Sunday, September 21, 2014

Coconut Lime Cupcakes

So I made these.

You know those things you make that are so darn pretty, and then you taste them, and they are so delicious too?

Yeah, I really don't know about that either, because usually I make stuff that might taste good, but look good?

These cupcakes though? So simple. So delicious. So pretty.

I actually made these for a PTO teacher appreciation event at my kids' school. I wanted to bake something that still said "summer" since I was pretty much bent on not letting go of summer yet, even though school had already started!

These cupcakes have a burst of lime flavor, swirled with coconut and moist and delicious vanilla cake. Topped with frosting and a coconut and lime zest garnish-they are as pretty as can be!

I know we are into fall now, but if you are just looking for a burst of summer to fill in the spaces between pumpkin this and apple that, you will thoroughly enjoy these!

Coconut Lime Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

1 box of yellow cake mix
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons coconut extract
2 tsp fresh lime zest
1 cup coconut

1 recipe Old Fashioned Frosting or your favorite vanilla frosting

Garnish (Optional):
Shredded coconut
Lime Zest

If making old fashioned frosting, you will want to get the first mixture ready and cooling first since the whole process takes awhile.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with liners. Combine all cake ingredients in a large bowl except for the coconut. Mix on low for 30 seconds with a hand mixer, and then turn the mixer on high and mix for two more minutes. Fold in the coconut just until combined. Evenly distribute the cake batter in the cupcake cups. Bake about 18-22 minutes checking frequently. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick is inserted in the middle and comes out clean. Do not over bake. Cool in pan for ten minutes and then remove to a cooling rack. When completely cooled, frost with old fashioned frosting or your favorite frosting recipe. Garnish with coconut and lime zest.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Crockpot Cheesy Chickensteak Sandwiches

This is one of those perfect crock pot recipes : easy, no fuss and deliciously different. I have said it before, I really dislike the crockpot recipes that all seem to taste the same. It seems to especially happen with chicken.  I think I went through a one month time frame of using my crockpot that each night my husband nodded kindly in my direction when he took his first bite.

I knew what he was thinking: this again?

It was a different recipe each time, but seemed to have the same flavor and I swear he must have thought I was cooking the same thing every time I used the crockpot.

Either you are nodding your head in agreement with me right now, or swearing me off as crazy. It wouldn't be the first time, so lucky for you, I am not easily offended.

This recipe is simmered all day in, get ready for  Don't worry. Before you ask, it is kid friendly since all the alcohol is cooked off after six hours of cooking. Because of the beer, and all the spices, the chicken is so tender and flavorful you just want to eat it out of the pot right there.

But wait.

Now you are going to go ahead and add shredded cheese that will soon become melty and stretchy and absolutely delicious.

Serve these on your favorite sandwich roll, and the sides can be easy. Fresh fruit and a salad are all we need.

Definitely a keeper!

Crockpot Cheesy Chickensteak Sandwiches
serves 6

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 green peppers, sliced
1 cup sweet onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tblsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
8 oz beer, favorite variety
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
6 whole wheat buns, toasted, or your favorite variety of bun

Layer peppers, onions and garlic at the bottom of your crockpot. Place chicken on top. Sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper. Add beer. Cover and set to cook for 6 hours on low. Uncover with 30 minutes to go and shred chicken, tossing well to absorb juices. Return cover and let cooking time finish. All the juice should be absorbed, but if it is not, and there is still an excess of liquid, you can try to drain a little. Sprinkle shredded cheese on chicken and cover while crockpot is on warm for ten minutes. Serve on toasted buns.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Apple Harvest Salad

So, now that it is September, it is basically time for us to forgo all of the summer stuff and move forward into Fall!

Do you know what this month also means?


You cannot get enough of them in September, and I love using them in whatever I can. I love to bake with them especially, but we need to throw in a healthy recipe here and there.

In that case, I present you this salad. This delicious, crunchy, full of apples salad that you will thoroughly enjoy throughout this month and beyond.

Want the recipe? Check it out on Little Lake County in my monthly Kids in the Kitchen with Girl and Her Kitchen feature.

Also, if you are having a salad, you are totally deserving of some fall desserts! Have you tried these chunky apple oatmeal cookies with browned butter frosting? If not, get on that!

Happy Beginning of Fall!

(Warning: Don't ruin my day by telling me it is not fall yet. Sometimes you need to just pretend!)

Monday, September 1, 2014

100 Days of Real Food Cookbook Review {and Giveaway!}

You need this book.

