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I’m a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to motherhood. I was never one of those women who felt called to be a mother; for whom child-rearing was a natural desire and instinct. Kind of the opposite, really. Sure, I wanted to have kids in the general sense but I also felt I would have been fine without them-I wanted to see the world and do epic things and go on spontaneous trips to Bora Bora with my husband and I never could (and still can’t, not really) reconcile those two worlds-it was one or the other. So when I was found out I pregnant with Saurus, my first reaction was fear-I think I literally said “oh dear, what have we done?”  Of course there was lots of excitement, too! I was thrilled that our family was growing and I felt so blessed that we were chosen to parent a perfect and healthy little boy but I didn’t feel motherly. I loved him intensely and cared for him carefully.  But nothing about childcare was instinctual for me.

I always said that I was a good mother, but not a natural one.  It took work. Lots and lots and lots of work.
Not saying that it doesn’t take work if you’re a natural mom-of course it does!-just that it was as foreign to me as if someone told me one day that actually I wasn’t a human at all but was a fish instead and I had to immediately go and live the rest of my life in the ocean.  Sure, I could do it, I’d learn how to swim, and maybe overcome my fear of seaweed, but it wasn’t like I was born with gills or anything.  (And even though I think I’m starting to get my mothering gills, it will always take work!) And while I loved holding my sweet baby, and reading stories, and getting sloppy kisses, Saurus and I never really bonded like I expected. Or like everyone around me seemed to be doing. Or, let’s be honest, like the Internet led me to believe that I should.  It’s not that I solely checked parenting boxes, there was definite love, just not understanding.  Just not the deep, motherly feeling I was expecting. I was often the last person he chose for comfort and I never felt it was I who needed to be the one to provide it. Being a mother was something I did, not something I was.

Until now.
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Perhaps it’s just us growing up together over the last three years. Perhaps it’s been there all along and I’ve just never noticed. Most likely it’s the sneaky mama-hormones. But for the first time in my life, I truly feel like a mom. I feel hopeful, and content, and protective, and joyful, and important, and just downright awesome, simply because a small human calls me “mama”. For the first time, I feel complete in just being a mom, not in the stamps on my passport or the accomplishments at my job or if my home is ready for a magazine or if dinner is perfect or a myriad of other things.  Those things are still ambitions I have, and things I long to do, but being a mama is pretty cool too.

This realization has not made me a better mother, technically speaking.

Last week, I forgot to feed Saurus dinner, panicked when I realized it at 11pm, and woke him up from a perfectly wonderful sleep to practically force-feed him peanut butter and bananas, like some odd penance for my child-caring failure. 

I get incredibly frustrated when I have to clean applesauce up for the 9000th time or hear “oops – spilled it” from the backseat of the car or have to operate on toddler speed in the grocery store (or pretty much anywhere) and I still feel at a loss about many aspects of motherhood (tantrums?! potty training?! eating vegetables?!). But now, when people ask what I do, I feel proud to start with “I’m a mama”, rather than “I’m a ____, a ____, a ____. Oh, and I have a small human”. I feel like a mama, not just a child-raiser. I feel like, 3 years later and more than halfway to baby boy number two (oh yeah, we’re having another one and this one was even more of a surprise than the first), I finally get what all those women and parenting books told me I “should be feeling” from the moment my first baby was born. I look forward to the minutes spent with my child-I’m finally understanding that they are precious and too short and more important than I could have ever imagined.

Saurus gets it too-Mama is now his preferred person to cuddle on the couch, to hug when he wakes up, to play endless games of Hungry, Hungry Hippos with, to hold his hand when he crosses the street, to put the bandaid on his skinned knees. Maybe it’s just a phase, maybe it’s just the pregnancy, but he sees me as a mama now too, not just as the person who cuts his pb&j into dinosaur shapes and sings songs at bedtime.  It’s pretty awesome.

Being a mama has become something I am, not just something I do, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.

[photos courtesy of the absolutely amazing Erin Kaye Photography who somehow managed do get so many amazing family shots of us in 20 minutes, in freezing weather, and with a toddler who was sooo not into it]




citrus cake-5

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While getting ready this morning:
Saurus: I want to take all of my animals to school
Me: You can take as many animals as you can carry. (I naively thought this would be like….4)
Saurus: Okay. Good plan. I need a big bucket.
Me: Oh dear.
Saurus: Oh good. Shorts have pockets.

After he loads up his bucket and shorts pockets with plastic animals, he struggles to haul it the 5 feet to me and hands it over saying proudly, “There! Carried it! Mama’s turn to carry the animals!”

I’ve been outwitted by a 3-year-old. Another parenting milestone reached.

Also this week, I reached the milestone of making this cake which has been in my recipe book for YEARS.  Like 10 of them.  YEARS.  I came up with this recipe for a dessert auction all those years ago, made it once, and then never made it again.  Not sure why except that I’ve just never really gotten around to it.  But I regret it – I’d forgotten how delicious this cake is and Husband chastised me for missing out on 10 years of cake

Husband: Where did you get this cake?
Me: My recipe book.
Husband: I don’t remember it.
Me: Because it was from my before-husband years.
Husband: And you never once thought in the last 10 years “I should make this amazing cake that has all Husband’s favorite flavors in it”?
Me: Guess it slipped my mind.
Me: Ummm…sorry?
Husband: Just get me more cake

I meant for this to be a sweet, pastel, spring-looking cake.  But then Saurus wanted to help and was put in charge of food coloring and stirring.  Moderation is not in his vocabulary so the result was a (still great tasting) highlighter neon cake.  It works.  Saurus was beside himself with happiness and Husband said it was good so I’ll take it.  Just know your cake doesn’t have to be something requiring sunglasses.

citrus crunch cake
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crunch layer
  1. 1/2C pecans
  2. 1/2C butter, melted
  3. 1C graham crackers crumbs
  4. 1/2 C pure cane white sugar
citrus cake
  1. 1C sour milk*
  2. 3/4C butter, room temperature
  3. 2Tbsp lemon olive oil**
  4. 2Tbsp orange olive oil**
  5. 1 1/2C pure cane white sugar
  6. 4 eggs, room temperature
  7. 1 1/2tsp vanilla bean paste
  8. 1tsp almond extract
  9. 3C flour, sifted
  10. 3tsp baking powder
  11. 1tsp salt
crunch layer
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease your cake pans
  2. Put all ingredients in food processor or blender and pulse until finely chopped and well-combined.
  3. Press mixture into the bottom of your pans, dividing evenly.
  4. Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes or until beginning to brown around the edges
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  1. Reduce oven temperature to 325F
  2. Prepare sour milk.
  3. Beat butter, oils, and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs one at time, vanilla, and almond extract, beating well after each.
  4. Gradually add dry ingredients, alternating with the sour milk. Mix just until combined.
  5. Pour on top of cooled crunch layer.
  6. Bake at 325F for 20-25 mins (times vary depending on your pan size)
  1. I used my beloved Wilton 5-layer cake pan set for this cake but the recipe makes the standard amount of batter for 24 cupcakes, a 9x13 pan, two 9-inch pans....whatever strikes your fancy
  2. *To make sour milk, whisk together 1C milk and 1Tbsp white vinegar and set aside until it looks lumpy and gross (about 5 mins)
  3. **I used citrus infused olive oils in my recipe because I had them (and LOVE them) but you can substitute 3Tbsp orange juice and 1tsp lemon extract and add 3Tbsp of butter and 1/4C flour to the recipe.
pineapple cream cheese frosting
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  1. 1/2C butter, room temperature
  2. 8oz cream cheese, room temperature
  3. 1tsp almond extract
  4. 3C powdered sugar
  5. 1/4C heavy cream
  6. 8oz crushed pineapple, drained*
  1. Beat butter and cream cheese together until creamy.
  2. Add almond extract
  3. Slowly sift in powdered sugar and beat well.
  4. Add cream and beat on high for a few minutes until frosting is perfectly fluffy.
  5. Fold in crushed pineapple.
  6. Use immediately on your amazing citrus cake.
  1. *Even crushed pineapple was a bit too chunky for my tastes so I dumped it in the food processor and pureed it. But if you like little bits of actual pineapple in your frosting, just go straight from the can (don't forget to drain it!)

churro cupcakes-6

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One of the very most horrifying awesome things about living in a place that used to be a tobacco field 3 years ago is the wildlife.  And by wildlife, I mean insects.  And by insects, I mean spiders.  So. Many. Spiders.  It’s…..just. so. many. spiders.  They just appear.  Everywhere.  Like little spider ninjas.  I’ll walk through the office and no spider.  I walk through 3 seconds later and BAM! GIANT SPIDER STARING AT ME FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE FLOOR WITH ALL 8 EYES. FROM WHERE DIDST YOU COME, BEAST?!

