February 25, 2012

Baked Eggvocado



Every now and then I find something out in blogland that I just have to try.  Immediately.  This Baked Eggvocado from The Traveling Spoon was one of those finds.  I came across this idea Thursday night while checking out one of my favorite blog hops, stopped at the store on my way home from work Friday to pick up some avocados, and whipped these up for Saturday morning breakfast this morning.  One word - delicious.

Rachel of The Traveling Spoon wasn't so sure she liked the taste of the baked avocado, but I loved it.  It was super creamy, and the runny egg yolk mixed with the creamy warm avocado was a really wonderful flavor combination - even better than I expected.  I see so many possibilities with this method - and will definitely be experimenting.  Wouldn't it be great with some salsa or pico de gallo spooned over it?  Sort of like a baked avocado version of huevos rancheros??  Chipotle?  Parmesan and marinara?  Lots of thoughts ... lots of thoughts for this one.

And I certainly won't relegate this to breakfast.  I see this becoming a regular in my easy-weeknight-dinners rotation. 

All you do to make this Baked Eggvocado is slice an avocado in half and hollow out the center a little bit to make it big enough to hold an egg.  The half on the left in the photo below has been hollowed out.  See how I made it quite a bit bigger than 'the original?'  (I ate the scooped out part straight from the spoon ... kinda like a breakfast appetizer, right?)


Then crack an egg into the hollowed out avocado center.  A little bit of egg white will spill out ... that's okay, no worries.  But, that's why the aluminum foil liner is in the pan ... it'll catch the spilled egg white and keep it from baking onto your pan and having to be scrubbed out later.


Sprinkle each egg with a little salt and pepper (and/or any other seasonings you'd like), and pop the pan in the oven.    The only thing I had to change from Rachel's recipe was the cooking time - my oven took a little longer than the 15 minutes suggested. 

When these little tasty treats come out of the oven, they'll look like this:


Serve them up with some fruit, and you've got one delicious and healthy breakfast! ... or lunch, or brunch, or dinner ...

Oh, yes ... I will be making these again.



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Baked Eggvocado
Source:  Adapted from The Traveling Spoon
Ingredients
1 ripe avocado
2 eggs
Salt & pepper, to taste
Other seasonings, as desired


Directions
1.  Cut avocado in half, remove pit, and scoop out a little bit of the avocado flesh to make a hollow big enough to hold an egg.  Place avocado halves in a small foil-lined baking dish.

2.  Crack an egg into each avocado half (don't worry if a little bit of the egg white spills over).  Sprinkle each egg with salt, pepper, and/or other seasonings, to taste.

3.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes until eggs reach desired doneness.  (I baked mine for 28 minutes.)  Serve warm.

Enjoy!

This post is linked with Fusion Friday hosted by Jennifer Cooks, Strut Your Stuff Saturday hosted by Six Sisters' Stuff, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, Mangia Monday hosted by Shine Your Light, Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Recipe Party Time hosted by The Sweet Spot, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, Creative Juice hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Foodie Friday hosted by Rattlebridge Farm, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence, Just Something I Whipped Up hosted by The Girl Creative, This Week's Cravings hosted by Mom's Crazy Cooking, Gooseberry Patch Recipe Round-Up.

February 23, 2012

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins {a.k.a. 'Puffins'}



I absolutely love, love, love these Chocolate Chip 'Puffins!' (pumpkin + muffins = 'puffins' ... Clever, huh?).  I know I'm posting a pumpkin recipe a bit out of season, but I just couldn't wait until next fall to share these scrumptious muffins with you.  So if you have some 100% pure pumpkin squirreled away in your pantry (like me), or some pumpkin puree in your freezer, dig it on out and give these 'puffins' a try.

I got this recipe from a friend of mine (Jenny, whose hands play the starring role in my Salted Chocolate Cake Pops post).  She made these for an event we had at our school, and I was in complete love after just one bite.  There's just something amazing that happens when the pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and chocolate flavors collide.  It's absolutely heavenly.  I asked for the recipe ... of course!! ... and Jenny was more than happy to oblige.

Onto my "30 for 2012 Project" list the 'puffins' went.  And here they are!

