Homemade Chocolate Cupcakes and Cake

Here is my Chocolate cake recipe that works for cupcakes too! I do not remember where I got this recipe online, it was a while ago. In my opinion, it is just as good as the box cake you buy at the store, without the packaging and added whatever to preserve the ingredients. From scratch is best!

Ingredients

2 cups of white sugar
1 + ¾ cup of flour
¾ cup of cocoa
1 + ½ tsp of baking powder
1 + ½ tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of salt
2 beaten eggs
1 cup of milk
½ cup of veg. oil
2 tsp of vanilla
1 cup of boiling water

Mix the dry ingredients together.
Add the wet ingredients together minus the boiling water!
Combine together until well mixed
Like this.
Add the boiling water and mix slowly until well combined.
Have a helper set up the cupcake liners in the tray
Mixed
yup, that’s a 24 muffin tray! Bake at 350 for 18 minutes!
Let cool
Decorate those cupcakes!!

For the cake, I use a bunt pan, bake at 350 for 52 minutes!
For 2, 9″ pan cakes, bake at 350 for 33 minutes!

Find my whipping cream icing on the Recipe page! So yummy!

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

I found another recipe to rid the fridge of plastic! The Zero Waste Chef is very inspirational to me. I usually go to her page if I am looking for a recipe and I follow her on a couple social sites and see lots of her blogs! This is the recipe for her Chocolate Syrup. It is amzing and so easy to make! We will never go back to store bought again! We have used it so far on ice cream and hot chocolate. I’m looking foward to using it on other desserts!

Ingredients

¼ cup water
½ cup cocoa
¾ cup white sugar
Pinch+ salt
¼ tsp vanilla

Mix 1/4 cup water and 1/2 cup cocoa. Whisk and heat until dissolved. Add 3/4 cup white sugar, a pinch + of salt and bring to a boil for 3 minutes, whisking constantly.
Mix in a  1/4 tsp of vanilla and pore into a jar.
I am reusing a maple syrup jar, I have a few. I let it come to room temperature then cover and refridgerate.

 

Homemade Yogurt

Plain homemade yogurt
2 L milk (I used whole milk)
1/2 cup yogurt (I used Danone plain Greek yogurt)

Vanilla homemade yogurt
2 L milk (I used whole milk)
1/2 cup yogurt (I used Danone plain Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup sugar
40 ml vanilla

I received the plain yogurt recipe from a lady I met at a CBC event in Charlottetown in early February. Her name is Shirley Smedley. She says that she has been making yogurt for 40 years.

Here are the instructions she gave me for plain yogurt. Very simple!

“1. Put 2 litres milk into a pot and heat to scalding point or 180 F

2. Remove from the stove and cool to lukewarm or 105 – 110 F

3. Stir or use a whisk in 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
– from the last batch of yogurt
– or good quality store-bought yogurt (not flavoured)
– or ask in the natural food section of the store for a package of yogurt starter (2 pkgs. cost $5)

4. Have ready: 5 mason jars/lids sitting on a cookie sheet.
Pour mixture into 5 clean mason jars; screw on lids.

5. Put the jars on cookie sheet into the oven. Turn on the oven light which provides a low heat to ferment the yogurt. Close the door and leave overnight.
In the morning, put jars into the fridge and allow to cool for a couple of hours to stop the fermentation process.
You now have homemade yogurt! When my kids were young, they enjoyed toppings such as blueberries, honey, strawberries, etc.”

I let them sit in the oven overnight for about 9 hours, and then cool in the fridge for about 3 or 4 hours. Our kids and myself like vanilla flavoured yogurt as well as sweetened. When step #2 is just about complete, I add the sugar and vanilla, stir it in well then continue with the rest of the recipe.

The Danone Greek yogurt I bought was all used up with 3 yogurt batches. No yogurt starter went to waste. My next batch will be my own starter yogurt.

I hear that these starters for fermented products and such are given a name, like a pet. The Zero Waste Chef for example has a sour dough starter named Eleanor. So I told my husband, Chris, that we must come up with a name for our yogurt starter. Olaf was a suggestion. I thought that maybe it should have something to do with Greek, as it started out as a Greek yogurt. Finally, Chris came up with a brilliant, hilarious, perfect name. None other would suit! Gertrude! Gerty for short.

Can you imagine, one opens the fridge and says, “Hey, yo-gert!
Chris’ joke! hahaha!

So now with our homemade yogurt, we can have 100% homemade yogurt drinks too!

Thank you Shirley!

Update: here is a very informative article about the starter yogurt. A good read from a friend on Waves of Change.