Saurus has appointed himself chief spider killer which is fine by me except that no spiders actually meet their maker.  So far he’s 0 for 16,439 but I will give him the assist on 7 previously vanquished foes that he ensured were no longer recognizable as anything more than a smear on the wall.  This is why I have washable paint.

Mostly he just moves in Saurus mode which is a rough equivalent to a drunken squirrel so by the time we’ve gotten over the excitement of finding a spider that needed vanquishing, choosing the correct shoe with which to kill said spider (it’s a serious process, apparently), and getting your face thisclose to said spider to examine it, the spider has gotten bored of simply sitting in the middle of the floor waiting to be annihilated and darts under the couch, pursued by a todder with a toddler-sized flip-flop smashing wildly but nowhere near it.

Now, the toddler is disappointed, the Mama sighs and adds another tally to spider win column, and the ninja fiend is safely ensconced under the couch.  Where he and his 16,438 buddies are most likely wearing sombreros and throwing a fiesta.

Speaking of fiestas, Feliz Cinco de Mayo!  

Which is like Taco Tuesday on steroids in my book.  And provides a reason for me to make churro cupcakes.  Which obviously need to be filled with dulce de leche because once upon a time when I was young and went to Mexico for spring break, I ate 9000 filled churros and nothing else. That’s the end of that story. Yup. The end.

But I did become convinced that dulce de leche filled churros are the only churros.  And I also became convinced at midnight last night that I should make my own dulce de leche from scratch because I’m an idiot.  Don’t do that. Don’t be that person who decides to make dulce de leche at midnight.  Buy it in a can.  I mean, homemade is awesome but really not worth it.  I’m giving you the recipe anyway since I have one but just save yourself a few hours and buy the can.

churro cupcakes
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  1. 1 1/4 C milk
  2. 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp white vinegar
  3. 1 C butter, room temperature
  4. 1 1/2 C pure cane white sugar
  5. 4 eggs, room temperature
  6. 2 t vanilla
  7. 3 C flour, sifted
  8. 1 Tbsp baking powder
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  11. dulce de leche
  1. 1/2 C butter, room temperature
  2. 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  3. 3 C powdered sugar, sifted
  4. 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  5. heavy cream, as needed
  6. cinnamon & raw sugar for topping
  1. In small bowl, whisk together milk and vinegar and set aside to sour (it should look lumpy and awful by the time it's ready)
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, whip together butter and sugar and vanilla until fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each one.
  5. Gradually add the rest of the ingredients, alternating between the dry ingredients and sour milk, and stirring gently until well-combined.
  6. Pour into prepared cupcake tin and bake at 350F for approx 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
  7. Set on a wire rack to cool.
  8. Once cool, fill with dulce de leche (remember the can!)
  1. Cream together butter and cream cheese
  2. Gradually beat in powdered sugar and cinnamon until well-combined
  3. Add heavy cream as needed for consistency
  4. Beat it. Beat it good. Then pipe it onto cooled cupcakes.
  5. Sprinkle the top liberally with cinnamon and raw sugar
  6. Put on your sombrero and fiesta, mi amigo.
dulce de leche
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  1. 2 C whole milk
  2. 2/3 C pure cane white sugar
  3. 1/2 tsp vanilla
  4. 1/8 tsp baking soda
  1. Combine all ingredients in large saucepan over medium-high heat
  2. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved, then reduce heat to medium-low
  3. Continue cooking, stirring frequently until mixture has thickened and darkened in color (at least an hour). You'll need to store more frequently and reduce heat the thicker the mixture gets to avoid burning.
  4. Transfer to a bowl to cool and then fill your cupcakes while you wish you would have just bought the can.
Adapted from laylita
Adapted from laylita

lemon herb salmon text

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Me: Saurus. Dinnertime. Thoughts?
Saurus: Yogurt pretzels
Me: Nope. Try again.
Saurus: Hummingbird eggs (meaning chocolate easter eggs, not to be confused with cadbury eggs, which are “dinosaur eggs”)
Me: Negative.
Saurus: Orange juice.
Me: Solid choice. Now we just need an actual dinner. Options are salmon, salmon, spaghetti, or salmon.
Saurus: Grilled cheese.
Me: Well played. Salmon it is.
Saurus: Yay! With rice!

I’m fairly certain that 2/3 of being a mother to a toddler is negotiating meals.  Which is roughly the same thing as negotiating with tiny terrorists.  Which is very much not a policy in our house but I’m also not a vicious dictator who insists on spinach for every meal.  Finding foods that are toddler-approved and also resemble something that’s not pb&j (which must be cut into either train shapes or dinosaurs and have the crusts served as the side dish, heaven forbid you unwittingly pick the wrong shape of the day), grilled cheese (which must be made with “square cheese” – the processed american kind, heaven forbid I  try to make it delicious and put cheddar on it or something), or pizza (which must be thin crust pepperoni from Domino’s, with the pepperonis picked off. heaven forbid I order an actual cheese pizza).  Enter: salmon. The meal in which Saurus carefully picks at his portion, eats all of his rice, decides everyone else’s filets look much better and proceeds to eat all of the fish from Mama’s and half of Dad’s plates, leaving Mama with a toddler-picked over filet on a plastic dinosaur plate which is exactly. like. all. the. other. filets.

And this recipe is, like, the easiest thing ever. Which means it takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish and the dishes are beyond minimal.  So pretty much everyone wins.  We eat this like 3 times a week and no one has gotten sick of it yet so we’ll see how much longer we can keep that up.

lemon herb salmon
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  1. 4 salmon filets (I usually do ours at about 6 oz)
  2. 4 Tbsp butter
  3. 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  4. 2 garlic cloves, minced (or just use the squeeze kind! It's a glorious invention)
  5. 1 lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 425
  2. Grease an appropriately-sized baking dish and place salmon in it, skin-side down (if yours has skin still on)
  3. In a small bowl, melt butter (microwave for about 20 seconds) and stir in Italian seasoning
  4. Pour herbed butter over the salmon, and sprinkle the garlic over the top.
  5. Slice 1/2 of the lemon into thin slices and lay on top of the whole thing.
  6. Squeeze the juice from the other half of the lemon all over.
  7. Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes or until it easily flakes with a fork.
  8. Serve and then be prepared to switch plates with your toddler.

s'more porter cupcakes_text

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Husband and I were settling in to watch a movie.  For me, this is quite a process to get the perfect arrangement of pillows and blankets.
Husband: You’re like one of those really old dogs who has to turn around in circles and get their bed just right before laying down.
Me: Did you just call me a dog?
Husband: But in a good way.
Me: Mmhmm
Husband: You know, like a really cute dog.
Me: You’re lucky i’m not easily offended by things.
Husband: Ha! More like you’ve finally gotten your nest how you want it and you don’t want to move and have to start all over.
Me: Ugh.
Getting things just right is a process but one that seriously pays off.  Especially when you’re talking pillow nests and cupcakes.  For every batch up cupcakes I make, there are an average of two first-run failures (and WAY more if we’re talking all of my glorious funfetti failures) but when those cupcakes turn out just right….it’s perfect.  And makes me want to never make another kind of cupcake for the rest of my life.  Case in point, these s’more porter cupcakes.
Graham cracker vanilla cake, s’more porter chocolate ganache filling, and toasted marshmallow frosting makes for one of THE BEST cupcakes of all time.  Seriously.  AND you get to use a box mix! YES!

