Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing.

Looking for the best homemade red velvet cake recipe out there? Your search ends here.

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I know that’s a bold statement. But it’s true. This recipe is perfect. Not only is the flavor great, but the TEXTURE! Light, fluffy, perfectly moist. I had a cupcake in an airtight container in the fridge for an entire WEEK and it was still moist! You can thank the buttermilk and oil for that, but the low-and-slow baking time helps, too!

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There’s nothing crazy about the ingredients; in fact, I bet you probably have everything you need to make this cake right now. Except maybe the red food coloring. I had never bought food coloring before I started testing out red velvet cake recipes, and I had a hard time finding it at first. A word of wisdom: GEL food coloring is not the same as LIQUID food coloring. Trust me. The recipe calls for liquid, and, being a food-coloring-novice, I decided to try the gel variety (because that’s all I could find in my local Kroger). Mistake. That round of batter turned out a pale pink. Epic fail. Don’t do it, mmkay?

One more note about the food coloring: yes you will use the whole 1 oz bottle. Yes, that’s a lot of food coloring and your batter will be bright, bright red. Don’t worry! It’ll bake up beautifully like this:

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The frosting is super simple, too. The only way you can mess up the frosting is by not using room temperature butter and cream cheese. That’s non-negotiable, otherwise your frosting will be too thick, won’t mix well, and won’t be easy to spread.

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I am also including the instructions for other cake baking times (round cake, square cake, mini-cupcakes, etc.) at the bottom of the post. And guys, this is definitely a rich dessert, so no…it’s not exactly healthy. Just enjoy in moderation and share with friends!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk (you can also mix 1 cup milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice, stir, and let it sit for 5 minutes.)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 oz bottle red food coloring

For the icing:

  • 1 box powdered sugar
  • 8 oz cream cheese (full-fat), softened
  • 1 stick butter (I used salted), softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

1). Preheat the oven to 300F. If making cupcakes, place paper liners in muffin tins (I got about 16-17 in a standard muffin tin).

2). In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then add sugar, oil, and buttermilk.

3). Add the flour and baking soda, mixing well to blend.

4). Add the vanilla extract, vinegar, and red food coloring. Mix until well blended (it should all be red–make sure there’s no white batter hiding at the bottom!)

5). Carefully fill muffin tins 3/4 full. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

6). For the frosting: in the bottom of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar gradually, continuing to blend.  Add the vanilla extract and combine again.

Alternate baking times:
If making a 3 layer cake: bake 25 minutes.
If making mini-cupcakes: bake 15 minutes.
If making a 9×13 cake: bake 30 minutes.

Recipe from my go-to cooking friend at church. Thank you for sharing!! : ) 

 

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Homemade Strawberry Shortcake.

Happy Strawberry Shortcake Day!! This is the perfect excuse to share my strawberry shortcake recipe with you. It’s one of my favorites. The simplicity of sweet strawberries, whipped cream, and a homemade shortcake screams summertime dessert.

Title Strawberry Shortcake
Many people turn to store-bought cake as the base of their strawberry shortcake. Is it easier? Sure. Does it taste as good? Not a chance! Homemade is always best. If you have a cookout or party planned, add this to the dessert menu. It’s easy to make ahead for guests because you can chop up your strawberries, make your whipped cream, AND make the shortcakes before they arrive. You could even let your guests assemble their own!

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I really want to turn your attention to the foundation of the shortcake. It’s a cross between a cake and a biscuit. No, it’s not exactly the same kind you’d eat for breakfast, but it is close. It’s much sweeter than a traditional biscuit (and sooooo, so good!). I’ll go ahead and warn you–it’s not healthy. I tried to make a healthier version and it was awful! Just treat this like the dessert it is and indulge sparingly. So, back to the star of this sweet treat. In addition to being rustic and unique, there’s one major reason to use this shortcake instead of angel food cake as your base: it’s sturdy enough to really handle the juices from the strawberries without falling apart or getting mushy. It’s buttery, flaky but dense, golden, sweet, and delicious.

