Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Easiest Low Calorie Mini Muffins

I love chocolate. When you're counting calories, anything chocolate seems to take a big chunk out of your daily intake. More than once I've sacrificed my dinner to enjoy Raisinets (I regrettably admit...). These sweet treats are super easy to make (two ingredients!) and they're a great low calorie snack (43 calories a piece!). I've seen many variations of the recipe, mine is as basic as it comes. Here's how to make them:


- 1 Box of Chocolate Cake Mix
- 1 Can of Pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)

I happen to have these items in my pantry, but any cake mix will do.

That's all you need! Now for the instructions:

-Preheat oven to 350 F
-Mix your ingredients together well
-lightly grease mini muffin pan (I lightly sprayed mine with a vegetable oil spray)
-Fill muffin cups nearly full, distribute to allow for 48 mini muffins (I did not use muffin liners)- batter will be thick
-Bake for 18 minutes
-Allow muffins to cool in pan, then I usually dump the contents onto clean paper towels.

That's it! Now you have a low calorie chocolate fix to last you a while! I know these are commonly made with mini chocolate chips in them as well, which I'm sure is fantastic, I didn't add only because I was keeping the calories low on mine.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quick and Easy Ritzy Chicken

I admit I don't enjoy handling meat.  Being a vegetarian, holding raw chicken or beef or pork is pretty much the grossest thing ever to me.  I suck it up, only because I have an awesome husband and enjoy cooking new things for him.  The strange thing is, I often experiment in the kitchen and rarely follow a recipe, and because I don't eat meat I can't test things, so Tim is somewhat of a guinea pig (I actually hate that term, don't animal test!).  Luckily, most of the time I'm successful.  Tim is far too kind to tell me straight out if he's not crazy about something, so I've learned to read the signs: no seconds means I won't try that recipe again.  One second helping means it was pretty good, while thirds means it's a recipe I better write down and repeat in the future!

Today I had the opportunity to observe in the art rooms at the middle school in my district, and I loved it!  It's so worthwhile to see how other teachers teach.  I left with tons of ideas for my own classroom, as well as a better understanding of where my students (in the elementary school) are headed.  My goal is to help them better prepare for the adjustment of middle school!  I was a little strapped for time and didn't go to the grocery store, so today I threw dinner together with just what I had in the kitchen! Although I'm sure there are tons of variations for Ritz Cracker Chicken, here's my hand at it!


4 Chicken Breasts
1 Egg
2 Tbsp Milk
2 Tbsp Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Tsp Italian Seasonings*
1/2 Tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 Tsp Onion Powder
1/2 Tsp Herbamare
1 Sleeve of Ritz Crackers (I used Butter Garlic Flavor, just because we happen to have it!)
1/4 Cup Flour


-Preheat oven to 400 F.
-Beat your egg and milk together in a bowl. Set aside.
-Smash unopened sleeve of Ritz Crackers (I used a marble pestle, you could probably just mash it with your hands though!)
-In a shallow bowl, combine Ritz crumbs (I only used about 3/4 of the sleeve), Italian Seasonings*,  Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Herbamare, and Parmesan Cheese.  Mix together until combined.

-Put your 1/4 cup flour in a shallow bowl.
-Prepare a shallow baking dish by lining it with aluminum foil (easy clean up!).
-I prefer to do my chicken in strips, so I cut them accordingly.  You could easily leave them as full breasts if you prefer. Rinse and blot your chicken with paper towel.
-Prepare each piece of chicken by doing the following: Roll chicken piece in flour. Next, dip in egg mixture until covered.  Lastly, roll in Ritz crumb mixture.  Lay in baking dish.
I ended up with too many strips and needed two baking dishes

-Bake for 20 minutes or until completely cooked.  Baking time may vary if using larger cuts of meat.

