Starter Recipe: Chocolate Fudge “Jury Gems”

As a Starter Recipe, I try to make things easy and simple so that anyone just learning to cook can make the recipe.  This snack food fits the bill, in my opinion.  I was put on a jury recently and wanted to make something to share with my fellow jurors on our final day… this was the food I brought to keep us focused as we concluded our duty.

Ingredients:ChocolateFudgeJuryGems (1)

  • 1 box chocolate fudge brownie mix (or your favorite box mix)
  • 1 can solid pack pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • Mini chocolate chips (I used about 1/4 cup)
  • Red wine (I used a Pinot Noir, but you could use any dry red wine or even substitute espresso if you prefer)


  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and spray your cupcake tins with cooking spray.  I used two small cupcake pans (12 small cupcakes in each) and one mini cupcake pan (also with 12 mini cupcakes).
  2. Empty the brownie mix, pumpkin, and chocolate chips into a large mixing bowl.  Pour in a small bit of wine/liquid (start with 1/4 cup) and mix all ingredients together until well incorporated.  If the batter seems too thick, add a bit more wine/liquid.  I like this batter to be fairly thick, but not so thick that the batter could stand alone, like a cookie dough.
  3. Using a cookie scoop, ladle out the dough into the cupcake tins.  I used a medium scoop for the small cupcake tins and a small scoop for the mini cupcake tin.
  4. Sprinkle with decorations, if desired (I used gold sugar) and put the tins into the oven.  I baked the mini cupcakes for 15 minutes and the small cupcakes for 3 minutes longer (18 minutes total).  Use a toothpick to test when making sure the fudge-cupcakes are cooked thoroughly.

These fudge-y cupcakes will get very sticky if served the following day, so be sure to allow them to dry a bit so they don’t actually stick to the fingers of your guests.  I got lots of positive comments on these snacks from my fellow jurors and that solidified the name for me… Jury Gems.  We had three days together and I hope that everyone feels they did their best according to the law, as required.

If you have a chance to make this recipe for your friends, feel free to alter the name a bit… these are delicious, healthy, and surprisingly filling.  Enjoy!


Recipe: Wine Cupcakes

Ok…. Even I was a bit skeptical when I came up with this idea.  I had a box of white cake mix… I had James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay white wine… I had some Pinot Noir red wine… what’s a girl to do?  Swap the wine for water!


I weighed out the cake mix to make sure that I actually was able to separate the mix into separate bowls and then went to work.  I used the cake mix directions and simply swapped out the water in each half with a different wine.  I used exactly the same ingredients for each half of the mix, but I used James River Cellars Reserve Chardonnay white wine for the “white cake” and I used a Pinot Noir red wine for the “red cake”  Don’t they look interesting?  NOTE:  I would absolutely have used James River Cellars Rad Red, if I’d had some in the fridge when inspiration took hold this morning.

Rather than add frosting to these cupcakes, I decided to add sprinkles.  I had gold sanding sugar to add to the white/chardonnay cupcakes, but I didn’t have any red sanding sugar on hand, so I used multi-colored tiny sugar balls for the red/pinot noir cupcakes.

I know this is a weird way to use wine, but I just had to try it… nothing lost by trying and everything gained by finding another fun use for wine!  I hope you’ll consider trying these out sometime.  It’s bizarre, but I think they’re surprisingly tasty.  Have fun!

NOTE:  I shared these with my co-workers and we all agreed that the Reserve Chardonnay cupcakes were tastier than the Pinot Noir ones… but check it out for yourself and let me know what you think!


Office Party treats

When I’m trying to think of what to bring to the office (since I work at James River Cellars Winery), I always try and incorporate wine into the recipe.   I’m sure you’ve noticed that I tend to replace water with wine in almost anything… dinner, desserts,  rolls (ok, those are a bit tougher),  appetizers… you’ve seen what I do when I start to experiment in the kitchen.

Today, I wanted to make bite-sized treats for my company Christmas party tomorrow night.  I’ve got an appointment before the party, so this had to be something I could make a day ahead and still have it be yummy.  Thankfully, I already had a fabulous recipe to use as my base… Mocha Wine Cupcakes!

I RedVelvetBrownieCupcakesstarted with the basic recipe that I posted under the title “Mocha Wine Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting”.  That recipe is my all-time GO TO when it comes to chocolate cake.  It’s a recipe that needs no milk, butter, or eggs… it freezes beautifully… it tastes great after thawing… and it was what our baker used a “million” years ago for our Chocolate Wedding cake.  It totally rocks!

This time, I decided to make a half recipe and add in 2T Nutella to the recipe.  I’m not sure that it made a huge difference, but I liked the creamy velvety feeling of having Nutella in my cupcakes, so I chose to use the Red Velvet name.  You could certainly add an entire container of red food coloring to make this chocolate batter turn a beautiful deep red, but I thought they were pretty without the extra addition.

I snapped a few shots throughout the process this morning (yup… had them baked before 10AM… while I was drinking my hubby-made latte’… it was a good morning!) and then frosted them with most of a container of cookie frosting so they’d be done pretty quickly.  I even added a glimmer of gold sugar-glitter on top to make them sparkle for our holiday party.  Fancy! 

See?  A fun office treat doesn’t have to take a great deal of man-hours… just the desire to create something tasty and pretty!  Try this recipe and see if you don’t get asked for the recipe over and over again…

Oh… and when you get asked for the recipe?  Feel free to point them to this blog!  🙂

Red Velvet Brownie Cupcakes

1 1/2 cup flour

1 c sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons cocoa

6 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup espresso

2/3 cup red wine

2 large Tablespoons Nutella

Mix all ingredients together until thoroughly incorporated and smooth.  Spoon batter into cupcake liners (I used mini muffin liners and was able to make 48 mini cupcakes) and bake at 375 degrees for 14-16 minutes.  Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting or icing.  I like to make a zig-zag pattern in white icing and then sprinkle with colored sugar.

Recipe: Wine Cupcakes

Thanks to the glory that is (can be) Facebook, I found a simple cupcake recipe this morning on a friend’s page.  It’s made with Cake Mix, Greek Yogurt, and Water… only I decided to try making it with wine.

I started with a generic Devil’s food cake mix and added a cup (8oz) of nonfat plain Greek yogurt.  I was trying with the idea of using a flavored yogurt but, well, I didn’t have any in the fridge.  I then added a cup of wine… I used James River Cellars Rad Red.  I mixed everything well and then poured the mixture into cupcake tins.  I used mini Bundt pans (pictured) and a tin of mini muffin tins.  After baking for 20 minutes at 375 degrees, they looked so fun!  I added a dollop of chocolate frosting on top of the mini cakes and called it dessert.  YUM!

Have you tried substituting red wine in your chocolate baked good products?  It’s amazing to see what you can create with some great wine and a little ingenuity.  Try it and make your own new creations… your family and friends will be so happy you did!