White Claw Black Cherry Cupcakes

Thanksgiving is almost here and it will be will be so different this year.  It will definitely be a smaller than usual Thanksgiving dinner at my house. But everyone in my family is safe and well.  So there is a lot to be thankful for.  Below is a picture of Thanksgiving desserts from a couple of years ago.

These White Claw Black Cherry Cupcakes are a fun and party ready cupcake that you may want to include the next time you can safely reconnect with family and friends.  White Claw Black Cherry Hard Seltzer is made from a blend of seltzer water, gluten free alcohol bases, and a hint of fruit flavor.

Please note that the hard seltzer contains 5% alcohol.

This is a really easy dessert to make, using a cake mix and prepared frosting.  I used a Pillsbury Cream Cheese Filled Pastry Bag with a star tip for the frosting.

White Claw Black Cherry Cupcakes

  • Difficulty: easy
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Nonstick cooking spray
1 (15.25) ounce box red velvet cake mix
1 (12 ounce) can black cherry hard seltzer, such as White Claw Black Cherry Hard Seltzer
3 large eggs
3/4 cup cherry jam or preserves
1 Pillsbury Cream Cheese Filled Pastry Bag
24 maraschino cherries with stems, for decorating

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line two 12 cup muffin tins with paper liners and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Beat the cake mix, 1 1/3 cups of the hard seltzer and the eggs together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium high speed until smooth and combined, about 2 minutes.  Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared muffin tins (each cup should be about 3/4 full).

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 to 20 minutes, rotating tins halfway through.  Turn cupcakes out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Stir the remaining hard seltzer (about 1/4 cup) and the cherry jam together in a small saucepan and place over medium heat.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced slightly, about 5 to 8 minutes.  Transfer to a small bowl and refrigerate until completely cool and set, about 45 minutes.

Scoop out a 1/2 inch-wide and 1/2 inch deep hole from the center of each cupcake top using a small measuring spoon.  Fill each hole with the spiked cherry jam (about 1 1/2 teaspoons per cupcake).

Pipe the Cream Cheese frosting onto the cupcakes to cover the jam, leaving the edge exposed.  Top each with a maraschino cherry. Makes about 24 cupcakes.

Notes:
1.  Recipe adapted from Food Network and can be found here.
2.  There is no vegetable oil or butter in the cupcake batter.

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

Are you still a fan of The Great British Baking Show?  I am, very much so.

The new season  (Season 8) is on Netflix here in the USA which is Season 11 in the UK.  Due to the pandemic, the bakers remained in a “bubble” instead of returning home between weekends of filming.  Also, co-host Sandi Tosvig has been replaced by British comedian Matt Lucas.  For more information and a review of the current season, check out this USA Today article.

The first technical bake of this series is a Paul Hollywood recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Cake baked in mini cake molds.  As usual, for the technical challenge, it seems the bakers are given very few instructions and baking times.

There was a little bit of drama during this technical challenge.  When the bakers are taking their cakes to the table for judging, Sura accidentally swats Dave’s cake off his plate onto the floor.  Fortunately, one of Dave’s cakes survived and he was judged on that cake.

Here is Paul Hollywoods’ recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Cakes.  To make the recipe, one must make a caramel syrup, prep a whole pineapple, make a sponge cake, whip cream, and prepare an optional custard.

As you can see, it is a complicated recipe plus there is a possibility that the cakes will stick to the baking pans (as some of the bakers discovered).

The recipe in this post uses jumbo size muffin or cupcake pans.  I had 2 Wilton jumbo sized muffin pans that I bought from Amazon a few years back for about $13.  I sprayed the pans with nonstick cooking spray and didn’t have any problems with the cupcakes sticking to the pans.

The recipe that I made for this post is very easy and delicious.  It uses a boxed cake mix and canned sliced pineapples and the juice from the pineapples.

This recipe bakes individual servings, making it easier to share with family and friends.  These are absolutely delicious served warm after they are removed from the muffin pans.

Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 cans (8 oz each) pineapple slices in juice, drained (reserving juice)
12 maraschino cherries
1 box yellow cake mix, 15.25 oz size
1 cup pineapple juice (from cans of pineapple)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Spray the muffin pans with non-stick cooking spray.

Place 1 teaspoon melted butter in each of the 12 jumbo muffin cups.  Add 1 tablespoon light brown sugar to each of the muffin cups.  Place 1 pineapple slice in each cup; place 1 cherry in center of each pineapple slice.

In a large bowl, beat the cake mix, 1 cup reserved pineapple juice, the oil, and eggs with an electric mixer on low speed until moistened; beat 2 minutes on high speed.  Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each muffin cup 3/4 of the way full.

