healthier chocolate muffins


Today I woke up with a craving for chocolate.  I know, shocking.  But instead of grabbing a cupcake from the refrigerator (there are ALWAYS cupcakes in the fridge), I decided to make some muffins.  I wanted it to be healthy-ish, but I also didn’t want something too dense or packed with oats or wheat germ.  A few simple substitutions later, and I was left with a one bowl, no butter, no granulated sugar recipe that was quick and delicious.  The muffins were moist and soft, with a crispy muffin top, just like it’s supposed to be.  I added some mini chocolate chips because there’s nothing better than a warm muffin and those melted pieces of chocolate in each bite, but you can certainly leave them out to make them even healthier.

I’m now writing this post outside on my deck on a beautiful sunny morning, on the unofficial start of the summer.  I’ve got my dog laying down next to me, a warm muffin to my left, and a small cup of iced coffee to my right.  What more could you want?!

Healthier Chocolate Muffins
(Makes 6 jumbo muffins)

1/2 cup maple syrup
3/8 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup vanilla (or plain) yogurt
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 egg
3/8 cup milk
1 1/2 tbsp espresso (or strongly brewed) coffee
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (plus more to top each muffin)

Preheat over to 375F.  Line a standard jumbo muffin pan with liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, coconut oil, yogurt, vanilla extract, egg, milk, and coffee.  Once combined, add the baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.  Whisk until combined.  Add the flour and whisk until combined again.  With a spatula, fold in mini chocolate chips.

Fill each muffin liner almost to the top, a little more than 2/3 full.  You want the muffins to rise enough so that they develop that “muffin top” shape.  Top each muffin with a few (or ten if you’re like me) mini chocolate chips.  Bake for 20-21 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

– bake on,



homemade peanut butter cups


A couple weekends ago, my amazing mom surprised me with the cutest little gift from Le Creuset.  It was these mini heart-shaped silicone baking cups.  I knew I had to use them immediately, and for some reason, I instantly thought of using them to make peanut butter cups.  I thought the size would be perfect, not to mention I knew the silicone material would lend perfectly to removing them from the cups once they were completed and ready to be eaten.  Plus, I’ve always loved the store-bought peanut butter cups, but I couldn’t help but think that I could recreate them on my own, and with a lot less (bad) ingredients than what the store-bought kind has.

So this weekend, I played around with a few different ingredients and in no time, I ended up with the perfect peanut butter cups.  In a few simple steps and with a little patience, I had a giant batch of these ready to be eaten.  Complete with a smooth creamy peanut butter center that melts in your mouth.  Coated in a hard milk chocolate outer shell that sweetens it all up.  And so itty bitty that there’s zero shame in popping these like they’re M&Ms.   I couldn’t help and sneak one as dessert after every. single. meal.

Peanut Butter Cups
(Makes 24 candy cups)

2 cups milk chocolate chips
1 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

In a double boiler (my personal preference), or in the microwave in 30-second increments, melt the chocolate.  Using a small pastry brush, brush a thin even coating on the inside of each candy cup, being sure not to leave any paper exposed on the inside.  Freeze for 10 minutes.

While the cups are in the freezer, prepare the filling; in the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the confectioners sugar, peanut butter, and butter until smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a large opening (about 1/2″ diameter).  Pipe the mixture into the frozen cups to about 1/8″ from the top.  Smooth with an icing spatula.

Transfer the remaining melted chocolate to another piping bag with a small opening (about 1/4″ diameter).  Pipe the chocolate onto the tops of the cups to the rim.  Smooth with another icing spatula and return to the freezer for another 10 minutes.

Once completely frozen, remove the paper cups from each peanut butter cup.  The colder the cups are, the easier (and less messy!) it will be to remove the paper.  Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator.

– chocolate on,


slow cooker garlic chicken thighs


I jumped on the slow cooker train way too late.  Even when I actually had one in my small kitchen, I kept it in the box because there just wasn’t any room for it.  So this year, when K and I moved into our new townhouse, which had a kitchen about double the size of our old kitchen, I couldn’t wait to give the slow cooker a try.

Since then, the slow cooker gets used about once a week.  Our regulars are pulled pork, chili, and of course, these garlic chicken thighs.  I love this chicken dish (and generally any slow cooker dish) because I can put everything in the slow cooker (even if the chicken is still frozen) and voila! 8 hours later, I have a stunning, juicy yet crispy chicken dish.

