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Healthy Hostess Cupcakes {healthy post monday} …

When the news broke that the company, Hostess, was no more, my hubs and I were both very sad. I was sad for the 120+ employees in Tulsa and the thousands more across the country who lost their jobs right before the holidays.  My hubs was sad he can no longer sneak off to the convenient store to buy a Dr. Pepper and Hostess cupcake, only to leave the wrapper as evidence in his floor board for me to find later. :)

For his birthday, I decided to make a healthy version of his favorite chocolate treat from one of my favorite cookbooks, Gluten Free Cupcakes, by Elana Amsterdam. We shared them with my family who met us at a restaurant to celebrate. These cupcakes got raving reviews as the best gluten free cupcakes I’ve made to date! Here is Elana’s recipe that I tweaked just a tiny bit. 

CREAM-FILLED CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES {healthy ‘Hostess’ cupcakes}

BATTER

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 large eggs

1/4 cup grapeseed oil

1/2 cup agave nectar (I used local honey)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 9 muffin cups with paper liners.

To make the batter, in a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Blend the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a mixer until thoroughly combined. 

Scoop 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Let the cupcakes cool in pan for 1 hour.

MERINGUE FROSTING

1/4 cup agave nectar (I used local honey)

2 egg whites

In a small saucpan over medium heat, bring agave nectar to a boil, stiring constantly. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 6 to 10 minutes, watching constantly and stirring occasionally, until the agave nectar darkens slightly. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a deep bowl, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks using a mixer.  Stop whipping as soon as the egg whites are stiff. The foam of the whites willl be stiff enough to stand up in well-defined, unwavering peaks. 

Drizzle the warm agave nectar very slowly into the egg whites while whipping with a mixer, to keep the peak stiff. The meringue will become pearlescent and shiny.  Allow to cool to room temperature, then use right away.

CHOCOLATE GANACHE

3/4 cups heavy whipping cream

8 ounces dark chocoalte chips (74% cacao)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt

In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil then immediately remove it from the heat. Stir in the chocolate until it is melted and smooth, then stir in the vanilla and salt. 

Let the ganache stand at room temperature for 5 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator and chill until the ganache thickens and becomes shiny and spreadable.  This could take 10 to 30 minutes. Use immediately.

{Here is where I diverted from Elana’s instructions. I had about 5 minutes to fill and frost the cupcakes before running out the door to meet my family at a restaurant. And please excuse the terrible quality of the photos}.

Using a paring knife, carve out a small hole in the top of each cupcake.  Save the pieces to reseal after frosting each cupcake. 

Fill a pastry bag with the Meringue Frosting. Insert the tip of the pastry bag into the cupcake cavities and squeeze to fill. Seal the cupcakes with the carved pieces.

Frost the cupcakes with the Chocolate Ganache to a smooth finish, then decorate with the remaining Meringue Frosting, making curly-Q’s across the top of each cupcake. Serve immediately.

 

The ganache was very runny because I didn’t have time to let the cupcakes cool or to let the ganache thicken in the refrigerator long enough. But it did not affect the taste. :)

Excited to eat her Daddy’s birthday cupcakes …

He is serious about his cupcakes …

Funny story, so as my family was devouring these cupcakes at the restaurant, my brother-in-law asked my hubs across the table, “so when was the last time you had one of these from the store?” With eyes bigger than normal, my hubs said through the side of his mouth, “can we discuss this later?” Catching on to some secret he was trying to hide, I blurted out to my hubs, “have you been buying more of these at the gas station??” Totally busted, my hubs proceeds to tell everyone at the table how his sweet, caring office assistant brought him A CASE of Hostess cupcakes from Sam’s that day for his birthday. He admitted he MIGHT have had one, two, or more that day at work. But he was quick to assure me mine were a thousand times better. I was quick to assure him mine were a thousand times healthier too. He could have as many of my cupcakes as he wanted guilt-free. Busted. :)

Elana has an amazing website you can view here. All her awesome recipes are gluten free and grain free. Many are dairy free as well. I use her other cookbook, The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook” all the time.  If you are more of a Twinkie fan than a Hostess Cupcake fan, check this recipe out. You won’t be disappointed. :)