These can be made either as full-sized muffins, or mini muffins like I did here.  Aren't mini muffins, with their little two-bite size, just perfect little nibbles?  For portion-control-challenged me, they are indeed just perfect.

Go ahead - dig out your pumpkin, whip these up, and savor that unexpectedly delicious flavor combo of pumpkin and chocolate.  You'll be so glad you did - even if it isn't 'pumpkin season.'



Chocolate Chip 'Puffins'
Source:  A Friend
Ingredients
1 c. sugar
1 2/3 c. flour
1 T. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
1 c. 100% pumpkin
1 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped pecans


Directions
1.  Combine dry ingredients - sugar, flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt - in a large bowl; stir with a whisk.

2.  Combine wet ingredients - eggs, melted butter, and pumpkin - in a smaller bowl; whisk together.  Add wet ingredients to dry; stir until just combined.  Gently stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

3.  Spoon batter into greased muffin cups.  Bake at 350 degrees.

4.  For full-sized muffins, bake for 20-25 minutes until center springs back when touched.  Makes about 12 muffins.

For mini muffins, bake for about 15 minutes.  Makes approximately 40 mini muffins. 

Enjoy!



This post is linked with Kitchen Fun & Crafty Friday Link Party hosted by Kitchen Fun With My Three Sons, Foodie Friday hosted by Rattlebridge Farm, Friday Favorites hosted by Simply Sweet Home, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence, Weekend Bloggy Reading hosted by Serenity Now, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Strut Your Stuff Saturday hosted by Six Sisters' Stuff, Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by A Well-Seasoned Life, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, A Themed Baker's Sunday hosted by Cupcake Apothecary, Mangia Monday hosted by Shine Your Light, Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Recipe Party Time hosted by The Sweet Spot, Crazy Sweet Tuesday hosted by Crazy for Crust, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, Mrs. Fox's Sweet Party hosted by Mrs. Fox's Sweet, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, Creative Juice hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma.

February 19, 2012

Broccoli & Apple Salad


When I make broccoli salad, I usually make my Mom's broccoli salad - which is probably the version most people are familiar with.  It's got raisins (or craisins), red onion, sunflower seeds, and bacon in it.  And it's delicious.

One night I wanted to make some broccoli salad, but didn't have all the ingredients on hand.  Namely, I was lacking red onion, sunflower seeds, and, well, bacon.  But hey - I had the broccoli!  I turned to the Internet, and quickly found an alternative combination ... this apple version ... for which I had all the ingredients on hand.

I whipped it up for dinner, and was very pleased with the result.  Mark and I both declared it a keeper, and decided we really liked the apple in it.

So, if you have a hankering for broccoli salad and find yourself missing some ingredients ... or just don't feel like frying up some bacon, ... give this apple version a try.  It makes up a really nice and tasty salad.


Apple Broccoli Salad
Source:  Adapted from  Fake Food Free

Ingredients
4 c. broccoli florets, chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 c. chopped unpeeled apple
1/4 c. plan Greek yogurt
2 T. mayonnaise
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
3 tsp. sugar
1/2 c. dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans


Directions
1.  In a medium-sized bowl, combine the broccoli florets, green onions, and chopped apple.

2.  In a small bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, and sugar.  Pour over the broccoli mixture.  Stir to coat.  Stir in the dried cranberries and nuts.

3.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!


This post is linked with The Cure for the Common Monday hosted by Lines Across My Face, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Totally Tasty Tuesday hosted by Mandy's Recipe Box, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Creative Juice Thursday hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Show Off Your Stuff hosted by Fireflies and Jellybeans, Foodie Friday hosted by Rattlebridge Farm, Weekend Bloggy Reading hosted by Serenity Now, Strut Your Stuff Saturday hosted by Six Sisters' Stuff, Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z.

February 15, 2012

Biscoff-Stuffed Cookies {3 ways}


I have a serious crush on Biscoff Spread.  In fact, I might be in love.  Shhhhhh! ... don't tell my husband!

Seriously, if you haven't tried this stuff, you should.  I was introduced to it back in July during a demonstration cooking class I attended (click to read my Biscoff Spread introductory post).  It's made from Biscoff cookies, all smashed up with some brown sugar and other stuff to make a spread that resembles peanut butter ... resembles it in looks and consistency, but certainly not in taste.

