goals + recipes for the week of 11/9

Hello, friends! Today¬†is my Grandpap’s birthday!!

me and grandpap

Tonight we’re getting together at my Aunt Annie’s house to celebrate… I’m planning to make funfetti cupcakes, or perhaps pumpkin spice cupcakes, with cream-cheese frosting and of course plentyyyy of sprinkles ūüôā I love my Grandpap so much and I feel lucky that I’ve gotten to spend so much time with him the past year. He has always been super supportive of my writing. He is a jokester, a piano bar singer, a Sudoku fiend, and the only octogenarian I know who text messages and uses Siri. Here’s to many more birthdays, Grandpap!

Backing up a bit, yesterday I slept in, savored breakfast and my favorite pumpkin spice chai tea while reading some of my favorite blogs. Then I taught four classes of energetic kiddos, and then I headed over to a BBQ at the home of one of Allyn’s childhood friends. A bunch of his longtime friends were there, and it was really nice to get a chance to visit with them! I brought chocolate pumpkin kiss cookies, recipe coming soon!

chocolate pumpkin kiss cookies

This morning I’m heading to church early because I’m serving as Worship Associate for both services. Then I’m hoping to meet up with Dana because it’s been too long since I’ve seen her pretty face, and we have lots to catch up on!

But before I head out… time for goals!

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from last week:¬†
–¬†finish writing that one short story that’s been half-finished for months
complete mid-term assessments for the classes I teach
–¬†go to the gym three times
finish reading After Dakota by Kevin Sharp
connect with two friends
get my flu shot!!

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
–¬†finish writing that one short story that’s been half-finished for months
–¬†prepare tutoring worksheets through the end of the year
– update my website
–¬†go to the gym three times
Рfinish reading Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
– connect with two friends

And here are some recipes I’m drooling over this week:
bbq pineapple, jalepeno + feta pizza via Cookie + Kate
peanut butter apple oatmeal cookies via Two Peas & Their Pod
rosemary roasted potatoes via Food Friends
white chocolate drizzled pumpkin scones via That Skinny Chick Can Bake
chewy coconut oil granola bars via The Pajama Chef
Рmy own pumpkin pasta

Questions of the day:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

MPM-Spring
This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

pumpkin spice cupcakes w/cream-cheese frosting

Well, the Giants got a smack-down last night. It was pretty pitiful.

But Dana and I still had a fun time chowing on deep-dish pizza, catching up {we ended up talking more than watching the game, since the game was so depressing} and playing with her adorable new kittens, Sadie and Hunter! They are so inquisitive, full of energy, and TINY! Here’s a photo I snapped of Sadie cuddled up on Dana’s lap.

sadie

So soft and fluffy! I couldn’t stop petting her.

One good thing about the evening was that at least we had yummy baked goods to help ease our sorrows!

baseball cupcakes

These cupcakes might not have been very lucky, but they sure were delicious! And super easy to make. I got some requests on Instagram for the recipe, so I thought I would share it on here!

My secret weapon: Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix. This stuff is amazing! Hands-down my favorite baking mix ever. And it’s seasonal, so stock up while you can!

trader joes pumpkin bread

I’m sure you could use a different pumpkin spice baking mix in a pinch, or make pumpkin muffins from scratch — here’s a recipe I love from Snixy Kitchen.

pumpkin spice cupcakes w/cream-cheese frosting

– 1 package Trader Joe’s pumpkin bread mix
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup water
– 1/2 cup vegetable oil
– 4 oz cream cheese, softened {I used 1/3 reduced-fat kind}
– 1/4 cup butter, softened
– 1 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. In a large bowl, combine baking mix, eggs, vegetable oil and water. Mix until well combined.

3. Pour batter into a muffin tin lined with paper cups. In order to make these rounded baseball cupcakes, I filled the cups all the way to the top with batter. If you would like flatter cupcakes, fill the cups 3/4 of the way full.

4. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove cupcakes from the muffin tin and set on a rack to cool.

5. While cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting: using a mixer, beat together the softened cream cheese and softened butter until smooth and well-combined.

6. Slowly add the powdered sugar, combing well after each addition. I used approximately 1.5 cups, but you can increase or reduce the amount depending on desired sweetness.

7. If frosting is too thick, you might need to add a little heavy cream or milk to thin it out, but I love my frosting thick, so I didn’t add any.

8. When cupcakes are completely cool, use a knife to generously spread them with frosting. To make baseballs, use a red gel frosting to make dotted lines in two half-moons, like the threading on a baseball.

baseball cupcakes

ENJOY!