2 L whole milk
180 degrees. Does not take long to heat up, maybe 15 minutes. I did not time it . . . yet
Mason jars ready for a filling. I actually needed 6 for this recipe.
about 110 degrees. Takes about 40+ minutes to cool down
Add 1/2 cup sugar and 40 ml of vanilla. Stir in completely. Add 1/2 cup yogurt.
Filled and covered
In the oven for the night
Complete, ready for cooling
Cooled and ready to eat
Yogurt on the left and yogurt drink on the right.
Thomas loving the yogurt drink
Jack loving the yogurt drink

 

Homemade Play-doh With Natural Dyes

Our family has been out of homemade play-doh for a little while now. The kids ask when I can make some more. Today, I decided to make some and I had a last minute inspirational idea. Natural dyes. Turmeric, coffee and berry juice. I did not research into any other ideas yet, but these items I had on hand. I would have loved to use beet juice, but I did not have any. Next shopping trip I will pick some up. I can even prepare the beets and freeze the juice. Ice cube tray will do very nicely to get a good amount.

Here is the recipe for making play-doh. Recipe #1 is my favourite. It stays soft and pliable. It is easy to wash and comes with no plastic container from the store. I have been making this play-doh for over 2 years. It is 100% better and does not have such a strong odor as the store bought.

Turmeric, small coffee from reusable keurig pod, frozen raspberries and blueberries
I put the frozen berries in the microwave on defrost for a couple minutes, they softened right up and were easy to mash.
Strained both to separate the juice. The raspberries were much harder to strain because of the particle size. Strainer and utensil to push the juice out worked.

Jack was my helper for most of the play-doh making. He was super excited! First we made the raspberry dye play-doh. The colour came out a very light pink. Could have used more juice for a darker colour. I would say we used about a tsp worth. I will add, my camera on my tablet is not so well. The colour is much better in person compared to the pictures.

about a tsp worth of raspberry juice
Jack mixing away before the heat gets turned on
constant mix with a scraper. Don’t let it burn!
Getting thick, keep mixing and scraping all around
Almost done. Lots of play-doh residue on the sides and bottom of the pot, normal. Don’t over cook it, or it will be dry and not so good! A little moist is great!
Let it cool on a cutting board for a minute, then knead by hand until smooth. Any moist spots will work itself out. I recommend the cutting board for kneading as you don’t want the dye on the counter (Natural dye or store bought dye).
Smooth and ready for fun. It is a light shade of pink. Camera is not so good. Let cool before adding to air tight container. I recommend to roll it wide and flat for the cooling process to happen quicker. The longer it is exposed to the air the dryer it will get (as it is with any play-doh).

Next came the blueberry dye. This one turned out a light purple. It could also use a larger amount of juice for the dye. I would say I used about 2 tsp. I did not measure.

about 2 tsp of blueberry juice.
Jack mixing away.
a light shade of purple
almost ready to come out
Ta-da
Bit of a better picture for the colour difference. pink on left, purple on the right.

Next came the coffee dye. Yes the play-doh smells like coffee! just slightly though, and the kids do not eat the play-doh. That has never been a problem. Maybe a lick here and there when pretending to make ice cream. lol. Nothing for me to worry about, really. So instead of using 1 cup of water to start, I used 1/2 a cup of water and 1/2 a cup of coffee for the dye. The colour turned out a light tan. I could have probably boiled off more water from the coffee, but I was experimenting and tried just a small brew to concentrate it that way.

Light tan colour.
Nearly there.
complete with a hand print
a picture to show the colours. Pink on top, purple on the bottom and tan on the right.

Next came the turmeric. I added a 1/2 tsp to start, but the colour was the same as the coffee, or very close. I added another 1/2 tsp, and there was not a whole lot difference. So I took some mustard powder, 1/2 tsp worth and it brightened the colour a little. by the time I had the yellow I was looking for, I used 2 tsp of turmeric and 2 tsp of mustard powder. This one is my favourite. It came out bright.

2 tsp both turmeric and mustard powder
Almost done
A little gooey, must kneading it helped so much. A little under cooked is better than over.
Do you see the flower?
Top left is pink, top right is tan, bottom left is purple and bottom right is yellow.

Last came plain old white. No dye is needed for this one.

mixing and mixing.
Love it
Top left is pink, top right is purple, bottom left is white, bottom right is yellow, and the small ball is tan. Jack an Thomas already got into these to play.

