Fairlife Milk

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I was driving home one night from working out and the ad on the radio was about Fairlife milk.  A few days later driving through my neighborhood I saw the above billboard.  Milk with Flair? Then I heard from the company asking if I’d like to try Fairlife milk.  I had to find out what the buzz was about.

TJ and Fairlife Skim

 

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So we did a milk taste test.  Since the most consumed milk in our house is skim and Wes can’t share his opinions yet, Stella, Will and I did a skim milk taste test. All of us thought the Fairlife milk had better color and Will and I thought the Fairlife milk did in fact taste better than the Trader Joe’s brand.  In terms of nutritional information, the Fairlife brand has less calories and 13 grams of protein per serving compared to 8 grams in the Trader Joe’s Skim.  I have been committed for years to buying organic milk but I love Fairlife’s concept of believing in better and that has been carried out in their treatment of the cows, using sustainable farming practices and ensuring product quality. As moms, we are just trying to find the best products with the most bang in terms of nutrition for our families.  They’ve made milk better and that makes moms like me really happy and thankful!

So how can you try Fairlife milk?  Their products: Skim, 2% and Chocolate are available in Minnesota and Colordao.  In Minnesota you can find Fairlife at Cub Foods, Rainbow, Lund’s and Byerly’s, and Kowalski’s.  I found some right down the street at my local Kowalski’s in St. Paul:

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I highly recommend pairing Fairlife with my Monster Cookies and I cannot say enough good things about their chocolate milk. My husband and I hid it from our kids.  Seriously, they didn’t get a drop.  I’ve actually been using it in my daily morning smoothie-I sub in the Fairlife chocolate milk for liquid, add about 4-6 cubes of ice, 1 TB of peanut butter, a banana and a handful of frozen kale.  I love starting my morning with a chocolate drink I can feel good about!

Since I love smoothies and this milk, I thought it would be fun to giveaway a week’s worth of milk from Fairlife AND a Magic Bullet Express Blender and Mixer System!  I love my Magic Bullet for making smoothies!  For us about 5 containers of milk would last a week but maybe in your house it would last even longer! Follow the Rafflecopter instructions for a chance to win 5 coupons to purchase Fairlife milk and your very own Magic Bullet! For a blog comment entry, tell me about your favorite smoothie or your favorite cookie to dunk in milk!
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Disclosure and Privacy Inormation.  I was provided Fairlife milk to try. Fairlife provided the milk coupons and Magic Bullet for this giveaway.

Monster Cookies

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Sometimes you need a monster cookie because a plain cookie just won’t cut it.  Oh and you need an excuse to use those Easter M&Ms before you eat the whole bag. Not that I know anything about that.
 
Ingredients:
4 cups Oatmeal
1 cup Flour
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 ½ sticks of Land O’Lakes Butter-Unsalted
¾ cup Brown Sugar
¾ cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup Peanut Butter
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup craisins
1 cup M&M chocolate candies

 

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375.
Mix oatmeal, flour and baking soda together and set aside.
Cream butter, brown sugar, sugar and vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add peanut butter.  Gradually add in oatmeal mixture and mix until combined. Add raisins, craisins and  M&Ms.
Drop by ice cream spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Press cookies down flat.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Makes 27 cookies

 

My Best Kept Secrets of St. Paul

While I’m usually cooking up a storm as the Kitchen Star on Twin Cities Live, they recently asked me to to share my favorite places to hang out with my kids. I immediately thought of these three neighborhood places in St. Paul.

Click here to watch the March 25, 2014 Twin Cities Live segment with my Best Kept Secrets.

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Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store
2050 Marshall Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55104
651-646-5252
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/choochoobobs

About Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store: Choo Choo Bob’s Train Store is a store in St. Paul where there are operational trains running and interactive train tables where kids can try out all the trains.  They also host birthday parties and story times.  Check out their Emmy-winning train television show in the Twin Cities on Saturdays at 2:30pm on channel 45!

