Semi-Homemade isn’t just a technique I rely on for dessert.  When I’m in a pinch for time, it’s also my preferred way to provide side dishes.

Trader Joe’s boxed beer bread mix is one of my favorite go-to’s.  There is so much flavor in this semi-homemade bread loaf that only requires three ingredients: the box mix, a can of beer (ginger beer or carbonated water works too!), and a half a stick of melted, salted butter.

The melted butter is the key ingredient in this recipe.  And the secret is to pour it over the top before you bake it, rather than stirring it in the batter.  This technique creates a delightful crunch on the edges of the finished loaf, making this bread a frequent request from the people gathered at your table.

However it is important to note that it is critical that you use the right sized pan, which is a 9″ X 5″ loaf pan.  One time in a rush, I accidentally used an 8″ X 4″ inch pan.  The conclusion of that experience required a fire extinguisher.  Those are the kind of mistakes that you only make once!



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!



It’s been one of those weeks.  Life is busy, I haven’t been feeling great, and meals have been simple.

Monday night dinner for the girls was:

  • 4 jars of Tikka Masala Curry Sauce that I bought (with 20% off coupons) in the Cost Plus World Market Pantry at Bed, Bath & Beyond.
    • heated with pre-prepped rotisserie chicken from Costco.
  • Jasmine Rice (also purchased from that same section of B, B & B).
  • Naan Bread (bought at Costco – on sale – and heated in the oven).
  • Pre-Peeled and Sliced Fresh Mango (also from Costco).
  • Green Salad made with ingredients assembled from cleaning out my fridge.
    • with Soy Vay Toasted Sesame Salad Dressing (which is delicious!).


TA-DA!  A tasty simple, semi-homecooked meal for 10 people (with leftovers) prepared in 30 minutes.

Enjoyed with great love.

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