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Cinnamon French Toast Muffins

DSC_0924Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Honestly, when I go to bed at night, I dream of breakfast. When I lived at home, my mom even used to make fun of me because I knew exactly what I wanted for breakfast by the time I got out of bed in the morning. In fact, breakfast is probably the reason I get out of bed (well, breakfast and Andrew and Oliver). That’s how much I love breakfast, and french toast is my number one choice every single time, so here’s a quick way to have french toast every morning, without needing to wake up extra early to make it.

To make 12 of these delicious french toast muffins, you’ll need:

  • Cinnamon swirl bread (approx. 10 pieces, cut into 1/2 inch cubes) without crust
  • 1 cup of low-fat milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of melted butter
  • 2 tbs brown sugar (set 1 tbs aside)
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Maple syrup

DSC_0881First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut the crust from your cinnamon bread and cut it into 1/2 cubes. Beat your eggs and slowly add in milk and melted butter in a separate bowl. Whip in vanilla and 1 tbs of brown sugar until well-mixed.

Spray your muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray and divide the bread pieces between the trays. Pour about 1/4 cup of mixture on top. You don’t want to drown the bread because it will end up soggy, so less is better – just enough to wet each piece. Sprinkle some brown sugar on top before baking.DSC_0891 DSC_0886Bake for 25-35 minutes until tops are slightly browned and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. You don’t want the insides to be mushy!DSC_0929Leave them to cool inside the pan on a cooling rack until they are cool enough to handle. Serve warm and topped with powdered sugar, drizzled in maple syrup for best results!

You can also save these in an airtight container and pop in a microwave or toaster oven for a few minutes to reheat throughout the week.

*Tip: You can also try a similar recipe as a casserole!

Orange Buttercream Frosting Pumpkins on Chocolate Cupcakes

DSC_0941It’s almost Halloween, which means it’s time to get down to business and start throwing out themed treats. Designing with candy melts can be tough sometimes, but here’s one super simple way to show off Halloween themed cupcakes without needing superb candy melt decorating skills (because I don’t have those yet either).

What comes to mind when you think of Halloween? Or October? Or fall? Pumpkins, of course. So here’s one simple way to incorporate pumpkins into your autumn treats with orange flavored buttercream frosting, rich chocolate cupcakes, and a little bit of green candy melts. First, gather your ingredients:

For the cake:

  • Boxed mix (I used Duncan Heins Devils Food Cake)
  • Eggs
  • Water
  • Vegetable Oil

For the frosting/pumpkins:

  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp orange flavoring
  • Orange gel food coloring
  • Green candy melts

Start by mixing your cake according to the box’s instructions and bake inside of cupcake liners.

While they bake, mix your frosting by mixing the softened butter and vanilla until smooth and slowly add the powdered sugar, mixing as you go until it is creamy and still pretty stiff. Add about 2 tsp of orange flavoring (try one at first, taste and decide from there) and about 6 drops of orange gel coloring, and continue to mix until the color is evenly distributed. It’s important to use gel coloring so that it does not change the frosting’s texture.

When your cupcakes are done baking, leave on a cooling rack to cool completely. In the meantime, melt your green candy by microwaving  a couple pieces (you don’t need very much) in a bowl on the defrost setting for about 30 seconds. Stir and continue to heat in 10-15 second intervals until it is completely melted. Then, move the candy into a squeeze bottle or a piping bag with a very small tip.

*Pro tip: You can totally use a regular plastic ziplock bag with the tip cut off to do this if you don’t have a bottle or piping bag.

DSC_0948DSC_0952Carefully pipe the melted candy into multiple curved pumpkin stems on a piece of waxed paper until they are about 1/4 inch wide and 1 inch tall. If you have the hang out it, try making the stems thicker on the bottom like a real pumpkin stem might be. Let them cool and harden.

Once your cupcakes are cool, pipe or  spread the orange frosting onto the tops with a large circular tip or a spatula.

Carefully peel the pumpkin stems off of the waxed paper, and stick them into the tops of each of your cupcakes for a delicious, orange and chocolate flavored pumpkin! Stay tuned for a couple more Halloween inspired DIYs and treats. Enjoy!

