe. Trust me. I HATE yogurt, like I said. 😉
You’ll want to begin with 1 container of a good vanilla Greek yogurt. I used Yoplait, because that’s what I had coupons for. The 5.3oz size is all you really need.

You’ll also need your basic cupcake ingredients: sugar, egg, flour, milk (buttermilk in this case), water, baking soda, vanilla… But there’s one twist!

I used a combination of white and brown sugar. It’s unusual to have brown sugar in a cupcake recipe, but I find that it really helps balance the Greek yogurt which can be a bit sour-tasting (hence the reason I don’t like it). The added sweetness helps fool you into not even noticing that there is no oil or butter in this recipe. At least that’s what I tell myself.

I won’t try to fool you into believing that this is all healthy. I DID use my peanut butter frosting, which negates any healthy properties of the low-fat cupcakes. Or, maybe you can justify having your frosting because the cupcakes aren’t as fatty. You can always use a whipped frosting, or marshmallow frosting is you’d prefer. I just love the taste of peanut butter and chocolate.

You’ll whisk the dry ingredients with the yogurt and sugars,100_4152 Mix in an egg,some cocoa, and buttermilk100_4153 Finish off with some boiling water and you have a beautiful batter.100_4154 100_4155

The outcome is a traditional looking chocolate cupcake. Nothing extremely spectacular to look at, but it is mighty tasty.

100_4157It certainly needs frosting though!

I wanted to decorate them in a cute fall theme, so I tinted some of my peanut butter frosting a darker brown color and piped on trees using a size 2 Wilton tip. I covered the top in festive mini leaf sprinkles.
To do this, you’ll want to flatten the top of your frosting. I piped on a bit of frosting, then used a spatula dipped in warm water to smooth out the top, as so:100_4161

These particular ones didn’t get completely flat, but flat enough for the trees.100_4159

I loved just sprinkling them on top then turning the cupcake over to remove the rest of the sprinkles that didn’t fit. I wanted it to look like the leaves were falling off the trees, so the trees don’t need to be covered heavily with the sprinkles.

100_4169 100_4163

Everyone thought the trees were a cute idea, but I knew I had some frosting lovers as my audience. So, SWIRLS! 100_4180

These still look absolutely cute. But it’s basically a 1:1 ratio of cupcake to frosting, which isn’t a problem in my house!

Chocolate Greek Yogurt Cupcakes
Ingredients:

1 (5.3oz) container of Vanilla Greek Yogurt
1/2 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar (I used light brown)
1 egg
1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used a heaping 1/2 cup)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 buttermilk (I used dry buttermilk -found in the baking aisle- and mixed it with skim milk instead of water)
1 tsp vanilla (I never measure it, but since the yogurt is vanilla flavored, I didn’t use as much)
1/2 boiling water

Directions:

1-If using liquid buttermilk, measure into a measuring cup, add vanilla, and set aside. If using the dry buttermilk, combine the powder with the dry ingredients and measure out 1/2 cup of milk or water and set aside.
2-Combine sugars, egg, and yogurt in a large mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed until well combined.
3-Combine dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk together.
4-On medium speed, slowly alternate the dry and wet (buttermilk) ingredients into the bowl with the sugar/yogurt mixture. Begin and end with the dry mix and make sure it is incorporated before adding more.
5-Gently add boiling water on a low mixing speed.
6- Fill a lined cupcake pan 3/4 of the way full for mini cupcakes, 2/3 for standard cupcakes.
7- Bake at 350 for 10 minutes for the minis and 15-17 minutes for the standard or until a toothpick inserted in the middle removes clean. The cupcakes will have a moist/shiny top, so don’t let appearances fool you. These can be completely cooked but appear wet on the top.

**Note: I don’t have a recipe available for my peanut butter frosting (top secret!) but you can find many recipes online that are tasty.

Virgin/Mocktail Margarita Cupcakes

It seems like folks don’t understand the concept of “virgin” anymore. I was looking for a good non-alcoholic margarita cupcake recipe and every one of them called for tequila. Years ago a ‘virgin’ variation of a cocktail meant it did not have alcohol in it. Apparently, that’s not the case today. I suppose the word carries too much of a stigma and it was my own fault for using that word in my search! Apparently “Mocktails” is the way to go.

