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!

Cream Cheese and Cinnamon Bars

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A few years ago, I attended a ladies luncheon and these bars were served. First thing I thought when I took a bite was… CHEESECAKE! I quickly hounded the hostess for the recipe, and have made it countless times since. I love cheesecake, but do not make it often since it’s definitely not the quickest dessert to whip up. These bars are the perfect solution to that. Whereas cheesecake has all these components to work up, plus the added disadvantage of having to chill for hours, these whip up quick, and can be served warm out of the oven, or chilled. No joke… 10 minutes of prep work later, the smell of warm cinnamon will be wafting through your kitchen and giving you the warm and fuzzies. It is one of my go to desserts when I have to take a dish to a pot luck. I took this to a dinner with friends once and one of the husbands quickly put in a request to have this instead of cake for his birthday. I was thinking “uuummmhh awesome!  No cake to frost… sign me up for that”. A few weeks later, he was a very happy camper on his birthday 🙂

The crust on the bars is crescent roll dough, rolled out on the bottom and the top, with the cream cheese layer in between. Be sure to let your cream cheese soften at room temperature to make it easier to cream with the sugar. I also let my egg sit our with the cream cheese. Cold eggs are harder to separate the egg white from the yolk.  There are a ton of different versions of these bars, but my favorite is still this one. I have added a can of apple pie filling before, and it was delicious. I have also seen where a layer of fruit preserve/jelly is layered over the cream cheese filling, then topped with the crescent dough. I keep coming back to the original though. I hope you will enjoy it as much as my family and I do. The pictures I took are of the chilled version, which makes it easier to cut into bars. It is delicious warm, but does not cut well, so has to be served in the baking pan. Not as pretty, but still yummy. One last note… I have tried using store brand crescent roll dough from different sources but always seem to be disappointed. This is one of those times I recommend sticking to a brand if at all possible. Pillsbury rolls produce a much better crust.

Ingredients:

2 (8 ct) pkg crescent rolls (tube)
2 (8)pkg cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) melted butter
1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
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1. Pre-heat oven to 350 Degrees F. Place 1 can of unrolled crescent rolls in a 9 by 13 inch dish (no need to grease the dish).
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2. Beat cream cheese, sugar and egg yolk until smooth. Beat in lemon zest, juice and vanilla.
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3. Spread mixture over the crescent rolls. Unroll the second can of crescent rolls over the mixture.
4. Pour (or brush with a pastry brush) the melted butter on top and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture and bake for 25-30 minutes.
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You can serve it warm out of the oven, or cool on a rack for a few minutes, then chill in fridge for a couple of hours.
Enjoy!
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Devotion For the Day:
If I could sum up the last few months, I would say that they have been leading me to the point of learning how to TOTALLY surrender my cares to God and know that He truly is able and willing to take care of me. Many are the times in the past that I have run to God with an issue, yet on the back end I was trying to solve the issue on my own. This has been one of these weeks when I’m really fighting the inclination to grab my “stuff” back and handle it. Today’s reading was so appropriate for my situation. Phillipians 4:4-8 says “rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God: and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, breathren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things”. 
If I am truly honest with myself, there is constantly something that I can fret and worry about. The reality is that we live in an imperfect, fallen world. However, it does me no good whatsoever to worry. Instead I am retraining myself to lay my cares at Jesus feet and walk away, trusting that He is more than capable of handling anything that comes my way. I choose to meditate on the things that will lead me to peace, true joy and freedom. It is a daily choice to surrender.
 

Cream cheese frosting …..and a turtle cake!

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of making this pull apart turtle cake for a sweet friend of our family who was turning 3. He got to take the cupcakes to school and share with his friends, and I got to play around with frosting.  It was a win- win situation for all involved:-) The frosting of choice when it comes to any cake at my house is almost always cream cheese frosting. To say we like it is an understatement. My husband for years had always said how much he hated frosting, until I baked him pumpkin spice cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, and now he is the first one to ask where the mixing bowl is when I’m done frosting. I think what we like most about it is that it’s not achingly sweet like some frosting can be.

I made two batches of the frosting. One stayed as vanilla flavored (which I colored lime green) and the other got turned into chocolate frosting. As I mentioned above, I have also in the past added cinnamon, and it is insanely delicious on carrot cake, pumpkin cake or banana cake. Just add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to the vanilla recipe, and you are in frosting heaven. It makes for a good base recipe that you can change up with different extract flavors. Make sure to use cream cheese and butter that has been sitting out of the fridge for a little while and has softened. It makes it much easier to cream together.

I took pictures to show the steps for making the pull apart cupcake cake. I’m totally fascinated by these, and they are perfect for so many reasons. They are easier to frost, easy to serve, and they look like you put waaaay more effort than they really require. I have made a pull-apart bridal shower cupcake cake before, and I’m eager to find more ideas for future cakes. My kids birthdays are in the fall, and I’m already trying to think up ideas. I got the steps for the turtle off the Betty Crocker site. I used M& M candy for the eyes, mini choc chips for the nostrils, a red Twizzler for the mouth, and a green one for the tail. The cupcakes were vanilla.

