Rolled Oat Almond & Strawberry Muffins

photo 1 (52)

 On the weekends I always default to muffins if I don’t have anything special planned for breakfast. I usually try to make them as healthy as I can, to start the day off right. A great thing about muffins is that the ingredients you use can be flexible: for these I had some frozen strawberries & some sliced almonds leftover. You could substitute any fruit or nut you want. 

cooking-tip1

How to Easily Fill a Muffin Tin with Muffin Batter

Have you ever had trouble filling the muffin pan with the muffin batter? I used to spoon it out and make a huge mess. It would drip all over the pan and the counter.

Then I learned about this simple & genius way:

  1. Fill a large ziplock bag with the muffin batter. Seal the top.
  2. Using a food scissors, cut one of the corners of the bag. The batter will start running out, so be prepared to perform step 3….
  3. Pipe the batter into the tins, about 2/3 full.

Awesome, right?! It was, and still is. BUT, I realized over time that filling up the ziplock bag with muffin batter was equally as messy and difficult. I felt like I needed a third hand and all I had done was transition the mess-stage to earlier in the process. That was when I thought to do this:

Take a tall glass or tall container (I used a tall beer glass) and push the bag down into the glass. Pull the edges of the bag down around the rim of the glass.

photo 2 (51)Now you have two free hands to pour the batter into the bag, using a spatula to guide it. Wa-la!

photo 4 (46)

Now you can easily remove the bag from the glass, cut the corner, and pipe it into the muffin tin.

photo 2 (50)

I also topped these with a delicious cinnamon brown sugar crumble. You will notice I used some muffin cups, and left some without the paper cups. On those, I simply oiled the insides of the cup. I did this because I was testing to see the difference in outcome. 

Rolled Oat Almond and Strawberry Muffins
Yields 12
The rolled oats, almonds, strawberries, maple syrup, and cinnamon combine to a great way to start the morning! This muffin is very moist.
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
FOR THE MUFFINS-DRY INGREDIENTS
  1. 1/2 cup rolled oats
  2. 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  3. 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (if you are using frozen fruit, if you are using fresh then 1 1/4 cups should be enough)
  4. 2 tsp baking powder
  5. 1 tsp baking soda
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
FOR THE MUFFINS-WET INGREDIENTS
  1. 1 egg
  2. 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  3. 3/4 cup half and half
  4. 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  5. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  6. 1 cup strawberries, chopped in to small pieces (or the fruit of your choice)
  7. 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  8. 3/4 tsp cinnamon
FOR THE BROWN SUGAR CRUMBLE
  1. 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  2. 2 tablespoon melted butter or butter alternative
  3. 1 tsp cinnamon, or more
  4. 4-5+ tbsp all purpose flour
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Combine the dry ingredients (oats, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in a medium bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the egg lightly with a fork. Stir in the real maple syrup, half & half, oil, & vanilla extract.
  3. Chop the strawberry into roughly 1/2 inch cubes. Place in another bowl, and toss with 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 3/4 tsp cinnamon.
  4. Add the fruit mixture to the wet ingredients, and gently, but thoroughly combine.
  5. Stir the dry flour mixture gently and lightly into the wet mixture until just combined. Do not over stir...once all the dry ingredients are wet, you're done.
  6. Turn the oven to 400F, cover the muffin batter and set aside, letting it rest for 10-15 minutes while the oven heats.
  7. Oil a 12-cup muffin tin or line it with paper baking cups and divide the batter among them.
  8. In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the brown sugar crumble. You want it to be crumbly, so it's okay to add more flour to achieve a crumbly consistency.
  9. Bake for 17-18 minutes.The muffins are done if you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.
  10. Serve with coffee or hot tea!
Tips
  1. Splurge and upgrade the cinnamon you buy: but it from a spice store. I find that in many recipes I don't even taste the cinnamon I've added. I like cinnamon. So I usually increase the amount added, and I try to buy nice cinnamon, so that I can actually taste it. It really is a beautiful flavor.
  2. I used half and half because I ran out of milk and almond milk. You can really use any dairy or non-dairy milk product. I am not certain how an alternative to half and half would effect the moistness though.
Tastes Like a Secret http://www.tasteslikeasecret.com/

photo 4 (45)

 In case you were wondering the difference in outcome between using the paper liners or not using them: I personally found that without using the paper liners, the muffin held its shape better, and seemed moister. My test wasn’t scientific, but I think next time I will just oil the pan and go without the liners!

These muffins are moist and full tasting. They are best warm, just out of the oven, with a nice dallop of Melt Butter Alternative. I know I’ve said it before, but I absolutely love Melt. You should check it out.

Stay Flavorful! 

