Month: July 2013

Confetti Cupcakes

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When you work at a larger company, there is always a birthday, promotion, wedding, or baby to celebrate. And once you’ve shown off your baking skills, well…  let’s just say there’s an expectation.

I really don’t mind. I like to play in the kitchen, and it gives me a vehicle for experimenting and sharing. Plus, I work with a lot of genuinely nice people, and it’s fun to be part of whatever they’re celebrating.

Last week, a friend from work celebrated the big 3-0, and I had offered to bring in anything he wanted. At first, he had just one requirement: no carrots, coconut or nuts. “They form my Axis of Evil when it comes to baked goods,” he explained.

Okay, fair enough.

But a few days later, he mentioned how much he loved Funfetti. And really, who doesn’t?

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White cake from a box is one taste and texture I’ve never quite been able to replicate. This recipe doesn’t change that, but it does have a great flavor and texture of its own.

And it turns out the confetti color is easier to duplicate than I thought: 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sprinkles per dozen cupcakes, gently folded in. As a topping, I prefer nonpareils (the tiny little balls), but in batter, the regular sprinkles won’t bleed as much.

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I also loved how quickly this recipe came together, and the fact that it was a small batch. I was on the road for work a couple days, and this was a cinch to pull together after work.

I cut the frosting recipe in half and still had more than I needed, while allowing the cake to take center stage.

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I dropped off 10 cupcakes in my friend’s office around 11. At 1pm, he brought back the container. “I ate 3 for lunch. And then I had to give away the rest so I wouldn’t eat them all.”

Definitely a keeper.

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Confetti Cupcakes

Adapted slightly from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

Cake:
1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg or 2 egg whites
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (use clear vanilla for a whiter cake)
1/3 to 1/2 cup sprinkles

Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2-2 cups powdered sugar
1/8 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
Food coloring and sprinkles, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.In a large bowl, combine melted butter and sugar. Chill to room temperature. Stir in egg, sour cream, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick. Fold in sprinkles, being careful not to overmix.

Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add powdered sugar, cream, vanilla and salt with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Stir in food coloring if desired. Frost cooled cupcakes and top with sprinkles. Make ahead: store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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Dirty Quinoa

Looking for a quick, weeknight one-dish meal? I first saw a version of this recipe in a Gold’s Gym recipe contest a couple years ago and have adapted it to my own taste preferences. With lean ground beef and quinoa, this dish is high-protein and gluten-free, and makes for great leftovers.

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Dirty Quinoa

Serves 4-6

1 lb. lean ground beef (I use 93% lean)
3 bell peppers, cored and chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup quinoa
2 3/4 cups low-sodium beef broth

Combine meat and vegetables in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until beef is done and vegetables are tender.  Add additional ingredients. Heat to boiling; reduce heat, cover and simmer until quinoa has sprouted, about 10-15 minutes.

Grilled Citrus Chicken, plus leftovers two ways

It’s launch week at Gold’s Gym Corporate locations, and life is getting all crazy!

Say what?

Background: In addition to moonlighting as a food blogger, I also teach several Les Mills group fitness classes. Every three months, we throw a party to introduce a new set of routines — new music and moves to freshen up your workout and challenge you. I love launch week for all the energy and excitement, even if I do tend to overextend myself a bit (ahem).

Our quarterly launches are a great reminder for me to be a conscious eater. The choices you make to fuel your body have a huge impact on your fitness and performance. As much as this girl loves her desserts and wine, they don’t get her through tough workouts. High-protein with lots of vegetables is where it’s at.

The problem? I don’t eat to live, I live to eat. More often than not, the thought of boneless, skinless chicken breast on top of a pile of limp lettuce leaves triggers my gag reflex. I can’t choke down the same food meal after meal. If it isn’t interesting, I will pick at it all morning, then head straight for the vending machine around 3. Like clockwork, I’ll hit a wall about 40 minutes into my workout. No bueno.

The good news: chicken — even boneless, skinless chicken breast — doesn’t have to be boring. Take this “recipe” from this month’s Bon Appetit for grilled citrus chicken: chicken, citrus, oil, salt, pepper. Bam! The flavor is bright, but not overpowering, and it’s versatile enough to get a girl with a short food attention span through several meals. Fresh off the grill, in a salad, as tacos or lettuce wraps, in a sandwich… I won’t have to worry about tossing any unused leftovers.

For example, today’s lunch:

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Skin-on, bone-in meat is best — it’s more flavorful and less likely to dry out. The citrus juices help prevent flare-ups from the fat as the meat cooks. You don’t have to eat the skin if that’s not your thing. If you prefer, you can use boneless and/or skinless breasts or thighs. No grill? Try a grill pan or cast-iron skillet.

I’ve included two “recipes” I have made this week for lunch leftovers. I’d love to hear your ideas, too!

I hope to see your smiling faces at the gym this week. But even more, I hope that no matter what you’re up to this week, you eat well. Cheers.

Photo credit:  Peden + Munk for Bon Appetit

Photo credit: Peden + Munk for Bon Appetit

Grilled Citrus Chicken

Adapted From Bon Appetit
Serves 4

1 chicken (3 1/2-4 lbs), cut into 8 pieces
3 tablespoons your favorite heat-friendly cooking oil (e.g., vegetable, coconut), divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 oranges and 2 lemons, cut in half, divided (try substituting limes!)

Prepare grill for medium heat. Rub chicken with 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill chicken skin-side down, turning occasionally and squeezing the juice from 2 halves each oranges and lemons over the meat often. Cook until chicken is cooked through and an instant-read thermometer reads 165° in the thickest part of the thigh, about 25–35 minutes.

Meanwhile, brush remaining citrus halves with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. During the last 5-10 minutes of cooking, grill the fruit, cut side down, until lightly charred.

Serve chicken with grilled citrus fruits for squeezing over.

Chicken Club Salad

For each serving:
2-3 cups Romaine or your favorite salad greens
4 oz. diced or shredded grilled citrus chicken meat
1 hard-boiled egg
1 slice applewood-smoked bacon, cooked & crumbled
1/2 avocado, sliced or diced (douse with lemon or lime juice if not eating immediately)

Chicken Berry Spinach Salad

For each serving:
2-3 cups baby spinach or your favorite salad greens
4 oz. diced or shredded grilled citrus chicken meat
1/2 cup seasonal berries
1 T. slivered almonds, toasted if desired