Tag Archives: frosting

Get Busy Baking, or Get Busy Eating: Easy Pumpkin Cupcakes and Brownie Bites

6 Nov

Those little puffs of dessert-o-rific joy? Those would be Two-Ingredient (-ish) Pumpkin Cupcakes. I dove into sweets this week with two different adaptations of mixes, in the spirit of my earlier post about doctoring pre-made and store-bought products. The results were downright delicious, and — now that I’ve devoured them, as have my ravenous coworkers — this post was ripe to be written.

First on the menu? Those cupcakes, which I baked to a) experiment with the 2-ingredient (ish) method seen here. I had no idea that this was even a thing, a technique, a recipe, but then, I decided to try it. And it was fabulous! So easy, and surprisingly light, given that the recipe contains no oil or eggs. (With that in mind, I suppose it’s also, technically, vegan? Bazinga!)

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Budget Eats: Doctoring Store-Bought Ingredients

25 Sep

In the spirit of Sandra “Semi-Homemade” Lee, this “Budget Eats” entry focuses on taking things you can easily find in a grocery store (dry mixes, spice packs, sauces, and even pre-cooked meat products like chicken sausage) and turning them into something totally dynamite. Can you do it? Can it be done on a budget? Heck yes.

I’ve constructed this post with 3 categories: Mixes & doughs, meat products, and sauces. Each has its own tips and ideas for how to use those products in a pinch for dinners, desserts, snacks & more. Please (seriously!) feel free to leave comments with other ideas — this is a place to share what we’ve all learned, especially the shortcuts that keep us sane on a hungry weeknight!


  • Take a standard mix — Bisquick, Jiffy mixes, etc — and play around with their use. Bisquick, in a pinch, is a killer ingredient in a single-breaded or double-breaded chicken dinner. And Jiffy mix? Jiffy is a whole nother ballgame of multipurpose cooking. My favorite use for Jiffy mix is Savory Corn Muffins — Prepare Jiffy mix as noted on box; add garlic powder, frozen corn kernels (up to 3/4 cup), chopped fresh chives & freshly grated black pepper; bake as usual and serve with chili, tacos or other Tex-Mex cuisine. See the above picture, or this one:

  • Biscuit dough — like Pillsbury Grands — is incredibly versatile. For example, you can make Easy-Peasy Cinnamon Donuts with a tube of Grands biscuits: Separate and lay biscuits out on a baking sheet; Using a shot glass or medicine cup, cut circles out of the center of each biscuit; either bake as directed or deep-fry in vegetable oil until browned; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. NOM NOM! Here’s a great recipe (with actual measurements) from Make and Takes.

Image sourced from Makeandtakes.com. Amazing, right? And so easy!

  • Pizza dough — either Pillsbury or a store brand — can be used for its obvious purpose (pizza, kiddies), or for calzones, strombolis, or even mini-pizzas. Or, try these Holiday Hors d’OeuvresCut the pizza dough into 1″ X 1″ squares; top with pesto, chopped roasted red peppers, and feta cheese crumbles; bake as directed for pizza dough. (These also make a great light supper.)
  • Got Spice Cake Mix and a jar of pumpkin? (Of course you do, lovely GKG readers — you wouldn’t go anywhere without your trusty can of pumpkin!) Combine the two, bake according to the cake mix package’s directions, and poof. Instant Pumpkin Cupcakes. Top with store-bought cream cheese frosting with a splash of maple syrup mixed in, and WOWZA.


Image sourced from baltimorecrab.com. This may or may not currently be in my freezer …

  • Those bags of frozen Tilapia filets? Seriously your best friend. Use them to create Single Serving Foil Packs — stuff a packet of tinfoil with Tilapia, a splash of cooking liquid (broth, oil, butter or white wine), sliced veggies & spices to your liking; bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until fish and veggies are cooked through. Win! This method also works for chicken and beef equally well.
  • Got frozen chicken nuggets? How about turning them into Chicken Parm Bites? Top individual nuggets with tomato sauce and dried basil, baking according to package directions; then, add shredded mozzarella cheese on each nugget and return to the oven for an additional 3-5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted, bubbly and brown. Mmm!

Image sourced from seriouseats.com. So much tasty!

  • Pre-cooked chicken sausage is incredibly versatile. Use brands like Al Fresco to whip up a Healthy Pita Pizza: Top individual Greek-style pitas with pesto or tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella, sliced chicken sausage, and shredded kale (thawed and formerly frozen is great!); Broil for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and sausage is heated through. Mmm!


The players in Operation: Sauce Doctoring — fresh or dried herbs work well here.

