recipes

the best chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting

chocolate banana
These are the cupcakes from my cousin’s baby shower I hosted 4 years ago (I used yellow food colouring paste for the Winnie the Pooh theme).

No joke – these are awesome. They are so deliciously decadent, yet light and moist, and perfect in every way if you’re a fan of the classic combo of peanut butter and chocolate. Hands down the most baked cupcake in this household and everyone at any age who has tasted them goes back for another! My first introduction to this cake was when I turned 30 and one of my dearest friends Abby came to surprise visit me, peanut butter chocolate cake in hand.  I still have memories of the first bite – probably honestly one of the best cakes I’ve ever had, fancy restaurants included. When I asked her for the recipe she said it was from a blog called Smitten Kitchen. Ever since I’ve been on that blog for various baking recipes and I’m never disappointed.

 

chocolate jumbo
This is a jumbo sized one I made a few years ago for one of my daughter’s birthdays.

I have tweaked and played around with this recipe to recreate it’s scrumptiousness into a cupcake. I promise you will love it.  Recently I hosted a baking playdate with some friends who wanted to learn how to make and ice cupcakes from scratch. We all had our share of cupcakes that day and it’s safe to say when they shared with their family and friends everyone wanted the recipe.

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Practice practice practice! Here’s my friend using a piping bag and icing tip for the first time ever – the first few are tricky and always look a bit lopsided – by the 5th or 6th she was a pro! We forgot to take a picture though!!

 

I guarantee you won’t be sad you made 28 cupcakes! Yes…28 cupcakes. If you’re hosting a much smaller party and do not want left-overs (trust me…they freeze well so you do!) – then go ahead and cut the recipe in half! I have done that before and it makes about 15.

what you need:

chocolate cake

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 eggs

peanut butter frosting

  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 4 cups icing sugar (maybe a bit more)
  • 1/3 cup smooth natural peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp milk
mmm – that first bite!

what to do:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. If you have a stand mixer, use the whisk attachment. In a small bowl, mix together vanilla, water, and vinegar.
  2. Add melted coconut oil (must be melted into liquid form) and yogurt, mix to combine.
  3. Slowly add water mixture so that it incorporates and a smooth batter forms.
  4. Add one egg at a time. I like to crack my eggs into a small bowl first to avoid accidentally dropping shells into the batter bowl.
  5. Mix well – scraping down the bowl with a spatula once or twice to make sure everything is mixed well.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  7. Line cupcake tins (muffin tins) with regular sized cups – I used 3 trays and baked them at the same time with my convection setting. You can also do this in batches (i.e. one tray at a time!)
  8. Fill cups only 3/4 way with batter – do not overfill as it will rise too far up and then they won’t be as pretty and have that cupcake look when you frost them. Tip: Make your life easier by transferring batter to a jug with a spout so that you can pour batter into the cups easily.
    chocolate cupcakes
    When they rise, you want them within the cup so that the frosting looks nice! Take care not to overfill or they will come out looking like muffins. (no one wants a muffin top…ūüėŹ)
  9. Bake in centre racks for 15-18 minutes – this really depends on your oven so go shy with the time and check every minute after it beeps. You can do the toothpick trick (it’s ready when the toothpick comes out with soft crumbly crumbs but not sopping wet) – or you can tap the top of the cupcakes gently with your finger and if it bounces back up it’s ready. If it’s still raw in the middle it will stick to your finger / appear wet. Tip: Cupcakes will continue to bake even when you remove them from the oven – so even if you’re not sure it’s probably going to be done by the time they are cool enough to handle! Always go shy on baking time to avoid dry and over baked cake.
  10.  Once they are cool enough to handle, transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely. This is a soft cake so handle with care! I sometimes use two forks to gently and gingerly get them out of the tray and then get them to the cooling rack.

While they cool…get the frosting ready!

  1. Using your handheld electric whisk or stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat butter until very soft, smooth and fluffy, a paler colour (almost white) compared to how it looked as a brick (more yellow).
  2. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and beat one more time to be sure all the butter is whipped.
  3. Gradually, about 1 cup at a time, add the icing sugar and beat well – it should be light and fluffy. Add 1 tbsp milk, vanilla and peanut butter. Beat well.
  4. Check consistency and taste – if you want a creamier frosting, add a bit more milk. If you want firmer, add another 1/4 cup icing sugar.
  5. Frost your cupcakes and enjoy! A fun way to frost them is to use a piping bag and a special tip. Tip: Easiest way to fill the bag is by placing it into a tall heavy sturdy glass, and remember to twist or elastic the top so that when you squeeze, the icing comes out the tip and not into your hands at the top of the bag!
  6. ENJOY! Freeze any left overs in an airtight container and bring to room temperature to enjoy another day.  Really important to enjoy at room temperature so that the frosting is dreamily soft and lickable!
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    My little bubbalubs enjoying his first cupcake on his 1st birthday a month ago. 
entree, recipes

