Monday, May 28, 2012

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Cake Batter Frosting

These cupcakes were so delicious! Fluffy, melt in your mouth, chocolaty, creamy bliss in every bite-- definitely a winner in my book. Last week in Mexico, we celebrated Students Day, so I thought I would make some treats to celebrate them. The students simply devoured them and it was hard to walk through the halls without kids trying tot tackle me for them... even the teachers couldn't resist. I even left some at home with the hubby and they had vanished, except for one... which is actually a rather hilarious story. We had gone to bed for the evening and in the middle of the night I woke up to find my husband in bed with the LAST cupcake, it was too funny :)
I have mentioned earlier that I actually don't own a whisk or let alone an electric mixer... so I use a wooden spoon or fork and often times get frustrated that I can't always get the consistency a recipe calls for... which was my exact worry for this frosting. But I was out of powdered sugar and found this recipe thinking I would give it a try... well I ran into a too liquid-y frosting and therefore had to improvise... but it ended up working out for the best, as the frosting is delightful and reminiscent of chocolate cake batter-- yum!

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes: (makes 24-27)
slightly adapted from Joy the Baker
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. 
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. 
In a small bowl, whisk together milk and vanilla extract. 
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, apple sauce and sugar with a wooden spoon very fast (if you have a mixer, use here) until thoroughly mixed and fluffy--this takes a few minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is well incorporated.
Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring (beating) for one minute after each addition.
Now, while stirring, alternately add the flour mixture and the vanilla milk mixture in three separate batches, starting with the flour. Mix the batter until all ingredients are well incorporated.
Divide into the lined cupcake pan about 3/4 full and bake for 25 minutes or until golden and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool and allow to completely cool before frosting.

Classic Vanilla Cupcakes:

 Chocolate Cake Batter Frosting: (frosts 27 + cupcakes)
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen
5 tablespoons + 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Pour milk into a small sauce pan. Next add the 5 tbs flour to the milk. Whisk together until well combined and then place pan over medium heat. Continue to whisk until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and let cool completely. 
Add vanilla to the cooled flour/milk mixture and stir to combine.
In a separate bowl, pour sugar and add butter. Stir well with a wooden spoon (this is where a mixer is ideal!) and whip around until fluffy or in my case well combined, as not using an electric mixer you don't ever achieve a light and airy frosting. 
Add the cooled flour mixture and stir (or whip) until well combined. Next sift, cocoa powder over frosting and mix well. Add in the remaining flour in small increments until the frosting thickens up, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times to be sure it’s all mixed well.
Refrigerate for at least an hour to thicken up completely and easily spread on cupcakes. I had leftover frosting and just storing in the refrigerator for my next baking adventure. This frosting does not use your typical ingredients, but sure does taste heavenly!! 

 Chocolate Cake Batter Frosting:

 These cupcakes turned out so delicious and wish it was a never-ending supply, I hope you give these a try and if you do have a mixer, feel free to pull that baby our-- one day I will have my own...

On another note, tomorrow I am leaving for San Diego again to witness my Big sister's wedding! I couldn't be more ecstatic for them, and looking forward to their beautiful Rose Garden Wedding, Congratulations you two!! Therefore, for the next week I will actually not be posting and taking a short vacation from the blog, but will bring back some lovely memories to share with you all :)

Thanks everyone, many blessings to you this next week!

" Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.The Lord is near.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. "
Philippians 4: 4-7

And one last very important note:
THANK YOU to ALL our SOLDIERS who have SERVED our COUNTRY and SACRIFICED their LIVES, in MEMORY of all those MEN and WOMEN!

Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Strawberry Coconut Greek Yogurt Parfait

Now that we know how to make our own Greek yogurt, here is a fun way to spice up your normal serving of yogurt, berries, and granola by creating a rather delightful treat, a parfait!-- perfect for serving guests or guilt-free indulgence for yourself. 
I paired this plain Greek yogurt with some fresh strawberries, toasted coconut, puffed amaranth, chia seeds, and some oats (but you could definitely just use some granola) and for sweetener, as well as providing a burst of flavor from some coconut milk.

Strawberry Coconut Greek Yogurt Parfait: (serves 1)
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
5 strawberries + 1 for garnish
1 tbs coconut
1 tbs puffed amaranth
1 tbs oats
1 tsp chia seeds
2 tbs coconut milk

Hull the strawberries, place in a blender and chop for a few seconds. Heat a small skillet over medium-low heat and toast coconut until lightly golden, about one minute. Combine amaranth, oats, seeds, and toasted coconut into a small bowl and mix together. Begin layering process. Start with a spoonful of diced strawberries, yogurt, 1 tbs coconut milk, and another spoonful or so of cereal mixture (or granola), and repeat the process 2 more times. Garnish with a sliced strawberry and dig in!