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Healthy Wild Rice Cranberry Pine Nut Stuffing

photo 1 (50)_2Hands down, this stuffing is the best. I am making this for Thanksgiving this year. I have made it many times prior to, just for the heck of it. It honestly goes great with anything, any day of the week, for any reason at all. 

A few tips for making this:
1) You can always buy store-bought dried bread cubes or store-bought loaves of bread and dry them out yourself, but my favorite reason to make this is when I have lots of frozen homemade bread in the freezer. I thaw it all out, cube it, place it on a cookie sheet, and dry the cubes out at 250F for as long as it takes to get them nice & crunchy. An awesome mix of whole wheat bread, focaccia bread, pepita cracked wheat bread—whatever you have! It will add a whole new depth of flavor. 

2) Add the vegetable broth carefully and with intention. If you add too much, it will take a long time to absorb in the oven. 

3) Don’t shy away if you don’t have ALL the ingredients in your kitchen: Below you will find a great substitution if you are missing the worcestershire sauce. And if you don’t have cranberries, try throwing in raisins or dates instead. 

4) I double this recipe, and freeze half of it. It’s super easy to thaw during the week and serve quickly with any combination of a vegetable, rice, meat, or potato. (Ex: Mashed potatoes, stuffing, and grilled chicken). 

 

Healthy Wild Rice Cranberry Pine Nut Stuffing
Serves 6
A healthy twist on stuffing, sure to please any palate!
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 5 cups cubed and dried homemade bread (or storebought)
  2. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  3. 2 cups vegetable broth
  4. 1 white onion, chopped
  5. 3 celery stalks, chopped
  6. 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, chopped
  7. 1 1/2 t. dried thyme
  8. 1 1/2 t. dried oregano
  9. 1 1/2 t. dried sage
  10. 1 1/2 t. onion powder
  11. 1 1/2 t. garlic powder
  12. 1 1/2 t. sea salt
  13. 1/2 cup cooked wild rice
  14. 1/2 cup pine nuts
  15. 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  16. 1 tbsp worcestershire sauce (or substitution, see below)
  17. Option: At times, I have also added 1 or 2 carrots chopped, as well.
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 200F.
  2. In a large pot or dutch oven, drizzle a tbsp or so of extra virgin olive oil (or any olive oil you have). Toss in all the spices, the mushrooms, onions, and celery (and carrots if you added them) and sauté over medium heat until the onions are just soft, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat.
  3. Toast the pine nuts in a pan on the stove top, over medium or medium-low heat. Shake them around in the pan occasionally. The line between toasted and burned pine nuts is very fine, and happens very quickly! This usually takes about 5 minutes for me. I know they are toasted once one side appears a light golden brown, and I can start to smell them. Remove from heat.
  4. In the dutch oven full of sautéed ingredients, add the wild rice, pine nuts, cranberries, bread crumbs, and the worcestershire sauce. Toss to mix everything together. Once mixed, add the vegetable broth. I usually add 1/2 cup at a time, tossing in between. You can add less or more depending on how dry or soggy it appears. I err on the side of less, because you can always add more while it heats in the oven if it appears too dry.
  5. Dump the delicious stuffing into a casserole pan or any baking pan you have. Place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, fluff & toss ingredients with a large spoon, and put back in the oven for another 30 minutes.
  6. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. During the hour that it bakes and absorbs the broth, you have choices you can make: add more broth if you want, leave it be as is, let it bake longer for a crispier top & to absorb more of the liquid. It's up to you. :)
  2. If you are drying your own bread crumbs, or even making your own bread first and then drying it, the prep time will change. I input the prep time under the assumption you already have your dried bread crumbs at hand.
Adapted from Vedged Out
Adapted from Vedged Out
Tastes Like a Secret http://www.tasteslikeasecret.com/
photo 2 (48)

Substitute for Worcestershire Sauce 

What to do if you don’t have worcestershire sauce? Instead, use 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon sugar, and a dash of hot sauce for every tablespoon of Worcestershire that’s required.

 

photo 1 (50)

There is something about this stuffing recipe that will win over even the skeptic. (“Cranberries? Rice? In stuffing?”) Just make it for them and they’ll forget they were ever even skeptical. 

Happy Eating!

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Fall Kale Vegetable Soup & Homemade Cracked Wheat Bread

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 There’s something so warm & cozy about hot soup and fresh, warm bread on a cold fall night. The sky turns gray, the wind is brisk, the leaves are yellow, and there’s no way you’re going outside tonight, am I right? So make some rich kale vegetable soup and cracked wheat bread instead! 

photo 2 (46)Making homemade bread can take longer, but it’s definitely worth the wait. I started this meal by mixing my dough, featuring whole wheat flour, bulgur, raw pepitas, and flax seed. 

dough

The photo above is just before I kneaded (is that a word??) the dough. A few tips for bread making that I have learned:

The easiest (and fastest) way I have found to get dough to rise is by turning the oven on to 150F, and let it rise in there. I turn the oven off once it reaches 150F, let the dough sit in there, and every 30 minutes or so reheat the oven back to 150F. 

