yes, semi-homemade

  I know some of you think I’m like a demented Martha Stewart and I do everything from scratch and that includes churn my own  butter. But truthfully, often I do it semi-homemade. And it tastes just fine.

What you were looking at are my cheaters carrot cake cupcakes. I call them cheaters because I start with a box cake mix.

I take a French vanilla cake mix, and I add four eggs, One cup of milk instead of the one cup of water called for on the package, one stick or 1/2 cup of butter melted and cooled slightly instead of vegetable oil. 

To that I add 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cardamom, 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, and 4 finally grated medium-sized carrots.

I add the dry cake mix and beat the better according to the package directions. Today I used a Betty Crocker super moist French vanilla mix.

I cook the cupcakes according to package directions which is 350° for 17 to 20 minutes and you have to keep an eye on it.  Once they are cool, I frost them with store-bought cream cheese frosting. I mixed my manufacturers and used Pillsberry frosting today.

I love making cupcakes I think they are fun and you can go on Amazon and through Wilton bakeware you can get all sorts of cute cupcake liners. And I use aluminum cupcake pans – they were my grandmother’s actually. I do not like a lot of dark metal non stick bakeware. I don’t like the way things cook in the nonstick.

Thanks for stopping by!

little old italian lady in training 

I became a bit of an Italian cliché today, or a little old Italian lady in training, take your pick.

I made sauce, I made gnocchi, and I made a ricotta pie.

I will give you the recipe below I used a roll out store-bought crust this time –Pillsbury  brand.

Deep dish pie plate required.

Preheat oven to 350°

Follow instructions on premade piecrust – I like using my own pie plates so I get the Pillsberry brand piecrust when I don’t feel like making my own crust. 

So I laid my piecrust in my pan, fluted the edges of the crust and tossed in the freezer while I mixed up the ricotta mixture.

Beat 5 eggs and  1 tablespoon vanilla together. (my mother bought me back this amazing Mexican vanilla on her last trip there and that is what I use today – the flavor is better I think than regular vanilla.)

Mix in with electric mixer 1/4  cup of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the grated rind of one fresh lemon and one fresh orange. (I had some blood oranges and so that is the grated orange rind that I used today.)

Mix in with electric mixer 1 cup of white sugar and beat together well.

Beat in 3 1/2 cups of whole milk ricotta cheese. When mixture is well mixed, you next stir in 1/3 cup candied minced orange peel and 1/3 cup candied minced lemon peel.

Get out your pie shell in your deep dish pie plate and carefully pour the creamy ricotta cheese mixture into the piecrust.

 Bake at 350° until firm and light brown on top approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes.

You can either serve this at room temperature or chilled.


love vintage ornaments ?


….. Then you will want to hit the Smithfield barn this weekend while they still have them. This is part of what I acquired today.

I also scored two vintage artificial tabletop trees, also known as feather trees. The “feathers” are artificial which puts them on the newer side of vintage, but I do not care as they are the exact dimensions I need for a Christmas Day tablescape!

I love decorating for Christmas, although you will not find me decorating now as that’s a little too American big box retailer for me.

I have been collecting vintage ornaments since before Martha Stewart made it cool. And why I like finding the ornaments at places like the Smithfield Barn is the prices are modest, and that way I can afford to have a beautiful looking house for the holidays. And I think vintage Christmas ornaments make everything more beautiful!

Anyway if you like vintage ornaments, and fun holiday decorating, you’re going to want to see what Kristin has out at the barn, the Smithfield barn in Downingtown. PA. Check out their Facebook page for hours of operation this weekend and their address.

Also tomorrow is the second day of AngelFest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Route 30 in Exton!

side stuff

A lazy Sunday afternoon, warm enough to make a fresh batch of sweet tea, with fresh curly mint from the garden.

What is sweet tea?

Sweet tea is southern style iced tea, where you brew the tea with the sugar in it.  I also add the mint at this stage and tie it with a tiny piece of kitchen twine so I can fish it out after the tea cools, prior to adding the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon.  I am a bit of a tea snob and I like one of two teas for brewing homemade iced tea: American Classic Tea from Charleston, SC or PG Tips from England.  Those are the two black teas I drink, hot or cold.  Good tea is worth the extra money.

So dinner is semi-homemade without Sandra Lee (she’s kind of annoying I think). I have a pre-marinated Smithfield pork loin (Teriyaki), but I can’t just serve that with a salad (even if it is the beautiful red leaf lettuce I bought this week at the East Goshen Farmers’ Market), or there might be a revolt.

Since the 12-year-old loves pasta, I thought a spin on mac and cheese was in order. Now I made this pasta up today, and truthfully, it is rather tasty.

Side Stuff: Ziti with Mushrooms and Swiss Cheese Sauce.

Cook a small box of Barilla Ziti, drain, do not rinse.

Cheese Sauce:

2  cups of grated swiss cheese (I used a blend today that contained Gruyère) 

4 oz of fresh Queso

2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard

Dash of Tabasco

Couple dashes of Worcestershire Sauce

salt & pepper to taste

dash nutmeg

4 oz. of sliced white button mushrooms*

4 oz. of sliced baby bella mushrooms*

(*it’s what was in the ‘fridge – you could use shiitaki or whatever fresh mushrooms you have handy except canned. Canned mushrooms are rubbery and gross.)

2 or 3 scallions minced

3 tablespoons of butter for mushrooms/scallions

4 tablespoons flour for sauce (rue)

4 tablespoons butter for sauce (rue)

zest of fresh lemon

small dash nutmeg

squeeze of chilis in a tube (Gourmet Garden Chili Pepper Spice Blend)

Fresh flat leaf parsley

Melt butter for cheese sauce with flour.  Create a rue.  Add a dash of tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and whisk in.

Add milk, whisking constantly over medium heat, until the temperature comes up to just about a boil.

Add the Queso, whisking constantly until blended.  Add the swiss bit by bit, whisking until blended.

Using a small grater or micro plane, give like three runs of a lemon across the blades over the sauce so the lemon zest goes right in.

Salt and pepper to taste.  Nutmeg (seriously not much) Set aside.

Using a small saute pan, take the other butter and melt.  Toss in the chopped scallions, salt to taste and cook until almost transluscent.  Add the mushrooms, cook down.

Return cheese sauce to a medium to low flame and incorporate the mushroom and scallian mixture into it.  Add a squeeze of the chili peppers in a tube, check the salt and pepper.

Pour over ziti in a medium dutch oven on the stove top, mix around a bit, throw in flat leaf parsley rough chopped.  The sauce will be hot, but if the pasta is not warm enough, warm gently to your desired temperature on VERY LOW so as not to burn.

This is literally something I just did for the first time, so you might have to tweak it to your taste.  This is not a stick a spoon in it and it will stand up in the cheese sauce either.


Of course, Murphy’s Law of 12 Year Olds was triggered and he went to the neighbors’ house to have dinner with some other kids….and order take-out Chinese.

I am sure the left overs will entice him at some point later this week, and grown-ups will eat this too, incidentally.