It seems that there are two types of people in the kitchen, those who prefer cooking and those who prefer baking.  I am one who prefers crafting a great meal that is hearty and satisfying, to the patience and precision pastry work requires.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoy eating dessert.  And a celebratory feast doesn’t feel complete without a sweet finish.  I just prefer putting the bulk of my efforts into the main dish and then wrapping up a shared meal with something simple.

For cooks like me, semi-homemade is the best way to present a dessert that says, “I think you’re really special and I love to celebrate you – or a holiday or an event” – without expending the time, skill, and patience required to craft a spectacular homemade confection.

Thus semi-homemade cupcakes are my go-to dessert.  Because a few added techniques and ingredients enables you to craft a beautiful celebratory treat in a fraction of the time.

First start with the best quality boxed ingredients you can find.  

Add a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste (or the seeds of a fresh vanilla bean) to the batter made from a box of white cake mix before filling cupcake liners.  This simple addition will brighten the flavor, as well as add the aesthetic speckles of vanilla beans into the cakes.

Then elevate the frosting.  I wouldn’t put canned frosting on a list of quality ingredients.  But the day I made these birthday cupcakes, I didn’t have time to go to a second store.  And Chocolate Fudge Funfetti was my best option at Target.

So I put the canned frosting into my stand up mixer (and hand mixer will work as well), and whipped it on medium speed for about 4 minutes until the frosting transformed into something light and fluffy.

Next, use a rubber spatula to put the frosting in a zip lock baggie.  Snip the corner with a pair of scissors.  And pip the fluffy frosting onto the cupcake in a swirl.

I finished the cupcakes with rainbow confetti.  And ta-da!! Bakery worthy cupcakes in a fraction of the time.

Happy Celebrating!



Thank you Kristen Raney for bringing these amazing cookies to bible study on Monday night!  They were slightly crispy on the edges, moist and chewy on the inside, and satisfied our sweet and salty treat cravings.

What seems impossible to believe is that these delicious homemade cookies only require 4 ingredients, and a fraction of the time needed to create most desserts.

This is my new favorite treat to make for unexpected guests, gluten-free friends, or when I’m just short on time.

Because they really are as magical as they sound.



  • 1 cup Peanut Butter
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • coarsely ground Salt


  • Combine ingredients in a medium sized bowl
  • Shape into 12 balls and space evenly on a cookie sheet
  • Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, or until cooked through and slightly golden on the edges
  • Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt

Note:  Each batch makes a dozen cookies.  Double, triple, quadruple, etc the recipe depending on the size of the crowd you are feeding.  But if you need several dozen, I recommend only mixing a double batch at a time.  Incorporating more than 2 cups of peanut butter into the other ingredients is no longer a simple, quick recipe.



IMG_4254 (1)


These are the best homemade cupcakes I have every made!  Seriously.  I slightly adapted this recipe from a guest post on The Pioneer Woman’s blog.  If you like citrus or lavender you’ll love these cupcakes.  If you like both, they’re a little taste of heaven.

I recently made 4 dozen of these cupcakes for an engagement party.  You can read more about that here.  To make such a large quantity, I doubled the recipe for the cupcakes, and then made two batches.  This worked well.  I doubled the frosting, but only made one batch.  I thought this was enough to frost all 48 cupcakes.  Doubling, tripling, and quadrupling recipes is always a bit tricky.  If you are only making one dozen, just follow the recipe as is.



  • 1-1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 4 Lemons, zest freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 2 Large Egg Whites
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1/4 cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice


  • Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a cupcake tin with liners. (I have found flower baking cups at Michael’s and Sur la Table.)
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add in the sugar and beat on medium speed, scraping down the sides if needed and increasing it to high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until the sugar and butter is fluffy. Beat in each egg and white until incorporated, then add the vanilla and lemon zest until combined. Beating on low speed, add in half of the dry ingredients until combined, then add in the milk and lemon juice. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and beat until combined.
  • Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop the batter into the liners filling them 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 16–18 minutes, or until the tops are set. Let cool completely.



  • 3/4 cups Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • 3-1/2 cups To 4 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Culinary Lavender, finely chopped (I did not search stores all over town for this specialty ingredient.  I ordered it off of Amazon Prime and had it shipped to my front door.)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 -2 Tablespoons Heavy Whipping Cream


  • Add butter to the bowl of your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until creamy. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the powdered sugar and lavender. Increase the speed of the mixer, scraping down the sides if needed, beating the frosting until fluffy and combined. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  • Beat in the cream, a half tablespoon at time, until the frosting is a smooth and spreadable consistency, but still firm. If it seems to runny or too thin, you can beat in more powdered sugar ¼ cup at a time.
  • Frost the cupcakes.
  • If desired, decorate with lavender colored sprinkles while frosting is still “wet” so that the sprinkles stick.
  • You can also garnish with fresh lavender, but I prefer to only add a garnish that is edible.  It can be awkward at a party to try and figure out what to do with something inedible on your food.

VARIATION: You can also double the ingredients for the cake and the frosting to create a two layered cake.  I baked the cake layers in two 9″ cake pans for 25 minutes.  Or until golden brown on the edges, springy to the touch in the middle, and tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.


I did garnish the cake with lavender before serving, because it is easy for the host to remove before slicing and serving.




This is my go-to pie recipe, because it meets the same criteria as my other “go-to” recipes:

  • easy and quick to make.
  • beautiful to present.
  • delicious to eat.

I have prepared this pie as a wonderful ending to a holiday meal, a unique entry in a church pie auction, and as homemade dessert for weeknight company.

The addition of chocolate to a simple pecan pie recipe is brilliant.


I found this pie recipe years ago on a package of chocolate baking chunks.  But I always make it with semi-sweet chocolate chips because they are a staple in my kitchen pantry.  This pie prepares well in a ready store bought frozen pie crust.  But I actually prefer using the rolled, refrigerated pie crust that I put into my own pie dish or tin and folding the edges over by hand, intentionally allowing imprecision.   I like the homemade, rustic appearance of this method rather than a perfect/store-bought presentation.




  • 1 unbaked 9″ frozen pie shell OR 1 rolled, refrigerated pie crust.
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans halves
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


  • Pre-heat oven to 350
  • If you are using rolled pie crust, shape into pie dish.  (If using frozen pie shell, do not thaw.)
  • Combine eggs, corn syrup, sugar, cooled butter, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl with a whisk.
  • Stir in pecans.
  • Sprinkle chocolate chips over the bottom of unbaked pie shell.
  • Pour pecan mixture into shell.
  • Carefully place pie on a baking sheet.
  • Bake for 50-55 minutes or until knife inserted 2 inches from center comes out with little bits of filling attached. (If browning too quickly cover pie loosely with foil.)
  • Cool on wire rack for 2 hours; and refrigerate until serving time.  (If you want to serve pie at room temperature remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.)


Blog at

Up ↑