What I love: As a daughter of a train master, I get a bit nostalgic about trains.  I’ve taken my dad there and kids and grandparents alike arrive in wonder.  I love that the kids can really try out the trains and everything is there to purchase if you want.  This is a perfect place to meet up with someone and have a playdate-the kids play close and there are benches where you can sit and chat.

ArtStart’s ArtScraps Reuse Store
1459 St. Clair Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55105
651-698-2787
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/artscraps

About ArtStart’s ArtScraps Reuse Store: ArtStart is a non-profit arts organization that provides art education in schools and the community.  Their reuse store, ArtScraps sells donated scraps, overstock, factory rejects-things normally going into the landfill and resells them to anyone interested in reusing the materials for projects or art.  The proceeds of the store go to the school and community programs of ArtStart. They host birthday parties, summer camps and even adult craft parties. They are also celebrating their 25th Anniversary this year!

What I love: Everything is so inexpensive, you can literally buy things by the bag or bucketful! Each time I go, there are new things.  One of my favorite things to buy is fabric and I recently just bought some awesome vintage fabric to make napkins.  I love that it inspires creativity, I let my daughter grab a bucket and she grabs things she likes-buttons, beads, glitter, old pictures and then we go home and make projects!

The Ran Ham Bowling Alley at the Nook
490 Hamline Avenue South
St. Paul, MN 55116
651-698-0252
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ran-Ham-Bowling/156808407676080

About the Ran Ham Bowling Alley at the Nook: I know you love the Nook and their amazing burgers, but do you know what’s in the basement at the Nook?  A bowling alley! The Ran Ham Bowling Alley has several lanes and you get to do old-school scoring!  They have bumper bowling and a ramp for the kids who can’t roll the ball yet.

What I love: The Nook is our family’s favorite restaurant. Going there for our birthdays has become a family tradition.  As most parents know, going out to dinner with kids can be a bit chaotic especially if a wait is involved.  At the Ran Ham Bowling Alley you can call ahead and reserve a bowling lane, do some bowling with your family, order your Nook burgers at the bar and eat right at the lane.  And bonus, kids eat free with paid adults on Sunday!

In celebration of these wonderful places in St. Paul, I have a great giveaway for you! Follow the Rafflecopter instructions to enter.  For a blog comment entry, tell me the place you’d most like to check out and why! Contest only open to those living in Minnesota. Prizes must be picked up at each location by the winner.
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Health Hero

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I recently was contacted by the American Recall Center, a site devoted to providing health and wellness news.  They asked me if I’d write about my health hero for their Who Keeps You Healthy campaign.

When I thought about my health hero I immediately thought of my personal trainer, Meghan Brown.  I met Meghan when our now 4-year-olds were only weeks old.  We were friends first and when she finished her training certification I immediately signed up for her personal training.  I remember the day we first did my health assessment in a nearby park.  I could barely do an inch worm exercise.  In fact I had to sit down after our 15 minute session because I thought I was going to throw up.  I stuck through it, session after session, she made me feel stronger, confident and believe that I could be healthy.

9 month work out

When I became pregnant with my second baby, we kept our training sessions.  In fact she was expecting too and she inspired me to keep working out and to use exercise to aid in the pain that I experienced as my body changed.  Only a few days before I had my baby she was there with me in my living room doing squats and holding the goddess pose.  I should mention that my continued exercise during pregnancy supported me in delivering an 11lb baby naturally-yes you read that right.  I often teach cooking classes and lead meal planning discussions and without fail I always meet people that HATE to cook.  I’ve never understood it.  As someone that loves cooking so much, you know what? I really don’t like exercising.  Hate is a strong word but exercising is really not my favorite.

I’m so thankful to have my health hero motivating me and keeping me strong, especially when working out is about the last thing I want to do and I’m so happy to be a part of an awesome workout group that supports each other and always finds time for laughs and great music.

