Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

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It’s official. My baby is growing up. My oldest daughter turned 8 this weekend, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around that idea. As a Mommy, I have mixed feelings. I miss my little cuddle bunny that called vegetables “begebles”, but I am also treasuring the conversations we are having now, as she tries to sort through her little world. I’m having to learn to give her rope some more slack, as far as responsibilities she can work her way into. One of my greatest struggles is letting go of the reigns in the kitchen. It’s “my” safe zone, and having someone else tinkering in there makes my heart beat faster. I want things done a certain way, and egg shells in my bowl makes my blood pressure rise. I’m learning to grit my teeth, and try to enjoy the process of baking and cooking with her, and it’s getting better every time. She loves being a part of the process, and I love to see the excitement as she learns new things. A couple weekends ago, we made cupcakes!
I’m excited to share my favorite cupcake recipe. I stock up on canned pumpkin through out the year and wait excitedly for the announcement that it is fall, so that I can make these. I have made them twice now in the last few weeks, and each time, I have had to share them with friends quick, because they do not last more than a day or two at my house, which is plain dangerous. On that day we  were having company over and my friend had insisted (it was more like threatened) that I make these cupcakes for dessert. I got to bake them with the girls, and actually let my ‘little lady” do most of the measuring and stirring. She had a blast! The end result was two girls, happily licking bowls and spatulas of batter, watching the oven as the cakes baked. It made all the teeth gritting and elevated heart rate totally worth it.

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These cupcakes are great by themselves, but I can never resist piping some cinnamon cream cheese frosting on them. If you don’t have access to canned pumpkin, here’s a link on how to make it at home. If you get the canned stuff, be sure to get the 100% pumpkin puree, not the pumpkin pie filling. There’s a significant difference. You could also substitute 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice blend for all the separate spices. I had posted the cream cheese recipe before. Just add a teaspoon of cinnamon to this recipe, and you have the frosting I used.

Adapted from All recipes
Makes 24 cupcakes.
Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree
Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F. Grease 24 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners. In a bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg,cloves, allspice, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat the butter, white sugar and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy (you should see the mixture look noticeably lighter in color). Add the eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to combine before adding the next. Stir in the milk and pumpkin puree after the last egg. Mix in the flour mixture, stirring until just incorporated. Scoop the mixture into the prepared muffin tins ( I use an ice cream scoop).

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3. Bake until golden, and a toothpick to the center comes out clean (22-25 minutes). Cool slightly in the pan, and then transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. Frost the cupcakes with the prepared cinnamon cream cheese frosting linked above, or simply enjoy as is.
Enjoy!

DSC_0033Devotion For the Day:

We have been reviewing Galatians 5 that talks about the fruit of the Holy Spirit with our kids and I wanted to share it with you.

Galatians 5:22-23- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things, there is no law.

As we were talking over these qualities, my husband explained to the girls that you cannot portray this fruit without the help of the Holy Spirit, and I was thinking…. it’s so true. We all admire the attributes above, but humanly speaking, it totally goes against our nature. It becomes so hard to do the very things we wish we could, until the Holy Spirit is within us. These qualities are then an outward manifestation of the wonderful transformation happening within us!

Balsamic Pot Roast

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I’m so excited that the fall is finally here. I love the changing colors of the leaves…. I love the perfectly comfortable weather… I love that I can pull out sweaters and my pumpkin recipes (Pumpkin spice cupcakes are my favorite)…. and I love that I can now justify making soups and casseroles. It just seems wrong to do this in the summer. Pot roast falls in the category of warm and comforting food in my book, and it will be making frequent appearances at my house in the coming months. I love braised meats, and if you missed the braised chicken cacciatore recipe I posted last, check it out. I make pot roast pretty often, but I decided to change it up this time, and I think I stumbled on a gold mine! This is MY new favorite way to make pot roast now. I had never used balsamic vinegar for pot roast before, and it make all the difference in the world.
If you have never tried pot roast before, I highly recommend it. The whole idea is to get a chunk of chuck roast and brown it in a pot, then add in liquid, and vegetables if you would like, and slow cook it for a long time, until the meat gets tender and shreds off. It is melt in your mouth good! As a personal preference, I like to load my roast up with a ton of vegetables and herbs. Carrots, potatoes and onions are most commonly used, but I changed it up and used mushrooms, parsnips, carrots, onion and celery. The beauty of the recipe is that you can change up the combination of vegetables to suite your taste, or leave them all off if you please.

