It’s Not About The Cake

I was originally going to share a recipe for these little dark chocolate cupcakes, but when I realized that they weren’t the star of the show I shifted gears.  The frosting is the true star here!

And no, this isn’t a sponsored post.  It’s just about me being adventurous in my kitchen.

Love making homemade buttercream frosting?   Then I have a new trick for you.  Try substituting Black Velvet Toasted Caramel Whisky in place of vanilla extract.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am not a huge frosting fan.  For me it’s more about the cake.  But I have to tell you that I COULD NOT STOP TASTING THIS FROSTING the entire time I was taking the photo’s for this post.  Seriously, it is that good!  And don’t you love how the alcohol didn’t tint the frosting?  It stayed bright white. 

I used about 1 tablespoon of Black Velvet Toasted Caramel in place of the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract my recipe calls for and I didn’t think it tasted boozy.  However,  there is no reason that you couldn’t start out by adding one teaspoon of the BV at a time until you reach the desired flavor you’re looking for. 


Help From Betty Crocker and Jell-O = French Vanilla Coconut Cupcakes

Every now and then I call upon Betty (Crocker) to lend me a hand in the kitchen.  While I typically bake from scratch, there are times when I just don’t feel like dragging out all of the ingredients to whip up a batch of cupcakes.  Can you say lazy?  Can you relate?

Now, just because I’m a little lazy and decide to use a cake mix doesn’t mean I can’t be creative.  Take these French Vanilla Coconut Cupcakes for example,  I decided they would create a perfect ending to a delicious home cooked Valentine’s Day dinner we have planned for this evening.

And if you’re like me, there are also times when you’re looking for a flavored cake that is nearly impossible to find.  When this happens I find myself in the Jell-O isle at the grocery store.  Cake mix + Jell-O pudding or gelatin = endless possibilities. (This is not a sponsored post.  I just happen to like both of these products.)

To make these cupcakes you will need:

1 Super Moist Betty Crocker French Vanilla Cake Mix

1 Box of Jell-O Coconut Cream Cook & Serve Pudding

A batch of your favorite homemade vanilla buttercream frosting

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line cupcake tins with cupcake papers (makes 24)

In a large bowl, add cake mix, pudding mix, 1 1/4 c. water, 1/4 c. olive oil, and 3 large eggs.  Mix until all ingredients are combined.  Fill cupcake papers about 1/2 full.  Bake for about 19 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.

Remove from oven and let cool before frosting.

I decorated these with some finely grated dark chocolate.

What would your favorite flavor combo be if I asked you to pick a cake mix and a box of Jell-O?

I shared this recipe over at the blog The Country Cook – Weekend Potluck #162.  Check out all of the other great links that shared there with me.

Create and Share! Best of the Weekend Party at

A Skinnier Version of Creamy Stove Top Rice Pudding

My mother always made a mean batch of rice pudding – the stove top version of course.   In fact, I would ask for it every year for my birthday in lieu of a cake – even though she filled the pudding with raisins that I would inevitably pick out one by one.

In my later years, I have come to two conclusions where rice pudding is concerned.  One, the raisins really do give it a unique flavor even if you have to pick them out like I do, and two, making rice pudding takes more patience than I sometimes have.  Why patience you ask?  Because if you don’t temper the eggs into the hot milk mixture you will end up with a disaster like I have done a few times before.  I almost had given up on making stove top rice pudding but after one more sigh, and a small self pep talk, I gave it one more shot.  And this my folks is what sweet victory tastes like.

If you are at all like me and patience aren’t your virtue on some God given days then maybe you’ll wait like I did – until a day when you feel invincible and time is on your side.

This a skinnier and lower sugar version of my mom’s original rice pudding.

Skinnier Creamy Stove Top Rice Pudding

1 1/2 c. skim milk

1/4 c. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 c. prepared instant rice (follow the directions on the package for two servings)

1 egg, beaten (in a separate bowl)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1 c.  light whipped topping (Cool Whip or the like)

Prepare the rice in advance by following the directions on the box of any instant rice (cooks in the microwave in 5 minutes).  In a medium sized saucepan, add milk, sugar, and salt.  Bring to a boil; stirring constantly.  Add cooked rice and remove from heat and cool for a ten minutes.  Slowly ladle about 1 cup of the  milk mixture into the beaten egg until completely mixed.  Place milk mixture back on the stove and on the lowest heat possible add egg mixture to it; mixing as you pour.  Stir constantly until pudding thickens.  The starch in the rice will help achieve this.  Once thickened, remove from heat and add vanilla and nutmeg.  Refrigerate until cool.  Once pudding has cooled fold in one cup of whipped topping before serving.

I took pictures of this pudding while it was still fairly warm.  That’s why you see the whipped cream melting.  Again, it’s a patience thing…  And I was losing  the optimal natural light I had to take pictures of my creation.

A while ago Libbey Glass sent me these cute little glasses/dishes that are perfect for  watching for portion control or feeding a crowd where you want to serve small tastes of everything sinful!

I shared this recipe over at the blog The Country Cook – Weekend Potluck #162.  Check out all of the other great links that shared there with me.

Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

There is nothing more enticing than a pan of homemade cinnamon rolls waiting to be dug into. Is there? 

