Guava Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Guava…one of the most fabulous fruits you can find in sunny south Florida. I am very excited that we will soon be moving back to our home state. Hopefully I will see guava more often in central Florida than I see it up here.

For this recipe, I used a Duncan Hines cake mix and simply used guava marmalade (Ancel) instead of the 1 cup water called for in the recipe. I had a little bit of marmalade left over, so I added more to half of my cream cheese frosting. I found this cream cheese frosting recipe on Allrecipes. This was my first time making cream cheese frosting, and I had a blast. I was impressed with how well the gel food coloring blended into the frosting! I’ve always had trouble blending color into buttercream frosting. Although I prefer the taste of buttercream, I think I’ll be using this recipe a lot more. This is the cake mix and marmalade:

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For the cupcakes:

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Duncan Hines Classic Yellow cake mix
  • 3 eggs (as called for in the Duncan Hines box)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil (as called for in the Duncan Hines box)
  • 1 cup guava marmalade (to replace the 1 cup water)

Directions:

  1. Beat all ingredients together using a stand mixer on low until incorporated, 30 seconds.
  2. Beat on medium high for another 2 minutes. The batter will be thick and frothy.
  3. For mini cupcakes, bake at the temperature suggested on the box (I think it was 325F), for 13 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  4. For regular cupcakes, bake at the temperature suggested for 20-22 minutes.
  5. Let the cupcakes cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Let cool completely before frosting.

Yield: About 36 mini cupcakes and 12 regular cupcakes.

For the frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened (I left the Philadelphia cream cheese out about 2 hours)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Beat butter and cream cheese on medium high until blended, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the sugar and vanilla, beating on low until incorporated.
  3. Beat another minute or two on medium high until light and whipped.

If you wish, you can add 1-2 T of guava marmalade to make the frosting even tangier and sweeter. The cupcake batter is quite sweet (you could eat it as a Bundt cake alone) so you may want to skip this step. But if you really want to incorporate as much guava flavor as possible into your cupcakes, add the marmalade to the frosting. If the frosting isn’t pink enough, add a bit of red food coloring. The gel coloring blended perfectly in.

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Nectarine-Basil Salad

Nectarines, peaches, apricots…use whatever you like in here. I was already making BBQ chicken with nectarine-basil couscous, so I added a side salad!

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head of Boston lettuce, washed, dried, and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 nectarine, cut into chunks
  • 2 T chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 avocado, cut into small chunks
  • 3 radishes, cut into thin coins
  • 1/4 cucumber, cut into thin coins
  • 2 T slivered almonds
  • 2 T chopped sweet onion

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl. Serve with your favorite light summery dressing. I used an avocado-cilantro one.

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BBQ Chicken Legs with Nectarine-Basil Couscous

I paired this meal with my Nectarine Basil Salad, and the flavors worked well together. The chicken had a great BBQ taste and was very juicy. The couscous recipe was featured in Cooking Light.

As a side note, I’ve been looking for ways to improve this blog. I’m experimenting with photo filters to tackle this photography issue, so we’ll see.

My friend Tiffany of Cherrise’s Jewelry also suggested I list my recipe steps instead of writing them in paragraph form. I can’t believe I never tried doing that before! It simplifies the cooking process, especially when you’ve got one hand stirring a pot and another testing the meat temperature with your thermometer–all you have to do is glance at the next number. See below for the exciting new changes!

For the chicken:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4-1/3 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 5 chicken legs, skin on, rinsed and dried
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400F.
  2. Grab a rimmed baking sheet and line it with two pieces of aluminum foil. The lower layer helps the sheet stay clean and after you’re done baking you can just peel the top layer off and discard.
  3. Spray the top foil sheet with Pam.
  4. Sprinkle the chicken legs with salt and pepper and toss with the BBQ sauce.
  5. Place the chicken legs on the baking sheet. Cover with a third layer of aluminum foil, creating a tent.
  6. Bake the chicken at 400F for 30 minutes. Remove when done. Test the temperature using a meat thermometer. If it’s at 160F, you’re ready to eat!

For the couscous:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup Israeli couscous
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 medium nectarine, cut into small chunks
  • 2 T orange juice (I ran out, so I used chicken broth instead)
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

  1. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan.
  2. Add the couscous and stir. Reduce heat to medium low and cook, covered, 8 minutes, or until water is absorbed.
  3. Uncover and add the chopped basil, nectarine, onion, salt, and orange juice (or broth).

Stir and enjoy!

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Shredded Chicken Tacos with Cilantro Rice

Taco Night—the most wonderful dinner of the week. You can make these with hard shells or with soft burrito flour tortillas. I like Tortilla Land and Old El Paso. Simply toss the tortillas in the skillet for a minute or so until heated through and serve the shredded chicken, cilantro rice, black beans, and a nice lump of guacamole on top. Add in some grilled sweet onions if you wish.