Reese’s Brownie Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

DSC_0948 DSC_0958You know what’s better than brownies? Brownies with frosting. And what’s even better than that? Brownies with Reese’s peanut butter cups melted in and peanut butter frosting on top! These are peanut butter heaven in a cupcake mold.

I’m still perfecting my from-scratch cake baking, so this one uses boxed brownie mix, which makes the process much simpler and just as delicious. For more on baking from scratch, stay tuned! I’m practicing to get them just right.

Your brownie cupcake ingredients:

  • 1 box of brownie mix (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cuvegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 bag Reese’s peanut butter cups, chopped

Your frosting ingredients:

  • 1 cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp milk (optional)

First, mix your brownies according to the package’s directions. Mix in your cut-up Reese’s and divide the batter into your lined cupcake pan until the cups are 2/3 full.DSC_0937Bake according to the package’s instruction. I baked mine on 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Use a toothpick to determine if they’ve baked all the way through.

While the brownies bake, begin mixing your frosting. Mix together the softened butter and the packed creamy peanut butter until they are completely blended. Beat in the vanilla extract and slowly add in the sugar. Continue beating for several minutes until the frosting becomes smooth no longer grainy. Only add the milk if it needs a little more moisture to change the texture.DSC_0951 DSC_0949Once the cupcakes have completely cooled on the cooling rack, top them with this deliciously sweet and creamy peanut butter frosting and garnish with chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Homemade Cream Cheese Frosting

Homemade Cream Cheese FrostingHomemade Cream Cheese FrostingGuys, it’s finally getting cold around here. I can sleep with a blanket at night, which means life is GOOD. It also means I can bake more often without turning my entire apartment into an oven.

Tuesday was my manager’s birthday, so I brought in these cupcakes Monday to celebrate. We embarrassed her by singing her Happy Birthday, but that’s a birthday pain we all have to endure, right?

I brought in these red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for everyone to celebrate because, honestly, who wouldn’t love homemade cream cheese frosting? In my opinion, cream cheese frosting (or frosting in general) is always better when it’s homemade, but the red velvet cake is from a box (I took is easy this time around).

Cupcake ingredients (24 cupcakes):

  • 1 box of Red Velvet cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

Frosting ingredients:

  • 2 packages of 8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

First, mix your cake according to the instructions on the box. (easy peezy, right?) Pop the batter into your cupcake tins (2/3 full) for about 15-18 mins, depending on your mix instructions.Homemade Cream Cheese FrostingWhile they bake, mix your frosting. Mix together your softened cream cheese and butter until well mixed. Add in vanilla and sift in the sugar as you continue to mix for several minutes. This will keep help you achieve the right texture. Pop the frosting in fridge until your cupcakes are cooled enough to pipe the frosting. You’ll want to use a wide frosting tip for these.Homemade Cream Cheese FrostingHomemade Cream Cheese FrostingTake it slow with your frosting and when you’re finished, keep the cupcakes in the fridge until they’re ready to eat. These combinations will make the perfect cupcake-to-frosting ratio. Enjoy!

White Chocolate Cake Bites

DSC_0556DSC_0573The only thing better than cake is cake combined with frosting, amiright? You’re probably familiar with cake pops, but if you’re not, you’ve gotta get on board this delicious cake train. There are lots of ways to make cake pops and lots of fun ways to decorate them, whether you eat them off of a stick or by themselves. My version this time around is a little different than your normal cake bite because it’s flat. Truthfully, I found this way to be much easier to dip and store than your average balls. Plus, let’s be honest, they taste the same, no matter what shape they are.

