Caron's Cookbook

Recipes from a home baker

January 11, 2019
Caron Ellis


Vanilla Crème Cinnamon Cupcakes


I first created this recipe almost a year ago when I had some leftover frosting I wanted to use up on something before it went to waste. It was right around the holidays and ALL I WANTED WAS CINNAMON. I mean I couldn’t stop thinking about it and wanting it and smelling it. You know what I’m talking about, right? It was the time of year when the only candles you buy are ones with apples and pumpkins and cinnamon sticks on the front and you burn them All. Day. Long. I live for that time of the year.

So naturally when I began mixing something together, I dumped a whole tablespoon of cinnamon into the batter before I stopped to think twice about it. After I did that my first thought was “oh no, they’re going to turn out so bitter and they’ll be horrible and terrible and I can’t believe I did this, I’m so stupid, what was I thinking?!” and so on and so forth. I was so surprised at how perfectly sweet and tender they turned out. DO NOT be afraid to use this much cinnamon. It’s wonderful for your health, by the way.


We celebrated a birthday at work recently for a co-worker of mine and I happen to know she is nuts about cinnamon. One of my favorite things to do when I bake in copious amounts is to bring it in to work – in this way I prevent consuming it all for myself. Most days. She didn’t say a word about it but I know she wanted me to make something for her. I knew I would make something to bring to work in celebration of her birthday.

This recipe was the first thing that came to mind. My original recipe included buttermilk, which lended itself immaculately to the perfect crumb of the cupcake. In this specific instance, I found myself devoid of any types of dairy milk – all I was left with was almond milk. I decided to substitute the buttermilk for a mixture of almond milk and vegetable oil. I’ve heard that if you add lemon juice to milk and let it sit for a few minutes, it will basically turn into buttermilk. However, I just assumed this would not happen with almond milk. Is this true? Please let me know if you have tried this with almond milk and come out with something similar to buttermilk – I would be very interested to know.

The final product this time still came out surprisingly beautiful, even though I found myself dying to have the texture of the buttermilk cake. I decided to add a vanilla pastry crème to the middle of this cupcake to help out the overall texture/taste and it was absolutely delicious!! It was so rich and creamy and went perfectly with the cinnamon flavor. The cream cheese icing piped in a beautiful rosette on top added the perfect touch for her birthday.

The pictures you see here are the version with the almond milk/vegetable oil recipe. In my recipe instructions I will include the ingredient measurements for both the buttermilk as well as the option you see pictured here, just in case you end up in the same situation with no buttermilk and a killer craving for cinnamon cupcakes.

These are perfect to add to your menu of weekend guilty pleasures, next work potluck, birthday celebrations, youth activities, or whatever else you may find yourself needing excellent treats to accompany. Please let me know if you tried this recipe and how they turned out!

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the Cupcakes:

  • 2 sticks of softened butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar + 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup almond milk + 1/2 cup vegetable oil (or 1 cup buttermilk, if you have it)
  • 2 eggs

For the Vanilla Crème filling:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced in half and seeds removed
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp butter

For the Cream Cheese Icing:

  • 2 sticks of softened butter
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 2 lbs + 2 cups Powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 tsp salt

How to put it all together:

  1. Begin by heating your oven to 350° F and lining two cupcake pans with liners.
  2. Place the softened butter and the sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream them on medium speed until the ingredients are nicely incorporated together and the mixture gets slightly paler in color – about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, soft the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a separate bowl and set aside.
  4. Add your almond milk, oil, and vanilla extract to a pitcher and set aside.
  5. Once the butter and sugar are creamed, add your eggs one at a time and allow to mix.
  6. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and then add half the flour mixture to the stand mixer. Allow to incorporate just barely and then add the milk mixture. Once homogeneous, add the remaining flour and mix until only just combined – do not overmix!
  7. Use the spatula again to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl to ensure all the flour is mixed in. Use a large ice cream scoop to drop the batter into the prepared liners.
  8. Bake for approximately 16 minutes and then remove to cool while making the vanilla crème.
  9. To make the crème, add the first three ingredients to a small sauce pan and stir on low heat until the sugar is dissolved and the milk is steaming. Remove the vanilla bean.
  10. Whisk your egg yolks in a small bowl and then temper them by slowly drizzling the hot milk mixture into the bowl and whisking briskly. Then add the yolks to the sauce pan with the remaining milk mixture and stir constantly on low heat for about 6-8 minutes until it thickens considerably. Add the extract.
  11. Strain the mixture through a sieve and then stir in the pat of butter for a glossy finish.
  12. Allow to cool by covering with plastic wrap in the fridge.
  13. To make the icing, mix the butter and cream cheese on medium speed in the bowl of a stand mixer until well incorporated. Be sure to not overmix the cream cheese as it tends to become more loose the longer it’s worked.
  14. Add half of the sifted powdered sugar as well as the extract and mix, pulsing, until all the sugar is mixed in. Stop here to scrape down the bowl, including the bottom. Add the cream and the remaining sugar, mixing on medium speed until light and fluffy – about 4 minutes.

