Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

Yes friends, you read the title correctly: lemon blueberry cupcakes. Now, maybe I am the only person who wasn’t already on board the “lemon and blueberry are awesome together” train. That is entirely possible, especially since I don’t particularly love lemon OR blueberry on their own, but when I saw this recipe I really wanted to try it. Then I mentioned it to my grandma and it was decided that I would bake these for the next family get together, which happened to be to celebrate my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary.

I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to be married to someone for 50 years. I’ve only been married a little over two years, so what do I know? Well, I know that my grandparents are amazing people, and I am incredibly lucky that I have them in my life.

I also know these cupcakes were delicious. 🙂

Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

Ingredients

For the Cake

One box yellow cake mix
4 eggs
The amount of oil called for on the cake box
Buttermilk (to sub in for water)
Container of blueberries (The amount of blueberries you need will depend on how many you want to put in the batter and whether or not you plan on using them on top of the cupcakes as decoration as well)

For the Icing
1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Blueberries to garnish

1) Mix the cake as directed on the box EXCEPT: sub in buttermilk for the amount of water, and add an extra egg. The box should call for three eggs, that means you need four.

2) Add as many blueberries as you like to the batter, and stir to mix in.

3) Pour the batter into cupcake liners and bake as directed.

4) Once the cupcakes have baked, set them aside to cool.

5) Now the icing: Place cream cheese, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a bowl (I used my stand mixer) Beat at a medium speed just until blended.

6) Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing until incorporated.

7) Stir in juice and mix well.

8) Frost cupcakes and garnish with extra blueberries. Store cupcakes in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Adapted from THIS recipe.

You can, of course, make the cake from scratch, but honestly, subbing in buttermilk in a box cake is so much easier and faster, and I have gotten tons of compliments when I’ve done this. People almost always think the cake is homemade.

I really did try to make the icing as directed in the original recipe, but for some reason it would NOT set up. I ended up picking up some store bought lemon icing (I know, I know) and that saved the day.

In all honesty, this is one of my new favorite desserts. It’s light and summery. The lemon isn’t overpowering and the blueberry is a perfect compliment. Plus the cupcakes are gorgeous! Want more proof?

You should definitely make these for your next summer cookout! I promise they will be a hit!

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Cherry Banana Smoothies

I love smoothies. When I went to St. Joe they had this little place on campus where you could get the most delicious smoothies in all kinds of different flavors. I miss that place.

I’ve never really tried to make smoothies at home before because they just seemed like an inconvenience. But I was bored the other day and I had some frozen fruit to use up, so I gave it a shot.

The first smoothie I made was a combo of yogurt, milk, strawberries, melon, spinach, and some other random frozen fruit. It was okay, but not amazing.

The second time, I kept it simple and came up with this:

Cherry Banana Smoothies

Ingredients:

Frozen cherries
1 ripe banana
milk

There are no measurements because I honestly just threw everything into a blender until it looked like it would be enough for two people. I guess I did manage to eyeball it pretty well since it made just enough for both me and Chad to have a small glass. And it was delicious.

I like this version much better than the first (which is why I’m not posting the first). I don’t love yogurt in smoothies, so maybe that was the issue. The spinach in the first one was fine, you couldn’t even tell it was there, so add that in if you want!

Grasshopper Bars

I love cookbooks. Any and all cookbooks. Even if I never make a recipe out of them, I love just reading them. I have several older cookbooks that I’ve gotten from relatives, some were my grandma’s, and they are all so interesting. Especially church cookbooks. For some reason that I cannot explain, I am fascinated by recipes that our grandparents and great grandparents grew up on.

Because of my fascination with these kinds of recipes, Baked Explorations is my new favorite cookbook. The authors take a look at good, old fashioned desserts-the good, the bad, and the ugly. They adapted their favorites, but kept them simple and classic. There are a few that I recognized (monkey bread!!) and some I had never heard of.  They even have 2 (yes, TWO!) recipes for whoopie pies. The whole book is amazing.

I saw the picture for this recipe and had to make them immediately. I am so glad I did. They were time consuming, but if you love mint, you will adore these brownies.

Grasshopper Bars

For the Brownie Base:

3/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp dark unsweetened cocoa powder
5 oz dark chocolate (60-72%), chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into 1 inch cubes
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

1) Preheat the oven to 325.