I have to admit that the majority of my Biscoff Spread consumption has been straight out the jar on a spoon, spread on marshmallows, or spread on a banana (just ate a Biscoff-smothered banana while starting to write this post!).  I haven't experimented much with baking with it.  Why?  Because, until very recently, Biscoff Spread wasn't carried in my local grocery stores.  I could only get it at a specialty food shop about an hour from my house ... and at $10.99 for a 14 ounce jar, I wasn't much inclined to experimentation.  I didn't want to risk any of it on a potential baking flop!  I'm happy to say that one of my local grocery stores now carries it.  And at about $4 per jar and only an 8 minute drive, I think I'll be more open to experimentation.  Oh, the possibilities!

The one experimental leap of faith I did take with my $10.99-per-jar supply was these Biscoff-Stuffed Cookies, from Picky Palate's Biscoff Stuffed White Chocolate Chip Cookies.  I'm not a huge fan of white chocolate, so I decided to make half the batch with semi-sweet chocolate chips and then compare the two versions.  But then ... then! ... I got the idea to try out a S'mores version.  Hmmmmm, add in a few mini marshmallows with the semi-sweet chocolate chips, and you've got a S'mores option.  So, game on with a three-way head-to-head competition.

I whipped up one batch of the base dough and divided it into three equal portions ... white chocolate chips in one bowl, and semi-sweet chocolate chips in the other two, setting up my 'test conditions.'


Then, following Picky Palate's method, I dropped big scoops of dough on a baking sheet ...


... formed a well in the center of each, using my thumb ...


... filled the well with a dollop of Biscoff Spread, ...

... and then topped each soon-to-be-cookie with another big scoop of dough.  (These end up being HUGE cookies, by the way!)

Next, I gently pressed down on each cookie to flatten it just a bit.  Check out all that oozy Biscoff Spread!  No worries ... that's how it's supposed to be.


I baked the beauties up, and they turned into these gorgeous golden cookies edged with ooey-gooey Biscoff.

For the S'mores version, follow the exact same method, but sprinkle some mini marshmallows on top of the Biscoff.  I put on four mini marshmallows, but will put six or eight next time.

Squish on the top dough, just like before ...


... and bake.  Now not only do you get ooey-gooey Biscoff Spread on the edges, but melty marshmallows too.  Total yum.

You probably want to know which version I liked best, right?  Well ... I liked them all.  But I did like one best.  S'mores.  I'm a S'mores freak.  Love 'em, no matter what the form.

So, if you're up for some Biscoff Spread experimentation, give these cookies a whirl.  Do keep in mind, these are JUMBO cookies!  If you're not ready for experimentation, I highly recommend a good ol' Biscoff Spread-smothered banana.  Total deeee-lish.


Biscoff-Stuffed Cookies {White Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip, or S'mores versions}

Ingredients
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 T. vanilla extract
4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. white chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate chips
About 1 c. Biscoff Spread
Mini marshmallows (for S'mores version only)


Directions
1.  With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla extract; beat until well combined.

2.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, a little at a time, mixing until just combined after each addition.  Gently fold in white chocolate chips OR semi-sweet chocolate chips, depending on the cookie version you're making.

3.  Scoop cookie dough onto baking sheets, scooping about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons for each cookie, and placing scoops at least an inch apart.  (I use a 1 1/2 T. cookie scoop to make this step really easy and to form consistently-sized cookies.)  

4.  Using your thumb, gently press into each cookie to form a small well.  Place a heaping teaspoon of Biscoff Spread into the well of each cookie.  If making the S'mores version, sprinkle 6 or 8 mini marshmallows on top of the Biscoff Spread.  

5.  Place another 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop of cookie dough on top of the Biscoff Spread; press down gently.  Don't worry if some of the Biscoff Spread is showing or squishing out of the edges.

6.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until edges are just turning golden brown.  Let cool for about 10 minutes on the baking sheet.  Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Makes about two dozen large cookies.

Enjoy!