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I included a picture of the parsnips for those who haven’t worked with them before. I love them! They look like a white or cream colored carrot, and taste great!( I like to roast them in the oven with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, onions and carrots as a side dish). They are available in most stores now. If you do not have fresh rosemary or thyme, feel free to substitute with dried. A couple teaspoons of each should work fine. I will say as a last note that the key to making this dish a home run is the extra step to thicken the gravy with the cornstarch and water mixture. I contemplated skipping this step, and I assure you I would have regretted it greatly. I tried the gravy before and after, and I was amazed at the difference those extra few minutes made. The only thing that would have made this meal more perfect was serving it over some garlic and herb mashed potatoes, but sensibility got the better of me, and I went with riced cauliflower instead. It was still awesome, but mashed potatoes would make it over the top yummy!
Ok.. as a last.. last note 🙂 Just so this isn’t confusing to anyone, I doubled my recipe so that I could cover a few days worth of meals. The recipe as written is for one roast. If you decide to double the recipe as I did, just double all the ingredients. I used two roasts, that added up to 5 1/2 pounds of meat.

Enough talking. Let’s get to work here. Try this as soon as humanly possible 🙂

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home
Ingredients:
1 boneless beef chuck roast (about 3 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
3 celery ribs, cut into large chunks
3 parsnips, peeled and chopped into large chunks
2 cups mushrooms, quartered
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 bunch fresh thyme sprigs
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F. Sprinkle the roast on both sides with the salt and pepper. In an oven proof pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Brown the meat on all sides, then remove from pan and set aside.

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2. Add the onions, carrots, celery,parsnips and mushrooms into the same pan. Cook for 5 minutes until they start to soften up. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute.
3. Add the broth, balsamic vinegar, thyme and rosemary. Return the roast to the pot,and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, transfer to oven, and bake for 21/2 to 3 hours, until the meat is fork tender.

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4. With a slotted spoon, transfer the beef and vegetables to a container. Discard any large stems from the herbs, and skim off any excess fat that rises to the surface.
5. Transfer the pot to stove top, and simmer over medium heat. In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and cold water. Add mixture into the pot with the gravy, stirring constantly. Keep stirring, bring to a boil, and cook for about 2 minutes, until it thickens. Serve the gravy over the pot roast and the vegetables.
Enjoy!

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Devotion For The Day:

I attended a women’s conference this past weekend, and one of the resounding themes was about how much Jesus cares for each and every one of us. Like really personally! He cares about the big stuff and the little stuff that happens to us, even when we are not sure if He is aware. Yesterday I was reading from Luke 15, and it followed along with what I had taken away from the conference. The whole chapter 15 is about how much Jesus cares for the lost. It made me think of moments when I was trying to find something I had lost. My car keys, at that moment I needed to bolt out the door, my glasses, or some money that I had kept so “safely” I couldn’t remember where. It made me think of the frustration of losing that item, but even more so, the relief when I finally found it. Jesus uses 3 parables in Luke 15 to illustrate his feelings about the lost and the hurting. He used the example of a shepherd who loses one of his sheep, a woman who loses a coin, and the story of the prodigal son. In all three parables, Jesus showed how the people were willing to leave that which they still had in their possession to look for and find that which was lost, and the rejoicing that followed when they found the lost item or person.
Luke 15:3-7. Then Jesus told them this parable: “suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep’. I tell you that in the same way, there is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
For the 3 years of ministry that Jesus had here on earth, His focus was on finding and saving the lost, and His focus remains the same. Jesus is searching for us because we are so incredibly valuable to him. Each one of us! I visualize the rejoicing that goes on when one of His children is found, and it humbles me to know that He cares so deeply about me and you. Never for a minute believe that you are worthless, or uncared for. Jesus values you, and is seeking you out so that you can be reconciled with the Father. He paid the ultimate price to make this happen, without any guarantee of what your response to Him would be. One of my favorite verses is Romans 5:8 : But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While were still sinners. Christ died for us.