s'more porter cupcakes
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  1. 1 box french vanilla cake mix (the one that says "pudding in the mix" is the best)
  2. 3 eggs
  3. 1/2 C + 2 Tbsp whole milk
  4. 1/2 C s'more porter
  5. 1/3 C butter, melted
  6. 1/3 C graham cracker crumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Dump all those ingredients in a mixing bowl and turn on your mixer.  Sure, there's probably a proper way to do this but in the numerous times I've made these, it hasn't seemed to make a difference so let's go the easy route.
  3. Beat on low speed for about 30 seconds to get everything moistened and then crank that sucker up to med/high for about 2 mins.
  4. Spoon into prepared cupcake tin and bake for 11-14 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Set on wire rack to cool
chocolate stout ganache
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  1. 1 1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  2. 1/2 C s'more porter
  3. 1/2 C heavy cream
  1. Place chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat beer and cream until just before boiling, stirring constantly.
  3. Pour hot cream/beer over chocolate and whisk until smooth.
  4. Refrigerate mixture for approx 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  You're going for the consistency of thick frosting.  If you don't have time to do the fridge thing (I think it's easier so I can work on other things while it cools), you can put the bowl down in a larger bowl of ice and whisk away until you get the consistency you want.
  5. Cut holes in the top of each cooled cupcake and fill with the ganache.  I find that it's easiest to use a piping bag.
easy toasted marshmallow frosting
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  1. 4 egg whites, room temperature
  2. 1 C pure cane sugar
  3. 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  4. small pinch of salt
  5. 1 tsp vanilla
  6. candy thermometer
  7. kitchen torch
  1. Fill a medium saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. (You're going to use this as a double boiler with your stand mixer bowl)
  2. Add the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to combine. Place the bowl on top of the saucepan from step one.  Heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture reaches 120 degrees.  This should take around 5 minutes.
  3. Return the bowl to the stand mixer and beat on medium for 1 minute.  Add the vanilla and increase the speed to high and beat until it's glossy and has stiff peaks (about 5 mins).
  4. Swirl the frosting onto the cooled and filled cupcakes.
  5. Using a kitchen torch, toast the frosting until nice and golden.  Unless you're one of those people who likes their s'mores extra toasty.  In that case, roast 'em!
  1. If you don't have a kitchen torch, just place the cupcakes on a baking sheet, and set under the broiler until golden.

dinosaur party-6


Where oh where did the time go?! It feels like just yesterday that he turned two.  And we brought him home from the hospital the day before that. Seriously. But he is growing into such a sweet, caring, busy, outdoor-loving little boy that it makes losing my babysaurus not such a hardship.  Everyday he is learning something new, and so am I.  He is absolutely the most precious thing to us and we wanted to celebrate turning three in a big way.  Saurus (naturally) requested a dinosaur party and talked about it for WEEKS non-stop.  He was beside himself with excitement before, during, and after the party.  He loved everything – the dinosaur balloons, having all of his friends to play with, his new swingset, the fact that he could eat all of the cake he wanted, you name it, it was his favorite.  He was walking around the house saying “Saurus LOVES cake!” “Oh, wow! Saurus LOVES dinosaurs!” “Saurus LOVES friends!”

True to form, I completely failed at taking pictures before and during the party – all that was left was the aftermath so I snapped a few of the decorations then but it was after pretty much everything in my house had been happily annihilated by festivity.  Worth it, but I always wish I had gotten cute pictures of the decor before-party when things are laid out perfectly and the tablecloths are still white and the cute straws are all set in the punch glasses.  Someday….

Although, the whole goal is for Saurus and his guests to have a great time and that was definitely accomplished so my Martha-Stewart-wanna-be self can just rest easy. 

party details
  • I ordered a bunch of large dinosaur balloons which were the biggest hit of all!
  • A “Happy Birthday Saurus” banner hung over the fireplace
  • ROAR! was spelled out across the dessert table.  I placed each letter in a terra cotta pot and topped it with moss.
  • Husband drew an adorable dinosaur party on the chalkboard!
  • Since Saurus is only three, thankfully I didn’t have to plan any organized games but did set out some activites for the kids to do as they pleased: dinosaur fossil puzzles, playdough with dinosaur cookie cutters, dinosaur coloring sheets, etc.  But most of them were more interested in just being their toddler selves and playing in the playroom or outside (hooray!).
  • I made blank dinosaur-themed party hats and set out stickers and crayons so the kids could color their own.  Saurus proudly wore his for most of the party.
  • I made an ombre vanilla cake for Saurus using my favorite set of cake pans (one recipe does all 5 layers!) and it turned out so cute! (You’ll have to trust me on this one – you’d never be able to tell since I only got pictures of the aftermath)
  • I ordered bundtinis for the kids from Nothing Bundt Cakes and set them out with sprinkles and cupcake toppers for the kids to decorate their own.  I also picked up some individual cupcake boxes so guests could take the extras home with them.
  • Homemade kettlecorn with blue sprinkles
  • Candy eggs and gummy dinosaurs (the gummies disappeared in a manner of seconds)
  • Per Saurus’ request, we also had Chick-fil-a nuggets and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches cut in the shape of dinosaurs (his two most favorite foods)
  • Raspberry lemonade


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Here’s the part where I usually say something mildly witty or tell a story about how my life is a daily circus or something my hilarious boys have said lately.  But right now, life is pretty calm.  I mean sure, the toddler is currently throwing a tantrum (he didn’t get to take home all the presents from the birthday party he attended today), the christmas cards are still sitting in a pile to be mailed (along with the still un-mailed ones from last year but we won’t talk about that), the house is completely unorganized (although clean, thanks to Husband), we will probably order pizza for dinner (again), and my pants don’t fit because I ate too many Oreos.  Like I said – calm.  Nope – no circus here. No way, no how.
Speaking of Oreos, I finally got around to making Cookies and Cream Ale Cupcakes.  I’ve been meaning to make these for over a year but just never got around to it.  Finally I had enough cups of coffee to get enough energy to give it a try.  And I’m so glad I did!  So yummy!  Or at least it seemed like it.  And it’s pretty much like cheating since you get to use a cake mix! Saurus licked most of them (that kid is sneaky fast when cupcakes are involved.  He gets it from his dad.) so not sure how many people actually got to try but A for effort.
cookies and cream ale cupcakes
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  1. 1 box vanilla cake mix (the one that says "pudding in the mix" is the best)
  2. 4 egg whites
  3. 1 C sour cream
  4. 1 C oil
  5. 1/2 C cream ale
  6. 1 tsp vanilla
  7. 1/4 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Dump all those ingredients in a mixing bowl and turn on your mixer.  Sure, there's probably a proper way to do this but in the numerous times I've made these, it hasn't seemed to make a difference so let's go the easy route.
  3. Beat on low speed for about 30 seconds to get everything moistened and then crank that sucker up to med/high for about 2 mins.
  4. Spoon into prepared cupcake tin and bake for 11-14 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Set on wire rack to cool
Adapted from living better together
cookies and cream frosting
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  1. 1/2 C salted butter, room temperature
  2. 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  3. 2 tsp vanilla
  4. 3 C powdered sugar, sifted
  5. handful of Oreos, crunched
  6. 24 mini Oreos, for garnish
  1. Beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  2. Stir in vanilla
  3. Beat in sifted powdered sugar until well-combined.
  4. Add in Oreos and beat until no large pieces of Oreo remain.
  5. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and garnish with a mini Oreo (how cute are those things?!)
  1. sorry about the lack of measuring on the Oreos, I usually do the method of eating one, then tossing one in the batter, then eating one, then tossing one in, etc until it looks pretty good or the Oreos are gone, whichever comes first


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Saurus, every 5 minutes:
“Stay-a up Santa!”
“See Rudolph the red nose!”
“Rudolph pullin’ the sleigh!”
“Oh, Christmas Tree!”
“Hippy Dirty [Happy Birthday] God-does-the-rainbow”
“Mama, take-a picture Saurus wait for Santa right here on da ground” (see photo)
I think this small one definitely got his love of Christmas from his mama.  I’ll take it.  He also got his love of making cookies from me, and the love of eating them from his dad.  Poor kid.  At least he has the cheeks to be able to handle it.
Just in time for Christmas, Saurus and I made these peppermint Oreo cookies this morning.  And then ate pretty much all of them.  This recipe is easy enough that a toddler boy with the attention span of…well, a toddler boy…can do it.  And quick enough that you can decide to make them 30 minutes before yoga class and still make it just barely on time to sweat to death in the 90 minutes of torture they call “yoga”.  But then you can come home and eat more cookies.  Theoretically.  Not saying I’ve tried this or anything….
peppermint oreo cookies
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  1. 1 C shortening
  2. 6 tsp water
  3. 3/4 C packed brown sugar
  4. 1/4 C pure cane white sugar
  5. 1 (4.2 oz) pkg Oreo instant pudding
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 1 tsp vanilla
  8. 2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
  9. 1 tsp baking soda
  10. pinch salt
  11. 1/2 C white chocolate chips
  12. 1/3 C peppermint bits
  13. 1 pkg winter Oreos (half is for the recipe, half is for you to eat)
  1. Open the Oreos.  Eat an Oreo.  Wonder how on earth they make these cookies so. good.
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. In mixing bowl, blend shortening, water, and sugars until creamy.
  4. Add pudding and mix well.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla. Keep mixing.
  6. Slowly add flour, baking soda, and salt. Combine well.
  7. Crunch up about half a package of winter Oreos (or whatever you haven't eaten yet) and fold it into the batter along with the white chocolate chips and peppermint bits.
  8. Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes.  As always, take them out, just before they look done and let them rest on the pan for about 2 minutes.
  9. Get to that yoga class.