Slow Cooker Garlic Chicken Thighs
(Makes 2 servings)

4 chicken thighs, skin on and patted dry
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup white wine such as Chardonnay
1/3 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together the wine and flour until no lumps remain.  Set aside.

Add the onion and garlic to the slow cooker and season with salt and pepper.  Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and add to the slow cooker, skin side up.  Pour the wine mixture on top of the chicken.

Cover and cook for 4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low.

Transfer 2 cups of the sauce from the slow cooker to a small saucepan over medium heat.  Allow to simmer and reduce to about half the volume.  Set aside.

Serve the chicken thighs over couscous with some of the reduced sauce.

slow cook on,


st. patrick’s day: Guinness and Bailey’s chocolate cupcakes


I’m not Irish, and I’m not a huge fan of Guinness beer, but when I woke up this morning and saw that it was st. patrick’s day, I knew that it was time to put together these boozy cupcakes.  As you’ve seen in the past with my boozy bailey’s milkshakes, I am a lover of anything bailey’s.  So I did not hold back with this recipe.  Because the only thing better than homemade ganache, is homemade ganache with bailey’s mixed in.

All things aside, I made this recipe because I love chocolate, I love bailey’s, and I love an excuse to make a cupcake for friends and family.  So to all those celebrating the holiday and having an extra drink (or two!), I hope you enjoy the day and don’t be afraid to give this recipe a try!

Guinness and Bailey’s Chocolate Cupcakes
(Makes 12 cupcakes)

For the Guinness chocolate cupcakes:

1/2 cup Guinness beer
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/8 cup cocoa powder
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup sour cream

For the Bailey’s chocolate ganache:

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup (about 6 oz) milk chocolate chips
2 tsp Bailey’s Irish Cream

For the Bailey’s buttercream frosting:

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tbsp Bailey’s Irish Cream

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line your cupcake pan with liners.

Prepare the batter; in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the beer and butter.  Stir in the cocoa powder and mix until smooth.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg, sugar, and sour cream.  Add the beer mixture to the wet ingredients and mix.  Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until incorporated.

Next, prepare the ganache;  in a small saucepan on medium heat, bring the heavy cream to a simmer.  Pour the hot cream over a medium bowl containing the chocolate.  Whisk together for 2-3 minutes, or until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated with the cream.  Add the Bailey’s and mix until uniform again.

Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full and bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool slightly and using a cupcake corer or teaspoon, remove a small amount of cake from the center of each cupcake.  Fill each hole with ganache to the rim, about 2 tsp worth.

While the cupcakes are in the oven, prepare the frosting; in the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter until smooth and creamy.  Slowly add the confectioners sugar and mix until incorporated.  Add the Bailey’s and mix until smooth.  If consistency appears to be too thick, add more Bailey’s 1 tsp at a time.  If consistency appears to be too thin, add more confectioners sugar.  Frost the cupcakes however you’d like, and drizzle with any remaining chocolate ganache!

cupcake on,


Za’atar crusted Chicken

_dsc0004Growing up in Israel, Za’atar was a staple at our house.  Za’atar is a spice mix made from thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, and sumac (along with a few more mix ins) and is typically sprinkled over hummus or on bread. A few months ago, I was ecstatic to find Za’atar on Amazon – it was an authentic mix, imported from the middle east – in one pound bags.  Needless to say, I was looking for some other ways to use the mix aside from when snacking with some hummus.

This recipe is so so easy.  And as a busy mom, I’m always looking for the flexibility that this recipe provides.  Aside from searing the chicken, everything else is cooked together in one pan, and the whole recipe requires about 10 minutes of hands-on time.  This is something I can prep ahead of time and let it cook while I bathe and feed my son.

Za’atar crusted Chicken
(serves 2-3)

1 lb boneless chicken thighs
2 medium potatoes, cut into 2 inch cubes
1 sweet potato, cut into 2 inch cubes or slices
1-2 carrots, cut to 1/2 inch thick slices
1 turnip, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
3 tbs Za’atar
1/2 tbs lemon juice
3 tbs olive oil

Set oven to 375 degrees.  Coat both sides of the chicken with 2 tbs Za’atar seasoning and sprinkle with lemon juice.  In a saute pan with 1 tbs olive oil and under medium heat, sear the chicken for about 45 seconds on each side.  In a pyrex pan, lay all the vegetables and sprinkle with the rest of the zaátar seasining and olive oil and mix to evenly coat.  Place seared chicken on top of vegetables, cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes, until vegetables are soft and chicken is cooked thoroughly.