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If you have ever made biscuits or pie crusts in the past, you probably already have an idea of the steps involved. If you’ve never made anything like this before, don’t worry! This is one of the first biscuit recipes I ever made and it’s very easy, perfect for beginners. I’m going to take you through the process with step-by-step photos. These are drop biscuits, which means once you have the dough combined you literally just drop them on the baking pan. They’re not supposed to be perfect! Start by putting all your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) into a bowl like this:

dry ingredients
Next add in very cold butter. Use a pastry blender (or two knives) to cut the butter into the flour until it looks like this:

adding butter
Now, in another small bowl whisk together the egg, sour cream, and milk. Add it to the butter/flour mixture and combine. I used a fork to stir everything together. Your dough may be a little crumbly, but it should be able to adhere to itself well if you press it together. Here’s a visual:

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Time to form the biscuits! Like I said earlier, just take (mostly) even amounts of dough and drop them on a baking pan. Warning: it will be VERY, very, sticky and you will get dough stuck all over your hands, so you may want to use a spoon to help you do this!

buiscit prebaked
When the biscuits are done baking, allow them to cool on a wire rack. Now you’re ready to assemble! Gently cut the biscuit in half. Add a small dollop of whipped cream, strawberries, and the other half of the biscuit. Top with more whipped cream and strawberries and you’re ready to eat!

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Homemade Strawberry Shortcake

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (I used light)
  • 2 tbsp milk (I used skim)
    For the topping:
  • 5 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar (this helps bring out the sweetness and juices in the strawberries but is optional)
  • Homemade whipped cream

1). Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, if needed (mine does not). Combine the strawberries and sugar in a small bowl. Make the whipped cream. Refrigerate both the strawberries and whipped cream as you prepare the shortcakes.

2). In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients. Continue until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (see picture in post, if necessary).

3). In a small bowl, beat together the egg, milk, and sour cream. Add this to the butter/flour mixture. Use a fork to mix everything together until just moistened. Be careful not to overmix.

4). Drop the dough into 8 mounds on the baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack.

5). To assemble: gently cut the shortcakes in half. Add strawberries and whipped cream. Top with the second half and add a few more strawberries and whipped cream.

Recipe from: http://alyssabyoung.com/blog/2010/03/24/strawberry-shortcake/
Servings: 8. Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 367 Carbs: 39 g Fat: 22g Protein: 5g Fiber: 2g Points+: 10

Amazing Crock Pot BBQ Pork (Tenderloin)

Are you ready for the most flavorful, restaurant-quality crock pot bbq pork? Y’all, this recipe is unreal!!! AND easy!

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Many people put pork in the crock pot plain, then shred it and add bbq sauce. Is there anything wrong with that? Absolutely not. Is it the best method? Not quite. See, when you follow the aforementioned method, the meat relies solely on being slathered in bbq sauce for flavor. On its own, pork tenderloin is pretty bland. Still delicious, don’t get me wrong, but it definitely needs a little something extra. That missing piece to the puzzle is a mixture of spices creating a dry rub! Here’s what they look like BEFORE being placed in the crock pot:

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Now, this can be done up to 24 hours ahead of time and refrigerated; however, if you forget or don’t have time to put the meat in the fridge overnight, you can simply coat the pork in the spices right before placing them in the crock pot. I have made this both ways and both were equally successful and delicious. It seriously only takes a few minutes to take the extra step of mixing the dry rub together, but it makes a world of a difference in the finished product. By using a dry rub, you infuse the flavors into the meat, which means the meat has great flavor on its own. In turn, you’ll find you won’t need to use as much bbq sauce.

I use pork tenderloin for this recipe. Pork tenderloin is very lean and is a healthier choice than pork shoulder, but you could certainly use that if you prefer. We personally love the pork tenderloin! If you use 2 pork tenderloins as pictured above, you will have a lot of bbq! If you have a smaller family, you can actually freeze it in ziplock bags after you shred the meat for future use. Alternatively, you could just use one tenderloin!

Remember when I posted how to perfectly shred chicken using a Kitchen Aid mixer? I use that same trick with pork! It turns out perfect every time and is so much easier than using 2 forks. See?