Here’s how to assemble everything:

  1. Use a corer to remove the center of the cupcakes.
  2. Spoon in the crème using a small spoon, until it almost reached the top.
  3. Place the icing in a piping bag fit with a 2D Wilton tip and then pipe a rosette on the top by starting in the middle, pressing in to the cupcake gently to create a small mound and then rotating the tip in a circular motion around the outside of the mound until you reach the outside of the cupcake. Be sure to ‘flick’ the tip gently at the end of the rosette to prevent the icing from holding on to the tip.

January 10, 2019
Caron Ellis

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Veggie Burgers pass the Kid Test

For dinner tonight, I wanted something as easy as possible.

All the other responsibilities of working a full time job while raising three kids and being a partner to my husband, our washing machine decided to die. Over the last many months it has been one thing after another. My husband, Daniel, and I are attempting to get rid of debt and live without credit in our life and I’m convinced God is testing us. Each time we save up our emergency fund, something happens that causes us to use it up.


First it was the car. Some kind of issue with spark plugs. Then it was the A/C. Smack dab in the middle of summer. In Florida. Completely dead. Turns out it was just a capacitor issue that could have cost us $5 and the help of my wonderful dad. Instead, it cost us somewhere closer to 60X that…Then it was the dishwasher. Daniel was actually at fault for that one. Something called the floater that tells the dishwasher when to stop filling water was completely ripped off the bottom of the dishwasher…I’m married to the Hulk. That cost us a bit more than the A/C. There’s actually no way to fix that. Just a whole new machine is needed.

Now…it’s the washing machine. HOWEVER! Every time something comes up, it is always when we have come into a little cash in savings – whether it was by our own saving or through a blessing from God. Also, both the dishwasher issue and the washing machine issue occurred around holidays, which are the best times to purchase appliances like that because of the awesome savings. So – in terms of looking at it as a ‘glass half-full’ situation – I really think God is looking out for us while also testing our resolve to do this ‘kick debt’s ass’ thing.

Anywho – back to dinner tonight. We are in the middle of getting all the dirty laundry separated into piles to take to my in-laws in the morning to use their wonderful working machine to wash our filth. I’m exhausted from a LONG day at work and just want food in my babies’ bellies. We’ve got frozen veggie burgers in the freezer and a plethora of sweet potatoes on the bar. We’re doing burgers and fries, baby. Oh, also we have no lettuce, no tomatoes, no pickles, no buns, no toppings of any kind really. Other than cheese. Surprisingly, this meal turned out fantastic.

I added a few avocado slices with a few drops of lime juice, salt, and pepper on top of my burger patty and chowed down. I have to brag on the veggie burgers we bought because of how surprised I was with the taste. If you haven’t given veggie burgers a try yet, do it just for fun one night. You won’t regret it. 

But if you do, please write a strongly worded letter to the company who made the nasty patty and not to me.

The kids went crazy over these and my little boy tore them up. And he’s my picky child.

