Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes



I feel like we are always in a season of TREATS. It's like there's always a reason to celebrate something and treats are always a MUST.  I have a long list of favorites and go-to recipes when these occasions arise but when I needed a dairy free recipe last month for a preschool birthday celebration, I was up for the challenge.

This is a first for me- these cupcakes are completely vegan! We aren't going vegan in this house but I've never made a vegan dessert before and this recipe is too good not to share. 
I made this recipe for Will's class to accommodate some allergies and will definitely keep this recipe as my go to next time I need something allergy friendly! 

The key to the frosting is letting the dairy free butter come to room temperature. DO NOT MELT IT. I have a little trick of microwaving dairy butter in 5 second increments to get it to room temperature quickly, but do not do this with the vegan butter. It melts quickly and then your frosting will be toast. Trust me when I say to take the time and let it come to room temperature on it's own. Your frosting will be creamy and dreamy- pinky swear! 

The texture of the cake is rich and dense and since the amount of vanilla in the recipe is on the larger side, the flavor is super vanilla-y! Classic vanilla cupcakes with a vegan twist- you won't even miss the dairy 

P.S. Don't skimp on the sprinkles! (to keep these 100% vegan, make sure you are using sprinkles that don't contain dairy- check the ingredients list)



Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes
recipe adapted from Babble

Makes 10-12 cupcakes

1 cup Flour
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flavorless oil (I used canola- grapeseed or safflower would work, too)
3/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used Ripple plant based milk)
1 Tbsp. vanilla 
1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 365 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with 10-12 liners. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar and mix until combined. Add remaining ingredients (oil, non dairy milk, vanilla and apple cider vinegar) and beat on medium speed until no clumps remain. 

Fill the cupcake liners with batter 3/4 to the top. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick/cake tester comes out clean. The cupcakes should bounce back slightly when pressed. 

Let cool completely before frosting.

Vegan Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup vegan butter, room temperature (I used Earth's Balance brand)
2 tsp. vanilla 

in the bowl of an electric mixer using a paddle attachment, beat butter until soft and fluffy, 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed. Turn speed down to low and slowly add the powdered sugar. Turn the speed up to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, another 2-3 minutes. If the mixture seems too wet, add in a little more powdered sugar as needed. Transfer frosting to piping bag and frost!



Wednesday, June 13, 2018

June Cookbook Club: Skinnytaste Fast and Slow

Good morning! And how are we already into mid-June?! The summer days are slow and easy but time still seems to speed by. 

For the June edition of Cookbook Club, Allie and I chose a book by one of our favorite food bloggers, Fast and Slow by Gina Homolka of Skinnytaste. I love love love this book and I love Gina even more. She is one of the very first food blogs that I started reading and still remains one of my favorites. Her recipes are wholesome, healthy and super family friendly! I'm confident that anyone who frequents her blog or owns any of her cookbooks will tell you the same. 



I love Gina's approach to cooking so much. Her recipes never lack flavor and I've never made anything of hers that disappointed. Fast and Slow is filled with recipes that come together quickly as well as ones that cook all day in the slow cooker- all things that are especially appreciated during the busy weeknights that we all seem to have! 

I'm pulling out an old recipe from my archives to share with you all from the book because it's one I seriously go back to over and over again. I have made so many things out of this cookbook but the Caulflower Potato Tacos have been my favorite by far. It's such an unexpected combo of ingredients and flavors which is why I think we love it so much. I've only actually made these as tacos twice, but the cauliflower potato mixture is on regular rotation on our dinner menu as a side! The flavor is unbelievable and the addition of the Lime-Cilantro Chutney takes it to another level. We love this dish so much! Perfect for a meatless Monday or using the cauliflower potato mixture as a flavorful side like we do most times. You can find this recipe on an older post HERE.


Here are a few other favorites from this cookbook!


I especially love panzanella salad in the Summer and this one is DELICIOUS! Especially with farmer's market or garden fresh tomatoes.



Cold Peanut- Sesame Chicken and Spiralized Cucumber Noodle Salad- this is RIDICULOUS. So good, light and fresh for Summer! I pick up a rotisserie chicken when I made this meal and will often times sub in almond butter for the peanut butter and it's just as delicious. The dressing is my favorite part of this and I always like to make a little extra to dip veggies in as a snack!


If you follow any Whole30 or Paleo bloggers, you know that eggroll bowls are all the rage right now. I've tried several and this is the best recipe I've found. It comes together seamlessly and in no time at all.

I cannot recommend this book enough. I've had it for over a year now and it is still front and center when I grab a stack of books to look through as I meal plan on Sundays. 

Don't forget to link your favorite recipe from the book below! We are taking a break from Cookbook Club for the Summer but will likely pick it back up again in the fall. If you have any book ideas or books that you want to see featured, leave it in the comments below. Happy Cooking!