 Have a lovely weekend everyone!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

DIY Greek Yogurt

One thing I really miss while living here in Mexico is Greek Yogurt, as they have yet to bring it to the grocery store shelves. But while I was browsing the internet, I came across an incredible knowledge that I could easily make my own!!! The only difference between Greek yogurt and its counterpart is that Greek yogurt is strained excessively to remove excess liquid (whey) and that's it! That's all the difference... well in how it's made, but definitely not in its nutritional value.

By removing much of the liquid whey, we also remove a majority of the lactose, cut sugar in half , double the protein and give the yogurt a thicker consistency with about the same amount of calories! The only downside is that you do lose some of its high calcium content. On the up-side though, by straining your own yogurt, you will save tons of money wasted on overpriced Greek Yogurt (in my opinion). It also can be super versatile! As you can mix it with fruit and granola, or sub it in baking in cakes, muffins, and even cheesecakes, or as a sour cream base for dips or a dollop on your baked potato or tacos.

Plain Greek yogurt has a strong and somewhat sour taste, so often people like to add a tad bit of honey or sweetener in their yogurt cups and remember that the straining only works with unflavored versions.

Some nutrition facts: [source]
Protein. Greek yogurt is high in protein, which helps promote fullness. A typical 6-ounce serving contains 15 to 20 grams, the amount in 2 to 3 ounces of lean meat. An identical serving of regular yogurt, on the other hand, provides just 9 grams.
Carbohydrates. Greek yogurt contains roughly half the carbs as the regular kind—5 to 8 grams per serving compared with 13 to 17. Plus, the straining process removes some of the milk sugar, lactose, making Greek yogurt less likely to upset the lactose-intolerant. Although, remember to choose plain or less sweetened yogurt, being your best option. 
Fat. Look out though as some full-fat Greek yogurt's can packs 16 grams of saturated fat—or 80 percent of your total daily allowance in just a 7-oz serving. (That's more than in three Snickers bars.) Read nutrition labels carefully. If you're going Greek, stick to low-fat and fat-free versions.
Sodium. A serving of Greek yogurt averages 50 milligrams of sodium—about half the amount in most brands of the regular kind. 
Calcium. Regular yogurt provides 30 percent of the federal government's recommended daily amount.  A 6-ounce cup typically supplies about 20 percent of the daily recommendation.
Comparing Labels:

Greek (5.3 ounces, nonfat, plain)
  • Calories: 80
  • Total fat: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol: 10 milligrams
  • Sodium: 50 milligrams
  • Sugar: 6 grams
  • Protein: 15 grams
  • Calcium: 15 percent on a 2,000-calorie diet
Regular (6 ounces, nonfat, plain)
  • Calories: 80
  • Total fat: 0 grams
  • Cholesterol 5 milligrams
  • Sodium: 120 milligrams
  • Sugar: 12 grams
  • Protein: 9 grams
  • Calcium: 30 percent on a 2,000-calorie diet.

DIY Greek Yogurt:
1 Container of unflavored yogurt (I used plain)
Large steel mesh strainer
Cheesecloth, heavy paper towel, or coffee filter (I used coffee filter)
Container or measuring cup

Place mesh strainer over a bowl or yogurt container, and line with a thick paper towel, coffee filter, or cheesecloth. Pour as much yogurt as you can fit  into the strainer. Note: I had to do two batches, and place the straining set up in the refrigerator. Allow for yogurt drain overnight. In the morning you should have thick yogurt and whey liquid in the bottom of your bowl or container. (You can save the whey and use it for other things, I discard it.) and Viola, now you have your own Greek Yogurt! And this can store for the same sell date posted on the container.

What you will need.
You can use the yogurt container or bowl/ measuring cup.

You can already see it draining...

Place in the fridge and let strain overnight.

This is the liquid whey from one batch of straining yogurt.

Place back in the container and use by sell date labeled.
And enjoy however you like to eat your yogurt!

I am simply loving this discovery!!! I like to make a yogurt bowl, adding a tad Agave for sweetener w/ a little flavoring such as vanilla. Or using to make some tasty overnight oats (recipe coming soon) or into a delightful parfait , and have so many other ideas to sub it in. Try it yourself and let me know your favorite ideas, enjoy!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jesus shed his blood...

