The BEST Carrot Cupcakes

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I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but these are The BEST Carrot Cupcakes! While discussing what to name these sweet little cakes, my husband said I might be a little full of myself upon deciding to call them The BEST Carrot Cupcakes. He is neglecting to tell you that he does indeed think they are simply the best…better than all the rest! (Excuse the Tina Turner insert).

Grated carrot, warm cinnamon, crushed pineapple, flaked coconut, sweet frosting, and nutty pecan pieces make for a mini masterpiece. We will be enJOYing these little cakes during our Easter dinner this weekend. Carrot desserts are fitting for spring weather and Easter. When my husband asked me to make these cupcakes this weekend, I knew they would be the perfect finish to a satisfying dinner spent with family and friends. Hope you all enJOY your Easter weekend! Many blessings!

The BEST Carrot Cupcakes:
Yield: 24-28 cupcakes

For the Cake:
1 1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 c. sugar
4 large eggs
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 c. carrots, peeled and grated (about 4 whole carrots)
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the oil, sugar, and eggs until well combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture. Mix until well combined. Add carrots and drained pineapple, mixing until combined.

Using an ice cream scoop (equivalent to 1/4 c. per scoop), scoop batter into lined muffin pans.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely on a cooling rack.

For the Frosting:
2 (8 oz.) blocks cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3 c. sifted powdered sugar
1 c. flaked coconut
1/2 c. chopped pecan

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed until creamy.

Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Add flaked coconut.

Spread frosting on the top of each cooled cupcake. Top with pecan pieces.

EnJOY!

Recipe slightly adapted from Southern Cakes 2012.

Strawberry, Pineapple, and Mango Smoothie

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Can you believe we are already a week into April?! I have been so busy this past month! After returning from spring break, I started teaching a new class at work. Along with teaching a new class, I am taking a graduate class toward my Master’s degree. Needless to say, I am looking forward to when things slow down a little.

When life gets busy in the Casey household, my husband and I like to stick to simple and quick meals. This Strawberry, Pineapple, and Mango Smoothie has been our go to breakfast recently. It makes for a nutritious breakfast to get us off to a good start in the morning.

One of my favorite tips is to do all of your prep work for the week ahead during the weekend. I assemble the blender the night before and portion out all my ingredients into zip lock bags or reusable plastic containers. All that is left to do is throw everything into the blender, fire it up, and then pour into a tumbler to take for the drive to work.

Strawberry, Pineapple, and Mango Smoothie:
Serves: 2

1 1/2 c. frozen strawberry, pineapple, and mango chunks
1 banana, sliced and frozen
3/4 c. vanilla Greek yogurt
1 c. milk

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Puree until thick and smooth. Pour into drinking glasses or tumblers and serve.

EnJOY!

Oven Roasted Asparagus

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Happy First Day of Spring! I woke up to the sun streaming through my window blinds and knew it was going to be a good day! I can’t wait to get outside for a walk this afternoon. It is amazing how a little sunshine and warmer temps can give you a new sense of energy.

When I think of spring my mind automatically goes to spring vegetables. One of my favorite spring vegetables is asparagus. Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t share in my love of this vegetable so I don’t get to make it very often. Since I am currently on spring break, I was able to whip up a batch while he was out of the house.

Oven Roasted Asparagus is a simple side dish that will not disappoint. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetable, not to mention it is so easy to make! I love how the olive oil and roasting give the vegetables a crisp texture on the outside, while still being tender on the inside. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and you are set! In the words of Ina Garten: “How easy is that?!”.

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Oven Roasted Asparagus:
Yield: 1 lb.

1 lb. fresh asparagus spears
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Rinse and pat dry asparagus spears.

Break off the tough ends of the asparagus where they want to naturally snap.

Place asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over asparagus and then gently toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until crisp tender. I took mine out one minute early, sprinkled Parmesan cheese on top, and placed back in the oven for the remaining minute.

EnJOY!

Recipe adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook.

Lemon Romano Chicken

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After a couple dessert posts, I thought it was time to share a new dinner recipe with you all. My husband and I have made this recipe a few times already and really enJOY it! We are a chicken household, I tell ya! I serve chicken for dinner a couple times each week. Therefore, I am always in search of new recipes. I can easily become bored with the same chicken dish for dinner, so I like to experiment with new flavor combinations to amp up the flavor a bit.

We served up this Lemon Romano Chicken with a healthy side of fresh green beans. We added some of the leftover fresh lemon juice to the green beans. The fresh lemon juice added a lot of brightness to the veggies. Try these Roasted Red Potatoes as another side item choice!

Tip: Make sure you use Panko bread crumbs. They give a nice crunch and crispiness to the chicken breast!

Lemon Romano Chicken:
Serves: 4

4 thin boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and black pepper
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. Panko bread crumbs
1/2 c. Italian-style shredded cheese mixture (mozzarella, Romano, and provolone), plus more for topping
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Season each chicken breast with salt and pepper.

In a shallow dish, whisk together flour and egg until smooth. In a separate dish, combine bread crumbs, cheese, oregano, lemon zest, garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.

Dredge each chicken breast in egg mixture; coat each side. Then, coat in bread crumb and cheese mixture. Set on a separate plate.

Pour vegetable oil and olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Heat skillet over medium heat. Add two of the chicken breasts and cook about 2 minutes. Turn chicken to cook the other side; cook another 2 minutes; set aside. Continue this process with the remaining chicken breasts.