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Well looky here – it’s been so long since I’ve written here that I went and forgot my password to write stuff.  Either that or it’s the internet’s way of telling me I’m no good at this stuff anyway and should go back to my day job.  But persistence is key and I tricked the worldy-widey-web into lettiing me in.  I swear – they just let anyone on the internet these days.  Next thing you know, I’ll be running for President. (ha – I kid – just couldn’t resist).


I’ve been making a concerted effort to get my life together this summer – to do the little stuff like finally unpack some boxes and hang pictures on the walls (we’ve lived here a year), try out being a mama (my son is two), keep the house clean-ish and the laundry folded, and do just enough work to not lose my job.  It was a glorious failure on all fronts: the pictures are all still leaning against the walls, Saurus has rejected most all of my attempts at awesome mom-ness (how was I supposed to know the zoo didn’t have the EXACT species of snake he wanted to see or that he hates playing in the sprinkers?!), I ended up hiring a housekeeper, and I still have my job but ended up doing more work than I have hours in a week.  So pretty much business as usual around here.  By way of an update (and an apology…) here’s a little Hunter House lately:
I’ve been writing at A Night Owl Blog and loving it.  You can find the following posts over there (along with a lot of other stuff that’s way out of my league):
The things that happen in my house on a daily basis continue to amuse (and confuse) me:
We’ve been married five years now…I think…give or take a year.  And maybe our anniversary is in October.  It’s all very confusing but we’re very happy.  I think.  If you can believe all the ridiculous pictures we take of ourselves being happy all. the. time.
The Saurus routinely tries to ship himself off to a grandma.  We’re okay with it some days….
I’m a proud aunt to the second cutest baby boy on the planet.  I’m rather unsure if his own parents can love that little boy as much as we do.  Saurus is pretty excited to see pictures of “DA BEBE! BABEBE! DA DABABEEBEE!”
We hosted a baby shower for a great friend who is due any day now!! Can’t wait!
Although I might not be blessed with the extra time to write lately (because, let’s face it – I love sleeping and, sadly, cleaning up goldfish crackers and eradicating spiders from my house are kind of full-time jobs), but I am trying to keep up a little on the semi-necessary evil that is social media.  So if you’re anxious for some Hunter House updates over the next couple of months, try facebook, instagram, or twitter.  Or just send me an email.  Or write me a letter.  It’ll be a nice break from the bills and ridicuous Amazon impulse buys (which is another story for another time).


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Husband and I were talking about goals and dreams the other day.  I mentioned that I’d love to have a baking show.  And by baking show, I mean 30 minutes of awkward silence (because what does one really talk about while baking? also I HATE the sound of my voice) while I spill flour all over everything and then cry at the end when the cupcakes turn out weird.  And in some episodes, Saurus would probably come through and throw a hot weels car into the batter and then I’d cry some more.


Husband was very supportive:
Me: Maybe I could start with a YouTube channel or something and then just pretend like no one watched it to see me cry in public.
Husband: Yeah.  Except you need a better camera.  And video editing software.  And then you need to learn how to make both work.  Which means you need to function symbiotically with technology, which probably isn’t possible.  And if it is, you’re probably going to need about 5 years for that….But yeah, it’s an idea.
That man knows nothing but pure honesty and I can’t help but love him for it.  He’s the kind of guy who answers “yes” to the “do I look fat in these pants” question.  I think it’s awesome.
So, I think for now I’ll keep my goals simple, like devouring this cheesecake for breakfast and not bothering to ask if I look fat in pants.
Husband: Yeah, that cheesecake’s legit.  Keep doing that.
Saurus: SHEEKAK!
PS – this cheesecake is AMAZING so a totally worthwhile goal: marshmallow swirl cheesecake with layers of graham cracker and chocolate ganache……you’ll think you’ve died and gone to s’more heaven.
s'more cheesecake
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  1. 2 C graham crackers (about two sleeves)
  2. 1/2 C butter, melted
  3. 1/2 C pure cane white sugar
  4. 1 1/2 C milk chocolate, chopped
  5. 1/3 C heavy cream
  6. 3 8-oz blocks of cream cheese, room temperature
  7. 1/2 C pure cane white sugar
  8. 2 tsp vanilla
  9. 2 tsp lemon juice
  10. 3 eggs
  11. 2/3 C marshmallow cream
  12. 3 Hershey bars, broken into pieces
  13. Jumbo Jet Puffed marshmallows
  14. graham cracker crumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a food processor, blend graham crackers, butter, and sugar together until well-mixed and crumbly.
  3. Press into the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch, greased, cheesecake pan.
  4. Bake at 350 for 7-10 minutes or until golden.  Set aside.
  5. Place milk chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and set side.
  6. Heat cream until just before boiling then pour over chocolate.
  7. Stir until smooth, then pour over the pre-baked crust.
  8. Whip cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Then add vanilla, lemon juice, and eggs one at a time.
  9. Beat just until well-combined. (overbeating will add extra air, making your cheesecake more likely to crack)
  10. Pour on top of chocolate and crust.
  11. Swirl marshmallow cream on top and use a knife to swirl it down into the cheesecake batter.
  12. Bake at 350F in a water bath for approx 40-45 minutes or until top is golden and middle isn't too jiggly (sorry - that's the best description I have: it'll probably make sense when you see it)
  13. Gradually cool down your cheesecake, top it with hershey bars, marshmallows, graham cracker crumbs, extra chocolate ganache, whatever, then refrigerate for at least 3 hours (preferably overnight)
Here's how I usually do cheesecakes (when I have time)
  1. Turn off oven, but don't remove cheesecake for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove cheesecake and let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes (this is the part where I added my toppings).
  3. Place in fridge overnight.
  1. I made this in a 10-in pan and it was the perfect size, for a smaller, standard-sized pan (9-in), I recommend decreasing all ingredients by 1/3
  2. I also made my own marshmallow fluff but I'd totally recommend buying some instead.
  3. I'm also a s'more ingridient snob and HAVE to use the name-brand things.  I've tried generic and it's just not as good.  Trust me - buy the honey maid, and jet puffed, and hershey bars

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(alternatively titled “the product review in which Saurus is happy and I discover I’m the worst at using a video recording device”) 

spoiler alert: you can win a prize pack of these pouches for your saurus – details at the end of the post!

Me: SAURUS! LOOK! You got a package in the mail!
Saurus: Oh, WOW!
Me, to Saurus: Man! Pouches! These look sooo yummy!
Me, to myself: Haha.  Sucker.  These are totally full of veggies.
Saurus: NUM! POUSH!
Me: Okay, let me get the camera so that we have photo proof of you actually eating vegetables.  I mean, enjoying these treats….
Saurus: HAHA!
(that kid understands more than I give him credit for)

Me: Okay, we have green, orange, and pink.  What’s your pick?
Saurus: MANGO!
Me: Mango? Really? I was trying to keep it simple here but you’re just over there naming fruits.  I don’t think mango is an optio…..oh wait, you’re right – this one does have mango.  HOLY BROCCOLI, BATMAN! DID YOU JUST READ THE WORD MANGO FROM THIS BOX?!?!  Oh wait, no. There’s a teeny-tiny picture of a mango slice.   But geez louise kid.  How did you see that?!