Whatever you choose to call them, they are delicious!

However, if you’re a cupcake purist, you may want to look away now….

Why? Because I started out using a white cake mix from a box.100_4115

I know, I know… I cringe when using a box mix too, sometimes. I’m all for using it when you’re going to be doctoring it up and personalizing it. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I made it from scratch though. I wish I had, but I was having trouble getting the measurements to be just right. So, I took the cheater’s way. Don’t hate.

Besides- I added tons of fresh citrus:100_4112And a tasty margarita mix:100_4113

And used pretty green liners:100_4119And fresh lime zest (I used more than half of one lime, but if you want a more potent flavor, add more):

100_4120100_4116I replaced the water in the recipe with the margarita mix and some fresh lime and orange juice. I love my margaritas with Grand Marnier or Triple Sec, so the orange juice acts as that flavor. One large orange will produce more than enough juice, as you really only need about an ounce (or tablespoon if you’d rather measure that way).

You’ll need the egg whites and oil called for on the box mix. And you’ll want to throw in some fresh lime zest. A tablespoon will do, I ended up using more than half of one lime, but if you like a more lime flavor, add more. If you want a lower-fat cupcakes, it’d be absolutely acceptable to use 1 12oz can of a diet lemon-lime soda. You can use that in place of the margarita mix, eggs, and oil, but still mix in some fresh lime juice and zest.100_4127

The cupcakes bake up looking like white cupcakes- but there are little flecks of the zest throughout- so don’t be fooled! Depending on the amount of zest used, these little guys can pack a sour punch!

So, I decided to top them with a lime buttercream. You can take the cheater’s way and use a store-bought can of frosting if you want. You’ll be doctoring that up with some lime juice (or the margarita mix, if you wish!) and lime zest. I had just enough leftover from the large batch that I always make. I tossed in a little leftover green frosting to tint the buttercream (or use a tiny bit of green food coloring in a fresh batch to make it a light green color, if desired!). I tend to make a large batch without using all the liquid called for so that the batch is extremely firm. This gives me the opportunity to take from the large batch and add flavors (juices, etc) without making the buttercream runny. (I’ll post that recipe below as well.)

I added lime zest and mixed it all in!100_4121 100_4122

Then, I frosted a ring around the cupcakes:100_4129

Because I wanted to use a coarse sanding sugar to rim the edges (like you would a margarita!)100_4131 100_4132 100_4130 I finished the inside off with a swirl.100_4133And even tossed some left-over zest on top.

100_4138They still looked a bit lonely, so I candied some lime wedges:100_4143 100_4147

 

Virgin Margarita Cupcakes
Ingredients:

1 box of white cake mix
1 1/4 cup good margarita mix
1 tbsp orange juice
3 egg whites
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest (and the juice of that lime)

Directions:
1- Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl, saving the zest until last. Fold in the zest.
2- Scoop into lined cupcake pan until 3/4 full.
3- Bake at 350 for 12 minutes for the minis and 23 minutes for the standard size or until a toothpick inserted removes clean
4- Allow to cool completely before frosting with Lime Buttercream.
5- Once frosted, rim the sides of the cupcake with a coarse sanding sugar to create the look of the rimmed margarita glass.
6- Garnish with a lime wedge, lime candy, lime zest, or candied lime as desired.

Lime Buttercream
Ingredients:

1 Stick of Butter softened
1lb (about 2 1/2 – 3 cups) of confectioner’s sugar
Juice and zest of one lime
Green food coloring (optional)

Directions:

1- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter.
2- Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar on a low speed. Mix it in in batches for a smoother frosting.
3- Slowly add the juice of one lime until it reaches a spreadable consistency. You may need more or less depending on how much juice your lime produces.
4- Fold in the zest.
5- Pipe onto cool cupcakes

 

Peanut Butter Kit Kat Cupcakes

Anyone still have candy from Halloween? I think it’s the perfect excuse to experiment with cupcakes, but we don’t get many trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood and I don’t have children of my own to sneak candy from- so I can’t blame anyone but myself if there is candy in the house. Occasionally, I do buy candy with the intentional purpose of cupcakes. But then I have to make the cupcakes right away or risk eating it myself. An extra bit of candy found its way into the house last year, along with some other inspirational ingredients.