chickpea tacos with a middle eastern twist

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This is one of those dishes that keeps you going in for the next bite! It’s loaded with freshness, fun spices and flavours that satisfy all the tastebuds. The hardest part really is the prep because after you have the fillings all set up in their own bowls, you lay out all the prepared ingredients and let the diners do the work. It’s super fun to build your own taco, especially for kids (or, like my middle child boss does, keep it all separate!). I think this keeping things separate might be an age thing…my oldest piepie used to be like that but recently she has been happy to eat sandwiches and mixes things up on her plate!

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boss and her love of keeping things separate

I have to thank my husband’s aunt for giving me this dinner idea – when I saw her last week she was telling me about how she has been having success in finding delicious recipes that are vegetarian and vegan friendly.¬† She was raving about a chick pea taco she made from the blog Feasting At Home.¬† When I looked it up tonight I did not have everything the recipe called for, but I was able to adapt my own twist on it using what I had on hand.

For the Tzatziki I use a brand we love and almost always have in our fridge (Skotidakis) but of course you can make your own! When you’re in a crunch though, one less thing to make on a weeknight is a win! If you’re looking for vegan you can substitute with hummus. You can use traditional corn or flour tortillas for the taco shell part – all I had at home was left over naan bread so I cut them in half and warmed them up in the oven.

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piepie building her taco

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did! It certainly hit the spot for dinner at our place on this beautiful Autumn Monday.

Tip: it’s a good idea to do some of the prep ahead of time. For example, I cooked the beets and chickpeas on the weekend when I had more time and then just kept them in the fridge to use for the week. Of course, you can also use canned chickpeas and find cooked beets in the grocery stores. But it’s a better bang for your buck when you buy the dried chickpeas and the whole beets in a bag!

serves: about 3-4 people

what you need:

  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 pinch of sugar or agave nectar
  • 2 red beets, cooked
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1 very small clove of garlic
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 1 handful of chives
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp onion salt
  • 1 tsp za’atar (a blend of spices, if you cannot find it you can leave it out)
  • cooking oil (I use grape-seed oil)
  • tzatziki (store-bought or make your own)
  • taco shells, tortillas or naan bread

what to do:

  1. Prepare vegetables by washing them all well. Create shredded carrots by using a cheese grater. Slice cucumbers in half, then cut into thin half moons. Place in individual serving bowls.
  2. Thinly slice onion then sauté with about 2 tsp of cooking oil in a non-stick pan, until gently caramelized (lightly browned). Add a pinch of sugar or a small drizzle of agave to give it a little sweetness. Set onions aside in an individual serving bowl.
  3. Cut grape tomatoes into quarters and mix with juice of 1/2 lemon, a pinch of salt and pepper, finely chopped cilantro, chives. Toss together and set aside.
  4. In the same onion pan, heat up 1 tbsp cooking oil on medium-low and add spices (cumin, onion salt, za’atar) – once you smell the aromas of the spices (about 30 seconds) – add the chickpeas and toss until all coated and warmed through. Place chickpeas in their own serving bowl.
  5. Prepare your taco shells (warm up soft ones in the oven, or bake the crunchy kind as indicated on the package).
  6. Lay out all the individual topping bowls on the table and invite everyone to build their own tacos. I like to start mine with a thick spread of Tzatziki so that the chickpeas, shredded carrots, tomatoes, beats, cucumbers and onions have something to stick to.
  7. Enjoy!
baby food, recipes

baby’s ginger carrot blend

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fit for a mini foodie!

Baby food doesn’t have to be bland and boring! Introduce your baby to new flavours (even spices!) gently so that they can transition more easily later on to enjoy dinners with you as toddlers and kids!

Here, I’ve used two thick slices of ginger to give the carrot, pea, and lentil puree a little warmth and soothing effect for the tummy. It also helps with digestion!

what you need:

*makes about 2 16oz mason jars

**tip: if you are freezing some, make sure there is plenty of room in your jar so that it doesn’t crack from expansion in your freezer

  • two chunky slices of fresh ginger
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • water

what to do:

  1. Peel carrots and ginger. Cut carrots roughly for quicker cooking. Add to medium sized cooking pot.
  2. Rinse lentils, add to carrots and ginger.
  3. Cover with cold water, just enough so that the carrots are 3/4 submerged.
  4. Using an instant pot , cook on high pressure for 12 min. Alternatively, you can cook this stove top Рbring to a boil on high heat, then simmer gently on low for 20 minutes, until carrots are very tender (you may need to add water as you simmer).
  5. Once the carrots are tender, remove from heat and carefully remove ginger slices.
  6. Add frozen green peas. Stir.
  7. Using a handheld immersion blender, puree until desired smoothness (you know what your baby can handle!).
  8. Store in mason jars. Enjoy!

