Sunday, April 29, 2012

Grape & Tomato Caprese

One of my favorite things in the world is a fresh caprese salad.  The combination of melt in your mouth fresh mozzarella cheese along with ripe tomatoes, fresh picked basil, and a drizzle of good olive oil is just amazing!  I love to make this salad at home, and I try to sample it at a new restaurant whenever I see it on the menu.  My husband and I recently grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant and wine bar called Grapes & Tomatoes.  One of their featured items on the menu was a grape tomato caprese salad.  I thought the idea of adding grapes to a traditional caprese salad sounded a little odd, but I definitely wanted to give it a try. Let me tell you...the addition of grapes in this salad is absolutely divine.  The grapes were so sweet and bursting with flavor, creating the perfect addition to the creamy and salty mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes and basil.  Give this caprese salad with a twist a try and you may never go back to the traditional again!

Makes 1-2 servings

1 cup very ripe, dark purple grapes
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup mozzarella pearls
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped in thin strips
Good olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper


Combine all ingredients together and top with freshly ground pepper and a sprinkle of salt.  Drizzle with olive oil to taste.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Easter Sunday will be here tomorrow morning!  Have you finished your Easter baking yet?  These decadent carrot cake cupcakes are sure to be a crowd pleaser!  Spiced cake layered with freshly shredded carrots and chopped pecans is topped with pillowy clouds of fluffy cream-cheese frosting.  Yum!


2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 cups finely grated fresh carrots
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Fluffy Cream-Cheese Frosting (Recipe Below)
Sugared carrots for Garnish (Recipe Below)

Fluffy Cream-Cheese Frosting:

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 (8-ounce) container Coolwhip, thawed

In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and butter and beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add confectioners' sugar, beating until smooth.  Add whipped topping and beat to combine.

Sugared Carrots:

Finely shred carrots, wrap them in paper towels, and squeeze them completely dry.  Toss in sugar to coat.  The carrots must be COMPLETELY dry so that the sugar won't liquify.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with paper liners.  In a large bowl, combine flour, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil and eggs.  Add oil mixture to flour mixture.  Beat at medium speech with an electric mixer until combined.  Add carrots, pecans, sour cream, and vanilla, beating to combine.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling two-thirds full.

Bake about 16 to 18 minutes until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack.  Frost tops of cupcakes with Fluffy Cream-Cheese Frosting and garnish with sugared carrots.

Recipe Adapted from Taste of the South Magazine

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Friday, April 6, 2012

Lemon Dream Cupcakes

Today I have a perfect day off of work...a day to stay in my pajamas, catch up on reality TV, and more importantly catch up on blogging!  I haven't been devoting as much time to this little blog as I should and I think that's because lately I have had some extra stress in my life...I won't bore you with the details, but the past few months have been a bit of a struggle for me.  Luckily I have such a loving and supportive husband who is always by my side, my amazing friends, and my wonderful readers to cheer me up!  I never expected this little blog to turn into much, and I am so lucky that it has.  So thank you to everyone out there who reads this blog.  I love reading every comment that I receive and hearing that people try my recipes really brightens my day.

And now...on to the good stuff!  Here is a cupcake recipe that I'm sure will brighten your day as well!  These lemon dream cupcakes are bursting with sweet lemon flavor, filled with homemade lemon curd, and piped with lemon cream frosting.  Perfect for an Easter celebration or a springtime dessert!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel
Lemon Cream Frosting (Recipe Below)

Lemon Cream Frosting

6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup butter
¼ cup lemon curd (Recipe Below)
6 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Allow cream cheese and butter to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. In a large mixing bowl combine cream cheese, butter, and lemon curd. Beat with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until smooth. Gradually add 3 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Beat in the 1 tablespoon milk. Gradually beat in the remaining powdered sugar. If necessary, beat in enough additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make frosting spreading consistency.

Lemon Curd:
3 lemons
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ pound unsalted butter, room temperature
4 extra large eggs
½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 teaspoon salt

Zest three lemons.  Put the lemon zest and sugar in a food processor and pulse until the zest is very finely minced with the sugar.  Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt.  Mix until combined.  Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly.  The lemon curd will start to thicken at just below a simmer.  When thick enough that the curd sticks to a wooden spoon, remove from the heat and let cool.  It will continue to thicken as it cools.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line twenty to twenty-four muffin cups with paper bake cups or lightly coat with nonstick spray for baking; set aside.  In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds.  Gradually add sugar, beating until combined. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.  Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.  Stir in lemon peel.  Spoon batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the centers comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Remove cupcakes from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Prepare Lemon Cream Frosting; set aside.  Spoon lemon curd into a decorating bag fitted with a large round or open star tip.  Push tip into the top of each cupcake and force some of the lemon curd inside cake.   

Generously pipe or spread the frosting onto tops of cupcakes.  If desired, sprinkle cupcakes with more lemon zest.

Recipe Adapted from BHG

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