GLUTEN FREE VEGAN CHOCOLATE PARTY {healthy post monday} …

Chocolate cupcakes and frosting … two of my favorite treats. I had the honor and privilege of “catering” for a friend last week and these two treats stole the show.  And when I say “catering,” I mean it in a very loose sense of the word. I have only done things like this for my family, and she is a good friend, so that’s close to family, right?  She asked me to do a “Chocolate Bar” dessert table for a customer appreciation event at her awesome store, that I love. Well, being the weirdo health nut that I am, I couldn’t just make the regular old traditional cupcakes and other non-healthy chocolate treats. I’m a girl of conviction and just couldn’t bring myself to make stuff I wouldn’t or couldn’t eat. So I did a little research on my new fav food blog, Chocolate Covered Katie, and decided on Vegan Chocolate Frosting Shots and Healthy “Hostess-Style” Gluten Free Cupcakes. They were both delish!
Introducing … Chocolate Frosting Shots! These have only 4 ingredients & are much healthier than the famous version at Sprinkles Cupcakes in Beverly Hills and New York City (& several other locations).
This is how I feel when I get to eat Chocolate Frosting Shots …
This is how I feel when I have to wait to eat my Chocolate Frosting Shots …
and wait … 
and wait …
and wait … boy my mom sure takes a lot of pictures!
Yes! Finally …
It was worth the wait!
Little dude doesn’t wait too well. These photos happened in a matter of seconds …
I think he likes it. I think he needs a hair cut too.
And here are the teeny, tiny, miniature-sized “Hostess-Style” Gluten Free Cupcakes. This is after they were piped full of the cream filling and before the warm, chocolatey glaze was poured on top …
Aren’t they so cute?? I think it’s the swirls …
And here are my little delicious creations getting ready to be gobbled up by a crowd of customers. I made 38 each. Only 2 were left.
The recipe for the Frosting Shots can be found here. I used Agave Nectar instead of Stevia or regular sugar. I actually made two small batches: one with Agave Nectar and one with powdered sugar and had my hubs do a taste test. He chose the one with Agave! I was so happy.  
The recipe for the Healthy “Hostess-Style” Gluten Free Cupcakes can be found here. I substituted the flour for a Gluten Free mixture of equal parts coconut flour, tapioca flour & white rice flour. For every three cups of this GF flour mixture, I add 1 tsp of xantham gum (what makes the texture not crumbly or gummy). I also used Sucanant instead of Stevia or regular sugar. Sucanat is a raw form of sugar and more healthy for the body to process. Sure makes eating yummy treats more fun when you know they are more healthy for you!

FAST FOOD & ICE CREAM {healthy post monday} …

Some days you just gotta have fast food. Something quick. Something easy. I admit, I think back on the quick and easy days of running through the drive-through at Taco Bueno, Sonic, & Arby’s, but I’m quickly reminded of the repercussions of that dietary lifestyle and the consequences that it meant for our family. We pretty much left that lifestyle behind about 4 1/2 years ago. You can read more about that here.

So one day last week, when I was super duper tired, and low on groceries, I scrounged around the pantry and freezer and found my new favorite fast food dinner  … Amy’s Organic Gluten Free Soups and frozen green veggies.

I threw the greens in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil and sautéed them with a little salt and pepper on Medium/High heat until they were golden brown. Because they were frozen, I kept the lid on for a bit to defrost them, then removed the lid so the veggies would caramelize and get slightly crispy, just the way we like them.

Quick Tip: I cut the Brussels sprouts in half and lay them face down. When they begin to caramelize, I flip them over & sauté them for a few more mintues.

Did you know there really is such a thing as “Super Greens?” They are like the most potent, nutrient dense vegetables we can consume. Okra, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are just a few on the Super Green food list. I try to give them daily to my kids.  

My kids gobbled up all the greens. “More brussels sprouts please, Mommy!” is music to my ears! And my boy pretty much ate the entire can of Black Bean soup by himself.

He loves black beans. Why use a spoon when fingers get the job done faster?