Take it from me. I love cookbooks.

No, seriously, come over sometime. You will really see that I sincerely LOVE cookbooks.

I collect them. I read them. I use them.

But then...

I forget about them.

What can I say?  It happens.

When I received my copy of Lisa Leake's new cookbook, 100 Days of Real Food, I wondered if this one would make the cut. Would it end up collecting dust on my shelf, or would it be something that I could actually use? Would it be something that would speak to me, be useful for my family, and give me new ideas? Or would it be another book using hard to pronounce ingredients, with recipes that my family would never eat?

Only a few pages in, I realized that this book would not become one of the forgotten ones.  I see this one remaining shelf-free, on my counter and being used for a long time!

This book is one of those rare finds that has everything you are looking for in a healthy eating cookbook. Packed with recipes, you will find yourself paging through, wanting to make each and every one of them. The book really caters to almost every "cooking" lifestyle, showcasing many types of recipes ranging from gluten free, vegetarian, dairy free, and all kid and family friendly.

The coolest thing about this book? The recipes barely even scratch the surface of what is included inside. The book begins with some history of Lisa's challenge with her family to attempt to go 100 days of only eating real food, and details "the plan" to eliminate processed food from your family's lifestyle. She includes menus, shopping lists and personal stories, all with a flair that makes you feel as if you are reading a book written by a good friend. She is helpful and understanding, never judgmental or condescending. She writes this book knowing that this is a challenge, but instilling you with the confidence to get it done. After you read only a small section, you feel the need to clean out your pantry and get started!

The recipes are delicious too! I have followed her for a couple years now online, and have loved everything I have made that I found on her site. She is the person that inspired my creative lunches for my kids, and she includes a section in her book all about lunches and some easy to make staples to make life simpler when making those (sometimes dreaded) school lunches. She includes delicious kid friendly recipes like Cinnamon Raisin Quick Bread, which, I am sharing with you if you scroll down below.

There are some other recipes to not miss as well, like this Veggie Corn Chowder, that your kids will gobble up as the weather gets cooler.

And this one? This short cut eggplant parmesan makes me swoon because eggplant is my absolute favorite! And the fact that it has the word "shortcut" in it, makes me even happier!

The book is pleasing to read, and the pictures are so beautiful it makes you want to get cooking. The author's step by step directions are easy to follow and the ingredients for the recipes are simple to find, and most likely on hand in your kitchen. 

This is a book you do not want to miss! And, one LUCKY reader will win this SIGNED copy of her book from Girl and Her Kitchen! Fill out the rafflecopter below, keep your fingers crossed, and hope for the best-it could be YOU! 

Not a winner? Check out these sites to buy her cookbook and get reading. You will not be able to put it down! :)

...or support your local bookstore!

Now, for that recipe I promised you...

Creamy Peanut Butter Ice Cream

It is officially the last day of summer (in my head).

And, because I love all of you, I am giving you this.

Your welcome.

This is the BEST homemade ice cream recipe, I have ever had. Since I love ice cream...A LOT, I feel qualified to make that decision. I first tried this ice cream at my mom's house and fell in love. I begged her for the recipe (which she gave willingly, like all the other millions of recipes I beg from her!) and decided to make it. I was sure I could never replicate the flavor that I experienced when she made it, but I did! This is really a no fuss recipe that yields extraordinary flavor results.

The peanut butter gives the ice cream a really smooth texture and the chunks of peanut butter cups throughout, make this dessert over the top! Best part? This is extremely easy to throw together and doesn't even call for a ton of ingredients. There is no cooking and cooling (which makes ice cream taste so good, but I hate that step in other recipes!), and once all the ingredients are thrown together, you just throw it in your ice cream maker for about 30 minutes.

Happy Last Day Of Summer!

Creamy Peanut Butter Ice Cream

1 1/8 cup creamy peanut butter* 
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups whole milk** 
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped chocolate peanut butter cup candies*** 

In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to combine the peanut butter and sugar until smooth. Add the milk and mix on low speed until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Turn the 2 quart ice cream machine on and pour the mixture into freezer bowl. Let mix until thickened, about 25 to 35 minutes.  Five minutes before mixing is completed, add the chopped candy through the top and let mix in completely.  The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture.  If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about two hours.  Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.  Makes about 14 half cup servings.
*I used the natural kind that does not need to be refrigerated--do not use the one you have to stir-the consistency will be off
*I used 2% and it was still good, but whole amps up the creaminess
**I used the dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joes-so good!