For the Veggie Burgers:

  • 2 packages Boca brand veggie burger of choice
  • American Cheese slices
  • Pinch of salt and black pepper
  • Avocado
  • Lime wedge

For the Fries:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, washed and sliced into wedges
  • Spices of your choice (salt, pepper, garlic salt, paprika, Everglades Seasoning, etc.)
  • Olive oil

For the ‘Sauce’:

  • 1/2 cup of mayo
  • 1 tbsp spicy mustard
  • A few dashes of hot sauce


  1. Preheat your oven to 400° F. Place the burger patties on a sheet pan lined with foil and a wire wrack. Prepare a separate sheet pan lined with foil and a wire wrack for the potatoes.
  2. Toss the potato wedges in a bowl with the olive oil and spices. Space them out on the wire wrack and place both sheet pans in the oven.
  3. Bake the burgers for 12-14 minutes and remove from the oven. Allow the fries to cook a few minutes longer, for a total of about 20-22 minutes.
  4. Top the burgers with a slice of cheese as soon as you remove them from the oven, then prepare your avocado.
  5. If you have never worked with an avocado before, you’ll need to have a sharp knife. Lay the avocado lengthwise on the cutting board and slice halfway through the avocado horizontally while using your palm to rotate the avocado – in this way you will slice the avocado in half around the seed in the middle.
  6. Pull the halves apart and use your knife to remove the seed by ‘hacking’ into the seed and twisting gently.
  7. Scoop out the halves using a spoon, doing your best to get all the ‘meat’ of the avocado. Cut slices and lightly squeeze the juice of a lime  over them.
  8. Next put your mayo, mustard, and hot sauce in a small bowl and mix until combined.
  9. Serve up and Enjoy!

January 9, 2019
Caron Ellis


Cheesecake Swirl Birthday Brownies!

My family and I are very close. It’s been tough as we’ve all grown up and gotten jobs, moved out, moved back in, gotten married, had kids, etc. We all stick pretty close to each other though and I love it. It’s been so hard to keep in touch with everyone as often as we used to, no matter how hard we try. Life gets in the way, you know?

We started up a fun habit several months ago as a way for us to all see each other at least once a month, if not more. We pick a restaurant, a date, and we all meet up and have a family dinner together. Some months have been more fun than others, depending on the restaurant choice. But, either way, I am trying different cuisines and hanging out with the fam so it’s great no matter what. Next month is sushi!!  🍣🍣🍣

We recently tried out this ‘authentic’ Asian noodle place in town and I was (highly) disappointed. What a huge bummer. We chose this restaurant as a way to celebrate my sister Emma’s birthday. Emma is obsessed with Asian culture and food and anime and people and etc. She has taken a couple of Chinese courses in college to learn the language and is actually learning Japanese with her hubby from a friend of hers. It’s really fun to hear her speak in Japanese, she’s really taking to the language. Emma, along with my other two sisters, is INCREDIBLY talented when it comes to art and you can really see her passion for Asia in the way she draws. She’s absolutely incredible.

Speaking of incredible…


Look at this beautiful boy…


I just can’t get enough of those faces. ❤❤❤

Along with Asian culture, Emma is also obsessed with chocolate. So I KNEW I would have to create something with chocolate in it for her birthday. These brownies were then made.


They were super duper yummy. I took them with me to the restaurant and after we finished our (disappointing) meals, we scarfed down quite a bit of them. (P.S. There were about 15 of us there in total because my family is rather large…we just didn’t exactly get pictures of everyone…Oops)


After tasting them, I realized I’m going to have to explore this recipe with many other flavors. Blondies, funfetti cake, german chocolate with coconut, carrot cake, red velvet, dark chocolate, maybe turn the cheesecake mixture into chocolate instead, or even cinnamon…the list goes on and on. I cannot wait to try other flavors with this recipe, it was delicious! And Emma took the rest of them home with her. Happy Birthday, little sis ♥

Ingredients List:

Brownie batter:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp coffee extract
1/4 tsp Maple extract
2 egg whites, 2 whole eggs
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso powder

Cheesecake Swirl:
8 oz cream cheese
2 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds at a time in the microwave until completely melted.
  2. Add the sugar, extracts, and eggs to the butter and mix until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt and add the espresso powder.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix only until combined – do not over-mix.
  5. In another bowl, beat the cream cheese, egg whites, sugar, and vanilla together until combined.
  6. Pour half of your brownie batter into your prepared pan and smooth into a level layer. Scoop half of the cream cheese mixture on top of the brownie layer and use a butter knife to swirl the mixture in with the brownie batter.
  7. Pour the remaining brownie batter on top and level it into an even layer and top with the remaining cream cheese mixture, finishing the top with a swirl pattern.
  8. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes. Do not overcook! Let the brownies stay a little fudgey.
  9. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing and devouring

October 17, 2018
Caron Ellis

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My Life! Oh, my life…

The stress of my modern office!

