Author Archives: Margaret

About Margaret

A self-trained cook, cooking for herself and her husband in their condo. Cue the cozy domesticity! So, yes, this blog is about the creative satisfaction of cooking, about making meals that real people eat, in real people time (I also work outside the home), about trying to find the best recipes out there and about trying to stretch my cooking skills while I’m at it. Join me? I’ll link the recipes to the blog posts, so that you can try them too (I’m interested in feedback), and put in pictures so that you can see how they turned out.

Easy Cacti Cupcakes, Because Succulents are Super-Trendy

Plant lady is the new cat lady. Intrigued? Read on!

I love cupcakes, I love buttercream, and I love a good challenge in the kitchen, so when I saw a picture of some Cacti Cupcakes recently, I thought “I can do that!” And decided to craft my own version. So yes, that’s this week’s recipe! Easy Cacti/Succulent Cupcakes! To be specific, spice cake cupcakes with coconut buttercream frosting. Yum, yum, YUM!!!

I read somewhere recently, that “Plant lady is the new cat lady”, and a) burst out laughing and b) was struck by the truth of it. What am I talking about? Well, lately it seems that succulents are all the rage with the younger (or youngish) crowd. If you are on Instagram (or Insta, as the young’uns say, IG for short), you can’t get away from all the photos of succulents, especially in geometric shaped planters. There’s  a ‘hens and chicks’ succulent pic here, a ‘mother of thousands’ succulent pic there…and then a ‘wandering dude’ plant in the corner, just to round things out.

I’m young enough that I follow trends in things like nail design (I just got my nails did, in a glamorous yet impractical almond-tipped shape), but old enough that I’m more of a cat lady than a plant lady, despite the many plants I have in my home (although to be honest, while succulents are trendy now, cats are kind of universal and will never fall out of fashion. Who doesn’t love a purring kitten?). Nevertheless, I jumped on the design trend, and decided that I wanted to try crafting some cacti in buttercream.

And you can too! It only takes three different icing tips (Wilton 104, 7, and 352) to make these designs.  Shall we? (Honestly, it’s easier than it seems. Don’t be intimidated by how much I’ve typed — I can be verbose at times — and try making these cupcakes yourself!)

My faves! Wilton tips 352 and 104.

Easy Cacti/Succulent Cupcakes

  • 1 batch spice cake batter
  • 1 c. graham cracker crumbs (I used chocolate because that’s what I had, but regular ones would likely imitate sand better)
  • 1 batch coconut buttercream frosting
  • green, pink, and yellow food colouring
  • Wilton tips: 104, 7, and 352
  • plastic piping bags
  • two ice cream cones (the wafer type, not sugar cones)

Bake the cupcakes and let cool. Frost the tops lightly with frosting, and press the iced tops into a bowl of the cookie crumbs, making sure all the buttercream is covered in crumbs. Congrats, you’ve just created the Mojave dessert in cupcake form!

Take two spoonfuls of buttercream and place them in a bowl with two drops of pink food colouring and mix to create the pink buttercream that you will be using for the pink flowered cacti. Then do the same with yellow food colouring to create yellow buttercream. With the remaining buttercream, add enough green food colouring to create the shade of green that you want.

Now, you can decide which cacti/succulents to make.

Wilton tips 7, 352, and 104.

For the spiky tipped cacti, take an ice cream cone, and cut it into two horizontally, where the cone widens. Place the bottom of the cone upside down on a cupcake, and place the top of the cone on top (it will drop down, forming a ring around the base). This gives you a shape to pipe onto, because if we tried to create the entire thing from buttercream, it would be too heavy to support itself (and also, that’s too much buttercream for anyone, even ME!). Using Wilton tip 7, pipe little spikes all over the ice cream cone shape, until the entire thing is covered in little spikes. BAM! You’ve just created a buttercream cacti, yo’! You be talented!

For the flower-topped cacti, use Wilton tip 352, and little spiky leaves in a large circle (not touching in the centre) and then build up layer after layer of leaves on top of each other, each layer in a slightly narrower circle than the previous one, until you’ve created a little plant.

To make little flowers, just google ‘how to pipe an icing rose’ on youtube, and you’ll see a million and three videos just like this one. Try making a flower yourself using tip 104 — they’re super-easy, and look super-fancy! The tutorials usually tell you to use a piping nail, but you could use a very small metal bowl turned upside down, or even just a small square of parchment paper. The piping nail makes it easier, but it’s not crucial.