So I experimented with cupcake flavors. I whipped up a batch of vanilla cupcake batter, divided it up, and added a bunch of different ingredients. Among a maple cake, a cinnamon cake, and a banana cake, I made a peanut butter lover’s. I topped it with peanut butter frosting and garnished it with a peanut butter chip. Amazing…. and, now that I knew I could add different flavors to what can be a boring vanilla cupcake, I decided to try something even more adventurous.

Thus, Peanut Butter Kit Kat cupcakes were born.

100_3889

Oh these things are a dream! A lush peanut butter cake with Kit Kat pieces and a milk chocolate truffle buttercream, topped with a mini Kit Kat. Perhaps you’re wondering what to do with all that ‘leftover’ Halloween candy? (Sorry, “leftover” candy is a foreign concept in my house. There is no such thing.)
You can pretty much chop up any candy and throw it into a cupcake batter or cookie dough. I just chose Kit Kats this time around. Afterall, I did Rolos and peanut butter cups awhile ago. Yes, I even did those Chocolate Malted Milk Balls for a cake. As for something not chocolate? Stay tuned for Pixy Stix Cupcakes.

So, a vanilla cupcake. Seems easy enough. I have a few recipes that I enjoy, and I’m still seeking an absolute favorite, but you may already have one. If not, there is no shame in whipping up a box mix to personalize. When I first began experimenting with cupcakes I didn’t have a complete arsenal of from-scratch batters, so I did rely on cake mixes, but not anymore.

The vanilla cupcake I decided to use starts with two sticks of butter:

100_38534 eggs,100_38581 cup of milk. (I use whole milk in baking.)100_3860

And a mixture of cake flour, AP (all-purpose flour) and sugar. (It also needs baking powder and a whole lot of vanilla, of course.)100_3861

This picture shows it processed together with the cold butter- thus why it looks a bit like canned cheese. It tastes so much better than canned cheese, I assure you!100_3862

So, I mixed up the batter then, because I was only making 12 cupcakes, I measured out about 5 cups worth of the vanilla batter into a separate bowl to make  it peanut butter. The remaining batter can be baked up immediately or stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days (no more than a week!).

To make the batter peanut butter, I added 1/2- 3/4 cup of peanut butter. It depends on your taste. I started with 1/2 then added some more because I wanted a strong peanut butter flavor. Because the peanut butter thickens the batter slightly, it’s crucial that you don’t overcook these.100_3863100_3864I had Reduced Fat peanut butter on hand because that’s all the store had that day (That’s what happens when they have an awesome sale on peanut butter!). A regular peanut butter would work just fine, but stick with creamy. You don’t want to have a super crunchy batter (you need to chop up Kit Kats to add yet!)100_3867I had the snack size on hand (Hooray for candy being on sale in October!) And chopped up 10 of the snack size packs. That’s 10 of the 2 stick packs in ONE bag of snack size. Or 5 of the standard-size bars (at 4 sticks each). 2 and 1/2 of the King-sized (at 8 sticks each).100_3869

I did a rough chop. You’ll want a variety of sizes, but you don’t want to go too large or too small. You want to know that the Kit Kat is in the cupcake but not bite into an entire Kit Kat.100_3872

Your batter should have a pretty even distribution of Kit Kat pieces. Next, scoop them into lined cupcake pans!100_3875

And bake. Aren’t they lovely? I shortened my bake time. 325 for 20-25 minutes should do the trick. I checked it a bit before 20 and it was still slightly underbaked so I turned off the oven and left them in there for a few more minutes. I just wanted it to bake gently and evenly. Leaving the oven on would have overbaked them in my oven. You may find that you can bake them normally (following the directions for your cupcake batter). I have an older oven and have to compensate for uneven baking.100_3877

It almost resembles a muffin- but it has a cake texture.

