Brandy Vanilla


If there’s one “secret” I’ve never forgotten that my grandma shared with me, it was to always add a little more vanilla into any recipe than it called for when baking. I often spent a good majority of my summers in my grandma’s cozy, apple decorated kitchen in North Minneapolis playing cribbage, baking + holding onto every word she spoke. Her laugh was contagious and her heart poured out love to anyone and everyone she met, often via something delicious from her oven.

One day while baking chocolate chip cookies, my cousin and I elbow deep in the batter (because that was the best way to mix it, after all) my grandma looked at me and said, “Julia – two things make recipes better. The first is to always cook or bake with love. If it comes from your heart, the food will reflect that. It doesn’t have to be fancy, the love will make it special. The second is to add another pour of vanilla than the recipe calls for.”

I’ve since told these very same words of advice to my daughters when we bake together. My four year old knows these tricks and even blows kisses into every ingredient.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may recall this Christmas I received a gift that moved me beyond words. Every year my grandma would make a batch of homemade vanilla. The last year of her life (12 years ago) we each received a bottle for Christmas. My brother saved his, aged it & split it three ways for himself, my mom and me to share. It was the most selfless + thoughtful gift. I’ve already used it once, but plan to save it for special recipes or occasions.

In honor of her memory – I’m sharing the recipe with you. It makes the most flavorful vanilla and is worth the wait during the aging process. As with a fine wine, the longer you age it, the better it becomes. Enjoy, friends!



  • 750 ML bottle of Brandy (My grandma used Christian Brothers)
  • 3-4 Madagascar vanilla beans, split
  • Clean glass liter bottle with a stopper (you can find these at any craft store or IKEA.)


  1. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla beans down the middle + place them in the liter bottle.
  2. Pour the brandy into the liter bottle + close. Gently swirl the bottle.
  3. Store in a dark closet, gently swirling every month + return to the closet. Age a minimum of 12 months before using.



This recipe is far and away my favorite when it comes to a chocolate cupcake. They’re dangerously dark + chocolatey and super moist. I’ve brought them to many a get together where people asked me for the recipe. I love sharing it with them + seeing the disbelief when I tell them they’re gluten free…and vegan.

Many people follow a vegan or gluten free lifestyle – be it by choice or necessity and I applaud them. I had to follow a lifestyle like this for a while when my girls were born to try and ease their reflux + food sensitivities. It was really a challenge for me, but one I tried hard to embrace. In the end, both kids had intolerances to nuts as well and had to go on prescription formulas – but this was what led me to be much more active in the kitchen and in the grocery stores from an ingredients perspective.

I missed butter. And cheese. I can’t forget about cheese. I digress…

My mom suffers from a gluten sensitivity and I created this in the summer of 2014 when we were celebrating our birthdays. No one knew they lacked any gluten or animal bi-products, and neither will you!

Deep, dark, chocolate bundles of joy, these are. Once you make them, they may quickly become your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe as well!

Recipe yields 22 cupcakes.



For the cupcakes:

  • 1.5 cups Almond flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1.5 cups Brown Rice flour (also Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1.75 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups dark chocolate almond milk (I used Silk)
  • 1 tsp. coffee extract
  • 1.5 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 bag dark chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life Foods)

For the frosting:

  • 2 cups vegetable shortening. (If you’re not sticking to the vegan theme here, sub room temp butter for shortening. I used organic unsalted.)
  • 2 lb. bag powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup almond milk (or whole milk)
  • pinch cream of tartar (to stiffen the frosting)


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners + set aside.
  2. In your Kitchen-Aid mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend canola oil + sugar for 2 minutes.
  3. Add extracts + chocolate almond milk & mix until combined.
  4. Add all dry ingredients and blend until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full + bake 22-25 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting:

  1. Cream together the shortening + 1/3 bag of the powdered sugar & 1/4 cup milk for 5 minutes on medium speed.
  2. Add in the vanilla extract, cocoa powder, cream of tartar + remainder of the powdered sugar + mix an additional 5 minutes on medium speed.
  3. If the frosting is still too dry, add the additional milk 1 tbsp. at a time until desired consistency is reached. Pipe or spread atop each cupcake.


Habanero Pomegranate Margarita


I don’t know about you – but I’m an aficionado of all things spicy. Be it food or drink, I prefer it on the hotter side. There’s a saying in Minnesota about spice referred to as “Minnesota hot.” Whenever we order something at a restaurant and inquire about the heat level a common response is to use that term, which basically means it’s as mild as tomato. Apparently we midwesterners as a whole aren’t a part of the some who like it hot club. If you run with this crowd: this drink isn’t for you!

