Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Just to remind me that I am getting really, really old, one of my nephews had the nerve to go and graduate from high school last weekend. As if it’s not bad enough that I continue to grow gray hairs with the proficiency of someone three times my age, my nephew had to go and turn into an adult overnight! Please excuse me while I polish my bifocals.

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

For me, family celebrations = cooking and/or baking. For my nephew’s graduation, I made oatmeal heath bar cookies (his favorite), devil’s food chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream (by request), and lemon cupcakes, just to switch things up a bit. These cupcakes might be my new favorite! I love the brightness of the lemon in desserts… it adds a freshness that cuts through the sweetness of all the sugar.

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 24

2 sticks butter, at room temp
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
zest of 8 lemons
1 c milk (2% or whole is best)
1/2 c freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1 t kosher salt

For the frosting:
3 eight ounce blocks of cream cheese, at room temp
12 T salted butter, at room temp (but not warm)
2-4 cups powdered sugar

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

1.) Preheat your oven to 350°. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until they’re very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. (Of course, you can use a hand mixer for this!)

2.) Add each egg one at a time, mixing until well-combined after each addition. Add the vanilla and lemon zest, and mix well.

3.) Combine the milk and lemon juice in a measuring cup, and whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.

4.) Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the bowl, and mix until just combined. Then add half the liquid, another 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the liquid, and the rest of the flour – mixing until just combined after each addition.

5.) Line your muffin tins with cupcake liners. Fill the cups about 2/3 full (I like to use a 4T cookie scoop for ease and consistency). Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. The cupcakes should NOT brown at all.

6.) While the cupcakes bake, make your frosting. Combine the cream cheese, butter, and two cups of the powdered sugar in the stand mixer, and beat until the frosting is very smooth, 2-3 minutes. Taste the frosting, and add more powdered sugar if needed. I prefer my cream cheese frosting to be more tangy than sweet, but adjust to your taste.

7.) Once the cupcakes have completely cooled (at least one hour), pipe the frosting on however you like! (If you are not going to decoratively pipe the frosting, you can cut the frosting recipe in half.)

Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

You can make the cupcakes a day ahead (place them on a platter, and cover it with tinfoil), but the frosting should be made the day you plan to serve them.

Like I said, these are definitely a new favorite. The cake is light and moist, the frosting is rich and tangy, and they deliver a serious punch of lemon! If you wanted to get super fancy, you could pipe some lemon curd into the center of the cakes… But these are pretty perfect as they are, if you ask me.

BRB, gotta go yank some more grey hairs,
Tina

Grilled Artichoke Subs

Do you have Penn Station subs where you live? We have a few near me – one by my office, and one by my house that’s pretty new. I’ve had their subs a few times over the years, and I usually just select some kind of turkey sub, as is my standard at a sub shop. Probably about a year ago, I realized they had a grilled artichoke sub – and I was immediately intrigued, as I love artichokes, and the only thing better than a plain artichoke is one that’s covered in cheese. Needless to say, it was love at first bite! And it only took me about 9 months to realize, DUH, I could make one of these at home! (Of course, there’s nothing wrong with getting one from the sub shop… but Penn Station also serves fresh-cut fries, and I think in Michigan it’s illegal to exit an establishment that sells fresh-cut fries without BUYING any fresh-cut fries, and I don’t want to go to jail, so I always end up with a bucket of fries in addition to my sub… and let’s just say that’s not doing anything positive for my waistline.)

Grilled Artichoke Subs

Please note: you could also leave the top of the bread off this sandwich, cut the cheesy artichoke bread into 2″ pieces, and serve it as an appetizer. Versatility!

Grilled Artichoke Subs
serves 2

2 demi baguettes (or one regular baguette)*
3 T mayo (low-fat is fine)
2 cloves of garlic, grated or minced
juice of half a lemon
2 cans quartered artichoke hearts (packed in water, not oil)
1 T olive oil
1/2 T butter
kosher salt
black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 slices provolone cheese

Grilled Artichoke Subs

*In general, I prefer a baguette with a good, crisp crust. However, for these specific subs, I like to look for a baguette that’s slightly softer. Since we’re baking the subs, the exterior will have plenty of time to crisp up – and if you’re starting with a baguette that’s already pretty hard, the roof of your mouth will get destroyed as you try to enjoy your dinner. Just my 2 cents.

1.) Preheat your oven to 375°. Drain the canned artichokes well, and then lay the artichokes in a single layer on some paper towel to drain further; water gets trapped in between the leaves, so you want to make sure to get rid of as much of that moisture as possible to avoid having a soggy sub!

2.) Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and butter to the pan, and once it’s hot, add the artichokes. Season the artichokes with a pinch each of salt and pepper, the red pepper flakes, and the dried oregano. Stir until everything is well-combined, and then leave the artichoke mixture alone for a couple minutes, so they will start to crisp and brown a bit on the bottom.

3.) Once the artichokes have started to brown nicely, add the grated parmesan, and stir well. Let the artichokes cook another minute or so, and the parmesan will start to brown and crisp a bit, too.

4.) While the artichokes crisp up, make your mayo. In a small bowl, mix together the mayo, lemon juice, and grated garlic. If you don’t love the taste of raw garlic, you can cut this back to one clove, or use a dash of garlic powder instead. Set the mayo aside.

5.) Slice your baguettes in half, leaving the “hinge” intact on the back side of the bread. I like to scoop out some of the bread from the interior of the baguette to make adequate room for artichokes (and as a bonus: the interior of the bread is excellent in a kale panzanella salad).

