Ramen … Not Just For College Kids Anymore!

Okay, I know we’ve all been there … late nights in college, or let’s be serious, being broke in college. Hell, we’ve all be there even after college …. living in DC cities that cost too much and pay too little. Sometimes you just have to stock up on ramen … regardless of its sodium content.

Have you ever actually looked at the sodium content in a package of ramen? No? Don’t worry, I looked for you. Here it goes … wait for it … a package of ramen has 830mg of sodium … EIGHT HUNDRED AND THIRTY MILIGRAMS!!! That’s crazy. Now, in ramen’s defense, the package is two servings, but get real, when did you ever eat half a package of ramen?

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So I’ve realize two things: 1) It is exceptionally hard to find a vegetarian packaged ramen, and 2) I could totally make ramen myself.

What You Need
2 Tablespoons EVOO
1 Tablespoon crushed garlic
1 Onion, red or yellow — just cook with what you have!
2-3 Carrots
2-3 Celery stalks
1 Zucchini
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 Lime
4 Cups vegetable broth
1 Package ramen, broken into quarters (discard salt seasoning packet)
1-2 Tablespoons cilantro
Siracha to taste

And here is what it all looks like!

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First, heat EVOO in large soup pot.  Add garlic and brown slightly.  To the pot, add diced onions and sweat until translucent.  For some reason, I actually decided to finally slice the onion, but dicing would work just as well.

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Once onions are translucent, add chopped carrots, celery, and zucchini.  I truly do not think it is necessary to measure any of these ingredients … just cook with what you have!

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After 5-6 minutes, the vegetables should start to become tender.  To the vegetables, add one can of tomatoes and vegetable broth. Hopefully you remember my Avogolemono Soup post where I shared a great hack on how to juice a lemon … follow those same steps to add the juice of one lime to the soup pot.  Bring to a boil.

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After soup comes to a boil, add ramen and let cook for approximately 3 minutes, stirring continually.

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Top your bowl of ramen with a healthy dash of Siracha and voila! Easy, spicy, vegetarian, AND low sodium ramen.  To be honest, I added so much Siracha I was sweating, and loved every spoonful.  Be careful … its addicting!

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Enjoy!

Vegetarian Avgolemono Soup

More lemons? You bet! In keeping with last week’s theme of orzo and lemons … AND after my amazing cousin (Hi Caryn!) mentioned that my post on White Wine Lemon Orzo reminded her of it, I thought I’d share my vegetarian version of avgolemono soup!

For those of you unfamiliar with Greek food, avgolemono soup is a very common egg-based soup, typically containing chicken (aka Greek-style chicken soup with lemon). For this version, I’ll be swapping the chicken for extra leeks and additional vegetables. The soup is light, refreshing, and comforting at the same time. What’s not to love!

New to cooking with leeks? They are a hearty root vegetable, similar to an onion. However, a word to the wise … leeks are very dirty vegetables. Check out this article on how to properly clean leeks: CLICK HERE.

Now let’s get started, because, quite frankly, I’m getting hungry.

What You Need
2 Tablespoons EVOO
2 Medium leeks, white parts only, finely chopped
1 Small onion, finely chopped
2 Small carrots, diced
Splash of dry white wine
6 Cups vegetable broth
1/2 Cup orzo
1 Tablespoon oregano (fresh or dried)
2 Eggs
3 Tablespoons lemon juice (1 large lemon)
Chopped fresh parsley for topping
Salt & pepper to taste

Note: Rather than chop carrots and onions, I happened to have a container of mirepoix that I used instead, and the recipe turned out great.

And here is what it all looks like!
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First, heat EVOO over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add chopped leeks (bust out that mini food processor!), onions, and carrots. Or, just combine the leeks with a container of mirepoix. Add a pinch of salt. Cook vegetables 5-7 minutes or until tender. Though optional, I suggest de-glazing the pan with a splash of dry white wine. Try Frog’s Leap Winery Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. It is by far my favorite winery in Napa. Not heading to Napa any time soon? Whole Foods carries their wine as well!

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Once vegetables are cooked through, stir in vegetable broth. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Cover and reduce heat, bringing to a simmer for 10 minutes.
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Once the broth begins to simmer, add orzo and oregano. Follow directions and cook orzo as directed on package, approximately 9-11 minutes.
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While the orzo is cooking, lets move onto the eggs. As mentioned previously, avgolemono soup is an egg-based soup. In a small bowl, whisk together two eggs with the juice of one large lemon (approximately 3 tablespoons). Check out this kitchen hack … juice a lemon using kitchen tongs!
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Once orzo is cooked, add 3 ladles of soup broth to the egg mixture. Whisk for 1 minute to avoid curdling the egg.
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Whisk the egg mixture back into the soup, and cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes. Once the soup begins to thicken, it is ready to serve.
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Serve topped with freshly chopped parsley. Enjoy!
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White Wine Lemon Orzo

Due to yet another snow storm (Thanks Mother Nature!), I found myself working from home again today.  For those of you that know me well, I’m sure you can imagine that I spent the majority of my day thinking about food. I refused to give into the grocery store hype this weekend and was thus without many groceries. As I sat at my desk, I continued to think to myself that I need to ‘cook with what I have’ and use up items before venturing out to the store later this week.

I was trying to come up with a dish that would allow me to use up a carton of vegetable broth that had been sitting in the fridge since last week’s ‘easiest vegetable soup you will ever make … EVER.’ After much thought, I decided to try using orzo the same way I would use risotto. Now, let’s get real … risotto is amazing. Replacing it is impossible. But, I thought, why not! Let’s give it a shot, and the results were delicious!

What You Need
1 Tablespoon Kerrygold butter
1 Cup orzo
1 Tablespoon crushed garlic
1/2 Cup dry, white wine (PLUS 1 cup to enjoy while cooking!)
2 Cups vegetable broth
Juice from half a lemon
1 Teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 Teaspoon dried dill
Salt & Pepper to taste
Parmesan for topping (obviously)

Note: Normally I would insert a picture of all of the ingredients for you visual learners out there … but I forgot. Deal with it.

First, melt Kerrygold butter in a hot saute pan. Insert vegetarian banter: if you’ve never used Kerrygold butter before, give it a try. Kerrygold is an Irish butter. It is all natural and free of antibiotics and hormones that are often found in dairy and meat in America. Growth hormones used on cattle are band in Ireland, and Kerrygold is cautious when using antibiotics. Should a cow get sick and require antibiotics, Kerrygold will refrain using the cow’s milk until its system is cleared of antibiotics. Kerrygold grazes their cattle over 300 days a year, and the cattle do just that … literally stay outside, all day, living happy cow lives, unlike so many other farms where they are kept in confined quarters. And, as such, you’ll notice a richer, creamier flavor. Anyway, rant over. Go on … melt that butter!
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Next, add your orzo and toast it lightly, for about 5 minutes. See below for the before and after pictures. You’ll notice the color of the orzo become more golden. Once toasted, add garlic and saute for 2-3 more minutes.

Before …
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After …
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Next, add white wine. Be sure you are using a dry white wine, not a sweet wine. I used about a half cup, but a little less more never hurt anyone!
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Regardless of the amount of wine you use, you’ll want to add liquid only half of cup at a time. When the orzo absorbs all of the wine, it should look like this:
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Just as with risotto, you’ll add a bit of liquid, let the orzo absorb, then add more liquid. After the orzo has absorbed the wine, begin adding broth half a cup at a time. I used between 1 3/4 cups to 2 cups of broth. The orzo will begin to thicken and have a creamy sauce created from the pasta’s natural starch mixed with the wine and broth.

As the orzo was almost finished, I add the juice of half a lemon, along with fresh lemon zest, dill, salt, and pepper to taste.
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Top the orzo with some fresh grated Parmesan and serve it with roasted vegetables. You’ll find this dish to be light and fresh! Enjoy!
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The Easiest Vegetable Soup You Will Ever Make … EVER.

Two blog posts in one week? You bet. You know why? Because nothing goes better with ‘no fret’ focaccia bread than ‘the easiest vegetable soup you will ever make … EVER’.

I can’t remember exactly where this recipe came from, but its morphed a bit over the years.  I make it so frequently, I don’t even need to pull the recipe out, and I no longer measure the ingredients. Actually, I hate measuring any ingredients.  It’s a gene passed down from my Mom (Hi Mom!).  Now, don’t get too excited.  I’m certainly no Rachel Ray.  I can’t eyeball measurements … at all. I usually just throw in whatever I think is enough of an ingredient and hope for the best. Measuring is for wimps. Unless you’re baking.  ALWAYS measure when you bake.

So here is why this is the ‘best vegetable soup you will ever make … EVER’ …

  • It is easy to make (did I mention that yet?)
  • You probably have all of the ingredients on hand
  • It cooks in 25 minutes … 25 MINUTES!

This recipe is very versatile. The original recipe calls for red kidney beans, but if I only have cannelloni or black beans on hand, I’ll use those instead. Same with the broth, you can use vegetable, chicken, or plain water. And the seasonings are easy to switch around too. And remember … cook with what you have!

In spite of my lack of interest with measuring …

What You Need
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Can (28 oz) Diced tomatoes, undrained
1 Can (15 oz) kidney beans, rinsed (or black/cannelloni beans)
1 Can (14 1/2 oz) broth (vegetable or chicken, if I’m out of broth, I just use water)
2 Stalks celery, chopped
1/2 Cup carrots, chopped
1 Onion (white or red), chopped
2 Tsp. taco seasoning
1/2 Tsp. chili powder
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional, for topping … though I’m not sure why anyone would consider cheese optional)

And here is what it all looks like!
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In a sauce pan, heat olive oil. Add celery, carrots, and onions. Sweat vegetables for 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. I hate chopping vegetables. My city kitchen is so small I can reach end-to-end with my arms outstretched.  There is literally no counter space which makes chopping large quantities difficult, so I usually keep a package of Trader Joe’s mirepoix on hand.  Mirepoix is a great soup or saute starter. Trader Joe’s pre-chops and packages the celery, carrots, and onions for you. If I’m using a package of mirepoix, it means I don’t have to chop vegetables (or measure) … That’s a City Streets win!
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Once onions are translucent, add undrained tomatoes, rinsed kidney beans, broth, taco seasoning, and chili powder. If you don’t have chili powder on hand, use 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning.  Alternatively, you could use a chili seasoning mix. Just cook with what you have!
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Let simmer for 20-25 minutes until vegetables are tender.
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And that ladies and gentleman is how you make the ‘easiest vegetable soup you will ever make … EVER’. (Oh and don’t forget to top this with some shredded cheese and serve with focaccia bread.)
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Enjoy!

No Fret Focaccia Bread

We all buy bread at the store because 1. it is a pantry staple and 2. it is easy to keep on hand.  Bread lasts for ages, can be used for everything from sandwiches to french toast and well, quite frankly, bread is delicious.  Now what if I told you homemade bread was even more delicious AND easy to make?! Did you just fall over with excitement? Are you jumping for joy at this idea? That’s right, I said it … you CAN make your own bread, and you won’t even fret about it!

One of my favorite breads to make is focaccia bread.  Focaccia is an Italian bread that is particularly easy to make even if you are a bread making novice.  Typically, focaccia bread is full of flavor, most notably olive oil, and topped with herbs  … and for you cheese lovers out there, sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese!

What You Need
Note — Recipe makes two loaves of bread.
1 1/3 Cups warm water
1 Package active dry yeast
3 1/2 to 3 1/3 Cups all-purpose flour (white or wheat flour will work)
2 Tablespoons olive oil (plus up to a 1/2 Cup extra for topping)
2 Teaspoons sea salt (plus extra for topping)
1 Teaspoon dried herbs (I typically use oregano and basil … just cook with what you have!)
Grated Parmesan cheese

And here is what it all looks like!
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First, add warm water and yeast together in the bowl of your stand mixer. Make sure the water is warm (105-115 degrees) and not hot. If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast. Allow the yeast to dissolve for 5 minutes. When it is done, the yeast will begin to foam on top.
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Once the yeast is dissolved, add flour, olive oil, and sea salt to mixture.

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Using your stand mixer’s bread hook, mix on low speed for 1 minute, then knead on medium for 7 minutes. Don’t have a stand mixer with a bread hook? You can knead the bread by hand for 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. If the dough is overly sticky, add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time.
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Once kneaded, transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl. Turn the dough in the bowl until coated with olive oil to keep moisture in the dough. Did I mention this recipe uses a lot of olive oil?
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Cover the dough with a clean cloth and allow to rise in a warm place. I prefer to let dough rise on top of a warm oven (around 200 degrees), but this is just personal preference. Allow the dough to rise for 1-1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.
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Divide the dough in half. This recipe makes two loaves of bread. To make the focaccia, the dough needs to rise a second time. Only want one loaf of bread? You can use half the dough for a loaf of focaccia and the other half for pizza. Pizza dough only needs to rise once, and if you don’t want to make pizza right away, the dough can sit in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for 3 months. Just defrost and bake.

OK — back to the focaccia bread … Now that you’ve divided the dough in half, roll the dough into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Place the rounds into a well-oiled round cake pan. I’ve also baked this on a cookie sheet but find a pan works better.

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Allow dough to rise for another 1 1/2 hours. The dough should rise and fill the round cake pan.
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If you’ve ever bought focaccia bread at the store, you’ll notice a practice called ‘dotting the bread’. In case you have never heard this term, start by throwing your table manners out the door.  Next, stick your fingers into the dough to create wells. The wells will hold the remaining olive oil, keeping the focaccia bread moist. More olive oil? YES. Now go ahead, dot that bread, then drizzle the top of the dough with olive oil.
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Top the dough with grated Parmesan cheese and dried herbs. I prefer oregano and basil, but cook with what you have! Fresh herbs also work well if you have them on hand.
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Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, and bake for 25 minutes. The bread should be golden brown on top. Remove bread from pan and allow to cool.
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Enjoy!

6 Ingredient Granola Bars

You know those people that get really angry when they are hungry?  Well, I’m one of those.  I go from fine to not fine in just minutes.  I need to eat, and I need to eat ASAP.  Lord help you if you are in my way when it hits.  The world might as well be ending.  Get me a snack … NOW. This, my friends, is something I like to refer to as ‘hangry’.

hangry (han – gree) adj: a state of anger caused by lack of food; hunger causing a negative change in emotional state

Think you might know someone that gets hangry?  Maybe you aren’t 100% sure? Check out this article by the Huffington Post where they describe the symptoms of being hangry — CLICK HERE.

Dear everyone I know.  I’m sorry.

Since I often get hangry, I tend to stash snacks … everywhere.  My purse, my desk, my car (i.e. glove compartment, backseat and trunk), coat pockets, cabinets … basically anywhere.  And this is where the granola bar comes in.  It’s small, filling, and easy to eat on the run.  Picture the row of granola bars at the grocery store, not only is it an easy snack, but there are literally an infinite number of flavors.  SO MANY CHOICES.

The downfall of granola bars?  Pick the wrong one, and it will be loaded with calories and preservatives. I hate when I can’t understand the ingredients in my food.  If I can’t read it, I don’t want to eat it.  It’s partially what sparked the blog.  I’d rather just spend the time making my own versions of things, and know exactly what is in it, than buy prepackaged food.

Don’t let the grocery store fool you … you can make these things on your own! And that’s where the 6 ingredient granola bar came from.  Make them, eat them, enjoy them.  And remember ‘cook with what you have’!

What You Need
1 1/2 Cups rolled oats
8oz Dried, pitted dates
1 Cup almonds
1/4 Cup nut butter (almond or peanut)
1/4 Honey
1/2 Cup dried cranberries

And here is what it all looks like!

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First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spread oats onto a baking sheet and toast for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. This step is optional, but I think it adds a lot of depth to the granola bars. image_6

While the oats are toasting, get out your mini food processor to chop the dates. Can you tell I love my mini food processor? Be sure you purchase pitted dates. The pits are a pain to get out and would make this recipe a whole lot more difficult.

Never seen a date before? They are delicious and amazing, and if you don’t use them all for this recipe, you should stuff the rest with goat cheese and pour yourself a nice glass of wine. image_4

Once they are chopped, they will look like this: image_5

Mix the almonds, chopped dates, dried cranberries, and toasted oats together in a bowl. I actually didn’t have a full cup of almonds, but I had some walnuts left from another recipe so I threw those in. You could really throw in any kind of nuts or seeds you like (flax, sunflower, pumpkin, etc.). image_7

In a microwave safe dish, warm the peanut butter and honey together. You could do this on the stove top as well, but I was in a rush because, well, you guessed it … I was getting hangry! Pour the honey/nut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir well. You’ll have to gauge the consistency at this point. You’ll want it to be sticky enough to hold together, but not so sticky that the bar sticks to your teeth. If the mixture seems too dry still, just add a little more nut butter and honey. image_8

Public service announcement: EAT LOCAL HONEY. Local honey contains trace amounts of pollen. Eating local honey, on a regular basis, allows you to build up immunity to the allergens around where you live and reduces allergy symptoms.  Say goodbye to those itchy eyes and endless sneezing when Spring rolls around!

