Archive for ‘Life’

April 8, 2012

Nearly Vegan Coconut Cupcakes

Can we be serious for a moment? Let’s talk coconut. Coconut, this luscious (super)food that seems to be in a constant identity crisis, something we can all relate to from time to time, yes? Coconut, always waffling between savory and sweet, breakfast and dessert, soups and ice cream, muffins and salads. I crave, on a weekly basis at least, this salad, inspired by Heidi, but am even more likely to sprinkle some of that unsweetened, shredded goodness on my morning bowl of oats. I typically use the unsweetened variety, of course (what else would you expect from me?) and I can’t imagine the sugary stuff would pair very well with briny tamari. Dessert, however, is where that oh, so chewy, sweetened stuff finds its home.

Easter, much like Christmas, is important to me not because I am a particularly religious person but because it means family. Easter means an opportunity for my family to take a step back from our everyday schedules and come together at the dining room table to share a meal, reminisce about holidays past, and make sure everyone’s doing well before heading back out into that crazy-busy real world. This year’s Easter also meant celebrating my brother’s 22nd birthday in person rather than through a post on his Facebook wall or quick call when I think he is between classes. While everyone in my family has always had an affinity for sweets, my baby bro’s relationship with sweets takes the cake. (I would say no pun intended but, please, we all know I totally meant it!) Knowing that he would already have gorged himself on marshmallow Peeps and jelly beans (Lord knows, I’ve been sneaking handfuls of mini Cadbury eggs all week!), I wanted to make a dessert that everyone would love but that wouldn’t leave us with our heads on the table, drooling in a sugar-induced coma.

This recipe for vegan coconut cupcakes was inspired by many others, including Ina Garten and Chef Chloe, but rather than running to the store to find all of the perfect ingredients for a particular recipe, I made due with what I had in my cabinet. While that isn’t always a risk I like to take when baking for an event, the gamble paid off this time! In that same spirit, you should feel free to adjust this recipe to fit not only the ingredients you have on hand, but also your personal preferences. Not a fan of almond? Leave out the extract. Looking for an even stronger coconut flavor? Try coconut milk or coconut extract – in the cupcake or the frosting! I just may have to try that next time…

I topped my cupcakes with a simple, lighter cream cheese frosting and some sweetened shredded coconut. You should use whatever frosting you like best with a coconut cupcake. I will always stand by cream cheese frosting as the king of all frostings but I suppose it’s possible to have a different preference…

A few tips and some wiggle room: I used unsweetened almond milk. Any non-dairy milk or cow’s milk is fine. Additionally, you could use buttermilk instead. The act of adding 1 tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of milk causes the milk to curdle slightly and creates the same consistency as buttermilk. I never have buttermilk on hand but always want the incredibly rich and fluffy texture that it provides to baked goods. This homemade alternative is a great solution! It is great i everything from muffins to pancakes.

I made these cupcakes a night ahead of time and frosted them the morning of our Easter lunch. Cream cheese frosting really should be refrigerated so this just avoided the need to make fridge space for 16 cupcakes. You should do whatever suits your life at the moment. Got it? Let’s get to it!

Vegan Coconut Cupcakes

Inspired by Chef Chloe and Ina Garten

Makes 16 cupcakes


  • 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, plus 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 c. safflower oil
  • 1 T. vanilla extract
  • 1 T. almond extract
  • 14 oz. sweetened shredded coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 350* and line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners
  2. Combine the almond mil and apple cider vinegar and set aside
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk the safflower oil, vanilla extract, almond extract, and almond milk/vinegar mixture. Fold into the flour mixture until just moistened. After adding the shredded coconut, mix until thoroughly combined.
  5. Using a 1/4 c. scoop, portion out 16 cupcakes. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of a cupcake clean.
  6. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Light Cream Cheese Frosting

From Cooking Light

Frosts 16 cupcakes


  • 1 cup reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • dash salt


  1. In a stand mixer, or with an electric hand mixer, blend all four ingredients. It’s that easy!

We served our cupcakes with chocolate ice cream from J.P. Lick’s. I was worried that dessert wouldn’t really be dessert without some chocolate and I was right! The ice cream absolutely enhanced the flavor of the cupcake and made it feel like a true birthday party, to boot. These cupcakes are light and fluffy and just bursting with coconut flavor – and of course are totally loaded with chewiness from the shredded coconut in the cake and on the frosting.

A birthday success? I’d say so.

April 3, 2012

Back at It! Plus, Chili Rubbed Tofu and Mango Avocado Salsa

Hi, friends! Did you miss me?

Only kidding =) I have missed you all more than I can say, though. Are you ready to start again? I think that I finally am. When I decided to take a break from HAP, I knew that I hadn’t done all that I had hoped to do with this blog but I wasn’t sure when I would be ready to pick things up again. You see, I had always envisioned HAP as a wonderful extension of my everyday life but it had instead become a burden. And the thought of a blog, a lovely little hobby, serving as a burden when there are so many true burdens out there? So silly!  I needed a moment (or nine months of moments) to set this glorious beast of a hobby aside and get focused. You have all been in that same place, I’m sure. The happy news? I am more focused and more centered than nine months ago, have found some direction in my life (which we all need, some more than others), and am really excited to cook with you all again. Let’s do it to it!

HAP’s first birthday has come and gone but a belated celebration is better than nothing, yeah? A year ago my love affair with mango began when Whole Foods had a killer sale on the fruit. Guess what was on sale again this year?

A slight twist on my mango salsa from last year, I decided to make a sweet and tart variation starring lots of fresh mango, crisp and spicy red onion, and perfectly creamy avocados. At the last minute I added diced cucumber, really because I had it on hand, and it married with the other textures beautifully.

I paired this salsa with tofu that had been rubbed in a chili powder and spice mixture and seared in a non-stick pan until beautifully brown and crispy. Originally, I had set out to make Kathy’s Chipotle Citrus Superfood Tacos  but my pantry seemed to have about a third of the necessary ingredients and I had to go my own way. Hey, you do what you can with what you have, right?

Chili Rubbed Tofu

Serves 2

In a small bowl, mix the following. Feel free to adjust the proportions to your liking!

  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

This was enough rub for half of a block of tofu. Please double the spice mixture for a whole block!


  • Slice your tofu as follows:
  1. In half width-wise. Set aside one half and only work with the other.
  2. Take your half and slice it into thirds lengthwise.
  3. Slice each third diagonally to end with 6 triangles total.
  • Blot each triangle very well, absorbing as much moisture as you can.
  • Carefully rub the chili powder mixture onto both sides of each triangle.
  • Add all six triangles to a preheated nonstick pan and cook over medium-high heat until brown and crispy. Flip and do the same to the other side.

While the tofu sears, you can prepare the salsa.

Mango Avocado Salsa

Mix the following in a large bowl:

  • 2 large, ripe mangos, medium dice
  • 1/2 large red onion, small dice
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • lots of fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

I chose to add the avocado when I ate. Otherwise, the avocado will turn brown and look completely unappetizing!

I layered my salsa and tofu on a wide bowl with some barley at the bottom. Brown rice was my original plan but I was all out and barley offers that same chewy texture.

Thanks for sticking with me after this long and much needed break. I’m striving for balance in this next phase and hope to always find the joy in Happyaspie. See you soon!