Cupcakes and Sunshine: July 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I've Got Blueberry Muffins on a Cloudy Day


Sometimes baking is so much better on cloudy days. And there is nothing more heartwarming than comforting baked goods fresh out of the oven.


And when you have freshly picked blueberries from the blueberry bush, then of course you have to make sweet, warm blueberry muffins. Right?


I adapted this recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction. I love her tips and tricks for making these muffins sky high! She has SO many other recipes I want to try. Next on my to-make list: her chewy chocolate chunk cookies! Swoon.


In this recipe, I switched the canola oil for coconut oil. I love the moist texture coconut oil gives baked goods. ( And also, I had a lot of it on hand.) In addition, used white chocolate chips in half the batch of muffins and dark chocolate chip chunks in the other half of the batter.


I used 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon because I love the aroma of the sweet smelling spice. It makes me feel so cuddly inside. It's the perfect little sprinkle of comfort on a cloudy day.


And because I added 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour, these muffins are automatically healthy. Right? (; 
After mixing the dry ingredients you lightly fold in the wet ingredients and then the blueberries and chocolate chips.

A messy mix of delicious juicy berries and white chocolate chips.

Make sure you don't over mix the batter. (I have a problem with this. Why is mixing so much fun? Why?)
It makes the muffins dry and dense and more like a brick than a muffin. Lightly mixing is the key. 


Another trick I love is to dust the blueberries with a spoonful of flour so that they evenly disperse themselves throughout the muffins instead of sinking to the bottom while baking. I love to see the blueberries peeking out of the top of the muffins!


I like to scoop my batter with an ice-cream scoop. It makes for perfectly sized delights so they all bake at the same time. Sally says to fill the cups all the way to the top to ensure tall muffin peaks. My batter made exactly 17 regular size muffins.


The hardest part of baking...that 18 minutes while they are in the oven. I can barely take it. Resist the urge to open the oven and peek at the little guys. This will cause those sky-high peaks to deflate. 



The wait is SO worth it. I enjoyed mine with a cup of cocoa on the front porch while watching the drizzly rain fall. And I can't wait to enjoy another one tonight as a midnight snack (:

Rainy Day Blueberry Muffins
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour (I used King Arthur White Whole Wheat
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup organic unrefined sugar or coconut palm sugar (I used Wholesome Sweeteners)
  • 1 cup milk (I used Almond Milk)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (in its liquid form. May have to microwave 10 seconds if it is solid)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup fresh blueberries
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Set out two 12-cup regular muffin tins. Fill muffin tins with liners, (I got about 17 regular size muffins)  or spray muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Stir flours, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon together in a large mixing bowl. 

3. Mix together eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla extract and coconut oil in a medium mixing bowl. 

4. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients. (Be sure not to over mix here) 

5. Using an ice-cream scoop, scoop batter into muffin liners. Be sure to fill to the top of the liners. Lightly sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a dash of sugar if you wish.

6. Bake muffins for 5 minutes at 425. Then, turn oven down to 375 and bake for an additional 14 minutes or until golden brown. 

7. Muffins will need to cool for about 10-15 minutes after baking. Resist the urge to dig in too soon so you don't burn your tongue, (not that I've ever done that before) but eating them warm is encouraged. Store leftover muffins (Haha! Yeah right...leftovers) in an airtight container. Or freeze them for later consumption.



Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Marriott Marco Island Resort and Spa

Goodmorning, goodmorning! 

The summer heat has me on a smoothie kick and this morning began with an easy mix of frozen bananas, extra firm tofu (for texture) and some Almond milk. I love to keep chopped frozen bananas in the freezer. That way, they are always on hand when I need a quick smoothie.

I wanted to give you a recap of my past week at Marco Island in Florida. My Aunt and Uncle graciously invited me to join them and my cousins on the family trip this year, and I had an amazing time! 
Adam, Cousin Sauve', Cousin Jordan and his son Rylan, his wife L'Porshia and I in the lobby

Let's start with the hotel! We stayed at the Marriott Marco Island Resort and it was absolutely beautiful! Upon arriving, the staff generously took our bags and told us what we could look forward to during our stay. From the two giant pools, to the lovely  beach side, there was no way this week could disappoint. 
View from our room
The view from our balcony was absolutely breathtaking. The beach stretched for miles and miles and if you looked to the far distance, you could see the Everglades. Marco Island is one of the last cities in Florida before you reach pure swamp lands. (And gators. and snakes. Eeek!) 

We ate a lot of food at the resort. Quinns on the Beach was one of our favorite dinner destinations. I loved the Bleu Cheese Burger and crispy Sweet Potato fries. They also had a delicious hummus and olive tapenade snack plate that we ordered a few times and brought down to the beach. And don't let me get started on Quinn's Peanutbutter Cake....after dark, we would head down to the restaurant and order desserts. I tried the Brownie Sundae as well, but the layers of mousse, sweet chocolate ganache, and peanutbutter won me over.Quinn's also had live entertainment throughout the week around 6:30 in the evenings. We saw a fire dancer while dining and one night, they had a sand castle sculptor who builds his creations to music.