I hope you caught that reference.

Sorry I’ve been away for a few weeks, I feel as though I’ve neglected a very important part of myself by not updating my cookbook here. This is, after all, the cookbook of my life. It includes all the recipes I need to get through the day.

This is one of the three best recipes I ever created.

Jude the Dude to the rescue ♥💕♥

My son, Jude, has a favorite superhero and you’ll never guess who it is.

This is his Halloween costume and it’s impossible to get him to remove it.

As an update, I want to let you know that since my last post, I have accepted a new role at work. I am so excited!! It’s going to be a move up for me in my career which will also mean more money. It’s going to be a really good thing for my family for a while and we are feeling beyond blessed.

We will also be holding a Halloween party at our place this year and it’s actually the first time we’ve ever done anything like this. I’m incredibly excited about how it’s going to turn out and can’t wait to share my recipes with you that I decide on for the party.

I will be posting a few new recipes in the coming days and hope you love them.

Side note – I started writing a book. Like, an actual fictional book. I’m not really ready to say anything else about it but it’s been a very fun way to let out my creativity when my kitchen is too messy to bake and I’m too lazy to clean it.

Can you relate to that?

Additional side note…because of the stress I’ve been dealing with at home and at work, I’ve developed quite a few skin issues. I have decided to overcome my fear and show you a picture of what I look like at the moment so I can share my burden with others. Sorry about that.

I think my camera on my phone had an auto-filter setting when I took this one. I much prefer the way my skin looks in this one. Webcams make me look like I do in my fantasies. Of course, in my fantasies I also own my own bakery and don’t answer to the man and can stay home with my family whenever I want…

Oh well…

As a way to combat these skin issues, I’ve been using this awesome new skincare regimen with Mario Badescu. Have you heard of the brand?

I’m kind of obsessed so far. The product is so mild that it doesn’t give my skin any kind of reaction and it makes my skin feel brand new almost. I feel so refreshed after I’ve washed my face and finished my skincare routine.

Don’t freak out – these products have accumulated over a period of several weeks. Also – I don’t use all of them at the same time. I alternate nights and mornings during the week that I use each product.

I’ll keep you updated right here about how my skin improves and I’ll let you know if it’s something you should invest in for yourself as well.

Anywho, I’ll be back with several new recipes over the coming days so be sure to check up again later for a look at them.

Thanks for spending a few minutes of your day with me and don’t forget to show yourself some love. You deserve it.

September 20, 2018
Caron Ellis

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Scotchy Scotch Puddin’

I friggin’ love pudding. It’s an indulgent, creamy treat that pretty much goes with anything. The first time I made my own pudding at home I was blown away. It was SO easy and it turned out amazing. I’ve made it countless times since then and it’s something my daughter Lily and I love to create together.


I had to guilt trip her to get her to smile for this picture. Standard procedure.

Also…yesterday was National Butterscotch Pudding Day. It’s so special that they named a day for it. So today, in honor of National Butterscotch Pudding Day, in honor of pudding being a completely different dish across continents, in honor of my sauce pans who were so willing to get dirty again to make another recipe, I have made Butterscotch Pudding. This version of my pudding is super fun because I’m kind of obsessed with making my own caramel, and making butterscotch is very close to the same process.

For this recipe, I made my butterscotch ‘sauce’ and then from there turned it into my pudding by adding the corn starch, milk, and eggs. I also topped it off with some good ol’ whipped cream and some chopped pecans.


This recipe is so, so fun to make and it’s perfect for this time of the year and basically foolproof. With Fall getting closer and closer every day (it will be OFFICIALLY Fall by the end of the week!!!), this pudding can be used for almost anything. You can even add some fun spices to it to make it more seasonal (PUMPKIN SPICE!!!). Seriously. Just have fun with this. It’s very cathartic for me to get in the kitchen and make a recipe like this. It’s all in the process – like therapy. I sincerely hope that you enjoy making this recipe as much as I did and have even more fun digging in!