Once you’ve made the flower, place it on top of your succulents, using a pair of scissors (what a weird, yet useful, technique, yes?). You can see this technique in the video that I’ve linked to, just above. Such a pretty cupcake, yes?

To make the long-lined cacti, take the bottom half of a ice cream cone (using the same cutting technique as before), and ice lightly in green buttercream. Stick on top of a cupcake. Using the same Wilton leaf tip (352) that you used before, angle the tip and pipe thick lines all the way up and down the cone. Then top with a flower. Now that’s a tasty cacti!

All packaged up and ready to be delivered! (This was actually a custom order.)

If you’ve never used piping tips before, they’re honestly not as intimidating as they might seem. I encourage you to pick up a few and play with them! You’ll find that they up your cupcake game, and garner you lots of compliments!

Kitchen Hack: If you don’t have piping bags, you can create a temporary one by reinforcing a Ziploc baggie with packing tape all over to reinforce the seams. (I tried it first without reinforcing the seams, and WHOOSH! Buttercream all over my hands. Learn from my mistake and reinforce the baggie.) Cut the tip off of a corner and place a tip inside the baggie, with the pointing end of the tip just coming out of the corner that you snipped. Et voila! You’ve successfully hacked yourself a piping bag!

Next Post: Hmm. How about a Coconut Apple Spice Cake recipe? Or should I save that for later, and do something hearty to balance out my buttercream posts? Let me know in the comments!

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday! And at Happiness is Homemade!

Coconut Buttercream Frosting, Plus How I Develop Flavour Combinations

Bubblicious! Also coconutty. And chocolatey. Basically, just fork it up, ’cause it’s just plain yummy!

This Coconut Buttercream Frosting is basically a coconut mouthgasm. Not even kidding, every time someone tried this, their reaction was “Mmmmmffff!” (That’s a happy moan, btw). The magical combination of buttercream and coconut was a happy accident for me, but it’s one that I’ve now made a staple in my icing stable (try saying that three times fast!) and people are always happy to bite into a cupcake topped with this delicious concoction.

Speaking of concoctions, I made chocolate mini cupcakes, then topped them with this coconut buttercream frosting, and then topped that with pearlized gumballs. That’s right, I mixed chocolate, coconut, and bubblegum flavours…and it was a hit! Sometimes there’s just no way of knowing whether a flavour combination will be tasty until you try it.

And you should definitely try making the Coconut Buttercream Frosting!

COCONUT BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

  • 1 c. butter, softened
  • 1/3-1/2 c. coconut oil, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 c. icing sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Whip butter and coconut oil together until thoroughly mixed. Add in icing sugar and vanilla, and mix until combined. Beat on high for at least 10 minutes (this is what makes it super-fluffy and increases the volume of icing). Spoon into piping bag (or spread on a cake with an offset spatula), and enjoy everyone’s happy mouth-gasms!

If you’re a dedicated reader (and I’m sure you all are, right? RIGHT?) you’ll recognize that it’s just a variation of one of my pillar content recipes: The Only Buttercream Recipe You’ll Ever Need. In fact, it can even be played with a bit to make Vegan Coconut Buttercream Frosting, perhaps on top of my Vegan Spice Cake! But that’s a post for another day!

As I said, I topped mini chocolate cupcakes with this (made with my fave chocolate cake recipe) and then topped that with pearlized gumballs because they were just so cute. But you could easily make a triple-layer chocolate cake, ice it with this icing, and then sprinkle shredded sweetened coconut on it, for a Chocolate and Double-Coconut Cake! See how easy it is to combine flavours? I encourage you to play around with flavours yourself. What’s the oddest flavour combination you’ve ever tried, that actually tasted good? Let me know in the comments!

Next Post: Either Coconut Apple Spice Cake (totes lunchbag worthy), or Buttercream Succulent-Topped Cupcakes (totes Instagram worthy). Any preferences? Both are delicious. 

Linking up at Meal Plan Monday!

Salads I Have Known and Loved: Baked Falafel Croutons

So deliciously crunch!

Falafel are one of the few take-out foods that do not taste good reheated. They tend to dry out and become overly mealy when eaten the next day. So what to do when you’ve got leftover falafel sitting in your fridge? Make falafel croutons, obviously!

I tend to eat a lot of salads for health reasons, and I like to switch up the toppings to keep things interesting. I’m also always in search of ways to add vegetarian protein to my diet. And then last week the DH and I ordered takeout from a local Middle Eastern deli, and ended up with leftover falafel. I opened my fridge the next day and looked the head of lettuce sitting on the shelf. I looked at the stale falafel in its wrapper. A light bulb went off in my head, and bam! Falafel croutons were born!