Never trust a recipe when it comes to how long it will take for the dough to rise: the time it will take is very, very conditional on your cooking environment. It could take 60 minutes when it says 20, it could take 20 minutes when it says 60. Let it rise until it has risen as high as it should. 

Finally, don’t worry about being perfect. The wonderful thing about homemade bread is that even if it’s not exactly perfect, even if it didn’t rise to the heavens, it’s still wonderfully delicious and ten times better than anything you could buy at a store.

photo 2 (36)

 While making the bread, I also prepared all the ingredients for the soup. I was most amazed by how beautiful the colors were together. Almost like a fall rainbow, if there is such a thing. The most laborious part of this recipe is chopping everything up, and if you don’t mind paying a little bit more, you can buy most of the ingredients pre-chopped at the grocery store.

photo 3 (40)

photo 4 (37)photo 5 (32)

Fall Kale Vegetable Soup
Serves 4
A simple, beautiful, elegant vegetable soup. Everything about this soup feels good to eat and works in perfect harmony, from the butternut squash to the dash of cayenne pepper.
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
1 hr 10 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  2. 3 large carrots, diced
  3. 1 large yellow onion, diced
  4. 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  5. 2 cups 1/2-inch-cubed peeled butternut squash (between .85-1 lb of squash)
  6. 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  7. Pinch cayenne pepper; more to taste
  8. Sea salt
  9. approximately 1 quart lower-salt chicken broth
  10. 1 14.5-oz. can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
  11. 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  12. 2 cups lightly packed, coarsely chopped kale (I would suggest Lacinato kale)
  13. 1 cup lower-salt canned garbanzo beans
  14. Cracked black pepper
Instructions
  1. Prepare all the ingredients. There is a lot of chopping involved!
  2. Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the carrots and onion and saute, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. You will notice they get softer and the onion becomes a bit translucent.
  4. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  5. Add the squash, allspice, cayenne, and 1 tsp. salt and stir to combine.
  6. Add the broth (adding more or less to your own desires), tomatoes with their juice, and thyme.
  7. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. Add the kale and the chickpeas and cook uncovered until the squash is tender and the kale has wilted, about 10 minutes more.
  9. Discard the thyme springs and then season to taste with more salt, cayenne, and cracked black peper.
Notes
  1. You can read more about the various types of kale here: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/popular-types-of-kale-and-their-health-benefits/
  2. I chose lacinato kale because it adds texture and isn't so bitter...but curly (or "regular") kale will work perfectly as well. :)
Adapted from Fine Cooking
Adapted from Fine Cooking
Tastes Like a Secret http://www.tasteslikeasecret.com/
 photo 5 (30)

Cracked Wheat Bread
Yields 2
A rich and warm whole wheat bread made slightly sweet with molasses & honey. Use pepitas straight from the pumpkin you just carved! :)
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Ingredients
  1. 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  2. 1/4 teaspoon white sugar
  3. 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons warm water
  4. 1 cup and 3 tablespoons warm water
  5. 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon honey
  6. 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon molasses
  7. 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  8. 3/4 of an egg (beaten, so you can pour about 3/4 of it in)
  9. 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  10. 2-1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  11. 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon flax seed
  12. 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon bulgur
  13. 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon pepitas
  14. 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
  15. 1/3 cup bread flour
  16. 1-1/3 cups bread flour
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the 2 tsps yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar in 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons warm water.
  2. In a large bowl, mix remaining 1 cup and 3 tablespoons warm water, honey, molasses, oil, egg and lemon juice. Mix well. Add yeast mixture, which is probably a bit bubbly by now, and stir.
  3. Gradually add 2-1/3 cups whole wheat flour, mixing after each addition. Add the flax, bulgur, and pepitas, stir well, so the wet and dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed.
  4. Cover, and let stand for 20 minutes, until mixture is very light. Stir in salt and the rest of the flours until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
  5. On a cutting board or clean surface, dump 1/3 cup bread flour and swirl into a circle. This will be your kneading surface.
  6. Dump the dough out of the bowl and onto the kneading surface. Knead 5 - 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Form into a ball, place into a greased bowl, and cover.
  7. Place the bowl into the oven. Turn the oven to 150F. Once it reaches that temperature, turn it off. Let the dough rise until doubled. This took about 1 hour for me. About half way through, re-heat the oven to 150F, it will probably have lost some heat and have dropped to 130F or so.
  8. Take the bowl out of the oven, and literally punch down the dough in the middle. Split the dough in two equal pieces. You can either freeze one for another day, or make two loaves of bread. (I only made one loaf, and froze the other half.)
  9. Shape the chunk of dough into a rectangular shape as best you can, stretching it out and trying to keep it even. Once ready, place it in the bread pan and push it around so it's even and all the way to the egdges.
  10. Cover, and let it rise again. Repeat the steps with the oven. You want it to rise as high as possible, to the top of the bread pan and if you can, over the edges. This could take anywhere from 20 minutes - 1.5 hours (or more!).
  11. Once it's risen to your desired level, bake at 375 degrees F for 25-35 minutes, until the top is a darker golden brown.
  12. Remove from the oven and let it cool a bit in the pan. Once you remove it, use a serrated knife to cut it as desired.
Notes
  1. The best way to store homemade bread, in my opinion, is to freeze it. I never play games with the fridge or room temp! I just freeze it, and defrost it for a few minutes before I need it.
  2. If the measurements seem strange in the recipe, that's because I wanted to make 2 loaves of bread, not 10 zillion. :) If you double, triple, or quadruple the recipe, the measurements will probably appear more normal.
  3. Be creative with seeds and wheat! You can substitute whatever you want, whatever you have, or whichever health benefits you're looking to incorporate into your meal.
Adapted from Dee Dee
Adapted from Dee Dee
Tastes Like a Secret http://www.tasteslikeasecret.com/