Ingredients List:

¾ cup butter
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 ½ cups heavy cream (room temperature or warmed)
Heavy pinch of salt
¼ (packed) cup of corn starch
3 eggs
3 cups milk (I used almond – room temperature or warmed)
2 vanilla bean pods
A handful of chopped pecans

For the whipped cream:

1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Begin by melting your butter in a large sauce pan or a Dutch oven. Once melted, add the brown sugar, heavy cream, and salt. Stir with a whisk carefully while sugar melts and mixture turns into a sauce. Allow to bubble and cook down for around 5-6 minutes.
  2. Next, sift the corn starch into a bowl and add the eggs. Mix these two together until combined. Take a cup measure and scoop (carefully!) about a cup of the butterscotch sauce and drizzle slowly into the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Once the egg mixture is heated through, add to the pan with the sauce and stir until combined.
  3. Add the milk and the vanilla bean pods (sliced in half) and stir until combined.
  4. Allow mixture to cook on low heat for several minutes until it has visibly thickened. Keep a close eye on the temperature at this point as it will burn and stick to the bottom of the pan if left unattended.
  5. After about 5 minutes, the pudding should be done. Pour into a separate bowl/container using a sieve to strain out any potentially scrambled eggs as well as the vanilla bean pods.
  6. Cover with plastic wrap, keeping the wrap directly on top of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming, and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  7. If you’d rather have warm pudding either out of preference or necessity, allow to sit for about 10 minutes to finish cooling and thickening, then use as you wish.
  8. While pudding is cooling/chilling, use a small bowl to add the ingredients for the whipped cream. Using a hand mixer, mix on high speed for about 2 minutes or until it’s thick and creamy.
  9. To serve, scoop as many large spoonfuls as you want into a bowl/cup/plate/fingers, add a dollop or twenty of whipped cream, and sprinkle with pecans. Don’t leave these out – they add an incredible texture and flavor to the final treat. Enjoy!

September 11, 2018
Caron Ellis


One a penny, Two a penny

I cannot believe it has been 17 years since that horrible day in New York City. It feels like it just happened. I just want to use my little corner of the internet to reach out and send prayers and love to the families directly impacted by that morbid incident. It did not even feel like real life happening, watching the coverage on the TV.

I still remember where I was. I was in sixth grade. JEB Stuart middle school, here in Jacksonville FL. I was actually late to my home-room class that day. I walked in late expecting to have my teacher pick on me or bring attention to it. Instead, I walked in and everyone was separated in their own cliques, talking in hushed voices and looking at the TV in the upper corner of the room every so often. Our teacher was in the back of the classroom at her desk talking with two other teachers and she seemed really stressed out. I figured we were just going to have a chill day, so I slid into my desk and put my stuff down and kept to myself like I usually did.

I could hear the TV so I glanced up at it and saw a news station was on, showing coverage of these buildings with smoke and flames billowing out. I actually thought it was a movie or something and didn’t pay much attention to it. It took a few minutes for me to actually realize it was real-time and it was happening in our country. I was in shock. I didn’t know what to do. As a sixth grader, you still don’t really know what to do with all that emotion and confusion. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel about it. I didn’t know if I was supposed to talk about it or not. It was such a foggy day after that point. I remember coming home and my mom just giving us all hugs and comforting us. Everyone was shook.

I don’t mean to have such a ‘down’ post for today but I haven’t talked about that day in so long. I felt like I needed to speak that today. Take today to hug on everyone you care about. You never know what moment will be your last on this earth. Enjoy every bit of it and suck up all the love and affection you can from those you love. 💕

Moving on to this recipe for my cookbook. Today is actually the National Day in recognition of Hot Cross Buns. If you don’t know much about them, they are a spiced bread roll with either raisins or currants in them and they are ‘decorated’ or adorned with a cross on the top. This is kind of a sweet recipe to post for today, if you are spiritual at all. There are superstitions surrounding this bun, ranging from the bun having medicinal qualities – you feed a bun to someone who is sick and they recover quickly – to protecting your kitchen from fire or any bread recipes not turning out right. I hope you make this recipe and I hope it brings you all good things for the next year. Be sure to replace the bun each year. 🍀


How to make Hot Cross Buns:

Note: adapted from the recipe at Foodness Gracious. Follow him here: 

I started off by adding all the first 10 ingredients from the ingredients list into my stand mixer bowl. Mr. Paul Hollywood would be dumbfounded if he saw me using just plain old all-purpose flour for this bread recipe. I stirred it together to get the raisins mixed in real good with the flour. Next time I make this recipe, I will be leaving the raisins out of this step and putting them in after the kneading is done as I ended up mashing some of them up real good in the kneading process. Sorry raisins!


