Chocolate Chipotle Cupcakes & Creamy Cinnamon Frosting

Chocolate Chipotle Cupcakes

The very first Valentine’s Day Daniel and I celebrated together I made him cupcakes as one of his presents.  Not just any cupcakes though… Daniel has a love affair with spicy foods, and when I was looking for sweets to make, I was specifically looking for HOT recipes.

In my search I came across this recipe for Chocolate Chipotle Cupcakes, and I thought, “This is perfect!”  It’s got spicy, it’s got chocolate (who doesn’t love chocolate?), and it’s definitely more unique than other cupcake flavors I could of made.  I was sold and decided to make the recipe, and I was super impressed with how delicious they turned out!

Now I’d like to share the recipe with my changes and suggestions with you!

Chocolate Chipotle Cupcake IngredientsHere’s what you need:

  • 1 box of chocolate cake mix
  • Any ingredients the cake mix calls for (usually water, oil, and eggs)
  • 2 TBSP pureed chipotle peppers in adobo
  • 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/4-1 tsp of cayenne pepper (depending on heat preference)

Here’s what you do:

At first glance, what I loved about this recipe was how simple and quick it was.  It would be really great for anyone running short on time, or for a novice baker!

Preheat oven to temperature indicated on your cake mix.  Then puree your chipotle peppers.

Pureed Chipotle Peppers

Next, in a large bowl mix all of your ingredients until blended.  In a prepared cupcake pan, fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full.  Then bake in preheated oven for 15-18 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack and you’re done!

Freshly Baked Chocolate Chipotle Cupcakes

This recipe made 20 cupcakes for me.  Now, the cayenne pepper is my suggestion if you actually want these cupcakes to have a kick.  While the chipotle peppers give a delicious flavor, it really didn’t give off any heat to us.  While you may be thinking, well, why don’t I just add more chipotle… that’s what I thought too.

The second time I made these cupcakes that’s exactly what I did, I doubled the amount of pureed chipotle pepper, and it was WEIRD.  I’m not sure if it had to do with something in the adobo sauce, but it completely changed the texture of the cake and made it way too salty.  I would definitely recommend learning from my mistake!

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosted CupcakesThe original recipe suggests sprinkling the cupcakes with powdered sugar and cinnamon, but a cupcake isn’t a cupcake to me without icing.  I wanted these cupcakes to take decadent, so I knew I wanted to use a buttercream frosting.

I found this delicious recipe that is apparently from a Sprinkles cupcake mix.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 TBSP cinnamon (I added this)

Here’s what you do:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon.  Beat until blended.
  2. Add the milk and vanilla, and beat until smooth and creamy.

This frosting is amazing!  I added in cinnamon because I wanted to play up that flavor in the cupcakes, and I was not disappointed.  One heads up though, the recipe states that the serving size is 12 cupcakes… well, I frosted 20 and had tons left over.  The second time I made them I even used some to pipe extra decorations, but still had maybe 3/4 of a cup leftover.  Maybe I don’t add as much frosting as other people though, this buttercream is also very sweet so you don’t need a whole lot either.  While it’s better to have more frosting than too little, you might want to adjust the measurements depending on how much you need.

As for decorations, I kept it pretty simple, and rimmed the sides with chocolate sprinkles and chili powder.

Decorated Chocolate Chipotle Cupcakes

I remember Daniel absolutely loved them, and I know it made our first Valentine’s Day very memorable.  They also freeze really well too!  Since Daniel had a whole box of cupcakes to himself, this Valentine’s Day gift lasted for the next few months!  What a sweet reminder for your man (of their girlfriend or wife that made them)!


Spinach and Prosciutto Lasagna and Other Christmas Recipes

Before Christmas, I shared with you all a few recipes I intended to make for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  As promised, I now want to share how they all turned out!

You may remember that the main event was a Spinach and Prosciutto Lasagna from Martha Stewart.  After reading the reviews, I omitted quite a few things and added others.  I also made mine a lot bigger since the original only made 4 servings.  Not nearly enough leftovers for the amount of work, I think!

