Happy St. Patricks Day Green Smoothie – have a Shamrock Shake the healthy way!

So I have been dying to get myself a Shamrock Shake from McDonald’s. But then I realize that the last time I had one, I wasn’t thrilled.  I rarely indulge in a McDonald’s milkshake, but I don’t think they have been the same since they started putting whipped cream and a cherry on top.  I mean, this is McDonald’s, not an ice cream parlor, or even a diner.  Their food isn’t supposed to come with garnish.  Then I saw someone post the list of what is in a Shamrock Shake.  Not that I don’t ever consume those ingredients – I do loves me a McDonald’s Ice Cream Cone, and the ice cream is the main component of the shake – but it wasn’t worth the calories or chemicals for something I don’t really like.

Shamrock Shake Green Smoothie in sunlightBut it is St. Patrick’s Day, and for some reason, I still thought a Shamrock Shake for breakfast was the way to celebrate, since the rest of my plans for the day are decidedly NOT Irish.  I’ve seem a lot of versions posted on various blogs this week, but most involved ice cream.  So I decided to make one that was breakfast-worthy (but definitely still yummy enough for dessert).  And it does not involve any green food coloring.  Or added sugar. I think I will be making one for The Bug for snack.  Throw a banana in your freezer in chunks, and it’ll be ready to make this for an after dinner treat.

I am not a huge mint person.  I regularly think to myself that I wish they made peanut butter-flavored toothpaste.  So this is admittedly a little light on the mint.  If you like things really minty, go ahead and add more mint extract.  And no, you can’t taste the kale, and if you blend it up, you don’t even know it is there, other than the lovely green color it gives the smoothie.

What are you doing for St. Patrick’s Day?  Eating or drinking anything green?  Or Irish?

Shamrock Shake Green Smoothie from top

Shamrock Green Smoothie (serves 1)

Ingredients

Shamrock Shake Green Smoothie1 frozen, really ripe banana

1 c milk (I used Almond Breeze Almond Coconut Milk, but you can use any milk you choose)

1/2 c kale (or other dark, leafy green of your choice)

1/2 t vanilla extract

1/4 t mint extract

ice cubes – I used 4 regular-sized ones.  This was probably aboutn3/4 c.  Adjust accordingly based on the size of your ice cubes and how icy you want it.

Directions

1.  Put all ingredients into a blender (I used my trusty Magic Bullet), and blends until smooth.

2.  Pour into a glass to serve, and garnish with a strawberry, if you want to be all fancy.

Enjoy!

shamrock green smoothie from iphone

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Lucky Charms Cupcakes and Breakfast Rules

Lucky Charms Cupcakes in the sun

Top o' the morning to you!

Paraphrasing the Grinch, I got an idea.  An awful idea.  A wonderful, awful idea.  These kinds of things happen when you are in the car for 3 1/2 hours, with nobody other than your son.  And he sleeps for half the ride.  And he is not even two, so his current idea of a deep conversation is, “Mama, open mi-illkk!” or “Want raisins-n-O’s”.

I have three words for you.

LUCKY. CHARMS. CUPCAKES.

Lucky Charms Cupcakes with Shamrocks

Three Lucky Charms Cupcakes

Yes, I said it.  I was thinking about what I could do as the very first St. Patrick’s Day sweet treat for my blog.  Sure, I could have thought about something involving Bailey’s or minty green frosting or even some Guinness stout chocolate thing that seems to be all the trend these days.  But no, I though about a totally marshmallow-laden, sugar-filled, horrible-excuse-for-breakfast (despite the Whole Grain claims on the package) Amercan breakfast cereal.  And cupcakes.  How Irish!

Lucky Charms CupcakeI am not sure if this is in defiance of or homage to my mom.  As a kid, the rule was that I could not buy any cereal that had marshmallows in it.  Mind you, I could have all of the Frosted Flakes or Cookie Crisp I wanted, and our house was never short on M&M’s or Chips Ahoy! cookies  And she does advocate an occasional dinner of ice cream.  But marshmallows in my breakfast cereal – NO WAY!  So what did I do every time I slept over my cousin’s house?  In the morning, I immediately bee-lined for the Lucky Charms or Franken-Berry or Boo-Berry.  Unfortunately my cousin usually beat me to the toy surprise.