2) Grease the sides and bottom of a glass or light-colored metal 9×13 inch pan.  Line the bottom with a sheet of parchment paper and butter the parchment.

3) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder.

4) Place the chocolate and the butter in the bowl of a double boiler. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and combined.

5) Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add both sugars.  Whisk the sugars until completely combined.  Remove the bowl from the pan.  At this point the mixture should be at room temperature. If it isn’t, allow to cool to room temp before continuing.

6) Add three eggs to the chocolate/butter mixture and whisk until just combined.  Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter or your brownies will be cakey.

7) Sprinkle the flour/cocoa/salt mix over the chocolate.  Using a spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the wet until there is just a trace amount of the flour/cocoa mix visible.

8 ) Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with an offset spatula, and bake for approximately 13-18 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. The brownies should be just a tad underdone (about 1 minute from being cooked completely).  A toothpick inserted in the brownies at an angle should yield a few loose crumbs.  Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan while you make the creme de menthe filling.

For the Buttercream

3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
3/4 cup milk (I used 2% instead of whole, it was fine)
2 tbsp heavy cream
1 1/2 stick butter, softened but still cool, cut into small cubes
3 tbsp creme de menthe (prepare to learn how to make the Grasshopper cocktail to use up the rest of the bottle)
1 tsp peppermint extract

1) In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together.  Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, 5-7 minutes.

2) Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on high until cool.  Reduce the speed to low and add the butter and mix until thoroughly incorporated. increase the speed to medium-high and beat until filling is light and fluffy. This will take a while, 10-15 minutes.

3) Add the creme de menthe and peppermint extract and mix until combined. If the filling is too soft, chill slightly in the refrigerator and then mix again until it is the proper consistency.  If the filling is too firm, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and re-mix to proper consistency.  Spread the filling evenly across the top of the brownie layer and place the pan in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes while you make the chocolate glaze topping.

For the Chocolate Glaze

6 oz dark chocolate (60-72%) coarsely chopped
1 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes

1) Utilizing a double boiler, combine the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter.  Cook, stirring with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is completely smooth.  Remove the bowl from the pan and stir vigorously for 1 minute to release excess heat.

2) Pour the mixture over the chilled creme de menthe layer and use an offset spatula to spread it into an even layer.  Place the pan back in the refrigerator and allow glaze to harden.

3) Remove the pan from the fridge, wait about 15 minutes for the glaze to soften slightly and cut the bars with a warm knife. If you don’t allow the topping to soften, it will crack. Cut into squares and serve immediately.  You can store leftovers for up to 4 days in the fridge.

 

Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations.

Amazing. They are also incredibly rich, but they make 24 bars so the portions aren’t too big.

I’ll probably add these into my Christmas baking, but I doubt I’ll make them much more often than that. I spent a good three hours in the kitchen, and I just don’t have that kind of time very often.

But if you have time to make them, definitely do it! And go get the book. It’s really interesting to read about the history of these classic desserts.

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

Valentine’s Day. Oh, how I love it. Not because I’m into all that mushy stuff, most of the time the husband and I just cook a special dinner and dessert at home and spend some time together. That is my perfect Valentine’s Day.

As usual, Chad was in charge of planning and making dinner and I took care of the dessert. I decided to make cupcakes, knowing that Chad could take the extras to work with him.

I wanted to do something with chocolate and cherries, so the idea for this cupcake was born! It’s basically a chocolate cupcake with a chocolate cherry mousse. Yum!

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

Ingredients

For the Mousse

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3 Tablespoons of cherry juice (drained from a jar of maraschino cherries–save cherries for later)
4 large eggs separated into yolks and whites (at room temperature)
A pinch of sugar

For the Cupcake:

**If you are going to make your cake from scratch, I personally LOVE this recipe from Hershey’s.** If you’re short on time, like I was, buy a box mix and doctor it.

1 box chocolate cake mix
The ingredients stated on the back of the box
1/4 cup cherry juice

For the Icing

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

For the Mousse

1) Melt chocolate with 3 Tablespoons of cherry juice over double boiler on medium heat.

2) Once chocolate has melted and juice has been incorporated, set chocolate aside to cool.

3) When chocolate has cooled to room temperature, add the egg yolks and mix well.

4) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and sugar on medium high heat until stiff peaks form.

5) Mix 1/4 of the egg white mixture into cooled chocolate. Mix until completely combined.

6) Add the rest of the egg whites and fold in gently just until there are no longer any visible streaks. Refrigerate for three or four hours.