In the meantime, I’ve got my Giants spirit going all day today! Game 7! Let’s go, San Francisco! ūüôā

giants spirit

Questions of the day:

  • Are you watching the World Series? Who are you rooting for?
  • What is your favorite autumn dessert?

goals + recipes for the week of 9/28

Happy Sunday, friends! It’s a busy day around here. I’m off to do a little tutoring this morning before church; then after the church service we’re having a Young Adult potluck; and then tonight we’re having family dinner at my aunt Annie’s house before my Uncle Frankie heads back down to L.A. in the morning. Lots of friend & family time, which makes my heart happy!

Speaking of happy hearts, my sweetie’s birthday is this Tuesday! Last night I was invited to celebrate with him and his sister, dad and stepmom at the beautiful Clairemont Country Club. I wore my navy and ivory chevron dress from¬†this past Easter {thanks to Arianna for helping me decide on an outfit! My cousin is eleven years younger than I am but has waaaaay more style!} ūüėČ

chevron dress

And my other stylish cousin, Bianca, helped me bake red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for the birthday boy!

cupcakes

Speaking of yummy desserts, I have to share a photo of this aaaaaamazing butternut squash bread pudding I ordered for dessert on Friday night. I’m gonna try to recreate it myself at some point, perhaps using this recipe? Oh and yeah, that’s salted caramel gelato on top. With chocolate caramel cups mixed in. Yuuuuummmmm.¬†I want to eat this again, like, right now.

butternut squash bread pudding

Before I lose myself in drooling over this photo, let’s move onto¬†goals…

weekly goals

Here’s how I did on my goals from this past week:¬†
Рcomplete new draft of my novel-in-progress {wrote two new chapters; one more to go!}
–¬†finish editing work
–¬†prepare for first week of teaching/new semester
do yoga twice & core exercises five times
–¬†read 100 pages of¬†Into the Night Sky¬†by¬†Caroline Finnerty

Here are my goals for this upcoming week:
Рcomplete new draft of my novel-in-progress
– celebrate Allyn’s birthday! ūüôā
– do yoga twice & core exercises five times
Рfinish reading Into the Night Sky by Caroline Finnerty

And here are some recipes I’m eying¬†this week:
crockpot asian pulled chicken via The Pajama Chef
creamy spinach & cheese green chile enchiladas via Two Peas & Their Pod
pumpkin cinnamon cookies via Two Peas & Their Pod
6 healthy crockpot chicken freezer meals via New Leaf Wellness & Money-Saving Mom
– my own curried butternut squash & apple soup

Questions of the day:

  • What are your goals for this upcoming week?
  • What recipes are you drooling over lately?

MPM-Spring
This post is featured on Menu Plan Monday!

happy halloween! :)

Hi everyone! Hope you are having a spook-tacular Halloween today! Halloween is Mike’s favorite holiday so we have been celebrating all week month long with pumpkin decorations, listening to Halloween Pandora stations, watching ghost-hunting TV shows and scary movies {that I try not to pay too close of attention to … I am a total wuss when it comes to creepy/scary things!} and of course lots and lots of pumpkin-inspired food. {I will be sharing some of my favorite pumpkin recipes next week for a special Pumpkin Week on this blog — stay tuned!}

Do you like my ghost design?

My Halloween started off on a wonderful note last night when I came home to a package on my doorstep … and when I opened it up, I found the most beautiful bouquet of autumn flowers that my dad had sent to me for Halloween! It was such a sweet surprise! My dad always makes me feel so special and loved. I am a very lucky daughter. Now I get a huge smile on my face every time I look across the living room and see them on the table, brightening up the room!

Today I celebrated by making Halloween-themed cupcakes that I took in as treats for my freshmen students. {As I shared this summer, I tend to grow quite fond of my students and have a tendency of spoiling them with homemade baked goods.}

The best part about these cupcakes is the homemade chocolate frosting. I found the recipe on AllRecipes.com and tweaked it a little bit to use less butter but still taste rich and creamy. This frosting is a guaranteed way to make a box-mix cupcake taste gourmet and super special! These cupcakes could be decorated for any holiday or special occasion. I chose to decorate mine with candy corn for Halloween.

yellow cupcakes with chocolate fudge frosting

– 1 box yellow cake mix {I just used the Kroger brand that was on sale for $1}
– 3 eggs
– 1 & 1/3 cup water
– 1/3 cup vegetable oil or applesauce
– 1/3 cup butter or margarine
– 1/4 cup cocoa powder
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
– 4 tbsp half-and-half
– 1 small package candy corn

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a cupcake tin with liners and set aside.

2. Bake cupcakes according to package directions. I combined my yellow cake mix with the eggs, water, and oil and beat with a whisk until the ingredients were well combined and the batter was smooth.

3. Fill each cupcake tin 3/4 of the way full and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

4. While cupcakes are baking, make the frosting. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Turn off the burner. Add cocoa powder and mix well; then stir in vanilla extract and cinnamon.

5. Pour sugar in to a large bowl. Add the chocolate mixture and the milk and stir until the frosting is smooth and creamy. It will be thick! You can add more milk or half-and-half if you would like it to be thinner.