Lucky Charms Cupcakes from topSo as I thought about this some more, I knew that what I found when I Googled “Lucky Charms Cupcakes” and essentially found “use your favorite box cake mix and canned frosting, and top with a few marshmallow from the Lucky Charms box” that this was not going to cut it.  I was going to go all Momofuku on these bad boys.  I am talking Cereal Milk!  If you haven’t heard of it, Momofuku Milk Bar is a restaurant/bakery in New York City, where they use “cereal milk” in some of their baked goods.  They are even getting a trademark for it.  So I had to try the idea out for myself.  Because isn’t that one of the best parts of eating a bowl of sugary cereal – drinking all of the yummy, sweet milk at the end?!

Unfrosted Lucky Charms Cupcakes

I did make an attempt a a marshmallow frosting.  Tasted pretty good, but looked awful.  So when in doubt, I turn to Martha, and used her basic buttercream frosting.  I just added more vanilla, because I always add more vanilla.  This recipe should make enough to frost the entire batch of cupcakes if you don’t put quite as large of a mound of frosting as I did because I really only utilize cupcakes as a vehicle for frosting consumption just to make them look prettier in the photos.

Lucky Charms Cupcakes on tray

So yes, this recipe does involve opening a box of Lucky Charms and picking out all of the marshmallows.  But hey, if you do that then it is a perfectly acceptable breakfast food, right?  No marshmallows, so I think mom would agree.

Three Lucky Charms Cupcakes on plate

Oh, and though he didn’t get to eat too many, these were definitely Bug-approved.  Look at him doing quality control…

The Bug and Lucky Charms Cupcakes

What is your favorite cereal?  Is it something healthy, or a kiddie, sugary one?  I love Strawberry Yogurt Cheerios and right now I am kind of into Cinnamon Sugar Chex.  I tend to eat it dry as a snack, rather than for breakfast.

Lucky Charms Cupcakes with Marshmallow-Studded Buttercream Frosting (makes about 24)

Cupcakes adapted from Claire Crespo’s White Cupcakes posted on Epicurious.

Frosting adapted from Martha Stewart’s Basic Buttercream

Ingredients for Cupcakes

Three Mirrored Lucky Charms Cupcakes11.5 oz. box Lucky Charms Cereal (or bigger, but then you may not need all of the marshmallows)

1 1/2 c whole milk

2 t vanilla extract

2 1/4 c all-purpose flour

2 1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1 c unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 c sugar

2 eggs

Directions

1.  Preheat your oven to 350°F, and put liners in cupcake tins.

2.  Pick the marshmallows out of the box of Luck Charms.

3.  Combine 1 c of the Lucky Charms (after removing the marshmallows), the milk and vanila extract.  Let soak while you finish assembling the other ingredients, about 15-20 minutes.

4.  Grind 1 c of the Lucky Charms (after removing the marshmallows) into a powder using a food processor, or just crushing them up really well.  You should be left with a little less than half a cup of cereal powder.

5.  Sift together the cereal powder, flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.

6.  In a large bowl, cream the butter, then gradually add the sugar, creaming until light and fluffy.

7.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating for a few seconds after each addition

8.  Drain the milk mixture off of the cereal.

9.  To the butter and sugar, alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture in thirds, beating until smooth after each addition.

10.  Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until it springs back when you touch it.

11.  Let cool before frosting.

Ingredients for Buttercream Frosting

One cupcake on square mirror1 1/2 c (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

4 c confectioners’ sugar, sifted

1 1/2 t vanilla extract

Food coloring, if desired

Reserved Lucky Charms marshmallows (up to 1 c, if you use a larger box of cereal)

Directions

1.  With a mixer on medium-high, beat the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

2.  Reduce the speed to medium, and gradually beat in the sugar.  Continue mixing for a few minutes, until the frosting is smooth and creamy.

3.  Add the vanilla and food coloring, if using, and beat until smooth.

4.  Carefully fold in the marshmallows.

Enjoy!

Lucky Charms Cupcakes

This recipe was shared with:

Scrumptious Sunday Link Party #2 at I Am Addicted to Recipes

Sweet Indulgences Sunday #46 at A Well-Seasoned Life

The Sweet Spot Recipe Party

Sundae Scoop Link Party at I Heart Nap Time

Crazy Sweet Tuesday at Crazy for Crust



4littlefergusons

March Foodie Photo-a-Day Challenge

March Foodie Photo-a-Day ChallengeThe Purple Carrot created a foodie edition of the photo-a-day challenges that have been going on on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.!  I thought this sounded like a blast, and an awesome way to connect with other foodies!  I could take nice pictures with my good camera, but I like the instant ability to post and the different filters on Instagram, even though I have the old iPhone 3G with a pretty lame camera.  So these won’t be the best pictures, but they are spontaneous, and so I think that makes it fun.  Enjoy!