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From here, place the pork on a plate (or bun) and drizzle with your favorite bbq sauce! One of my college roommates sent me a bottle of sauce from our favorite local restaurant where we went to college, so that’s what I used! Yum.

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Amazing Crock Pot BBQ Pork (Tenderloin!)

  • 2 pork tenderloins, washed, trimmed of any visible fat, and dried
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Cooking spray

For the dry rub:

  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 4 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons table salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1. In a small bowl, combine all the dry rub ingredients. Evenly coat the pork tenderloins with the dry rub. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight, or up to 3 days. (You can also skip this altogether and place them directly into the crock pot to cook!)

2. Spray crock pot with cooking spray and add the pork tenderloins. Add 1/4 cup water and place the crock pot on low for about 6-7 hours, or until pork is tender.

3. Remove pork from crock pot and shred (using my kitchenaid mixer method or with two forks). Serve with preferred bbq sauce and enjoy!

Servings vary depending on the size of your pork tenderloins.

Nutritional information for 4 oz pork: Calories: 163 Fat: 4g Carbs: 0g Protein: 29.3g  WW PointsPlus: 4

Recipe adapted from: http://www.beantownbaker.com/2009/03/crockpot-pulled-pork.html 

Crock Pot Apple Butter

One of my favorite fall activities is going apple picking. My good friend and I recently made the 90 minute trip up to the local orchards to pick apples, and I used a large portion of those apples to make this fabulous recipe. Did you know you can make apple butter effortlessly in the crock pot? The only time-consuming part is slicing the apples, but if you have one of those peel/slice/core machines it doesn’t take long at all! If you don’t have one, you really should get one…they are amazing!

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Back to the recipe. All you have to do is combine sliced apples with some spices and sugar, and the crock pot does the rest. It cooks down so well that in the morning all it takes is just a quick swirl of a fork or whisk and the apples completely disintegrate into a jam-like consistency. The worst part about this recipe is having to wait 12 hours for the final product. But the best part of this recipe, other than the delicious apple butter,…

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…It makes your ENTIRE house smell like a holiday candle. I let this cook overnight and we woke up to the most amazing autumnal smell of cooked apples and cinnamon.

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This recipe makes a lot of apple butter, which is perfect because you can freeze apple butter to have year round or give it to friends in a cute jar as a gift. Mine made 11 cups!! We love having homemade apple butter at our disposal year round. We seem to use it often on top of homemade breakfast items such as biscuits, pancakes, french toast, muffins, etc. If you are really feeling bold, toss a spoonful of it into a milkshake. My husband makes himself milkshakes all the time and does this. It tastes like apple pie!

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An important note about this recipe: it is easily adaptable and you should feel completely comfortable tweaking it to your taste. I suggest starting with the recipe below and adjusting from there. You will want to add more sugar based on the tartness of the apples you use, and you may want a stronger flavored apple butter. I always taste the apple butter after the initial 9-11 hour cooking window and add more spices then. Also, I have used various types of freshly picked apples in the past and it has always turned out amazing!

It is October, fall is here, and you MUST make this recipe!

Crock Pot Apple Butter

Ingredients:

  • 5 1/2 lbs of apples (about 15 for me), peeled, cored, and finely chopped
  • 2-2 3/4  cups of sugar (add more if you have very tart apples…I usually start with less sugar and add more if needed)
  • 2 heaping tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt

1. Spray your crock pot with cooking spray. Place chopped apples in the crock pot and combine with sugar and spices. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour.

2. Cook on low for 9-11 hours (I always do this overnight). It should be dark brown and thickened. Uncover and cook on low (I sometimes kick this up to high) for 1 hour or longer until thickened to desired consistency.

3. Allow to cool; place in containers. Cover and refrigerate or freeze.

Serving size: 2 tbsp. Nutritional Information per 2 tbsp: Calories: 31 Carbs: 8g Fat: 0g Protein: 0g Sugar: 8g Fiber: 1g

WW PointsPlus: 1

Recipe adapted from: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/all-day-apple-butter-2/detail.aspx

Crock Pot Baked Beans (No-Soak!)

