Archive for the ‘summer’ Category

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

I obviously have a thing for fruity summer drinks, and really, really enjoyed the strawberry lemonade I made earlier this summer.  I also have a thing for cupcakes (who doesn’t?).  They are tiny, delicious, easy to make and come in tons of different flavors.   This recipe combines two of my favorite things and results in something that is absolute fabulousity!  I made them for Lil Sis and she is begging me for more.  The fresh strawberries, lemon juice, and lemon curd give them a huge taste.  And, I swear that even though they are cupcakes and not a cold beverage, the flavors cooled me off on a hot summer day.

I know there are those that look down on using boxed cake mix.  So I’m just going to say this: yes, scratch is usually better.  But mix is fast and easy and if you use good ingredients and homemade icing, it will taste almost as great.  Plus, sometimes you just need a cupcake in a bad, bad way and don’t have time to measure lots of stuff very carefully.


For cupcakes:
1 package white cake mix
1 (3 ounces) package strawberry jello
1 cup mashed fresh strawberries (1 ½ cups whole=1 cup mashed)
1 cup vegetable oil
½ cup buttermilk
4 eggs

For lemon-cream cheese frosting:
½ cup crisco
½ cup butter, softened
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract
6 cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons lemon curd
1 drop yellow food coloring (optional)
1 tablespoon milk, if needed


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together cake mix, jello mix, mashed strawberries, oil, milk, and eggs.  Beat on low speed until just blended, about 1 minute.   Scrape bowl and beat 2 minutes more on medium speed. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  Pour batter into cupcake liners — fill almost to top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until cupcakes spring back lightly when touched.  Cool completely.

Cream together shortening, butter, and cream cheese until smooth.  Add vanilla and combine.  Sift together powdered sugar and salt and slowly add to creamed mixture.  Add lemon juice, lemon curd, and coloring and mix well.  If the frosting is too stiff, add milk.

Frost your cooled cupcakes and garnish however you please.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

Adapted from Cupboard to Cupboard.











Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

BK loves chicken lettuce wraps, so we had a taste test one week…we tried 3 different recipes and this one is probably our favorite.  The original had water chestnuts, mushrooms, and onions.  I knew mushrooms and onions were on BK’s “I don’t eat” list, but I wasn’t sure about water chestnuts.  When I asked, he looked at me and said, “My little pierogi.  I don’t understand water chestnuts…what are they?  What food group are they in?  Are they nuts?  Do they grow in the water?  Are they like the cro-magnon relative of actual chestnuts?”

Ummmm…<blink, blink>

Instead of answering his questions (I couldn’t anyway), I went ahead and took his response as a “no.”  I then took the liberty of substituting green peppers and carrots — nice “normal” ingredients.  I imagine you could probably use lots of different kinds of veggies and it would taste great.  In addition, we usually eat the wraps with rice and some Korean gochujang…one of us is Asian, after all.


2 tablespoons oil, divided
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 large green pepper, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4-5 leaves bibb or boston lettuce

Stir-Fry Sauce:
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon rice wine vinegar


Bring 1 tablespoon oil to high heat in a wok or large frying pan.  Saute chicken breasts for 4 to 5 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove chicken from the pan.

With the pan still on high heat, add another tablespoon of vegetable oil.  Add garlic, peppers and carrots to the pan.  Saute for 2-3 minutes, until just soft.  Prepare the stir fry sauce by mixing the soy sauce, brown sugar, and rice vinegar together in a small bowl.  Add the chicken and stir-fry sauce to the pan and saute the mixture for a couple minutes until sauce has reduced some.  Serve in the lettuce “cups”.

Heavily adapted from

Spiked Italian Ices

Are they a drink?  Are they a dessert?  I think they are probably both.  But one thing these grown-up flavored italian ices definitely are is delicious!  I made them for a BBQ we had and they were a great treat at the end of the night.  Cold and light, sweet and fruity, but with a kick.  They are super, super easy to make, and that plus the fact that they aren’t that big means you can make and everyone can try a couple different flavors.  They are completely portable and you can easily halve, double, etc., the recipe.

The ices keep well in the freezer, but I’d recommend covering them as the directions specify, otherwise they start to evaporate.  I also made a few that were virgin for the expectant mothers and they were delish as well.  Only difference is that they freeze a bit harder, but in the hot summer sun, no one minded!  Finally, I cut the sugar way down from the original recipe…I’d recommend starting with the amount below and tasting before you add more.

Mojito Italian Ices

½ tablespoon finely grated lime zest, plus 1 ½ cups fresh lime juice (about 9 to 10 limes)
1 ½ cups water
⅔ cup sugar
1 cup chopped fresh mint, plus extra mint for garnish
¼ cup light rum

Puree lime zest and juice, water, sugar, and mint in a blender. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Stir in rum. Divide among twelve 3-ounce paper cups. Freeze on a rimmed baking sheet for at least 5 hours. Garnish with mint sprigs.  Ices can be frozen, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 weeks.