For this process, I was using two pots, a whisk and a silicone scraper. As one play-doh was finished cooking, the used pot was set aside to cool. A new pot was put on the stove with ingredients added. No heat turned on yet. The cooled pot was put in an empty sink and filled with water to loosen the dried/baked on play-doh. That would soak until the new batch of play-doh was ready, which the hot pot would be set to the side to cool and the pot in the sink ready for a wash out, dry and use. The cooled pot would get a soak and repeat until finished. The utensils would get a quick rinse in between so colours would not mix.

Jack is busy trying out the new play-doh.
Busy Thomas is from toys to play-doh, back and forth and both at the same time.
The play-doh gets stored in the reused yogurt containers.

I am hoping the natural dyes will stay well with the play-doh. Chris was wondering if the dyes would stain clothing. After handling the play-doh myself (kneading), there was not stain on my hands. So I think it will be fine. I still have store bought dyes to use up as well.

Jack was asking if I could make blue play-doh. I don’t know off hand what to use to make blue dye naturally. I ran out of cream of tartar as well, so next time blue play-doh for Jack.

I would like to find natural dyes for Red, Blue, Green, Orange and Black.
Beet juice is on my list. I want to find natural dyes without packaging as much as possible.

Raspberries = light pink (need more than a tsp)
Blueberries = purple (need more than 2 tsp)
Turmeric and mustard powder = yellow (Great with 2 tsp each)
Coffee = tan (need a more concentrated coffee)

Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups of milk chocolate chips

1/2 cup melted butter, cooled
1 cup milk, warm
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp vanilla

Use a stick of butter (2 Tbsp) and coat a 12 piece muffin pan liberally. No Pam spray needed!!!!

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips together and mix evenly.

In a large bowl combine butter, milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add dry mixture a little at a time (3), gently folding until combined. Over mixing will result in flat tops. A little flour remaining or clumps are okay. I over mixed mine a little by accident. 

Fill them right up!

Bake in preheated oven at 425 for 5 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 for 14 minutes. Let cool in pan until cool enough to handle and place the muffins on a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container once cooled completely. 

No sticking and easy to wash. Butter for coating!

Unbaked Cherry Cheesecake

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup Graham cracker crumbs
2/3 cup softened butter, not melted
1/4 cup white sugar

1 package of cream cheese (8 oz)
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup heavy cream

Cherry pie filling (a can or about 2 cups worth if buying from a bulk store. Though I find less than those amounts are better, more like 1 1/2 cups)

Begin by mixing the graham crackers, softened butter and sugar together. I personally find that if the butter is super soft, it mixes better, but if it gets melted, the mixture is too wet, resulting in adding more graham crumbs causing the bottom layer of the cheesecake to be dense and thick. This happened to me this time round. oops. Press the mixture into a pie plate or a cheesecake pan like I have. Allow the sides to rise to give a slight curve to hold the next step.

Oops. Blurry picture. Will replace with a better one next time I make a cheesecake.

Next beat together the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the heavy cream a little at a time. continue to beat for several minutes. The less beaten, the more runny the mixture (not good), the more beaten, the thicker the mixture (yes!).

Yummy!

Pour the creamed mixture over the graham crumbs and smooth out. Refrigerate until firm, 4 hours or overnight if you like. Less time may result in runny cream cheese mixture. (extra step to keep the mixture firm)

Add cherry pie filling and chill until ready to serve. Enjoy!!!

Delicious!
Super easy to make!

Homemade Hot Chocolate Powder

I asked Chris to help me find a great hot chocolate powder recipe. He does not fail! Here it is. 

I did not follow the exact ingredients, I used what I had on hand. I also cut the recipe in half (sorry hun!).  I am storing the mixture in a large Nutella container. I couldn’t put it in the recycle bin, such a great storage option, and I’m very low on the number of jars I have!

I love this chalk board idea of writing down simple recipes or even notes instead of paper and pen or white board and marker. So much less waste.
All mixed up!
Look at that foam!!!

We always add milk, usually chocolate milk, to the powder. It creates a great froth and helps to mix the powder with the hit water. Sometimes I like to use coffee cream, especially when the best before date is near, to help use it up.

I find the taste, ummm, a little dark. It could use more sweetener in it maybe. There is lots of sugar in it already though. I will keep an eye out for the proper ingredients, mainly the cocoa. I just used our regular light brown cocoa. I know Bulk Barn has 2 more kinds of cocoa.

This recipe was created at home, zero waste.

I also have a recipe for homemade marshmallows, I just have not tried it yet.

Update Feb. 12.

Not tasteful enough for Chris, and I agree, it could be better. So I will try to get unsweetened cocoa from Bulk Barn, my next trip in and see if this recipe is any better.

Homemade Waffles

The kids are loving these homemade waffles. Christmas of 2017, my dad and step-mom bought us a waffle maker. Chris took charge and found, I think, the best waffle recipe!