A couple months ago I refused to follow the typical recipe instructions of soaking dried beans overnight and successfully made delicious pinto beans in my crock pot. This week I decided to use the same principle. I rebelled against the overnight soaking directions and made baked beans in the crock pot. I actually had never made baked beans (the ones in the can seemed to do the trick until now!) and I wanted to make them from scratch for a cookout.

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I learned a few things through this process:

1) Truly, you do not have to soak dried beans overnight if you are cooking them in the crock pot.

2) You really do have to put bacon in baked beans for them to taste right. I think I have only purchased bacon twice in my entire life.

3) There’s a lot of sugar in baked beans and if you attempt to eliminate those sugary ingredients, they don’t taste right.

4) You will seriously waste your time if you soak your beans overnight (see lesson #1). I tried them both ways and the cooking time was, surprisingly, the same.

Aside from not needing to soak the beans, I was most amazed at how much cheaper it was to make my own batch of baked beans than to buy cans of them. This is especially true for feeding a large crowd (which we were).

We had some leftover and a quick Google search led me to the realization that you can actually freeze baked beans in Ziplock bags! So, if you have some leftover, feel free to freeze them.

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The final product was soft (but not mushy) beans, covered with a thick, sweet, smokey sauce. We were really pleased with the results and I would definitely make them again!

This recipe is perfect for the upcoming holiday and cookouts!

Crock Pot Baked Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb bag white navy beans
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1/3 cup real maple syrup or molasses
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup bbq sauce
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 4 1/2 cups of hot water (may need to add more depending on your crock pot)

1) Spray your crockpot with cooking spray for easy clean up later. In a medium bowl, combine molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, bbq sauce, dijon mustard, cloves, and hot water. Whisk to combine.

2) Place beans at the bottom of your crock pot. Add the chopped onions and bacon. Pour the sauce mixture on top and stir to combine.

3) Cook on HIGH for 8 hours. Check on them after about 3 or 4 hours to see if you need to add water. You don’t want them to burn!

Servings: 18 1/2 cup servings.

Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 148 Carbs: 29g Fat: 1g Protein: 6g Sugar: 15g Fiber: 6g

WW PointsPlus: 3 Old points: 2

Recipe adapted from: http://lmld.org/2013/06/03/slow-cooker-baked-beans/

 

Crock Pot BBQ Chicken and Roasted Green Beans

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Have you caught up to the time change yet? I still find myself dragging and struggling to adjust! Here is a super easy, low-prep recipe to get you through the week. If you’ve never made BBQ chicken in the crock pot, you have to try it! I made this for the first time just a few months ago and we were blown away by how delicious it turned out. If you have chicken breasts, BBQ sauce, and some bread you are all set! All you have to do is season the chicken in the crock pot, shred it when it’s done, and add your favorite BBQ sauce. I told you it is easy!

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I like that you can control how much sauce you want on your sandwich. I really need to try to make my own BBQ sauce one day. It’s not that difficult to do, I just haven’t done it yet. It’s on the list! Anyway, if you happen to have leftovers, you can either mix the chicken with the sauce and reheat, or store the chicken plain and add sauce after reheating. Just be careful because the chicken can dry out that way!

Now for a confession. I can’t say I ever LOVED green beans until I roasted them for the first time a couple years ago. I pretty much refuse to make them any other way now! The tips caramelize and thus get crunchy as they cook in the oven. They’re so good. Be sure to season well with salt, pepper, and garlic powder for awesome flavor!
I think both of these recipes are sure to be family favorites, but if you have a green bean hater you should sprinkle just a pinch of shredded parmesan on top. It really takes it to the next level. Delish!

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Crock Pot BBQ Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb chicken breasts (you can easily double this to make more than 4 sandwiches!)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic powder
  • your favorite BBQ sauce

1) Spray your crock pot with cooking spray.

2) Place your chicken breasts in the crock pot and season liberally with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

3). Shred chicken and mix with your favorite BBQ sauce to taste! Enjoy!