6.) Spread the bottom of each baguette with the garlic mayo, and top with half of the artichokes. Lay the provolone slices over the top of the artichokes, and bake the subs for 10-15 minutes, until the edges of the bread are golden brown, and the cheese is nicely melted and browned. Serve immediately.

Grilled Artichoke Subs

I mean… seriously. These subs are so cheesy, and gooey, and delicious! And despite being meatless, they still feel and taste hearty and filling, because the artichokes are pretty meaty (as vegetables go). Crisping up the parmesan in the pan adds just a bit of nutty flavor, and the lemon in the mayo lends a little acid to cut through the richness of the cheese. In recent months, we’ve had these subs for dinner at least once every 10 days or so – paired with a salad, or some roasted chickpeas, or some variety of roasted vegetable. Fast, easy, and satisfying.

My household is basically keeping the artichoke industry in business,
Tina

Crab and Corn Crostini

Crab and corn is a match made in heaven, is it not? Something about those two ingredients together just really sings… so it was an obvious pair when I was trying to come up with a slightly fancy, but not too fussy, appetizer. I wanted something that would (obviously) be tasty, and that would look pretty, but I didn’t want to spend 100 years making it. I think I succeeded pretty well!

Crab and Corn Crostini

Crab and Corn Crostini
serves about 12 as an appetizer

2 medium baguettes
olive oil
8 oz lump crab meat, picked over for shells
8 oz corn (fresh or frozen, preferably)
4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 T mayo
1 egg, whisked
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 – 4 T minced chives
large pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch each of kosher salt and black pepper

Crab and Corn Crostini

1.) Preheat your oven to 350°, and line a baking sheet with foil. Slice your baguettes on an angle, until you have about 24 crostini. Lightly mist or brush the crostini with olive oil, and bake for about 10 minutes, until they’re just lightly golden brown and crispy.

2.) While the crostini bakes, make your crab salad. Add everything but the crab to a mixing bowl (use about 3 tablespoons of the chives, and reserve the rest for garnish), and mix it well with a spatula. Once everything else is well-combined, gently fold in the crab, so you don’t break it up too much!

3.) Once the crostini are baked and cooled slightly, spoon the mixture on to the bread. Put everything back into the oven for another 10 minutes or so, to warm the crab and corn mixture through.

Crab and Corn Crostini

4.) Remove the crostini from the oven, sprinkle with the remaining chives, and serve immediately.

Oh man, these were so good! The creamy crab mixture is a great contrast to the crunchy, toasted bread – and the sweet crab and crisp, fresh corn are perfect with the slight onion-y edge of the chives. Even better, these crostini look so pretty all lined up on a platter! Great for a cocktail party, a brunch, or a summer barbecue.

Crab and Corn Crostini

If you don’t want to fuss with topping the individual crostini, you can always just bake the crab and corn mixture in a baking dish (though I’d bake it for a bit longer – maybe 20 minutes – to make sure it warms all the way through). Serve with the toasted baguette, and let guests assemble their own appetizer!

I can’t wait for the start of corn season in the mitten,
Tina

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad

I am not typically a big lover of watermelon. Every summer, I see people getting so excited when the season for good watermelon rolls into town, and I think… “Eh. It’s just… watermelon.” It’s just never gotten me real excited.

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad

However, for reasons that cannot be explained, all winter long I had the urge to make a watermelon and feta salad. It just kept nagging at me in the back of my mind – and, of course, winter is not the time to be making a watermelon salad! (At least not if you want it to be good.) So, when the giant bin of watermelons finally showed up at my Trader Joe’s, I grabbed one and set forth to fulfill my dream of a watermelon salad. (It’s worth noting that watermelon is one of those words that starts to look and sound REALLY STRANGE when you use it too much, as I am doing here. WATERMELON WATERMELON WATERMELON.)

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad
serves 10-12 as a side dish

about 1/2 a 5lb watermelon, cut into 1″ cubes
6 oz block of feta, cut into 1/2″ cubes
about 20 mint leaves, chiffonade*
juice of one orange
juice of one lemon
3 T olive oil
1-2 T honey
kosher salt
black pepper

*All this means is that you should stack up the mint leaves, roll them up into a little log, and then slice the log into 1/8″ to 1/4″ wide pieces. This will give you lots of pretty little ribbons of mint!

1.) In a small bowl or jar, combine the orange juice, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Whisk or shake until fully combined. (If your watermelon is not super sweet, use more toward 2 tablespoons of honey.)

2.) Take a large, wide serving bowl, and put about half the cubed watermelon in the bottom. Top with half the feta, and half the mint. Pour 1/3 to 1/2 the dressing over the top (you may not end up using it all), and then make a second layer of all the ingredients. Serve immediately, or cover the bowl and chill in the fridge for up to 2 hours.

Watermelon, Feta, and Mint Salad

You could certainly toss all the ingredients together, but layering them keeps the feta from breaking up too much and making the whole salad look a little murky. It looks beautiful once it’s all put together – and tastes just as great! This salad is wonderfully refreshing, and the sweet/salty combination of the watermelon and feta is fantastic.

Of course, this salad would be perfect for a barbecue or outdoor party. If you want to make it ahead, I would just dice and chop everything ahead of time (as well as mixing up the dressing), and then layer it right before serving.

Raise your hand if one of your all time favorite movie lines is “I carried a watermelon.”,
Tina