Maybe I should be, but I am not ashamed to admit that I have become slightly addicted to Melt Organic. I found it at Whole Foods one day, while searching for a butter alternative. I used to feel guilty when making something healthy and then slathering it up with a slab of butter. I do not feel that way with Melt. I feel like I can put as much on as I want!

photo 2 (37)Yum. For me, everything was perfect about this meal. It even hydrated me. Sigh, so perfect. Thanks for reading, and let me know if you try this. You could make all sorts of delicious substitutions in either the soup or the bread, so I’d love to hear those too. 

Happy Soup Making and Bread Baking!

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Healthy Rolled Oat (and Whole Wheat!) Mango Strawberry Maple Muffins

rolled oat mango strawberry muffins

Last night I posted a recipe for Rolled Oat Banana Muffins with Brown Sugar Crumble Top and at the bottom of the post I started brainstorming all the ways I could have made the muffins more healthy. I woke up this morning, was inspired by a tweet I saw from @bakerobreak ‘s about maple nut muffins, and decided to give some of my ideas for healthy substitutions a try. 

mango strawberry maple muffinUpon realizing I didn’t have any muffin liners, I also decided I would try using parchment paper instead, which I have seen executed so easily in so many blog posts. Reality: to get it, right, it’s going to require some practice! On my first attempt I made the mistake of not getting the parchment paper exactly flat against the muffin tin cup. 

parchment paper muffin tin

I filled these a tad too high with muffin batter, I would recommend sticking to half full or, 3/4 full. Not 125% full. :) Here they are, pre-bake:

parchment paper muffin cups

The end result was delicious, especially with the goal of making healthier muffins. Scroll to the bottom to see all the substitutions I made. The only thing I would have done differently was not use the parchment paper cups, or perhaps just practice a lot more!

mango strawberry maple muffins

 

Healthy Rolled Oat Mango Strawberry Maple Muffins
Yields 12
Moist rolled oat muffins with real maple syrup, cinnamon dusted fruit, and NO white sugar.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
33 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
33 min
For the Muffins-Dry Ingredients
  1. 1 cup rolled oats
  2. 1.1 cups whole wheat flour (3/4 cup + 1/3 cup)
  3. 2 tsp baking powder
  4. 1 tsp baking soda
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
For the Muffins-Wet Ingredients
  1. 1 egg
  2. 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  3. 3/4 cup almond milk
  4. 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  5. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  6. 1 cup fruit of your choice, chopped into small pieces
  7. 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  8. 1/2 tsp cinnamon
For the Brown Sugar Topping
  1. 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  2. 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  3. 5 shakes of cinnamon
  4. 1 tablespoon melted butter or butter alternative
Instructions
  1. Combine oats, whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the egg lightly with a fork. Stir in the real maple syrup, almond milk, oil, & vanilla extract.
  3. Chop the fruit into roughly 1/2 inch cubes. I chose 1/2 cup mango and 1/2 cup strawberries. Place in another bowl, and toss with 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cinnamon.
  4. Add the fruit mixture to the wet ingredients, and gently, but thoroughly combine.
  5. Stir the dry flour mixture gently and lightly into the wet mixture until just combined. Do not over stir...once all the dry ingredients are wet, you're done.
  6. Turn the oven to 400F, cover the muffin batter and set aside, letting it rest for 10-15 minutes while the oven heats.
  7. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper baking cups and divide the batter among them--easily do so by filling a ziplock bag with the muffin batter, cut the corner of the bag, and pipe it cleanly into the muffin tin.
  8. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 5 shakes of cinnamon, and 1 tbsp of melted butter or alternative. Scoop it over the top of the muffins. If you prefer more of a "crumbly top," add more flour.
  9. Bake for 17-18 minutes.The muffins are done if you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.
  10. Serve with coffee or hot tea!
Adapted from Kara Zarate Kneen
Adapted from Kara Zarate Kneen
Tastes Like a Secret http://www.tasteslikeasecret.com/