My Health Hero, Meghan has helped me to embrace exercising and trust that it is essential to my health and while it is not my favorite thing to do, I can honestly tell you I have never regretted doing one of our workouts in fact, I feel empowered.  Not only does Meghan keep me motivated but I also have two amazing workout buddies, Jen and Jamie.  We call ourselves the workout ladies.  Meghan has brought us together to share in friendship and exercise.  We hold each other accountable each week and through each of our own struggles in life, work and family we come together for that one hour and just let it go.  We laugh, cheer each other on and work really damn hard.  You can see Meghan’s excitement when she tells us the next thing we are going to do and I always find it hilarious when she says the next exercise is “really fun.”  I’m so thankful to have my health hero motivating me and keeping me strong, especially when working out is about the last thing I want to do and I’m so happy to be a part of an awesome workout group that supports each other and always finds time for laughs and great music.  Music is a huge part of our workouts so I thought I come up with a workout playlist inspired by my ladies and our workouts!

Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire – Inferno Version
Beyoncé – Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
Girl Talk – Hands In The Air
Florence + The Machine – You’ve Got The Dirtee Love – Live At The Brit Awards 2010
Mariah Carey – Fantasy – Feat. O.D.B.
Daft Punk – One More Time
Queen Latifah – U.N.I.T.Y.
Gwen Stefani – What You Waiting For?
Justin Timberlake – Suit & Tie featuring JAY Z
Salt-N-Pepa – Push It
Missy Elliott – Get Ur Freak On – Amended
N.E.R.D. – She Wants To Move
C+C Music Factory (Presenting Freedom Williams) – Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)
Michael Jackson – Billie Jean 2008 Kanye West Mix – Thriller 25th Anniversary Remix Featuring Kanye West

 

 

Cookie Temptations

I love getting mail, no not email. I’m talking about real mail-especially packages.  I remember when I was in college and my mom would send me care packages. I went to college in Florida so getting her special notes and gifts from Minnesota meant the world to me, it was a small connection to home.  Fast forward years later and here I am, still loving getting packages in the mail-especially food packages! Recently I got an email from Jennifer Young aka the Cookie Lady from Cookie Temptations asking me if I’d like to try her homemade sugar cookies from Duluth, Minnesota. Of course I said yes and a few days later, the lovely package arrived.  My kids share my love of packages and as soon as they saw the box, a constant, “What’s in it, Mom?!?” was heard all night. Not one to give cookies before bed, I let them open it with me the next day.  And, this my friends is what was inside that box:

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Beautiful right? But did they taste as good as they looked? Yes! Did you see that dark chocolate moose cookie in the first picture? I ate it myself. No, I did not share it with my kids or even my husband who innocently said, “Hey hun, where’s that moose cookie?”  Stella’s favorite was the ice cream cone cookie.  My mom and Will both loved the Little Bites Platter, in fact at one point I had to put them away because we kept popping them in our mouths like they were melty mints.  I thought the most beautiful arrangement included in the box was the Sunny Yellow Daisy cookie.  Nestled inside a coffee cup, this stunning spring cookie comes with three cookie pieces and even a pack of seeds ready for planting!  I also tried the Gluten-free cookies, which for me tasted just like the others so I’d say they are excellent! For those interested in Gluten-free options, you can choose standard or gluten-free when you order the cookies.

What I love: The cookies! Seriously, they were so yummy! But I also love that this is a Minnesota company and Jennifer’s story of starting her own business.  I also love that she has a program called Cookies for Hope where she raises money for local families that have experienced a life threatening disease or accident.

What I would recommend: I love getting specially decorated cookies for the Easter baskets each year and I love the designs on the Easter page (especially those chocolate bunnies). I think ordering these cookies would be an extremely thoughtful and delicious gift to have delivered whether it was for personal or professional reasons.  She also has the only chocolate QR code on the market, so your cookies can have a special QR code with your web page on it! Seriously, I think that is so awesome!

I have a surprise for you! I know you have waited for spring so long this year so I am giving you a chance to win a Spring Cookie Delivery from Cookie Temptations for you or to send to a friend in the United States!  Follow the Rafflecopter directions to enter. For blog comments, tell me your favorite care package or easter basket gift memory!
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Click here for my disclosure policy. I received cookies from Cookie Temptations.

Crockpot Coffee Pot Roast

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There are so many things about weekends that I love.  Coffee is certainly one of them. We weren’t always in love-in fact I used to only take my coffee covered in anything creamy and sugary that was sure to cover up the actual coffee flavor.  Ahh but things change and for me it was after Wes was born and I was wandering my house with non-sleeping children at all hours of the night, that dark beverage each morning was my confidence in getting through the day.  The winter here in Minnesota has been like that fog that you experience when you have non-sleeping children; you know it won’t last forever but it is really hard to see beyond what is currently happening.  I’ve been turning to my crockpot for some comfort food love to get through this unbearable winter.  Usually once a week we come home to a crock pot full of something yummy and recently I’ve been making this coffee pot roast.  I guess it reminds me of the comfort of a cup of coffee.  Oh and did I mention that it also has chocolate?  This is a perfectly rich and earthy roast that you can make make while you work.

Ingredients:

4 lb Pork Loin End Roast
2 TB Coffee Grounds
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Ground Pepper
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate
1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
8 ounces Carrots
1 1/2 lb Potato Medley
4 lb Pork Loin End Roast
1 cup Coffee
1 TB Corn Starch

Directions:
Pat dry the pork roast with a paper towel and in a small bowl combine the coffee grounds, salt, ground pepper, brown sugar and ground chocolate. Rub this dry mixture over the roast.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-heat.  Brown roast on all sides. When finished, add potatoes and carrots to the crock pot and place meat on top. Pour coffee over the meat and place lid on crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours.

If desired, once roast is cooked, drain liquid and bring liquid to a boil in a small sauce pan. In a small tupperware container shake 1 TB of corn starch and 1/4 cup cold water. Shake until combined and add to the liquid on the stove. Return to boil, keep stiring and remove from heat. It will thicken and become coffee gravy to serve with the meal.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

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In November I made you this very special Corn Mac and Cheese and you went wild for it.  You guys really know how to make a girl feel loved. I get it. You love rich and yummy comfort food and you especially like it when I make it creative.  Twin Cities Live invited me to participate in their Mac and Cheese Challenge so I wanted to bring something rich and yummy and something all the kids-and moms can cheer about.  The butternut squash makes it creamy, sunny and it feels good to get a veggie in, doesn’t it?  I could have stopped there but it’s been a long winter and you deserve something more so I topped this Mac and Cheese with mini cheeseburgers. My kids couldn’t get enough of this-talk about the clean plate club! What are you waiting for? Go, make this now!

Click here to watch the February 21, 2014 Twin Cities Live segment when I made this recipe.

Ingredients:
1 lb Mezze Penne Pasta
8 ounces Mac and Cheese Blend Shredded Cheese (or Triple Cheese Blend)
10 ounces Frozen Winter Squash puree (defrosted)
2/3 cup Sour Cream
1 tsp Salt
½ cup Heavy Cream
2 Eggs

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.

Prepare pasta according to package directions.  Once pasta is cooked, in a large bowl combine pasta, shredded cheese, squash, sour cream, salt, heavy cream and eggs.

Add mixture to a greased 9X13 pan.  Follow directions for Mini Cheeseburgers (below) and use a small scoop to make rows on top of the mac and cheese for about 24 mini cheeseburgers.

Spray a piece of tin foil with nonstick spray and seal with spray-side down.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes covered and 25 minutes uncovered.

Serves 8.

Mini Cheeseburgers
Ingredients:
1.25 lbs Ground Turkey
1 cup Cheddar Cheese (Finely Shredded)
½ cup Bacon Pieces
1 ounce package Hidden Valley Dry Ranch Dip
1 egg

Directions:

Combine all ingredients and use a small cookie scoop to place rows on top of mac and cheese before baking.

Allergy-Friendly Snacks

I’ve been working on this post for awhile-months in fact.  My children started at a new school in September and it was a big adjustment going from a home daycare to a multi-room child development center.  There are so many great things about their new school-amazing teachers, a huge indoor play space, an award-winning outdoor playground, music classes and really messy and fun art projects.  There are also new things I wasn’t used to, like in a class of 25; my daughter is getting invited to birthday parties a couple times a month!  Speaking of birthdays and celebrations-that’s the reason for this post. Alice85a

The week Stella and Wes started their new school it was Stella’s birthday.   She turned 4 and in retrospect, I don’t know that she even asked if I would bring in a treat for her classmates, I think it was my idea.  So I asked her lead teacher about birthday celebrations and was told that food needed to be store-bought and observe the nut-free facility rule.  Despite my cooking credentials, I WASN’T crushed that I couldn’t make homemade cupcakes or brownies laden with nuts.  In fact, my first question was, “What are her classmates’ allergies?”  Stella’s teacher also mentioned a growing concern from the parents about the abundance of unhealthy birthday treats coming into the classroom and asked if I might consider coming up with a healthy snack idea for her birthday.  After discussing it with her teacher, we decided on yogurt parfaits with toppings that honored everyone’s dietary issues.  Stella and I shopped for the ingredients and we spent less than $20 on everything.

I know there are people out there that don’t understand why I did any of the above.  There are parents that feel that their children are entitled to whatever treat they want to bring into school.  Recently, a mother shared such a perspective in a post called, “Why Do Your Kid’s Allergies Mean My Kid Can’t Have a Birthday?”

So why did I go to the trouble to bring an allergy-friendly birthday treat?  Because in my eyes, the kids in my daughter’s classroom and your child’s classroom are OUR children.  I believe that we, collectively as parents should care; we should be making sure everyone in our children’s classroom are safe.  For children with allergies, that means safe foods.  We can’t control who our children are friends with at school; our child’s best friend may have allergies.  So how would your child feel if their best friend couldn’t have one of the cupcakes that you insisted on bringing for their birthday? That recent post ignited in me the need to finish this post, because we should care about other people’s children with allergies, we should want all the kids included not only because it is the right thing to do; it is what the birthday child would want.

So whether it’s for a birthday, Valentine’s Day or Halloween party, here are some resources and ideas for an allergy-friendly celebration at your child’s school:

  • Ask your teacher for a “safe snack list” and the absolute best thing to do is contact the parent of the child with allergies and let them know you’d like to make or buy a safe and inclusive celebration snack. They will appreciate your efforts and have several safe suggestions for you.
  • Non-food items are great alternatives to celebration snacks.  Check out these pencils, bracelets and tattoos or bring in a homemade craft that you made with your child like bug valentines or homemade crayons.
  • Instead of focusing your energy on bringing food into the classroom for a celebration, consider bringing yourself! Yes, volunteer in the classroom.  Maybe you have a special talent you can share with the class or even just coming in to read a story would be memorable to your child.
  • Based on the classroom’s allergy list, look for allergy-friendly products that accommodate those allergies like Enjoy Life.  Enjoy Life is free from the 8 most common allergens.  Products include bars, cookies, chips, cereal, granola and trail mixes. It is carried at Target, Whole Foods and Walmart.
  • Check out resources online like the Snack Product Guides from Snack Safely that is updated monthly with snack ideas.  While grocery shopping, don’t be afraid to ask store managers about allergen-free products and snacks, sometimes they have product lists or will personally walk you around the store and talk about the different products-I have received this type of service at Kowalskis, Trader Joes and Whole Foods.

In October, I saw this post about being an allergy-friendly stop on Halloween and it really raised my awareness about how we as parents of children without allergies can in very simple ways be supportive of families with allergies.  A very special thank you to Missy Bickel Berggren at Marketing Mama for that post about Halloween candy as well as advice and consultation about this post.  Check her out on Facebook and Twitter! Also, thank you to Mr. Les at St. Paul’s Childhood Center for his love, energy and care for the kids in Room X and his input on this post.

Win a Cookbook and 4-Pack of Tickets to the Minnesota Children’s Museum!

Cooking with kids

On February 7, 2014 I’m doing a segment on Twin Cities Live about Cooking with Kids and Stella and I are making these yummy Grapefruit Cupcakes! I’ve been cooking with my kids since they were babies and it is so fun to see how they have learned and mastered so many things in the kitchen.  I love seeing Stella run the mixer by herself and how Wes knows to take a look in the oven to check on what we are baking!

I have a very fun giveaway for viewers! I will be giving away a Mom and Me Cookbook by Annabel Karmel (Provided by Creative Kidstuff) and a 4-Pack of Admission Tickets to the Minnesota Children’s Museum (Provided by the Minnesota Children’s Museum).

Check out the fun display the St. Paul Creative Kidstuff has right now! I’d love to try their kit for making my own gummy treats and I love the imaginative cookie set-you can actually “slice” the velcro tube of cookies!

Creative Kidstuff Cooking

One of the best ways to get your kids started in the kitchen is engaging with them in imaginative play.  You can play at home using real-life cooking gadgets, utensils or even items from your pantry and pretend to make something or play restaurant.  A very fun place to explore imaginative cooking play is at the Minnesota Children’s Museum in their grocery store or Korean restaurant.  We have logged many hours filling carts, ordering food and watching the kids pretend cook our meal there!

So use the Rafflecopter to enter for a chance to do some imaginative cooking play at the Minnesota Children’s Museum and then come home and make a recipe from your new cookbook! Good luck!

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Grapefruit Cupcakes

Cooking with kids

I told you about how I was obsessing over cupcakes a few years ago because I was making Red Velvet cupcakes for a friend’s wedding.  I think I might have said that I never wanted to see a cupcake again.  Then time passes and your daughter’s absolute favorite thing to make is what? You guessed it, cupcakes.  I love this cupcake because it has become a bright spot for us in the winter when both the snow and grapefruits are plenty.  If you have never made your own frosting, oh my. This frosting is so good. Good like hide in the kitchen so your kids can’t see while you eat spoonfuls good.

Click here to watch the Twin Cities Live segment when I made this recipe with Stella.
Alice85a

If you follow me on Facebook, you see that my kids and I spend quite a bit of time together in the kitchen.  Yes, it takes way more time to get anything done and yes it is incredibly messy. But man I love it.  Cooking with my kids is something that gives me pure joy. I do laugh when the mixer goes on full blast and when the kids experiment and taste something super sour or even super sugary.  I don’t think Will feels the same, he gets a bit anxious when I start making frosting with the kids as it is usually a two-day cleaning project (like, when you are finding frosting on misc things for two days).  Anyhow, do what works for your family and comfort level when it comes with getting your kids involved in the kitchen.  Looking for some ideas?  Here’s a list I came up with cooking ideas for kids birth-3+.

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups Flour
1/8 tsp Salt
¾ tsp Baking Soda
¾ cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
2 eggs (room temp)
½ cup Whole Milk
½ TB Lemon Juice
2 grapefruits, divided
1 stick butter (room temperature)
3 cups powdered sugar

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375.

In a large bowl, blend flour, salt and baking soda.  Set aside.

In a mixer, blend vegetable oil, sugar and vanilla bean paste until smooth.  Add eggs one at a time until well blended.

In a dish combine milk and lemon juice. Set aside.

Add zest from 1 grapefruit to mixer.  Squeeze juice and pulp from the grapefruit and add pulp and 3 TB of juice to mixer, blend. Reserve additional juice.

In batches, add flour and milk mixture to the mixer, blend until combined and scrape bowl well to ensure flour is incorporated.

Fill muffin cups with batter.  Bake for 17 minutes at 375.

For frosting, blend butter, powdered sugar and zest from 1 grapefruit.  Gradually add grapefruit juice until frosting becomes light and fluffy.

Makes 12 cupcakes