Watermelon Cupcakes

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It’s safe to say I have a lot of obsessions things I’m really into – donuts, flamingos, buttercream frosting, watermelon, the Giant Squid, vintage anything, shoes, matching my boys to each other and also to me, hair dye, thrift stores. I know what I like. And apparently, it’s a bunch of weird and varied things, and I realize that now as I’m typing it out.

Welp, today, we are going to talk watermelons. They are such a fun fruit. I love their colors. I love their sweetness. I love how I can eat a whole melon for a meal and feel super full. I love how they smell. It might just be the raddest mainstream fruit.

You you what else is rad? Mixing watermelons and cupcakes together.

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Oh, yes, boy.

I’ve made watermelon cupcakes before. From a box. They were really yummy and tasted like Jolly Ranchers (which totally make you feel like you’re teeth are being ripped out, one by one, but also it’s totally worth it). But today, I wanted to try another version, one that used real watermelon in the recipe. I also used LorAnn watermelon oil (I found mine on Amazon) to pony up the watermelon flavor. Watermelon Jell-O might also work.

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These cupcakes came out incredibly tender, full of watermelon flavor, and adorable. They would be a perfect addition for a Memorial Day or Fourth of July party. Or for a simple Summer day.

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I used a white cake mix for this recipe because I happened to have one on hand (I keep a few stocked, when I see them on $1 sales at the grocery store), but your favorite standard homemade white cake mix recipe would work well here. If you have a few minutes to spare, sift your cake mix prior to adding the other ingredients. l almost always sift dry ingredients when baking, and especially with boxed mixes. I do this, because I find that if I don’t, the batter is terribly lumpy, and the lumps show up in the finished product. Sifting also makes for an incredibly tender crumb, once baked.

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Watermelon Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from: Mix and Match Mama
Makes: 24 standard cupcakes or 12 standard + 24 mini cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
1 box of white cake mix
1 1/4 C pureed watermelon, divided
1/2 C oil (vegetable or canola)
4 egg whites (or 12 T liquid egg whites)
1/2 dram LorAnn watermelon oil
*a few drops of pink or red food coloring is optional. if you choose not to use this, as I have, your cupcakes will turn out peachy colored.*
Preheat your oven to 350F. Line your cupcake tins and set aside.
Puree your watermelon. Set aside.
Sift your cake mix into a medium or large bowl. Add one cup of watermelon puree, oil (I used canola), egg whites, and LorAnn watermelon oil. Mix until just combined. If you are using food coloring, add it now. Be careful not to overmix.
Pour batter into your prepared cupcake tins and bake for 18 – 21 minutes. Mine took 18 and I rotated the pans halfway through. Cool for 10 minutes and then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the frosting:
1/2 C unsalted butter, softened
2 C powdered sugar
remaining watermelon puree (1/4 C)
1/2 dram LorAnn watermelon oil
Few drops of pink food coloring
Sprinkles, optional (I found watermelon colored and flavored sprinkles at Publix)
While the cupcakes are cooling, beat butter, remaining watermelon puree, LorAnn watermelon oil, and powdered sugar until combined. Add more watermelon puree or more sugar, if the icing is too thick or too thin, respectively (I actually needed quite a bit more powdered sugar). Beat in food coloring. Frost and decorate your cooled cupcakes.
Store in refrigerator.
Enjoy!
Kristin
Happy Memorial Day! Please remember to thank a Vet or current Military Serviceman or Woman. These incredible, brave souls are such a big reason we enjoy our freedom.

S’mores Macarons

Y’all. I heard it was S’mores Week. If it were up to me, I’d have it be S’mores Day, errday, all day. I love s’mores. You know what else I heard? That Macaron Day is coming up. I don’t know who made these holidays up, or if I am even correct on the dates, but I like them. And, I’ve got a really fun recipe that incorporates both of these super awesome holidays.

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S’MORES MACARONS, PEOPLE

S’mores Macarons. Yup. If you haven’t yet (I say “yet” in assumption that you’ll one day try them…because you should) tried then, they are a French meringue made with ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites. They are filled and are characterized by their bottom ruffle (how cute!), called a “foot”.

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Glorious Feet

They are crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle. And they are wonderful. Extraordinary. Beautiful. And wonderful.

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The possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination. I thought it would be fun to make a s’mores version of these. For me, s’mores are quintessential to Summer (I also think they are quintessential to Winter). There is something so familiar, so lovely about s’mores.

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I also made a few without the graham cracker component, to be deemed appropriate for those who do without gluten.