But it needs frosting. Badly.
I had a batch of chocolate ganache frosting and a batch of buttercream in the fridge. Normally, I’d just melt some chocolate and once it’s cool, mix it into the butterceam, but, ganache is already so similar. It has heavy cream, melted chocolate and butter already in it, so it’s halfway there anyway. The buttercream has the confectioner’s sugar that makes it a little bit sweeter and the ganache has an intense chocolate flavor. I can’t tell you what measurements I used, I just mixed it until it taste right…. probably about 1:1 ratio. 1 part buttercream to 1 part ganache.100_3882

It’s a lighter brown color than usual, but tasted fantastic. Still VERY chocolatey. So, I used my 1M piping tip and piped a ‘rose’ on top.100_3886I could have left it as is, but I can’t do that. I love having an edible decoration that gives people an idea of what flavors they’re eating. So, Kit Kat Minis to the rescue!100_3883The best part is that I don’t even have to cut these to adorn the tops of the cupcakes! They’re the perfect size for a standard cupcake! They might be a little overpowering on a mini cupcake though.100_3888The middle has flecks of Kit Kat and consists of the deliciously moist peanut buttery cake.
100_3935 And the OCD in me says that I need to make sure that the “KIT KAT” on the cupcake is facing the same way, but it’s delicious!100_3890100_3900100_3894 Yum. That makes for one happy client.

Rice Krispie Treat Pumpkins


100_3769It’s Autumn and that means Halloween, pumpkin spice everything, beautiful leaves, days at the apple orchard, cool mornings… basically everything I love about the year- expect for the pumpkin stuff. I must be the only person around that hates pumpkin. But, I despise it. You can keep your pumpkin bread, your pumpkin pie, your pumpkin cookies…. yuck. I HATE cooked apples too. At least those I’ll willingly eat raw- but the pumpkin grosses me out every time.

At least with hating strawberries, I know what traumatic experience led to my hatred. Pumpkins are innocent enough, it seems. I don’t have a fear of pumpkins, I was never forced to eat it as a kid… I just don’t like it. But, I know that others do, and if there is a need for it, I will make the treats for others- as long as I’m in a well-ventilated area. 😉

BUT- these Rice Krispie Treat Pumpkins I can get behind. There is absolutely no PUMPKIN in them. They’re just colored orange and shaped like a pumpkin. I can handle that. (I do also love the Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins- but that’s another story.) I’ve seen several recipes floating around the web, so I’m not sure who to attribute them to, but the general krispie treat recipe remains pretty much unchanged throughout many, many years of making them. You can find a basic recipe on the Rice Krispie cereal box or on the back of the marshmallow bag.

I’ve never actually shaped cereal treats before. I know that several professional cake decorators use them in some of the more extreme cakes- but I hadn’t worked with them myself. I’ve only ever mixed it up and pushed it into a pan and cut! Turns out- shaping them isn’t that much harder.

I thought I’d have to work super fast so they wouldn’t set up on me- but even slightly warm they’re pliable. Besides, one of the best reasons to make these into pumpkins? Pumpkins are often oddly shaped!

So, this recipe starts out simple– your basic Rice Krispie Treat mix- with one twist– orange food coloring!
100_3749

I cut my recipe in half, but you are more than fine if making an extra large batch for a Halloween party!

100_3747One 10oz bag of mini marshmallows, 1/2 stick of butter, 6 cups of Rice Krispies cereal

100_3754Not really anything exciting yet- until you start to melt the marshmallows. I use the stove-top method. Now, you can always add a mixture of red and yellow food coloring to get your orange color, but I just find it easier to use the Wilton gel colors. I find it also provides a more vibrant color, but it’s up to you which food color method you’d like to use. I added my coloring once the butter was melted and right before I put in my marshmallows. You could wait until after the marshmallows are melted, because it really doesn’t make much difference as long as you add it before the cereal.

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You’ll want to stir that up really well to coat all the cereal in the marshmallow mixture.

100_3757Then the fun begins! While the mixture was still hot, I donned some food-safe gloves to protect my hands from the heat to and prevent my hands from getting messy. Yes, I prefer to wear gloves when digging in with my hands into anything. It’s not only easier for clean up, but I find it far more sanitary. So, don your gloves, or don’t, and form the mixture into balls. They can be any size you want, but don’t go too large. I found a golf ball size was perfect.

100_3758I put them on parchment to set up before I inserted the stems. These ‘stems’ were made from Tootsie Rolls!

100_3746That I cut in half:

100_3745And shoved into the top of the ‘pumpkins’.

100_3760Then I mixed up some green frosting. You can use store bought green in a tube or color store bought frosting green with your food coloring. Again, I use Wilton Gels, this time in Kelly Green.