Want to make some yourself? Let’s!

Baked Falafel Croutons

  • 2 falafel
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder

Chop falafel into cubes. Toss with oil and seasonings. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, flipping them over after 5 minutes. And…you’re done!

That’s right, these croutons bake up in the time it takes to chop up your salad. I made them with purchased falafel, but they could easily be made with homemade falafel. Probably healthier that way, anyway. The two falafel will actually be enough for two salads. Unless you prefer to snack on the croutons like popcorn, which is actually not a bad idea.

As I was finishing up the salads (topped with my fave ranch dressing) the DH came into the kitchen and started nibbling away on the croutons. His reaction? “MMMM!” and then, “Why can’t you make crappy food?” I must have looked a bit taken aback, because he clarified:  “Why do you always make such delicious food? I’m going to gain weight!” A bit of an awkward compliment, but I’ll take it regardless! All of which is to say, falafel croutons are YUMMY!

Try making some yourself, and switch up the seasonings to suit yourself and/or your salad. Let me know what flavourings you think work best!

Next Post: Coconut Buttercream Frosting, probably the best coconut flavoured food to pass your lips this year. Seriously good stuff! Also seriously easy, which means I am all over it!  

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And at Happiness is Homemade! Plus, at Full Plate Thursday!

Three Easy Ways to Bake Alice-in-Wonderland Themed Treats!

Pretty, painted meringue roses that melt in your mouth!

I generally don’t sell my baking, preferring to a) eat it (best part of baking, amirite?), b) bring it to work, or c) have the DH bring it to his work (our colleagues are most appreciative). Recently, however, when someone I didn’t know asked me to do some baking for a themed baby shower, I thought, why not? And baked up these yummy ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed treats!

What treats did I make? Chessboard Nanaimo Bar Squares, Painted Rose Meringues, and Spotted Mushroom Cupcakes! And honestly, they were so easy to make. Want to make some yourself? Let’s!

Chessboard Nanaimo Bar Squares

  • 1 batch Nanaimo bar ingredients, plus
  • 1 c. white chocolate wafers
  • 1 tbsp. oil

Use my nanaimo bar recipe, but use a lasagna pan instead of a square pan. And, before you add the final chocolate layer, cut the giant block of nanaimo bar in half. Then ice one half in chocolate and ice the other half in white chocolate (that’s what the white chocolate wafers & oil is for). When set, cut into squares and arrange in a chessboard pattern. Et voila! Wasn’t that easy?

What a delicious Nanaimo bar chessboard!

As you all know, I like to use real ingredients to create delicious treats…and then consume them when they’re fresh, because why wait to eat yumminess? Which means that when I made the Spotted Mushroom Cupcakes, I didn’t use a cake mix or canned frosting, but mixed up the batter from scratch, along with some vanilla buttercream! I actually used coconut oil instead of shortening in my vanilla buttercream recipe, and that gave the buttercream a coconutty taste — extra yummy! The DH came by the kitchen as I was baking, and tasted the buttercream. His reaction? “MMMMMMMM!” I think that says it all.

Spotted Mushroom Cupcakes

  • 1 batch chocolate cupcake batter (I HIGHLY recommend this recipe)
  • 1 batch of my vanilla buttercream, but using (room temperature) coconut oil instead of shortening
  • green cupcake wrappers
  • 1 1/2 c. of red candy wafers
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil

Using the green cupcake wrappers, bake the cupcakes according to the directions. Whip up the buttercream according to the recipe, except use coconut oil in place of the shortening. Using a butter knife, spread icing over the top of each cupcake to create a smooth dome. Place 2 or 3 red wafers on each iced cupcake. Then, place the remaining red wafers in a cup along with the oil and microwave in 30 s. bursts until melted, stirring every 30 s. Once melted, pour into a Ziploc bag, and cut a very small bit off of one corner. Pipe small red dots onto a sheet of waxed paper. Set the waxed paper in the fridge to set. Once the red dots are solid, place two or three red dots on each cupcake. Et voila, your Spotted Mushroom Cupcakes are done!

Coconutty buttercream goodness!

Do you remember the part in ‘Alice in Wonderland’, where the Queen orders her white roses to be painted red? Well, we can do the same, only with roses made out of meringue!

