Thursday, June 13, 2013

Strawberry Season

Behold! Strawberry season is upon us. So in honor of using fresh local ingredients, let me present you with a two-fer today. Yep, that's right--two delicious recipes for you to try with those fresh-picked, plump, & amazingly juicy strawberries. If your mouth isn't watering yet, perhaps after you see these pictures, it will be. First up:


Of course I have to satisfy my sweet tooth, duh. This was the first time I've ever used vanilla beans in a recipe. And I must admit, I felt all "Alton Brown-ish" as I was scraping the seeds from the pod. (I guess it's called a pod?? Alton??


Sorry, had to include that great picture of A. Brown. Anyway, so I made these cupcakes from scratch. And I'm thinking this may have been the first from-scratch cake recipe (besides your typical coffee cake recipes) that I've made. (thanks, I felt that virtual pat on the back) So I think you should go ahead and make these too. Maybe it's your first time baking from scratch or maybe you've done it a million times. Either way, you won't be sorry you took the time to make these puppies. They are dense little guys, almost like a pound cake. And I'm a fan of pound cake. That's what our wedding cake was:) They're something you can really sink your teeth into. And even Mitch mentioned their denseness. I was really surprised. Usually he just scarfs things down without even thinking about what he's eating. And the icing...yum. Can you beat a traditional buttercream? Oh yeah, by adding strawberries to it. ShaBAM. Really really good.




Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream Icing
(cake recipe adapted from here)
(icing recipe adapted from here)

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature (I actually used salted butter)
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (I made my own!)
1 whole vanilla bean, split length-wise and seeds reserved
4 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups milk

For the strawberry buttercream icing:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk (I always use half & half and use as needed; might not need a full tbsp)
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, diced very small

Directions: 
For the cupcakes:
Preheat your oven to 350ยบ. Line cupcake pans with liners and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, mixing well. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using an electric hand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Slowly add in the granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds and mix until well-combined (about 2 more minutes). Add the egg yolks, and mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the flour and milk mixtures alternatively (start and end with the flour mixture) to the mixing bowl at low speed, mixing until the flour is just combined.
Evenly distribute the batter among the prepared baking pans. Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes total (or until toothpick comes out clean), rotating the pans halfway during the baking time. Transfer cupcakes to cooling rack and let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

For the icing:
In a large bowl, cream butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed.  Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Add the milk and the strawberries and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.  I only used 1 tbsp of milk, because the strawberries add moisture too, but if you prefer a thinner frosting, add more milk.

So that was recipe numero uno. Second on the list:


Gotta get your greens in! (so you can eat cupcakes) This is a light and refreshing salad. The original recipe calls for baby spinach but I used "spring mix" since it was cheaper (yay for saving a buck!) Spring Mix has mostly spinach in it but also has other greens, hence the "mix" part. The strawberries with the salad greens is a winning combination. Then add a lemon-y dressing with poppy seeds, the zippy-ness of a red onion, and the crunch of some toasted almonds...it's the perfect summertime salad.






Strawberry Spinach Salad

Ingredients:
For the dressing
1 lemon
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

For the salad:
1/4 cup sliced natural almonds, toasted (I bought the small bag of toasted almonds in the baking section of the grocery store and used the entire bag. I think it was like 2/3 cup size. The more crunch the better!)
8 ounces (1 1/2 cups) strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 medium cucumber, sliced and cut in half
1/4 small red onion, sliced thinly (1/4 cup)
1 package (6 oz) baby spinach (I used more--like two bags of spring mix.)

Directions:
For the dressing, zest one lemon to measure 1/2 teaspoon zest. Juice lemon to measure 2 tablespoons juice. Combine zest, juice, vinegar, sugar, oil and poppy seeds in small bowl. Whisk until well blended. Cover; refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For salad, spread almonds in single layer over cookie sheet. (I used my small Pampered Chef baking stone) Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly toasted. Remove from oven; cool completely on cookie sheet.

Meanwhile, hull strawberries and cut into quarters.

Score cucumbers lengthwise and slice. Cut slices in half. Slice onion thinly.

Place spinach into large serving bowl; add strawberries, cucumber and onion. Whisk dressing; pour over salad, gently tossing to coat. Sprinkle with almonds. Serve immediately.

*******

I brought the salad to a cookout and it was all eaten up. Actually people kept asking if there was any salad left! Even kids like it since it has strawberries in it. (everything's better with strawberries, isn't it?) 

So there ya go--two new delicious recipes for you to try. Now go get your strawberry on!

5 comments:

  1. Saw your post on FB. I count on you for inspiration!!! Without you we wouldn't eat anything delicious. Love today's post- the photo's are stunning. I've G+'d and tweeted lady. xxxooo

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    1. Ha!! Love it. Thanks, Cheryl:)

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  2. I was reading blogs on my phone this morning and as soon as I saw your post, I put my phone down and pulled my laptop out! Love your blog. Your food posts are always easy to follow, your thrifting posts are always inspiring, and your home decor posts are beautiful. Thanks for sharing your life with us all!

    I do have one question regarding this recipe. The butter for the cupcake mix is unsalted, is it also unsalted for the icing?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your sweet comment! I love that YOU love reading my posts:)

      Actually both recipes called for unsalted butter. I guess I forgot to change it in the cupcake recipe. I pretty much always use regular butter in my recipes. Especially for icing--I think icing tastes a little bland without it. I suppose it's just personal preference. So I say, use what ya got! Which for me is regular butter. Mmm...LOVE butter!!

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  3. They look delish! Can't wait to try them :)

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