Tag Archives: cupcakes

Secret Ingredients

7 Jun


Do you make something that has a “secret ingredient”? You know, that one thing that enhances your dish somehow, but no one would ever guess what it was? Saturday was “secret ingredient day” over at HHH.

I went to my grandparents’ for dinner on Saturday with my mom, and she asked me to make a salad (see above photo). I just threw a bunch of veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, celery, green onion, broccoli slaw mix) together for a slaw-ish salad, and it turned out really well. But the secret ingredient’s in the dressing: pickle juice! I was pulling out ingredients for the salad, and was putting fresh dill in anyway, and I saw a pickle jar with one lonely dill pickle (which I ate), and thought, why not? It’s just dill-flavoured vinegar, and I would have put in vinegar anyway. Confession: after eating the pickle and putting the juice in my dressing, I ate some of the garlic straight outta the jar! Embarrassed smileThe other dressing ingredients besides the pickle juice were: ranch dip mix, Epicure French Onion dip mix, Dijon mustard, fresh dill and chives, and fat-free Miracle Whip. Mmmm….really good! Use this on any coleslaw/broccoli-type salad this summer – sure to be a winner at any BBQ or potluck!


After dinner on Saturday, we went over to my Aunt’s house and I brought cupcakes since her birthday is today (happy birthday Auntie Rue!). But not just any cupcakes – black-bottom cheesecake cups – and healthy ones at that! What makes them healthy? That’s the secret ingredient! There are no butter or oil in these babies, instead they use….


…PRUNE BABY FOOD! I can’t take credit for the idea, it’s an old Weight Watchers recipe. It’s kinda like the applesauce idea, keeping the moisture, cutting the fat. But the prune thing would only work in chocolate baked goods I think – you’d get some pretty funky cookies if you put in just a chocolate chip cookie dough or something like that! Smile with tongue out The recipe calls for almonds on top too, but I omitted them this time, because my cousin’s allergic to nuts. That means there’s even less calories, so I can have 2, right? With the nuts though, these cupcakes only have 151 calories and 3.5 g fat each – a bargain if you ask me!

Black-bottom Cheesecake Cups – makes 18

from Weight Watchers: All things SweetIMG_1672

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup white sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon instant coffee

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 4 oz jar prune baby food (my jar was 4.5 oz, so I ate a bit…it was actually pretty good! Mind you, I like prunes)

1 cup water

1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

8 ounces (one tub) fat-free cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup icing sugar

1 large egg

cooking spray

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup toasted chopped almonds (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine prune butter, water, vinegar and vanilla; stir well. Add to flour mixture, stirring with a whisk until blended. Set chocolate batter aside.

3. Beat cream cheese in a bowl at medium speed of a mixer (or vigorously with a spatula and a fork) until smooth. Add icing sugar and egg, beating until well blended; set cream cheese mixture aside.

4. Place 18 paper muffin cup liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray. Divide chocolate batter evenly among muffin cups; spoon cream cheese mixture evenly on top of chocolate batter in each up. Sprinkle chocolate chips and almonds over cream cheese mixture. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool in pans 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans and let cool completely on wire rack.


Now since these  are so healthy and all (practically fat-free, and think of all the fibre from the prunes!), I think it’s only right that I licked the bowls pretty clean, don’t you? Winking smile Good, glad you agree. If you do make these, make sure you get a bit of both kinds of batter on your spatula, so you can lick the chocolate and the cream cheese goodness at the same time!



These are a great go-to recipe for those times when you want to take a dish to a get-together, and you want it to be something you can indulge in without going over the top, and you also want it to be something everyone will LOVE! I promise you, no one will ever guess the secret ingredient if you don’t tell them!




What’s the most unusual “secret ingredient” you’ve ever used (that is, if you’re willing to share your secrets)?


Bonus Post: Luck o’ the Irish

17 Mar

I am not Irish. I do not like beer. But I am game to cash in on just about any holiday that retailers/society say I should, despite my heritage or past-times. I am especially eager to cash in if that holiday can involve baking some sort of festive/seasonal treat, even more so if it involves cute decorating/cupcake liners. So when I was thinking on what sweet to make my brother-in-law for the March edition of his monthly 30th birthday sweets, my mind fell on Stout cupcakes. I had seen recipes all over the blog world for Stout cakes/cupcakes, most notably this one for Chocolate Stout Cake from Smitten Kitchen. I remembered seeing a stout cupcake recipe in my beloved  Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes and in my mind, I thought it was chocolate as well. Turns out it was not, but rather a gingerbread/spice-type cake. I considered going for the chocolate version, but since I wanted to use my Martha recipe, I decided to proceed with the ones for the book. And on further thought, I remembered Tim’s love for gingerbread/spice things.