Painted Rose Meringues

  • 1 batch of meringue (I like this recipe, as it creates a very pipeable meringue)
  • 2 cups red candy wafers
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 Wilton 1M piping tip
  • a piping bag

Mix up the batch of meringue batter.  Cut the tip off the piping bag, and attach the piping tip. (If you don’t have a piping attachment, don’t worry, just place the piping tip inside the bag and it will work just fine.) Scoop the meringue batter into the piping bag and twist the top closed. Pipe roses onto a baking sheet. How to pipe a rose? Start in the centre, and pipe a swirl. The 1M piping tip makes the swirl look like a rose! Bake according to meringue batter instructions, or until the meringues are lightly golden on the bottom, and thoroughly dry throughout (I usually break one in half to check the done-ness. And then eat it. Hazard/benefit of the job, right?) When done, remove to a cooling rack and let cool thoroughly.

Mix wafers with vegetable oil, and melt in microwave, in 30 s. bursts, stirring in between each 30 s. When thoroughly melted, pour into a shallow bowl. Dip 1/3 of the roses top down, so that the tops become completely covered in red. Then set these back on the cooling tray (I suggest placing a piece of wax paper underneath to catch all the drips). Take 1/2 of the remaining meringues and dip half of the cookie in the melted red wafers, so that it looks as though someone half-painted a white rose. Set back on cooling tray. Let the candy coating set. If you’re in a hurry, you can place the cooling racks in the fridge to set faster. Once done, arrange the roses on a platter, with some red roses, some white roses, and some half-painted roses. Deliciousness, thy name is meringue!

Wasn’t it easy to make those ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed desserts? They’re just basic recipes, but with the design slightly tweaked so that they fit with an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme. Do you have an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed party coming up? Why not try these out? Not only are they delicious, but they’re fun to look at too! If you do bake these treats, be sure to email me some photos! I’d love to post them on my social media channels!

Next Post: Baked Falafel Croutons! Say what? That’s right! An easy way to add vegetarian protein to your salad!  

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday! And Happiness is Homemade! And also at Full Plate Thursday!

White Wine Alfredo Sauce (Reduced-Fat! So, like, healthy! Ish.)

Health(ier) means I can eat this more often! And it’s so deliciously creamy!

Guess what? After talking with a friend about ways to use up white wine recently, I came up with a new and delicious recipe: White Wine Alfredo Sauce!  I made it as a reduced fat version, so that the DH and I could enjoy it more often, with less guilt. I actually don’t believe in feeling guilty about food. Nourish yourself, nourish your body, be active, and no guilt. So I guess it’s more that I can eat my (Reduced-Fat) White Wine Alfredo Sauce with less worry about what the fat content is doing to my heart. I served it with blanched broccoli, so there’s that, right? Apparently broccoli is not only a super-food but a super-duper food, and a dash of wine is actually considered heart-healthy, so I think it was a healthy meal overall!

And it’s so easy to make! Seriously! If you have a can of 1% evaporated milk, you can make this recipe!

So, let’s getting cooking!

Reduced-Fat White Wine Alfredo Sauce

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1 tbsp. flour
  • 1 can evaporated milk (I used 1%)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 cube bouillion
  • fresh herbs to taste

Fry the onion and garlic in the vegetable oil, over medium heat, until the onion is translucent. Add in wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Then add in the evaporated milk, bouillon, and flour, and stir over medium high heat until bubbling and slightly thickened. Stir in fresh herbs. Et voila, tu es finis! (Easy-peasy, right?)

I tossed this sauce with shell pasta (two cups dry pasta, then cooked). The pasta will absorb a lot of the sauce, so serve it right away if you like super-saucy pasta, or wait 5 minutes after tossing the pasta with the sauce, if you prefer a thicker sauce.

I served it with blanched broccoli and a glass of apple peach iced tea. Yum!

I plan to put this sauce into my regular dinner rotation, as per the DH’s request. He’s not a fan of the onions in the sauce, and obviously you can leave them out, but personally, I like them. Gives a bit of caramelized-like flavour, I think.

I’ve also packed leftovers for lunches the next day, but somehow, the leftovers never seem to last long enough to make it to my lunchbag. Hmm. I wonder why. *cough*DH*cough* (Oh, ok, me too! It’s just so yummy! Especially with herbs fresh from my garden!)

If you make this dish, let me know what you think! Are you an onions or no onions sort of person?

Next Post: I made baked goods for an Alice-In-Wonderland themed party! Easily done — and I’ll show you how to make them yourself!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday!