Reindeer and Snowmen (well, cupcake versions, anyway.)

Sometimes the best-laid plans get derailed.  And boy, a lot of things have gotten derailed this last week at my house!

holiday cupcake ideas

Here was the plan: Aldi had a holiday blogger program this month that didn’t work out for me for a number of reasons, so as an alternative, I suggested that I use the gift certificates they sent me to have a cupcake decorating party with my kids and some friends.

cupcake party

Except that when said decorating party falls on the week when plague is at your house, you might decide that your friends would be more blessed by NOT decorating cupcakes in your germy abode.

I kept thinking we’d all be better before Christmas, but that clearly is not gonna happen. So yesterday, my kids and I made cupcakes (fortunately, they were all feeling well enough to participate.)

cupcake party

And hey, there are four kids that live here, so, you know, it’s sort of like a small (ok, very small) party.

But!

If your house isn’t infected with noxious germs, you could obviously make this idea into a party.

And of course, if you live in the Land of No Aldi (I’m so sorry for you!!), you can buy all your ingredients at a regular grocery store.

I made the chocolate cupcakes that Lisey and I always make for our cute cupcake adventures.

chocolate cupcakes

Aldi doesn’t carry cupcake liners year round but they do around most major holidays.

aldi cupcake liners

Keep an eye out for clearanced liners after the holidays, by the way! My Aldi is pretty much sold out of them at this point, but your Aldi might have some left to mark down after Christmas.

aldi baking cups

The good thing about chocolate cupcakes is that they obscure the liner almost entirely (the chocolate is so dark, the liner appears dark on the sides), so you can use liners from the wrong holiday with no problems.

cook's illustrated chocolate cupcakes

Though obviously I had seasonally appropriate liners this go-round.  ;)

Initially, we had plans to make three different kinds of cupcakes: Santas, reindeer, and snowmen.

Since it ended up being a small shindig, though, we opted for just two kinds.

However!

You can read all about how to make adorable Santa cupcakes over on Lisey’s blog, since she and I made those last Christmas.

ow to make santa cupcakes

Of course, you need some reindeer cupcakes to go with the Santa cupcakes.  You’ll use these three things:

reindeer cupcake ingredients

plus chocolate frosting, mini chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows.

Incidentally, am I the only one who thinks Nilla wafers are ridiculously expensive?  Every now and then I notice them in a regular grocery store and they’re sometimes pushing $5 a box.

Save your dollars and buy ‘em at Aldi, I say! The pretzels and M&Ms are from Aldi as well.

(Do you know why Aldi carries brand name M&Ms?  It’s because they haven’t been able to find a supplier who can make a good generic version, so they opt for the brand name rather than sacrifice quality.  Same is true for Pringles and Twizzlers. #AldiNerd)

Ok!

So, you’ll frost a cupcake with chocolate buttercream, add a Nilla wafer for a nose, and use a bit of frosting to secure an M&M to the wafer.  We used red, but your reindeer can have brown noses too, of course.  Then add mini pretzels for antlers.

reindeer cupcakes from Aldi

For the eyes, we had to do a bit of figuring.

The original recipe suggested mint M&Ms with a dot of chocolate frosting, but I couldn’t find white M&Ms anywhere.

So, we cut mini marshmallows in half, cut a hole in the middle of the marshmallow, and inserted an upside-down mini chocolate chip.

reindeer

Aldi used to carry mini chocolate chips only around the holidays, but they are a year-round item at my store now. This makes my kids very happy because they love to mix in mini chocolate chips to whatever they happen to be baking.

Brownies, muffins, pancakes…it doesn’t matter.  They all get chocolate-chipped!

And Lisey and I have found that mini chocolate chips are very very handy when you need eyes on various cupcakes.

(See the Santas above!)

So, snowmen.

how to make snowman cupcakes

These are really simple to make….white buttercream frosting, chocolate chips, M&Ms and Twizzlers.

If you want your white frosting to be super white, leave out the vanilla.  If you’re more concerned about flavor, add the vanilla, and your snowmen will be a slightly warmer shade of white.

You can buy clear vanilla for this purpose, but I never think of it in time!

The snowman inspiration I found online used black licorice, so I bought Aldi’s variety.