These were delightfully crispy, but chewy, deliciously chocolately, filled with a fluffy, marshmallowy, vanilla filling, and for those with it, dusted with crunchy, buttery graham cracker crumbs. Please don’t feel scared to try these. They have a lot of steps, but it will be worth it.

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S’mores Macarons

For the macarons:

2 C powdered sugar

1 C almond flour or almond meal

3 T unsweetened cocoa powder (dark cocoa would be delicious, too!)

1/4 t fine salt

3 large egg whites, room temperature

Pinch cream of tartar

3 T granulated sugar

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. You can also prepare a pastry bag with a tip, but I simply cut the end off.

Place the powdered sugar, almond flour/meal, cocoa powder, and salt in a food processor and pulse several times. Then process until fine and combined, about 30 seconds. Sift through a flour sifter into a large bowl to remove any lumps. Set aside.

For the meringue component, place the egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or use a handheld mixer). Beat on medium speed until opaque and foamy, about 30 seconds. Add the cream of tartar, put mixer on medium high, and beat until the egg whites are white, about 1 minute. While continuing to beat, slowly add the granulated sugar, until it is combined, the peaks are stiff, and the whites are shiny, about 1 minute more. Make sure you don’t over whip. Put the meringue to a large bowl.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the dry mixture into the egg whites in four batches until the dry ingredients are just combined. The meringue will lost some of its airy-ness. With the final addition, stop folding when there are no traces of egg whites and the mixture looks like cake batter. Make sure you do not over mix.

Transfer the batter to the pastry bag. Pipe out 1-1/4-inch rounds about 1 inch apart onto the baking sheets, about 25 per sheet. Bang your baking sheet on your counter tops. This will remove cracking from the macaron tops, and instead add the crack (or foot) to the base. Let the rounds sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to dry the tops and ensure even cooking.

Preheat the oven to 350F and move a rack to the middle. Bake the macarons one sheet at a time for 7 minutes. Rotate the sheet and cook for 7 minutes more. Cool completely.

For the marshmallow frosting:

** I halved this recipe and still had plenty leftover**

1 1/2 C granulated sugar

1/4 t cream of tartar or 1 T white corn syrup (I used cream of tartar)

1/8 t salt

1/3 C water

2 egg whites

1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract

Place sugar, cream of tartar or corn syrup, salt, water, and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute. Place pan over boiling water. Make sure that the boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. This will cause your frosting to be grainy. Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Beat in vanilla. Transfer frosting to a pastry bag.

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To assemble:

Pair macarons of similar size. Snip off the end of your pastry bag. Squeeze about a teaspoon of frosting onto one macaron shell (the flat side), and top with another half. Press gently. The filling should just come to the edges of the macaron. Pour graham cracker crumbs (about 1/2 C) into a bowl. Roll the macarons into the crumbs. They will stick to the frosting. Cover and refrigerate. These taste better once they’ve been refrigerated. It will help the frosting settle and make the inside portion chewier. These freeze quite well (up to a month). You can even fill them before freezing.

Enjoy!

These would be wonderful to make this Memorial Day weekend, also rounding out S’mores Week. Don’t forget what this weekend is about – we are remembering those who have died in our great Military. THANK YOU to those who have served…past, present, and future. I am forever grateful for your bravery.

Kristin

Breakfast Rice Bowls with Sausage and Fried Eggs

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It was 5:35pm, and I knew my husband and oldest son would be getting home from karate just after 6:00pm. I had mild Italian sausage (no casing), thawed on the counter. Like usual, I had no idea what to make. And like usual, I made something up on the fly. Unlike usual, it worked. It was a quick and super delicious meal. I decided to make rice bowls, with sausage patties and fried eggs. This was delicious at dinner, but would be incredible for breakfast, as well.

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You won’t be disappointed, if you try this.

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Breakfast Rice Bowls with Sausage and Fried Eggs

1 lb mild Italian sausage, without the casing (if it is in the casing, just squeeze it out)

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 C bread crumbs (I used gluten free)

S&P

Garlic powder

Onion powder

Jasmine rice, cooked as directed

Eggs

Scallions

Red pepper flakes

*any other spices you want can be added in*

*this would be good with almost any vegetable mixed in, or any type of ground meat*

Mix all the above ingredients together. Form into patties and pan fry (I used a mixture of peanut and olive oil). Once seared on both sides, add some water to your pan and cover. This will cook the inside of the sausage patties.

While those are cooking, make your rice. Lastly, make your egg. You can cook it however you want, but for me, a fried egg is magical. The way that the yolk coats everything…incredible.