I served this dish with a wild rice blend and edamame (my favorite vegetable!).  It came out crisp on the outside but moist in the center (the bottom of the chicken was moist, perhaps this can be prevented using a broiling pan for even air circulation?).  Tim went back for thirds on this dish.  It is definitely one for the books (or the blog)!

I hope you enjoy it!

*Italian Seasonings- I use McCormick "Perfect Pinch", which contains: Marjoram, Thyme, Rosemary, Savory, Sage, Oregano and Basil.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Woodland Fall Card

My amazing in-laws gave me an incredible slow cooker for my birthday this year (The All-Clad 6.5 quart, the BEST one in my opinion!). Such an awesome gift calls for a special thank-you note! I thought this would be appropriate for fall. I <3 my Cuttlebug (and my in-laws!).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Finding My Feet

Parisian macarons. Sometimes they work out, and other times you spend hours going over every painstaking detail only to sadly trash them in the end. I've thrown away more Parisian macarons than I can count. Most of the time, it's because the finicky confections don't rise, so I end up with tiny, shiny pink or yellow hockey pucks that won't even lift off the parchment (these ones all came from recipes that required your sugar on the stove top- this method has never worked for me!). No lie, these things even made me cry once. But tonight...they worked. Sweet, delicate, almondy victory. I followed a recipe from Martha Stewart- how could it go wrong!?  Trust me, if I can make these, so can you. This recipe was very simplistic. Life is teaching me, one complicated lesson at a time, that simple is usually best. So here's Martha's recipe (my notes and pics are below):


1 1/4 cups plus 1 teaspoon confectioners sugar

  • 1 cup (4 ounces) finely ground sliced, blanched almonds
  • 6 tablespoons fresh egg whites (from about 3 extra-large eggs)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar


  1. To make the macarons: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar and ground almonds. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar. Continue to whip until stiff glossy peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the confectioners' sugar mixture until completely incorporated.
  2. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Fit a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch #4 round tip, and fill with batter. Pipe 1-inch disks onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. The batter will spread a little. Let stand at room temperature until dry, and a soft skin forms on the tops of the macarons and the shiny surface turns dull, about 15 minutes.
  3. Bake, with the door of the oven slightly ajar, until the surface of the macarons is completely dry, about 15 minutes. Remove baking sheet to a wire rack and let the macarons cool completely on the baking sheet. Gently peel off the parchment. Their tops are easily crushed, so take care when removing the macarons from the parchment. Use immediately or store in an airtight container, refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
  4. To fill the macarons: Fill a pastry bag with the filling. Turn macarons so their flat bottoms face up. On half of them, pipe about 1 teaspoon filling. Sandwich these with the remaining macarons, flat-side down, pressing slightly to spread the filling to the edges. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

I followed the recipe to almost every detail.  Here are a few of my tips...

It says to whisk together the confectioners sugar and the almond meal, which I did at first, but then ended up using a pastry cutter because my almond meal was a little lumpy:
When it came time to "froth" the eggs in my mixer, this is when I added my color.  I used yellow, since my macarons were to be lemon.  I then added my granulated sugar until I had peaks.  When it came time to fold in my almond meal/confectioners sugar, there was still a little color to be blended (I recommend gel colors!) but this seemed to work itself out as I folded.  To get the mixture into a pastry bag, try using a tall glass.  A little might come out of the tip while you're filling, but at least it's contained and you can use both hands.  

Next, to make my rounds on the parchment, I held the icing tip less than half an inch from the parchment and squeezed some out without moving the bag.  Then to finish the macaron, I stopped my squeeze and pulled the tip a little to the side and then up.  I had some tiny peaks left, but these melted back into the wafer shorty after.  Practice makes perfect!
The Martha Steward recipe says to let them stand for about 15 minutes. My best batch was the one that sat for a half hour.  They had the best feet and looked the nicest, so I recommend waiting! 
When it came time to put them into the oven, I actually shut the door all the way (as opposed to cracked as the recipe states) for about four minutes.  By then, feet were already forming.  Only after the four minutes did I crack the oven door and stick a wooden spatula handle between the door and the frame to keep it open.  This method brought me the nicest macarons!  (My spatula was teeny, you can only see it a little!)