This post is linked with Creative Juice Thursday hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence, Foodie Friday hosted by Rattlebridge Farm, Weekend Bloggy Reading hosted by Serenity Now, Strut Your Stuff Saturday hosted by Six Sisters' Stuff, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, The Cure for the Common Monday hosted by Lines Across My Face, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Totally Tasty Tuesday hosted by Mandy's Recipe Box, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks.

February 11, 2012

Clam Chowder with Greens {a lighter NE Clam Chowder option}


The thick and creamy goodness of New England style clam chowder, chock full of clams, cream, and tender potatoes ... it's one of my favorites.  But, I felt it necessary to find a lower-fat, lower-carb, healthier version to make at home that didn't induce the usual post-bowl guilt I felt after indulging in it's rich yumminess.

Still, it was difficult for me to let go of the traditional.  I did grow up in New England, after all.  When I came across a recipe packing in greens and boasting lower calories and carbs, I was skeptical, but tried to hold on to a chowder-open mind.  Replace the traditional potatoes with leafy greens??  Really???  Though skeptical, I was intrigued.

So, figuring the worst that could happen was a wasted pot of chowder, I took the plunge and cooked up a batch.  Well guess what?  This is now my go-to Clam Chowder.  No wasted pot of chowder here.  While it's not quite as thick as the traditional fare, it's got great flavor and a healthy kick from the greens.

Healthy greens like these turnip and mustard greens ...

... chopped up and cooked up with a whole mess of clams, half-and-half, and turkey bacon.


Serve up a bowl with some whole-grain bread, and you've got yourself a hearty meal with all the creamy goodness of New England Clam Chowder ... and minus the guilt.


Clam Chowder with Greens
Source:  Adapted from Prevention Healthy Cooking's Lose Weight the Smart Low-Carb Way

Ingredients
1/4 lb. (about 5 slices) turkey bacon
1 T. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 T. flour
4 c. (about 12 oz.) chopped turnip or other greens
2 (14 1/2 oz.) cans chicken broth
3 (10 oz.) cans chopped clams, juice reserved
1 c. milk or half-and-half
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Directions
1.  Drain clams, reserving the juice.

2.  Chop bacon; cook in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until crisp.  Drain on a paper towel and set aside.

3.  Add olive oil to the same pan, and then add onion and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 8-10 minutes.  Add flour and cook and stir about 1 minute, coating onions with the flour.  Add chopped greens and cook about 2 minutes. 

4.  Stir in chicken broth and reserved clam juice.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes.  

5.  Stir in milk or half-and-half and heat through.  Stir in black pepper, clams, and turkey bacon; cook for 1-2 minutes more.

Note:  I usually use a combination of turnip greens and mustard greens.

Enjoy!




This post is linked with Strut Your Stuff Saturday hosted by Six Sisters' Stuff, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Totally Tasty Tuesdays hosted by Mandy's Recipe Box, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, Foodie Friday hosted by Rattlebridge Farm.

February 7, 2012

Chocolate Root Beer Float Cake {Crazy Cooking Challenge}


My, how a month flies by!  That's right ... it's Crazy Cooking Challenge time!  This month's challenge - CHOCOLATE CAKE.  Pretty appropriate for the week before Valentine's Day, wouldn't you say?

The rules - Must be cake.  Must be chocolate.  No cupcakes.  No mini cakes.  Recipe must be found in blogland.  Anything else goes.  My, oh, my ... my head was spinning with all the options!  But, with a brand-spankin'-new bundt pan I got for Christmas, I imposed the rule upon myself that my cake had to be a bundt cake.  This month's challenge served up the perfect opportunity for me to give my new bundt its inaugural run.

Off chocolate cake a-searchin' I went.  I narrowed it down to three ... Chocolate Guinness Stout Cake, Red Wine Chocolate Cake, and Root Beer Cake ... and had a really tough time choosing my final contender.  I so wanted to make all three!  The choice came down to what I planned to do with the cake itself.  See, I planned to offload share the cake with my teacher friends at school.  I didn't think it would be a great idea to have a cake sitting there where all 750 of our students walk by to get their lunch with a big ol' sign saying "Guinness Stout Cake" or "Red Wine Cake."  Probably not the most appropriate words for wee ones' eyes.