Strawberry Daiquiri Italian Ices

1 pound (4 cups) strawberries, rinsed and hulled, plus extra for garnish
⅔ cup light rum
½ cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
Pinch of coarse salt

Puree strawberries, rum, water, sugar, lime juice and salt in a blender until smooth. Divide among fourteen 3-ounce paper cups. Freeze on a rimmed baking sheet for at least 5 hours. Garnish with strawberries.  Ices can be frozen, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 weeks.

Margarita Italian Ices

⅔ cup sugar
1 cup water
1 ½ cups fresh lime juice (about 9 to 10 limes), plus extra lime wedges for garnish
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup tequila
¼ cup Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur

Heat sugar, water, and juices in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. Let cool.  Stir together citrus syrup, tequila and Cointreau in a pitcher. Divide among twelve 3-ounce paper cups. Freeze on a rimmed baking sheet for at least 5 hours. Garnish with lime wedges.  Ices can be frozen, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 weeks.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, June 2011.

Strawberry Shortcakes with Chantilly Cream

There is really not a lot to say about strawberry shortcakes.  They are delicious.  They are simple.  They are a perfect summertime dessert.

I’ve tried many a recipe and this is probably the best.  The biscuit is very simple to make and is perfectly balanced between a traditional biscuit and a dessert biscuit with just a hint of sugar.  But really, who am I kidding?  The recipe had me when I saw there was heavy cream in the shortcake.  I’ve never seen that before and its wonderful.  So, go find yourself some strawberries and make yourself this dessert that is a true celebration of summer.

You can make the shortcakes a day in advance, simply wrap them in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.  The Chantilly Cream can also be made a day in advance, covered and refrigerated, but it will lose some of its thickness the longer it sits.  Lightly whisk before serving to restore to original consistency.


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
grated peel of 1 lemon
6 tablespoons  cold unsalted butter
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream, divided
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To make the shortcakes, combine the flour, salt, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the baking powder, and the lemon peel in a large bowl.  Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces and add it to the dry ingredients.  Using a wire pastry blender or the paddle attachment to an electric mixer, or two knives or a fork, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is pea sized.  Add 1 cup of the heavy cream and stir until the dough comes together.

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Pat or roll it out to 1 1/2 inches thick.  Cut the dough, using a cutter or round glass,  into 2 ½ inch circles.  (The original recipe is for 8 servings, but I like my biscuits a bit taller, so I usually get 6 out of this.)  Place the dough circles on the prepared baking sheet at least 2 inches apart.  Using a pastry brush, brush the tops with the remaining 1 tablespoon heaving cream and then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.  Bake the shortcakes until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

To make the Chantilly Cream, whisk or beat 1 cup of heavy cream, 2 tablespoon sugar, and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract in a large bowl until soft peaks form. The cream should hold its shape but still be satiny in appearance.

To serve the shortcakes, heat them in a preheated 300 degrees oven for 10 minutes if they are no longer warm.  While the shortcakes are baking or heating, rinse, hull and slice the strawberries.  If they are not naturally sweet enough, add some of remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired sweetness is reached.

Cut the shortcakes in half horizontally.  Place the bottom of a shortcake on a dessert plate  and spoon some fruit and then some Chantilly Cream on top.  Place the second shortcake half over the cream and serve immediately.

Adapted from A Passion for Desserts.

Cherry Tomato Salad

My spider mite battle has been going fairly well…I haven’t yet sent them into extinction like I want to, but I seem to be holding them in check, at least.  This is terrific news because I hate them it’s allowed my cherry tomato plants to really flourish.  I’ve been picking about four pounds of tomatoes from the two plants every week.  It’s glorious.  Have you ever had a Sungold cherry tomato?  They are small and bright orange and the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted.

For BK and myself to eat four pounds of tomatoes a week, it requires some creativity.  This recipe is great because it uses a lot of tomatoes, plus it really lets  their taste shine through.   And although it’s a bit more involved than one would think it would be for a simple salad, it’s worth it!  Very simple ingredients highlight the tomatoes’ sweetness for a great side dish to any meal.   And I totally agree with Annie that, although I love love love kalamata olives, they would over-power the tomatoes in this recipe, so I left them out as well.


2 pints ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered (about 4 cups)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 medium shallot, minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Ground black pepper
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced into ½-inch chunks
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
1-2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced


Combine the tomatoes, salt and sugar in a medium bowl; toss to combine.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a salad spinner and spin until the seeds and excess liquid have been removed, about 1 minute.  Stir to redistribute the tomatoes during spinning as needed.  Return the tomatoes to the bowl and set aside. (If you don’t have a salad spinner, put the tomatoes in a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and gently shake the bowl to remove the excess seeds and liquid.) Strain the tomato liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a liquid measuring cup, pressing to extract as much liquid as possible.

Combine ½ cup of the tomato liquid with the garlic, oregano, shallot and vinegar in a small saucepan set over medium heat.  Simmer until the mixture is reduced, about 6-8 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.  Whisk in the oil, and season with pepper to taste.

Add the cucumber, feta, dressing and parsley to the bowl with the tomatoes.  Toss gently and serve.

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, via The Way the Cookie Crumbles and Annie’s Eats.


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