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.

Dill Pickle Soup

I know. I know what you must be thinking…pickle soup? WTF? Right? I thought the same at first when I’d overheard several people mention this soup. It’s also on the menu at one of my favorite little spots to grab a bite here on Chincoteague, Poseidon’s Pantry. So naturally, I had to give it a try at home.

Last week Jon ventured to San Francisco for work stuff. What better place to have to go to for a 49ers fan? I was at home with our 3 boys, and we survived. I’m blessed with pretty well behaved kids! Towards the end of the week I had two of my best girlfriends over to for dinner to try this odd soup…

Turns out it’s REALLY good. Chunks of potato, dill pickles, carrots, chicken broth, sour cream and fresh dill all combine together to create a wonderfully rich, and filling – yet light soup. I think the key is to use really good quality refrigerated pickles in the soup. They stay crunchy and retain their briny flavor. Whereas some of the guys from the shelves in the jars are flabby and crunch-less from the get-go.

We all really enjoyed it, especially the boys. With all the bright flavor from the pickles and the dill, it’s a great soup to welcome springtime. Definitely one I’ll be making again and again, it’s just too much fun not to!

Souce: adapted from The Noble Pig

Perfect White Rice

I’m ashamed to admit that up until about 5 years ago, I was cooking rice in the microwave. Or, worse…relying on those pre-cooked rice packets that you just microwave. I was cooking all kinds of wonderful things in my kitchen, but still nuking my rice. *hangs head in shame*.

Finally I gave cooking rice on the stovetop a whirl, and the resulting rice was unparalled to the rice that had been produced in the microwave. Tender, yet firm grains that actually tasted like something! Before I’d just been getting gooey balls of mush. The key is a good, heavy bottomed pan – as well as giving the rice quick saute in a bit of butter. It really helps to keep the grains individual, so you don’t get that massive clumping issue.

OXO was kind enough to send me a pan from their new line to review. I chose the 3.5 quart stainless steel saucepan, just because the size is so handy to have in the kitchen. I love the fact that it has a glass lid, which makes keeping an eye on things like rice or beans very easy. And also the measurements on the side, and round bottom are very helpful for things like making homemade caramel sauce. Plenty of room for a nice big batch!perfect white riceAt any rate, if you’re still relying on neanderthal methods for preparing your rice, try this. It’s super easy, and so much better and economical than the prepackaged stuff. I’ve also got a couple great rice pilaf recipes, if you wanted a twist on a classic. Have a great weekend everyone!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the good folks at OXO. 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