Me: Okay, mango – slash – orange.  Here you go.  Thoughts?
Saurus: HAPPY!
Me: Really?! It makes you happy?!
Saurus: MM! HAPPY!
Me: Crap. Camera.  Hold on.  Keep doing that.  I need this on video.
[camera on]

Me: Why are you yelling?! You were just being awesome.
Me: Yes, dinosaurs are also awesome.  But, back to the point, how does the pouch make you feel?
Me: C’mon man.  You were just talking about how it made you feel happy! Does it make you feel happy?
Saurus: continues to inhale pouch.
[camera off]

Me: Saurus. Seriously. Help me out here.  The nice Happy Family people sent you these treats so you could tell other kids about them.  Give me a little something.
Saurus: HAPPY!
Me: YES!
[camera on]

Me, whispering: happy?!
Saurus: ……….

Saurus: ………….
[the sound of breathing and about 45 seconds of awkward staring]

[camera off]

Me: You’re killing me
Saurus: HAPPY!
[camera on]

Saurus: MANGO!
Me: That’s right! How do mangos make you feel?!
Me: Like a dinosaur.  Awesome.
[camera off]

Saurus: MORE HAPPY!!!!!
Me: I quit.  Here – have more veggies. I mean mango.

You heard it here first, folks: veggies disguised as mangos make you happy.  And also a dinosaur.  DOUBLE WIN.

Happy Family sent Saurus some of their newest pouches (the Love My Veggies line) to test out.  I’m a HUGE fan because each one has a full serving of veggies (most others, it seems, are like applesauce with a token carrot and one of those little cauliflower fluffs that I don’t know the proper term for) and they’re designed for growing todder dinosaur-boys (and girls) so are packed with vitamins (like the ones with letters and important stuff: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron and Magnesium).  Getting this toddler-saurus to consume something other than aa-ppl (applesauce), shheeez (shredded cheese), and kipshetti (spaghetti) is a challenge but he sucks down these pouches like Pooh eats Huny. (A little white lie I may or may not use to encourage him.  He’s going to hate me when he realizes I’ve been feeding him veggies and calling it honey).  All three flavors are a big hit but I think you might have an idea which is our favorite (MANGO!).

So, in case you have a small human-slash-prehistoric animal you’re trying to nourish, I strongly suggest you procure some of these.  ASAP.  Pro tip: they also work on moms who don’t like vegetables either and who frequently “forget” to pack their lunches so they can steal these pouches out of the diaper bag.  You can find them exclusively at Target as part of their #madetomatter campaign.  A 4-pack is between $5-6.  But let’s be real.  That’s like one stop at the Starbucks drive through and as much as I wish white chocolate mocha were veggies, that $5 did not go toward 4 servings of nutrients…. (and ps – they’re on sale on as I type this).

Thanks, Happy Family, for helping us #lovemyveggies!!!

And guess what??!?  From now until Friday, May 1st, you can enter to win your own set of awesome pouches!! Yeah! Free yummy veggies!! Use the handy-dandy entry form on the right —–>> or try this link! Good luck!

Here’s a #lovemyveggies pledge sheet for your family too if you want to become more awesome dinosaurs and eat more veggies!

LMV Pledge Sheet_MS_031015_V7

We’re still working on finding a favorite veggie recipe that isn’t a pouch.  Husband said spaghetti doesn’t count.  Right now we rock baked eggplant parm and guacamole and baked potatoes on the regular and it’s always a hit and my mother in law somehow magics him into eating smashed black beans and salsa but I’ll keep sharing as I come across anything!


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Instead of keeping up with the housework or anything visibly productive, the Saurus and I built a blanket fort and played hide and go seek:
Me, to Saurus: I’m going to lay in the fort here and count to 15 while you hide.
Me, to myself: ha! sucker! I’m totally going to take a 15 second nap.
Saurus: Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!
Me: one…..
Saurus: TWO!!!!!!!! (which sounds more like tee-ew)
Me: Saurus, I’m proud that you know what comes after one but that’s not how you play this game.  You hide and I’ll do the counting.  You count next time.
Me: two….
Saurus: THREE!!!!!!!!! (fweee!)
Me: whatever.  four……
Saurus: Rabbit!!
Me: Not sure you’re getting this.
*Saurus climbs on to the chair that was a side of our fort…*
*saurus giggle*
And just like that, Saurus pancaked me.  One minute I was on ten and the next I had a Saurus spread-eagle on my stomach, which effectively knocked the wind out of me.  He was going to hide on top of the fort but, being constructed only of chairs and a blanket, it didn’t hold up.  
Me, wheezing: Oh my gosh!
Saurus: Wooooowwwww!!!!!  YAYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!
Me: I think I need a cupcake.
Saurus: CUPCAKE!
So…..I meant to make these cupcakes for adults at the Saurus’ birthday (since the kids had cookies and milk, I figured the adults could have cookies and milk stout……get it?!)
But then I never got around to it.
And then we drank the milk stout.
And then I bought some more.
And then the same darn thing happenend again.
Finally, I have gotten around to baking these and (even later am getting around to sharing).
Using a wonderful milk stout from Duck Rabbit, these cupcakes have just enough punch to be interesting but are still subtile enough to be loved by all.  
malted milk stout cupcakes
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  1. 1 C butter, room temperature
  2. 2 C pure cane white sugar​
  3. 2 eggs, room temperature, separated
  4. 2 tsp vanilla
  5. 1/2 C milk stout (I recommend Duck-Rabbit's milk stout)
  6. 2 1/4 C flour, sifted
  7. 1 Tbsp baking powder
  8. 3/4 tsp salt
  9. 1/2 C whole milk
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add in egg yolks, vanilla, and milk stout, mixing until fully combined
  4. Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, alternating with the sour milk.  Mix just until combined.
  5. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks (foamy)
  6. Fold egg whites into batter until barely incorporated.
  7. Pour into prepared cupcake pan
  8. Bake at 325 for 15-17 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
  1. to make sour milk, whisk 2 tsp white vinegar into 1/2C whole milk and set aside for about 5 minutes or until it looks absolutely disgusting
milk [stout] chocolate frosting
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  1. 1 bag (12 oz) milk chocolate chips
  2. 1 C malted milk powder
  3. 1/2 C heavy cream
  4. 1/2 C milk stout
  5. 1/2 C butter, room temp, and cut into bits.
  6. whole milk, as needed
  1. Place chocolate in a heat-proof bowl (preferrably the one to your stand mixer) and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat beer and cream until just before boiling, stirring constantly.
  3. Pour hot cream/beer over chocolate and whisk until smooth.
  4. Refrigerate mixture for approx 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  You're going for the consistency of thick frosting.  If you don't have time to do the fridge thing (I think it's easier so I can work on other things while it cools), you can put the bowl down in a larger bowl of ice and whisk away until you get the consistency you want.
  5. Beat the ganache until fluffy and smooth, adding the butter once piece at a time.
  6. Frost those cupcakes!
  7. Devour those cupcakes!


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It’s Local Beer Month.  I’m thrilled that we live in a state that has a whole month dedicated to supporting local breweries.  There is no shortage of good libations and food trucks around here and I’m loving it.  My waistline? Not so much.  But I like to not think about that.  Kind of like how I like to not think about the fact that we’ve hit the terrible twos, my house is a disaster, I haven’t done my taxes yet (as of writing this….hopefully they’ll be finished by the time this is published.), and the inch-think layer of pollen covering the state makes my contacts unwearable.  I’m in denial and happy.  Don’t mess with my denial-groove.  I think I’ll stay here.

 As long as here is next to a plate of these yummy truffles, I’m good.