Bake in the preheated oven 20 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Cool cakes in the pan 5 to 10 minutes.

Place cookie sheet upside down over each muffin pan, turn cookie sheet and muffin pan over.  Remove pan.  Serve cakes warm.  Refrigerate any leftover cakes in an airtight container.

Notes:
1.  I used a Duncan Hines Classic Yellow Cake Mix, 15.25 oz size.
2.  Recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker and original recipe can be found here.

Be safe everyone.

 

 

Apple Tart

Autumn is here and with it comes the beautiful colors of the season.  It also means that fresh local apples are in season.  This year, I didn’t visit any of my favorite orchards but relied on a delivery service for local apples.

Michigan is the third-largest producer of apples in the United States and harvests about 1.05 billion pounds of apples per year.  That is a lot of apples.  Fortunately, West Michigan contributes to that annual harvest.  See more information about Michigan apple harvests here in this short article.

I make this Apple Tart a couple of times a year when the local Honey Crisp apples are available.  It is one of my favorite Fall desserts.  Using prepared puff pastry, makes this a quick and easy dessert.  In my opinion, it is just as good as an apple pie.  You can serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream but I prefer it with no topping at all.

Apple Tart

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 pkg Puff Pastry Dough, thawed if frozen
1 tablespoon butter, softened
1 tablespoon ginger paste (or 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
4-5 medium sized apples
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 cup apricot preserves or jam
1 tablespoons  water

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine the softened butter and ginger paste and set aside.

Unfold the puff pastry and place in an 11 inch x 7 inch loose bottom rectangular tart pan.  Place the puff pastry over the fluted tart pan and press the dough to the bottom.  Cut off any excess dough from the sides of the pan.  Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork to prevent it from puffing.

With a pastry brush, brush the bottom of the crust with the butter and ginger mixture.  Keep the puff pastry in the refrigerator while preparing the apples.

In a small bowl, add the sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir to combine.  Set aside.

Wash and peel the apples.  Cut them into quarters and cut out the core section of each piece.  Cut each quarter into medium-thin slices and place in a large bowl.  Toss with the lemon juice and then gently stir in the sugar mixture.

Lay the apples out in 3 rows on the dough.  Overlap the apples as you place on the dough.

Bake for 25-30  minutes or until pastry is golden and apples are tender. Set aside on a wire rack while making the glaze.

Heat the apricot preserves together with the water and brush the apples with the mixture.  Set aside to cool about 20 minutes before removing from tart pan. and serving.  

Recipe is adapted from Wewalka Puff Pastry.   Original recipe provides instructions for making the tart without a tart pan.

Be safe everyone.  Below is photo of some Fall color in nearby Rockford, MI.

 

 

 

Caprese Pasta Salad

Labor Day weekend has come and gone.  Labor Day symbolizes the end of summer here in the USA, and sure enough, our weather is a little cooler today with a temperature of 54°F.

I usually would have grilled steaks or burgers for a Labor Day dinner.  But since there was no family gathering due to the pandemic, I made this Caprese Pasta Salad for a simple and easy dinner.

This Caprese Pasta Salad combines the flavors of a classic Caprese salad with the addition of pasta.  The Caprese salad is a simple Italian salad of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil seasoned with salt and olive oil.

This salad is a nice change from all of the pasta salads that have mayonnaise in the dressing.  It has plenty of freshness in it with the  fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and a delicious balsamic vinegar dressing.  It is also quick and easy to make.

I was gifted a bottle of olive oil (Tuscan Herb Oil flavor) from The Olive Mill in Saugatuck, Mi.  The Tuscan Herb Oil flavor is a wonderful mix of  olive oil, oregano, garlic. and basil.  I used some of that olive oil in the vinaigrette dressing for one of the salads I made.

The dressing can be easily doubled if you prefer more dressing for the pasta.

Caprese Pasta Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1- 12 ounce box tri-color Rotini pasta

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon seasoned black pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasoned garlic powder

1 pint (about 1 cup) multicolored cherry tomatoes), halved
1 cup of fresh mozzarella cheese pearls (drained if packed in water)

1/8 cup chopped fresh basil

Cook Rotini pasta according to the package directions.  Drain pasta in a collander and rinse with cold water.  Transfer to a large serving bowl.  Set aside while making the dressing.

In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to combine.

Add the  cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese pearls, and basil to the Rotini.  Pour the dressing over pasta and toss to combine.  Serve immediately.  Store leftovers in a covered container in refrigerator.  

