White Chocolate and Vanilla Mini-Cupcakes

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There’s just something about cupcakes!  Who doesn’t love them?  Maybe it’s the sweet frosting or the pretty decorations, but cupcakes always make people smile – especially children. 

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That’s my husband and daughter enjoying a cupcake on her birthday last year.  :)  Check out these cupcakes my hubby brought back from Georgetown Cupcakes in Washington, D.C.  Boy, were they delicious!

And last spring, I went with my sister-in-law to Chicago, where we visited Sprinkles Cupcakes. Sprinkles is known for being the world’s first cupcake bakery.  It was so exciting!

The recipe for these Vanilla and White Chocolate Babycakes can be found in Cupcakes by Susannah Blake.   The book is a collection of delicious cupcake recipes divided into three categories.  

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“Simple Cupcakes” features cupcakes that are easy to make.  ”Celebration Cupcakes” offers a new twist on traditional recipes, and the section titled “Indulgent Cupcakes” is perfect for when you’re in the mood to indulge (the recipe for Gooey Chocolate and Hazelnut Cupcakes sounds heavenly). I think these cute mini-cupcakes are just the treat for Easter!  

Happy Easter!
Carol

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Vanilla and White Chocolate Babycakes
Yields 12
Cute mini-cupcakes with a white chocolate frosting and topped with Easter candy!
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Ingredients
  1. 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  2. 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  3. 1 egg, beaten
  4. 1/2 cup self-rising flour
  5. 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  6. 1 tablespoon millk
To decorate
  1. 2 oz. white chocolate, chopped
  2. pastel food coloring, optional
  3. bright colored Easter candies
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a mini-muffin pan with liners.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy, then beat in the egg, a little at a time. Sift the flour into the mixture and fold in, then stir in the vanilla extract and milk.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cups, then bake for 15 minutes until risen and golden and the tops spring back when gently pressed. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  4. To decorate, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Let cool slightly, then stir in food coloring if desired.
  5. Spoon the white chocolate over the cupcakes, then top each with a candy and serve.
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Lemon-Rosemary Scones

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Scones are one of my favorite breakfast foods!  I really only make them for special occasions, since most scone recipes call for butter and heavy cream.  However, I have found that it is easy to experiment and use other healthy ingredients like whole wheat flour to make them a little better for you.   

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This recipe comes from Ree Drummond’s newest cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: A Year of Holidays.  Like her other cookbooks, the photography is beautiful (I love her step-by-step pictures) and every single recipe looks irresistable.  The recipe for these Lemon-Rosemary Scones actually comes from the section on Mother’s Day, but I think they would be perfect for an Easter brunch! 

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These scones are incredibly light and airy.  The rosemary flavor is subtle, and when paired with the citrus it makes for a truly delicious springtime treat.  I hope you’ll give them a try!

Have a great weekend!
Carol

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Lemon-Rosemary Scones
Yields 24
The flavors of fresh citrus and rosemary in a delicious scone!
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 2/3 cup sugar
  3. 4 teaspoons baking powder
  4. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  5. 1 cup (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  6. 1 cup heavy cream
  7. 1 egg
  8. 2 lemons
  9. leaves from 2 rosemary sprigs, minced
  10. 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  11. 1/2 cup whole milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender. Measure the cream in a pitcher and crack in the egg. Add the zest of 1 lemon and half of the minced rosemary. Whisk the cream mixture, then slowly add to the flour and butter mixture as you stir gently with a fork. Use your hands to press the dough into a rough ball. Then, on a lightly floured surface, press it into the shape of a rectangle, using a rolling pin to roll it to 1/3 inch thick. Use a pizza cutter to cut the rectangle into 12 smaller rectangles, and then cut each rectangle in half to get 24 smaller triangles. Place the scones on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and bake for 18 minutes, or until barely golden brown.
  2. While the scones are cooling, combine the powdered sugar, milk, and juice of 1 lemon in a bowl. Then zest the second lemon and add it to the bowl. Add the rest of the rosemary and whisk until glaze is combined. When the scones are cool, drop each one into the glaze and flip over to coat. Place glazed scones on a cooling rack over a baking sheet for the excess to drip off. Let the glaze set completely before serving.
Cafe Carol http://www.cafecarol.com/
 

 

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Smoothie

 

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Smoothie Cover

Spring has sprung!  It was a looong winter here and I am so ready for warm weather, aren’t you?  Light and refreshing, the combination of lemon zest and fresh thyme with blueberries make this smoothie perfect for spring.  I’m so glad our thyme survived the winter – although herbs in a smoothie may sound strange, it’s actually very good!

