Archive for category Friends

Funfetti Popcorn Mix (Dye Free)

What better way to celebrate a 2nd birthday than with sprinkles?! Our daughter’s very first friend, Zoe, turned two today and we just had to make a fun treat to take to her party!

Funfetti Popcorn Mix

When it comes to kids’ birthdays, I’m a big fan of treats that aren’t loaded with sugar or artificial junk. I pulled out my new favorite sprinkles and some dye-free M&M’s for inspiration. I also knew there would be cake, so baked goods were off the table. We know a lot of folks with nut allergies, so I’ve made it a rule to avoid them for parties. To easily adapt the recipe for what you have on hand, see the variations at the bottom of the recipe for ideas.

Funfetti Popcorn Delivery

While daddy and Adelyn wrestled and watched “George George“, I whipped up this quick Funfetti popcorn mix. It took about 20 minutes and just a handful of ingredients! This is a sweet, savory and naturally colorful birthday treat. It was also easy to transport – just two 1-gallon ziplocs!

I popped the organic corn on the stovetop with a little coconut oil to give it a birthday cakey flavor. To my surprise, this treat was as popular with the adults as it was with the kids. By the time we left, there was an empty bowl with a few unpopped kernels and some rogue sprinkles.

For more ideas and tips on making dye free sweets, check out my Natural Food Coloring Pinterest Board.

Disclosure: I wasn’t paid or perked to link to the products mentioned, I’m just always on the hunt for baking items free of artificial food coloring. I love sharing that there are alternatives out there!

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Double Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

These double chocolate hazelnut cookies are the perfect pick-me-up!  A close friend of mine was having a tough week, so I whipped up a batch and mailed them to her.  Apparently more than a few were crushed in transit, but she said they made the perfect topping for ice cream!
Double Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

If you use the wheat flour, hazelnuts and a high octane dark chocolate, these are super satisfying without making you feel too guilty.

Here is what they should look like going into the oven.  Feel free to eat them when slightly warm. I had to test them as soon as they were done to make sure they were good enough to share!

Unbaked Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies

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Moist Chocolate Cupcakes & Vanilla Bean Buttercream

When I bake for a special occasion, it’s rare that I try out a completely new recipe. Normally I like to play it a little safe and make something I know is going to turn out. But I was still on the hunt for the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe after making several that weren’t chocolatey enough or were too dry. Our friend Jill turned 30 this week and that’s definitely an occasion for chocolate if you ask me (I also hit 30 this year)!

Moist Chocolate Cupcakes

I found a few recipes that use a combo of buttermilk and hot water to infuse moisture into the cake (inspiration here and here). That, along with some new natural cocoa powder were just the ticket to creating a fluffy moist cupcake with a deep chocolate flavor. The homemade vanilla bean buttercream was also a thing of beauty. I’m normally a chocolate-on-chocolate kinda girl, but a quick Facebook poll said most folks prefer vanilla frosting, who knew? I used my favorite buttercream standby and fancied it up with vanilla bean paste.

The most surprising thing about the cake batter is how thin it is when it goes into the pan. I was concerned that we’d end up with chocolate goo, but now I’m pondering ways to use the hot water technique for other cupcake batters because it was THAT good! These aren’t gluten, fat, sugar or guilt free, but they are just the ticket for a big celebration!

Note: You will see a few special ingredients like coffee extract and vanilla bean paste. I provided Amazon links to the products I use, but I like to purchase them at a major discount from Marshall’s or TJ Maxx!

Fun fact: I also created the scalloped cupcake liners using coordinating scrapbook papers. I traced out a template that I found online and used my Silhouette cutter to get 36 perfect cupcake wrappers! This is a new tool for me, so if you have any other fun project suggestions I’d love to hear them!

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Red Velvet Cake with Beets?!

I love an excuse to try a new recipe, really I do… but when my good friend Jenny raved about a red velvet cake with made with beets, I made lots of funny faces – until I realized she was serious. Not to mention that it was her birthday, so I couldn’t possibly say no!

Jenny has been on a quest to get healthier and as her workout partner, I figured I had to oblige her request for a lighter version of this quintessential southern cake (after all she could only save up so many Weight Watchers points!)

The recipe comes from Spotted Salamander Catering in Columbia, SC who introduced Jenny to beet red velvet cupcakes at one of her recent couponing workshops. They kindly shared their recipe, so I set out to recreate it and hopefully not fail at my first encounter with beets.

I had two initial observations. (#1) Fresh beets turn everything fuschia and (#2) they smell remarkably like dirt. No worries, that must mean they are filled with antioxidants and vitamins and stuff, right? Now I know where the phrase “beet red” comes from, just be sure to wear appropriately colored clothing!

As I always do when trying a new recipe, I did some pre-baking research and found lots of details and variations of beet red velvet cake. This post in particular highlighted the effect of pH on the color of the final cake and the chemical engineering nerd in me couldn’t resist an experiment of my own. Beets are naturally red from betalains, compounds whose color is very sensitive to temperature, pH and moisture.

The original recipe from Spotted Salamander really only made enough for one 9″ round cake pan, so I made two layers exactly the same way, but added lemon juice (1/4 c.) to one to see if it resulted in a brighter red cake. (if you stare at the picture below long enough you’ll notice the top layer is darker brown and the bottom layer with lemon juice retained a more reddish tone.. too bad I didn’t have any litmus paper on hand!)

The icing on the cake (heh) is that I reserved some of the beet juice to tint the cream cheese icing on the cake. No Red #40 here!  When I’m piping words I like to print out the size and spacing of the text as a guide and then freehand it. This font is Minya Nouvelle for anyone interested.

Beet Colored Frosting

And of course you need the action shot of the birthday girl blowing out quite a few glowing candles 🙂 The cake was really delicious and thankfully didn’t taste (or smell) like beets at all!

Here’s the full recipe from the Spotted Salamander with my notes added in blue:

Update: If you’d like to know more about the science and history of Red Velvet Cake, check out my guest post on ChEnected.

As it turns out, you can have your cake and eat your beets too!

Happy 2011!

Whew, this year has absolutely flown by. I’m doing double takes every time I see 2011 because it just looks weird!

For me, this year in particular holds a lot of milestones.

I celebrated 7 incredible years of marriage to my amazing hubby, finished my PhD, made tons of progess on the house and grew alot personally. My mom overcame breast cancer and my grandma is working hard recovering from a stroke. My first niece and nephew were born just 9 days apart! I took my first trip where I needed a passport, started this blog and began working out more regularly.

Life is sweet even through the ups and downs and I’m so thankful for all the blessings.

Made For You With Love

Remember the caramel apple cheesecake I made yesterday?  Well, I had some extra batter because my springform pan was too short to hold it all.  Not a problem – I quickly whipped up some extra crust and baked a baby version too.  We were getting together with good friends today, so I decided to wrap it up as a little present for them to enjoy.


Jason designed these adorable stickers for me a few months ago and we had them printed by Stickermule.  Just $9 for a batch of 100 2″ stickers after a coupon code. I also have a stash of fun treat boxes and bags from Christmas thanks to Jason’s mom. Who knew you could gift-wrap a mini cheesecake!

The ribbon and label came with one set of treat boxes and I thought they matched really well with the sticker and my blog.  Despite what you might think, I’m not a huge fan of pink.  But my favorite color is chocolate brown (is that weird?) and the two go so well together. I will say that in transport some of the caramel stuck to the window of the box which of course drove me crazy briefly, but overall I was really happy with how it turned out.

Along with the idea of owning a B&B, you can add professional baking to my list of dreams.  I love that I can whip up something in my kitchen to make other people smile!