Archive | Living RSS feed for this section

Before & After: Room & Dresser Transformations

23 Feb

I found this oak dresser for $10 at a local thrift store, and spent the better half of my summer fixing it up on weekends. It was a more intense project than I anticipated, but the results were exactly what I was going for.

This inspired an extreme makeover in my room.

Enjoy!

Cheesecake-Filled Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Almost Sugar Free)

8 Feb

If you make these for a party, have a backup plan in case they don’t make it. Have a padlock on your fridge until their time comes. Trust me – you can’t trust yourself with these.

Most of the posts this week will be about no-bake cheesecake and it’s many uses. I used the same recipe across the board, and it goes a little something like this:

Vanilla Bean No Bake Cheesecake

16 oz Neufchatel cheese at room temperature
3/4 c. xylitol, erythritol, or sugar
1 1/4 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped stiff
1/2 tbsp good vanilla extract
Several drops of non-bitter stevia extract (to taste, darling)
1/2 tbsp vanilla bean paste or the insides scraped out of one vanilla bean

Cream your Neufchatel cheese and your sweetener together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream until stiff. Fold in the whipped cream to your Neufchatel cheese mixture, then add in your flavorings and more stevia to taste. Voila! You’re done with that part! This can be used for a myriad of recipes.

Now, for the strawberries. Cut the tops off of the strawberries and use a paring knife to dig out the middle of the berry.

In a bowl held over a simmering pan of water, melt together one bar of good quality dark chocolate (85% cacao content is the best; my favorite brand is Green & Black’s Organic) along with two tablespoons of butter and 10-15 drops of stevia extract.

Dip them strawberries. I used a fork in the middle of the strawberry and then just swirled it around in the chocolate, using my fingers to pull it gently off of the fork. Set them on parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Silicon baking mats, by the way, are the single best baking investment I’ve made this year.

I put the strawberries in the freezer while get ready to pipe the filling through a pastry bag. You want to make the cheesecake filling just before getting it into the strawberries, while its still soft.

Deliciousness.

Once you’re done, put them in the fridge for a few hours if you can wait that long. Otherwise – enjoy!

Cupcakes.

7 Feb

The cupcake trend has hit Idaho. Since early 2010, there has been a cupcake craze across the nation – major experimentation with the look, taste, and overall fanciness of these single serving sweets. It’s all said to have started with Magnolia Bakery in New York City, and from there it’s bounced from the coasts inward, just like every other trend. Idaho might be last, but we won’t be least. Here’s a peek into the methods behind some recent cupcake creations I’ve made recently, and a few links to interesting cupcake websites. I used box mixes for all of the cupcakes this time, since I was making almost 100 of them.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

The first cupcake I made was a devil’s food cake mix with a simple buttercream on top. The trick to making the buttercream with that little pink swirl in it is to drip a line of gel food coloring down the side of the bag you’re piping the icing from. The other part of the look I achieved was in using an extra-large pastry tip, like this one. My buttercream frosting recipe is as follows: Cream three sticks of butter, slowly add in two pounds of powdered sugar, and ad vanilla extract until you are satisfied with the deliciousness… I’d say a healthy tablespoon at least. Experimentation with the flavors of the buttercream is a lot of fun too.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

This one used a strawberry boxed cake mix, and I baked them in white snack cups. This resulted in a little bit smaller of a cupcake, which many guests appreciated. For the frosting, I used 2 bricks of cream cheese, a half stick of butter, 1 1/2 pounds of powdered sugar, and vanilla bean paste. Om nom nom.

Cherry Chip Cupcakes with Vanilla Royal Icing

After I started frosting these cupcakes, I remembered that I actually wanted them to have almond icing. Oh well. The cupcake part, again, was a box mix – the easiest way to do something like cherry chip! The royal icing is made up of three egg whites beat into a meringue, four cups of powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. I put three or four drops of red food coloring in as well. Once the frosting dried, which is only about a minute with royal icing, I brushed edible shimmer powder on the tops of the icing to create a silvery effect. You can get all of the baking cups and other special tools I’m mentioning at most craft stores, or at Amazon.com.

And last but not least, the belle of the cupcake ball…

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

I used a butter yellow cake mix for the base of the cupcake. Once cooled, I cut out the middle of the cupcake. If you wanted to get really fancy, you could use one of these. I used a paring knife. I made a simple lemon syrup ( a cup of lemon juice and a half cup of sugar, dissolved together and boiled for a couple of minutes), and drizzled this into the cupcake’s hollow center, trying to soak the cake a bit. Then, I made lemon curd (recipe to come in a later post; there’s plenty of good ones out there) and filled the centers until flush with the top of the cupcake. Last, I topped the cupcakes with meringue and popped them in the oven for 10 minutes under 35o°F heat.

By far, the best cupcake that party saw.

I hope this inspires you to have your own cupcake adventures – check out these blogs to see where I got some of my inspiration!

Cupcake Blog

Cups

Crumb

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake

4 Feb

This cake is a stanchion of truth for all those people that think healthy cooking can’t taste as good or better than conventional methods.

I adapted the recipe from Healthy Indulgences. She’s great, if you haven’t been over to her blog – I highly recommend her recipes and her way of thinking!

My cake didn’t fluff up enough to cut in half like hers did, but it did turn out super moist and with absolutely no bean flavor.

If you hadn’t guessed it… black beans are the secret ingredient.

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake

1 15oz can of organic black beans, drained
5 organic eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract – if you want variations, add an additional teaspoon of mint, almond, orange, or raspberry extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
6 tbsp butter
3/4 c. erythritol or xylitol (I used a mixture)
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, the best you can afford
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour or cocoa powder a 9 inch round pan and cut some parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan. Make sure the parchment paper is greased well if you are using it.

Put the drained beans, 3 eggs, vanilla, stevia, and salt into a blender. Blend on high speed until it is completely pureed, with no chunks. This took about 3 minutes for me, and I went a little longer to be safe… the ultimate failure point in this cake would be for someone to get a bean chunk in their slice of cake. Whisk your cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda all together in another bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and erythritol together until light & fluffy, and add the remaining eggs in one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated between each one. Add the bean mixture to the butter and egg mixture, and beat it until its well mixed. Finally, add your cocoa mixture and make sure its all mixed together well. Pour into your pan, tap the pan on the counter a few times, and stick it in your preheated oven for 40 minutes. Let the cake cool for a while after cooking, at least 10 minutes. You’ll want to let it set overnight to get rid of the bean flavor, so don’t be in too much of a hurry to do anything with it.

We’ll talk about icing tomorrow!

Allaina’s Surprise 18th Birthday/Graduation Party

2 Feb

This past weekend, we had a great surprise party for my sister, Allaina. About 50 family and friends gathered to celebrate her 18th birthday and early graduation, which called for lots and lots of cupcakes. The colors were pink, white and silver – convenient that Valentines day is right around the corner!

The dessert table was full – I spent most of the day Saturday sneakily baking about 100 cupcakes, and one “alternative” cake – Ally is into her healthy eating, so I figured I’d make a cake with secret ingredients that she wouldn’t have to feel guilty eating.

I’ll be posting the recipes for the cupcakes & cake soon – here’s a sneak preview!

A giant marshmallow & cake pop tree.

I tried to set up a Smilebooth… Jon & I were the only people that took pictures.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Strawberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cherry Chip Cupcakes with Royal Icing

“Alternative” Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake

"Alternative" Cake

Good times were had by all. Thanks to everyone for coming out to celebrate with us!