Blueberry Lemon Thyme Smoothie
A fresh, delicious smoothie perfect for welcoming Spring!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup Silk Light original almondmilk
  2. 1 cup frozen blueberries
  3. 1/2 frozen banana
  4. 1/2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  5. 1/8 tsp fresh thyme
  6. 1 tsp honey or agave
  7. 2 Tbsp protein powder or 1 Tbsp ground flax, if desired
Instructions
  1. Blend until smooth.
Cafe Carol http://www.cafecarol.com/
 Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe?
Carol

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Homemade Maple Granola

Homemade Maple Granola

It’s maple time!  When I was in college my friends and I went to the Whitetop Mountain Maple Festival.  It was always held the last Saturday in March, and I think we were more excited about the pancake breakfast than anything else, to be honest.

The pancakes were topped with the most delicious genuine maple syrup I’d ever tasted.  There were maple tapping tours in the forest, or you could see how syrup was processed in the Sugar House.  But mostly I just remember that huge stack of pancakes drizzled with lots of maple syrup!

Granola in bowl up close

I don’t have a pancake recipe to share with you today, but I do have a delicious recipe for granola. It’s so easy to make you’re going to want to get in your kitchen and bake up a batch this weekend!

The maple syrup in this granola recipe adds just the right amount of sweetness – not too much. The chunks of granola are nice and crunchy. It’s perfect! In fact, I think I may be addicted.  :)

Granola spilling out of jar up close

What’s your favorite food to eat with maple syrup?

Have a great weekend!
Carol

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Maple Granola
Homemade granola lightly sweetened with maple syrup
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  2. 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  3. 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  4. 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
  5. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  8. 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  9. 1 large egg white
  10. 1 1/2 cups dried cherries or other dried fruit (I used cranberries)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except for egg white and dried fruit. Toss until thoroughly combined. Whisk egg white until frothy and stir into granola. Spread mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 50 minutes, carefully turning over the granola halfway through baking. Granola should be evenly browned and feel dry when you touch it. Remove pan from oven and place on a cooling rack. Once the granola is completely cool, break it up into pieces and stir in dried fruit.
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Coconut Red-Lentil Curry

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When my husband and I lived in Atlanta, we were lucky to be surrounded by many amazing restaurants. One of our favorites was a Thai restaurant in Virginia Highlands.  I usually got the Pad Thai, and my husband, who loves hot food, always ordered something that was extra spicy.

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During one particular meal, I don’t recall what my husband was eating, but all of a sudden his face turned bright red and he began to cough.  His coughing quickly turned into hacking, and that’s when I got the brilliant idea to ask him if he was ok – as if he could answer me?!?  Turns out one of the hot pepper seeds had gotten stuck in the back of his throat. He finally got it dislodged, but his mouth was on fire so he desperately asked the waitress for the only thing he knew that would help –  milk.  Milk in a Thai restaurant?  No such luck.  I think she ended up bringing him a soda, which made it infinitely worse.  Thankfully he eventually recovered, and is still brave enough to eat Thai food with me to this day.   Whew!

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This recipe has definitely become one of my favorites because it is so flavorful and very easy to prepare.  The lentils cook quickly – keep a close watch on them so they don’t turn to mush.  The curry does have a slight kick, so be forewarned: if you don’t like spice, then you may want to leave out the jalapeno pepper.  :)

Enjoy!
Carol

Coconut Red-Lentil Curry
Serves 6
A flavorful vegetarian curry that can be served over rice for a tasty, filling meal!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  2. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  3. 1 tablespoon freshly chopped peeled ginger
  4. 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  5. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  6. 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  7. 1 teaspoon turmeric
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 fresh jalapeno or serrano chile, finely chopped, including seeds
  10. 2 cups water
  11. 1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
  12. 1 13- to 14-oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  13. 1 lb zucchini (2 medium), cut into 1/4-inch dice
  14. 1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro sprigs
Instructions
  1. Cook onion in oil in a heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until edges are golden, about 6 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt, and chile and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
  2. Stir in water, lentils, and coconut milk, then simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini and simmer, covered, until lentils and zucchini are tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and serve with cilantro sprigs scattered on top.
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Pull-Apart Irish Soda Bread

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So, we’ve had some crazy weather around here this week – almost 70º a couple of days ago and yesterday we woke up to snow!  I sure hope spring is right around the corner.  If it’s not I may have to crawl into a hole and hibernate!