I used more butter than the original recipe I adapted from and used less milk. The reason for this is that I am using almond milk which has less fat in it than dairy milk. I wanted to use more fat from the butter as a liquid here. So add your butter and milk to a saucepan and heat until the butter melts and the mixture is just warm enough to where you can put your finger in and leave for several seconds without it burning.

Add the vanilla extract to your beaten eggs. Pour your butter mixture into your mixing bowl, then add the eggs. Mix with a dough hook for about 10 minutes. You’re going to want to watch for the mixture to get stretchy and pull away from the sides of the bowl. It will start to form a ball on the dough hook.

Grab a separate bowl and grease it up with some olive oil. Set aside.


Flour a counter-top liberally, then dump your dough out onto it. Work the dough for several minutes until it forms a soft ball, with silky skin. This will take several minutes depending on how wet your dough is, which is a result of the climate where you live. You may need to add more flour if the mixture is too wet. Place the ball of dough in your oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Leave to rise and double in size for about an hour and a half.


Butter a dish for the buns. I used a 9X13 glass casserole dish and it worked wonderfully.


When you come back to your dough, it should be double the size, at least, that it was before. Turn back out onto your floured surface and punch the air out of it. Fold it a few times until you get the silky consistency again. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions and roll them into balls.



Place the balls into the casserole dish and cover loosely with the plastic wrap again. They will need to be left alone for another hour or two, until they have doubled again in size and are all touching and snuggling in the pan. Preheat your oven to 385° F



When the balls of dough are just about ready to go in the oven, go ahead and put all your ingredients in a bowl for the cross mixture. Mix it up until the flour and sugar and water and salt are one. Put it into a piping bag or a plastic bag of sorts and snip off the end.



You want to have the long side of the pan facing you so that you can see 4 buns horizontally in rows of 3. Start on the top row and pipe the flour mixture in a straight line down the middle of the first row of buns, making sure you are drawing (drawing??) the line horizontally. Do the same thing for the next 2 rows. Then turn the pan 90 degrees so the short side is facing you and the pan is ‘vertical’, if that makes sense. You will have 3 buns horizontal now in rows of 4. Follow the same pattern by starting on the top row and pipe the mixture in a straight line down the middle of the buns so that you can see a cross on each bun.


Pop the buns in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.


When there was about 10 minutes left on the buns, I made the syrupy glaze mixture by combining the sugar and water in a sauce pan and stirring them together over high heat until they came to a boil. I let it boil for about 3 minutes until some of the water evaporated and the syrup got a little thick. Take it off the heat and add the vanilla extract. Use a food safe brush to apply the syrup liberally all over the tops of the buns as soon as they come out of the oven. I think next time I do these I will use a jam or something similar to cook down with water for the glaze. I felt this glaze was a bit boring and I wanted something more exciting. Still turned out beautiful and delicious though.


My husband is a fan of the oatmeal raisin cookies and I don’t make them for him very often. He went pretty crazy over these buns. He tried them warm with softened butter on top. He tried them on their own with no toppings. He used some leftover cream cheese buttercream I had in the fridge right in the middle of the bun. He tried many things and he could not find a way to NOT eat these. He actually made the statement that I need to make them all the time. So there you have it. They’re delicious and they’ll get you the praise you’ve been dying to get and they’ll also keep your family from being ill. Give it a try and let me know if you and/or your family felt the same way. Enjoy!