Put these ingredients together:

  • Chocolate cake
  • Vanilla frosting (any is fine)
  • 1 bag (2 cups) of white chocolate chips

You’ll also need:

  • A large mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Cooling rack (or cookie sheet covered in foil)

The best way to start out is to, you know, bake a cake. I had leftover cake from a tiered chocolate cake I made a while back as well as some leftover homemade buttercream frosting. Here’s the fun part; combine your cake, crumbled up a bit, and some frosting in a bowl and mash it all together with your hands. The cake-to-frosting ratio isn’t a perfect one, so start with a little frosting and add more as you go. You want everything to stick together but not stick to your hands (or a rolling pin), making it easy to form into shapes. Once it is well-mixed, put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes to set. This will make it easier to roll out afterward.

Roll out your cake mixture with a rolling pin until it is only about a half inch thick. Use a cookie cutter or, in my case, the top of a sprinkles bottle, to cut out shapes in the dough mixture and place them on a cookie sheet. Once all your shapes are cut out, move the tray to the fridge. DSC_0543Next, melt the white chocolate chips in bowl by microwaving them on defrost mode for about one minute. Then stir the chocolate and continue to melt on defrost mode in 15 second intervals until completely melted. I have tried melting chocolate a hundred different ways over the past year and, trust me, this way works. Follow these directions and you’ll be fine as long as you stir well.

Once your chocolate is completely melted, drop your cut cake pieces into the chocolate and use a fork to turn it over, covering it completely, and pull it out with the cake bite sitting on the fork. Gently tap excess chocolate off and carefully place the cake bite on a wire cooling rack to drip and harden. You can also place them on a cookie sheet, but the cooling rack works well for letting excess chocolate drip off instead of pool around it. Once they’ve cooled and hardened, they are complete!DSC_0559You can easily add embellishments to these, like sprinkles or colored stripes, but I decided to keep it simple this time around. Take these bite-sized pieces of heaven anywhere you go and you’re sure to make friends.

Enjoy!

Apple Pie Parfait

DSC_0549DSC_0543Apple pie is my guilty pleasure. While everyone else gushes over pumpkin spice, I’m all about the apple cinnamon this time of year. To satisfy my apple-love, I whipped up this sweet but semi-healthy apple pie parfait. Seriously, it just makes me feel like I’m eating autumn out of a jar (that’s not weird, right?) The great thing about this treat is it’s easy to make as individual cups for groups – perfect for parties and get-togethers. It tastes just like dessert but with a lot less calories! Let’s dig in, shall we?DSC_0536These quantities will make one parfait, so adjust accordingly if you want to make multiple:

  • 1 cup of vanilla yogurt
  • 1/2 cup ground gingersnaps or cinnamon graham crackers
  • 1/3 can of apple pie filling
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon confectioners sugar

To start, separate your apple slices  into a bowl and sprinkle in about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of sugar, mixing together with a spoon.

If you haven’t already, you need to grind your gingersnaps. I use these Dutch cookies that taste just like a gingersnap, but you can also use cinnamon graham crackers or something similar. Grind them up either in a food processor or by placing them in a bag and using a rolling pin to grind them into fine pieces.

Then it’s time to start layering your materials. Layer about 1/3 of your yogurt and gingersnaps, and then follow it with a layer of apples. Continue this layering method as you see fit. Depending on the size of your glass and whether or not you use a true parfait glass, you might see your layers turning out differently. Because my glass was tall, I was able to achieve several layers of each ingredient, topping off my parfait with the yogurt and a little bit of gingersnap.DSC_0563 DSC_0561Now, dig in! Serve these at a party and your guests will devour them, I’m sure of it. If you love apple recipes as much as I do, you’re in luck. Fall is just beginning, so I’m looking forward to making even more apple pie-inspired treats.

Thanks for stopping by!

Pink Ombre Cake

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My sister makes THE BEST frosting. You don’t know good frosting until you’ve tried it, and lucky for me,  she gave it to me to make a cake for my coworker’s going away celebration. With it, I made chocolate cake with pink ombre vanilla buttercream. I thought this technique seemed intimidating at first, but it’s actually quite easy to do if you take your time.