   "Jesus shed his blood for the conversation that started out right but has now become angry and tense. Jesus dies for the daily pressure of living with someone who is very different from you. Jesus died so that you would win your struggle with forgiveness and be able to resist the seductive call of bitterness and vengeance. Jesus dies so that you would have what it takes to make the decision to get out of bed and do what you promised even though you are weary and discouraged. Jesus suffered so that you could face hurt and mistreatment with wisdom and grace. Jesus died so that you would resist the temptation to give in, give up, run away, or quit. Jesus shed his blood so that you would have the power to edit your words and say what is wholesome even when you have been spoken to in ways that are unkind. Jesus shed his blood so that in specific moments you would have the power to say no to irritation and impatience and respond in kindness and self-control. Jesus died so that in the face of death of your dreams you would take up the better dream of what he has called you to. Jesus suffered so that you would have the wisdom you need to deal with things you would have the power to grow and change.
    Jesus suffered in love so that your struggle to love would never, ever be alone. As you give yourself to love, he showers you with his love, so that you would never be without what you need to love. He was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of love because he knew that that was the only way that you would ever get what it takes to love as you have been called to love. Jesus knew that your struggle to love is so deep that a certain system of wisdom or a certain set of provisions wouldn't be enough. He knew the only thing that would help you would be if he gave you himself. So that is exactly what he did. He gave himself so that right here, right now, you would have the resources you need to live a concrete and continuing life of love."

-Paul David Tripp
What Did You Expect??
(Chapter 11)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing with a Strawberry Salad

While reading the ingredients on our Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing we use, I was shocked to find that the second ingredient was corn syrup, yuck! So here is a super delicious vinaigrette dressing, that's also easy and you can whip it up together in just a matter of seconds.
And combine this Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing with this salad is such a refreshing and perfect summer salad-- the strawberries give it a sweet essence while the balsamic offers a tang to the dish, all over some crisp spinach and romaine leaves. I am also a lover of garbanzo beans and love them on pretty much any salad. Another fun way to eat them is to roast them in the oven with some spices and oil, then toss on top of a salad , almost like croutons! This salad has a variety of textures from the seeds, onions, and strawberries and has a vibrant color from those luscious strawberries. Enjoy.

Strawberry Salad:

Romaine Lettuce
Onion, thinly sliced
Garbanzo beans
Pepitas or Sliced Walnuts
Strawberries, hulled & sliced
Parmasan cheese (optional)

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing:

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon agave or honey
1 teaspoon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of salt
Fresh ground pepper

Prepare the vegetables, wash and dry the greens. Optional: toast the seeds over a medium heat, stirring frequently until slightly browned.  Make the vinaigrettein a measuring cup or canning jar, combine all the ingredients whisk or shake well to mix all the flavors. Or you can also simply toss these ingredients in the blender and puree together. Assemble the salad by placing the greens in serving bowls or plates and top with remaining ingredients. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and grind with fresh ground pepper and/or sprinkle Parmesan cheese. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Our First Anniversary

I wanted to mention that I am sorry about not posting Friday, but we had some complications with our internet, and therefore was without it for a couple days... We are all set now and just in time to share our ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY as a married couple. We have enjoyed every moment of this past year and truly what an adventure it has been-- we have been beyond blessed! We had such a lovely relaxing day and want to share a few novice photos of it. 

We started the day with some super fluffy blueberry pancakes made from Betty Crocker's muffin mix, as here in Mexico its hard to find blueberries or at least at a decent price-- but the husband loves them. He bought me a rose, as flowers are scarce also as the hot weather doesn't allow for good growth. But I am one happy wife with just a single beautiful rose, some sweet heart-warming words, and most importantly spending some quality time together. I simply just gave him a long letter expressing my love and renewed commitments of being his spouse, as well as cooking-up some of his favorite eats.

 We then got ready and went to Church to hear God's precious word and fellowship with others, it was a nice service with a guest speaker. As lunch time rolled around, I put together a basic salad and some little buffalo chicken tacos. And of course had to make a dessert... my attempt of Tres Leches Cake wasn't quite perfect (I think it was due to a lack of kitchen tools-- like an electronic mixer, I used a fork to try to whip-up the egg whites...), but it definitely wasn't a bust, as I could hardly stop poking my fork into it. I actually put a twist on this recipe, making it into a Strawberry Shortcake Coconut Tres Leches Cake! It is a very decadent, sweet, creamy, moist and delicious dessert. And the strawberries were a perfect addition to help balance out the overload of sugar and also offered a nice additional texture.

Then we went and saw a movie, as tickets only cost $3 to see here in La Paz! It's such a deal and the theaters are so nice. We went and saw The Lucky One, my husband was so kind enough to watch a chick flick with me :) Although he liked it... we both did (minus some intimate scenes). The theater we went too is actually brand new, as well as the shopping center it's located in, and found it to be very lovely-- lots of great stores, beautiful fountains with statues, seating to lounge in, and lot's of shade. I think we found a new spot to come, walk around, window shop, and well just hangout.

Then to finish our evening we went out to a sweet little Restaurant called La Pazta and got all dolled up-- those nice are always so much fun. Here are a few sneak peaks of the restaurant, our food, and us :) After we enjoyed a nice long walk along the Malecon (harbor) to help digest all the food we consumed. 

