Tag Archives: lemon juice

Chocolate Cupcakes and Cream Cheese Frosting

For Christmas, I was going to make the kids in my life crayons out of the letters of their names.  I purchased what I thought was an oven-ready mold, but when it arrived it was a tiny, plastic, chocolate mold.  My mistake, but rather than resell it I thought I would utilize the chocolate mold by making alphabet suckers in primary colors for Tommy’s 1st birthday party.


After a series of unfortunate events, such as me forgetting to spray the mold before placing what turned out to be too soft of chocolate in, I pushed my hand through the plastic breaking the alphabet into an uneven half. (Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the bloody picture). But, I was still able to utilize the yellow melted chocolate on top of the cupcake frosting.

To make the cupcakes:

To make the frosting:

  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp. whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 fresh juice from lemon
  • Food coloring

To make the chocolate:

  • 1/4 bag white chocolate chips (a pricier brand, like Ghirardelli, will taste best)
  • 1 Tbsp. whole milk
  • Food coloring

Start by making the cake.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a mixing bowl, blend together cake mix, almond extract, oil, water, and eggs using an electric hand mixer.  Whirl around until smooth, approximately 2 minutes. Add in the chocolate chips and fold over with a spoon until they are well dispersed into the batter.

I chose to make mini cupcakes with mini, white paper cups.  If you are cooking these for yourself, you can eliminate the paper cups by spraying or Criscoing the muffin tin.  Fill each cup about 3/4 from the top. They will rise in the oven.

Place the pan in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. To check if they are ready, simply stick a wooden toothpick in the center of a cupcake. If it comes out clean, they are done. If it has batter on it, they need more time in the oven.

In the meantime, you can start the frosting. With a clean electric hand mixer and bowl, combine together the cream cheese, lemon juice, whole milk, vanilla, butter and 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar. 

 Blend on medium speed until smooth, approximately 3-5 minutes, slowly adding in more powdered sugar, section by section, until you’ve used 1 1/2 cups (more if you like it a little stiffer for accurate piping, less if you like your frosting on the soft side). 

Finally, add in your favorite food coloring color (or multiple to make such colors as purple or orange).  I chose blue, using maybe 20 drops for a deeper hue.

Now is a good time to make the chocolate letters.  To make a double boiler, simply add in an inch of water to a large pan. Bring the water to a boil and place a smaller pan filled with your chocolate ingredients on the inside. Again, pick your favorite color to dye the white chocolate chips. Stir constantly, until the chocolate is melted enough to spread.  This method is a fool-proof way of not burning the chocolate. 

On parchment paper, create your letters by hand using a toothpick or small spoon.  Stick the parchment paper into the freezer for 10-15 minutes.


When your cupcakes are cool, frost them using a spoon, piping bag, or, like me, a cookie press that also serves as a frosting gun.

Pull the chocolate letters out and immediately peel them from the paper. If you take too long, stick them back in the freezer for 5 minutes and finish the remaining letters then stick them into your frosted cupcakes. 

Though my friend was excited for chocolate suckers, as someone else also brought cupcakes to the party, these minis were delicious and easy to pop in your mouth without feeling guilty after a high-fat, filling dinner of Portillo’s Beef Sandwiches.  I personally enjoy minis because they not only look cute; you feel you can eat more because of the size. This isn’t necessarily true, but comforting during the process.

The addition of lemon and vanilla into the cream cheese frosting was my personal favorite.  It was subtle, not overwhelming, but noticeably different in comparison to previous cream cheese frosting recipes.  The almond extract in the chocolate was almost invisible, so feel free to add in another teaspoon, but the chocolate chips definitely initiated a heavier cupcake.  They melted leaving little pockets of condensed, smooth chocolate.  Finally, the chocolate letters were a fun addition, clearly stating the purpose of the cupcakes (“Happy 1st Birthday Tommy”), that people could take off and eat.  Next time I will arrange to take more time on this part so each letter is consistent and easy to read.


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Filed under Dessert, Food

Black Olive Baba Ghanouj

I love suggestions on new recipes to try. It never occurred to me to actually make homemade Baba Ghanouj (a.k.a. Baba Ghanoush). I usually just buy it from somewhere like Pita House or Falafil Hut (It’s a really weird holt-in-the-wall restaurant. Hit or miss every time I’ve gone.  The employees will pull change out of their pockets and they forget half your order).  Eggplant lovers definitely should try to cook this.

At the store, buy:

  • 1 eggplant, about 1 lb.
  • 3 Tbsp. Tahini (try Valli Produce or Caputo’s)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 can black olives
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper

I’ve never cooked eggplant before as I haven’t found a recipe yet that sparks my taste bud’s interest.  Apparently it is a lot like cooking squash. Easy enough.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, place on a foiled baking sheet and poke at it all over with a fork as shown below. Cook for around 20-30 minutes until the eggplant looks shriveled and softened, like aged skin. 


In the meantime, in either a blender or food processor (depending on how smooth you like your dip) add all ingredients.   As usual, I am in love with the Pampered Chef Garlic Press, and this will save you from sticky, smelly fingers.  A more authentic version would use Kalamata olives, but black olives are a little easier on the wallet and to find in the store.


When the eggplant has cooled, scrape out the insides tossing the skin away.  Here’s where I found squash, especially spaghetti squash, much more appealing.  It will mush out with your fork in little spaghetti like strings. The eggplant just clumps out like a semi-hard, half-cooked potato would. 


You can either scrape the pulp of the eggplant into a bowl or directly into the food processor/blender.  Blend on high for 2-5 minutes until you find your desired creaminess.  Since I used the food processor and added olives, my spread came out smooth but chunky.  This was probably from the ingredients, other than the eggplant and olives, having a liquid or creamy, even texture to them. image

Finally, disperse out the Baba Ghanouj uniformly in a large but not thick glass tray.  Drizzle olive oil on and top with parsley, paprika or cumin for garnish.


Serve with wheat bread Sandwich Thins cut into triangles, pita bread , veggies, naan or pita chips. 

I personally liked the wheat bread Sandwich Thins because it had a sweet taste to add to the cuisine, and took away from the eggplant essence. If you actually prefer to taste the eggplant in the side dish, this is probably not the route to take.  I’d try carrots or pita bread which is more bland and will accentuate the dip flavor.image

I thought this would be the perfect thing for my mom to eat while she’s unable to chew anything crunchy and feeling  swollen.  Unfortunately, she isn’t a fan of Mediterranean flavor combinations like cumin, lemon juice yogurt and tahini. I, too, still haven’t found an eggplant meal that is appealing – yes, a vegetarian that despises eggplant.  But this was edible.  But, as a new wine connoisseur, I thought why not branch out on my food too. The day-old version was actually better than the freshly made, still warm form.  The spices had a chance to seep into the other ingredients. It was also cold, which personally, I found more pleasing. 

I did bring my leftovers to Dani for her in-favor-of-eggplant-meals opinion. She loved it. She put a large lettuce leaf on a plate, topped that with half hummus, half Baba Ghanouj and placed homemade Falafel balls on top (which is another recipe I need to try).

The addition of olives helped bring a salty, hearty taste to the slightly sour lemon juice, greek yogurt and  pungent eggplant. It only had a hint of the eggplant flavoring in it, and the addition of the spices was a must.  The tahini mellowed out the bitter eggplant and sour lemon leaving a manageable thick appetizer, or side salad if you’re in Egypt, a staple in the attempt of Mediterranean dishes.


Filed under Food, Gluten-Free