5 cups All-Purpose (AP) flour
1 ½ tbsp yeast
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp salt
1 cup dark raisins
1 cup golden raisins
6 tbsp butter
1 cup almond milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the cross:
¾ cup flour
1 ½ tbsp sugar
½ cup water
Pinch of salt

For the Glaze:
½ cup water
3 tbsp Sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract

  1. Begin by adding the flour, yeast, sugar, spices, salt, and raisins to a mixing bowl. Mix together slightly to combine.
  2. Add your butter and milk to a saucepan and warm them through until you can put your finger in the mixture and it’s warm but doesn’t burn you – 5 minutes or less.
  3. Pour the butter/milk mixture into the mixing bowl and add the eggs as well. Mix with a dough hook in your mixing bowl for about 10 minutes, or until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and begins to form a ball. Grease a large bowl with olive oil and set aside
  4. Flour a clean countertop liberally and dump the dough on to the countertop. Work the dough on the counter by kneading it until it all comes together with a soft, smooth skin
  5. When it feels silky, put it in the oiled bowl and wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Leave for 1 ½ hours to proof until doubled in size. Butter your desired dish for the buns (I used a 9X13 glass casserole dish)
  6. Once doubled, turn out onto a floured surface again and punch the air out of the dough. Turn it a couple of times until it feels silky again and then portion the dough out into 12 equal portions. Roll the portions into balls and place in the buttered dish. Cover loosely with the plastic wrap and leave for another 2 hours or so. Preheat your oven to 385° F
  7. When the dough is ready to go in the oven, prepare the mixture for the cross by combining in a small bowl and whisking together until the flour and sugar is all dissolved into the water. Put in a Ziploc bag or piping bag and snip the end off. Pipe the mixture first horizontally across the buns and then turn the pan and pipe again until you have crosses on each bun.
  8. Place on the middle oven rack and bake for 25 minutes.
  9. When there is about 10 minutes left on your buns, prepare the glaze. Add the water and sugar to a sauce pan and whisk on high heat until it comes to a boil. Allow to boil for about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and add the vanilla extract.
  10. Apply the glaze liberally with a food safe brush on the buns as soon as they come out of the oven. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes and then dig in.

September 9, 2018
Caron Ellis

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Sheppy Sheppy Pie Pie

Happy “I Love Food” Day!! Did you know today was the National “I Love
Food” Day? Actually, September is also National Chicken, Mushroom, Potato, and Rice month. In honor of this, and also to celebrate today as “I Love Food” Day, I have created the ultimate Shepherd’s pie in casserole form, family style. Not only does this shepherd’s pie include the four items listed previously, but it includes a large assortment of my favorite veggies to give a much needed protein boost as well as different flavors and textures that will make you shout ‘I LOVE FOOD’ before the day is over. Perhaps.


I have to admit something. My family is sick of Shepherd’s pie. My sisters,
that is. My hubby and babies can’t get enough of it, and my parents seem to
still love it. Apparently, I have made it every single time we’ve had a family
get together for like, ever. So I’ve been trying to cool it with the shepherd’s
pies. Until today.

This is actually the first time I have made my shepherd’s pie with rice in it.
And let me also admit that my version of shepherd’s pie is a loose
interpretation of the original. The traditional version usually has brown
gravy draped over the top. I happen to not really enjoy brown gravy all over
the top of mine. It mostly has to do with the flavor of the brown gravy
interrupting all of the other flavors I worked so hard on in the actual meal
itself. Trust me – you won’t miss it. The general idea of the shepherd’s pie is
there though – a hodgepodge of all leftover ingredients you have in your
fridge/pantry to feed the hungry bellies in your home. I don’t think I have
ever made any one Shepherd’s pie the same.

My family also really enjoys a layer of cheddar cheese on top of the mashed
potatoes. They’re so American. For this recipe, I opted for shredded
parmesan cheese on top. It gets lovely and crispy on top of the mash and is
the perfect salty bite. I like to have all of the recipe ingredients ready and
mostly cooked by the time I get them in the pan so that it only takes about a
half hour in the oven to get everything warm and cozy together in the dish.
I am so happy with how this particular pie turned out and can’t wait for my
next adventure in Shepherd’s-Pie-making.

This beauty told me the mushrooms looked like bugs on top…She really knows how to compliment me. Screenshot_20180909-143755

She also cannot abide mushrooms.



These are the ingredients I started out with.
To make this Shepherd’s Pie, you’ll start by toasting the rice. Add the butter and chopped onion to a pan and saute for a couple of minutes before adding the rinsed brown rice.


Toast the rice in the pan for about 5 minutes before adding the water, reducing the heat, and simmering for 25-35 minutes.