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I hope that you enjoy this as much as we did!

Kristin

Annnnd, one more gratuitous yolk picture…

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The Last Day of VPK for 2015

Tomorrow is my Bigs’ last day of VPK. I am in denial. He’ll be in Kindergarten next year. That’s like “big boy” status.

Cue ugly crying.

Bigs’ class pet this year was a flamingo, appropriately named “Mingo”. He spent many nights with us, as he did with all the classmates. He was very loved. It was absolutely fitting that the class pet was a flamingo. It’s always been, um, my spirit animal. If there is such a thing. So I really enjoyed the flamingo theme this year. I made a few flamingo lunches this year, as well (here and here). So for his very last VPK school lunch, I felt that Mingo needed his due course.

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I made a “Mingo” shaped PB&J. I also packed a pluot, TJ’s organic PB crackers, red grapes, and yellow watermelon. I didn’t pack a dessert, since we’ll be having an ice cream party tomorrow. I used flamingo cupcake picks and added a palm tree (that I acquired through a bakery cake at some point).

Long live Mingo.

And for my Smalls, who is also having his last day of Mom’s Morning Out…

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…he’ll be in the “3’s” next year. Sniff. I made two little ice cream cone shaped PB&J sandwiches. I added details with my Food Writers. I also packed PB crackers, yellow watermelon, and one homemade chocolate chip/sprinkle/M&M cookie, cut into fourths.

I made those cookies yesterday to deliver to the boys’ school staff, as a thank you. They were really easy to make and used whole wheat flour.

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Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Sprinkle M&M Cookies

Adapted from: Weelicious

1 C AP flour

1¼ C whole wheat flour

1 t baking soda

½ t salt

1 C butter, room temperature

1 C brown sugar, packed

½ C granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 T vanilla

1 C semisweet chocolate chips

1 C M&Ms

1/2 C colored jimmies

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat and set aside.

Whisk together both flours, baking soda and salt. In another bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), cream butter and both sugars together for 3 minutes. Add in eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Gradually add in dry ingredients. Do not overmix. Stir in chocolate chips, M&Ms, and sprinkles.

Drop dough onto your prepared baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

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Enjoy! Summer is here!!

Kristin

Favorite Things Week – VPK School Lunch #2

For tomorrow’s lunch, I had my big boy choose what he wanted, make it, and pack it himself.

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For his second-to-last school lunch, he chose a ham, cheese, and mayo sandwich. I told him he could do it however he wanted. He wanted the top piece of bread to be upside down, and he wanted to cut it into thirds. He’s neat. He also packed pretzel sticks, red grapes, and a teeny piece of that outrageously yummy (and easy) chocolate cake with fun sprinkles, that I made earlier in the week.

Happy Wednesday!

Kristin

Favorite Things Week – VPK School Lunch (and Chocolate Cake!)

This is my big boy’s last week of VPK. Sniff. I don’t know where the time has gone. I literally only blinked, and his entirely VPK year has come and gone. To help him celebrate his last three days of school, I decided to pack some of his favorite things.

For tomorrow:

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I packed a PB&J. This kid loves his PB&J’s. I also packed corn (his favorite vegetable), a yogurt squeeze (he always wants one), and a teeny slice of super sprinkled homemade chocolate cake for dessert.

Speaking of chocolate cake…

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…oh, yes boy.

Today was my last Mommy church group meeting for this school year, and I made a one-bowl frosted chocolate cake to take with me. I made sure to save some for my boys. They always ask me to save them special treats when I make them for get-togethers.

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I’ve used this recipe a dozen times before. It’s very quick to throw together. I almost always have the ingredients, as well.

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Who could resist such an easy recipe?

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It’s fudgy, not-too-rich, chocolatey, and super moist.

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I covered it with a ton of fun sprinkles.

Do it.

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

recipe adapted from: Six Sister’s Stuff

2 C AP flour
2 C sugar
1/2 C baking cocoa (I used 1/4 C of dark chocolate cocoa, 1/4 C regular)
2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1 C vegetable or canola oil
1 C buttermilk (you can easily make your own with milk and vinegar)
2 eggs
1 C hot water

Frosting:

1/2 C butter, softened
1/4 C milk
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
3 T cocoa powder (I used a mix of dark and regular, again)
3 C powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13″ pan.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Mix in the oil, buttermilk, and eggs. Pour in the water and mix well. It will be runny and that is okay.

Pour batter into pan. Bake for 33-38 minutes or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. Mine was done at 35 minutes.

Once completely cooled, frost.

To make frosting, mix all the ingredients together. Add more powdered sugar or milk, as needed.