In honor of such an occasion, I had a goal of only using local beer this month.  Which means that I’ve only made one thing.  But the month is still young and these truffles (and this beer!) is a fantastic way to kick it off!  This is the beer that make me a believer in stouts – I’ve been firmly on the IPA/Saison train until trying these. Thanks, Double Barley, for the yummy awesomeness!

coffee stout truffles
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  1. 1 box vanilla cake mix
  2. eggs
  3. oil
  4. coffee stout
  5. coffee stout frosting
  6. 6 Tbsp butter, room temperature
  7. 2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  8. 2 C powdered sugar
  9. 1 1/2 Tbsp espresso powder
  10. 1/4 C coffee stout
  1. 2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
  2. 2 Tbsp butter
  1. Make cake in a 9x13 pan as instructed on box (that's why I didn't list any measurements for ingredients), substituting coffee stout (I highly recommend this one!!!) for the water.
  2. Allow to cool.
  3. Beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy and well combined.
  4. Sift in powdered sugar and espresso powder and beat well.
  5. Add coffee stout and beat until fluffy.
  6. Crumble the cake in a large mixing bowl and stir in the frosting until you get something gooey, yet moldable.
  7. Form into balls about the size of ping-pong balls and place on a cookie sheet.  They can be really close together - pack 'em in there.  I use a small cookie scoop - WAY easier.
  8. Pop the tray in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to let the goop stiffen a little.
  9. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips and butter and keep stirring until smooth.  Reduce heat to low to keep warm and smooth (but make sure you're not overcooking the chocolate!).  Set a giant piece of waxed paper or parchment on the counter.
  10. Remove balls from freezer and dip in the melted chocolate, coating completely, then set on the waxed paper.
  11. Top with sprinkles before the chocolate hardens!
  12. Voila!  Enjoy!  Now you only have like 99 more to go!
  1. if you're a novice at the whole truffle/cake pop situation or are just terrible with chocolate (like me!), then this post might be able to help you!

So the Saurus turned two.  Yikes. I’m alternately patting myself on the back for keeping a small human live for two whole years, by God’s grace, and pouting because he’s just growing up way too fast!
On the occasion of turing the big T-W-O, we had a party, complete with cupcakes and the birthday song.  One of those things, the Saurus approved of, the other he did not.
Saurus abhors being sung to.  Listening to music is awesome, being sung to is terrible in Saurus world.  I used to think it was just my voice that made him scream in terror but turns out it’s everyone.  Needless to say, the birthday song did not go over well.
me: lights candle. Look, Saurus, a sparkler on your cupcake!
awkward silence while we all stare at saurus, who stares at his cupcake
party guest: Should we sing?
me: ummmmm……i guess so? okay.
everyone: Happy BIrthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!
saurus: OH NO! NO, NO, NO, NO!
everyone: happy birthday, dear saurus
saurus: MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!
everyone: Happy Birthday to you!!
saurus: THIS IS THE WORST DAY OF MY LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
saurus: you’re done? oh good.
party guests: wow.  he really doesn’t like singing.
me: nope.
saurus: cupcakes and happiness!



me: oh, good grief, saurus, i just wiped your face.  now your snot will forever be immortalized in what could have been the cutest picture ever
saurus: mmmmmm….FROSTING!
saurus: mmmmm
me: whatever.  Happy Birthday , offspring!
saurus: here, Dad, have some cupcake.  None for Mama.


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Here’s what’s been happening in/around/away from the farmhouse lately:

The Saurus is getting ready to double his age in a few days and we’re looking forward to a little party at home and a big suprise here on the blog.  (It starts with a “g” and rhymes with schmivaway.  But don’t tell anyone because it’s a surprise and everything.)

I was asked to make my vanilla porter cupcakes for a local brewery as part of a tasting flight and I had so much fun and didn’t poison anyone – look for more collaborations and tap room events with double barley in the future!

It decided to actually be winter here so naturally the heat and the electric dog fence went out that week and neither Husband nor I were home.  Figures.

I got instagram which I’m still unsure about but it gives me more things to do while I wait at dental appointments and the DMV. (@chuckandwelly)

I’ve given up on meal planning entirely and we now eat frozen pizzas and applesauce on a semi-regular basis.

Husband and I are embarking on a grand tour d’europe in a couple of weeks.  I’m packing only clothes that allow room for copious amounts of croissants and cappuccino.

I’ve become a member of the 2015 writing team at A Night Owl Blog and can’t wait to start writing with other moms who stay up all night putting sprinkles on cupcakes.

And I made these melt-in-your-mouth lemon cookies, which everyone loves dearly.

white chocolate lemon cookies
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  1. 1 C shortening
  2. 3/4 C pure cane brown sugar
  3. 3/4 C pure cane white sugar
  4. zest and juice of two lemons
  5. 1 egg
  6. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  7. 3 C flour
  8. 1 tsp baking soda
  9. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  10. 1/2 tsp salt
  11. 3/4 C white chocolate baking chips
  12. 1/2 C powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Cream together butter, sugars, and lemon juice.
  3. Add egg and vanilla and beat well.
  4. Gradually stir in flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix until well combined.
  5. Stir in white chocolate chips and lemon zest.
  6. Roll into ping pong-sized balls and roll in powdered sugar. Place on parchment-covered cookie sheet.
  7. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes.
  8. Let these amazing bits of heaven melt in your mouth.




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Freshly baked and these cupcakes already have a history.

Brew Buddy happened to be in Central America on a quest for tasty beverages and discovered this thing called banana borracha which consists of stout, banana, and coffee.  Like all good things, we figured it would make a pretty darn good cupcake.  And (what luck!) Shiner’s Birthday Beer is in season and it just happened to be a stout this year. And, like all good things, it’s from Texas. As much as I’m in love with the beers around me, when I have the chance to honor the homeland, you know it’s happening.

Shiner never disappoints.  Just like Texas, these cupcakes, and all other good things.

But you’ll have to judge for yourself.  So far, the tasting committee has given rave reviews (“one of the top ten things I’ve ever put in my mouth”), but my favorite was the Saurus’ reaction:

Me: Saurus, sit right here while I take these pictures, then we can share one.
Saurus: sits patiently
Me: takes pictures, resets cupcakes, takes more pictures
Saurus: sits patiently
Me: turns back to get another plate
Saurus: sees his opportunity, seizes it, grabs the sppon, and has half a cupcake in his mouth in .3 seconds
Saurus: Oh wow! Oh! Wow! Mmmmmm!

Those are 3 of his 10 vocabulary words but I’ll still take it.  He was so precious and beside himself with happiness that I didn’t have the heart to stop him.  I think this is how spoiled children are made.

banana borracha cupcakes
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chocolate stout ganache
  1. 1 1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  2. 1/2 C chocolate stout
  3. 1/2 C heavy cream
banana cupcakes
  1. 1/2 C butter, room temperature
  2. 3/4 C pure cane white sugar
  3. 3 eggs
  4. 1 C banana, mashed (2-3 bananas)
  5. 1 tsp vanilla
  6. 1/2 C sour milk
  7. 2 C flour, sifted
  8. 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  9. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  10. 1/2 tsp salt
  11. 1/4 tsp cinnamon
coffee & chocolate stout buttercream frosting
  1. 1/2 C butter, room temperature
  2. 2 T cream cheese, room temperature
  3. 2 C powdered sugar, sifted
  4. 1/4 tsp salt
  5. 1/4 C chocolate stout ganache
  6. 1 shot espresso (or 2 T very strong coffee), room temperature
chocolate stout ganache
  1. Place chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat beer and cream until just before boiling, stirring constantly.
  3. Pour hot cream/beer over chocolate and whisk until smooth.
  4. Refrigerate mixture for approx 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  You're going for the consistency of thick frosting.  If you don't have time to do the fridge thing (I think it's easier so I can work on other things while it cools), you can put the bowl down in a larger bowl of ice and whisk away until you get the consistency you want.
  5. Fill your cupcakes with the ganache.  It's easiest to use a piping bag.  And you'll have some left over - SAVE IT - you'll need it for the frosting.  And for tasting. I also used the little bit I had left to garnish the tops of the cupcakes (you can just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to thin it back out to drizzling consistency)
banana cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Beat butter and sugar together until creamy
  3. Mix in eggs, mashed banana, and vanilla until thoroughly combined
  4. Add in sour milk and the remaining ingredients, alternating between wet and dry. Stir just until combined
  5. Spoon into prepared cupcake tin and bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean
  6. Set on wire rack to cool. After they've cooled, cut a little hole in the top of each one (this is where you'll put the ganache filling). Eat the parts you cut out. You know, quality assurance and all.
coffee & chocolate stout buttercream frosting
  1. Beat butter and cream cheese until really fluffy.  Beat in powdered sugar and salt until thoroughly combined.
  2. Stir in ganache and coffee.
  3. Beat until well-combined.
  4. Frost the cupcakes!
  5. Devour cupcakes!
  1. To make sour milk, whisk 2 tsp white vinegar into 1/2C whole milk and set aside for about 5 minutes or until it looks absolutely disgusting




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Pears.  This month’s Cooks in the Kitchen Challenge is all about Pears.  

