Carrot-Ginger Cupcakes

As a food lover, my contribution to Halloween celebrations this year is these beautiful cupcakes.

My friend Amanda and I got together last night to bake these Halloween treats. We used a recipe from Martha Stewart’s book, but played around a little with it. (Original recipe can be found here). We took out some ingredients and increased the quantity of others and in the end came out with these delicious and moist cakes. I am an honest food lover so I have to say that Amanda did most of the work and even lent her fingers to these photos!

For 36 of these yummy cupcakes (or a 23 inch round cake), you need:

- 2.5 cups grated carrots
– 3 eggs, room temperature
– 1/3 cup butter milk
– 1 cup vegetable oil
– 3 cups flour
– 2 cups brown sugar
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1.5 tsp cinnamon powder
– 1 Tbsp ginger powder
– 1 tsp salt

Method:
– Preheat the oven to 375F.
– In a large bowl, mix together the grated carrots, oil, eggs and buttermilk.
– In another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients.
– Fold the dry ingredients into the carrot mixture, stirring in between every cup you fold in.
– Pour the batter into paper cupcakes fitted in a cupcake baking tray.
– Bake each tray for 20 minutes. Test with a wooden toothpick before you take out. The cupcakes should feel moist but your toothpick should come out dry.

Your cupcakes are not yet ready! You need to smother them with the best homemade cream cheese frosting!

For the cream, you need 2 cups of cream cheese, 2 cups of caster sugar, 4 Tbsp of orange zest and a squeeze of orange juice. Cream these ingredients well together. You can freeze any leftover frosting.

AND HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Coffee & Cocoa Marble Cake

Mmmm…there’s nothing more heartwarming than the smell of freshly baked coffee cake! Here’s a sweet coffee cake that will fill your home with the most inviting and friendly smell!

For this swirly cake, you’ll need:

- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
– 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 Tbsp instant coffee

- 2 cups flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 1/4 tsp salt
– 1 stick butter (100g), softened
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 2 eggs, at room temperature
– 1/4 cup milk

Method:

- Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a Bundt cake pan.
– Mix the brown sugar, cocoa powder and instant coffee in a small bowl.
– In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla and salt.
– In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
– Into the eggs and butter mixture, fold in half the flour and then the milk. Beat. Finally fold in the last half of the flour (start and end with flour).
– Pour half the batter into the cake pan. Sprinkle the cocoa and coffee mix over the batter.
– Add the second half of the batter to cover the powdered layer.
– Finally, with a kitchen knife, swirl the batter around.
– Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Take my advice and bake this cake on a cold night in at home. It will make your heart smile!

Two exotic salads

Now here’s a new way of looking at salads!

Homemade salads do not always have to be boring and cucumber and tomato based. If you think outside the box and try to mix fruits and vegetables together, you might come out with rather special and nutritious salads.
Here are the two salads that I put together for dinner tonight: Red Grapes and Feta Salad and Pears, Avocado and Feta Salad.

Red Grapes and Feta Salad

As you can see in the photos, for this salad you need red grapes, feta cheese and pine nuts. I mixed the feta cheese with a little balsamic vinegar at first before adding them on top of the grapes. I drizzled extra virgin olive oil at the end and a sprinkle of black pepper. A very refreshing and light salad, especially if you use low salt, low fat feta cheese. The pines give it an additional nutritional value as they are high in manganese and low in cholesterol.
Did you know? The pine trees family produces both male and female pine cones, while nuts are only found in fertilized female cones.

Pears, Avocado and Feta Salad

For this salad you need pears, avocado, feta cheese, walnuts and rosemary. I drizzled olive oil at the end. Walnuts, like pine nuts, are high in manganese.

Did you know?
Avocados are fruits and not vegetables.
They contain more potassium than bananas.
Keeping an avocado in the fridge slows down its ripening process, while putting it with a ripe apple in a paper bag will speed up the process.

Apple Upside Down Cake

Next time you find yourself faced with a basket of apples that you know you won’t eat but hate to throw away, go for this recipe. I have the original recipe in one of Jamie Oliver’s magazines, but I didn’t precisely follow it. I changed a little. This is what I did.

Ingredients (serves 10):

For the cake
– 1 stick butter (100g)
– 1.5 cups icing sugar/caster sugar
– 3 eggs beaten with 2 Tbsp milk
– 1.5 cups flour, sifted
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 50 grams flaked almonds

For the apple sauce
– 1 stick butter (100g)
– 3/4 cup brown sugar
– 3 apples peeled and cut into wings

Method:
First make the sauce by melting the butter in a pan. After it completely melts, add the brown sugar and stir well until foam appears on the sides. Pour into your cake tin to cover the base and they lay the apple slices all over the base. Set aside.

The cake: Preheat the oven to 350F. Cream together the butter and icing sugar. Add the beaten eggs and beat everything well for under a minute with an electric mixer. This needs to be silky cream and it’s tricky to achieve that without an electric mixer. Now fold in the dry ingredients and beat again until the batter becomes a beautiful and creamy yellow color. Do not over beat. Finally, add the almonds. Stir with a spatula and then pour your cake mix over the apple sauce. Bake your cake for 30 minutes or a little less. Check on it with a wooden skewer at 25 minutes. The cake will turn golden and it will smell like a sweet surprise! Let the cake cool for a few minutes and then turn it upside down with the plate you’re using.

A perfect cake for a friends gathering. It serves up to 12 friends.
Don’t fight over the caramelized crust!

Pizza? Not quite.

Look carefully. What do you think this DELICIOUS food is? Pizza. Not really. It’s an omelet! Yes, a perfect omelet with the perfect topping!

