Birthday Bites: Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Marscapone Frosting


The fact that my little darling daughter’s birthday was in August, lets you know how behind on things I am.  I’ve been meaning to post this FOREVER. These cupcakes are the ones I made on her actual birthday and then I made another cake on the day of her party…more on that later. These cupcakes are really yummy and I love this frosting during the summer months.  

Vanilla Cupcakes adapted slightly from Joy the Baker

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup vanilla sugar (if you have it, if not use regular)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 vanilla been, seeds scraped out
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I used mostly 1% because that is what I had and added a little 1/2 and 1/2)

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees.  Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes).  Add eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.  Beat in vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds until well incorporated.  

Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until almost incorporated.  Add the milk and blend.  Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat on low until almost incorporated.  Remove bowl from mixer and finish mixing by hand.

Divide the batter between the cupcake liners.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let rest in pan on a rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Strawberry-Mascarpone Frosting adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

  • 1 (8 oz) container of mascarpone cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries
  • 3-4 TBSP sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice

In the bowl of a food processor, process lemon juice and sugar until the sugar begins to melt.  Add the mascarpone cheese and process until smooth.  Add the chopped strawberries and pulse until combined (alternatively mix them in by hand if you want a more “chunky” frosting).  Spread on cooled cupcakes.









Salad Days: Slow Roasted Tomato Panzanella

I’m not normally an eat only a salad for a meal kind of girl.  However, I make exception for this salad.  I could eat it ALL the time.  Originally, I had hoped that I would have a huge cherry and grape tomato crop this year.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  So I’ve been buying tomatoes to make this salad.  I saw the original recipe in Homemade with Love and then adapted the amounts of ingredients and cut the oil as I thought there was just too much in the original recipe.  If you have any last minute tomatoes hanging around in your garden make this ASAP!

  • 1. 5 pounds of grape tomatoes (I used a variety of colors)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 10 sprigs of thyme with leaves removed

250 mix all ingredients roast for about 1 hour. Store in fridge for up to 2 weeks

  • 8 oz day old baguette (I used the demi-baguette from Trader Joes), diced into 1/2 inch cubes (or a little larger if you would like)
  • 1/4 cup and 1 TBSP shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 TBSP chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 1/2 TBSP olive oil

Mix in large nonstick skillet and then cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until crisp and golden (store 3 days)

  • 1 1/2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 cups croutons
  • 3 ounces fresh mozzarella cubed
  • 1 cup slow roasted tomatoes 
  • 8-10 basil leaves, finely chopped

Mix these ingredients together and savor!





#make ahead

End of Summer Coconut Cookies

Today I wore jean capris and short sleeve sweater and I was cold.  Tomorrow will be warm again, but the kiddos keep pointing out the leaves that are beginning to change.  Fall is definitely creeping into New England.  Now that the weather is not so crazy hot and humid I am attempting to hold on to summer a bit more.  While I’m tempted to go all into Fall flavors now, I decided to stick with a more summery flavor for the cookies I’m bringing to Maine for the weekend.  

I’ve had these cookies from Joy the Baker on my list of things to make for a while.  However, I’ve made a number of changes.  My kiddos were running around like complete crazies so some of the cookies got a little more crispy than I wanted.  But they are tasty and not too sweet.  

  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut 
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (if you don’t have use all sweetened)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used Ceylon cinnamon)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (I use flavorganics)

Position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Spread the coconut on a baking sheet.  Bake for about 8-10 minutes stirring once, until the coconut becomes evenly golden.  Watch carefully, as the coconut can darken quickly toward the end of baking.  Set aside to cool.  Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and brown sugar until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing.  Add the egg, vanilla and coconut extract and mix until blended.  On low speed, add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated.  Use a large spoon to stir in the toasted coconut.

Divide the dough into two portions and pat into a flat rectangle.  Cut two large sheets of wax paper, and roll out the portions of dough between the wax paper into a rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick.  Remove the top piece of wax paper. Cut out cookies with a cookie cutter (I used a square one) or just cut the dough into rectangles.

Lift the cookies off the wax paper and transfer to the parchment lined baking sheet.  If you have trouble lifting the dough, place it in the fridge for a few minutes to harden and then transfer to a baking sheet.  Bake one sheet at a time until the edges and bottoms are lightly browned, about 10 to 15 minutes (really depends on size of cookie).

Store in an air-tight container.  







Things I know, sunburn and Peach-Vanilla Muffins

I’m not normally a complete moron.  I have my moments of idiocy like everyone else. However, I’m usually pretty good at not doing things I KNOW to be trouble in the making.  As I am in a list making mood here is an ever so brief list of a couple things I know (not an extensive list mind you…)

  1. The days I need to be somewhere early are the days my kids will decide to sleep in past 6 AM.
  2. If I have to use my husband’s car and am in a hurry the car will be on empty.
  3. If I like a new TV show it will likely be canceled the moment I get into it.
  4. On a sunny-breezy day when you will be spending the day on the ocean…wear sunscreen!  If you don’t you get sunburn.  Guess what I know to do that I didn’t to today.  Slightly crispy right now…
  5. Finally, I made these muffins a couple of weeks ago and I will be making them again tomorrow.  To me they taste like a mouthful of summer.  

I got the inspiration for this recipe from the Joy the Baker Cookbook which I checked out of the library.  Joy’s recipe included a streusel topping and a number of warm spices.  To me this seems more Autumn like rather than summery so I adjusted the recipe to highlight another favorite flavor…vanilla.  These muffins also include brown-butter so basically they couldn’t get much better in my mind.

Peach-Vanilla Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup vanilla sugar (if you have it if not regular granulated)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 7 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (if you don’t have it use vanilla extract)
  • 1 1/4 cups diced peaches

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a muffin pan (of 12) with liners.  

Place butter in a small saucepan, and melt until browned over medium heat.  Remove from the heat and cool slightly.  

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, baking powder and salt.  

In another medium bowl, whisk together egg, yolk, milk, vanilla extract and vanilla paste.  While whisking, slowly drizzle in the warm butter, making sure to scrape any brown bits into the egg mixture as well.  Whisk until well incorporated.

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture all at once.  Fold together with a spatula.  Once no flour bits remain, fold in the diced peaches.  Divide batter between the muffin cups.

Bake the muffins for 15-18 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of one of the muffins come out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack in the pan for 5-10 minutes.

Muffins will last in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days…yeah right like that is going to happen.

1 note



#brown butter



Brown-butter Angel-hair Pasta with Peas and Sausage

The title of this blog is A Wicked Good Life…and it usually is. Then there are times when it really isn’t.  Sometimes life stinks!  I’ve been having a life stinks kind of week or so…I don’t normally promote the idea of eating to comfort one’s self.  That can quickly turn into a waistline and thigh nightmare.  That being said, I will admit to making some Coconut-Crusted French Toast which I ate with fruit not syrup and with the leftover challah bread some Nutella Bread Pudding which I had a spoonful of before my family devoured before I could get some more.  

I decided to come up with a “Mommy” comfort food dish that won’t be in anyway sweet and include peas which isn’t a favorite with the rest of the family.  I’ve been obsessed (insanely) with desserts using brown-butter.  In one of the cooking competitions I’ve been watching I saw something with pasta, brown-butter and shrimp.  Okay, not into the shrimp idea, but I can play with the pasta and brown-butter.  

This “recipe” isn’t an exact science type of thing.  I had to make several “toppings” because my kids only like a no chunks sauce, for my hubby a combo of slow-roasted and fresh tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and then my combo. I made all the components and then mixed a little at a time.  Thankfully I had enough sauce/topping to make some more pasta for lunch this afternoon. Yeah!

Brown-butter Angel-hair Pasta with Peas and Sausage

  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 1/2-2 cups frozen peas
  • 4 Morning Star Veggie Sausages crumbled
  • 4 TBSP browned-butter
  • 1/2 pound of angel-hair pasta, cooked
  • Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

In a nonstick pan cook the shallot until soft.  Add the crumbled veggie sausages and cook for a minute or two.  Add frozen peas and cook until just cooked.  

In a small sauce pan cook the butter (I started out with around 6 TBSP unsalted butter) until melted, it foams, and then begins to brown.  Watch carefully and remove from heat when light brown and nutty smelling. Pour into another container so that it doesn’t continue to cook.  


Mix all ingredients together and garnish with Parmesan cheese...



#brown butter


#comfort food

Cookies for Camp Meeting (Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles, Brown Butter Chocolate Chip, Anzac)


Last week my family spent a sweltering, humid, and wet week at an old fashioned Camp Meeting.  I spent quite a bit of time trying to get together food that would travel and potentially last a little while.  I knew that in additional to some banana and zucchini bread I would have to make one (or several) batches cookies. I figured that tall man would need things to grab in between all the meetings.  

I made a family favorite Anzac Cookies from Alice Medrich’s book Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt-in-your-mouth-cookies. They are really crispy, coconuty and known for being able to last for a while.  

ANZAC Cookies

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried shredded coconut

Place oats in a food processor.  Process just until the oats are coarsely ground but not powdered; set aside.

Combine the butter, sugar, water, and honey in a large saucepan and warm over medium-low heat until the butter is melted.  Remove from the heat and add the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, coconut and oats all at once and stir until the flour is completely incorporated.  

Divide the dough in half and form two 8 by 2 inch logs.  Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Put racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Remove dough from the refrigerator and slice it into 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick slices with a serrated knife.  Place the slices at least 1 inch apart on lined or greased cookie sheets.  