Cue excited leap of joy from this baker.  I love baking with pears.  They’re some of my favorites because they’re versitile like apples but just different enough to make it exciting.  One of my top-ten desserts of all time is a pear crisp I had at Old Ebbitt’s years ago.  It’s one of those things I fell in love with instantly and have never forgotten.  And also have never been able to perfectly duplicate, but the hunt is still on.

When it came time for this month of the challenge, I initially wanted to do a pear crisp but I just wasn’t feeling up to another attempt (and probably failure) at an Old Ebbitt’s reproduction.  Side note, if any of y’all have that recipe – send it over.  Or just mail me some. Or both.

So I thought and thought about what to make.  Pear muffins? Did those.  Pear tart? Too breakfast-y.  Pear cookies? Eh – I just did apple ones. Pear applesauce? I made some and it’s fantastic but applesauce kind of has a mind of its own and writing down a recipe is pretty much impossible.

So I then thought about what I like to eat.  There are really two main groups: bread pudding and cheesecake.  Oh, and apple pie.  And pear crisp.  And Oreos.  Okay, so 5.  But the first two to pop into my head were the bread pudding and cheesecake.  The pear bread pudding idea is a keeper but I’m tabling that one for the time being.  The cheesecake idea got me thinking of my very favorite cheesecake of all time.  Which got me back to thinking about pear crisp.  So why not combine the two into one glorious gluten-free cinnamon-y pear crisp cheesecake creation?!

OH MY HEAVENS.  Can we talk about heaven in cheesecake form?! It exists.  But not for long because I’m literally eating it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and the only thing stopping me from continuing this way for the rest of my life is a cheesecake deficiency (aka – I ran out).  But I plan to remedy that soon because my tastebuds need this deliciousness. Stat.

That was a small peek into what my brain looks like during recipe development and tasting time.  Usually there’s also a lot of “shoot – I forgot what I put in this” and “oops – probably should have measured that” but you get the idea.

Anyway, make this cheesecake and make it right now.

gluten-free pear crisp cheesecake
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  1. 1 1/4 C almond flour
  2. 1/2 C pecans, chopped
  3. 5 Tbsp butter, melted
  4. 3 Tbsp pure cane white sugar
  5. 1 Tbsp Saigon cinnamon (regular is fine, too)
  1. 3 8-oz pkgs cream cheese, room temperature
  2. 3/4 C pure cane white sugar
  3. 3 eggs, room temperature
  4. 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  5. 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  1. 3 pears, peeled, cored, and sliced. I prefer them to be wafer-thin but chunks work fine if that's more your thing
  2. 1 tsp lemon juice
  3. 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  4. 1 Tbsp Saigon cinnamon
  5. 1/4 C pure cane white sugar
  6. 1/4 C pure cane brown sugar
  7. 1/3 C oat flour
  8. 1/3 C chopped pecans
  9. 4 Tbsp cold butter
  1. Thoroughly mix all crust ingredients together and press into spring-form pan. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool but leave oven at 350F.
  2. Blend filling ingredients (yup, just throw 'em in there and turn the mixer on) until smooth and creamy
  3. In microwave-safe bowl, mix together pears, cinnamon, vanilla, and lemon juice. Microwave or 1 minute, stir, and microwave for another minute. This is just to soften the pears a bit before baking.
  4. In small bowl, combine sugars, oat flour, and pecans. Cut in butter until thoroughly mixed and crumbly (some pea-sized pieced of butter are okay)
  5. Pour filling on top of cooled crust, then top with the pears. Top all of that with the mixture from step 4.
  6. Bake in a water bath at 350F fir about 45-60 mins. That's kind of a large time gap, I know, but cheesecakes are tricky so start watching it carefully around 40 minutes (but try not to open and shut the oven door often) and then use your best judgment from there. The cheesecake shouldn't be sloshy or soupy in the middle but should barely jiggle when done and the topping should be nice and golden and crisp. When done, turn off oven but don't remove cheesecake. The secret to cheesecake, or so i've been told, is to cool gradually. Leave in oven for 15 mins, then move to countertop for about 45 mins, and then to fridge to cool completely.
  7. Serve chilled. If you can wait that long. If not, it's pretty good warm, too. It's been tested and approved at all temperatures by impatient bakers.
  1. This recipe is for one 9-inch cheesecake. I made these in my mini cheesecake pan and divided everything by 1/3 (16 oz of cream cheese instead of 24, etc) and it fit perfectly.
  2. I also really, really love cinnamon so get ready for a cinnamon round-house to the face with these pears. If you're not as much of cinnamon lover, I'd tone is down a bit. And probably stay away from the Saigon variety.

carrot cake cupcakes-7

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 I have yet to make any fall-ish recipes this year but I have a notebook and brain full of fun planned out for as soon as I figure out my oven.  The first batch of test chocolate chip cookies was a horrific failure.  Better luck with the one in the oven now.  I hope.

Also, the cabinets in this new kitchen open backwards from my old one, which doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal, but it has lead to no end of frustration every single time I try to open a cabinet.  AND, my fridge is ridiculously tiny.  I didn’t even know they made them that small in regular houses.  It’s absurd.  I think I’m going to have to curb my wholesale shopping.  Bummer.

But the good news is that the lighting is better here and the stove is gas, which I much prefer.  So not a total loss.

These carrot cake cupcakes are not necessarily a new recipe, but the frosting is new and last time I wrote about them, I decorated them as bunny butts.  And this is the final batch of cupcakes in the Cupcakes-Across-America series.  Darn.  All out of cupcakes.  I’ll have to work on that.  I’ve been visiting a lot of cupcake shops on the trip and have tried about a dozen new flavors this week (all in the name of research, of course) and I’m hoping to whip some new stuff up soon.  This not baking thing is difficult for my mental state.  And Husband’s sweet tooth is acting up again…

Anyway, here is the “Carrot Cake of Legend” or “Carrot Crack Cake”, since Husband can’t decide what to call them…

carrot cake cupcakes
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  1. 2 1/2 C flour
  2. 2 tsp baking powder
  3. 2 tsp cinnamon
  4. 1 tsp baking soda
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  7. 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  8. 4 large eggs, beaten until frothy
  9. 1 C oil
  10. 1 C pure cane white sugar
  11. 1 C pure cane brown sugar
  12. 1/2 C buttermilk
  13. 8oz (one small can) crushed pineapple, drained
  14. 2 tsp vanilla
  15. 2 1/2 C shredded carrots
  16. 1 C chopped walnuts
  17. 1/3 C shredded coconut
  18. zest of one orange
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Beat the eggs until frothy. Add sugars, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and pineapple. Stir until fully combined.
  3. Gradually sift in dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger, and nutmeg. Mix until completely incorporated.
  4. Stir in carrots, walnuts, coconut, and orange zest.
  5. Pour into prepared cake/muffin pan. I use 1/4 C of batter for each cupcake.
  6. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes (for cupcakes) or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool in the pan or a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
fluffy cream cheese frosting
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  1. 12oz cream cheese, room temperature
  2. 2/3 C superfine sugar (or regular white sugar sifted many times)
  3. 1 tsp vanilla
  4. 1/2 tsp almond extract
  5. 1 3/4 C heavy cream
  1. Whip cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract on medium speed until creamy.
  2. Gradually pour in the cream and increase speed to high. Continue to whip until still peaks form. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and garnish cupcakes as desired. I rolled them in coconut, but that’s only because my decorating skills are seriously lacking.


black & white bread pudding-8

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Once upon a time, I ate some bread pudding. 5 years later I learned how to make said bread pudding. Last year I gave you the recipe, this year I’m giving you the new and improved version. Okay, maybe not new or improved, but there are pictures now. This may or may not encourage you to try it. But it’s delicious. I promise. It’s the top of my list of “things involving gluten that are worth eating”. It even beats pizza and beer. It also makes Husband’s list of “things for which I will risk diabetes”. Yum.