Cook on,
– shirley


back to basics: strawberry sauce


I know it’s not strawberry season, but for some reason when I walked through Whole Foods this weekend and saw the cartons of strawberries, I couldn’t help but grab one right away.  It’s probably the fact that the weather has been so spectacular lately.  Today is March 1st, a time of the year when it is often still frigid and snowing, yet for the past couple weeks, the northeast has been blessed with beautiful sunny days in the 50s and up.  I even turned my A/C on in the car this weekend!  And walked outside with a long sleeve shirt on!  So when I saw those bright red strawberries, I immediately started thinking about what I could do with them.  I knew that I had to bake a cake during the weekend, so a lightbulb went off instantly – I would make a vanilla cake with cream cheese frosting and fresh strawberry filling.

I love being able to make a basic sauce like this strawberry sauce because the possibilities with it are endless.  And we all know how much I love a versatile ingredient.  Sure, I used this sauce as a cake filling.  But this sauce also works great as a filling in a cupcake, as a sauce to incorporate into (or top) your vanilla ice cream, or even as a filling in doughnuts!  Mmmmmm.  Now excuse me while I go wipe the drool off my face!

Give this recipe a try and let me know what you use it for in the comments below.


Strawberry Sauce
(Makes 2 cups)

2 1/2 cups cubed fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch

In a small saucepan, combine the strawberries and sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Add the cornstarch and continue to stir.  Let boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat.  The sauce will thicken and go from translucent to opaque.  Allow to cool completely before using.

– sauce on,



girl scout cookies as a cupcake: tagalongs


I saved the best for last in my girl scout cookie roundup – tagalongs.  Tagalongs are crispy vanilla cookies topped with peanut butter and coated in chocolate.  I was actually really excited about making these cupcakes.  I’ve always been a fan of chocolate and peanut butter together, plus I’ve been dying to perfect my peanut butter frosting.  This was just the nudge I needed to get started.  Plus, it was the perfect break from work that I needed.  Oooops.  Don’t tell my boss.

I went with a plain jane vanilla cupcake – my go-to recipe, then topped it with some peanut butter frosting (a new favorite for sure!), and coated that with a hard chocolate shell (super easy recipe below!).  I contemplated stuffing the cupcakes with peanut butter, but I thought that might be too heavy.  So I left it out.  But feel free to experiment with that, especially if you’re crazy about peanut butter.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes
(Makes 12 cupcakes)

For the vanilla cupcakes:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup milk

For the peanut butter frosting:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the hard chocolate topping:

1 cup milk chocolate chips
2 tbsp coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line your cupcake pan with liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract and mix until uniform.

In another large bowl, combine the flour and baking powder.  Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix.  Add all the milk and mix.  Finally, add the remaining dry ingredients and mix.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix, ensuring everything is incorporated.

Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

While the cupcakes are in the oven, prepare the frosting;  in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and peanut butter until smooth and creamy.  Gradually add the confectioners sugar 1 cup at a time until desired consistency is reached.  Add the vanilla extract and mix.  If too thin, add more confectioners sugar.  If too thick, add milk 1 tsp at a time.  Frost the cupcakes however you’d like and stick them in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.

In a medium-sized bowl, add the chocolate chips and coconut oil.  In a double boiler or in the microwave, melt everything until incorporated.  If microwave, be sure to microwave 30 seconds at a time, mixing well after each time.  This prevents the chocolate from burning and seizing up.  It typically takes no longer than 90 seconds for everything to fully melt.  Dip the tops of each cupcake in the chocolate, or just pour the chocolate over the tops.  It should harden very quickly and will turn from shiny to matte.

Well, that’s it!  I hope you enjoyed my girl scout cupcakes!  Here is the full list of my creations:
girl scout cookies as a cupcake: samoas
girl scout cookies as a cupcake: thin mints
girl scout cookies as a cupcake: s’mores

cupcake on,