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I love making foods that are unique to certain holidays – do you?  I think I get it from my mom.  :)  She always did that when we were growing up.  I can remember eating lots of corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day, but my personal favorite was the Irish soda bread.  Warm, delicious, and filling…it was so good.  

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Of course, I wanted to make soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day, but I was looking for something different.  This recipe fits the bill! It’s a creative twist on traditional Irish soda bread that I think you and your family will love.  Hearty and satisfying, these rolls are the perfect portion size – not to mention they are just right for little hands.  My son and daughter gobbled them right up!  

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How are you planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
Carol

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Pull-Apart Irish Soda Bread
Yields 16
Serve these hearty rolls with salted Irish butter!
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 cup whole wheat graham flour (I always use King Arthur)
  3. 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  4. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  5. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  7. 1 2/3 cups buttermilk
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Whisk the flours, salt, baking soda, and baking powder together in a large bowl. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender or your fingers until it looks like small peas. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until mixture holds together.
  2. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and divide it into 16 equal pieces. With floured hands, roll each piece into a ball. Place dough balls side by side in rows of 4 on baking sheet, making sure they are touching. Cut a 1/4-inch deep X on each ball of dough. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until rolls are a deep golden brown.
Adapted from Living Magazine, March 2014
Adapted from Living Magazine, March 2014
Cafe Carol http://www.cafecarol.com/

Andes Mint Chocolate Brownies

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What do you do with a partial bag of leftover Andes mints? 

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Make brownies!   

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These brownies are super moist and fudgy.  I adapted the recipe for Best-Ever Fudgy Brownies from Chocolate & Vanilla by Gale Gand.  I topped them with mint frosting and chocolate glaze, and sprinkled Andes mints on top.

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They make the perfect treat for St. Patrick’s Day!

Enjoy!
Carol

Andes Mint Chocolate Brownies
Serves 24
Andes mints take these dense, fudgy brownies over the top!
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For the brownies
  1. 11 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  2. 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  3. 1 1/3 cups sugar
  4. 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  5. 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  6. 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  7. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  8. 1 1/4 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
  9. Andes mints, chopped
For the mint topping
  1. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  2. 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  3. 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  4. drop of oil of peppermint
  5. food coloring, if desired
For the chocolate glaze
  1. 1 square unsweetened chocolate
  2. 1 tablespoon butter
For the brownies
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 8x8-inch baking pan with foil and set aside.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a mixing bowl set over a pan of hot water. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in the sugar, eggs, flour, cocoa powder, salt, and walnuts.
  3. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes.
For the topping
  1. Blend all ingredients together with a hand mixer. Spread over cooled brownies. Refrigerate until firm.
For the chocolate glaze
  1. Melt chocolate and butter together, drizzle over mint topping.
  2. Sprinkle Andes mint pieces on top; chill and cut.
Adapted from Chocolate & Vanilla
Adapted from Chocolate & Vanilla
Cafe Carol http://www.cafecarol.com/

Oven Baked Beignets

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Although I have never been to New Orleans, I would love to go.  I already have it all planned out in my mind: my first visit would be to Café du Monde for some beignets and café au lait!

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The first time I made beignets, it involved lots of oil and lots of frying.  In fact, our house smelled like a deep fryer for days.  I’m happy to tell you that my second attempt at beignets is much healthier and just as tasty.  In fact, I think they are infinitely better!

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This recipe comes from Good Housekeeping and while it is relatively simple, it does require quite a few steps.  If you plan on making these tasty treats for breakfast, be sure and get up early to give yourself plenty of time for the beignets to rise.

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Your house will smell wonderful!  As soon as the beignets are done baking, dust them with powdered sugar.  They are best served warm. 

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These beignets are like little pillows of sweet goodness.  Perfect with a cup of hot coffee, or even drizzled with some chocolate sauce.