 

recipes

apple cider vinaigrette

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Okay this is one of those dressings that can go on anything – it’s so tasty that you’ll love whatever is coated with it. Tangy, but slightly sweet, this addictive dressing keeps you going in bite after bite. I have a friend who buys it at Farm Boy all the time – all she did at a playdate was toss it with mixed greens and a few chopped peppers, and it was such a delicious salad!¬† You can definitely find different kinds of apple cider vinaigrette at the store but if you are like me and have a giant jug of apple cider vinegar from Costco, making it yourself is way more economical! And also – the ingredients are super simple and non-perishable! It will keep in a mason jar in your fridge for weeks.

Summer time is here! What a great season to enjoy all the fresh veggies and leafy greens (currently our favourite at home is a mix of baby arugula and baby kale). Be sure to make extra dressing so that you always have a dressing on hand, whenever you need it.

what you need:

  • 6 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 8 tbsp grape seed oil (or similar oil – something very mild in flavour)
  • 4 tbsp raw local honey (try to find local honey, as it has the best benefits for your health)
  • a few twists of freshly ground black pepper
  • two pinches of salt

what to do:

  1. Put all your ingredients in a mason jar and shake really well. Use immediately or store in fridge for later use. Enjoy!
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Left over grilled steak finds a new home in this simple salad of greens, avocado and tomatoes. The dressing pulls it all together!
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One of piepie’s favourites is this vinaigrette on bean salad – it holds up well for school lunch!

 

recipes

rice bowl – Indian inspired

Rice bowls and Buddha bowls are widely popular right now, and it’s no wonder why – they are usually loaded with delicious ingredients and really hit the spot when you’re hungry.

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load up on fresh ingredients!

Be sure to make extra if you want leftovers for lunches the next day!

Start with a cuisine you’re craving and create your toppings around that. For example, this bowl was Indian inspired so we used lentils (think daal) and spices such as cumin and turmeric. If you were going with an Asian flare, you could use soy, garlic, ginger, and green onions. Mediterranean could look like olives, oregano, dill, honey, lemon, and feta. You get the drift!

Indian Inspired Rice Bowl; garlicky lemon green beans, quick lentil daal, saucey black beans, shredded raw carrots, cilantro & lemon wedges

*If you like heat, you can add a pinch of cayenne or fresh red chilies. I did not include it because of my little ones.

makes about 4 servings

garlicky lemon green beans

  • ~500g green beans
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil (I use grape seed oil)
  1. Wash and clean green beans. Roughly slice them on a diagonal angle.
  2. Finely chop garlic.
  3. In a pan over medium heat, add oil and garlic. Once it is fragrant, add chopped beans and sauté, about 2-3 minutes, just until tender but still has a bite (not soggy).
  4. Remove from heat and sprinkle with salt and toss with lemon juice.

quick lentil daal

  • 1 1/2 cup dry red lentils
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • water
  • a pinch of salt
  1. Rinse lentils.
  2. Put lentils in a pot and fill with just enough water that it covers the lentils by 1″. Put the lid on.
  3. Bring lentils to a boil then reduce heat to low, cooking until semi-tender (about 3-5 min).
  4. Add spices and salt, stir well then put the lid back on and simmer another 3 minutes. If it seems too watery, you can simmer with the lid off for a little longer – just keep an eye on it so the bottom doesn’t burn.

saucey black beans

  • ~1 1/2 cup cooked black beans
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 small onion (either red or yellow is fine)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil (I use grape-seed oil)
  1. Dice the onion. Roughly chop the tomato (keeping the juicy seeds).
  2. In a large non-stick pan, heat oil on medium – high.
  3. Add ginger, onion, and cumin. Sauté until fragrant.
  4. Add black beans and tomato and cook until everything comes together, about 3-5 minutes.

Rice 

  1. Cook up your favourite rice (we used a mix of short and long grain white rice, and red rice). Follow instructions on the rice package, but in general it’s 1:1 for rice to water ratio. In a covered pot, bring it to boil then turn down to simmer until water is all absorbed.

shredded carrots: wash and peel 2 carrots, then use a grater to shred them.

cilantro & lemon wedges: for final garnish

How to serve:

Place every item in a different bowl or serving dish. Place rice at the bottom of your bowl and top it with desired toppings, mix it all up and enjoy! Or, if you like things separate (like my kids sometimes do) – enjoy each one separately. ENJOY!