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 (10 oz.) packages of spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 16 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 4 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, diced
  • Lasagna noodles
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 1/2 jars of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 9 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 green bell pepper (optional)
  • 3/4 red bell pepper (optional)
  • 3/4 yellow bell pepper (optional)

Here’s what you do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Over medium high heat, saute your onion and mushrooms in olive oil for 3-4 minutes.  Add your spices and saute another minute or so.  You don’t need to cook the veggies too long, since they will finish cooking in the oven.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Sauteed Vegetables for Lasagna

Lasagna Spinach and Mushroom FillingIn a medium bowl, combine ricotta, spinach, garlic, and cooled veggies.  Set aside.  Also in a medium bowl, thoroughly mix your diced prosciutto with your tomato sauce.  Set aside.  You can use any sauce you’d like, we combined a four cheese sauce and a basil marinara, both from Trader Joes.

In a 9×13 casserole dish, spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan.  Then place a layer of noodles on top.  I used no boil noodles because that’s all Trader Joes had, but either will do!  If you do use no boil noodles, I highly suggest soaking them in hot water for 5-10 minutes before working with them.  This will make them more pliable, and help to ensure they will cook all the way through.

Evenly crumble 1/3 of the spinach and ricotta mixture on top of your noodles, and then spread 1/4 of the remaining sauce.  Repeat noodles, mixture, sauce two more times.  Place one more layer of noodles on top, the last 1/4 of your sauce, and then top with shredded mozzarella.

Assembling Lasagna Layers

Bell Pepper Christmas TreeNow, if you did see my previous Christmas recipe post or just went to my Pinterest board, you know I planned to create a Christmas tree topper for my lasagna.  That’s where those optional bell peppers come in!  You’ll want to slice the green peppers, dice and create a tree stump from the red pepper, and dice and create a star from the yellow pepper.  I thought it was pretty awesome looking, what do you think?

With or without the topper, bake uncovered until brown, about 35-40 minutes.  Then let stand 5 minutes before serving and enjoy!  My recipe will make about 12 servings, and Daniel said it was the best lasagna he’s ever eaten!

Here are a few pictures of our tasty lasagna and our Christmas Eve!

Christmas Lasagna

We served our lasagna with garlic bread and salad, and plenty of wine, of course!

Christmas Eve Dinner

Christmas Eve Table Setting

Daniel and Michele on Christmas Eve

For dessert, as I suspected, we were too tired to make this peppermint bark cheesecake.  So sadly I can’t tell you if it was delicious or a fail, BUT I can tell you that the frozen cheesecake sampler from Trader Joes is worth a try!  It comes with 2 slices of 3 different kinds of cheesecake, and all you have to do is thaw it for an hour on the counter.  A great find if you want something easy!

Cranberry Mimosas

We did make breakfast and mimosas for Christmas morning though!  We made cranberry mimosas, and they were pretty tasty, although the orange juice really overpowered the cranberry.  I think next time we make them I’ll fill the glass with mostly cranberry juice and add just a splash of orange.

We had a few unused glasses already rimmed with green sugar from our holiday party, and Daniel had the brilliant idea to use them that morning.  I LOVE how festive they look!

We also made baked french toast and baked bacon!

Christmas Day Breakfast

I followed this french toast recipe exactly, and it turned out beautifully!  The top is the perfect french toast consistency, and the bottom has a delicious buttery brown sugar sauce – it didn’t even need syrup!  This was the first time I had ever baked bacon in the oven, while I wouldn’t say it made the clean up any quicker, it did produce an entire pan of perfectly crisp bacon.  So I definitely think I will be cooking it in the oven from now on!

Family on Christmas MorningWell, it’s always a little sad to see Christmas come and go.  It was a very relaxing and quiet Christmas with my best friend and love, and all around favorite person in the world.  It will be a Christmas that I will cherish forever!


Christmas Recipes for Dinner & Breakfast

This year, Daniel and I will be spending the holiday in Portland, just the two of us (three if you count our cat, which we do!).  We were fortunate enough to spend Thanksgiving with Daniel’s family and Christmas last year with mine.  While we will both miss our families this holiday, we are also both looking forward to having a quiet Christmas to ourselves sans traveling!  As our relationship has progressed, we have been having fun sharing our families’ traditions and coming up with new traditions of our own.  That’s actually one of the fun things about getting older, I think, is starting to create your own traditions like your parents did when they were your age!  Since we’re on our own this year, it’s the perfect opportunity to try some new ones out (and see if they’re awesome enough to make a tradition)!