One of my favorite restaurants in Minneapolis has a habanero passion fruit margarita and it’s where I drew inspiration for this cocktail. It’s anything but mild and not for the faint of heart. In fact, you’re thoroughly warned when you order it that it is anything BUT Minnesota hot. For all my local friends – next time you hit up Bar La Grassa, order the habanero passion fruit  margarita. Or two.

The keys to this margarita are:

  1. Plan ahead. The infusing of the peppers in the tequila takes a minimum of 2 weeks.
  2. Buy your habaneros as fresh as possible, preferably from a farmers market or co-op type setting. The box stores produce is not as ideally fresh (thus packing the amount of desired heat.)

I love margaritas but rarely order them unless I know the restaurant makes it without the sugary, overly sweetened sweet + sour mix. This has no added refined sugars. Its spicy but slightly sweet with all the usual citrus notes. Enjoy amongst friends or at home with your special someone. Spice is a natural aphrodisiac, after all.

Recipe yields one bottle of habanero tequila, with a directions to make one cocktail. Cheers!


For the tequila:

  • One 750 ml bottle of silver tequila (like any food or beverage, the quality of ingredients only make the beverage.)
  • 6 habanero peppers, pith + seeds removed

For the cocktail: 

  • 1.5 oz. of the habanero infused tequila
  • .5 oz triple sec
  • 1/4 cup lime sparkling water (I used H2OH lemon-lime)
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp 100% pomegranate juice (I used POM)
  • Kosher salt + lime wedge for garnish (optional)


  1. 2 weeks prior to consuming, remove stems, pith + seeds from the habanero peppers and place them in the tequila bottle. After 2 weeks, either strain out the tequila from the peppers and discard the peppers, or leave them in the tequila for further heat.
  2. Using an 8 oz. glass, salt the rim. Fill the glass with ice & pour the tequila + triple sec over the ice. Squeeze in the juice from the lime & add in the sparkling water + POM juice.
  3. Gently stir + garnish with a lime. Enjoy.



Peppermint Chocolate Crunch Bars


I’m not gonna lie: I’m pretty excited about these candy bars. Who hasn’t had a Nestle Crunch bar? Chocolate meets crunch? Genius. But THESE!! In my opinion these beauties are the Crunch bar re-incarnated in minty fashion, only better! The best part of these is the non GMO + non guilt factor that comes along with them!

A few years ago, I discovered the company Enjoy Life Foods when my oldest daughter was struggling with food intolerances. Fast forward to second daughter facing the same issues and I was convinced part of the reason so many parents are seeing food intolerances in their infants + toddlers (not to mention many adults too) were specifically linked to what is in our foods now days. The processing, the soy, the GMO…we have all encountered this on some level.

Whenever possible, I aim to remove these things from my kitchen. It’s not a perfect science yet, but as often as I can I try to create tasty dishes sans all the bad stuff. Enjoy Life Foods embraces this lifestyle and offers so many delicious options for folks struggling with the 8 common allergens. Their products are available in many grocery stores – but I always find the largest selection at my local Co-op.

These are made with Enjoy Life Foods semi-sweet chocolate chips, Crunchy Flax + some peppermint extract. The definition of simple! Make these for the holidays and give them out as gifts; everyone will thank you!


  • 16 oz Enjoy Life Foods semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup Enjoy Life Foods Crunchy Flax cereal
  • 1 tsp pure peppermint extract (I used JR Watkins brand)



  1. Line a 9×9″ pan with parchment paper & set aside.
  2. Melt the chocolate chips over a double boiler or in the microwave in a glass bowl, stirring after each 30 second interval until melted.
  3. Stir the 1 tsp pure peppermint extract into the chocolate.
  4. Stir in the cup of flax crunch cereal.
  5. Pour the mixture into the parchment lined pan & refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove from the fridge & cut into desired sized pieces.




Everyone has a favorite Christmas cookie; mine are undoubtedly Krumkake. They remind me of both my grandma and heritage, boasting a classically delicious flavor. Krumkake is a Norwegian waffle cookie, cooked paper thin on a special iron then rolled into a cone shape.

The process of making these are fairly simple but require a good amount of time and patience. The key is getting the iron at just the right temperature to cook evenly on each side. It takes one or two goes to achieve this method, but don’t give up! I promise the patience is worth the effort + the end result is a crumbly, delicate cookie with a subtle punch of vanilla and cinnamon.