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100_3767

I used a small leaf tip- in this instance the Wilton 66.100_3761

And piped on leaves. Some ‘pumpkins’ got two, others just one. Do whatever feels right. The amount of Tootsie Rolls and frosting will all depend on the size of your pumpkins. If you make them larger, you may want to use a whole Tootsie Roll inserted into the ball.100_3775100_3776

Bottom line:

These are super easy, fun, and festive! As long as you let the mixture cool to be easier to handle- you could probably even have the kids help you out on this one!

Recipe:

Ingredients:

1/2 stick of butter
10oz marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispie Cereal (or similar brand)
Orange Food Color OR Red and yellow food color
Tootsie Rolls (halved)
Green Decorator Frosting

Directions:

1- In a large pot or large bowl, melt butter completely. Do not brown.
2- Add food coloring
3- Stir in marshmallows over medium high heat or several 30 second intervals in the microwave, being sure to stir frequently (after each 30 second interval) until all marshmallows are melted. Remove from heat.
4- Slowly add the Rice Krispie cereal into the mixture, stirring to coat completely.
5- Carefully, as the mixture will be hot, use a scoop or your hands to form the marshmallow/cereal mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball. You can go larger if you wish. Set on parchment to cool.
6- Once you’ve rolled all your balls and they’ve cooled, cut Tootsie Rolls in half to make the ‘stem’. Use 1/2 Tootsie Roll per pumpkin.
7- Pipe green frosting leaves onto the pumpkins as desired.

Vegan Beet Cupcakes with RAW Vegan “Ganache” frosting

I love chocolate. I love beets. But, much like I love pasta and I love peanut butter, it doesn’t mean that the two would make a good combination. At least, that’s what I thought. I was extremely skeptical when I saw  the Minimalist Baker post a recipe for Fudgy Beet Cupcakes. Sure, I typically prefer my beets soaked in sugar and cider vinegar, but chocolate? I don’t know.

Good thing I’m a food adventurist. I’ll try just about anything. I’m more inclined to take a chance on the sweets though. I have experimented with gluten-free brownies before and have no issues with making a dessert healthier…. as long as it doesn’t affect the flavor. There’s nothing worse than biting into a healthy treat and spitting it out because of the ‘healthy flavor’.

I’m so glad that these cupcakes don’t taste healthy. I took them to a ladies group and those ladies thought I was joking when I told them they were healthy! As women, we try to justify our sweets a lot. I’ve heard things like “chocolate is a vegetable” and “calories don’t count when you’re sharing”, so, naturally “these are healthy” fits right up there.

Only, I wasn’t kidding! When I told folks what was in them they were shocked. You can’t taste the beets! I can’t really say anything with certainty, but it’s my understanding that the beets act not only a source of sweetness, but also help the cakes stay moist. I’ve made lots of different cupcakes recipes and most call for 2 cups of sugar, even though this recipe makes about 12 cupcakes, it still only uses less than one cup of sugar.

Minimalist Baker insists that they don’t NEED frosting- and they don’t- but frosting certainly never hurt a cupcake. But I wanted to stay true to the vegan theme and make a vegan frosting. I thought it’d be pretty simple, swap out the butter in my regular buttercream recipe and use solid coconut oil or other solid vegan fat… then, I read that confectioner’s sugar isn’t necessarily vegan. Glad I looked! I certainly never would have considered it to not be vegan- it’s just sugar, right? Turns out the way it’s processed affects it heavily. I suppose I would have known that if I followed a vegan lifestyle, but I don’t, so I didn’t know that. I’m glad that I do now! Of course- if I had just needed a ‘dairy-free’ cake, then using the confectioner’s sugar and vegetable shortening wouldn’t have been an issue.

On to my adventure:

Begin with 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla Almond milk and a teaspoon of vinegar. I used a raw organic cider vinegar, but a white vinegar is acceptable to. I happen to love cider vinegar (honestly- I could drink the stuff!) for the taste, but it also has numerous healthy attributes far too numerous to list here, but it’s great.
Anyway- you want to add the teaspoon to the cup of almond milk and allow it to curdle a few minutes. I allowed mine to sit while I gathered the rest of my ingredients.