So what substitutions did I make? Here they are:

3/4 + 1/3cup whole wheat flour* >> instead of 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup real maple syrup >> instead of 1/2 cup white sugar

3/4 cup almond milk >> instead of 3/4 cup cow milk

1 tbsp Melt butter alternative >> instead of real butter in the brown sugar topping

*The reason the whole wheat flour measurement seems so strange, is that I used a ratio of 3/4 cup whole wheat flour to 1 cup all purpose white flour. mango strawberry whole wheat rolled oat muffinphoto 4 (26)

 

photo 1 (29)

One the best reasons to make a health muffin in the morning is that you set yourself up for a happy day. Flood your brain, blood stream, and body cells with some healthy alternatives then go for a jog! Or reward yourself and make a cake. I think I actually may do both. :)

Cheers to the morning!

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Rolled Oat Banana Muffins with Brown Sugar Crumble

rolled oat banana muffinsThe title I almost gave these muffins: Football Sunday Mini Rolled Oat Banana Muffins. Yes, I made these on a football Sunday and yes, I took photos of them on a Fantasy Football Magazine. (Somehow I thought that made them football festive??) It seemed fitting at the time, because my boyfriend was stressing about his lineup and that’s all “we” could talk about. :)

rolled oat banana muffinsI also axed the word “mini” from the title because I ate 6, so you might as well make them regular size. It was foolish of me to think I would be eating anything mini!

banana rolled oat muffins

I learned a super sneaky trick with these for pouring muffin batter. I am probably way behind the rest of you, but I always used to battle with a large spoon and drip batter everywhere on the sides of the muffin pan. Then I learned these two magical tools make life drip-free:

bag and scissors

Bag & scissors. Pour the batter into the zip lock bag. Cut the tip. Neatly fill the tins. Wa-la! Why did I think this was only trick for frosting?!

muffin tin

With this recipe, you can also substitute any fruit you desire. I chose bananas because I had them on hand, I won’t eat them plain, and they weren’t quite ripe enough for banana bread. But think of your possibilities! Blueberries, black berries, mangos, and more. Yum. 

bananas!

 

 

Rolled Oat Banana Muffins with Brown Sugar Crumble Top
Yields 12
Perfectly moist rolled oat muffin with a delicious brown sugar crumble top!
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
35 min
For the Muffins
  1. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 cup rolled oats
  3. 1/2 cup white sugar
  4. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  5. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 1 egg
  8. 3/4 cup milk
  9. 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  10. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  11. 1 cup mashed bananas
For the Crumble Top
  1. 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  2. 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  3. 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  4. 1 tablespoon butter
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the egg lightly with a fork. Stir in the milk, oil, & vanilla. Add the mashed banana, and beat gently (with an electric mixer if desired) until thoroughly combined. Stir the flour mixture gently and lightly (NOT with an electric mixer) into the banana mixture until just combined. Do not over stir...once all the dry ingredients are wet, you're done. Line a 24-cup mini muffin tin or a 12-cup muffin tin with paper baking cups and divide the batter among them--using the tip with the ziplock bag discussed above!
  4. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Honestly, I usually use my fingers. Sprinkle topping over muffins. Mmmmm.
  5. Bake for 10-15 minutes for mini muffins, and 18-20 minutes for regular muffins. The muffins are done if you insert a toothpick and it comes out clean.
Notes
  1. I wish I would have adapted some healthier ingredients into this. Some ideas...
  2. The Flour: You could use whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, or some combination of the two that you're comfortable with. I haven't tested with this recipe specifically, but I have previously done so in other recipes, at a 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour for every 1 cup of white flour ratio. It does change the taste in my opinion, not worse just different, but you probably already know that if you're thinking of doing it.
  3. White Sugar: You could try unsweetened apple sauce, real maple sugar, or even organic cane sugar.
  4. The Milk: Try almond milk. I've used vanilla almond milk as a substitute for regular milk and it worked flawlessly while baking.
  5. Vegetable Oil: replace half of the oil with apple sauce or additional mashed banana.
  6. Of course changing one of the ingredients, or many, may change your bake time, and more importantly, your result. Nonetheless, muffins are a pretty harmless way to experiment if you ask me. After mentally running through these options I am regretting not trying one of these substitutions myself!
Adapted from All Recipes
Adapted from All Recipes
Tastes Like a Secret http://www.tasteslikeasecret.com/
rolled oat banana muffin Mornings are brighter & better with fresh warm muffins in the air. And nothing pairs better with his your fantasy football lineup decisions than a cup of coffee, and a rolled oat muffin. ;) 

Enjoy today!