While out and about in London, I found St. Patrick’s-themed cupcake liners and knew I had to get them (I may have a slight problem, when it comes to seasonal cupcake liners)…and then proceeded to the liquor store to get the booze. I had stealthily asked Tim earlier in the week if I could get a single bottle of Guinness at the LCBO because I wanted to try a baking recipe with it (little did he know he would be the recipient 🙂 ). He said yes, but it turns out he was wrong. I spent a good 10 minutes browsing the beer section and found no single Guinness bottles/cans. And given my intimidation in the alcohol department (I barely ever touch the stuff), I wasn’t inclined to ask for help. So I tried my darnedest to find an alternative stout beer, and finally located what you see in the photo – a bottle of double chocolate Stout from England. Okay, so, as far as being “Irish,” these cupcakes may not exactly be authentic…but what can you do? I had no idea what I would do with 3 extra cans of Guinness (well, I could have given them away, but I would then have been out more money than necessary).

Anyway….these cupcakes were a huge hit with Tim. He said he could just slightly taste the beer. I haven’t had one yet…but plan to tonight for dessert (it’s St. Paddy’s day after all). Martha’s recipe calls for a stout glaze, but I wasn’t feeling it (I wondered if it might be too strong), so I opted to create my own ganache. I wanted something a bit more complex/unusual than the typical ganache, so I created a butterscotch molasses ganache….I will try to list ingredients below…but really, I just made it up, so I don’t have exact quantities. For the green clovers on top, I just made a quick buttercream (butter, milk and icing sugar) and then put it in a ziploc bag and cut off the corner (much quicker and easier than a piping bag) and used the bottom of the cupcake liners as a guideline to pipe my shamrocks. I’m no Cake Boss, but I think they look pretty cute.

Stout Cupcakes – Makes 24 large cupcakes

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 1/4 teaspoons grated nutmeg

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil (I only used one cup)

1 1/4 cups unsulfured molasses

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar

2 large whole eggs pus 1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (I had clementines, so used them instead, and I used less than in the recipe)

1 1/4 cups stout beer, like Guinness, poured and settled

Chocolate Butterscotch Ganache, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 muffin tins with liners.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinammon and nutmeg together.

In a stand mixer (or by hand with a whisk), beat the oil, molasses, brown sugar, whole eggs, yolk, zest, and stout until combined.  Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture in batches, beating until just combined.

Pour batter into lined cups, filling each three-quarter full.  Bake about 20 minutes, rotating tins halfway through.  Let cool completely on wire racks. When cupcakes have cooled completely, dip into ganache. Let ganache set, and decorate with buttercream icing in shamrock designs, if desired.

Chocolate Butterscotch Ganache (measurements are approximate!)

In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt together:

1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, 1/2 cup butterscotch chips, 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips and about 2 tbsp molasses. I microwaved on high for about a minute and a half, stirred, then popped it in for another 30 seconds. I stirred it all around, and gradually added 2 to 3 tbsp butter (add just enough until it is smooth and shiny. For ease of dipping, use a nice small but deep bowl. This will make it easier to coat the cupcakes in one fell swoop. Just do a nice dunk, swirl it to get off any excess chocolate, and then leave it to set.

On the side of the cupcakes, I also made a small batch of Bailey’s bites. To make these, I did basically the same process as the chocolate mint cookie balls, using some cookies/squares I had in the freezer, but instead of icing, I used Bailey’s mint Irish cream.

So happy St. Paddy’s day everyone…whether you’re Irish or just a pretender like me. 🙂 Do you celebrate St. Paddy’s day? Or could you care less?

Tropical Treats

15 Mar

As I promised, here are all the recipes from our “Trop Swap” party on the weekend. If you’ve never had a clothing swap night, I encourage you to try it with your friends…it’s a great way to get rid of things you no longer use that someone else might love. And any leftovers go to charity! 🙂 The tropical theme was a perfect remedy to the winter blahs (like the centerpiece behind the cupcakes?). Add a few flowered leis and you’re good to go…the tropics come to the great white north!