A couple of years ago we started making ourselves fancy dinners on Easter, and we decided to do the same on Christmas Eve this year.  I haven’t tried these recipes out yet, and I will definitely blog about my results after, but I wanted to share them now anyway in case any of you are looking for ideas.  We toyed with a few different options, you can see my massive amount of pinning on my Christmas recipes board, but we narrowed it down to either making lasagna/stuffed shells or a pot roast with a couple of elaborate side dishes.

Spinach and Prosciutto LasagnaWe chose to make a spinach and proscuitto lasagna, and pair it with a simple salad and garlic bread.  As much as I really wanted to go all out with our dinner, we’ve both been pretty stressed out trying to get everything done for the holiday, social commitments, and work.  So we decided to take it easy on ourselves and do something a little easy.

Based on some of the reviews, I plan to cut out the salt because a lot of people complained the lasagna was too salty.  Proscuitto alone should provide enough flavor.  I also plan to use full fat mozzarella and ricotta cheese, mainly because I’ve used reduced fat in lasagna before and it didn’t turn out well.  I will also be adding more spices, herbs, and garlic and I’m going to double the recipe as well.  We like lots of leftovers in this household!

Also, because I’m a little cheesy, I’m totally going to make a Christmas tree out of bell peppers to top our lasagna with!  Oh, the things you find on Pinterest!

Christmas Tree Lasagna Topper

Some of you may remember that Daniel and I went wine tasting in Forest Grove, OR, and purchased a bottle of “Holiday Magic Wine” (gluhwein) from Shafer Vineyard Cellars.  We decided to save it for Christmas Eve, so we will be having that with our dinner!

Peppermint Bark CheesecakeWe will most likely be purchasing a dessert to cutback on stress, but I’m still toying with the idea of making this peppermint bark cheesecake.  It just looks so amazing!  I may have to keep the ingredients on hand in case I get a second wind after our holiday party is over!

Even if we don’t bake a dessert from scratch, we will definitely be making homemade hot chocolate to sip on while unwrapping gifts and watching Christmas movies!  This is a great basic recipe – we will either add bourbon like the recipe suggests, or we may add tequila and cayenne pepper to make it Mexican hot chocolate!

Well, that takes care of Christmas Eve, now on to Christmas Day!  Truth be told, I’ve always wanted to have a lazy Christmas day, but never had one… it’s always involved traveling in some way.  I’m pretty excited to stay in pajamas most of the day and watch Christmas movies with Daniel, we may even go see a matinee that opens on Christmas day (which Daniel’s never done before)!

Baked French ToastI wanted to have a fancy breakfast this year too, but didn’t want anything too crazy so we could sleep in and have a super relaxing day.  I grew up eating french toast far more than pancakes, and yet in my adult life I never seem to eat them anymore!  The up side of that is… it makes the dish a bit more special, therefore making it a great option for Christmas morning!  I’ve never tried this method of baking it in the oven, but I decided I’m going to try it, since it would be quick and everything would be done at the same time.  I’m also going to bake bacon in the oven for the first time, which apparently will produce perfectly crispy, no-mess bacon!  We shall see!

To top it all off, we will be enjoying cranberry mimosas!  It’s simply 1/2 cranberry juice and 1/2 orange juice.  I love how festive it looks!

Cranberry Mimosas

Well, these were just a few of the recipes I found, be sure to check out my board for more ideas for your dinner and breakfast Christmas recipes!


Apple Recipes Perfect for the Fall

As promised, here is the 2nd round of apple recipes we tried after apple picking.  If you missed my first batch of apple recipes, be sure to check it out!  Lots of tasty meals to try!

The first recipe we tried this time was Momma Pritchett’s Grilled Pork Chops and Apple-Pear Topping.  If you eat pork, you must try this recipe.  The pork chops turned out so juicy and tender, and the marinade added delicious flavor.  Based on reviews, we didn’t change anything except the serving size (we reduced the recipe to 4 servings).