Cheese Fondue
Greek Salad

 It was a beautiful day to celebrate an incredible and dearly treasured year and beginning our sweet married life, as well as embark on the many more to come. Check out this Page to see some of  dates and adventures thus far or engagement and wedding ones, here, here, and here :) Hope you all had lovely weekends yourself, blessings!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mongolian Beef with Noodles

Craving take-out? Well this quick, inexpensive, and easy recipe will satisfy those taste buds, but on a healthier note. This dish is full of flavor, a tad sweet, salty, and you can adjust the spiciness as you like.

Mongolian Beef with Noodles: (serves 2)
Slightly adapted from Handle the Heat

2/3 lb. flank steak, sliced
3 Tbsp flour
3 tsp oil
1/2 tsp grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup water
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1-2 cups broccoli florets
2 packages of Ramen noodles, discard seasoning packets
sesame seeds

Remove any moisture from the steak with a paper towel. Toss the steak and cornstarch together; shake off any excess flour. Combine sauce mixture, soy sauce, water, brown sugar and red pepper flakes in a small bowl or measuring cup. Heat half the oil in a skillet on medium heat, adding the ginger and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant, then add in sauce mixture. Cook for about 2 minutes. While the sauce simmers, boil water in a medium sauce pan for the Ramen noodles. Next, transfer back the sauce mixture to the bowl or measuring cup.
Turn up heat on your skillet and add the remaining oil, toss in the beef and cook until just browned, only a couple minutes. Pour sauce back in the skillet, add broccoli florets and let cook with the meat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, sauce should thicken. By now water should be boiling, turn off heat, add the noodles and cook for 1-2 minutes (according to package), drain. Toss noodles in skillet with the rest of it, coating noodles and combining flavors. Divide beef and noodle mixture between two plates and top with sesame seeds.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Roasted Pineapple Guacamole

I have been noticing a lot of recipes including grilled pineapple in their guacamole... and I thought it would be an interesting combination of flavors, and indeed they are-- its so tasty! The roasted pineapple chunks offer a sweet and citrus taste to the oh so decadent avocado. I prefer my guacamole on the chunkier side as I am still getting using to liking creamy stuff, but feel free to mix it to suit your taste-buds.

Serves well with tortilla chips of course, or on top of those Mexican tacos, or your BBQ'd burger!

Roasted Pineapple Guacamole: (serves 2)
1 cup pineapple chunks (fresh or canned)
1 large avocado
1/2 lime, juiced
1/4 t chili powder or cayenne
Dash of paprika
Pinch of Salt
Dash of Pepper
2 onion slices, finely diced
Small handful of cilantro, chopped
1 Serrano pepper, seeds removed and finely diced

Place pineapple chunks on a slightly greased pan (spritzed w/ oil) and put in the oven (I used a toaster oven) and roast on 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit and scoop it into a bowl. Mash the avocado with a fork, add the lime juice, and continue to mash until there is little to no chunks depending on how you like it. Next, add the spices and mix well. Toss into the mixture onions, cilantro, pepper, and pineapple and lightly fold until well combined. Serve with tortilla chips, or add as a topping to a taco or burger.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Date Night = Best Burgers Ever!

Well, today in Mexico is Teacher Appreciation Day and they go as far as giving us the day off!!! So I definitely feel appreciated, but to top it off even more, my school is taking us out for a breakfast treat at one of my favorite waterfront locations, Capri. So with that I would like to say HAPPY TEACHERS DAY and thank you to all those whose energy, time, and efforts go into educating the next generation, its an important job! Blessings to you.

Well, on a another note... My husband and I try to go on a date once a week, whether it's out to a restaurant, on a bike ride,or a trip to the beach-- it's important to make the effort for quality time as a couple. I always look forward to it :) 
Earlier that day we took a stroll along the Malecon (harbor), it was absolutely a beautiful day as the sun was shining, and a nice breeze passed by, making the weather perfect.

Palapas to chill under & escape the sun.
 The lovely evening sunset from our apartment
view-- we couldn't be more blessed!

The Shack-- famous for its laid back rustic atmosphere and of course there giant tasty burgers!!! 

Mine: Veggie Burger-- portabella mushroom, cheese, loaded
w/ tomatoes,onion, pickles, and lettuce, topped  w/ BBQ sauce
His: 1/2lb Blue Cheese Bacon Burger
Ya we finished them...
We were stuffed... they practically had to roll us out of there... we went on another walk after that! But it was so delicious, we both agree they have the best burgers EVER--YUMMY! And seriously don't know if we will be able to find better, so if you ever come to visit, we will definitely be taking a trip to the Shack :)