Gooey Cinnamon Rolls

1/4 c. butter

1/2 c. granulated sugar

1/2 c. milk

1 tsp. salt

4 tsp. instant yeast

1 c. warm water

1 egg, beaten

4 c. all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading

Cinnamon & Sugar Mixture

3/4 c. granulated sugar

1 tbsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 stick of butter, softened


1/2 c. powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. milk

In a medium sized saucepan, add butter, milk, salt, and sugar.  Heat until butter has melted.  Remove from the burner and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour, yeast, and water.  Add egg and milk mixture to the flour; mix thoroughly.  Add remaining flour ensuring all ingredients are mixed completely.

Place the dough on a moderately floured surface.  Knead until dough is no longer sticky – use more flour if necessary by adding about a tablespoon or two at a time.  Place dough into a large greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow dough to double in size; about 1 hour.

Once dough has risen, place on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper about 15”x20” in size.   Punch dough down and roll into a rectangular shape – the size of the paper.  Brush softened butter on dough, sprinkle with prepared sugar & cinnamon mixture.  Roll dough into a log starting on the longest side of the rectangle.  Cut 1” slices and place in a greased 8”x13” baking pan.  

Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 1 hour. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for about 20-22 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool before drizzling icing on top.   

Cinnamon Cookies Rolled in Brown Sugar

On the spur of the moment (like six o’clock at night) I decided I needed to bake something sweet.  Something with cinnamon and brown sugar kind of sweet.  While a lot of ideas came to mind, many would take far more time and energy than I wanted to expend so I came up with the perfect solution – cinnamon cookies rolled in brown sugar – yes! score! win!

These cookies are quite popular  in our home right now, and I’m sure if you make a batch, they will be just as popular in yours as well.

Cinnamon Cookies Rolled in Brown Sugar (Recipe adapted from

1/2 c. vegetable shortening

1/2 c. margarine

1 egg

1 c. granulated sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 c. brown sugar (set aside)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream shortening, margarine, egg, and granulated sugar together.  Add baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and vanilla extract.  Mix in flour one cup at a time until thoroughly combined.  Roll dough into 1” balls – here is a tip, if you want fat cookies roll 2” balls, roll each ball in brown sugar, place on prepared baking sheet, and press dough down with a fork leaving crisscross marks on the top of each cookie.  For 1” balls, bake about 8 minutes, or just until the cookies start to turn a light golden color.  If baking 2” balls, bake about 10 minutes.  Allow cookies to cool slightly before moving them.   Makes about 2 dozen cookies if rolling dough into 1” balls and makes about 1 dozen cookies if rolling dough into into 2”balls.

Have you tried any new cookie recipes lately?  If so, let’s hear about them!

Simple & Healthy Ingredients Make For Delicious Mediterranean Style Salad Dressing

So, welcome 2015! 

Like many people who make new year resolutions, eating healthier options of the things I like always tops my list.  I’m always optimistic coming out of the gate but somewhere along the line I start lose my momentum, fall off the wagon, and resort to my old (not so wise) eating habits.  I vow every year that “this year is going to be different”.   And in the end, I’ve only fooled myself into believing that I could forgo delicious sweets, homemade bread, second helpings of my favorite dish of macaroni and cheese, and of course the great wines found here in the Finger Lakes Region and abroad. 

But… In a good faith effort to try try again, I’m sharing a recipe I found at The Pioneer Woman’s blog for a healthy and delicious homemade salad dressing she has named Aunt Trish’s Salad Dressing.  I made a couple adaptations to the original recipe.

I decided that Aunt Trish’s dressing has a Mediterranean taste to it – which I love.  It tastes so fresh and healthy, and the fact that there are no preservatives makes it all the better.  I do have to warn you that this recipe makes a considerably small batch.  My suggestion is to double or triple the recipe because I’m sure it will keep well in the fridge for a week or two – if it lasts that long!  At some point you may want to remove the garlic if you don’t want garlic overkill.

Mediterranean Style Salad Dressing ( This recipe is adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

3/4 c. olive oil

Juice of 2 lemons

4 tbsp. of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Pinch of salt & pepper

Dash of paprika

1/2 tsp. honey

2 whole cloves of garlic (peeled and cut in half)

Put all ingredients together in a jar or dressing shaker and shake until mixed.  Refrigerate for 24 hours before serving.


Have you made any new year resolutions?  If so, what are they?  Do you think you’ll stick to them?

Soft Sugar Cookies For A Very Merry Christmas

Sugar cookies are a traditional Christmas cookie in our family.  I make them every year for the holidays.  And before me, my mother and grandmother made them every year for the holidays too.

What would Christmas be without them?  Disappointing…

These cookies are soft, sweet, and addicting.  Seriously, if you think you can eat just one you’re only fooling yourself.

Soft Sugar Cookies

1 c. butter (or margarine) softened

2 eggs

1 c. granulated sugar

1 c. light brown sugar

1 c. sour cream

2 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

5 c. flour

In a large bowl, cream butter, eggs, and sugars together.  Add sour cream, vanilla, baking soda, and salt; mix completely.  Mix in one cup of flour at a time.  When all ingredients are completely blended cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to about 1/4” thick (don’t roll too thin) and cut out cookies with cookie cutters.  Place on parchment lined cookie sheets about 2” apart.  Bake for about 8 minutes, or until cookies are slightly firm to the touch. 

Move cookies to baking racks and let cool completely before frosting with your favorite buttercream icing.

I think it’s the brown sugar and sour cream that make these cookies extra special.  Try making them and let me know what you think.

Wishing Everyone A Very Merry Christmas!