Grilled Porkchops

 For the apples and pears, I did not bring the sugar mixture to a boil as suggested.  I simply whisked the sugar until it dissolved, and then added the fruit to the pan.  We also placed the fruit directly on the grill rather than use a grill basket.

Grilled Apples and Pears

We don’t have an outdoor grill, so we just used our grill pan.  As you can see from the photos, both the pork chops and the fruit turned out picture perfect.  If you’re in the market for a grill pan, this is the one we have.  We are more than satisfied with it, and I highly recommend it!

Apple and Sausage StuffingWe paired our entree with a Sausage and Apple Stuffing.  If you recall from my first apple recipe post, I used apple smoked bacon in a turkey dish.  I also used chicken breakfast sausage in our Apple and Sausage Penne recipe.

Well, we used the rest of those ingredients in this stuffing recipe!  What was great about the recipes we decided on was that a lot of them used the same ingredients, so we really got the most bang for our buck!

The recipe did not call for bacon, but other recipes we saw did, so we decided why not add it in!  I mean, who doesn’t love bacon?  I diced the bacon and cooked it with the sausage.  We used a cornbread stuffing mix, and we used water instead of chicken broth since the recipe only called for 1 tbsp.

The stuffing turned out really well and paired beautifully with the pork chops.  We chose this recipe specifically because it was quicker than most.  I must say, even though we used a stuffing mix, there were so many fresh ingredients added in that it didn’t taste like a mix AT ALL.  This would definitely be an easy and fast stuffing for Thanksgiving, not to mention impressive!  And no one needs to know it was semi-homemade… If you make it for a large group, I suggest doubling or tripling the recipe.  Maybe we just like heaping helpings, but this didn’t last 12 servings, probably only 5-6 between the two of us.

The entire meal was SO good, and a lot quicker to make than we thought it would be.  I would highly suggest trying these recipes out!

Spaghetti Squash

The next recipe I tried was a pin I saw on Pinterest.  I’ve been wanting to cook a faux pasta dish for awhile now, so when I saw this Gluten-Free Cheesy Veggie “Pasta” Bake, I knew I had to try it!

While grocery shopping, we were trying to figure out other ways to use up our apples.  So when I saw this gorgeous spaghetti squash at Trader Joes, I immediately thought of the “pasta” bake.  I mean, apples and spaghetti squash are both typical fall flavors, so adding apples to the recipe seemed logical.

If you’re not familiar with the spaghetti squash phenomenon, it’s a great alternative to pasta if you are gluten intolerant, trying to cut back on carbs, or just want to try something different.

Spaghetti Squash Noodles

After cooking the squash (fastest and easiest method would be microwaving) and removing the seeds, you use a fork to scrape the flesh out.  You eventually end up with a big pile of spaghetti-like strands like this picture.

We followed the recipe pretty exact, but we replaced the zucchini with about 4 cups of chopped apple.  We also cooked the dish about 15-20 minutes longer than the recipe indicated, as the spaghetti squash wasn’t as soft as we wanted.

Here is the finished “pasta” bake!

Spaghetti Squash Bake

So tasty and a very healthy meal!

Apple SalsaNow, I think we’d be pretty crazy if we had all these apples and we didn’t make caramel apples!  So we invited a couple of friends over for a caramel apple making/board game party.  We made this Apple Salsa for a snack!

A very unique salsa compared to a typical tomato based salsa.  We followed the recipe exactly, and it turned out really nice.  Fresh, tart, and sweet!  There wasn’t a whole lot of spice, despite the two peppers, but you could always skip deseeding them if you want more heat.

And now for the caramel apples!  We melted the caramel according to the directions on the package, we also melted some white chocolate for double dipping.  As you can see, we had quite the topping spread.  Our toppings included:  toffee bits, Nerds, cinnamon chips, crushed Butterfinger, peanut butter chips, and chopped pecans.

Caramel Apple Toppings

Here are a few pictures of some finished apples!

Caramel Apples

White Chocolate Caramel Apple

The apples Daniel and I made were:  Nerd covered, half Butterfinger covered, peanut butter chip and pecan covered, and the one pictured above…  Double dipped in white chocolate, and covered in cinnamon chips and toffee bits (which was by far the best apple).  This was the first time we made caramel apples, and they turned out pretty good for being novices!  The only trouble we had was the caramel and toppings sinking to the bottom.  If any of you have any tips to prevent that from happening, let me know!

