Introducing The Secret Foodie Life of a Stormtrooper & Our Trip to Huckleberry

I have to admit something to you guys. I recently have fallen in love with Stormtroopers. I can see your face right now, head tilted to the side, eye brows scrunched up. Madeline what’s happened to you?

I don’t know. I just don’t know. It is like all of my upbringing filled with videogames and legos finally set in. I resisted it at first, but that could only last so long.

I’m going to share with you possibly the best picture of me ever taken. Ever.

So now that my big secret is out, I need to introduce you to Stormy, the Stormtrooper. He has come into my life so that we can explore different bakeries, restaurants, and food outside of my kitchen. He is extremely photogenic, so beware.

First on the list: Huckleberry. Located in Santa Monica, California.

This charming bakery & cafe is nestled in between a variety of little shops on Wilshire Blvd. Owned and run by a hubby & wife team, they offer a huge variety of freshly baked pastries, breads, as well as sandwiches and a little bit more.

We went there around 11AM on a Saturday and my oh my was this place packed. The line was out the back of the place! I had heard a few good things about this place, but had no idea that everyone else had too.

Not thinking clearly, I ate breakfast about 45 minutes before we left to go here, so I wasn’t up for a big breakfast. I got a chocolate croissant, but not just a normal chocolate croissant, a Valrhona chocolate croissant. The creme de la creme of chocolate.

It was enjoyed by both of us.

Overall, this cafe is definitely worth the trip. You’ll stand in line and chat with friends, or maybe make some new ones with the people around you. The food is rustic and delicious and the variety of pastries could please anyones sweet tooth, big or small.

 The next day….

I went to the store and saw what I have been waiting for for 8 months – Girl Scout Cookies. I know I can make a better quality cookie in about 30 minutes, but these are so near and dear to my heart. I hardly share these with anyone, including best friends & loved ones. With that said, I’ll leave you with this picture.

"I didn't do it!"


Madeline & Stormy

Pistachio Walnut Bars with a Citrus Glaze {And My Obsession With Cookbooks}

It’s hard to believe that before my sister-in-law came into the family, I didn’t own any of my own cookbooks. I pretty much just went off the internet and printed out recipes. I know the internet now has pretty much every recipe that is printed in books, but there is something really comforting about holding a cookbook in your arms and looking at all of the post-it notes of opportunity in sticking out at you.

About three years ago, my brother and sister-in-law gave me my first cookbook – Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. To this day, it still is one of my favorite cookbooks because it gives you a huge variety of desserts, breads, pastries, and even some savory baked items. Over the following year I received a few more from them, The Sono Baking Company Cookbook, Desserts By The Yard, and The Craft of Baking. Each one filled with amazing recipes so different than the book before it. I don’t think either of us realized what that one Martha Stewart cookbook would kickstart for me.

I have a routine when I get a new cookbook. I see it at some cooking store/bookstore and instantly am sucked into it’s cover. I flip through the pages to see if there are pictures, because for me if there are not pictures it gives me a bad first impression. (Except for cookbooks like Betty Crocker’s Joy of Cooking & The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. It is just common knowledge that these are going to be awesome recipes, no picture necessary to entice the tastebuds.)

Once the cookbook has passed my picture approval stage, then I find at least 5-10 recipes in it that I know I’m going to make. When you first look at a cookbook, you’re not going to love every recipe. But as I have learned over time, those recipes that at first glance sounded bizarre or too difficult, will soon sound delicious and attainable. I’m not inclined to buy a cookbook that is full of basic recipes, a little challenge is good in the kitchen.

Then I take my new beautiful cookbook home with me and whip out the stack of Post-it notes. I go through each page, look at the picture (if available) and read through the ingredients & instructions. Sometimes I will make a note on the Post-it of an idea that I want to add on to the recipe. After about an hour or more of serious scanning, the cookbook is covered with little yellow (or pink) Post-its bursting out of it, begging for me to open to their page and start cooking.

Now I am going to let you in on my secret. Technically, I only own 8 or 9 cookbooks but recently I have discovered this amazing new way of getting cookbooks for free. Let me introduce you to the Public Library of Los Angeles County (& the Santa Monica Library). Seriously, I know this is weirding you out right now, and it did for me at first too, but the library is overflowing with every cookbook imaginable. These are just some of the ones I checked out today:

And my routine is the same, I go through and post it note them, and then probably a second round too. For library books I will either scan the recipes I want, or type them up. If the book turns out to be really good, I will go out and buy it, but usually I am only copying down a handful of recipes. This way I get to try out a ton of new books, without spending all of my money on cookbooks (although I would have a wall of them if that was an option).

