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

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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

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar

If you are in need of a super quick, easy, and delicious summer dessert, I’ve got you covered. This crumble takes just a couple minutes to throw together, and can be easily changed up to accommodate whatever you do or don’t have on hand. Best of all, it’s just as easy to make for 20 people, as it is to make for 4!

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar
serves 8

1 pound strawberries, hulled and quartered
two 6 oz containers of blackberries
two 6 oz containers of raspberries
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 T balsamic vinegar
generous pinch of kosher salt

For the crumble:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup oats (quick-cooking or regular)
1 cup sugar
10 T cold butter, cut into cubes
generous pinch of kosher salt

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar

1.) Preheat the oven to 375°. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, sugar, and kosher salt for the crumble. Add the butter cubes, and work the butter into the flour mixture (either with a pastry blender, two knives, or your hands) until the mixture resembles wet sand. Pop the crumble mixture into the fridge to chill for a few minutes.

2.) Add all the berries to a large bowl. Add the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and kosher salt, and use a rubber spatula to very gently fold everything together (you don’t want to break the berries up too much!), until all the berries are evenly coated in the sauce.

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar

3.) Spoon the berry mixture into eight ramekins (I used a 9oz size) – or spoon it all into a baking dish. Spread the crumble mixture evenly over the top of the berries, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the juices are bubbling and the crumble top is nicely browned.

4.) Allow the crumbles to sit for about 10 minutes, then top with vanilla ice cream, and serve!

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar

I know, I know… it sounds a little weird to put vinegar into a dessert, but you’re just gonna need to trust me on this one. Once the balsamic combines with the brown sugar and cooks down, it is deliciously sweet – with just a touch of acidic edge, to balance all the sweet fruit and the sugar in the crumble topping. You can thank me later.

Mixed Berry Crumble with Brown Sugar and Balsamic Vinegar

We all agree that a warm fruit crumble without ice cream is a sin, right?
Tina

Honey Lime Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Lime Crema

Despite my general ambivalence toward fish, I try to occasionally sacrifice my personal tastes and cook up some sea life for my husband, who loves any kind of sea creature you can catch and cook. Apparently I was feeling quite generous last week, as I purchased not one, but TWO kinds of fish while I was grocery shopping: some tilapia (keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks), and some mahi mahi. As you might expect, I don’t know a ton about different types of fish – but I know that I often see mahi mahi on menus, and that seemed like a good place to start. And so, a package of mahi fillets came home with me.

I ran through quite a few flavor scenarios in my head, and landed on “fresh, tropical, and a little spicy.” So I borrowed the marinade I made for this shrimp, and the salsa I used with this shrimp, tweaked them both, added a delicious and and creamy (and a little spicy!) sauce, and BOOM. Dinner is served.

Honey Lime Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Lime Crema

Honey Lime Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Lime Crema
serves 4

For the fish:
1 1/2 pounds of mahi mahi fillets
2 T honey
juice and zest of one lime
one large garlic clove, grated
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp kosher salt
large pinch black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

For the pineapple salsa:
1/2 a large pineapple, cut into 1/2″ or smaller dice
one small red bell pepper, cut into a fine dice
one shallot, minced
one fresh jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed, minced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
juice of half a lime
pinch of kosher salt

For the crema:
1/4 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
1/4 cup regular mayo
juice of half a lime
2-3 T chipotle sauce, to taste
pinch of kosher salt

1.) First, prep the marinade for your fish. Whisk together all the marinade ingredients (everything from the honey through the olive oil); pour the marinade into a baking dish or large, shallow bowl, and place your fillets in the marinade, flipping them once to coat. Allow the fish to marinate at room temperature for about 30 minutes, flipping the fillets occasionally.

Honey Lime Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Lime Crema

2.) While the fish marinates, make your salsa (add all ingredients to a medium bowl and gently combine with a spoon), and your crema (whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl). These can be made up to a day ahead, if needed, just cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Honey Lime Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Lime Crema

3.) When you’re ready to cook your fish, heat a large skillet over medium heat (non-stick is preferable, here). Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to the pan; once it’s nice and hot, add your fillets. Allow them to cook for about 3-4 minutes on the first side (depending on thickness), until they’re golden brown and release relatively easily from the pan. Flip the fillets and cook another 2-3 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily. Remove from the pan.

4.) Spread a generous spoonful of the chipotle crema on each plate, top with a fish fillet, and then top THAT with some pineapple salsa. Serve immediately.

Honey Lime Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Lime Crema

Even with all the chopping needed to make the salsa, this dish is pretty quick! The fish cooks up in just a couple minutes, and the crema takes no time at all. You could certainly substitute another firm, white fish for the mahi mahi (though I make no promises as to their level of fishy-ness) – and you could also choose to dice up the fish and make tacos! Spread some crema on a warmed tortilla (corn or flour, your choice), add the fish, and top with salsa.

This dish might make me a fish lover, yet,
Tina