Line a dish with wax or parchment paper and transfer the granola bar mixture. The wax/parchment paper will allow you to remove the bars very easily once they are done. As you pour the mixture into the dish, press down firmly. You’ll want to pack these tightly so that they stick together well. Lay another piece of paper on top of the granola bars and press down. Let bars harden in the fridge at least 15 minutes. The longer they sit in the fridge, the better. But if you are hangry, 15 minutes should be enough. image_9

Once the granola bars have set up, use a sharp knife to slice into individual bars. image_10

Want to know why this recipe is great? You can literally add whatever dried fruit you want. Don’t have honey? Substitute out the honey for maple syrup. Craving chocolate? Add some chocolate chips. Either way, these granola bars will be cleaner than any you find at the store. Just ‘cook with what you have’!

I wrapped the individual bars in wax paper. This way you can grab them and go. Don’t forget, since we only used 6 ingredients, there are no preservatives. These will keep in the fridge for about 10 days. However, if you wrap them individually, you can also freeze them to increase their shelf life. image_12

Enjoy!

Maple Pancake Cupcakes with Whiskey Maple Frosting and Candied Bacon

That’s right.  I said it … Maple Pancake Cupcakes with Whiskey Maple Frosting and Candied Bacon.  Let it all sink in.  That just happened.  This master piece was actually just baked.  It does exist.  And it is delicious.

Disclaimer … I am a vegetarian, and I occasionally sneak a piece of bacon. I have no shame. But don’t worry, you could make this recipe without bacon too!

I first saw this recipe on my sorority sister’s blog, Bri’s Bakes. With Joe’s birthday quickly approaching, I wanted to bake up something new that he would love. These seemed like the perfect birthday treat. I made a few slight modifications to the original recipe, but these were a hit. The batch is already half gone … No big deal.

What You Need For The Cupcakes
2 1/2 Cups of flour (I used whole wheat flour … don’t tell Joe!)
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Teaspoon salt
3/4 Teaspoon ground ginger (I subbed this for cinnamon … remember ‘cook with what you have!’)
1 Stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 Cup brown sugar
2 Eggs
1 1/4 Cups Maple Syrup
2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 Cup buttermilk (I used low fat)
1/2 Cup crispy bacon

What You Need for the Frosting
2 Sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 Teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pound (1 box) of confectioner’s sugar
1/4 Cup whiskey (I used Jack, but any whiskey or bourbon will do)
1/4 Cup maple syrup (the original recipe uses 1/3 cup maple syrup and no whiskey)

What You Need for the Candied Bacon
6 Pieces of bacon
Brown Sugar

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First preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Next, place a cooling rack on top of a backing sheet.  This will allow the bacon grease to drip off the bacon without getting all over your oven. Next, rub six pieces of bacon with brown sugar. Lay bacon across the cooling rack and place in oven until crispy. This should take about 20 minutes depending on the cut of bacon you use.
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When the candied bacon is done, it will look crispy and brown. Allow to cool, then crumble and save for topping the cupcakes with later.
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Next, take the remainder of the bacon and cut into one inch pieces. Cook bacon until crispy in a skillet. When done, place on a paper towel to absorb the oil and set aside for later. Reserve the bacon grease for the cupcake batter.
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Now that the bacon is all done, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ginger (or cinnamon). Set aside. In a stand mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract (see my earlier post … Extracts Don’t Have To Be So Expensive), and maple syrup. I highly recommend using real maple syrup and not pancake syrup. You will taste a difference! Please note, at this point the mixture will seem very soupy. Next, begin adding in the dry mixture a little bit at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. The mixture will thicken up into a batter.

Chop the crispy bacon from earlier and add to the mixture.  If you feel so inclined, Brianna recommends adding in the reserved bacon grease for added flavor.
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Line your muffin tins and fill each about halfway.

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Brianna recommends baking 16-20 minutes. My batch took about 18 minutes, but every oven is different. Use a toothpick to check if the cupcakes are done or not. Once inserted, the toothpick should come out clean if they are thoroughly cooked. Allow these to cool at least 30 minutes before icing.
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Now lets move on to the best part … the frosting! In a stand mixer, mix together soften butter, vanilla, maple syrup, and frosting. The consistency will be smooth and creamy when done. I didn’t ice my cupcakes until the next day. If you do the same, be sure to let the icing soften slightly before piping onto the cupcakes, or it won’t come out of the pastry bag smoothly.
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Once iced, top cupcakes with candied bacon and enjoy. And by enjoy, I mean enjoy two. You won’t be able to say no!  Thanks Briana for the great recipe!
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