In a bowl, combine 2 cups of flour, 1 tsp salt, 4 tsp baking powder and a 1/4 cup white sugar.

In a separate bowl combine 1/2 cup melted butter, 1 + 3/4 cup warm milk, and 1 Tbsp of vanilla. Add in 2 beaten eggs.

Combine well and add the dry ingredients until well blended.

The waffle maker holds 2/3 cup of batter, so this recipe should make about 5 full waffles. (Sometimes I over full and so get 4.5 full waffles). I cook them for 6 minutes at a time.

Lay the cooled waffles on a pan and freeze them. Transfer frozen waffles in a container. I am using a cake tray from the bakery, just use it upside down, great container!

Goodbye store bought waffles/eggos and the packaging!


Smooth Yogurt Drinks

I started to make yogurt drinks (vanilla) in jars instead of using the blender. This only works with yogurt and milk, as any fruit/veg needs to be blended.

Some benefits to just using a jar include:
1. Less to wash and easy to wash.
2. No foam so the drink is smooth all the way!
3. Easy to store leftovers in the fridge as a jar seals shut!

Even Julia likes them now! Im super happy!!

To fit in a regular size mason jar, add 1 cup of yogurt (or 8 heaping Tbsp) and 1/2 cup milk. Seal the jar and shake 10 ish seconds. Pour and serve!

To fit a spagetti sauce jar, like Ragu brand, add 1 1/2 cup of yogurt (or 12 heaping Tbsp) and 3/4 cup of milk.

My ratio is 1/2 cup of yogurt for every 1/4 of milk.

Daniel and Jack like having chia seeds added to their drinks. I get these at Bulk Barn too.

Ditching Store Yogurt Drinks

These are the last yogurt drinks to be washed and recycled in our home. We go through about 4 per day adding up to approximately 130 per month! That is a lot of single use plastic!

Not only does the bottle/package go for recycling, but the wrapper and caps are waste. 130 bottles, 130 caps, 130 wrappers and 21 plastic packaging pieces (comes in a 6 pack).

I asked a few groups of people for help on choosing recipes and how to make smoothies. I thought smoothies would be a great alternative, though I never made them before. I was worried too that the kids would not like them. My sister in law came to the rescue too! Offering lots of suggestions and recipes. Someone else also mentioned to just add some milk to yogurt to make a yogurt drink. Very simple!

So I got my blender and food together and started to try making some smoothies.

1/2 cup yogurt and 1 cup milk.
Fruit such as bananas, strawberries, peanut butter. It was just a no go taste wise. I felt I was wasting a lot of food. Pretty sure my mixtures were not balanced right; too much milk. We found the peanut butter was not pleasing either.

So that day I had to stop and re think what I was doing. Plus buy more product! My next grocery trip I did not buy any yogurt drinks! Skipped them completely!! I was determined to make this work.

The next morning I was all over it! Tried to keep everything simple. I decided to just start with yogurt drinks. Alaina wanted to call them smoothies still, so that is what we are doing! They love the sound of “smoothies”.

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 frozen banana
Alaina liked this one.

1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt
1 cup blueberries
Alaina liked this one.

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt
1 Tbsp Nutella
1/2 frozen banana
Thomas liked this one.

1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt
1 cup strawberries (also with 1/2 banana)
Alaina liked this one.

1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt
1 cup raspberries
Alaina liked this one.

1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup yogurt
Daniel and Jack liked this one.

These recipes of mine are basically single servings.

Julia is not a fan of these drinks. I am not sure why. She really is not a fussy eater! She has taken a dislike to white milk lately. I am hoping she will come around. She does like yogurt. We buy the vanilla kind and sometimes the raspberry kind. Source, Yoplait.

Lately, Alaina like the raspberry yogurt with milk blended. She says it tastes like strawbrry ice cream.

I froze some berries and bananas, as the cold makes the drinks better for consuming. Otherwise it seems they are kind of warm. If there is no frozen fruit added, I simply just drop in an ice cube to cool it right down.

I freeze the bananas just as they are in the peel. Just let it sit on the counter for about 5 minutes and the peel comes right off.

I would like to add more to these drinks soon. Like Chai seeds for example. Also I so wish I had a frozen stash of berries! Next year we will be doing lots of berry picking and freezing. I will be needing a bigger freezer and  containers to freeze the produce in. Not using bags. I got lots of time to figure that one out.

I am so happy with the turn out! Next, homemade yogurt! I am more worried about this one! I myself am not a fan of yogurt, but Source Yoplait is the only one I found I liked. I hope the kids are not as fussy as I am about it!