While they were cooking, I whipped up some buttercream frosting (any recipe would work) and then stirred in some lemon curd when it was finished.  I added just enough to get a nice, lemony, sweet flavor.  

After about fifteen minutes in the oven (including the four minutes with the door closed all the way) the macarons were ready! I let them cool completely, then sandwiched my lemon curd buttercream in between.  Definitely my prettiest macarons yet!  
Feet! Yay!
Some of these were going to a friend at work as a "thank-you" present, so I packaged them up:
I hope they work out for you!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lemon Blueberry Heaven...

Lemon... some days I just wake up craving it.  Today was one of those days.  Here's what I came up with...

Glazed Lemon Blueberry Cookies

These cookies come out extremely delicate and light, thanks to the cake flour.  They're perfect with iced tea or lemonade.


2 1/4 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp lemon extract
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup softened, unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups blueberries

1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp lemon extract


Preheat oven 350 degrees.

Whisk together flour, salt and baking soda, set aside. In your stand mixer, cream butter, sugar and lemon extract until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla, scraping bowl when necessary.  Once blended, add flour mixture.  Mix on medium only until blended.  Remove bowl from mixer stand and gently fold in blueberries, a little at a time (to keep from squishing the berries!).  Add only as many blueberries as you prefer (I wanted lots in my cookies!)

On a parchment covered cookie sheet, place scoops of dough (roughly 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter), leaving room for spreading.  Remember to distribute your blueberries evenly between cookies.  Bake 12-14 minutes, remove when edges are golden.  Carefully slide entire sheet of parchment off cookie sheet and onto rack, as the cookies will be very delicate!  Let cool completely.


Combine all glaze ingredients in a small bowl.  If you prefer a thicker glaze, add more confectioners' sugar.  For thinner, add more milk.  I prefer to stir with a fork, then drag glaze back and forth over cookies (from a few inches up).

Finally... indulge!

Here's my Berkley, "helping" :)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Card making

The possibilities are endless with a Cuddlebug. Here's one I recently made for a friend.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Strawberry season is upon us.  I bought more strawberries than two people can eat before they start rotting, so I decided to bake something with them.  I searched the internet to find a muffin recipe, and I found some that were rather basic, so I jazzed them up a little with some almond & cinnamon.  They came out great, and the glaze is truly that extra touch of sweetness the muffins needed.  I’ll definitely be making these again!

Almond Strawberry Muffins

¾ Cup Milk
¼ Cup Vegetable Oil
3 Tbsp Mayonnaise
½ Tsp Almond Extract
2 Tsp Baking Powder
½ Cup White Sugar
1 ¾ Cup Flour
½ Tsp Cinnamon
1 ¼ Cup Strawberries (cut into pieces)

½ Cup Powdered Sugar
½ Tsp Almond Extract
2-3 Tsp Water

For Muffins:
Preheat oven to 375.  Combine milk, oil, mayonnaise and almond extract in a bowl. Mix until combined.  In a larger bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and baking powder.   Stir dry ingredients together, then gently mix in strawberries.  Add wet ingredients to the dry mixture and stir until well blended smooth*.  Pour into cupcake wrappers (should make 8 small muffins, mine made 6 as I used oversized wrappers).   Put in oven for 20-25 (the top should be springy to the touch, I usually wait until the muffins are lightly golden). 

For Glaze:
Combine all glaze ingredients in a small bowl and stir until smooth.  Once muffins have cooled, spoon over muffins.

*If you find that your batter is too thick, add a small amount of milk at a time until your batter is easier to scoop into wrappers.

Garnish: I garnished mine with fresh sliced strawberries, but they would also be lovely with almond slices.

I hope you like them as much as we did!