Notes:
1.  You can substitute the mozzarella cheese pearls  with bocconcini or fresh mozzarella cheese cut into small cubes.
2.  I used white balsamic vinegar instead of the regular dark balsamic vinegar.  Here is an interesting article from Old Town Olive about the difference between white and dark balsamic vinegar.

Below are some early morning visitors that came by this morning as I was working on this blog post: a mama deer and her two young ones.  Be safe everyone.

Lemon Blueberry Bread

Are you looking for a quick and easy bread to make with local fresh blueberries?  I can recommend this Lemon Blueberry Bread.  The taste of this quick bread is light and moist with a slight lemon flavor from the lemon juice and zest.  Some recipes for this bread include chopped nuts but I didn’t use any for this recipe.

We are fortunate here in Michigan to have a lot of blueberry farms.  The blueberries I used in this recipe came from Bowerman Blueberries Farm Market in Holland, Michigan.  They were very nice looking and tasty berries.

Lemon Blueberry Bread

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 cup fresh blueberries
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon, zested and juiced (about 3 tablespoons of each)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

Glaze
1 lemon, juiced (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Spray an 8×4 loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside..

Toss the blueberries in 1 tablespoon of the flour in a medium bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter, granulated sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, lemon juice and zest in the bowl of an electric mixer.

Combine together the 1 /1/2 cups of flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Add the flour mixture and milk to the butter mixture in alternating batches, beginning and ending with the flour.  Fold in the blueberries.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool for 30 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack.  Place a sheet of aluminum foil beneath the wire rack to catch any glaze drippings.

Combine the glaze ingredients and then drizzle over the warm bread.  Cool completely before slicing.  Store slices in an air tight container.  

Notes:
1.  Frozen blueberries can be used in place of the fresh ones.
2.  Adapted from a Taste of Home recipe.

Stay safe everyone and try to enjoy the beauty around us.

Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad

This Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad is a take on the classic Caprese salad.  The Caprese salad is a simple Italian salad of sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil seasoned with salt and olive oil.   In Italy it is known as Insalata Caprese and has it origins from the island of Capri, south of the coast of Naples.

If you can find farm fresh cherry tomatoes that will be even better for this salad.  Or perhaps you have your own vegetable garden that includes tomatoes.  I have a deck tomato planter that is producing a lot of cherry tomatoes.  Below is a picture of a few of the tomatoes from the plant and which I used in the salad.

Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon seasoned black pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasoned garlic powder

1 pint (about 2 cups) multicolored cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup of fresh mozzarella Pearl cheese

few fresh basil leaves

In a small bowl,  whisk the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to combine.  Set aside.  Place the halved cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese on a serving platter.  Drizzle the dressing over the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.  Top with the basil leaves.  Serve immediately.  

 

Notes:
1.  You can substitute the mozzarella pearl cheese with bocconcini or fresh mozzarella cheese cut into small cubes.
2.  I used white balsamic vinegar instead of the regular balsamic vinegar.

Be safe everyone.  Enjoy the summer as much as one can under the circumstances.  Below is a picture of the Bee Balm in my backyard.  Flowers do help to brighten one’s day.

Sweet Potato Pie

I thought nothing could be worse than all of the lives lost to the covid-19 pandemic and the way it has changed the way we live.  But it could and did get worse.

Even as some of the lockdown restrictions were being lifted, we had the tragic death of George Floyd.  This has caused more grief and sadness for African Americans.  Looking at the news, it appears his tragic death has affected the whole world.

Hopefully, we as Americans can come together and provide a better and safer community for African Americans.

Food52 has compiled a list of cookbooks authored by African-American and I am including it here.  Seems I’m alway buying cookbooks so it is a good list to have on hand.  I bought Carly Hall’s Soul Food.

Bookbub.com has provided a list of Black-Owned bookstores that we can support right now.

Sweet Potato Pie is a traditional dessert that originated in the Southern United States.  Very often it is served for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.  The sweet potato pie was very likely developed by African Americans.  Sweet potato pie is similar in color and flavor to pumpkin pie.

For this recipe, I peeled the potatoes, cut into chunks, and then boiled them until tender.  Other recipes have you bake the potatoes in their skins and then remove the pulp, which is probably the easiest process.

Sweet Potato Pie

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1 cup half and half

Egg Wash

1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, blend together the mashed sweet potato, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and salt.   Beat in the eggs.  Gradually mix in the half and half.  Pour filling into prepared pie crust.

Brush the edges of the crust with the egg wash.  Bake 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  If crust is browning too quickly, cover edges with 2 inch strip of aluminum foil.

Cool completely.  Serve with whipped cream, if desired.  Store leftovers in the fridge.  