Ingredients:

For the chicken:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • Cumin
  • Taco seasoning
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Lime juice (about half a lime)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4-1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp minced garlic

For the cilantro rice (recipe courtesy of Skinnytaste):

  • 1 cup white basmati rice
  • 3 tsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 3 T chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 cups water
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions:

Marinate the chicken by sprinkling it with salt and pepper on both sides and tossing it with olive oil, lime juice, taco seasoning, and cumin. Heat a skillet to medium high heat and add olive oil and minced garlic. Add the chicken and cook, turning every 4-5 minutes, about 20 minutes or until chicken is browned on each side. Add the chicken broth and let the chicken cook a few more minutes. Remove the chicken from the skillet and shred it with two forks. Add the shredded chicken back to the skillet and toss with the remaining skillet sauce.

Meanwhile, make the rice. Combine the rice, water, salt and 1 tsp vegetable oil in a skillet and heat to boiling. Let the water boil until it has reduced a bit, with the surface skimming the rice. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let cook 15 minutes. Remove from heat and keep it covered for another 5 minutes. Remove the lid and add the other 2 tsp vegetable oil, lime juice, and cilantro. Toss to combine.

For a quick guacamole, mash 1 ripe avocado with about 2 tsp lime juice, salt, pepper, chopped red onions and 1 T chopped fresh cilantro. Stir well and serve with the tacos.

For caramelized onions, heat a skillet to medium high and slice sweet (or red) onions into rounds. Or, slice lengthwise. Toss the onions with olive oil in the skillet and add some salt and pepper. Saute about 15 minutes or until edges have caramelized.

Enjoy!

Here’s the shredded chicken back in the skillet:

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And the rice:

 

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Almond Coconut Cookies (Gluten-free and Butter-free)

For the past 3 years, I’ve been making my husband’s favorite almond cookies, but I’m trying to move away from using butter in his baked goods. Minimalist Baker has a fantastic almond meal cookie recipe that uses no butter! I didn’t have any dark chocolate, so I used a combination of half-milk chocolate and half-semisweet chocolate chips instead. Also, I added 1/4 tsp almond extract to the mix. In my kitchen adventures I have discovered that accidentally adding that amount of almond extract to any cookie batch makes the almond taste stand out much more. My poor KitchenAid mixer was not happy when I combined the dry ingredients with the chocolate chips, so next time I will add the chocolate in at the end. This would also be nice with some crunchy walnuts, pecans, or slivered almonds.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups almond meal (or flour)
  • 1/4 cups chopped dark chocolate (or cacao nibs)–I used 1/8 cup milk chocolate chips and 1/8 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 T coconut oil, melted (zap it in the microwave for 10 seconds if it is solid)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • My addition: 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 egg

Directions:

Combine almond meal, chocolate chips (I will add these at the very end next time, along with any nuts), coconut flakes, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg for a few seconds until light and frothy. Add the melted coconut oil and vanilla and almond extracts. Beat for 30 seconds or 1 minute. Add the dry mix and beat for 1 more minute.

The original recipe suggested the dough be chilled for 30 minutes or overnight, but I was short on time, and I baked them right away. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet 1.5 inches apart. Flatten each dough ball a bit.

Bake until the edges are brown, 7-10 minutes. In my oven it took about 12-13 minutes, but I also made the dough balls a bit larger than 1 inch. The recipe yields 20 cookies, 78 calories per cookie. I ended up with 11.

These were fantastic and will continue to be a presence in our household!

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Balsamic Glazed Chicken Breasts

This recipe comes from Betty Crocker’s website. It’s perfect for a nice celebration dinner, such as an anniversary, or for a quick weeknight meal. Pair it with roasted carrots and a baked potato and you’re all set!

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp chopped garlic
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Note: I split the recipe in half.

Directions:

Combine glaze ingredients: sugar, vinegar, rosemary, and garlic. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken in a preheated skillet on medium heat and cook for 10 minutes, skin side down. Turn chicken and brush half of the glaze over it. Continue cooking for another 10-12 minutes, brushing with the glaze.

Note: I grilled the chicken. The time frame is the same.

I’ll add a picture as soon as I make it again!

Four-Bean Salad

We usually buy a dish called “Bean City” at our local Dorothy Lane market, where you can find everything from freshly-baked “Killer Brownies” to beer to amazing seafood. I tried recreating it at home and gathered ideas from various recipes. Here is my own version of “Bean City” using a vinaigrette recipe from Simply Recipes:

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of beans (three different kinds in one–black beans, navy beans, kidney beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped finely
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 T dried parsley
  • a dash of dried rosemary
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 T olive oil (I used about 2.5)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper

Directions:

In a bowl, combine the beans, celery, onion, and herbs. In a separate bowl, make the vinaigrette: whisk together the vinegar, sugar, oil, salt, and pepper. Toss the vinaigrette with the beans.

Note: To cut down on the pungent smell of the onions, soak them in 1/2 cup of water for a few minutes, then drain and combine with the rest of the ingredients.