While the rice cooks, work on your potatoes. I used the VERY LARGE jumbo baking potatoes and it only took 4 of them for this recipe. Dice them into decent sized chunks so they’ll cook evenly and quickly.


After you get the potatoes on to boil, get the chicken put in a pot with water to boil.


Then go ahead and work on the mushrooms. I just added them all to a bowl and put the seasonings and oil in altogether. Once it was stirred good enough, I just spread them out on a sheet pan with parchment paper and roasted them at 400° for about 10-12 minutes. OMG they were so yummy.
This is the mushrooms before:

This is the mushrooms after:

I wish I had made more. Oh well.

While the rice, potatoes, and mushrooms are cooking, go ahead and put all your veggies and your cream of mushroom soup in to a mixing bowl and add your seasonings as well.


Once the chicken is about halfway cooked, remove from the pot and dice into cubes. The rice should be done by now too and you can add both the chicken and the rice to this same mixing bowl.


Just in case you were wondering – Yes, I am aware how close this bowl is to falling off the side of this counter. It’s all good though. Nothing fell.

Once everything is mixed together fairly well, dump into a large casserole dish. Then put your mashed potatoes together and cover the top with them. Adorn the top of the mashed taters with your mushrooms and then add the shredded parm, if interested.


Bake at 350° for about 30-40 minutes, then allow to cool for 10 before serving. See below for the ingredients list and full recipe instructions. Enjoy!!

How to make my Shepherd’s Pie:


  • For the Rice:
    • 1 cup brown rice, rinsed and drained
    • 1/2 onion, chopped
    • 3 tbsp butter
    • 2 cups water
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • For the Potatoes:
    • 4 large jumbo baking potatoes
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 stick softened butter
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 4 oz cream cheese
    • Reserved water from boiling pot
    • Shredded Parmesan Cheese, to top
  • For the Chicken:
    • 3 chicken breasts
    • water to cover
    • Salt to taste
  • For the Mushrooms:
    • Small package of pre-sliced baby bella mushrooms
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
    • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • For the Veggies:
    • 2 cans of Lima Beans
    • 2 cans of Sweet Peas
    • 1 can French style Green Beans
    • 1 can Italian style Green Beans
    • 1 can regular cut Green Beans
    • 2 cans Cream of Mushroom soup
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  1. Begin by cooking the rice. Measure out 1 cup of brown rice and rinse thoroughly in a sieve. Set aside and allow to drain. Add 3 Tbsp of butter to a medium skillet. Chop half an onion and add to the butter. Saute the onions for a minute or two until softened. Add the rice and toast for approximately 5 minutes until bits of color begin to show on the rice. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Then cover with a lid, reduce the temperature to low, and allow to cook for 25-35 minutes.
  2. While the rice is cooking, prepare a large boiling pot by filling halfway with water and set on the stove. Peel 4 LARGE jumbo baking potatoes and dice, then add to the water. Add your desired amount of salt and boil until fork tender.
  3. While the rice and potatoes are cooking, preheat your oven to 400° and add the mushrooms to a bowl. Add olive oil, salt, and other spices and mix thoroughly. Spread out on a baking sheet prepared with parchment paper. When your oven is ready, put the mushrooms in and roast for about 10-12 minutes.
  4. Boil 2 chicken breasts until cooked through. Allow to cool and then dice into cubes, set aside.
  5. Open all the vegetable cans and drain. Put them in a bowl and add your cream of mushroom soup. Stir thoroughly. Once the chicken and rice have cooked through, add them to the bowl and mix.
  6. Once the potatoes are fork tender, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and add to a mixing bowl. Add your butter, sour cream, and cream cheese. Mash until desired consistency. Add any additional salt and pepper to your taste. Add water from boiling pot as needed to loosen up the mixture.
  7. Once all the elements are prepared, pick out your favorite casserole dish to add the ingredients to.
  8. Begin by scooping the rice/chicken/veggie mixture into the bottom of the casserole dish. Top it off by adding the mashed potatoes on top of that. Put the mushrooms on top of the potatoes and sprinkle shredded Parmesan cheese, to taste.
  9. Lower the oven temperature to 350° and put your casserole on the middle shelf. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the cheese has toasted and the pie is bubbling on the sides.
  10. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve. Enjoy!