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Yellow Cake Oreo Cupcakes with Oreo Buttercream Frosting

oreo cupcake with oreo buttercream frosting The only thing better than an Oreo is a double stuff Oreo. And the only thing better than a double stuff Oreo, is a double stuff Oreo & a moist, fresh yellow cake. oreo cupcake with oreo buttercream frostingFor a moment, put aside the day. The stresses, the realities, the worries: they can wait. Breathe, & bite into a cupcake. In my opinion, there are certainly worse indulgences. …and not all taste this good. :)oreo cupcake with oreo buttercream frosting

By: Kara Zarate Kneen

Yellow Cake Oreo Cupcakes with Oreo Buttercream Frosting
Yields 12
For the love of Oreos. These are rich, lush, & the perfect indulgence. Pair with a giant glass of milk.
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For the Cupcake
  1. 24 Oreos (2 for each cupcake, if you plan to decorate it with one on top)
  2. 1 Box of Yellow Cake (and all the ingredients it requires to bake)
For the Frosting
  1. 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  2. 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  3. 3 Tablespoons milk or heavy cream
  4. 4 cups powdered sugar
  5. 16 Oreos, finely crushed (Use a food processor or something like the Magic Bullet)
To Make the Cupcakes
  1. Mix the cake mix in a large bowl according to package instructions.
  2. Prepare your cupcake tin by lining it with cupcake liners or spraying it with non-stick spray.
  3. Place 1 Oreo in each cupcake spot.
  4. Then, fill each with about 1/3 cup of cake mix.
  5. Bake according to box directions, however set the timer on the lower end. These will bake faster since there isn't as much batter.
  6. Once baked to perfection (golden & a toothpick removed cleaning), remove from the oven and let cool.
To Make the Frosting
  1. In a large bowl cream the butter, vanilla, and milk together. Slowly add in powdered sugar until creamy and fluffy. Mix in crushed Oreos until well combined.
To Assemble
  1. Frost cupcakes! (Pipe 'em!) Garnish with an Oreo on top, if you desire.
Tip
  1. If you are going to pipe the frosting, you will want to ensure you mix the Oreos until truly, finely crushed. Otherwise they will get stuck in the pipe and prevent you from frosting properly.
Tip
  1. If you find that after adding the crushed Oreos, the frosting is too thick, add 1 tsp of milk at a time until it is the proper consistency to pipe.
Tip
  1. I only used half of my cupcake batter because I wanted to save the rest for something else. You can double the frosting if you want to use all of the batter.
Adapted from Frosting Adapted By: Life in the Lofthouse
Tastes Like a Secret http://www.tasteslikeasecret.com/
yellow cake oreo cupcake with oreo buttercream frostingTake a moment to breathe today. Take a moment to feel okay about yourself. Take a moment to eat something absolutely satisfyingly sweet. It’s okay to reward yourself for everything you do. 

Love!

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Mini Vanilla Cupcakes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

Mini vanilla cupcakes with blueberry cream cheese frosting

Mini vanilla cupcakes with blueberry cream cheese frosting

Mini vanilla cupcakes with blueberry cream cheese frosting

Mini vanilla cupcakes with blueberry cream cheese frostingThis frosting is as sweetly strong as its color. It’s simple, yet bold. The cupcake is so elegant, that I decided it deserved to be dressed up in an antique vintage scarf & pearls.  Mini vanilla cupcakes with blueberry cream cheese frosting

Mini Vanilla Cupcakes with Blueberry Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields 36
These cupcakes are simple, fresh, and striking. There are no artificial colors in the frosting: it is the beautiful natural color of the blueberries.
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Total Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr
For the Cupcakes
  1. 3 cups sifted cake flour
  2. 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 1/2 teaspoons salt
  4. 1 3/4 cups sugar
  5. 2/3 cup butter or margarine
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  8. 1 1/4 cups milk
For the Blueberry Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. 1 cup of butter, softened
  2. 8 oz of cream cheese, softened
  3. 1/4 to 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, pulverized in a food processor
  4. 3-5 cups of confectioners sugar
To Make the Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare your mini cupcake pan with liners.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Cream sugar and butter together until light & fluffy.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla to creamed mixture and beat until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Continue beating for a minute or so.
  6. Scoop 1 tbsp of the cake batter into each cupcake liner.
  7. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until you can put a toothpick in and remove it cleanly.
To Make the Frosting
  1. In a large bowl, mix butter until it is softened and uniform. Add cream cheese and beat together until it is uniform.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of the pulverized blueberries, and mix.
  3. Add 3 cups of sugar to the mixture and mix.
  4. Add more sugar if necessary. Mix again until mixture is creamy and spreadable. Add more blueberries for a darker color. Add more sugar for thicker consistency. Continue mixing until you find your desired balance of color and consistency.
Finishing Touches
  1. Pipe the frosting onto your cupcakes. Decorate with whatever you desire. I decorated with sugar pearls and topped with a white chocolate chip.
Notes
  1. This recipe makes a lot of frosting, depending on if you really like to put a lot on or not. If you are a 'light froster,' consider reducing the frosting quantities all by one half.
Tastes Like a Secret http://www.tasteslikeasecret.com/
Hope you enjoy!