Now onto the recipes….the cupcakes themselves only have 3 ingredients, it’s just the frosting that takes a few more. I don’t love cake mixes on their own, but I will use them in recipes like this that zazzle up the mix a little (and make it guilt-free 🙂 ). These cupcakes are super-moist, so be sure to keep any extras in the fridge.

Hungry Girl’s Pina Colada Cupcakes (each one only has 115 calories and less than 2 grams of fat!)

For Cupcakes:

  • 2 cups moist-style yellow cake mix (about ½ of an 18.25-ounce box)
  • 1½ eight-ounce cans crushed pineapple in juice (NOT drained)
  • ½ teaspoon coconut extract
For Frosting:
  • 4 ounces canned crushed pineapple in juice (drained)
  • 1 Jell-O Sugar Free Vanilla Pudding Snack
  • 1½ tablespoons fat-free cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 no-calorie sweetener packet – I used Splenda.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all frosting ingredients and mix until well blended. Refrigerate until cupcakes are ready to be frosted.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix with undrained pineapple. Add coconut extract and mix until thoroughly blended.
4. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with baking cups and/or spray with nonstick spray. Evenly distribute cake mixture among cups.
5. Bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
6. Allow cupcakes to cool completely, then evenly distribute frosting over the tops. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
*Optional: garnish with a slice of fresh pineapple to make them look extra-pretty.
Now for the cookies. I wanted to make a tropical spin on chocolate chip cookies, but I wanted to start with a base that was not too high in fat/calories, since I was adding extras (like coconut and dried fruit).  I remembered a recipe I had made a few years back from Weight Watchers magazine that was really yummy. The original recipe makes 36 oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies with about 50 calories each. My recipe makes 24 good-size cookies – not sure on the calorie count because of the added ingredients, but would still be better for you than the average cookie. The girls went wild for these. I will definitely make them again.
Tropical Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Weight Watchers Magazine
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp coconut extract
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1 large egg
3/4 cup rolled oats (I like old-fashioned, not instant)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 to 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut (I didn’t measure this or the fruit)
1 cup (approximate) tropical fruit mix (or any kind fo fruit mix/trail mix you like, I just got mine from the bulk section) – chop any large pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick spray (or do like I did, use stoneware so you don’t have to spray).
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; set aside. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed (or do with a spatula/spoon like I did), beat the brown sugar, butter and vanilla and coconut extracts in a large bowl until blended. Beat in the sour cream and egg. With the mixer on low speeds, add the flour mixture and beat until blended, about 1 minute. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips, coconut and fruit.
3. Drop the dough by level spoonfuls onto the baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart, making 24 cookies. Slightly flatten cookies with fingers. Bake until lightly browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to racks and let cool.
The pina coladas were really popular at the party. I set up a station with all my ingredients and made the drinks to order. This is a simple, tasty, alcohol-free version of the favourite tropical drink – with less than 100 calories per serving – waaaay better than those creamy concoctions you can get at bars. Substitute one sugar free pudding cup for the frozen yogurt if you avoid dairy.
Hungry Girl’s Pina Colada Smoothie
From Hungry Girl: 200 under 200

1/4 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
1/4 cup pineapple juice, cold
3 tbsp water
3/4 tsp coconut extract
2 1/4 tsp Splenda
1 tbsp crushed pineapple in juice
1 cup crushed ice or 5 to 8 ice cubes
Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend on high speed for about 30 seconds, until mixture is smooth and completely blended. Pour and enjoy! Optional: garnish with a paper umbrella and a slice of pineapple, for added tropical flair :).
Last but not least, my tropical fruit dip. I love making fruit dip by mixing about equal parts of fat free cool whip and fat free flavoured yogurt. The flavour possibilities are as limitless as the flavours of yogurt you can buy. Since I wanted a tropical flavour for the Trop Swap, I went with pineapple-banana-coconut yogurt. Served with bananas, oranges, strawberries, kiwi and pineapple, it was a tropical treat!
So there you have it….now you can bring the tropics to you! These are all simple recipes that deliver tasty tropical flavour – go make them now – summer’s still months away!