This recipe today is coming from a new cookbook I picked up recently from of all places, Costco! Normally the book is about $35 and I got it for $18! I read about it online and put it on my list of books I wanted to pick up from the library. Then when I was making the trip to Costco for bulk amounts of sugar (yeah), I saw this cookbook sitting there and couldn’t resist.

The collection of recipes is so perfect for the kind of baker I am, it only made sense for me to own it. It is called Home Baked Comfort and has featured recipes from Huckleberry in Santa Monica (I have a post coming about them soon!), the amazing blog Smitten Kitchen, the famous Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, and more! Don’t get me started on the beautiful food photography in this book.

The first recipe I tried from this book was the Pistachio-Almond Bars with a Citrus Glaze. I altered it to fit my kitchen, which was not stocked with almonds but with walnuts instead. Also, I personally am not a big fan of orange flavors in desserts so instead of lemon & orange glaze, I did a lemon & lime glaze.

I know it’s a pain, but you need to get the food processor & your mixer out for this recipe.

The nuts, sugar, and rinds will all come together into a sand like texture. To this you will add the flour, baking powder, and salt.

There is no saying this nicely, the batter looks baby food. Trust me though, a little green in your life isn’t bad.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. It was probably my fault for making these during lunch time.

I brought these little bars to a few people, and everyone had positive feedback. They are so moist but with a crunch from the nuts, and a little bite from the citrus in the glaze. The thing with these is that they really are not that sweet, but its the citrus that gets your taste buds craving more.

Can’t wait to share more of these recipes with you!



Rum Cake {Emphasis On The Rum}

I started drinking coffee again.

I stopped drinking coffee & almost all other caffeine back in December. My weird little body started to get confused about how coffee is supposed to make it feel. Instead of feeling perky and awake, you would find me passed out on the couch within 30 minutes. Coffee = sleep. Why? I don’t know. So I figured, hey let’s try and give it up for a while and reset the system, so to speak. (Not like I did anything else to cleanse my system, if anything I up’d the amount of sugar intake)

I never gave myself an end date to this “coffee break”, I just figured one day I would decide it was ready. That day happened five days ago when I was meandering around Cost Plus (honestly, how amazing is that place) to find they now sell Cafe Du Monde’s coffee!

If you haven’t heard of Cafe Du Monde, you should. It is down in Nawleans (New Orleans), and they serve the best beignets. Don’t know what beignets are? Are you ready? Fried dough, covered in a serious amount of powdered sugar. That paired with a nice cup of coffee with chicory….yum.

So here I am, Day 5, and I feel AWESOME. Go Coffee, go!

In honor of Mardi Gras and the copious amounts of alcohol my friends are enjoying down south, I made you guys a ridiculous rum cake. Seriously. My face was tingling a little after eating a large piece. This is most definitely NOT kid friendly.

Mixer, meet Rum. Rum, meet mixer.

The best part of this cake is when you get a bite with the walnuts. When I make this again, I’m definitely adding more walnuts to the recipe, instead of just as a layer on the top of the cake.

Right out of the oven, pre alcohol syrup soaking.

I don’t think you understand how moist and delicious this cake is. You could dial down the alcohol to water ratio for the syrup that is poured over it, and this would still be an amazing cake. So glad I found this recipe over on Always Order Dessert‘s blog.



Oreo Cupcakes with a Peanut Butter Filling {Happy 100th Birthday Oreos!}

Did you know that Oreo’s are celebrating their 100th birthday? I had no idea that they have been around since 1912, that blows my mind a little bit. Before I get further into this post, I just need to tell you that they have these special edition Birthday Cake Oreos in honor of their 100th…and I’m telling you if you like Funfetti Cake & Oreos you need to go out and buy these right now. They’re like a dream come true in my eyes.

As a kid, I don’t remember being especially infatuated with Oreos. I would eat them if they were there, but I don’t recall begging for them at the store, my mother can correct me if I am wrong.

Problem is, I’ve turned into that kid. It all started up when I was living in the dorms. Maybe it was because there was no kitchen to make my own cookies, but oreos became quite a bit of an obsession. I always had a package of Double Stuffed Oreos hidden in one of my drawers and a jar of peanut butter next to it. It was common knowledge around the dorm that I had a problem with Oreos.

I knew I needed to make an Oreo/Cookies & Cream style cupcake at some point, but I had this delicious idea as I was driving home along the coast stuck in traffic: Peanut butter! Inside! Peanut butter inside the cupcake! Genius Madeline, genius. When I got home I had to run the idea by a friend to make sure it wasn’t strange, and that other people like that idea too. [She approved 😉 Smart lady]

So here we are. This cupcake is a serious chocolate cupcake with a peanut butter filling and an Oreo cream cheese frosting. When I took a bite into the cake and got a little bit of each component of the cupcake…sigh…it just clicked like I was back in the dorm studying with a jar of peanut butter in one hand and 10 oreos sitting in front of me ready to be downed. Nostalgia at its finest.