Bake for 14-17 minutes (rotate the sheets from top to bottom halfway through baking), or until golden brown all over. Transfer cookies to racks an cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

The second type of cookie I brought for the first part of the week were these Brown-Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies from Joy the Baker.  I made them without the nuts due to the kiddos.  I doubt that I will ever make chocolate chip cookies another way again.  Robert took one bite and said “wow, outstanding! What is different about these?”  Brown-butter baby!

The last batch of cookies I made on a quick trip home mid-week to do some laundry and get some sleep.  I first say these Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles in a Better Homes and Garden Christmas Cookie Publication.  I’ve adapted the recipe more for our tastes (less sugar more cinnamon in different varieties).  

I’ve mentioned in times past that I have 3 varieties in cinnamon in my spice area.  I buy my cinnamons from Penzey’s Spices.  My “general” cinnamon is their China Tung Hing.  It is nice a strong cinnamon without being over-powering.  When I’m cooking any Latin American based dish or dessert with chocolate I use the “Latin American” cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon.  It has some citrus notes and was the type of cinnamon I had in chocolate dishes while living in Guatemala.  My final cinnamon is a recent addition for that real cinnamon kick which is their Extra Fancy Vietnamese Cinnamon.  It is considered the strongest cinnamon available in the US.  If you don’t have all these varieties of cinnamon use what you have you just may not have the complexity of these (if you were one of those who asked me for the recipe when tasting them).

Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles 

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp China Tung Hing cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon ( I used 1 tsp China, 1 tsp Ceylon, 1/2 tsp Vietnamese)

In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer for 1 minute.  Then add sugars and beat until fluffy.  Add cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and 1/4 tsp China cinnamon and 1/4 tsp Ceylon cinnamon and beat until combined (scraping down bowl as needed).  Beat in eggs and vanilla until combined.  Add cocoa powder and flour until combined (try not to overbeat, mix in by hand the last little bit if needed.) Cover dough and chill in refrigerator for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a small bowl stir together the 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 2 1/2 tsp cinnamon (the blend or just one type).  Shape dough into 1 inch to 1 1/4 inch balls.  Roll balls in sugar mixture to coat them.  Place on parchment covered baking sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are set and tops are cracked.  Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

1 note








#brown butter


#make ahead

Pintrest Post #10: Brown-butter Cherry Bars ›

I have another rather lengthy post coming, but I just finished making these bars that have been pinned to my “desserts to make” board for a couple weeks.  Cherries were on sale so I knew that now was the time to jump at making these.  So glad I did (though my summer of trying to lose some weight may not)!  I might cut back on the baking time of the crust by itself in the future, but other than that yummy!  

I have to mention however, that what I wouldn’t give for an automatic cherry pitter right about now!






#brown butter

#make ahead

Random thoughts on cooking and TV

I think that it might be summer in New England.  I’m sneezing, hot one minute as the heat and humidity just suck the life out of me and the next I’m grabbing my fleece pants and wool socks again.  

The last two weeks and the next three weeks are going to be CRAZY! I’ve been cooking a lot and baking plenty of cookies.  I’ll get to the recipes soon, but if you don’t have Alice Medrich’s cookie book get it!

This summer also begin cooking competition time on TV.  I watched America’s Baking Competition tonight.  Interesting so far, though I can’t figure out what Jeff Foxworthy is doing on there.  Now I’m watching Master Chef on DVR.  Really wanted that pastor guy to go through to the next round.  

I’ll get back to recipes soon…




Side Trip Worth Taking: Flour Bakery


There may have been times in the past, like here and here where I’ve obsessed just a bit about recipes from the book Flour based on the recipes from the bakery by that name.  I’ve lived in the Boston area for 9 months and still hadn’t been to one of the Flour bakery + cafe locations until last week.  I was about to take the kiddos to the Children’s Museum (which I’ve been to plenty of times) when I realized that one of the Flour locations was only a couple blocks away.  Usually when I have the kids I make them walk from the train station to the museum which is only 3-4 blocks.  On the way back there is always complaining so I end up carrying at least one of them.  The thought of carrying them and baked goods made me reconsider my original stance on taking the double stroller on the train.  So I was that annoying person who brings two kids and a double stroller on a commuter train.

We went to Flour BEFORE and AFTER the museum.  It was that good people.  I got a “pop tart” for the kids which I managed to inhale half of myself.  YUMMY! In the end I we brought home (or ate on the way) several “pop tarts,” chocolate cupcakes with “magic” frosting, brown-butter rice crispy treats, several types of cookies and a cinnamon-sugar sprinkled brioche-cream type thing.

Basically all the hype is totally justified.  I will be cooking out of this cookbook more.  I will also “conveniently” be making more trips to the “museum”.  





Cherry Almond Muffins from Baking Bites ›

I had some cherries leftover from my Cherry Garcia Bundt Cake and decided to make these muffins.  Nicole (from Baking Bites) is right they look a little strange (purplish…which M1 loved) but they taste wicked good.  I’ve eaten two tonight…





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