Day 1 Breakfast Cinnamon Apple Raisin Quinoa

Day 1: Breakfast - Cinnamon Apple Raisin Quinoa

Day 2 Something Sweet Cupcakes from Cake Break

Day 2: Something Sweet - Cupcakes from Cake Break in Rehoboth Beach

March Foodie Photo a Day 2 Kitchen

Day 3: Kitchen - My favorite feature in my mom's kitchen. I NEED a double oven!

Foodie Photo a Day 4 Dishes

Day 4: Dishes - since I was not at home to take a picture of my Fiestaware, I found a store with an awesome display.

Day 5 Best Condiment Hunts Ketchup

Day 5: Best condiment - this one is for my little guy. When you are almost two years old, what else is there besides ketchup?!

Day 5 Whats Cooking Slow Cooker Veggie Tomato Sauce with Sausage

Day 5: What's Cooking - Slow Cooker Veggie Tomato Sauce for Moms Crazy Cooking Challenge.

March Foodie Photo Challenge Day 7 Pantry

Day 7: Pantry - Clearly I have some organizing to do.

Day 8 Vegetable Roasted Broccoli

Day 8: Vegetable - Our family favorite, Lemon Parmesan Roasted Broccoli.

Day 9 Lunch Break

Day 9: Lunch Break - A delicious salad inspired by Sumptuous Spoonfuls.

Day 10 Most Used Appliance

Day 10: Most Used Appliance - My Magic Bullet for smoothies everyday.

Day 11: Can't Live Without

Day 11: Can't Live Without - Generic, all-natural peanut butter, often eaten straight up, with a spoon.

Day 12: Favorite Drink

Day 12: Favorite Drink - Since I gave up wine for Lent, right now it is a large cup of tea, which I tried to finish while The Bug was still napping.

Day 13 Silverware

Day 13: Silverware - A spoon in my yummy Chocolate Almond Banana Oatmeal.

Day 14 Fruit

Day 14: Fruit - An apple a day is even better with peanut butter.

Day 15: Freezer

Day 15: Freezer - Kitchenaid ice cream bowl was ready to churn some Andes Candies ice cream. Recipe coming soon!

Day 16: Restaurant

Day 16: Restaurant - I didn't have any plans to go out to eat today, so here is the webpage of one of my favorite restaurants, The Frog & The Peach.

Enjoy!

Salted Caramel PB Krispie Bars (& my thoughts on goody bags)

Happy Day After Valentine’s Day!  If you have kids in school, they had a party, right, and brought home cards and treats and stuff?  Yeah, mine, too.  Filled with lollipops and Twizzlers.  Here’s the thing – my son is 21 months old, in a class with 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 year olds.  Ummm, choking hazard, maybe?  And a whole lotta sugar that my already very energetic toddler does not need.

But, truthfully, I am of that “all things in moderation” school of thought.  I have seen way too many kids who are denied all access to anything containing a speck of sugar, then you put them at a birthday party or family gathering, and they go nuts, and gorge themselves to the point of sickness.  I’d rather give my kid a treat on occasion, so that it does not become the forbidden fruit that is so tempting.  So last night, he did get half of the cupcake they sent home from school.  But the lollipops and Twizzlers – well those are in the trash.

And I like to make sweet treats, and I am happier giving those to The Bug (and myself and The Hubby), when I know what went into it (even if it is lots of white flour and white sugar).  But in this case, I tried to stick with unrefined sweeteners (brown rice syrup), and pack in a little bit of nutrition in the form of Brown Rice Krispies (OK, OK, commercial, processed food, but brown rice instead of white, and gluten-free for those with celiac or wheat sensitivities, like me), natural peanut butter (protein), and chocolate (ahh, the antioxidants).  I am not saying these are a low calorie health food, but when you want a treat that you won’t feel as guilty about, then give them a try.  The Bug, The Hubby, and all of the Administrative Associates that work on his floor loved them.  Even a woman on Weight Watchers broke down.  And almost had two!

If you can’t find the Brown Rice ones, regular Rice Krispies would work fine, too, or, if you want to stick with the whole grains, I am sure you could even substitute puffed rice in this recipe.  And I am betting corn syrup could be used in place of the brown rice syrup.