 

For the Cake

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Make cake mix as directed on box, but sub in 1/4 cup of cherry juice for part of the water. I just poured the cherry juice into a measuring cup up to the 1/4 cup mark, then filled it the rest of the way with the water to make the total amount of liquid called for in the recipe.

3) Bake cupcakes 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

4) Let cupcakes cool.

 

For the Icing

1) Melt butter and stir in cocoa. Add powdered sugar and milk, beating to a spreadable consistancy.

2) Stir in vanilla. Add extra milk to thin, if needed.

 

To assemble the cupcakes

1) Take each cupcake and fill with mousse. I usually just put the filling in a pastry bag, insert the decorating tip into the cupcake, and fill until cupcake plumps up. This time, I used the cone method so I could put a cherry in the middle as well. To do that, cut circles out of the tops of the cupcakes and hollow out a small hole. Fill with mousse and one cherry. Replace the circle top and frost cupcakes. The frosting covers up the cut out circle and it looks beautiful! Add sprinkles and extra cherries to the top!

 

They were a little bit of work, but these cupcakes were delicious! A perfect Valentine’s treat. And I had some mousse left over, which was equally amazing by itself.

You can easily make this into a cake instead of cupcakes. Just bake the cake mix in two round cake pans, use mouse and cherries as filling, and frost!

 

The icing recipe came from the above Hershey’s link.
The mousse was adapted from this recipe by Michael Chiarello and this blog recipe from The Cook’s Corner.

 

 


Chocolate Caramel Cookies

Oh, these cookies.

These cookies are delicious. I only make them at Christmas and I’m not really sure why. They aren’t a particularly Christmas-y cookie and they are definitely good enough (and easy enough) to make any random day. Clearly I am going to have to make them again soon, since I only ate ONE this year. I gave the rest away in goodie tins. I should have saved a couple more. 🙂

Chocolate Caramel Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tablespoon sugar (put in a bowl and set aside)
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
48 Rolos candy

1)  Beat butter until creamy. Add sugars and beat well. Add eggs and vanilla and mix.

3) Combine flour, baking soda, and cocoa. Gradually add to butter mixture and combine well. Cover and chill 2 hours.

4) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Divide dough into four parts, then divide each part into 12 pieces. Press a piece of dough around a rolo and roll into a ball.

5) Dip into sugar mix. Place cookies 2 inches apart and bake 8 minutes.

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

You know those sugar cookies you can get at the store, the great big ones with the colorful candy icing on them? I love those cookies. I also love that I have finally learned to make a version of those cookies.

I had never used royal icing before, at least not seriously. I think I mixed up a batch a few years ago so the kids I baby-sat at the time could decorate some cookies for their parents. I just gave them the icing and let them have at it. Oh, how I wish I had pictures of those cookies. They were adorable. Hopefully these look nothing like those.

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

 

Ingredients

Your favorite sugar cookie recipe. (I cheated and used Betty Crocker cookie mix. That’s right, I said it. I only had a certain amount of time to get all these things done, give me a break!) 🙂

1) Roll out dough and use cookie cutters to make whatever shapes you want. This year I did stars, candy canes, trees, and ornaments. Next year I’ll probably just stick to the trees and the candy canes, those were my favorite.

2) Bake according to the recipe. Let cool.

 

For Royal Icing: (This is the Wilton recipe)

3 Tablespoons meringue powder
4 cups (about 1 pound) powdered sugar
6 Tablespoons warm water

1) Beat all ingredients on a low speed until stiff peaks form (about 7-10 minutes in a stand mixer).

2) Separate icing into separate airtight containers. I used four because I needed four different colors.

3) Use gel coloring to color icing.

4) Using the stiff consistency, outline cookies. I used a decorating bag and a small circle tip to do my outlines.

5) Thin remaining icing with an additional 1-2 teaspoons of water. Once outlines have dried, fill in cookies by “flooding” with thinned icing. I just used a spoon for this. Allow icing to dry. Decorate as you wish.

**Keep all icing covered in the airtight containers when not in use. This will keep it from drying out.**

My outline icing had dried enough in about an hour for me to “flood” the centers. The middle of the cookies had dried enough for me to add decorations in about an hour also, but it really took overnight for everything to completely dry, so I wouldn’t try to package these until at least 12-14 hours have gone by.

I saved a little of the thicker icing to make decorations for the ornaments and the garland on the trees.