So, this Root Beer Cake I found at One Apron became my choice.  I decided to "rename" it Chocolate Root Beer Float Cake because of the way the light-colored root beer glaze on top makes me think of the vanilla-ice-cream-foam on the top of an actual root beer float.  Pretty, isn't it?



The root beer flavor in this cake is definitely "there," but it's not overpowering.  It's a nice balance of the chocolate and root beer tastes, that still allows both to come through.  That being said, if you're truly not a fan of root beer, this cake is probably not for you.

Begin your cake batter by melting some semi-sweet chocolate and butter together with sugar and root beer.  Mmmmmmm ... sounds good already.

Let this cool in a mixing bowl ...



... and then add your dry ingredients.



Bake it up in a bundt pan.  Once it's out of the oven, immediately poke holes in the cake ...



... and pour on some root beer.



Take a deep breath, say a little prayer that your cake won't stick in the pan, and then turn the cake out ...



Whew!!!!  Success.

Cool the cake completely and then drizzle with root beer glaze. 


Just look at those rootbeer glaze pools that form as it trickles down the cake.  Yum.



And there you have it.  Gorgeous and tasty Chocolate Root Beer Float Cake to offload on share with your friends!



Chocolate Root Beer Float Cake
Source: Adapted from One Apron, as adapted from Food Network Magazine
Ingredients
Cake:
1 stick unsalted butter
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 1/4 c. root beer, divided (total, this recipe uses just shy of two 12 oz. bottles or cans of root beer)
1 c. cocoa powder
2 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs, beaten

Glaze:
2 1/2 c. confectioner's sugar
1/4 c. root beer
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 to 2 T. warm water, if needed


Directions
1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter and flour (or spray generously with cooking spray) a 12-cup bundt pan or 2 loaf pans.  Tap out any excess flour.

2.  Heat 2 cups of root beer, cocoa powder, chopped chocolate, and the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts.  Add the granulated and brown sugars; whisk until dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool.

3.  Combine flour, baking soda, and the 1 teaspoon salt.  Whisk the beaten eggs into the cooled root beer mixture, then gently fold in the dry ingredients.  The batter will be slightly lumpy.

4.  Pour batter into the prepared pan(s).  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes to one hour (mine took 50 minutes).

5.  When cake first comes out of the oven, gently poke the cake all over with a skewer or chopstick.  Pour 1/4 cup root beer over the cake.

6.  Let cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then invert the cake onto a serving plate and let cool completely.

7.  Once cake is cooled, make the glaze.  Whisk together the root beer, vanilla, confectioner's sugar, and pinch of salt.  Check consistency of glaze, and add warm water, a very small amount at a time, if needed to make a consistency for drizzling.  Drizzle over cake.

Enjoy!



Photobucket

This post is linked with Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Mrs. Fox's Sweet Party hosted by Mrs. Fox's Sweets, Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Foodie Friday hosted by Rattlebridge Farm, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence, Weekend Bloggy Reading hosted by Serenity Now, Friday Favorites hosted by Simply Sweet Home, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Strut Your Stuff Saturday hosted by Six Sisters' Stuff, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by A Well-Seasoned Life, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Crazy Sweet Tuesday hosted by Crazy for Crust, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Totally Tasty Tuesdays hosted by Mandy's Recipe Box, Show Off Your Stuff hosted by Fireflies and Jellybeans.









February 6, 2012

1st Blogiversary! ... & Barefoot Contessa's Coconut Cupcakes to Celebrate


Today is The Kitchen is My Playground's 1st blogiversary.  Wow, what a year it's been!  I thought it would be fitting, on this day, to share with you the story of how The Kitchen is My Playground came to be.

It all started with a snowstorm.

As have several big changes in my life.  For example, that's how I ended up moving to North Carolina.  See ... I had every intention of moving back to Vermont after finishing graduate school in upstate New York.  Then it snowed.  In late March.  Enough to completely bury my car so it wasn't even a slight bump in the vast sea of white.  In very.  Late.  March.  Now I live in North Carolina.

I guess snowstorms make me think.  Or give me time to think, perhaps.  That's probably more the case.  Plans and normal routines get put on hold.  And there's time.  Time to do what you weren't planning to do.  During one such snowstorm late last January, this was the case for me.