For best results, keep the cake refrigerated until you need it. The frosting gets soft from sitting out.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 (8 Ounce) Block Cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick (4 tbsp) butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups confectioner’s sugar

Food coloring (optional) I used gel that was lime green.

1. Using a hand held mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter until it is well combined. Add in the vanilla.

2. Starting on low speed, add in a cup of confectioners sugar at a time. Increase the speed once the sugar has been somewhat incorporated, or else you will end up wearing half of it 🙂 I’ve been there! Mix until all the lumps are gone and the frosting is smooth.

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3. If adding food coloring, add a few drops at a time until you have the desired color.

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Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

Use the vanilla cream cheese frosting recipe above, but add 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder in with the confectioners sugar. If the frosting is a little stiffer than desired, add a spoonful of milk at a time until it is the right consistency. I added 2 tablespoons of milk to mine.

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Turtle Cake:

Here is the link for the step by step instructions from Betty Crocker.

You will need 12 cupcakes for one pull apart cake.

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Starting with 7 cupcakes, arrange them as shown above and frost them with the chocolate frosting.

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Frost 5 cupcakes green and attach them as shown to make the head, arms and feet. Next, outline the shell and fill in with crack like pattern.

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Add in the final decorative elements for the face. I used twizzlers for the mouth and tail, M&Ms for the eyes, and chocolate chips for the nostrils.

Devotion For The Day:
It truly amazes me how a certain scent or smell will stop you right in your tracks. The smell of freshly cut grass, the smell of the ocean, the hunger pang inducing aroma coming from the bakery across the street. We all have experienced it in one way or another. The smell of warm cinnamon is enough to lighten my mood. With that visual in mind, I was captivated by a verse I read recently. 2nd Corinthians 2:15 says: For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. I read this at least a week ago, but I cannot get that image out of my mind. It has made my prayer each morning that I would be a sweet fragrance in the way that I carry myself out, knowing that I have the opportunity to be the aroma of Christ that day.

Citrus Curd

The last few weeks have been a blur! I have tried to come up with a really good excuse for not blogging in almost a month, but I cannot come up with a single good reason. I’m glad to be back on track though. I have been trying to figure out which recipe has been most memorable to me in the last few weeks, and it has to be citrus curd. This may also be because I tried at least 3 different versions of it. I had a pull apart cupcake cake to make for a bridal shower (I will post a picture soon. It was shaped like a wedding dress, and so much fun to make), as well as an orange italian cream cake to make in the last few weeks, and I used citrus curd as the filling for both. Citrus curd was my filling of choice partly because I’ve had tons of oranges and lemons around my house lately, and partly because I LOVE lemon curd, and have enjoyed adding oranges to make my curd. If you have never tried lemon curd or citrus curd before, please change this ASAP. It is like liquid gold. It goes great as a topping for toast, filling for cake, filling for pies or my favorite way… dip spoon, lick, enjoy! The cool thing is that there are a ton of different ways to make it, yet after trying 3 different ways, microwave, stove top and over a double boiler, I found little to no difference. What this means for me is that I am definitely going to be using the microwave method from now on. It comes together really quick, and tastes just as good as if you slaved over the stove top.

Try this today! You can thank me later 🙂

Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes 2 Cups
Ingredients:
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup fresh squeezed orange, lime and lemon juice (all 3 combined make 1 cup)
zest of 1 orange, 1 lime and 2 lemons
1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)

Note: First zest the fruit, before squeezing out the juice. It is much easier this way.

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In a microwave safe dish, whisk together sugar and eggs until smooth. Add in the juice, zest and butter. Microwave in 1 minute intervals, stirring after each minute. The curd is done when the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. (This varies by microwave, but mine took 4 minutes).
Remove from microwave and pass through a sieve to remove any little bits of egg, and zest. The curd will get a little thicker as it cools. Pour into small sterile jars and store refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

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Here’s a picture of the pull apart cake that I made for the shower. I used lemon cupcakes, cored out some of the center and filled with this citrus curd. It was much easier than I had anticipated that it would be, since the other alternative was to make a large sheet cake and frost it. My frosting skills are no bueno!
The cake idea was from a friend of mine who saw it on this site, via pinterest.
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Devotion for the day:

Today I’m reading from Romans 12.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. 2. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good , pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:1-2 are verses that have come to mean so much to me in the last few months as I am seeking to grow deeper in my walk with God. The biggest obstacle for me has always been pre-conceived ideas about who God really is. I think along the way, I just picked up beliefs without really testing them against the word of God. This led me more towards religion than true relationship. I guess that’s why as I read Romans 12:2 about  renewing of my mind, I know that it’s exactly what I need. To have a fresh understanding of my Daddy based on truth, and not what the world says God is. To be able to know Him so well that I can test what comes my way against His good, pleasing and perfect will for my life.