Once made + cooled, these can be stored in an airtight container in the freezer for a few weeks. Feel free to add a cream filling if you’d like or dust them with powdered sugar. Or leave them as is + enjoy with a cup of coffee. Enjoy your holiday baking & thanks for stopping by!


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup organic butter, room temp
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1.5 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract


  1. Cream together the butter + sugar for 2 minutes using a mixer or in your Kitchen Aid mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  2. One at a time, beat in the eggs until the batter thickens slightly & takes on a slight yellow tint.
  3. Mix in the flour, milk, cinnamon + vanilla extract until just combined. Let the batter sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  4. Over your gas range, heat the Krumkake iron on medium heat until a drop of water sizzles when dropped on the center of the closed iron.
  5. Open the iron + lightly coat with nonstick spray. Spoon 1 tbsp of batter in the middle of the iron & close.
  6. Cook for 1 minute on each side until the cookie is golden brown.
  7. Open the iron & Gently remove using the tip of a sharp knife. Roll immediately into a cone shape. (The iron should come with a cone roller, if it doesn’t, roll them by hand in a cigar shaped manner.)
  8. Allow the cookies to cool on a rack. They will crisp up as they cool.
  9. Repeat until the batter is used, adding a tablespoon of water as necessary if the batter becomes too thick.

Gatherhaus Interviews Girl Meets Kitchen

Image by Studio Laguna Photography

It’s a rarity in life to find myself rendered speechless. Anyone who knows me would no doubt attest to the validity of this statement. The freedom of expression vibe is pretty strongly engrained in my bones; I am Scandinavian, after all!

I had the absolute pleasure of being asked by the two creative minds behind Gatherhaus, Katrina + Danielle to come into my kitchen last week to interview me about Girl Meets Kitchen. I was humbled beyond words to have been asked and the morning quickly crept into midday while we chatted & ate at my kitchen table. The article left me speechless…well I guess not for too long since I am writing about it here.

For those new to Gatherhaus, it is “the enchanting reality of bringing these rare and beautiful pieces together. People, places, art, and food that inspire us and make us chase after dreams of deep, rich community and fulfillment.” Check out the site + subscribe to their updates: Gatherhaus

These women ooze creativity. Katrina is a highly skilled photographer (partnered with her husband, John) in the Twin Cities Studio Laguna Photography, (she also photographed our wedding!) and Danielle collaborates on more creative ventures than I could keep track of while also running a business out of her home. Both women have a passion for all things local, sustainable, creative + have the most amazing hearts. They are mothers, wives, successful business women with a drive to pay it forward & keep rooted in their communities. Did I mention insanely artistic? Because, wow.

I was honored to have been asked to highlight Girl Meets Kitchen. It was done in such a succinct way and captured my journey through food perfectly. It encompassed everything I feel when I am able to share my recipes in person or over the internet. Thank you, ladies for the company + laughter we shared. It won’t be our last get together!

You can read the article at Gatherhaus Interview – Girl Meets Kitchen.

 Thanks for stopping by, and happy cooking from my kitchen to yours!


Cranberry Cake


Cranberries are one of those foods that signify the holiday season. They’re festive + bright both in flavor and taste and I love cooking with them this time of year. Seeing that it’s Christmas in a couple weeks, you’ll be hard pressed not to find them in a dish or cocktail no matter where you turn.

This cake is simple + packed with flavor; sure to delight any guest at your table. The cranberries provide a great burst of tartness to the sweet cake and they balance one another in just the right manner. Use it as your Christmas day centerpiece with some sprigs of rosemary & sugared cranberries surrounding the cake – edible centerpieces are my favorite kind. If you want a bigger punch of sweetness, drizzle the top with some lemon glaze.

Happy cooking & thanks for stopping by, friends!


  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar + 2 tbsp for coating the cranberries
  • 2 cups unbleached, AP flour (I used King Arthur)
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • the zest of 1 medium sized lemon
  • 12 oz. fresh cranberries



  1. Preheat oven to 325. Grease a loaf pan & set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the cranberries + 2 tbsp sugar, set aside.
  3. Using the paddle attachment in your Kitchen-Aid mixer, cream together the butter + 1 cup sugar for 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, milk & vanilla extract and lemon zest.
  4. Turning the mixer to low speed, add in the baking powder & flour and mix until just combined.
  5. Using a spatula, gently fold in the sugared cranberries. Transfer the batter to the greased loaf pan.
  6. Bake 55-60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing from the loaf pan.