The frosting, oh the frosting. It was as if I scraped out all of the cream in between each one of those oreos and made a beautiful pot of oreo insides just for you. It is so good. SO good.




Lemon & Raspberry Creme Brûlée {And A Reminder That Change Is Good}

Two years ago around this time I was seriously considering becoming an Environmental Engineer. I was taking Intro to Chemical & Environmental Engineering, was halfway through the Chemistry series, and moseying along through Calculus. I was so sure that my love and passion for the environment meant that I needed to study how to fix it hands on, and that sounded like a good idea on paper, right? So what if I hated math…(ha!)

My desk was constantly covered in sheets of paper while I tried to work through monotonous calculus problems. My idea of a break would be to scroll through TasteSpotting for an hour, envious of people who blogged about food. I was forcing myself down a path that made me miserable because I didn’t realize I could do something else and still incorporate my love for the environment.

Fast forward to today where my life is not even comparable to how it was two years ago. I walked into my room today to a mess on my desk which included: colored paper, glue sticks, 5 cookbooks, hand written notes about ideas for recipes I want to try, and a camera. I’ve somehow become the person I secretly wanted to be without even realizing it until now. I take classes that genuinely interest me now, I bake amazing & beautiful desserts, and I have people who support my creative side and my academic side.

The point of all of this is to explain how we change. Our ideas change, our feelings about people change, our tastes change, and sometimes you just need someone to remind you that change is good. Change leads you to a new form of happiness.

Two years ago, I would not have made this dessert. “It is fruity and has no chocolate in it” old Madeline would have said. But, despite lacking chocolate, this dessert is quite pleasing to both the eyes and the mouth.

I hope if you are hesitant and worried about betraying your near and dear friend, chocolate, that you’ll give this a try and then go back to your go-to chocolate cupcake recipe. You won’t be disappointed.

And you get to use a flame torch. Yeah, a flame torch in the kitchen.

Enjoy 🙂


Dark Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispie Treats {Valentine’s Day Edition}

You know it was a good day when you have chocolate under your fingernails.

Today it rained and I wasn’t upset by it, except while walking to class while holding an umbrella and trying to eat one of these…I just wanted to stop and say “Can you hold on just one second so I can finish this, please?”

I use to really hate when it rained. I think I was stuck in that SoCal “oh my god this is not sunshine, what do I do” kind of mentality. Or maybe after all of these environmental classes I’ve finally realized that rain is good and it’s sole purpose isn’t to ruin our day. Or maybe I just like wearing rain boots. Whatever the reason is, I like the rain now. Progress.

I completely forgot that I was given a whole bunch of different chocolate transfer sheets to play around with from the head pastry chef at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas, so I decided now was a better time than any to give that a try. Chocolate transfer sheets are sheets of acetate paper that are printed with fun designs in cocoa butter. When you spread the chocolate onto the sheet and let it cool, it picks up the design onto your chocolate. If you’re interested in trying it out, you can find them on Amazon.

Pardon the quality. Taken with iPhone.

They look really impressive, but don’t require a huge skill set to master it. The key to making it look nice is spreading it as evenly as possible (unlike mine above). I used a little heart cookie cutter to make the hearts, but you could also use a knife and score whatever shape you want into it.

Pile ’em up, pile em up!

I cut them into squares and then dipped them into the chocolate. You could also leave them in the pan and pour the chocolate on top, but then you’ll have harsh lines on the sides when you cut into it. It’s just a matter of preference.

More things should be dipped in dark chocolate. You know we have come a long way when chocolate dipped bacon is now considered acceptable, but theres always room to grow. 

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day fellow sugar lovers,


#68 Valentine’s Day Soft Sugar Cookies

It’s that time of year! The bakery section of your grocery store is overflowing with pink & red goodies. From cookies to cupcakes, I’ve even seen dyed breads, anything that can be dyed pink or red basically.

One of those special cookies that I use to always cave into buying where those fluffy sugar cookies with the pink frosting and sprinkles. They’re like big fluffy sugar pillows, how could you not resist.

Well these cookies are based on the infamous store bought sugar cookie, except they are way better and don’t have any of those nasty preservatives in it. I warn you, they are so addicting. I keep going into the cookie jar and taking a half a cookie…and then coming back 10 minutes later for another half…and then another half…you see where this is going.