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Bon Appetit!
Carol

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Oven Baked Beignets
A healthy twist on a classic Mardi Gras treat!
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Ingredients
  1. 1/4 cup warm water
  2. 1 packet active dry yeast
  3. 3 cups all-purpose flour
  4. 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  5. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  6. 1 tsp salt
  7. 1/4 cup sugar
  8. 5 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  9. 1 egg
  10. 3/4 cup buttermilk
Instructions
  1. Combine the yeast, warm water, and a pinch of the sugar in a small bowl and set aside for five minutes until foamy.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Using your fingers, cut in the butter and work mixture together until it resembles coarse sand.
  3. Mix the egg and buttermilk together. Add to yeast and then add to dry ingredients. Stir together to form a soft dough. Knead for 5-10 minutes until dough becomes smooth and elastic. Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes.
  4. Roll dough out on floured surface into the shape of a rectangle, about 1/4" high. Cut into 1 1/2" x 2" squares. Place squares of dough on lined baking sheets and let rise in warm place for 45 minutes.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake beignets for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar.
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Breakfast Bulgur Wheat with Poached Mixed Berries

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Breakfast is, hands down, my favorite meal of the day.  I almost always eat a warm bowl of oatmeal topped with cinnamon, walnuts, bananas, and blueberries.  I’ve had that nearly every morning for breakfast for years, and somehow I never tire of it.  However, recently I felt like I should branch out and try something new.  When I saw this recipe in Feel Good Food by Giada de Laurentiis, I was really excited to try it.  Especially since I’d just bought a bag of bulgur wheat from Trader Joe’s!  IMG_8949
Be sure to use quick-cooking bulgur for this recipe; that’s what makes it so fast and easy.  I loved the slightly crunchy texture of the bulgur wheat – it reminded me of steel-cut oats.  I chose not to add the apple juice and agave nectar to the poached mixed berries and they were just as good, in my opinion.  And, if you’ve never drizzled a little olive oil on your oatmeal, try it!  I was skeptical, but it’s actually quite good (and it’s a nice way to get in some healthy fat too).

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This bowl of Breakfast Bulgur Wheat was delicious. I’m not sure that it will replace my beloved bowl of oats, but it was a nice change from the norm.  What do you like to eat for breakfast?

Until next time,
Carol

Breakfast Bulgur Wheat with Poached Mixed Berries
Serves 4
A healthy start to the day!
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Bulgur
  1. 2 cups unsweetened almond milk or water
  2. 1 cup quick-cooking bulgur wheat
  3. 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  4. 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  5. 1/8 tsp salt
  6. 4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Berries
  1. 1 pint fresh strawberries, halved, or 1 10-ounce bag frozen whole strawberries
  2. 1 cup raspberries
  3. 1 cup blueberries
  4. 1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
  5. 1 tbsp light agave nectar
For the Bulgur
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the alond milk, bulgur wheat, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook until bulgur is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Spoon into 4 bowls and drizzle each serving with 1 tsp olive oil. Top with berries and serve immediately.
For the Poached Berries
  1. Combine berries in a medium saucepan with apple juice and agave. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer until fruit is soft, 8-10 minutes.
Adapted from Feel Good Food
Adapted from Feel Good Food
Cafe Carol http://www.cafecarol.com/
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Dark Chocolate Mousse

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If you’re still wondering how to celebrate this special day, here’s a decadent dessert you can whip up in no time.  The recipe comes from Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist and it is by far the easiest chocolate mousse I have ever made.  There are only 3 ingredients!  And no eggs are involved.  So don’t feel intimidated…just make it!  Then share it with someone you love.

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Happy Valentine’s Day!
Carol

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Dark Chocolate Mousse
A decadent chocolate dessert perfect for Valentine's Day!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups (1 pint) chilled heavy cream, divided
  2. 12 ounces dark chocolate chips
  3. 1/4 cup honey
Instructions
  1. Stir 3/4 cup cream, chocolate, and honey in saucepan over low heat until smooth. Cool for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat 3/4 cup cream to soft peaks. Fold cream into chocolate mixture in 2 additions.
  3. Divide mousse among 6 ramekins. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.
  4. Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup cream to firm peaks. Spoon a little bit of cream on top of each mousse. Top with fresh berries.
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Adapted from Bon Appetit
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