Gingerbread Pancakes


Pancakes are one of my girls’ absolute favorite meals and I’m always looking for new ways to add a little variety to them. While delicious all on their own, the basic pancake recipe is much like an empty canvas waiting for a touch of paint. Gingerbread for breakfast is my kind of art.

Christmas is just around the corner – which always leaves me thinking of growing up baking with family throughout the month of December. Some of those memories are most definitely the fondest – and my mom and grandma had a soft spot for gingerbread. My mom once told me it’s what she asked of my grandma to bring her in the hospital in the full heat of summer after delivering me: a full pan of gingerbread cake. Rightfully so, my grandma was the best baker around.

This is a fantastic way to wake up your loved ones on a cold winter morning! The flavors + aromas are delicious and sure to please any pancake aficionado in your home. Not overly sweet with all the right punches of spice and molasses…they’re bound to make Christmas morning sweeter as well.

Recipe yields 12 pancakes.


  • 2 cups all purpose, unbleached flour (I used King Arthur)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar


  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda + powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves & allspice together.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla, molasses & brown sugar until well combined.
  3. Combine the wet + dry ingredients until just incorporated. Do not over mix the batter or the pancakes will be tough. There will still be lumps in the batter.
  4. Heat a large pan or griddle to medium low heat.
  5. Ladle 1/3 cup of batter atop the hot surface, leaving 2 inches of space between each cake. Wait until bubbles appear across the top of the cake & the edges appear semi-cooked, approximately 2-3 minutes.
  6. Flip each cake over and resume the cooking 1-2 more minutes.
  7. Serve hot with a side of maple syrup – or for extra decadence with a side of cinnamon whipped cream (or both!)


Citrus Sweet + Spicy Almonds


Whether entertaining a large group of people or looking for something to have on hand to satisfy a nibble – you’re going to want to make these highly addicting almonds. A little bit sweet, a little salty & a little spicy, they satisfy the craving; whatever the craving of the moment may be.

When invited to a dinner party or gathering with friends, I love bringing the hosts a small, homemade gift or a bottle of wine. These are perfect to bring along to any gathering because they’ll compliment the menu be it formal or appetizers. Great for munching over drinks or leaving for the host to enjoy at a later date. Planning a DIY themed Christmas this year? These are your golden ticket.

Feel free to spice it up a little more – these bring a subtle heat. I also made a batch of cashews with the same seasonings and it worked quite nicely as well. Just be sure to use raw, unsalted nuts – whichever variety you choose.


  • 1.5 cups raw, unsalted almonds
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt (I used course)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1.5 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 tsp organic, pure maple syrup Grade A medium amber
  • the zest of 1 lime


  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Combine the salt, red pepper flakes, orange juice, maple syrup + lime zest in a medium sized bowl. Stir to combine.
  3. Stir in the almonds and coat with the mixture.
  4. Lay the almonds in a single layer atop the lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake 15 minutes, until golden brown. Allow them to cool completely before serving.

Raspberry + Cranberry Galette


As the weather turns colder and the holidays approach, the anticipation of the comforts that go along with this time of the year fill me with equal parts nostalgia + excitement. The food, the company & the coziness it all brings together are pure perfection.

While it’s been said that nothing is more American as pie, (specifically during Thanksgiving & Christmas) there’s something simplistic & beautifully rustic about a galette that I cannot ignore. It’s simple in appearance, but bold in flavor – whatever the flavor may be. I also love that they are quick to make, leaving less time in the kitchen & more time spent with family.

This summer we picked 10 pounds of raspberries and froze a good portion of them. Recipes such as this one was precisely what I had intended for the frozen berries. The combination of sweet + tart are perfect for any gathering, be it holiday or not. Happy baking!


  • 1 cup unbleached, AP flour
  • 1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp very cold butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup ice water (remove the ice before adding)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • the zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp sugar


  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour + cinnamon. Add the diced cold butter & cut in with a pastry knife or fork.
  2. add the vanilla extract + 1/4 cup of ice water (sans ice), combining together with clean hands until it forms a ball. If the mixture is too dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time until it comes together.
  3. Cover the ball in plastic wrap & refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400.
  4. On a clean surface dusted lightly with flour, roll out the chilled dough until it forms a round crust approximately 10″ in diameter.
  5. Transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet.
  6. In a separate bowl, combine the fruit, lemon zest + juice and sugar together. Stir & add to the center of the dough.
  7. Gently fold over the edges of the galette & crimp the corners.
  8. Bake 35-40 minutes or until golden brown & the fruit begins to bubble. Serve warm or store up to 2 days.