I found this adorable little book about looove that I signed inside with the D’s backwards and in huge writing. It was quiet adorable to see.

I used a tiny bit too much food coloring in the frosting, so the pink turned out a little brighter than I had hoped for, but they’re fun regardless.



Cupcake Troubleshooting!

We have all had our share of cupcake disasters. The batter looks amazing, but when you take them out of the oven the only thing to be found is a sunken, goey mess of a fail. I’m here to go through some problems, find out why it happened, and give you guys some solutions!

Problem #1: My cake didn’t rise!

Cause: Your leavening agent did not work, probably because it is expired.

Solution: Buy new baking powder/baking soda. To test and see if your baking powder/soda is still good, drop a tsp of it into warm water. If it does not react (bubble/sizzle), it has gone bad.

Problem #2: My cake came out lopsided! What?

Cause: Uneven heating or flour not fully incorporated.

Solution: A lot of ovens run hotter or cooler than the indicated temperature. I keep an oven thermometer on the center rack in my oven, that way I have a more accurate reading. Also, make sure your batter is mixed together completely. When the flour isn’t dispersed evenly it can cause issues.

Problem #3: My cake looks beautiful, but the bottom of it is burned!

Cause: Baking pan too thin or dark, or poor placement of pan in the oven.

Solution: Use good quality bakeware. Some darker pans can have this issue, in this case decreasing the oven temperature can help. Make sure you check the oven during baking .

Problem #4: The tops of my cupcakes are burning before the rest of the cake is cooked!

Cause: The oven is probably too hot.

Solution: Keep an oven thermometer on the shelf your baking on in your oven to make sure it is the accurate temperature. Try reducing the oven temperature by 25 degrees.

Problem #5: The fruit in my batter sinks to the bottom!

Cause: The fruit was not dusted with flour 

Solution: Dusting the fruit with flour before adding into the batter helps prevent it from sinking into the batter.

Problem #6 : My cupcakes are overflowing out of the cupcake pan!

Cause: Too much batter in the pan or there is too much leavening agent.

Solution: Most recipes say fill the pan about 2/3 to 3/4 full. Never fill it up to the top! It needs room to grow, like a little plant 🙂 . If you made sure the pan was only filled about 2/3 – 3/4 full, then there might be too much baking powder/baking soda in the batter.

I hope this helps you guys with some of your baking mishaps for the future! Feel free to share your tips and advice on baking in the comments below 🙂


#67 Superbowl/Football Themed Chocolate Cupcakes

I like football, I really do. My problem is that I need someone to say “Hey, lets go watch the Raiders game” otherwise I’m not going to watch it. I make an effort to watch College Football, particularly USC, but I’m not so great at watching the NFL. Maybe it is because I can relate more to College Football, who knows but there is just something less exciting about the NFL to me.

Anyways, even though I’m not a crazy NFL fan, I was born into a Raiders family so that is just who I root for. It’s kind of like being raised a certain religion; I was raised to worship the Raiders and the USC Trojans.

Since the Raider’s didn’t make it to the Superbowl, my second option was to root for another California team to make it. That didn’t happen either. Now it’s between the Giants and the Patriots, and I frankly don’t really like either of them.

Instead of deciding which non-california team I should care about, I made some ridiculously delicious Football Cupcakes that will be festive regardless of which team you may support, yay!

I know I could have done an adorable little grassy patch on top of this cupcake and topped it with a fondant little football or a helmet, but I am not a fan of fondant. Why put something on a delicious cupcake that tastes like crap? I just don’t get it at all. Say no to fondant!

Besides, this is rustic.  Rustic tastes better. Rustic feels better. Rustic sounds better.

This recipe is from the New York famous Magnolia Bakery. They put out a cookbook with their recipes, which I question how true to the real thing they are, but they’re fabulous. The cake itself isn’t very sweet. Yeah, I ate a cupcake without frosting. This frosting is so beautifully silky and chocolatey, I just wanted to slather it on everything. On its own, the frosting is pretty sweet but combined with the cake, it matches up together perfectly.  Then I ate another cupcake with frosting and I’ll probably have another one later on this evening. The life of a sugar addict/food blogger; when eating 3 cupcakes in a 2 hour period is considered acceptable.

How amazing does that batter look?

Don’t have Buttermilk? Neither do I, ever. At my store, the smallest size of buttermilk you can get is too much for me. This is a buttermilk substitute that I have used time and time again and it has yet to fail me. Take 1 cup of milk and add 1 tablespoon of White Vinegar to it and let it set for 5 minutes, then it’s ready to use. Beware, it will be a little chunky, don’t worry.