Place chicken breasts on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle tops with the shredded cheese mixture. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top of each chicken breast.

EnJOY!

Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy.

Reese’s Cupcakes

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A few weeks ago I made these Reese’s Cupcakes to take to church. I knew they were an instant hit when my husband and I left with only one extra cupcake. We raced outta there eager to split the last one between the two of us. There is something about chocolate and peanut butter. They just go together! Kind of like salt and pepper, bread and butter, or ketchup and mustard. Ok, I think you get the idea!

If you make these little cakes, you have to promise me you will put a mini Reese’s peanut butter cup in the center of each cupcake. Doing so, makes for a sweet surprise! Trust me on this!

Before digging into the recipe, I want to share a few helpful tips with you. First, make sure you freeze your mini Reese’s peanut butter cups. If you don’t, they will vanish in the center of your cupcake. Second, lightly coat each peanut butter cup with flour. This ensures that the mini cups stay in the center of the cupcake and don’t sink to the bottom.

Reese’s Cupcakes:
Yield: 24 cupcakes

For the Cake:
1 (15.25 oz) box devil’s food cake mix
1 (3.9 oz) box instant chocolate pudding mix
3/4 c. light sour cream
3/4 c. vegetable oil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. warm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, vegetable oil, eggs, vanilla, and water.

Using an ice cream scoop (equivalent to 1/4 c. per scoop), scoop batter into lined muffin pans.

Bake for 18-21 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely on a cooling rack.

For the Frosting:
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 c. creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp. vanilla
5 c. powdered sugar, sifted
2-3 Tbsp. milk

Cream the butter and peanut butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add vanilla.

Begin adding the powdered sugar, mixing thoroughly after each addition. After the powdered sugar has been incorporated thoroughly, add the milk, one tablespoon at a time, mixing after each tablespoon, until desired consistency.

Top cooled cupcakes with the frosting and garnish with additional mini Reese’s peanut butter cups.

EnJOY!

Recipe slightly adapted from My Baking Addiction.

Funfetti Cake Batter Truffles

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When I saw a family member post this recipe online during the Christmas season, I knew I had to give it a try. I was looking for something sweet to take over to a friend’s house who had just had a baby. In need of something easy and quick to make, I decided these Funfetti Cake Batter Truffles were just the thing! After my friend’s husband, nodded, and gave me a thumbs up, I knew they were a winner!

Lo and behold, I found myself making them yet again for a New Year’s celebration with a few close friends. It isn’t very often that I make the same dessert recipe twice in the same month…so you know these bite sized treats are delicious! You can use whatever colored sprinkles to fit your taste. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner so red, pink, and white sprinkles would be perfect!

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Funfetti Cake Batter Truffles:
Yield: 20-24 small truffles

1 c. white cake mix
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. sprinkles + more for decoration
6 squares vanilla almond bark

In a large mixing bowl, whisk white cake mix, flour and sugar. Stir in melted butter, vanilla, milk, and sprinkles. Mixture should be moist.

Using a small cookie scoop, form mixture into balls and place on a lined cookie sheet. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt vanilla almond bark slowly in the microwave. Using a fork, drop one cake batter ball into the almond bark and roll around to coat. Tap off the excess and return to the lined cookie sheet. Top with sprinkles before almond bark has set.

Store in an airtight container.

EnJOY!

Recipe slightly adapted from Lauren’s Latest.

Chi-Chi’s Chicken Chimichangas

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Every month I look forward to getting my Food Network magazine in the mail. I thoroughly enJOY sitting down on the couch with a cup of coffee in hand as I peruse each month’s pages. A few years ago, I came across a recipe for Chi-Chi’s Chicken Chimichangas. Unfortunately, the restaurant has since closed, but Food Network decided to tackle it anyway…and boy am I glad they did!

My husband and I love looking for new recipes to try at home. While we love Cheese and Chicken Enchiladas, we were on the hunt for a new Mexican inspired dish. When I stumbled upon this recipe, I knew we had to give it a try.

I like to pair these chimichangas with the Restaurant Style Mexican Rice I posted last week. I feel like I am eating a restaurant quality meal in the comfort of my own home with this combo. EnJOY!

Chi-Chi’s Chicken Chimichangas:
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil, divided
1/2 c. chopped yellow onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced with seeds removed
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 c. sour cream
1 (15 oz.) can refried or pinto beans (we prefer refried)
4 (10 inch) flour tortillas
1 c. shredded colby jack cheese
Restaurant Style Mexican Rice, for serving

Cook boneless skinless chicken breasts, and then shred. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Melt butter and 2 Tbsp. of vegetable oil in a small saucepan; transfer to a small bowl.

Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Cook until soft, about 3 minutes.

Add the chili powder, cumin, and salt; cook for 30 seconds. Add cilantro and cook until slightly dry, about 2 minutes. Stir in the cooked chicken and sour cream and warm through. Remove from the heat.

Spread 2 Tbsp. refried beans on each tortilla. Top with some of the chicken mixture. Sprinkle 1/4 c. cheese. Fold in the ends and roll up.

Put the chimichangas seam-side down in a 13×9″ glass baking dish. Brush the top of each chimichanga with the butter-oil mixture. Bake 8 minutes on each side, brushing again after you flip. Serve with Restaurant Style Mexican Rice.

EnJOY!

Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine October 2010.

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