This is a once-a-year kind of special dessert around here (because if I made it more often, we would all die. Of happiness and obesity) so I needed just the right occasion. Last year we had adinner party and this year my in-laws were in town. My mother-in-law (the one with all the good ideas) might have the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I’ve ever met.

You can always tell when she’s been to our house because the freezer is full of ice cream and the pantry is full of chocolate and all kinds of other stuff we don’t keep in the house. It’s awesome and dangerous all at the same time. So I figured that if I was going to make the once-a-year dessert, it should be for her because she would probably appreciate it the most. And either she’s the nicest person ever (which is actually true) and was polite enough to eat it, or she really liked it. I was too busy inhaling my serving to notice or care.

black and white bread pudding
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white chocolate bread pudding
  1. 1 large loaf sweet Hawaiian bread (or brioche if you can find it), torn into bite-sized pieces
  2. 3 egg yolks (you’ll need the whites, too)
  3. 1/3 C pure cane white sugar
  4. 1 C heavy cream
  5. 4 Tbsp butter
  6. 8 oz white chocolate, chopped (or 1 C white chocolate chips)
  7. 3 egg whites (see how handily that worked out?)
  8. 2 Tbsp pure cane white sugar
chocolate sauce
  1. 2/3 C dark chocolate chips
  2. 1 C heavy cream
  3. 1/2 tsp vanilla
  4. vanilla rum sauce
  5. 2 egg yolks
  6. 2 Tbsp pure cane sugar
  7. 1 Tbsp corn starch
  8. 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  9. 2/3 C whole milk
  10. 1/3 C white rum (vanilla flavored would be even better if you have that)
white chocolate bread pudding
  1. Roll up your sleeves and put on some music; also get out every dish you own. And get used to the phrase “set aside”
  2. In large bowl, drizzle heavy cream over bread pieces. Set aside.
  3. Cream egg yolks and sugar in small bowl. Set aside
  4. In a double boiler, melt butter and white chocolate together, stirring until smooth. Add egg yolk mixture and stir until creamy.
  5. Pour white chocolate mixture over the bread and toss until completely coated.
  6. Cream egg whites and 2 Tbsp sugar together until combined then beat on high until stiff peaks form. Gently fold this mixture into the bread.
chocolate sauce
  1. In a small sauce pan, boil 1 C heavy cream.
  2. Reduce heat and add chocolate chips and vanilla. Stir until smooth.
  1. Heat oven to 325
  2. Pour chocolate sauce into bottom of souffle cups, dividing evenly.
  3. Add bread mixture on top, dividing evenly or until cups are full, whichever comes first.
  4. Place cups on cookie sheet and lay a sheet of foil on top, making sure the foil doesn’t touch the tops of the pudding.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes at 325. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Turn off oven but do not remove puddings. While they are resting, make vanilla rum sauce.
  6. Remove puddings from oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately with vanilla rum sauce. My mouth is watering just typing this. I think I might have to go make it again.
  7. Inhale your pudding, fall into a food coma, and wait for someone else to do all the dishes.
vanilla rum sauce
  1. In small saucepan over low heat, cream together egg yolk, cornstarch, and sugar.
  2. Add milk and vanilla and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. When sauce begins to thicken, stir in rum.
  3. When it reaches the desired consistency, remove from heat.
  1. This recipe makes six souffle cups of awesome and is best served right out of the oven, but I have it on good authority that re-heated is still delicious.



berry cream cake-6

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My mother-in-law had a new challenge for me: re-create the Berry Chantilly Cake from Whole Foods. We don’t have a Whole Foods, so I had no idea what I was trying to accomplish, but I googled it, and was worried that I might have bitten off more than I could chew. It looked fantastic and, according to her, was the best cake ever. Gulp.

My googling also led me here and I figured it was a good place to start. That recipe used a Mascarpone cream cheese frosting rather than traditional Chantilly cream, which I thought was a brilliant idea. I also found Whole Foods’ description of their cake and it said it was just sponge cake with fresh berries and cream filling. Okay, I can do this.

And I did. Husband proclaimed it his new favorite cake of all time and I will now be making it for him daily. I didn’t think anything could topple his obsession with my carrot cake but I guess I was wrong. And will now have to re-think my tradition of making carrot cake for his birthday. Also, we’re trying to convince his mom to get on a plane simply to come eat cake.

berry cream cake
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  1. 1 C fresh strawberries, sliced (fourths worked well for me)
  2. 1 C fresh raspberries
  3. 1 C fresh blackberries
  4. 1 C fresh blueberries
  5. 1/3 C Grand Marnier
  6. 1/4 C orange juice
  7. 2 tsp powdered sugar
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 2 C sugar
  3. 2 tsp vanilla
  4. 1/4 C butter, melted
  5. 1 C heavy cream
  6. 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (optional)
  7. 2 C all purpose flour
  8. 2 Tbsp corn starch
  9. 2 tsp baking powder
  10. 1/2 tsp salt
berry sauce
  1. 1/4 C raspberries, rinsed and drained
  2. 1/2 C blackberries, rinsed and drained
  3. 1/4 C pure cane sugar
  4. 1/3 C orange juice
  5. 2 Tbsp water
  6. 1 Tbsp corn starch
  1. 2 C heavy cream
  2. 1 tsp almond extract
  3. 8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  4. 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  5. 1 C powdered sugar
  1. 1. Rinse and drain berries.
  2. 2. In large bowl, whisk together Grand Marnier, orange juice, and powdered sugar.
  3. 3. Stir in berries, making sure to coat completely. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  1. 1. Preheat oven to 325°
  2. 2. Beat eggs on high speed for 5 minutes. Add sugar and beat for 5 more minutes until very fluffy.
  3. 3. Add butter, heavy cream, vanilla, and vinegar and mix just until incorporated.
  4. 4. Gently mix in flour, starch, baking powder, and salt, stirring just until combined.
  5. 5. Divide batter between two greased and floured 9″ cake pans. Bake at 325° for 20-25 minutes or until tooth pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cook in pans for 5 minutes then transfer to greased wire rack to cool completely.
berry sauce
  1. 1. Combine all ingredients in saucepan and simmer over low heat until thickened and berries have broken down.
  2. 2. Remove from heat and strain to eliminate seeds.
  3. 3. Allow to cool, but not set up.
  1. 1. In chilled bowl, beat cream and almond extract on high speed until soft peaks form.
  2. 2. Whip cheeses and powdered sugar together until creamy.
  3. 3. Gently fold the cheese mixture into the cream until completely incorporated. Use immediately.
  1. 1. Whew! You made it!
  2. 2. Slice the sponge cakes in half so that you now have 4 layers of cake. Place one layer on serving platter.
  3. 3. Pipe a thick layer of frosting around the edge of the layer. The goal is just to form a barrier so that the berry sauce doesn’t escape to the outside of the cake. This is where I differ from the Whole Foods version. From what I can gather, they cover a whole layer with frosting and then add just a few berries and hardly any berry sauce. After trying many ways, we like it best overflowing with berry sauce and berries in the layers and all of the frosting on the outside. But it’s your call.
  4. 4. Top with berry sauce, covering entire layer. Then add berries (but not the marinade. You don’t need to drain them, just use a slotted spoon). You will need 3 layers of berries and sauce plus some for the top, so divide accordingly.
  5. 5. Place the next layer of cake on top and repeat steps three and four. Then do it again.
  6. 6. Place the last layer of cake on top. Frost and decorate cake with remainder of frosting, berries, and sauce. It’s best to have a thick layer around the edge so that the berries and sauce don’t run off.
  7. 7. Sit, back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
high-altitude recipe
  1. A fabulous reader named Rachel sent me these adjustments if you’re making the cake at high altitude. Thank you, Rachel!
  2. 4 eggs
  3. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  4. 2 tsp vanilla
  5. 5 Tbs butter, melted
  6. 1 cup + 1 Tbsp heavy cream (I used a mixture of heavy cream and whole milk since I had ran out of cream)
  7. 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  8. 2 cups + 2 Tbsp flour
  9. 2 Tbsp corn starch
  10. 2 tsp baking powder
  11. 1/2 tsp salt
  12. *Bake at 340 degrees for 20 mins (plus or minus a minute depending on your oven).