First off, here’s the recipe I used (keep in mind that this makes a TON of frosting – you might want to half it):

  • 4 sticks of butter (2 cups)
  • Approx 2 pounds of powdered sugar (6-7 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Gel coloring

Leave the butter out until it is soft at room temperature – don’t microwave it. Beat together with vanilla and water. Then slowly add powdered sugar until you reach desired sweetness, and add another tablespoon of water if you feel it is too thick. It should be really smooth because that will make it easier to frosting, as opposed to if you are piping cupcakes, you would want it to be stiffer.

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This made more than enough frosting for the cake. Because it uses butter, you’ll want to keep it in the fridge once the cake is frosted. When using the Crisco version of this recipe, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

For an ombre cake, you’ll need to make a taller cake that is several tiers high in order to show off the design. Use the frosting to stack your tiers – three in my case. Then frost a thin crumb layer all over your cake and put it into the fridge for 10-20 minutes. A crumb layer like this will set your cake, allowing you to add frosting without picking up crumbs.

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Separate the remaining frosting into three bowls. Add a small drop of gel food coloring to the first so that it remains very light colored. You should use gel coloring for frosting to keep it from thinning like it would with regular coloring. Mix well with a spoon until you reach your desired shade. In the second bowl, try two drops or coloring, and in the third, try three drops. You should see a clear difference in color between each bowl of frosting.

Using a spatula, spread the darkest color on the bottom. It doesn’t need to look pretty because you are going to clean it up later, but you’ll want it a little thick because some of it will come off during the clean up. Add the medium shade to the middle and the lightest color to the top, spreading evenly.

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When frosting is applied everywhere, clean off your spatula and grab a small bowl. You’re going to use this to wipe off excess frosting. Use your spatula, starting at the very bottom with light pressure, to smooth the frosting, turning your base as you go and move the spatula up as you go around. This is much easier if you have a spinning cake stand, but you can certainly do without it (I did). As you build up frosting on the spatula, scrape it off on the side of the bowl. By smoothing it out as the cake turns, you are blending the colors into a gradual ombre look.

When you reach the top, you can use your spatula to make somewhat of a spiral pattern on the top of the cake, leaving the frosting smoothed out and matching the look of the frosting. You will probably want to make one more round to smooth out the frosting, but you shouldn’t scrape off much in this round.

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At this point, you’re done and should see a gradual lightening of color in your frosting from bottom to top! I promise it’s the most delicious frosting you’ve ever had. Just ask my coworkers – they devoured it. For an extra pop, sprinkle some colored sugar sprinkles all over the cake. Have fun with it!

S’more Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches

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If you haven’t caught on by now, I love s’mores. For more on my love of chocolate, graham cracker and chocolate, you can see the recipe for my s’more brownie bars.

These oatmeal cookie sandwiches with marshmallow filling, dipped in chocolate were made for my company’s summer barbecue. They’re not very difficult but a little time consuming because this recipe calls for a lot of cookies. This will make you at least 60 cookies total, translating into about 30 sandwiches.

You will need:

  • 3 sticks of butter, softened AND 1/4 stick of butter (set aside)
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 cups of oats
  • 1 10.5 oz bag of mini marshmallows (easier to melt)
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil

First, whip together the softened butter, white sugar and brown sugar. Then beat in each egg and vanilla. Combine cinnamon, salt, baking powder and flour, and beat into sugar mixture. Use a large spoon to mix in the oats. Then put the bowl in the fridge for 45 minutes to an hour.

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In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Once dough has cooled for an hour, place one-inch balls (I recommend a cookie scoop – it’s my new favorite kitchen tool!) onto cookie sheets and use your hand or the back of a spoon to flatten the balls. Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Flat cookies are good because they’re easier to make into sandwiches.

While the cookies bake, begin melting your marshmallows. Place a small amount of butter (about 1/4 stick) in a pot on the stove, melt on low and slowly add in marshmallows, stirring as you go. Continue on low heat until all the marshmallows are melted.

Once all the cookies have cooled, choose similar sized cookies to make sandwiches, using a spatula or knife to spread marshmallow filling over one cookie and placing the second on top. Set aside and continue to fill all of the sandwiches.

