Sometimes I have thought about what to open that night before 8am...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes (gluten free)

Because I get asked for this recipe all of the time. Because it is easier than you could possibly imagine. Because I am feeling generous of spirit. And because I believe in "All things in moderation.". 

I give you:

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
1 Box Betty Crocker Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix
2 tsp cinnamon
3/8 tsp cayenne pepper (I realize this is a weird measurement, but I use 1/4+1/8 tsp in the recipe)
1 tub Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge Frosting
1-1.5 rounded tsp instant espresso powder
2 Hershey Bars

Line a muffin pan with cupcake wrappers. Prepare cake mix according to package directions. Add cinnamon and cayenne and mix for another minute, or until well combined. Scoop into muffin pan and bake according to package directions. Cupcakes are ready when a cake tester comes out of the cupcake clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, prepare your frosting. Place frosting and 1 rounded tsp of espresso powder into a mixing bowl and mix on medium-high for 1 minute. Taste the frosting and add additional espresso powder as needed. This part is really up to your judgement. You want it to taste like a mocha, but not scream COOOOFFEEEEEEEE!!! 

Put frosting in a piping bag with a wide round tip and pipe onto the top of the cupcakes. Break off squares of the Hershey Chocolate Bar and angle them into the frosting.

Makes 15-18 cupcakes.

1. There are lots of gluten free cake recipes out there, and you are certainly welcome to substitute one of them for the box mix I use. However, I would say to you, your time has value. These cupcakes are delicious, and with the additional ingredients no one is going to know you used a box cake mix. Trust me. 
2.  You can absolutely make these with a standard chocolate cake mix. If you choose to do so, you will need to increase the amount of cinnamon and cayenne that you use. Standard cake mixes make a larger quantity of cupcakes than the gluten free cake mixes. You will also need additional frosting, as one tub of frosting was just enough to decorate the 18 cupcakes that I made!
3.  If you are making these for adults and want to up the ante, try adding 1/3 cup Kahlua to the frosting. The frosting will be a little bit looser so you may want to refrigerate the cupcakes until serving. But Holy Moly does it add a little somethin' to the cupcake!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Challenge

This is our message center. It is right by the back door. I put reminders to the family on it. Sometimes I put up inspiring quotes or even silly pictures. The message posted right now is for me. Although, isn't it really a good reminder for us all?

Be Active Everyday.

Being active is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. Yet when things get busy, what is the first thing that gets pushed to the side? Exercise.

So my goal is simple: Everyday between now and January 2012 I will do something active. It can be anything.  Take the dogs for a 3 mile walk. Do an exercise video. Go hiking. Play tennis with my husband. Go for a bike ride. Take a yoga class.

The possibilities are endless, and I am ready.

Be Active Everyday.

Who's with me?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sweet Potato and Arugula Salad

Fall is upon us, even here in San Diego. 

Fall leaves me wanting new flavors, richer flavors, and yet I am trying to make healthier choices. Are you tired of me saying that yet? I repeat it in an effort to keep myself focused on the task at hand. I need to put it out there to keep myself on track. In fact, there is only one thing I need more than accountability, and that is new and exciting things to eat. And this salad is both of those things. Plus it is incredibly delicious!

Sweet Potato and Arugula Salad
1 large sweet potato peeled, and cut into cubes
3 cups of arugula
2 tbsp crumbled feta
2 tbsp pine nuts
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp olive oil + 2 tsp olive oil for roasting the potatoes
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Toss sweet potatoes in 2 tsp olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until fork tender. Remove from the oven and cool.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add pine nuts (no oil, no cooking spray). Cook in the pan, stirring often, until toasted. Remove from pan and allow to cool.

In a large bowl combine arugula, sweet potato, pine nuts, and feta cheese. Drizzle with 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 2 tsp olive oil. Toss to combine.

Plate and top with additional cracked black pepper.