Let us strive for a kinder America.  A photo from my archives: Cosmos and a butterfly.

 

Lemon Tart

Mother’s Day this year was very different, no big family gathering with lots of good food.  I am not going to complain because we are all healthy and safe.  How was your Mother’s Day?

I have long been a fan of lemons and always have them in the fridge.  I like a twist of lemon in a gin martini.  Thanks to California, lemons are readily available year round here in the USA.

Lemon pie in any form is my favorite dessert.  I wanted an easy pie to make the day special.  This lemon tart is easy and quick to put together.  It is more similar to a Key Lime Pie than a classic Lemon Tart with a curd filling.

if you are a lemon lover, i think you will love this pie.

Lemon Tart

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Crust
1 1⁄4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1⁄3 cup melted butter

Filling
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon Juice
5 large egg yolks
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust:
Combine crumbs and sugar in medium sized bowl. Stir in the melted butter until thoroughly blended. Pack mixture firmly into a 9 inch tart  (or pie) pan and press firmly to bottom and sides, bringing crumbs evenly up to the rim. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 6-8 minutes, or until light brown. Cool on a wire rack.

For the filling:
Mix lemon zest, lemon juice, and egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Add in condensed milk and whisk until smooth and thick. Pour mixture into the prepared crust and bake until the center is set but still quivers when the pan is nudged, 15-17 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Then refrigerate for at least 1 hour before slicing.  Store leftovers in a tightly covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days.   Serve with whipped cream and garnish with lemon zest (optional).  

Notes:
1. Because of the small amount of filling this recipe makes, it is perfect for a tart pan, but I have used a regular pie pan in the past.
2.  Egg whites from the eggs can be reserved for another use (or even frozen).

I will leave you with a photo of a gorgeous Hydrangea planter gifted to me for Mother’s Day.  Be safe everyone.

Easy Belgian Waffles

I hope everyone is still doing good under the circumstances.  Some states have begun to reopen but we are still on lockdown until May 28th.  A few restrictions have been lifted.  Lansdcapers can resume work so at least my lawn will get taken care of.

Once all the states reopen, does that mean no more shortages of paper products, flour, and yeast (to name just a few items)?  I did recently find all-purpose flour at a smaller local grocery store.

While searching for flour, I came across a familiar waffle mix that I have used in the past, Krusteaz Belgian Waffle Mix.  I have always been pleased with the waffles made from this mix.  Saving my flour for other baking projects, I made a batch of the waffles for this post and below is the recipe.

These waffles are wonderful served up simply with butter and warm maple syrup.

Easy Belgian Waffles

3 cups of Krusteaz Belgian Waffle Mix
1 1/3 cups water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Heat and lightly spray waffle iron with cooking spray.

Measure the mix by lightly spooning it into a measuring cup and leveling it off.  Whisk the mix, water, eggs, and oil until smooth.  Let batter stand 2 minutes.  Pour about 2/3 cup batter onto waffle iron.  Cook waffles until steaming stops or until golden brown.  Serve with your favorite toppings.  Makes approximately 4-5 seven inch waffles.

To add a bit of color, below is a picture of one of the buds from my rhododendron bush.

Banana Nut Bread

I hope everyone is well and safe during this scary time.  I haven’t been too motivated for baking or cooking but I did bake up some banana bread.

I have to admit that I had never made banana bread before.  I’m not sure why because I do like bananas and homemade breads.

Banana bread belongs to the category of pastry as quick breads, more like a cake or muffin.  There is no yeast required because the rise comes from the addition of baking soda and/or baking powder into the batter.

Mary Ellis Ames, a well known home economist in the 1930s-’50s, is credited with developing the first-ever published recipe for banana bread.  The recipe was included in the 1933 edition of Pillsbury’s Balanced Recipes cookbook.  Source for info on banana bread is from Wikpedia.

I’m glad I finally decided to bake banana bread.  This is a delicious bread with a lot of banana flavor.  I like a slice of it with lots of butter and a cold glass of milk.

Adapted from a James Beard recipe.  

Banana Nut Bread

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed, very ripe bananas (2-3 large bananas)
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour a 9×5 inch metal loaf pan.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and gradually add the sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the mashed bananas, milk  and vanilla extract and mix well.

Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just incorporated.  Do not over mix.  Fold in the chopped walnuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick or tester inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Cut into slices and serve.  Makes 1 loaf.

I don’t live in the country but I do see deer quite often.  A couple of weeks ago there were 4 or 5 in my backyard.  Here is a picture of two of them that I managed to get a picture of before running off.

Be safe everyone.

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