Another dining favorite was CJ's on the Bay. Although this restaurant wasn't located at the resort, it was definitely one of my favorite dinner outings. In addition to live music, a waterside sunset view, and a large variety of dinner choices, CJ's had delicious food choices that were fresh and unique. The waiter brought out a batch of fresh, hot rolls and butter before our orders were delivered. I tried the Veggie wrap with fresh fruit. And also I sampled Aunt Susu's lobster ravioli and my cousin Sauve's Angel hair pasta and shrimp. 
All the girlies outside at CJ's

Uncle Rog, Aunt Susu, Sauve', and baby Rylan
So many choices at CJ's
Since CJ's is conveniently located right next door to Coldstone Creamery, we headed there for dessert afterwards. We went to Coldstone many times after our dinners. It is the perfect summer beach treat! I'm a sucker for Coldstone's Germanchokolatekake Signature ice-cream. It is the perfect fudgy combination of coconut, caramel, and pecans. It also came with brownie pieces, but I switched those for white chocolate chips. You NEED to try it. 
Coldstone Run at Sunset


Other island eats included Joey's Pizza, Guy and Lisa's Philly Grille (get the sweet potato fries! Obviously I'm addicted), and Pazzi's Pizza (which is located on the resort). 

At the Marriott, there is a lovely coffee shop located in the lobby that has a wide variety of pastries, coffee drinks, and snack choices. I absolutely LOVED the almond croissants and now I am on a mission to make my own. 
"Natalie" the dolphin


"Natalie" the dolphin made guest appearances in most of our beach pictures
Goofy Adam and "Natalie" the dolphin

Each day we were at the beach, we rented a "Chickee hut" for rest and relaxation under the sun. The huts included 4 large beach loungers and 3 poolside chairs for sunning.

Under the "Chickee" hut


 It was so nice to be able to stay under the "Chickee huts" or to run around on the beach or jump in the waves. And at noon time, golfcarts delivered fruit plates to our hut! You can't go wrong with a delicious fruit plate. 

"Chickee" huts at Sunset

Aunt Susu and I before a beach walk


Adam and Sauve' on the balcony
Cousin Jordan and his wife L'Porshia


Aunt Susu, Uncle Rog, and their grandson baby Rylan

One of my favorite things to do on the beach was to listen to audiobooks on my phone while walking the shores. I loved getting lost in the books while walking alongside the beach. It is currently turtle hatching season at Marco Island and there were many blocked off spots where turtle nests reside. One night, my cousin Sauve' and her husband Adam were out walking the beach and they were able to see the baby turtles make their way to the sea! 

Marco Island Sunset

There were a few giftshops in the lobby of the resort. Aunt Susu and Uncle Rog treated me to a beach souvenir t-shirt that I can't wait to wear! There were also jewelry shops and places to pick up necessities including sunscreen and towels. 

I had a wonderful time at the Marriott Resort in Marco Island and I feel so blessed to be able to have gone on this trip with my family! I am so thankful for the delicious dinner choices, "Chickee" hut stays, and the wonderful idea of island time! The staff at the resort were so friendly and inviting and I am looking forward to visiting the island in the near future! (Hopefully much sooner than later!) 




Starting at the Beginning

     You know those projects? The big projects? That are really, really hard to begin? Sometimes they feel too overwhelming. Like the thought of constructing an exact replica model of the 9 planets (my mind is currently screeching at the thought. It's a good thing I decided to drop my Astrology class and take Weather and Climate instead).... or just a hefty load of laundry that you have to separate, wash, dry, fold, and then place in the proper determined drawers (Actually, laundry is one of my favorite things to do. But the thought of getting it done can be quite overwhelming).
     
     Sometimes you want to make the projects so perfect that your fear of failure prevents you from beginning. Last year, I had an English Portfolio due as part of my final presentation grade. I wanted to make that portfolio so stinkin' perfect. My grade was dependent on it! After I actually put my pen on the paper (well...my fingers on the keyboard), I was able to complete so much! I knocked that project out of the way in no time! But my thoughts of failure consumed me so much, that I didn't start until the night before. Yes, the dreaded art of procrastination. 

The reason I haven't yet baked fresh croissants from scratch? The reason I haven't yet started that load of laundry? And finally, the reason I have been putting off my first official blog post?

 I have been wanting to start this blog for years. And I have been praying for the purpose and direction of my blog. And I knew if I could get some words on paper, (or words on the computer) that I would be able to start this project. I have been procrastinating my first blogpost due to fear of failure. What if my blog isn't how I want it to be? What if it isn't encouraging and exciting? What if I reveal too little or too much? Well now, we sure wouldn't be where we are now with those fears, right?

Welcome to Cupcakes and Sunshine! 
Here is a place we can knock out the what ifs, eat a few cupcakes, and discuss our lives over tea and cookies. 

I love snacking, baking, traveling. 
New restaurants, old bookstores. 
Frugal ideas, Pinterest projects. 
Pretty paper. Pretty packaging.
Cupcakes and Sunshine.

I am so happy you stopped by! 
Feel free to leave a comment, send a message, or follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
I'd love to get to know you! :)



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