Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

Spring is definitely in the air here on Chincoteague Island, and I couldn’t be happier about it. The marshes are starting to return back to their vibrant green color, we have a family of bunnies that live in a thicket right next to the house, and we’ve been treated to a handful of almost 70 degree days.

But, in places like sunny Florida – it’s springlike temperatures pretty much all year. I had the opportunity to work with a couple of different wonderful Florida based companies this week in my kitchen, and it was the perfect way to kick-start spring around here! First off, Natalie’s Juice Company. Their sales rep, Brandy, was at the Ocean City Food Show that we attended weekend before last. She is so sweet, and sent me home with a wonderful sampling of their juices to take home. They are wonderfully fresh and flavorful. The least pasteurization that’s allowed, so it really is like drinking juice directly from the fruit. They’re wonderful!

In additional to that wonderfulness, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association generously overnighted me a huge box of glorious, juicy, ripe, red strawberries. The possibilities are endless, right? Look for another great strawberry recipe next week. I can’t thank you enough, Sue!

So naturally, I couldn’t help doing something together with the two of them! These strawberry lemonade cupcakes immediately came to mind. I took my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe, and added in a bit of lemon zest and good lemonade. Then I roasted the strawberries to release some of the moisture, and intensify the flavor (a trick I learned from my buddy, Annie). Added 3/4 of them to the cupcake batter, then pureed the remaining amount to add to the buttercream frosting, along with a little more lemon zest and lemonade.

All I can say is “wowza!”. They are absolutely perfect. Light, tender, and moist – bursting with the fresh flavor of strawberries and lemons. I garnished with a slice of strawberry and lemon, which I thought was so simple and pretty. So, if you’re feeling like a taste of spring…definitely make these soon!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the good folks at Natalie’s and the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. I was provided with complimentary products to review. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

You guys. These cupcakes. They’d been on my radar to make for close to forever, but I always ended up opting out for another flavor whenever I made cupcakes. I finally got around to making them this week, and let me just say that I’m kicking myself for waiting so long!

I took my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe, substituting some of the regular sugar for brown. Then the cupcakes are filled with a delicious eggless cookie dough filling, and finally topped with a cookie dough flavored frosting.

A garnish of a mini chocolate chip cookie is the pièce de résistance that just sends it over the edge of cuteness. They’re basically a chocolate chip cookie dough bomb waiting to explode in your mouth.

So do yourself a favor, and don’t wait as long as I did to make these guys. They’d be so much fun for a little one’s birthday party!

Source: adapted from Annie’s Eats

Chocolate Cappuccino Cheesecake

I know I’ve been a little AWOL lately. The holidays wore me out, and I found myself in a bit of a recipe rut afterwards. But over the weekend I got into the kitchen and made this insanely delicious cheesecake,  and I couldn’t wait to share the recipe with you guys!

Rich, decadent, and chocolaty – pretty much all the points I expect to be touched by a good cheesecake. It baked beautifully, not splitting or cracking. It had a nice height too, which I love…there’s nothing more pitiful than a severely squat cheesecake.

The addition of espresso and Kahlua added a real depth of flavor to the chocolate, which isn’t that much of a shock. Whenever I bake a chocolate dessert in the kitchen, the recipe almost always includes coffee, in one form or another…

I served with a Kahlua whipped cream and garnished with crushed up chocolate covered espresso beans. The little bites of crunchiness against the smooth creaminess of the cheesecake was divine!

Definitely a keeper.

Souce: adapted from Allrecipes

Homemade Stromboli

Since I’ve gone homemade, pizza Friday has long been the favorite night of the week at our house. There’s just something about making your own dough and sliding that pizza pie into the oven in your own kitchen that is so satisfying!

But, about once a month we like to turn our favorite pizzas into homemade stromboli. It’s a little different, and adds some variety! Dough is rolled out into a long oval, toppings and cheese are piled on, then everything is rolled up together and baked. Pizza sauce is served on the side for dipping, as opposed to inside the roll – which tends to make this Italian specialty soggy.

They’d be great for a party or Holiday get-together too, as they’re served as individual slices. I also love the fact that I can cook two of them in the oven at the same time. With pizza, I’m limited to one at a time.

Toppings can vary of course. I’ve found that when I use veggies, I like to give them a quick saute or roast first to release some of the moisture. I’ve done mushrooms, onions, and peppers that way to make a delicious veggie stromboli. But, I’d say our favorite variation is pretty traditional – deli pepperoni and salami with mozzarella and provolone cheese.  If I have some deli ham in the refrigerator I’ll occasionally add that in too. Whatever floats your boat – the only limit is your imagination!

Homemade Stromboli

2 balls pizza dough
cornmeal, for dusting
1/4 lb. deli-sliced pepperoni (sandwich sized)
1/4 lb. hard salami
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
12 slices Provolone cheese
olive oil
pizza sauce, for serving

Place pizza stone in oven and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal. Set aside.

On a clean work surface, use your hands to spread pizza dough into a 12×6-inch oval. In the center of the dough, place the half of the sliced pepperoni, leaving a 2-inch border at the ends to wrap. Repeat with the half of the salami and half of the sliced Provolone cheese. Sprinkle half of the mozzarella cheese on top, right down the middle.

Tuck the ends of the oval in on top of the cheeses. Then, take the flap of dough closest to you and fold it up and over the toppings, then tuck and roll the stromboli over. Seal the other side of the dough into the stromboli by pinching it closed with your fingers.

Carfeully place the stromboli on the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Repeat process with the remaining ingredients to make another stromboli.

Using a serrated knife, slash the top of the dough gently, 4 or 5 times to create pockets for air to escape. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil.

Carefully slide the parchment paper with the stromboli onto the hot baking stone. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for about 5 minutes before slicing.

Serve with individual servings of pizza sauce.