  • Got jarred tomato sauce? Doctor up that boring blend with a few extras that you may have hiding in your pantry or spice cabinet: dried basil, dried oregano, dried parsley and a bay leaf. Add sauteed chopped mushrooms and peppers to create an instant Cacciatore sauce for chicken and spaghetti. Or, stir a little store-bought pesto into a jarred tomato sauce. Serious good eats. (I even used this method on my chicken parm! Shhh. Don’t tell the aunts and grandparents! 🙂
  • I’m counting mayonnaise as a “sauce” here, because it’s one of the most versatile condiments on the planet. Add some Sriracha for Spicy Mayo; stir in some pesto for a dee-licious Pesto Mayo on your panini; or crushed cloves of garlic (use a sprinkle of salt and a fork to turn garlic into a mushy, incredible paste) and a drizzle of olive oil to DIY your own aioli. Mmmskies.
  • If we count cake frosting as a “sauce,” too, then your possibilities are pretty much endless. As I mentioned above, add a drizzle of maple syrup (and a dash or two of cinnamon) to frost fall desserts. Or, try stirring mashed strawberries or raspberries into a whipped vanilla frosting for a light, fruity flavor to top your cakes and cupcakes. I’m also experimenting with adding — you guessed it, lovelies — some jarred pumpkin. I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out.

Here’s to getting creative! Using some pre-made, store-bought ingredients can save you time, energy and money. Wallet-friendly and fun? Sign me up! What are your favorite ways to add to what you’ve already found at the grocery store?

When Life Hands You Lemons … Make Cookies, People!

9 Sep

(Sung to the tune of “Badger Badger Badger”): Lemons Lemons Lemons Ciiitrus, Ciiitrus …

None of this lemonade nonsense! (Though a lemon cocktail sounds about right, too!)

A romp around the interwebs recently led me to a new recipe — Martha Stewart’s Glazed Lemon Cookies. With a friend’s housewarming BBQ* coming up soon, I thought they’d make the perfect “Hey! Thanks for the invite! Love your place. Want some baked goods?” sort of gift. 🙂 Plus, as something of a lemon addict (see: lemon pasta; lemon tea; impending other dozens of lemon-based recipes…), they seemed right up my alley.

Now often, Martha (arguably The Queen of Domesticity, minus the whole insider-trading-sent-her-to-jail thing) uses more challenging techniques and some hard-to-find ingredients; or, at the very least, her expectations of you, lowly little chef, are very high. And more often than not, Julia Child-style, I want to meet those high expectations with vigor! And spirit! And some sweat and tears thrown in for good measure! But for these cookies, on a relaxing and slightly rainy Saturday afternoon, I was on the hunt for something easy.

And easy I found. The recipe couldn’t be simpler; it’s essentially a standard sugar cookie infused with lemon zest and lemon juice, both in the actual cookie dough and in its light, lemony glaze. Try these for a holiday party (something slightly classier, like New Year’s, comes to mind) or to indulge the sweet tooth of a lemon-lover like myself.

* Out of 26 or so cookies originally, 5 were left by the time I decided to head home. Win!

Tragically, I didn’t remember to take any pictures of the cookies before heading to my friend’s housewarming. BUT! You can see them sealed under lots o’ plastic wrap here. … Tasty, right? 🙂

Martha Stewart’s Glazed Lemon Cookies — makes 24, or fewer if you’re into the “cookie-as-big-as-your-face” thing.

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest, plus 2 tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed or from a bottle are both fine)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For the glaze, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Here’s what you do:

  • For the cookies, Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk or sift together flour, baking soda, salt and lemon zest. In a large bowl using a hand mixer or electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until “light and fluffy.” (Direct Martha quote!) Add egg, vanilla and lemon juice and beat until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients mixture, keeping your mixer on low. (If it gets too thick to beat with your hand mixer, finish combining ingredients using a large wooden spoon.)
  • Drop hefty tablespoons of batter onto ungreased cookie sheets (or nonstick, if you have those) and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Switch the sheets halfway through baking (as in, if one is on top of the other in the oven, swap them after 7-8 minutes). Allow to cool on cookie sheets for 2 minutes; then, transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
  • For the glaze, combine all ingredients using a small whisk or fork in a small bowl. Spread or drizzle glaze mixture onto cooled cookies. Allow the glaze to harden, then commence the nomming.

The best thing about these cookies, I think, is the combination of subtle lemon in the batter and “HOLY COW THAT’S LEMONTASTIC” in the glaze. You end up with cookies that, ironically, do taste like lemonade. 🙂 Enjoy!

What are your favorite lemony treats? What are your go-to cookie recipes? This one might work its way into my repertoire — how about you?