Aldi black licorice

But the pieces are short and round, so we did not have success turning these into hats.  Fortunately, I’d bought Twizzlers when I was at Aldi as well, so our snowmen just ended up having red hats. ;)

80s snowman

(When Zoe started decorating this one, I thought the single band of red looked like an 80’s sweatband.)

snowmen cupcakes

Mini chocolate chips served as eyes and mouths, and for the noses, I chopped orange M&Ms in half.  The original recipe called for candy-coated sunflower seeds, but this is a much cheaper (and more delicious!) option.

IMG_6538

My kids were split about which cupcakes were more fun to decorate, so Zoe helpfully suggests that you just make both kinds.  ;)

kids cupcakes

And you could certainly throw in the Santas as well.

holiday cupcake ideas

Have a lovely Christmas Eve, everyone. I’ll be over here, trying to stay well (not sick yet!!) and trying to get my kiddos back to health, and hopefully we’ll all feel good enough to enjoy the day tomorrow.

Large thanks to Aldi for the gift certificates and for making food so delightfully affordable. 

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

sugar free strawberry banana food processor ice cream

Back in our teen years, my sister and I used to freezer bananas and blend them up with milk to make a faux ice cream-ish sort of dessert.  It’s surprisingly delicious for something that’s just fruit and dairy.

For some reason, I’ve been on a long hiatus from banana ice cream making, and lately, I’ve noticed that it’s becoming quite popular.

In fact, for $50, you can buy a Yonanas machine that makes banana ice cream.

However, if you own a blender or food processor, you can save yourself $50 and some kitchen space.  Use what you’ve got!

Now, if you wanted to make ice cream the usual way, with cream and sugar and no bananas, you’ll need an ice cream maker.  You won’t be able to take a regular ice cream recipe and just throw it into your food processor.

However, you can make a delicious fruity, creamy treat this way, and it’s got no added sugar.

Which is awesome.

food processor ice cream

I originally made banana ice cream in the 90’s, when we were all fairly sure fat was of the devil.  Fortunately, we’ve figured out that’s not the case, so I’ve now upgraded from milk to heavy cream for the liquid addition.

Heavy cream is my favorite.

Recently I checked out the Nom Nom Paleo cookbook from the library and I saw that Michelle adds vanilla extract when she makes this.  Brilliant!  It really ups the ice cream flavor.

To make this, you’ll obviously need bananas.  Your ice cream will be sweeter if you use bananas that are on the soft, ripe end of things.

I don’t really like the flavor of brown, spotted bananas for this, though, so I try to catch them when they’re just past the really good eating stage but not at the banana bread stage.

I spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray, slice the bananas, and freeze them right on the sheet.

freezing bananas

If you have fresh strawberries, you’ll want to freeze those too.

frozen local berries

It is totally ok to use frozen strawberries from the store…it’ll be cheaper than out of season berries and it’ll save you work too!

If you’re making your ice cream in the next day or two, it’s totally fine to leave the fruit uncovered on the baking sheet.  For longer storage, put the fruit in a plastic bag once the individual pieces are frozen.

To make the ice cream, simply blend the frozen fruit with heavy cream and vanilla.

add vanilla

You can do this in a food processor or in a blender.  Be forewarned: all that frozen fruit makes a pretty big racket.

I always have to stop the machine to rearrange the fruit several times and I find this to be simpler in a food processor.  However, a good blender also can do the trick.

At first, your mixture will look kind of like this:

IMG_2328

And then like this (see the chunks of un-blended fruit that need to be rearranged?):

strawberry ice ceam in food processor

And eventually it’ll be all smooth like this:

strawberry banana ice cream

At first, it’s tempting to pour in tons of cream to help the fruit process better, but if you add too much, your finished product will be soupy.  I usually use between 1/2 and 3/4 cup of heavy cream.

This stuff melts more quickly than regular ice cream, so I like to serve it right away in cold bowls.

(Just put the bowls into the freezer before you start blending up the ice cream.)

no sugar strawberry banana ice cream

You could do a lot of variations on this by using other berries or fruit.  Actually, it just occurred to me that frozen mango would probably be outstanding.  Must try that.

The bananas are really important for the creamy texture, though, so I wouldn’t recommend leaving them out.

Oh, and if you can’t do dairy, feel free to substitute something like coconut cream or nut milk.

Strawberry Banana Ice Cream

2 cups sliced frozen bananas
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2-3/4 cup heavy cream (can use non-dairy cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and process until completely smooth, stopping frequently to rearrange the fruit so that it blends evenly. Serve immediately in chilled bowls.
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Joshua’s 365 post: After the Storm