Making Vanilla Extract

It’s so easy to make vanilla extract!  And the best part is – it’s homemade so you know exactly what’s in that bottle.  Same with DIY mouthwash – instead of vanilla beans, add cinnamon sticks.  It’s an intense refreshing mouthwash that tastes heavenly.  It’s also a great flavoring for a variety of things.  I’ve got some projects coming up in the new year that require some beautiful vanilla, so I’m looking forward to using this extract.

Christmas Layered Mints

I make a number of Christmas treats each year, and this one is so simple and fun, and it’s always so fun to see how people respond.  This year I really stepped it up a notch using a transfer sheet to leave a design on the chocolate, and I’ve also upgraded to Young Living’s Vitality line of essential oils – spearmint and peppermint – and the flavor is fresh, complex, and wonderful.  This is such a fun quick project for the holidays and I hope you try it and let me know how it goes for you.  And as always, thanks for watching, I really appreciate it!29c45-1a2bcarmen

Creativity & Adaptability in Tiny House Living

larger cake photoWelcome to this week’s video on creating great food in small kitchens, I’m delighted that you’ve joined me again!  This week I faced an interesting challenge.  I wanted to make a wedding cake as I have so many times in the past… only I downsized my cake pans and no longer have the professional kitchen to work in!  So how do I make a great cake without all the stuff I think I “NEED!”?  The truth is, what we think we need is often determined by what we are used to having – not on some authentic understanding of NEED.  As soon as you change what you’re used to, that will change what you need.  So going tiny is one of the best ways to find the liberation of not needing so much stuff!

IMG_20171105_122533692Then you get in the middle of a potentially frustrating situation when you no longer have the STUFF… what then?  I no longer have cake pans, so I could either borrow some (which I did) or rent some (it’s an option for some things) or I could find a different and creative approach.  In this case, I baked thin layers of cake on large sheet pans and then trimmed them to the sizes I wanted.  It was lots easier and there are no big pans to store in my Tiny House Foodie kitchen (or my actual 125 square foot tiny house for that matter).  This is just an example of how you can find creative solutions to whatever situations come up in your tiny haven home.  Simply get intentional about being creative and adaptable, and you’ll be fine.

Where there’s a will… there’s a way.

I promise.


Oh, did you happen to notice in the video where I used Lemon Vitality Essential Oil from Young Living to flavor the icing?  Seriously, that lemon buttercream was the BEST PART of the cake!  If you’re interested in learning more about that and the other Young Living products I use in my tiny home and in the Tiny House Foodie kitchen check out one of my other projects:  Good things are happening over there and if you love simplicity, wellness, and value like I do… then you should pop on over and have a look around!  XOXO

Sunflower Cake (Apricot Almond Cake)

Welcome back, I am so pleased to bring you my new favorite Paleo treat: “Sunflower Cake” or “Apricot Almond Cake” if you prefer, or even “Cake with Two Names” (or even three)!  No matter what you call it, it is inspired by Mary Berry’s Wobbly Apricot Tart, but it’s CAKE!  PLUS, it’s Paleo, which means no dairy, no gluten, no grains, and no problem.

There is no refined sugar in the recipe, but unfortunately, the almond paste comes with lots of sugar in it and my local stores don’t stock a almond paste that isn’t already sugar sweetened.  Marzipan is one of my favorite flavors, and it’s apricot season here, and the fruit has been marvelous this year!  That means it’s time for this delicious Apricot Almond cake.

So without further ado, here’s the recipe: (And you don’t have to have a mixer to make it!)

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (I’m using Pink Himalayan Rock Salt)
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda

Stir together and break all clumps.

  • Then add 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup coconut oil (it’s hot here today, so mine was already liquid, but if yours is pretty solid warm it slightly until it’s soft)
  • 2/3 cup honey (you may sub in maple syrup)
  • 4 large roughly treated fresh eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract (sounds like a lot, I know.  If you vanilla or almond extracts are extra strong, adjust accordingly.)

Stir together, and pour into a 9 inch round cake pan that has been buttered with coconut oil and lined with waxed paper (the waxed paper is an optional step that zero waste folks will be fine to skip).

  • 2 large fresh apricots, peeled, and sliced thin

Place the apricot slices evenly around the edge of the cake for sunflower petals.  I used two large apricots in the video, but I’ve since been back to the market for more and they were quite small the second time, so use what works for your situation.  It’s never wrong to have a  few left lovely fresh apricots left over for snacking.

  • 4 ounces almond paste

Roll paste into snakes, cut into even rounds and roll into little balls to be used for the middle of the sunflower.  Use a little powdered sugar to keep the paste from sticking to everything.  Any extra almond paste may be chopped and stirred into to the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees, conventional oven, for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Let me know what you think of my recipe.  I think it works as a dessert and as a breakfast cake.  And as you can see in the video, it’s easy to make in only 6 square feet plus oven and a sink for doing dishes.