And about those goody bags, since I am new to having a kid in school, and unfortunately most places seem to want packaged food now, due to all of the kids with allergies, let me know if you have any recommendations for good treats to send in for holiday parties, let me know in the comments.

Salted Caramel PB Krispie Bars (make one 8×8 square pan, I cut it into about 25 pieces)

Salted Caramel PB Krispie Bars

Ingredients

1/2 cup brown rice syrup

1 T butter

1 T heavy cream

1/4 t coarse sea salt (if you only have fine salt or kosher salt, you may want to try a little less)

3 cups Brown Rice Krispies (or regular ones or puffed rice)

3/4 cup natural peanut butter (or almond butter or cashew butter or sunflower seed butter)

6 oz dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% chocolate chips.  These are larger than regular chocolate chocolate chips, so it was about 1 cup)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 t vanilla

1/4 t coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top

Directions

Crust & Peanut Butter Layers

  1. Line an 8 inch square pan with plastic wrap (trust me, it will be much easier to get them out)
  2. In a medium pot, heat the brown rice syrup over low to medium heat until it is bubbling.
  3. Add the butter, 1 T heavy cream, and sea salt.  Stir until the butter melts and everything is incorporated.
  4. Stir in the Rice Krispies until they are fully covered, and press into the pan.
  5. Spread peanut butter over the top of the Rice Krispie layer, and throw the pan in the fridge while you make the ganache

Chocolate Ganache Layer

  1. Chop up the chocolate into small pieces and put in a bowl.
  2. Heat the heavy cream in a small pot over low to medium heat until it comes to a simmer.
  3. Pout the hot cream over the chocolate, let sit for a few seconds, then stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  If you forget to chop your chocolate, and it doesn’t melt all the way, just put it back on a low heat for a few seconds to get it all melty.
  4. Stir in the vanilla.
  5. Pull the pan out of the fridge and spread the ganache over the top.  Sprinkle with the sea salt.
  6. Put it back in the fridge until the ganache sets, then remove from the pan using the plastic wrap, and cut into squares.
  7. Enjoy!

Salted Caramel PB Krispie Bars Cut

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Tuesday Tea Party at Sweetology 101

Hello everyone!

BrianneHi!  My name is Brianne, and I am a Chemical Engineer-turned-stay-at-home-mom/wannabe-pastry-chef-and-wedding-planner with a meticulous, perfectionist nature and a huge fear of failure.  Somehow this all kinda makes sense to me.  But, alas, I also have a toddler, a mortgage, a wheat allergy, high cholesterol (clearly I am blessed by the genetic gods), and not enough willpower to to spend my days surrounded by flour, sugar, butter and chocolate.  Oh, and David Tutera does not yet have me on speed dial to give him input on floral design and custom table linens.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t still LOVE LOVE LOVE food and parties and such.  So here in my own corner of the interwebs I am creating a little virtual home for my recipes, thoughts, party ideas, mommy moments, and all that fun stuff.  And, just like in my real home, I hope you’ll all gather in the kitchen with me.

And why the name Cupcakes and Kale Chips?  It’s all about balance, yin and yang.  This popped into my head since I’ve been reading a bit about macrobiotics lately – the difference is that those that follow a macrobiotic diet balance tofu and bok choy with miso and millet, whereas I prefer to balance oatmeal and salad with chocolate chips and sundaes.  But the concept is a good one.  My favorite foods are butternut squash, blue cheese, ice cream, peanut butter, and asparagus – full disclosure:  not necessarily in that order, and definitely not together.  So I am hoping to share with you some good-for-you stuff and some just-plain-good stuff, and in the process, maybe even help improve my own sense of balance, which needs a little work.  And my photography skills.  And my writing skills.  Geez, I have a lot of self-improvement to do, so just bear with me till I figure this whole blogging thing out.

This is The Bug.  Ever since I got him this awesome stepstool (similar to this, but the exact one doesn’t seem to be available on Amazon anymore), his favorite phrase is, “Help Mommy!”  So he helps.  Sort of.

The Bug

And then he licks the spoons.  Not a bad gig when you are almost two. Especially when Mommy is making something with chocolate.

Mmmm, chocolate!

I also have my wonderful, supportive Hubby, who is the reluctant victim  delighted beneficiary of my culinary endeavors.  This cake was a hit.  Monday night’s quinoa casserole, not so much.

The Hubby and The Bug

Enjoy!!