To prepare this out-of-this-world omelet you need the following:
(makes one)
– 2 eggs beaten with a little salt
– 1/2 cup of fresh mushrooms
– A sprinkle of roasted garlic
– 1 tomato, chopped
– Shredded mozzarella cheese
– A knob of butter

Method:
Fry the mushrooms in the butter until they start smelling heavenly. Sprinkle a little roasted garlic over them.
Put them aside.
In the same pan cook the eggs into a golden disk.
Once the eggs are cooked on both sides, add the chopped tomatoes on top, the cooked mushrooms and sprinkle the cheese.
Over low heat, cover the omelet for a few minutes until the cheese melts.

A really really really flavorsome meal, perfect for breakfast on a weekend.

Holy Peanut Butter Blossoms!

Useful confession: this post is dedicated to the peanut butter lover in my life.

I thought cupcakes and muffins were the easiest thing to prepare and bake and the yummiest thing to eat with a cup of coffee, but it turned out that I was wrong! The easiest thing to bake and is a more than perfect match with coffee is: PEANUT BUTTER BLOSSOMS! This is a holy dessert! And for this I would like to thank my friend and colleague Amanda! She made some the other week and brought them to work and I immediately fell in love with them.

Here is how to prepare the holy mix for 12 blossoms:

- 12 Hershey Kisses (I used both milk chocolate and dark chocolate Kisses)
– 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
– 1/4 cup butter, softened
– 1 egg, beaten
– 1/3 cup brown sugar
– 3/4 cup flour (or a little more)
– 1/2 tsp vanilla
– 1/2 tsp salt

Method:
Preheat oven to 375F.
Stir the peanut butter and regular butter together into a creamy paste.
Add the beaten egg. Stir well.
Add the sugar. Again, mix well into a homogeneous mixture.
Now add the flour and vanilla and salt, and with your hand, shape the whole thing into a ball. The ball will feel buttery, it should be this way.
Now roll small balls (around 1 inch).
Place them on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, unwrap 12 Hershey Kisses.

As soon as you take the cookie balls out of the oven, softly press a Hershey Kiss on top of each cookie.
Cool on a surface, away from the oven. (Or for a few minutes in the fridge)
The cookies shouldn’t feel as hard as regular cookies, they should be softer, more chewy. The chocolate will melt at the bottom only, but then it will go back to its shape after the cookies have cooled down.

Here you go! Easy, fast and doesn’t leave a lot of mess around. Perfect dessert!

Did you know? HERSHEY KISSES Brand Chocolates were first introduced in 1907. While it’s not known exactly how KISSES got their name, it is a popular theory that the candy was name for the sound or motion of the chocolate being deposited during the manufacturing process. (www.hersheys.com)

Looking sunny from here!

Do you sometimes really crave fried eggs, sunny side up?

Today was one of those days for me, I really wanted fried eggs for lunch! And since it’s an easy thing to prepare and I had vegetables in the fridge, I thought putting of them together for a nutritious meal!

This meal has 220 calories, yes ONLY 220 calories! How come?

2 fried eggs (no fat), 130 calories
1 tsp of butter, 35 calories

A cup of mixed vegetables (broccoli, onion, mushrooms, marrow), 30 calories
1 tsp of butter, 35 calories

Now do the math and you’ll find out that this nutritious and delicious meal is actually a healthy one! Eggs, contrary to common belief, are actually low in calories, high in protein and not very high in fat.

To prepare this meal, fry the two eggs with one teaspoon of butter. Fry the vegetables with another teaspoon of butter. Sprinkle salt and pepper over them, five minutes later, your vegetables are ready to serve.

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Just an idea…A healthy and delicious sandwich: smoked turkey breast is also a non-fatty cold cut with lots of proteins. 2 slices of smoked turkey breast have 45 calories (and 10g of protein), one hot dog roll has 120 calories and a peeled cucumber has 10 calories. So, for breakfast, you can have a smoked turkey sandwich with sliced cucumbers and a dash of yellow mustard for only 175 calories! Just an idea!

Chocolate Cupcakes – VEGAN

Some say that chocolate is a remedy for bad moods, bad break ups and bad beginnings. And some others say that cupcakes are the cutest dessert you can have. I say lets combine the two and see if we can come out with a cute remedy! And what a cute remedy it was!

I had a long and tiring week at work and this is exactly how I needed to start my weekend!

Ingredients (12 cupcakes)
– 1.5 cups flour
– 1 cup sugar
– 3 heaped Tbsp of cocoa powder
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 4 Tbsp vegetable oil
– 1 cup cold water

Method:
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Prepare your cupcake tray with twelve paper cups.
Sift the dry ingredients.
Add the oil and water.
Mix well.
Pour into cupcake papers (half of each).
Bake for 25 minutes.
Best served with chocolate sauce drizzled all over :) and a glass of cold milk.

Cute, no?!

Pasta with Green Peas & Zucchini

What you need for this quick fix meal is the following:
Ingredients for 2:

- 2 cloves garlic
– 1 Tbsp olive oil
– a small knob of butter
– 1/2 cup of green peas (I use frozen)
– 1/2 cup of celery cut into cubes
– 1/2 cup of potatoes cut into small cubes
– 1/2 cup of pasta shells, small size
– Oregano, basil, salt and pepper
– 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

First cook the pasta according to instructions on packet, in salted water. I also threw in the potatoes because I figured the potatoes need the same amount of time to cook like the pasta. 3 minutes before everything was cooked, I threw in the peas. Drain and set aside.

Now, fry the garlic cloves in the olive oil and butter. Add the celery and zucchini. Cook for a few minutes.

Add the vegetables and pasta that you just cooked. Stir well. You might want to add an additional drizzle of olive oil at this point. Add the dried herbs and black pepper. Add the cheese. Stir well.

And there you go! A delicious and fast dinner! The garlic and butter along with the cheese give a rich taste to this dish. You can add mushrooms if you have.