Thanks for visiting my blog and stay tuned for many more great new recipes that you can make, even in a teeny tiny kitchen!  Even if you live in a tiny house like we do, you don’t have to sacrifice flavor!


Jack-O-Lantern Cupcakes

It’s time for another yummy cupcake recipe inspired by the book Cooking For Ghosts by the marvelous bestselling author Patricia V. Davis, who happens to be one of the coolest women I know.  Today’s recipe features the “Jack O’ Lantern Spice” cupcakes mentioned as part of Angela’s “Haunted Tea and Cakes” event in The Secret Spice Cafe on board the RMS Queen Mary.

So without further ado, here are the
Ridiculously Easy Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes.
3 fresh large eggs
1/2 cup of oil
1 cup of pumpkin puree (or make your own)
1/2 cup of strong ginger tea
1.5 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg.

Go ahead and mix all that until the eggs are fully incorporated… then add one Duncan Hines White Cake Mix.  Shhhh… that’s our little secret.  Mix until just incorporated with fine lumps.  This is going to be a thick batter and it will make more than the usual 2 dozen cupcakes.

Meanwhile, how about my Ridiculously Easy Spice Buttercream? So here goes… pull one pound of fresh sweet cream butter (salted) straight out of the fridge and cut it into chunks.

Pile that straight into the Kitchen Aid and get it going on a low speed as the chunks will want to fly out.  As soon as the butter has quit flying, turn up the speed.  And don’t worry… it really doesn’t take it long to go from this:

 …to this light and fluffy whipped butter.

Add two tablespoons of Goldschlager (Swiss cinnamon schnapps) gold bits optional.  Add one teaspoon of ground Tumeric, followed by one pound of powdered sugar.  Whip until the buttercream returns to a beautiful consistency.  Add food color if desired to get a pumpkin color (orange and yellow).

Here are some choices for decorating these cupcakes. 
Give a little swirl to the icing, and top it with a candy pumpkin.
They look smashing!

However, for Angela’s “Haunted Tea and Cakes” these cupcakes need Jack O’ Lantern faces!

And for that, we’ll need chocolate ganache!  And really, what marvelous treat is ever complete without that silken chocolate wonder of warm melted chocolate and cream?  Yum!

The recipe for ganache is also is ridiculously simple.  Warm 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream in the microwave in a glass container (or in a bain marie or double boiler if you hate microwaves like I do).  Once the cream is warm, add 1 1/2 cup fine dark chocolate and stir.  For the chocolate I use a combination of my favorite dark chocolate, along with my favorite bittersweet chocolate to make ganache that is darker and richer than what I usually reach for.  Since the amount is small and it is paired with a sweet dessert, the ganache itself can be a darker chocolate without adding more sweetness.  Stir until the mixture is silky smooth, warming it as needed.  Since there is so much variation in chocolate products, expect to adjust the ganache by adding more chocolate if needed, bit by bit, stirring a lot.  Put your pastry bag in a glass and fold the top over.  Fill partly with ganache.

 Bring up the sides of the pastry bag carefully to avoid spilling the ganache.

 Close the top of the bag and secure it with a twisty-tie, or binder clip, or whatever you have handy.  With buttercream this isn’t an issue, but with soft runny ganache, once you lay the bag down the ganache will seep out of the bag and make a delicious mess unless you clamp the ends closed.

Now that your ganache is ready, it’s time to pipe on friendly Jack O’ Lantern faces…
or drizzle ganache over cupcakes…
(ganache in a pastry bag IS the perfect chocolate delivery device).
The pumpkin part looks more complicated than it is.  And if you’re not sure about it, pipe it out on a plate until you get the hang of it.  Start by making a large circle of orange icing around the edge of the cupcake.  Then make half rounds on each side making them a tad fatter in the middle.  Keep building on the other ribs of the pumpkin until it is time to close the gap in the middle with one single last “squish” and your pumpkin is done.  I added a pumpkin stem and curl from chocolate icing, then added the happy faces with ganache.  I should have taken photos of this part but I’ve done it so many times I just didn’t think about it… and swish swish I was done.  I’ll put it on my “to-do list” to show you how to do this part.  They are cute, aren’t they?
Looks like we’re ready for “Haunted Tea and Cakes!”


Today through November 2nd, 2016,
the Kindle Cooking For Ghosts 
will be ONLY 99 CENTS!
The only thing better than a great book is a great book on sale!

Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes

I recently read Cooking for Ghosts by bestselling author Patricia V. Davis, and fell in love with the food mentioned in the book.  In particular… the cupcakes.  I’ve had a weakness for cupcakes (aka cuppy cakes) for years, and that hasn’t changed.  So when I’m reading along and Angela mentions “Jack-O’-Lantern Spice” cupcakes, and the “Hazelnut Ganache-filled” cupcakes, along with a lot of other yummy pastries and treats… well, I knew I will be craving those flavors until I get in the kitchen, make a little mess, and put the last icing swirl on a batch of cupcakes.  Ms. Davis also mentions a Devil’s Chocolate Decadence which I also imagined as a cupcake, and she mentions the Raspberry Chocolate Truffle Tart… which inspired me to add a fresh berry cupcake to this little collection as well.  So here’s how I made four cupcakes inspired by the book, Cooking for Ghosts.  And if you haven’t read it yet, here is a LINK so you can get your copy on the way.  I’ll wait.

Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Cupcakes:
3 fresh large eggs
1/2 cup of oil
1/2 cup of unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup of strong black coffee (cool)

Go ahead and mix all that until the eggs are fully incorporated… then add one Duncan Hines Devil’s Food Cake Mix.  Shhhh… that’s our little secret.  (Pay no attention to the directions on the packet!)  Nobody has to know how ridiculously quick and easy this cake comes together.  Take a moment to imagine Angela slaving away in the kitchen of the Secret Spice Cafe to make her cakes, sifting every last granule of flour and whipping the eggs to white fluffy peaks…. sounds delicious, right?  (We’ll be done before she is!)  Hehe!  Watch the batter closely and stop the machine when the batter looks like this… still kind of lumpy.  And start filling those cupcake liners.

If you use an ice cream scoop, it goes quickly and it is not difficult to keep the size consistent.  Fill them between 1/2 and 2/3 of the way full, as you see here. (And if you store your liners properly, they won’t wrinkle up like these did – oops!)

Bake the cupcakes at 350 degrees for 20 minutes to start with, then keep a close eye on them.  At the point that you can touch them lightly and they spring back, they’re done.  My handsome husband prefers the clean toothpick test, and that’s also fine.  The important thing is to get them out of the oven before they start drying out.  The applesauce and oil make this recipe moist, but even that won’t be enough if they are over baked, or left out to dry on the counter.  Not to worry, these cupcakes are going to be pampered every moment of their SHORT lives!

While that cake is in the oven, it is possible to start the Ridiculously Easy Buttercream! So here goes… pull one pound of fresh sweet cream butter (salted) straight out of the fridge and cut it into chunks.

Pile that straight into the Kitchen Aid and get it going on a low speed as the chunks will want to fly out.  As soon as the butter has quit flying, turn up the speed.  And don’t worry… it really doesn’t take it long to go from this:

…to this light and fluffy cloud of butter.  Gently add one pound of powdered sugar a bit at a time, and wait for it to return to this lovely fluffy texture.  Add a teaspoon of good quality vanilla.

It really is that simple.  This buttercream it lovely, light, and airy, and not too sweet.  If you accidentally add a bit too much powdered sugar, no worries, just add a teaspoon of water at a time until it’s the consistency you like.

Now here is where it gets fun.

I have a real weakness for Nutella!  And so when I saw “Hazelnut Ganache-filled Cupcakes” in Cooking for Ghosts… I reached for the Nutella.  It’s delicious and all the work is already done for you!  Mmmm.

Here’s the secret: begin by cutting a little cone shape out of the top of each cupcake.

 Then fill the divot with Nutella.  I used a pastry bag to pipe it in place, it is fast and easy.

 Just like that, and done!

Then put the little cones of cake back on the tops of the cupcakes.  This makes them look like they have little pointed heads.

Here’s how I made the icing for these Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes.  Curious?  Take out your Nutella container, spoon a big healthy dollop of Nutella right into the buttercream.  That was easy, right?  Now stir with your spatula.  Just a few stirs, you want to leave lots of yummy stripes in the buttercream so *just barely* stir together the Nutella and the buttercream.  What could be easier?

How much Nutella specifically?  (I knew you would ask.) I used half of the buttercream recipe I listed above, and stirred in about 2/3 of a cup of Nutella into that very loosely.  (Hang on to the rest of that buttercream, I’ve got other plans for that!)

Here’s the easy way to fill the pastry bag.  Find a glass that is the right size, fold the tip up at the bottom, and put it in the glass, wrapping the ends of the bag down over the side of the glass.  If you don’t have a pastry bag on hand, just use the end of a sturdy plastic bag that you do have.

Fill the bag with icing.  Then once you have the icing bowl out of your hands, pull the bag out of the glass, close the top to avoid adding air bubbles, then give it a twist to close the bag completely.  Tie it closed with a twist tie if you want to.  Trim off the tip of the bag with a scissors and you’re good to go.

Keep your thumb tight against your hand to keep icing from coming out the back of the bag.

Then carefully pipe the icing around the sides of the cone and finish with a little swirl at the top.  If the cupcakes will be sitting out for very long, then be sure to cover as much of the cake as possible to keep them from drying out.

Here they are, my Ridiculously Easy Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes inspired by the book Cooking For Ghosts by the delicious Patricia V. Davis.  Tada!

 Now… isn’t it about time for our book club meeting?
I’m ready.
Book club was never so delicious!