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Mini Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

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 My grandmother moved recently, and gave me some vintage books from her bookshelf. They are worn & beautiful. I love how age can add mystery to something so common as a book.  For some reason these cupcakes remind me of the circus. I imagine trapeze acts, tightrope walkers, jugglers, oddities, & something peculiar waiting to be unlocked inside the circus tent. 

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These circus cupcakes make the perfect late night snack! 

Rich Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting
Yields 48
These are easy to make, & incredibly versatile to decorate however you need. If you love sweets, this buttercream recipe is for you!
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Total Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr
Yellow Cupcakes
  1. 3 cups sifted cake flour
  2. 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  3. 1/2 teaspoons salt
  4. 1 3/4 cups sugar
  5. 2/3 cup butter or margarine
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  8. 1 1/4 cups milk
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
  1. 1 cup butter, softened
  2. 3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  3. 1 teaspoon milk+
  4. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  5. 1/8 teaspoon salt
For the Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare your mini cupcake pan with liners.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Cream sugar and butter together until light & fluffy.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla to creamed mixture and beat until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Continue beating for a minute or so.
  6. Scoop 1 tbsp of the cake batter into each cupcake liner.
  7. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, until you can put a toothpick in and remove it cleanly.
For the Buttercream Frosting
  1. In a bowl combine butter, sugar and salt. Beat until blended.
  2. Add the milk and vanilla and beat for an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until smooth and creamy.
  3. Continue adding milk as needed, 1/4 tsp at a time, until you reach desired consistency.
To assemble
  1. Let the cupcakes completely cool.
  2. Once cool, pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.
  3. Decorate as you desire, with sugar pearls, fruit, mini chocolate chips, or sprinkles.
Notes
  1. If you don't have cake flour, you can make it out of all-purpose flour & cornstarch. Measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 tbsp (put back in the container). Add 2 tbsp cornstarch. Sift the all-purpose flour & cornstarch together, 5 times. You have made 1 cup of cake flour! Repeat as many times as needed.
Adapted from Wilton
Adapted from Wilton
Tastes Like a Secret http://www.tasteslikeasecret.com/
What type of vintage, old, and beautiful things did your grandmother give to you? Snap a photo, and send it to me at tasteslikeasecret@gmail.com. I would like to create a collection of photos to add to this post.

ta ta! (as my grandma says),

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Mini Red Velvet Bites with a Hint of White Chocolate

pickerimage3Add a sweet dazzle (like white chocolate chips) between the frosting & cake bite to prompt an in-bite smile.

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Red Velvet Mini Bites with a Hint of White Chocolate
Yields 24
Just like brownie bites, but they're red velvet. And of course, I had to frost & sprinkle them because I can't eat anything without frosting. :)
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For The Red Velvet Bites
  1. 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  2. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. 2 squares of baking chocolate (semi-sweet or unsweetened)
  5. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  6. 2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  7. 1/3 cup white sugar
  8. 1 large egg
  9. 1 tbsp red food coloring
  10. 3/4 cup low fat sour cream
  11. 1/2 bag of white chocolate chips
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. 1/4 cup unsalted butter, very soft
  2. 4 oz cream cheese at room temp
  3. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Sift together the 2 cups flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt.
  2. Microwave the 2 chocolate squares until melted, about 1-2 minutes. Stir until smooth, and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl beat the 1/2 cup butter, 2/3 cup brown sugar, and 1/3 cup white sugar until light and fluffy. Pour in the egg and beat again until smooth. Mix in the red food coloring, melted chocolate, and blend until evenly mixed. 1 minute or so.
  4. Add one half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix. Beat in the 3/4 cup sour cream, and then the remaining one half of the dry ingredients.
  5. The batter will be thicker than cupcake batter. However, we are making bites! Like brownie bites. Spoon the batter into a well-greased mini cupcake pan. Push 3 white chocolate chips into the top of each bite.
  6. Bake for 9 minutes. Cool 5-10 minutes and remove from pan.
  7. For the cream cheese frosting, use a hand mixer to whip the 1/4 cup of butter, 4 oz cream cheese, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, and 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.
  8. Once cool, frost the bites and garnish with sprinkles if you want. I garnished with chocolate sprinkles.
Notes
  1. Frosting Tip: Are you in the same situation as me? I did not have the right piping tip to frost these cupcakes right now. That said, I did it the old fashioned way. Use a zip lock bag, cut the corner off, and pipe the frosting out. It's not as clean and pretty looking as if you had the desired tip, but it's a step up from a butter knife!
Tastes Like a Secret http://www.tasteslikeasecret.com/
Enjoy!