6. Once cupcakes have cooled completely, frost each one with a generous amount of chocolate frosting.

7. Stick 3-4 candy corn pieces into each cupcake so their tops stick out decoratively.

Here they are all packed up and ready to go for my students!

Inspired by Deme at Fresh Coat of Paint to make use of what you have, I used a striped shirt and vest I already owned to dress up as a pirate. Anyone else using what they already have to dress up? Anyone make a homemade costume? One of my favorite-ever costumes was when I was a little girl, maybe four or five years old, and my dad helped me hand-paint cardboard butterfly wings that we tied to my shoulders with pink shoelaces. It didn’t cost us a single penny and I had so much fun preparing my costume, and when I wore it trick-or-treating I felt like the prettiest little butterfly! I still remember it vividly to this day. One of my favorite parts of Halloween is seeing all the creative, innovative and funny costumes!

Ahoy, matey!

Hope you are having a wonderful Halloween full of creative costumes, fun activities, and yummy treats! What are you doing to celebrate today?

-Dallas

chocolate spice zucchini muffins

As you have probably figured out by now, I love baking. I haven’t met many baked goods that I don’t like! {I have an especially hard time staying away from the bakery items at Starbucks … I always go in planning to just get a healthy green tea, but the pumpkin bread and/or maple scones love to call my name!}

That said, I do love baking things myself because I love taking a delicious recipe and tweaking it to make it healthier, while hopefully still retaining the deliciousness level.

Which is why when I came across this recipe for chocolate zucchini muffins, I was super excited to try it out. Anytime you can figure out a way to sneak some veggies into a chocolate fix seems like a win to me!

These turned out chocolatey, moist and I liked the hints of cinnamon and spice. They’re pretty healthy as far as muffins go. You could probably add some frosting to these too if you wanted to make some uber-healthy cupcakes!

chocolate spice zucchini muffins

– 3 egg whites
– 1/2 cup sugar {I used 1/4 cup white sugar & 1/4 cup brown sugar}
– 1/2 cup no sugar added applesauce
– 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1 cup grated zucchini
– 1 & 1/2 cups flour
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
– optional: mini-chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or line a muffin tin with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl beat the egg whites. Beat in the sugar and applesauce. Add the cocoa, vanilla, zucchini and stir well.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

4. Pour the flour mixture into the zucchini mixture and stir until just moist.

5. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins, filling them about 3/4 of the way full.

6. Optional: For a topping use any, all or a combination of the following: brown sugar, chopped nuts and mini chocolate chips. Sprinkle tops of muffins just prior to baking.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack. Store loosely covered.

-Time: 40-45 minutes {including bake time}
-Cost: about $3

red velvet cupcakes with coconut cream-cheese frosting

I like to bring my students baked goods as a surprise at the end of the term {that is, if they’ve been a good class — which so far, they always have been!} I had an especially wonderful creative writing class this summer so I decided to eschew the usual cookies or brownies for a special treat: homemade Red Velvet Cupcakes with this fabulous coconut cream-cheese frosting you might remember from my carrot cake recipe last month.

{Here are the finished cupcakes all ready to go to class:}

I have made Red Velvet cupcakes to great success from a boxed mix before — I like substituting applesauce for the oil to make them a little healthier while still retaining moistness. I am a big fan of the Duncan Hines Red Velvet boxed cake mix.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, like I was, here’s a recipe I was excited to find on the wonderful site Annie’s Eats to make Red Velvet cupcakes from scratch:

Ingredients:

for the cupcakes
– 2¬Ĺ cups cake flour
– 1¬Ĺ cups sugar
– 1 tsp. baking soda
– 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
– 1 tsp. salt
– 2 large eggs
– 1¬Ĺ cups vegetable oil {I substituted 1 cup applesauce}
– 1 cup buttermilk
– 2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
– 1 tsp. vanilla extract
– 1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

for the frosting:
– 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
– 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
Р2 cups confectioners’ sugar
– 1 tablespoon heavy cream
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon coconut flavoring {optional}
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.

3. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, vegetable oil {or applesauce}, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar. Beat by hand or with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.

4. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Beat until the batter is smooth.

5. Fill the cupcake tins about 3/4 of the way full.

6. Bake 15-18 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

7. Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

8. While cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter in a mixer bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time, alternating with heavy cream. Beat in the salt, coconut flavoring, and vanilla extract. Continue beating until mixture is smooth and spreadable. Add additional confectioners’ sugar if necessary to thicken the frosting, or more cream to thin. Stir in the coconut.

9. Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, use a knife or a spatula to spread the frosting onto the top of each.

10. {Optional} I like to refrigerate the cupcakes for twenty minutes or so to let the frosting solidify.

Happy Friday! Have a wonderful weekend!

Always,
Dallas
————————
Time spent: about 1 hour {including bake time}
Cost: $5-$7