I hope you enjoy it!

Kristin

Circus Week – Horse VPK School Lunch

Tomorrow is Bigs’ last circus day. It’s been such a fun week for them. They got their faces painted, they played carnival games, won carnival prizes, and did lots of learning games.

To finish out the week, I went with a horsey lunch. Again, I was thinking about “Water for Elephants”. It’s sort of my go-to circus movie. Well, that and Britney Spears’ “Circus”. You know.

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I made a horse shaped PB&J. The poor thing looks like another My Little Pony. I just can’t seem to get a real horse look. Neigh. The grand horsey is standing atop his bread crusty hay. I also packed pretzels, fruit salad (grapes, blackberries, and raspberries), and an organic yogurt squeeze for dessert.

Happy Weekend!

Kristin

Homemade Vegetable Tomato Sauce

Today has not been an easy day, y’all. It’s been what many of you refer to as, “one of those” days. You know the type. Where one kid throws a heavy shoe at you while you’re driving (um, child, please, I don’t know where you learned that! and why is your shoe so heavy?), where your other child gives you the attitude of a teenager, and where you don’t know what on earth to make for dinner… and it’s dinner time.

Despite all of that, I actually put together a meal that everyone ate tonight. While there were no quiet moments where everyone was peacefully eating, at least they all ate. And my five year old said it was the best spaghetti he’d ever eaten and that he wanted it for lunch tomorrow and then again the next day. High praise from a picky eater.

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I never thought I’d be the parent that hid vegetables in food that I serve my children. And for my youngest, I am that parent. But for my oldest, I have to be more inconspicuous. He’ll spot a “green thing” from a mile away. And, then, it’s tainted. Unedible. “Gross”.

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So here’s my great recipe with lots of hidden vegetables for your eagle-eyed children to enjoy…

Homemade Vegetable Tomato Sauce

Serves: 4 people, with second helpings and leftovers

2 large bell peppers (I used one red and one green), cut into large pieces

1/4 large white onion, cut into large pieces

handful of cherry tomatoes (I used about 7)

1 6oz can of tomato paste

12oz tomato sauce (I use Flora Organic Strained Tomatoes)

Fresh garlic

S&P to taste

Ground meat (I used chicken. Turkey, beef, or sausage would be delicious.)

Pasta (I used 1lb of Trader Joe’s brown rice GF spaghetti noodles)

In a food processor, whiz together the bell peppers, onion, and cherry tomatoes. Meanwhile, brown your meat in a frying pan. Once cooked all the way through (and drained, if needed), add your liquified vegetable mixture. Pour in the tomato sauce and tomato paste. You might need to whisk it a bit to make sure the paste breaks down. Add the garlic and S&P. Let it simmer while your noodles are cooking. Once your noodles are done, drain and return to pot. Add the meat and tomato sauce.

Buon appetito!

Kristin

Circus Week – “Magic Bunny” VPK School Lunch

I feel like circuses have magic shows. Do they? Like, with a magician in a tux, pulling a rabbit out of a top hat?

I might be stretching it a little. I only have so many circus-themed cutters.

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I made a magical bunny shaped PB&J and added details for his ears (very instrumental to his magic show), eye, ad nose. I also packed a few banana chips, a few TJ’s organic PB sandwich crackers, two dried dates, an aprium, colby jack cheese, a Tim Tam (thank you Australia!!!), and a homemade granola bar.

And for my Smalls:

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I packed half a PB&J, trail mix, an aprium, TJ’s PB crackers, colby jack cheese, and a cotton candy Oreo. He’s got a granola bar for snack.

I made the granola bars for Teacher Appreciation Week a few weeks back. They were delicious!! I thought I’d make them again for my own family.

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They were super easy to put together…

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…and had ingredients I both had on hand and could pronounce.

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AND they are easy to individually package and freeze!

http://happymoneysaver.com/no-bake-homemade-chewy-granola-bars/

A hint – if you are out of honey, as this recipe requires a LOT, you can use corn syrup as a sub. I don’t love using that, but I do keep it on hand for some recipes.

Do it!

Kristin

Circus Week – Elephant VPK School Lunch

For tomorrow’s lunch, I thought I’d go for an elephant theme. And then I started thinking about the movie, “Water for Elephants” and I got really sad. But it had a good ending. So I’m less sad.

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I made an elephant shaped PB&J sandwich. I also packed an aprium (those things are SO good!!), some pretzels, watermelon, two iced animal crackers, a few chocolate animal crackers, and an organic yogurt sqeeze.

Kristin