These were so time consuming, but I think it was because it was the first time I’ve done anything with royal icing. Now that I know (kind of) what I’m doing I think it will be easier next time around. And there will be a next time; these cookies were adorable.

Before this recipe I owned ZERO cookie cutters (crazy for as much baking as I do) so I went out and bought a set of Betty Crocker plastic ones from Walgreens. There were 101 cookie cutters in the container, a ton of holiday cutters, alphabet cutters, numbers. I love them! Definitely an awesome buy and an A+ recipe overall!

Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles

This is another recipe from last Christmas that is getting its own post update. One of my favorite candies to make for the holiday season, and super easy.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Truffles

Ingredients

2 1/2 (8 oz) packages Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese (let sit at room temperature for about half and hour before you start making this recipe)
coatings: sprinkles, nuts, crushed peppermint, etc

1) Melt 8 squares of chocolate and set aside.

2) Place cream cheese in medium bowl. Beat with mixer on medium speed until creamy. Add melted chocolate and mix well.

3) Cover mixture and refrigerate one hour, or until firm.

4) Once mixture is firm, shape into balls, using approximately 2 teaspoons for each ball.

5) Melt remaining chocolate. Dip balls one at a time into melted chocolate. Return to baking sheet and sprinkle with coating of your choice. Store in refrigerator.

Makes 36.

Oreo Truffles

I love Oreos. I love truffles. How could a combination of the two be anything less than amazing?

I’ve had these at parties before and always enjoyed them, but I underestimated how much of a mess the process is. Really, it’s not any more difficult or time consuming than cake balls or cheesecake truffles, but I really feel like I made an even bigger mess with these than anything else I’ve made lately.

But it was totally worth it.

Oreo Truffles

Ingredients

1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1 pkg.  (1 lb. 2 oz.) OREO Cookies, finely crushed (about 4-1/4 cups), divided

2 pkg. (8 squares each) BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted

 

1) Allow cream cheese to soften outside of refrigerator for a few hours.

2) Mix cream cheese and 3 cups of the cookie crumbs until well blended.

3) Shape into approximately 48 truffles and dip in melted chocolate. Place on waxed paper and sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs.

4) Place in refrigerator to set. Store in refrigerator until served.

Adapted from this recipe.

Rock Candy

I posted this last year during my Christmas baking, but just thought it deserved its own post.

This is one of the recipes I remember from my childhood and I will probably always make it. It just isn’t Christmas without it.

Rock Candy

Ingredients

1 cup water
3 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup light corn syrup
5 drops food coloring
1 Tablespoon flavor extract *OR* 1 teaspoon flavor oil (I used cinnamon)
Powdered sugar
Candy thermometer

1) Sprinkle powdered sugar lightly on rimmed cookie sheet and set aside.

2) Mix water, sugar, and corn syrup in large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.

3) Boil without stirring until temperature reaches 325 degrees (Fahrenheit). Use candy thermometer to keep track of temp.

4) Remove from heat and add color and flavor. Once boiling has stopped pour mixture onto cookie sheet. Let  cool and harden.

5) Break into pieces.

 

Easy Peppermint Fudge

Well, we finally had a white Christmas here in southern Indiana. I was so excited I almost couldn’t stand it. I can’t even remember the last time we actually had snow *on* Christmas, so this was a treat. Of course, about 24 hours later it was cold and I was done with the snow, but at least I enjoyed it for a little while. 🙂

One of my favorite things to do is spend the week before Christmas baking and making goodies for friends and family. I already shared my first Christmas recipe, the gingerbread whoopie pies. Here is a slightly easier (okay, much easier) but equally delicious recipe:

Easy Peppermint Fudge

Ingredients

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp peppermint extract
3 candy canes, crushed

1) Line a 9″ square pan with foil or wax paper and set aside.

2) Melt chocolate chips in sweetened condensed milk using a double boiler over medium heat. Stir mixture until completely smooth.

3) Take mixture off the heat and add peppermint extract. Spread the chocolate mixture into the pan.

4) Sprinkle with the crushed candy canes and chill until firm (at least a couple hours).

5) Lift the fudge out by the foil or wax paper and cut into equal sized squares.

Recipe from Cate’s World Kitchen and Erin’s Food Files

 

Definitely delicious! A piece (or two) of this fudge and a hot cup of coffee = the most amazing winter snack. Enjoy!