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In a microwave safe bowl, melt about 2 cups of chocolate chips for 1 minute. Add vegetable oil, stir and continue to melt for 15 seconds at a time until chocolate is completely melted. Add more oil as necessary and stir well. Then dip the cookies into the mixture so that about one-third of the sandwich is covered in chocolate. Set them on a piece of foil overlaying a cookie sheet and place in the fridge to set.

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I brought these for our company picnic, and they were popular enough that I didn’t have any leftovers! I chose not to make all of the cookies into sandwiches and served the oatmeal cookies by themselves as well, and because they’re pretty limited in oats, they taste more like brown sugar cookies with a hint of oatmeal. Enjoy!

Classic Monkey Bread

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Did you ever have those days as a kid when you would wake up to the smell of sugary cinnamon in the morning? Those were always the best mornings – usually after a sleepover at my friend’s house.

Monkey bread is a symbol of my childhood and a staple of those weekend mornings. This weekend, I tried my hand at the age-old classic, and the result was deliciously sweet!

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To make classic monkey bread, you’ll need:

  • 2 cans of biscuits (approx. 16 oz each)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tbs cinnamon
  • 3/4 stick of butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • Cooking spray (not pictured)
  • Bundt pan (approx. 6 cup/8inch pan)

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Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. While your oven heats, pop open the cans of biscuits and cut each one into fourths. Then combine 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tbs cinnamon in a large ziplock bag (or mixing bowl), close and shake until well mixed. If you prefer a more cinnamon-y flavor, add an extra tablespoon to the mix.

Drop in a few biscuit pieces at a time into the bag, close and shake until the pieces are well covered. Spray your bundt pan with a nonstick cooking spray and place the sugared pieces into the pan. Repeat until the pan is almost completely filled. Because the biscuit pieces expand, it could overflow if you fill it too high.

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In a small saucepan, heat 3/4 stick of butter on low until melted, and slowly add in 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Mix well and remove from heat. Carefully pour the butter mixture over the bundt pan until you have completely covered all the pieces. The butter will drip down and pool toward the bottom (which is why that’s the BEST part of the monkey bread). Personally, I don’t think an extreme amount of butter is necessary for monkey bread if you distribute it well, but you can always add more melted butter and brown sugar if you feel you need more to cover all of the pieces.

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Pop the pan in the oven and cook for about 40 minutes. If you’re worried about overflowing like I was, place a cookie sheet underneath to catch any of the mess. After about 40 minutes or until the top appears golden brown, take it out of the oven to cool, flip your bunt pan and serve warm! I served it with a side of blended chia for me and coffee for Andrew – perfect way to start a Saturday morning.

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White Chocolate Graham Cracker Rice Krispie Treats

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That’s a mouthful, right? A delicious mouthful!

Rice krispie treats are quite possibly the best easy-to-make treat, so I went for a fun twist on an old classic with a dash of white chocolate and graham cracker.

IMG_4391To make these treats, you’ll need:

  • 3 tbs. (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract
  • 5 graham crackers
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 6 cups crispy rice cereal (aka Rice Krispies)

Keep in mind that this makes a smaller sized batch equal to about 10 small pieces. If you prefer larger pieces, double the recipe.

Start by grinding your graham crackers in a food processor until they are finely crushed. Combine in a large bowl with rice crispy cereal and mix.

Begin melting the butter in a pan on low heat. Add in the vanilla extract and slowly add the marshmallows, mixing well in between. Increase heat slightly if necessary. Once mostly melted, slowly add in 3/4 cup of white chocolate chips – the other 1/4 cups will be used for topping later.

Pour the mixture over the cereal and graham cracker mixture, turning it over with a spatula until well-mixed. Move to a square pan and let cool for several minutes before pressing down tightly. Let cool completely and cut out squares from the pan.

Melt remaining 1/4 cup of white chocolate chips in the microwave for approximately 30 seconds. Stir and replace for another 15-30 seconds if necessary. Spread the melted chocolate over the squares and serve! You can even add some extra graham cracker shavings over the top for a little extra garnish.

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I brought these to work, and they were very well received. I’m hoping to plan more rice krispie recipes this summer. They are one of the easiest, most delicious treats you can make.