And finally, the very last recipe… Apple Brownies!  Now, I will warn you, these are not technically brownies and do not have the texture of a brownie.  I’d say it’s more of an apple cake, and we knew this from reading the reviews beforehand.  Most reviewers said it was delicious despite the misleading name, so we still wanted to try it out!

Apple Brownie Batter

We did change a few things after reading several reviews.  We added 1 tbsp of vanilla extract to the wet ingredients, and 1/2 tsp of nutmeg to the dry ingredients.  We creamed the butter with the sugar instead of melting it first.  We also diced the apples instead of slicing, and sprinkled the top generously with cinnamon sugar.

Not sure if you can tell by this picture, but after you’ve combined the ingredients the batter will be very thick.  It will look like only apples and barely any batter.  Totally fine!  The apples cook down and the batter surrounds them perfectly!

They came out incredibly moist and with a nice crust on the top.  Unfortunately, they’ve gotten a bit mushier with storage, but still very tasty.  Again, it’s more of a cake, so I’d say the best way to serve this would be warm and with a scoop of ice cream!  We started heating bars in the toaster oven to crisp them back up!

Apple Brownies

Whew!  I can’t believe how many recipes we tried in such a short timespan, and I seriously can’t believe how many apples we’ve eaten!  All in all, it was a fun experience.  It gave us the opportunity to try out new recipes, create our own, and cook with ingredients we don’t normally use.  So I hope you all enjoyed both part 1 and part 2 of our apple recipe adventure, found some new favorite recipes, and inspiration for your own everyday cooking!  Happy Eating!


Apple and Sausage Penne Recipe

After we finished the first round of apple recipes from our apple picking adventure, we took a little break and cooked how we normally do…  By creating an on-the-spot delicious meal with only the ingredients in our fridge and cupboard!  Of course, we still had a plethora of apples, so we decided to incorporate some into this dish as well.

Our Apple and Sausage Penne was one of those “I can’t get enough of this!” meals.  It is the perfect blend of sweet and savory, the apples were an unexpected delight, and the sausage made this a wonderfully hearty dish!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 3/4 bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cups diced apple
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 chicken breakfast sausages
  • 1 jar of Cabernet Marinara
  • 1 bag of penne pasta
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 1/8 tsp ancho chili pepper
  • Parmesan, grated (optional)

Here’s what you do:

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to the directions.  We used Trader Joes High Fiber Penne, and used about 3/4 of the bag.  I always prefer penne when making a chunky pasta, but any type will do!

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Slice open the casing of the breakfast sausage, crumble, and brown and cook until done.  Remove from pan.  We used chicken breakfast sausage from Trader Joes because we already had it on hand for another dish, but you can use any kind you like.  You could also omit the sausage to make this into a vegetarian meal.

Cooked Sausage

While your sausage is cooking, chop the onion, bell pepper, apple and garlic.  Once your sausage has been removed from the pan, saute your veggies and apple until tender, about 6-8 minutes.

Sauteed Vegetables

Add your spices and garlic, and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Add your cooked sausage back into the pan, add your pasta sauce, and cook to heat through.  We used Classico Cabernet Marinara, which paired perfectly with the apple since the sauce was a little bit sweet.

Apple and Sausage PenneAll that’s left is to combine the sauce mixture and strained pasta, top with Parmesan, and enjoy!  I believe this pot lasted 4-5 dinners for two.  I seriously can’t wait to make this meal again!  It was so warm, comforting, satisfying, and so very tasty!

Bonus!

Apple Cider MargaritaAs I mentioned in both my apple picking and 1st apple recipe post, we also walked away with a gallon of apple cider.  We were trying to find creative ways to use it up, and one way was… drinks!  We tried out this Apple Cider Margarita, and it was delicious!

We didn’t have Grand Marnier, so we substituted with triple sec instead.  We also omitted the orange segments, as we didn’t have any on hand.  But we figured the triple sec would add the orange flavor back in.  While the drink was great, it was a little strange drinking it with this meal.  Probably better paired with dessert, or as dessert itself!

I hope you enjoy these recipes, let me know if you try them out!  Until next time, Happy Eating!