Trapped in my house by a freakishly big storm for North Carolina (that led to school being cancelled for a week, mind you), I watched the movie "Julie & Julia" - you know, the one about a woman named Julie who decides to cook her way through Julia Child's cookbook and start a blog about it?  Well, I had just published a family cookbook and given it as a Christmas present to all the ladies in my family.  Inspired by Julie, I decided I should cook my way through my own family's cookbook (though not as ambitiously as Julie, who only gave herself a year!). 

To get myself started, I made a list of recipes to get to during 2011 (my "50 for 2011" list) and shared it out with my Facebook friends.  They then, in turn, requested updates and that the recipes be shared as I worked through them.  I tried sharing the first couple of recipes (that very same week - yes, quick turn-around, but remember school was canceled for a week and I was bound to my house), and, well ... decided perhaps a blog would be a better way.  I mentioned the idea to a few friends, and they whole-heartedly encouraged me to start a blog.  I wasn't yet convinced.

On the evening of February 5th, 2011, while watching TV with my husband, I decided to just poke around Blogger for a bit and explore these things called blogs.  I clicked a few design buttons ... thought, hmmmm, I might be able to figure this out ... thought, I wonder what this button does?  Thought, what would I call my blog?

Around 10:00, my husband Mark said goodnight.  I replied, "I'm going to play around with this blog stuff just a little bit more.  I'll be up soon."  At about 3:00 in the morning of February 6th, The Kitchen is My Playground was born.  The inaugural post? ... "50 Recipes for 2011" Project - I better get cooking!

Now, though I haven't done very well working through my "50 Recipes for 2011" project list, I've had tons of fun taking on many other cooking adventures throughout The Kitchen is My Playground's first year.  I've had tons of fun ... and, sometimes, a bit of frustration (especially with the photography part!!) ... trying to figure out this adventure called blogging.  I've had tons of fun 'meeting' readers and other bloggers.  Thank you so very much for reading my little space in blogland.  And thank you for all your wonderful comments.  I truly read and appreciate each and every one, and treasure them like gifts.  I'm excited to see what adventures The Kitchen is My Playground's second year holds!

Now, let's celebrate The Kitchen is My Playground's first blogiversary with cupcakes!  Barefoot Contessa's Coconut Cupcakes, to be exact.

These are a moist, decadently rich, and deliciously coconutty cupcake selected from my "30 Recipes for 2012" Project. Loaded with butter and sugar, I wouldn't consider them to be "everyday cupcakes" ... I would save them for more of a special occasion. I thought my 1st blogiversay was just such the perfect special occasion! And oh. my. goodness. - these are so good. A great selection for my celebration!  I love that there's coconut both in the batter itself and on the top of the frosting.  Yum, yum, yummy.  And the hint of almond extract gives these a fabulous flavor. 

So, if you've got a special occasion coming up or just feel like indulging in some coconut deliciousness, I highly recommend giving these beauties a whirl.  Thank you for joining me on my blogiversary!



Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Source: Adapted from  The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten

Ingredients
Cupcakes:
3/4 lb. (3 sticks) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 c. sugar
5 eggs (at room temperature)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk
14 oz. package sweetened shredded coconut, divided

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 lb. cream cheese (at room temperature)
3/4 lb. (3 sticks) unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 lbs. confectioner's sugar


Directions
Prepare the Cupcakes:
1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line two muffin pans with paper liners.

2.  With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.  Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

3.  Fill each cupcake paper about 3/4 full with batter.  Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until the tops are light brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely.

Prepare the Frosting:
4.  With an electric mixer, blend together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts.  Add the confectioner's sugar and mix until smooth.

5.  Frost each cupcake generously with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle with the remaining 7 ounces of coconut.

Enjoy!

This post is linked with Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Totally Tasty Tuesdays hosted by Mandy's Recipe Box, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Crazy Sweet Tuesday hosted by Crazy for Crust, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Mrs. Fox's Sweet Party hosted by Mrs. Fox's Sweets, Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Foodie Friday hosted by Rattlebridge Farm, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence, Weekend Bloggy Reading hosted by Serenity Now, Friday Favorites hosted by Simply Sweet Home, Friday Food hosted by Mom Trends, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, A Themed Bakers' Sunday hosted by Cupcake Apothecary.

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