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I used whole wheat flour this time. I think I used a combination of half white and half whole when I made these the first time. I find that using ALL whole wheat flour can give the cupcake an unnecessary nutty flavor. Not a bad thing, of course, but not what I generally try to attain.

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You also need cocoa powder. The recipe calls for a scant 1/2 cup. I don’t listen. I like mine extra chocolatey. A level 1/2 cup will suit just fine and not disrupt the flavor.

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Add some sugar to that…

100_3687Stir or whisk it up!

And onto the beets! The first time I made these I actually had fresh beets around the house. This time I had to used canned beets. My favorite part of using beets? Pink fingers.

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You’ll need half a cup of a beet puree. I took a few beets and some of the liquid and whirled them up in my mini food processor. It took about three-four of the small-sized beets that were in the can. They make a very creamy puree.
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Add that into your flour/cocoa mixture.
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And don’t forget your curdled almond milk. (Essentially, you’ve just made a vegan buttermilk. So- don’t be afraid of the sound of a ‘curdled’ almond milk. It’s the same as a buttermilk.)

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Mix it all up- it’s already got a pink tint to it. 🙂100_3696

Don’t forget the oil, vanilla, baking soda, and baking powder! I used a melted coconut oil in mine. The batter is semi thick- not as runny as your typical box mix consistency.

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I had cute little Halloween themed baking cups that I decided to use- it IS October afterall. I also decided to make them into mini cupcakes, not standard.100_3706100_3707

I used my favorite scooper to make the cupcakes even. I use an ice cream scooper for the standards, and have two sizes of cookie scoops- I used the larger of the two.100_3708100_3711Fresh from the oven! And, dare I say, FLAWLESS! Perfectly puffed, rounded tops and they smell ah-maz-ing.

100_3714100_3719100_3726100_3717Yes, I took several pictures of the baked guys because they were so pretty.

One suggestion: if you make the minis- it will make 48 minis and they will bake at 325degrees for 7-9 minutes.

You COULD stop right here and serve these beauties plain, or sprinkle them with cocoa powder or a vegan confectioner’s sugar, or, you can top them with my vegan frosting!
This is a ‘ganache’-style frosting, similar to melted chocolate and heavy cream and butter, so it can’t be a true ganache, but would be the vegan alternative. It’s just as fudgy and finicky. 🙂

Step one: 1/2 cup of cocoa powder100_3685

Step Two: Raw Honey100_3700

You’ll need 1/4 cup of that100_3702Step three: 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of coconut oil. You’ll want it melted, so pop it in the microwave for no more than 30 seconds or warm gently to melting on the stovetop. (I didn’t want to get a saucepan dirty for this little bit of oil)
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You’ll mix it all together and stick it in the fridge or freezer to firm up. I had such a small amount of it that it was easier to ‘whip’ up by hand, but it still created a very rough looking frosting. I had to let it at room temperature for it to become soft enough to work with then, but putting it in the fridge helped it firm up much quicker than if I would have waited for it at room temperature.100_3728Frost your beauties!100_3734100_3735

 

The frosting was very fudgy as well, and made the cupcakes seem more decadent and evil, but the frosting is healthy too! I had more than enough frosting to frost 48 minis and still have 1/4 cup left over, so I probably could’ve used more frosting on the cakes, but I didn’t want to overpower the cupcake since that has such a wonderful fudgy flavor on its own.

I hope that you’ll enjoy these cupcakes at your next event! Please feel free to share and visit the Minimalist Baker site for the recipe and others! Again- The recipe for the cupcakes is found HERE

 

RAW Vegan “Ganache” Frosting

Ingredients:

1/4 cup of raw honey
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
1/4 plus 2 TBS of coconut oil, melted
Splash of vegan vanilla

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in a small food processor or use a hand held mixer. Once incorporated, cover and put in the fridge or freezer for about 15 minutes to firm up. Whip the cold frosting and frost cupcakes with spatula or knife.

**Coconut oil has a VERY low melting point. I’ve had coconut oil turn completely liquid during the time this past summer when our A/C broke and it reached greater than 90 degrees in the house. The frosting will melt in warm temperatures, so it is best served chilled or in a temperature controlled environment. It’s not great for sitting on a picnic table in the sun for your July 4th picnic. It’s still enjoyable and delicious, but really not pretty.