Monday, June 11, 2018

Loving Lately + Fitness Inspo


Summer is in full swing over here and we are loving these carefree days and a break from the everyday schedule. It's been nice to spend mornings at the pool, eat later dinners and just be outside! (as long as it's not 1000 degrees!) As every season changes there's something I love about each one but really, Summer is my favorite. Also...PEONY SEASON! Freaking out over these gorgeous flowers like everyone else on social media but really, I cannot resist when I see a giant display of them at this tome of year. 

A few things I'm loving lately...

I went back to my beloved Neutrogena for a summertime face and it's like being back with an old friend- the kind you pick right back up where you left off with. It's smooth and light and feels great on my face. I like minimal face makeup in the Summer and this stuff is perfect. The Neutrogena Healthy Face Tinted Moisturizer was my go-to for 10 years and now I'm wondering why I ever switched! I still love the it Cosmetics CC Cream but I think that will be more of a Fall/Winter product for me. 



I have found my new health and nutrition guru and I'm completely on board with this way of eating and structuring my meals. Kelly Leveque is a celebrity health and wellness consultant with all of the right information. She has a science and medical background and truly knows her stuff. Her approach is simple and makes so much sense. Protein, fat, fiber and greens are her "fab four" and the way she explains it in her book couldn't be easier to understand. For a quick intro to her approach with food, I recommend listening to her interview on Rachel Hollis's podcast, Dais from this past April. It's FULL of so much good info. A few friends recommended this specific interview to me and I ordered Kelly's Book, Body Love, immediately after listening. 

My sisters and I started Annie Downs's 100 Days to Brave and it's so good. It's the perfect daily devotional and I love the premise of it all. I read Annie's book Let's All Be Brave a few years ago and re-read it again recently. So much goodness in that book and the devotional is proving to have more of the same. 



Did you know George Clooney has his own brand of Tequila? Well, he does and it's amazing. Casamigos on the rocks with a little lime seltzer and a wedge of lime is EVERYTHING. Get on it! The backstory on this easy drinking stuff is great, too! 


My workout game has been strong lately and I feel like I'm in a good groove. I enjoy exercising and getting sweaty and really working hard. I also enjoy mixing it up and have found over the years that I can't do the same thing every day. Earlier this Spring, I went back to my beloved BBG Guides by Kayla Itsines and 3.5 years later, I'm still convinced that these are some of the best home workouts that you can do. When I track myself with progress doing these workouts and really focus on my eating, I see great results. Bonus points because it's super convenient for busy moms with young kids. I amped up my BBG workouts recently and started adding more running intervals in between. Our home gym makes this easy whether I get up and workout before my kids wakeup, or if I sneak in a naptime sweat sesh. We don't have a treadmill in our garage (yet), but our driveway is fairly long and I'll do 3-5 minute running intervals up and down the driveway. I'm sure my neighbors thing I look like a hamster, but it gets the job done! All this to say- do what works for you and be consistent! Also- you can't outwork a bad diet so really, all of this starts in the kitchen, too. And water. Lots and lots of water- especially in these hot Summer months! 

Make it a wonderful week, everyone!! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Markaritas!


What goes well with Tacos on a Tuesday!? Margaritas! Duh. Or in our case, the ever popular Markarita. No, really. Pulling this deliciousness out of the archives because Summer is around the corner and I wish I had these on tap. This is one of my most popular recipes to date and definitely one of the top five recipes requested by all of my real life friends and family. I've always loved margaritas but I came to the realization recently that I think I love them so much because Mark and I drank them on our first date! And here we are still sipping away on these things.

Back when we started reading a ton of Paleo books and blogs, we learned that Tequila is one of the better liquor choices. While all alcohol isn't necessarily "paleo approved", Tequila is a cleaner option because instead of being made with grains, it comes from the agave plant. This is why when you're buying your tequila, make sure it's made with 100% agave as some will have fillers like sugar and grain additives. 

I don't claim that this is a healthy cocktail, but it's certainly a smarter option for happy hour- and I promise you won't miss the crazy amounts of sugary sweet mixers. Fresh lime juice is stellar but when you don't have time to squeeze ALL THOSE LIMES, I found a great organic lime juice at Harris Teeter with an impressive ingredients list of only one thing: organic limes! It was delicious. While these can be made in larger quantities and served to a crowd in a pitcher, I still prefer to make these margaritas one at a time! They are just so good. 

Enjoy your Taco Tuesday!!! With a Markarita please. (and don't forget the salt rim!)

Markaritas

2 oz. tequila
2 oz. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. organic raw agave or honey
lime seltzer water 
fresh lime wedges

I like to serve these in lowball rocks glasses. Start by measuring out the tequila and lime juice and pour into the glasses. Add in the agave (or sweetener of choice) and mix with a bar whisk. Finish what a pour of seltzer and add ice, then garnish with a lime wedge. 

Monday, May 14, 2018

Fresh Strawberry Pie


Strawberry season is here and we finally made our way down to the Strawberry patch near our house last week. Will and Kate were alllll about it and actually did a great job of finding the ripe red berries. Miss Kate was insistent on carrying her basket the entire time, no matter how heavy it got. 

