Monday, January 28, 2013

Lightened Up Carrot Cake Cupcakes

As I embark on 2013, I am continuing the journey that I began in 2012. Last January, I decided to get healthy. I joined a gym. I stopped eating fast food and opted for healthier choices when I ate out. I started cooking healthier meals, and I stopped baking every Sunday. A year later, I'm still at it and very proud of myself. I only bake once in a while now, and I try to lighten up recipes, so I can still enjoy treats without the guilt. This month's What's Baking theme fit perfectly with my healthy lifestyle: Baking Healthier. I decided to modify my grandma's carrot cake cupcake recipe to lighten it up. And honestly, I couldn't even tell the difference. They were still light, fluffy, and flavorful. I topped them with a tangy cream cheese icing made with low-fat cream cheese.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Source: adapted from my Grandma

2 cups flour
1 and 2/3 cups sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
dash of salt
2 (3.5 oz.) containers carrot baby food 
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 whole eggs

2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line cupcake tins with 24 cupcake liners.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl, and set aside.

In another bowl, beat together sugar, applesauce, whole eggs, egg whites, and vanilla.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, and mix well. Stir in carrot baby food.

Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake for 17–20 minutes.

Cool completely on a wire rack. 

"Light" Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8 oz.) block neufchatel cream cheese (room temperature)
1 stick butter (room temperature)
4–6 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. 
Add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Beat well until spreading consistency.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Caramel Smigens Cookies

Every year, my husband gets a box of Smigens from his clients. Smigens are a wonderful filled holiday-themed chocolate from a local chocolate company called Gertrude Hawk. They come in a variety of flavors, such as peanut butter, coconut, and caramel, and different shapes for each holiday, such as Santa for Christmas, bunnies for Easter, and hearts for Valentine's Day. Each year, I try to come up with a different way to use them in a baked good. This year, Randy received caramel. He was disappointed (peanut butter is the coveted Smigens), but I was thrilled! I used my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe (Nestle Tollhouse) and used chopped up Smigens in place of the chocolate chips. The result was a crispy, chewy cookie packed full of caramel and chocolaty goodness. My husband declared them his new favorite and forbade me to give any away.

Caramel Smigens Cookies
source: adapted from Nestle Tollhouse
3 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks butter (softened)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
20 caramel Smigens (chopped)

Preheat oven to 375.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside. 
Beat butter, sugars, and vanilla with a mixer on on medium-high until creamy and fluffy. 
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Gradually beat in flour mixture.
Stir in chopped chocolate Smigens.
Roll dough into balls and place about 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.

Bake for  9 - 11 minutes. 
Cool on baking sheets for 2 - 4 minutes and transfer to baking racks to cool completely.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Snowmen Cupcakes

I pinned these cuties last year on Pinterest, but I never got around to making them until this year. They were simple to make and the kids (and adults) loved them. Any flavor cupcakes and white icing will work for these, but I used chocolate cupcakes and peppermint icing.

Snowmen Cupcakes
Source: Cupcakes Take the Cake via Pinterest

Batch of Cupcakes (any flavor)
White Icing (any flavor)
1 cup Sparkling White Sanding Sugar
Chocolate Chips (2 per each cupcake)
Mini Chocolate Chips (5–6 per each cupcake)
Orange Sprinkles (1 per each cupcake)

Bake cupcakes and let cool. Ice the tops with white icing.
Dip the tops of the icing into the sanding sugar until covered.
Press 2 chocolate chips for eyes, 1 orange sprinkle for a nose, and 5–6 mini chocolate chips for a mouth into each cupcake.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

From the left, Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies,
If you love the combination of chocolate and peanut butter and soft and chewy cookies, then these are the cookies for you! While these aren't the prettiest cookies (they are very flat and fragile), they are very delicious. The bitterness of the cocoa and the sweetness of the peanut butter chips makes these cookies irresistible. Grab a cold glass of milk (preferably almond milk) and enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
source: Hershey's Kitchens

2 cups all-purpose flour* 
3/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
2 and 1/2 sticks butter (softened) 
2 cups sugar
2  eggs 
2 teaspoons vanilla 
1 and 2/3 cups peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.
Beat butter and sugar with mixer on medium-high until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla, and beat well.
Gradually add flour mixture, and beat well. (Dough will be very sticky.)
Stir in peanut butter chips.
Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets at least 2 inches apart.
(Cookies will spread while baking.) 
Bake for 8 - 9 minutes. 
Cool on cookie sheets for a few minutes and carefully remove to wire racks.
(Cookies will be very soft and fragile when done. They will also flatten while cooling.)

*If you prefer your cookies less flat, increase flour by 1/4 to 1/2 cup.