Serves 4. Nutritional Information Per Serving: Calories: 328 Carbs: 46g Fat: 3g Protein: 27g Sugar: 37g

Roasted Green Beans

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz green beans, washed and dried
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • 2 Tsp olive oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp shredded parmesan cheese (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 425F. Line a pan with foil for easy clean up. Mix the green beans with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Make sure they are all in one even layer on the pan.

2) Bake for 10 minutes. Mix the beans lightly and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes. Sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese (optional).

Serves: about 4. Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 62 Fat: 2.9g Carbs: 8g Protein: 2.7g Sodium: 38g without salt

Homemade Southern Biscuits (Just 100 calories!)

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Biscuits.

Hot, flaky, buttery biscuits.

They are a southern staple.

Unfortunately, they aren’t the most healthy choice due to all the butter and flour. So, here is a little trick to cut the calories/fat in half.

Ready?

Roll the dough out thinner.

While I know this is probably not earth-shattering, it does the trick. The downside to this, of course, is that you are left with a much thinner biscuit. Every bite is still delicious and rich, but it is something to consider. If you are content with just 1 biscuit, feel free to make your biscuits as thick as you’d like.

Here’s another tip: if you are like me and never have buttermilk in the fridge, you can easily make your own by mixing 1 cup milk (I use skim) + 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and it can substitute buttermilk in any recipe!

We love to top these with homemade apple butter (recipe coming soon!), honey, or jam.

Hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

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Homemade Southern Biscuits

Ingredients:

4 cups all-purpose soft-wheat flour, such as White Lily

2 Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup cold butter, cubed

2 cups buttermilk (or you can do what I did…1 cup skim milk + 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Let it sit for 5 minutes before using)

1-2 Tbsp. melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 450F. Sift together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender, until mixture resembles small peas. Stir in buttermilk with a fork until dough forms a ball.

2. Turn dough out onto a well-floured sheet of wax paper. Sprinkle dough with flour, and flatten into a disk. Cover and chill for about 15 minutes.

3. Remove wax paper, and turn dough out onto a well-floured surface; sprinkle with flour. Pat dough into 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with a 3-inch cutter, reshaping scraps once (or else they get tough). Place biscuits 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

4. Bake at 450F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Brush immediately with melted butter. Serve hot.

Note: I halved this recipe and got about 10 biscuits because I rolled the dough out thinly. The original recipe should make 12.

Approximate Nutritional Information per biscuit: Calories: 102 Carbs: 10 g Fat: 6 g Protein: 2 g Sugar: 0 g

Recipe adapted from Southern Living, February 2013.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins and nutrients. I adore their vibrant orange color and health benefits. My husband, however, does not share my affinity for this root vegetable. So, like many other things in our wonderful marriage, we compromise. He loves potatoes (including but not limited to the fried variety) and I only consume them sparingly. With this recipe, he has the satisfaction of having potatoes in the form of “fries,” and I don’t have to worry because they are actually baked. Win-win!

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Some people use a mandolin to achieve perfectly even matchsticks. After a gruesome accident with a mandolin 2 summers ago (ending in a trip to urgent care), I now choose my chef knife in lieu of a perfectly cut potato. I’ll spare you the details, just know you really should cautious if you choose to use that handy kitchen gadget. The warning labels are there for a reason…

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Anyway, this recipe can be easily doubled (or tripled!) and you can adjust the seasonings to your preference. They are crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and very quick to throw together even on a weeknight. I beg you to make these instead of reaching for the frozen ones in your grocery’s freezer. These are too easy to pass up. Just chop, mix, and bake.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4″ fries

  • 2 tsp olive oil

  • 2-3 tsp chili powder

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

  • 1/2 tsp pepper

    1. Preheat oven to 425F.

    2. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly to avoid sticking.

    3. In a medium bowl, toss together the sweet potatoes and spices.

    4. Spread fries evenly on the baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes, then mix them and bake 10-15 minutes more. Keep an eye on them!

    Serves 2. Nutritional information per serving: Calories: 108 Fat: 4.7g Protein: 1.1 g Carb: 15.8 g Fiber: 2.0 g