For dessert, I decided to try this recipe from my new favorite healthy food inspiration & resource, Chocolate Covered Katie. It is actually a healthy, vegan blog that has amazing simple and easy recipes. We had some raw goat’s milk that needed to be consumed, so I chose to make ice cream. You can read why we drink goat’s milk here. Of course my ice cream wasn’t vegan, but it was super duper healthy, especially being raw.

Taste test … passed! The next day, my girl decided she wanted pink ice cream. So we made a second batch and added a little natural food coloring. Strawberries would have been pretty too. I want to experiment making natural food coloring myself. 

I decided to doctor mine up with a little of this yummy, healthy chocolate sauce.

It hardened like the Dairy Queen dip cone chocolate shell when poured over the ice cream. But it was way healthier!

Yummmeeeeee. Fast food & ice cream … now that’s healthy.

HEALTHY POST MONDAY {gluten free dinner party & dessert table} …

Friday night Matt & I hosted a dinner party for his youth worker volunteers at church. They dedicate their time & energy every week to invest in the lives of teenagers. They are the hands and feet of Matt’s ministry.  He could not do what he does without them. This year, I really wanted to demonstrate how much I appreciate them and love them. So I volunteered to prepare the meal and dessert for our annual Christmas party. Fortunately, someone else volunteered her beautiful home and Matt’s amazing assistant prepared the salad and one of our casseroles. I also recruited help from the sweetest (and cutest!) 22 year old on the planet. She stayed 12 hours at my house the day before to help me prepare! She can dip a gorgeous cake pop and is a budding sugar cookie artist. Bakerella, beware!

I am so inspired by talented professional events stylists such as Amy AtlasOne Stone Events, and Two Prince Bakery Theatre.  Elissa at One Stone and Dorangela at Two Prince Bakery are two awesome ladies that have actually helped me personally online! Dorangela styles beautiful allergen-free parties and Elissa gave me ALL my ideas for my boy’s first birthday party. Someday I will get around to posting those pictures. I’m so thankful for generous, talented people who share their tips with the creatively-challenged like me! This is my feeble attempt to recreate one of their dessert tables.  I designed and made all the graphics/printables including the water bottle and candy bar wrappers. It was very easy with the software sbcStudio on my Mac using theHollidazzle Digital Kit. I had them printed here.  The software Storybook Creator 4.0for PC will do the same thing and has the same digital kit available.

ALL the food was gluten free, due to two other guests and myself adhering to a gluten free diet. Unless they were just being polite, I don’t think any of the guests could tell! I was so glad they thought it was all yummy.  Our dinner menu consisted of King’s Ranch Chicken, Chicken Spagetti, Green Noodle Chicken, Winter salad, and Cranberry Punch. Our dinner menu consisted of Coconut Marshmallow Cream Cake, Whoopie Pies (my fav!), Snowflake Sugar Cookies, Chocolate Cake Pops, Homemade Rasberry Marshmallows, and chocolate bar favors.

Cooking gluten free is not as hard as people may think.  You just have to be educated about what you can and cannot eat and know how to read labels.  There are so many alternatives to ingredients with wheat.  I just substitute them for a wheat product.  For the casseroles, I used Quinoa pasta and Rice Pasta and used gluten free Cream of Mushroom Soup I found at the health food store.  Quinoa is a really healthy grain full of protein.  One recipe called for flour and I just substituted rice flour instead of enriched bleached wheat flour.  Gluten free baking is a different story.  For the most part, I would say a good cookbook is the key to successful GF baking.  Buying generic mixes has not proved successful for me yet, with the exception of Pamela’s gluten free mixes.  Most of my dessert recipes came from Easy Gluten Free Baking andGluten Free Cooking for Dummies. The homemade marshmallows are found on Martha Stewart’s website here. I used natural and chemical free food coloring and Agave Nectar in place of corn syrup in this recipe to make it healthier and sprinkled organic peppermint crushed candy canes on the mallows and the pops. The mallows literally melt in your mouth.

And yes, that would be Matt sporting the lovely, ugly Christmas sweater.