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Easy Homemade Pizza Dough

pizza made with super easy homemade pizza dough

Ingredients: 

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (approximately 110F)
1 1/4 cup cold water
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
5 and 1/2 cups of bread floud
Cooking spray

Directions:

1. Dissolve the 1 package of active dry yeast into the 1 cup of warm water, in a small bowl.  Let stand for about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the 1 and 1/4 cup of cold water, 2 tbsps olive oil, 1 tsp sugar, and 1 tsp salt. Stir with a spatular or whisk.

2. Measure out 5 cups of the flour into a large bowl. Pour in the yeast mixture, and the cold water mixture. Use a spatular to fold the dough over itself repeatedly, until it gets shaggy and starts to slightly hold itself together. It doesn’t have to be much; usually 10-20 flips of the spatula.

3. Measure out the remaining 1/2 cup of flour into a measuring cup. Pour half of it onto a clean surface or very large & clean cutting board. Using your hand, spread it out into a large circular shape. Flop the shaggy dough mixture out onto the floured surface. The dough will be very broken apart at this point. Using your hands, knead it together for 8-10 minutes. Wondering how to hand knead? Instructions here. Once it starts taking shape (or if it starts to get too sticky), pour in the remaining  flour. At the end of your knead, it should have an elastic feeling and be easily shaped into a round ball.

4. Spray a medium size bowl with cooking spray. Drop the dough ball into the bowl and cover with a clean towel. Put it in a warm place in your kitchen. Let it sit for 1.5 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

pre-rise dough ball

pickerimage44Example of dough rising & doubling. Photos from my homemade honeywheat buns.  The pizza dough will rise very similarly, but will look slightly more textured on top.

5. Once doubled, punch the dough down with your fist. Pull it out of the bowl. It will feel greasy and airy/light. Divide the dough in half with your hands. Shape each half into a ball. Put one of the balls of dough into a large ziplock bag, and put in the fridge, to use later that week. It will stay good for up to 2 days in the fridge. (Let it stand at room temp for an hour before using. You can also freeze it in a freezer bag for up to 2 months and just thaw it out overnight in the fridge the night before you want to use it.)

6. Shake cornmeal onto your pizza pan so the crust won’t stick when its cooked. Using your hands, shape it into a pizza. You will need to pull it gently, let it hang, flip it—carefully shaping it into the round pizza. To prevent bubbles, poke it with a fork several times all across the pizza. Or use a pizza roller, if you are lucky enough to have one.

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7. Here’s the fun part: you can now make whatever type of pizza you want. Use a homemade arriabata sauce (I will post later), a jar from the grocery store, or left over BBQ sauce. Thrown on some meat of your choice, or keep it all veggie. And top with left over cheese, or a fancy italian blend.  Whatever your heart desires! Bake the pizza at 500F for 8-12 minutes. Watch carefully; look for golden cheese, or lightly golden crusts. If your oven can go hotter, go for it! Then shake on any blend of spice and garnish you desire: ideas are basil, oregano, italian seasoning, or red pepper flakes.

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Pizza Ideas:

Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza
Sauce – Spicy Arriabata Sauce (recipe coming soon!)
Toppings – Italian sausage & onions
Cheese – Shredded mozarella

BBQ Chicken Pizza
Sauce – BBQ
Toppings – Shredded Chicken & Red Onions
Cheese – Gouda

Eclectic Recipes’ White Pizza with Spinach & Tomatoes
Sauce – Ricotta
Toppings – Spinach, Roasted Garlic, Roma Tomatoes
Cheese – Mozarella

The Fastest Pizza Possible
Sauce – A jar you buy at the store
Toppings – a meat and pre-chopped veggie you find @ the store
Cheese – a bag of pre-shredded mozarella

…this last option is super easy to throw together. Your husband will love it, it will still feel amazingly homemade because of the dough, and imagine if you were using the second, already made dough ball sitting in the fridge…dinner would seriously take you 5 minutes to put together, 8-12 minutes to bake.

Happy pizza-making!

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