         

As soon as we got in the car, Will told me that we needed to make a pie because it was his favorite. NEWS TO ME. I NEVER make pies but when he said that's what he wanted to make, we made a pit stop at Harris Teeter on the way home for a few ingredients that we didn't have. 



Starting the week off on a sweet note with this yumminess. This pie is one of my favorites and I pulled it out of the blog archives from our Illinois days. My mom always makes a blueberry version in the Summer and this Strawberry one is just as delicious. I posted this Fresh Berry Pie back in 2012 and all that's different is that this pie only uses strawberries and I used strawberry JELL-O instead of mixed berry for the glaze. The freshly picked berries make this pie extra delicious, but what I love most about this pie recipe is the flaky, slightly sweet crush. The berry glaze seeps into that bottom and is just so good- the most perfect Springtime dessert!

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Crust:
1/2 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp. milk
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1.5 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt

Mix flour, sugar and salt together in a mixing bowl and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together canola oil and milk. Slowly add the flour mixture to the oil mixture. Mix until it becomes thick and dough-like, then transfer to a 9" pie dish. Starting from the center of the dish, spread the crust until it is covering the entire dish in an even layer. Bake crust for 7-10 minutes, or until crust starts to brown. Let cool.

Wash and dry berries, then slice and place inside the crust. 

Filling:

2 quarts fresh strawberries, sliced
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
3.5 Tbsp. Strawberry JELL-O
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups water

Combine starch, JELL-O, water and sugar in a small bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil. Slowly add the JELL-O mixture stirring constantly with a whisk. Return to a boil and keep it there for one minute. Remove from the heat and let cool. 

Drizzle topping over berries and refrigerate for 4-5 hours to let the pie set before serving. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Friday Faves


HAPPY FRI-YAY! It's been a fun filled busy week over here! We celebrated Mark's birthday last weekend with family and the two of us even got to sneak away on Sunday for a day date to the PGA golf tournament that was being held here in Charlotte. I'm a golf fan by marriage and we had the best day. 




I attended a special Mother's Day Brunch at Will's preschool yesterday and it was just about the sweetest thing ever. They walked us to our seats, sang a few sweet songs and served us our brunch! I wasn't prepared and totally forgot to bring kleenex. Such a fun little morning with my boy. 


Here are some of my favorite finds for the week:

Spindrift cocktails are my jam right now! I especially like that it's a "cleaner" cocktail option, especially during the week! So perfect for Summer and they have tons of ideas listed HERE on their site. My favorite is Tito's vodka, a splash of cucumber Spindrift and some lime. 

I love a good neutral nail color and I recently added this one to my collection! (Essie- Lighten the Mood!)

Currently reading: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. I'm obsessed! So much goodness in these pages and I want to go back and reread it with a highlighter! #nerdalert

Not sure how this happened, but I've turned into a garden lover. I have big plans for our yard but I started out with outdoor planters and pots. Next up, Hydrangea bushes, maybe some peonies and hopefully a little herb garden situation that we can use this Summer! 

I used this Roasted Cauliflower, Tomato and Chick Pea Bowl as my dinner inspiration last night! I added some pesto to the roasted veggies and topped it all with some Italian sausage. So easy and good! 

I made a quick batch of pesto this week and have plenty leftover so this pesto stuffed flank steak is calling my name! Adding it to our weekend menu for sure. 


If you've never made the New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies...well, then I'll leave that right here. 


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Lemon Thyme French 75


Coming in hot today with a cocktail recipe for your weekend happy hours this Mother's Day weekend. It's only Thursday so I'm giving you a quick minute to gather your ingredients and get to work! 

Cocktails have been my go to happy hour choice lately. I love to sip on something while I'm cooking dinner for my family or when Mark and I are sitting outside at the end of the day. I've been playing around with different mixers and liquors and I've decided to experiment more this Summer. Mixing flavors is fun and cocktail making, I've realized, is a bit of an art.

I'm obsessed with this drink and have my sister and future brother in law to thank for it. It's fresh, slightly bubbly and light for the warm Summer days ahead. This lemon thyme simple syrup is going to have a permanent spot in my fridge this Summer as I've been adding it to all kinds of things. It's especially delicious with Tito's Vodka and a splash of cucumber spindrift. Back to these French 75s though... they're just so good. I think what I love most about this cocktail is that it can take you from brunch to lunch to happy hour- seriously delicious and appropriate at any time of day! Lemon, thyme, gin and bubbles. You know you want it. 



Lemon Thyme French 75

2 oz. gin
1.5 oz. champagne or prosecco
1 oz. lemon thyme simple syrup (recipe below)
sprig of fresh thyme

Mix the gin and simple syrup with ice and strain into your serving glass. To with chilled champagne/prosecco and garnish with a fresh sprig of thyme.

Lemon Thyme Simple Syrup

1 cup cugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup fresh thyme

Combine sugar and water in a pot and bring to a simmer until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon juice but do not let it come back to a simmer. Turn off the heat and add the thyme, letting it steep in the syrup until it reaches room temperature. Strain into a clean bottle and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.