What 11 miles looks like

14 Mar

I have to things to share with you all. 1) – I look absolutely disgusting after I run/work-out. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, you’re being too hard on yourself, everyone does.” No really, I do. I’m not one of those people who “glows” and looks all cute and fresh. I get quite sweaty, red-faced and disgusting. 2) – I am absolutely terrible at taking self-portraits. Given those two facts, it is against my better judgment that I post the picture to the left (I was going for a more abstract/artistic look, not looking into the camera 🙂 ). See those beads of sweat? I earned them in 11 miles/over 2 hours!

I was SO THANKFUL that I could do my long run outside this weekend….wasn’t sure if I could take another long treadmill-fest. The weather was fairly mild…I opted for slightly less layering than my last outdoor long run (no headband and I switched to my lightweight lulu gloves over the heavy-duty fleece ones I wore previously). Not long into my run, it started to snow…now it wasn’t blizzard conditions or anything, but it was quite a wet, heavy snow, and it was blowing right into my face! I prayed for the strength and endurance to make it, and also that the snow would let up! Thankfully, it didn’t last too long and the weather was totally clear by the end of my run.

I had one moment of slight panic – when I came across a sign like the one in this picture with a warning underneath that there was water on the road! 😦 I wondered what I would do if I encountered a big puddle – would I be able to go around, would I be forced to go through, would I have to turn back? Thankfully, the water in question didn’t materialize – needless to say, I was quite relieved! 🙂 Although it was kind of a soggy run – my feet were a little more damp than I would have liked when I got home! 😦 On the audiobook front, I got to hear all about 9/11 and the goings-on surrounding it from President Bush, so that was interesting. I finished in about 2 hours 10 minutes, which is pretty much what I expected, given that I seem to average about 5 mph. As usual, I did the run 10/walk 1 method.

When I got back, I stretched, then had an Epsom salt bath and put Rub A5-35 on my hamstrings. I also iced them a couple of times. I tried this combo last week and it really seems to be doing the trick! 😀 No muscle soreness at all for the rest of the weekend…I don’t know why I never thought to try a muscle soreness cream during my marathon training….better late than never, I guess.

My post-run lunch may not look pretty, but it was yummy…it felt super-healthy and hit the spot after a long run. I roasted some chopped eggplant, broccoli, onion and red pepper with 1/2 tsp olive oil, salt and pepper and some random “pizza seasoning” in the oven at 400 for about 40 minutes (I would have gone about 10 minutes less though, they were a bit crispy…but I was soaking in the tub)! I made a quick tomato sauce by sauteing a clove of chopped garlic and some red pepper flakes in half a tsp of olive oil, then adding 5 or 6 frozen plum tomatoes (I had a bumper crop in my garden in the summer, and my mom suggested I freeze some and use them like stewed tomatoes…great idea, thanks mom! ;)) and a blob of frozen tomato paste (since you almost never need a whole can of tomato paste, I like to put it in blobs in a ziploc bag then stick in the freezer, then I can just plop one out and add it to recipes as needed), and seasoning with salt and pepper and letting it simmer together for a few minutes. To the tomato sauce, I added 1/2 cup partially thawed soy crumbles (I use Yves meatless ground round), the roasted veggies, some thawed frozen chopped spinach (squeezed dry) and half a cup of my leftover cooked quinoa. I let everything cook together for a couple of minutes. Then I topped it all off with an ounce crumbled goat cheese…mmmm….I heart chevre! Such a flavourful, creamy, delicious cheese, and actually fairly light! I made a HG raspberry mocha for dessert…no pic, but you’ve seen it before (note, I used skim milk though for mine). So glad I found more sugar free raspberry syrup at Winner’s last weekend! 🙂

You know what else I did after my run? Hosted a super fun tropical-themed clothing swap night! Here’s a photo of the food, which included:

tropical oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

pina colada cupcakes

fruit with tropical dip

tropical Real Fruit gummies

chips and salsa

HG pina coladas!

…recipes to come soon (I promised my guests)! But it was all delicious, and the night was super-fun!

After the horrific photo I opened this post with, I feel I need to put another one in just to prove that I can look normal (and maybe even nice) with a little work and when I haven’t just run 11 miles (Megan…hope you don’t mind being featured too)! Like my tropical shirt? Definitely went with the theme of the evening (thanks to Megan for the fancy lei and flower clip). I would love to be going someplace warm, but for now, this party is as close as I can get…and it was not bad at all!