This makes 2 entree size salads, or 4 side salads to accompany your dinner. 

Friday night I served it with Cider Glazed Chicken with Pecan Rice from Cooking Light. I have had the salad for lunch twice since then. That's right, both Saturday and Sunday!

If there was only one tip that I could give you on this recipe it would be: cook extra sweet potato

That way when you are looking for a quick easy lunch this week, you have an incredible salad you can throw together in mere minutes. 

Oh and I have no doubts this will become a huge hit in your house. It already is in mine!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pumpkin Smoothie

I love pumpkin ice cream, and it is pumpkin ice cream season. But, and this is a BIG but, I am trying to make healthier choices... less fat, less sugar, more nutritional value. So when contemplating dessert the other night, I decided to let my imagination run wild and come up with my own pumpkin smoothie. The end result was pretty darn delicious.

Pumpkin Smoothie
1/2 can pumpkin
1 medium banana
6 oz container nonfat vanilla yogurt
8 oz vanilla almond milk
1-1.5 tsp cinnamon
6-8 ice cubes

Cut banana into pieces and freeze. Spread pumpkin into a dish and freeze that as well. Put banana, pumpkin, yogurt, almond milk, ice and 1 tsp cinnamon in to the blender and puree until smooth. Taste. Add more cinnamon and re-blend according to your taste preference.

Pour into 4 glasses.

Serve and enjoy!

1. Karen Ray liked this well enough to ask if she could have it for breakfast the next day, and really why couldn't she? Fruit, vegetables and loaded with calcium? Sounds like a great breakfast to me!
2. I freeze the pumpkin and banana so that I don't have to use as much ice in the smoothie. It makes for a cold, frosty drink without it ending up icy. If you aren't inclined to freeze the pumpkin and banana, you may need a few more ice cubes to achieve maximum frosty goodness.
3. Pumpkin Pie Spice might make a great substitution for the cinnamon. I would have used it in these except I don't have any!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Not Just Tomato Soup

You know you are incredibly blessed, when the love of your life is also your partner in crime.

Last night was Halloween, and in Tim's childhood they had a tradition of having tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches before heading out Trick or Treating. It is a tradition we have carried on with our own children. The only problem is, that I have yet to find a tomato soup that is both healthy and delicious enough that I want to make it every year!

Yesterday morning, after trolling the internet for recipes yet again, I decided to create my own. Which is where Tim came in. While I am confident in the kitchen, having someone to bounce ideas off is crucial to success.

So, with Tim's help, I give you...

Not Just Tomato Soup

2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 Medium Sweet Onion, diced
1 Medium Eggplant, peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups carrots, chopped (I use baby carrots)
4 (28oz) cans of low sodium diced tomatoes in juice
3 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper

Heat dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add Eggplant and garlic and continue cooking until eggplant softens. While the eggplant mixture is cooking,  place carrots and broth in a microwave safe dish and microwave for 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, carrots, broth and 1 tsp crushed red pepper to the pot with the eggplant.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, toss in the basil, and puree until smooth. I use a stick blender, but pureeing in a regular blender would work just as well. Add salt, white pepper, and additional crushed red pepper according to taste.

We spent last night with friends. The kids trick or treated, we gave out candy gathered around a fire pit, and shared a meal. This soup was my contribution. Based on the reviews... It's a keeper!


1. It's important the carrots are well cooked or they won't puree well. That is why I microwave them in the broth before I put them in the pot. By microwaving them in broth, you don't waste any of the nutrients by dumping out water that you use to boil the carrots.

2.  In the recipe I said to simmer the soup for 20 minutes. You can leave it on longer than that and it will be fine. I put mine on in the afternoon and left it simmering for at least an hour. The longer it simmers, the more rich the soup will taste. If it ends up a little to thick for your taste, just add some broth when you puree!

3.  I served mine with a tbsp of goat cheese on top. I can't recommend that highly enough. It was so rich and delicious!