Orange Poppy Seed Cake

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to go to the food and trade expo in Ocean City. It was great to sample all kinds of different new things, talk to folks at regional breweries, and just make new “foodie” friends in general. It made a great date day for Jon and I, and I think he had a little bit more fun than I did getting to sample all the delicious beers and cocktails that I couldn’t partake in – but I’m already looking forward to next year!

One product I was super excited to try was Natalie’s juices. They’re fresh pressed, and minimally pasteurized – leading to a juice that’s as fresh tasting as can be. I’d been following them on Instagram for a over a month now, after reading their review in Cook’s Illustrated – but hadn’t been able to find them locally in my rural location. Brandy, the regional rep, said that she’d gladly provide me with some samples to try out – and I gladly accepted!

We met at a local eatery in Salisbury last week, and she loaded me down with all kinds of goodies. Afterwards, William and I went inside and treated ourselves to a little snack – a cookie for him, and a slice of a delicious orange poppy seed cake for myself. I knew upon first bite that it was one that I had to come home and recreate, and what better time to do it with all that fresh-pressed citrus goodness waiting for me to do something with?

This cake is somewhere between a pound cake and a traditional cake – moist and dense, yet light and crumbly too. With the slight crunchy bites from the poppy seeds, it’s absolutely perfect. It’s baked in a Bundt pan, which makes it beautiful to begin with…but then I topped it with a delightful orange cream cheese buttercream for the “icing on the cake”, as it were. Everyone loved it!

Everyone also really loved the different varieties of juice Natalie’s sent us home with – everything from Strawberry Lemonade to Honey Tangerine Juice. I made a batch of lavender lemonade with the lemon juice they gave me last night, and it was so nice to have a taste of summertime without having to juice a million lemons on my own! Looking forward to trying their juices in some cocktails this summer, as I know that’s another spot where they will really shine.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Source: cake adapted from Your Home Based Mom

Homemade Strawberry Syrup

It’s the end of March, officially spring, and there’s 6-inches of snow on the ground outside my front door right now. While I love snow, I’ve had my fill of snow cream for the year. It astonishes me that it can be 70 degrees one day, and 20 the next!

One thing that does have me feeling like spring are the delicious strawberries I’ve been getting at the store recently. While snow might be still blanketing the ground here – in warm, sunny Florida it’s strawberry season! So whenever I see any berries from the sunshine state  in my local grocery store, I can’t pass them by without picking up a package. I haven’t had bad berries yet!

Most of the time they just get gobbled up, before getting the chance to be transformed into something else in a recipe. But, I did get a chance to make this delicious strawberry syrup a couple of weeks ago. It’s perfect over a scoop of vanilla ice cream, stirred into a cold glass of milk, served over hot Belgian waffles, or mixed into a cocktail to give it a fruity twist. It’s also wonderful to toss with some fresh sliced strawberries and then pour into a graham cracker crust for an easy, but delicious dessert.

The batch I made barely lasted a week, and I’ve already made it a couple of times since then. It’s so wonderfully versatile, and it’s nice to have that burst of fresh strawberry flavor in my refrigerator anytime I’d like!

Source: adapted from StrawberrySue.com

Shrimp Alfredo

This has long been one of my favorite dinners. Especially in the summertime, when the shrimp are fresh and cheaper than chicken here on the Eastern Shore. It comes together quickly, taking more time to prep the shrimp than to put the dinner together – and the results are so delicious and satisfying.

I used to make this dish with lemon pepper seasoning – but, I’ve found that the use of fresh lemon, garlic, and black pepper lends such a burst of fresh flavor that I like to use that combo provided I have all the ingredients handy. Which, I almost always do…

It’s simple enough for a family dinner after a long day at the beach, but also impressive enough to be served to guests at a dinner party. I’ll usually pair with a salad or a steamed veggie like broccoli to round out the meal.

Homemade Hamburger Helper

As the third-trimester winds down, and we get closer and closer to the due date – I’m getting tireder and tireder of just about everything, cooking included. So, a go-to easy meal like this one is a lifesaver on those nights when I’m just exhausted.

I’ve always secretly loved a bowl of Hamburger Helper, but hated the fact that I couldn’t pronounce half of the things on the ingredients label. Not to mention the astronomical sodium content…and, the fact that you feel like you have a lead pellet sitting in your stomach for hours afterwards. I knew I could do better at home!

So I set out to make a homemade version, and I tried a few before I finally settled on one that I really loved. It takes the same amount of time to bring together as the box you buy in the store, and is about a million times better – both on the health front as well as taste. Ingredients like basic spices in your pantry, milk, pasta, and lots of freshly shredded cheddar cheese are the only things on my ingredient list.

You could easily pre-mix a few batches of the spices and pasta together and store them in a resealable bag to have them ready to go – making this dinner even quicker and easier. It always feels great to kick yet another boxed processed mix to the curb!

Source: adapted from Food.com via Iowa Girl Eats