pina colada cupcakes



I do a lot of wondering
It’s just how my brain works. I’m always asking questions.
Maybe it’s because I’m young, maybe it’s because I’m restless.  I’m probably a little bit of both.




If you could peek into my brain at any given moment, it would look something like this:


What hair color do they put on the driver’s license of a bald man?  How many times will I fall in love? Why does extra sharp white cheddar cheese taste so good on stale Ritz crackers?  Do my socks match today? Why can I never find the tape? If tomatoes are a fruit, isn’t ketchup technically a tomato smoothie? Why do I ask so many questions?  Did I forget to log off of the library computer? Are cats and dogs are really smart and just acting dumb to freeload off humans?  Did the teacher notice I was on Pinterest all class? Can Pokemon only say their name, or are they named after the only thing they can say?



Why do my hands always smell like buttercream?


Ok, so I know the answer to the last question…




It’s because I’ve been going through a total cupcake craze. Borderline full-on obsessed.  I just can’t get enough of piping neat little swirls of buttercream.  I love the big cloud of confectioner’s sugar hovering around my stand mixer and all of the sticky, Ziploc bags of frosting (my mom on the other hand isn’t so enthusiastic…). The first thing I do when I step in the house is preheat the oven to 350 and fill a muffin pan with paper liners.  This has been going on for a while.  I need help.  But for now, just take a look at these Pina Colada cupcakes while I run to the store to buy more confectioner’s sugar.


With love,
Erica




Pineapple Cupcakes:


Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups canned crushed pineapple (drained slightly)


Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs
and sugar until slightly thickened and a light cream color (about 2
minutes).

On low speed, mix in the oil and vanilla until blended.
Add in the pineapple and sour cream and mix until fully incorporated.
Add the flour mixture and blend until just combined and smooth.
Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners and fill about 2/3 full.
Bake cupcakes in a pre-heated 350*F oven for about 22 minutes.
Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.
Frost with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)
Recipe yields 24-28 cupcakes.


Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting


Ingredients 

1 stick softened butter
1/2 cup crisco
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coconut extract
5-6 cups powdered sugar
1-3 tablespoons milk

Place butter, crisco and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth.
Add
vanilla extract, coconut extract and powdered sugar (1 cup at a
time) and blend on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed
and beat until it begins to get fluffy.

Slowly add the milk until you reach desired consistency.
Beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.

To Assemble:

Additional Ingredients
sweetened coconut
maraschino cherries

Frost each cupcake with a swirl of coconut cream cheese frosting. Roll in sweetened coconut. Top with a maraschino cherry.  




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provencal tomatoes

before being baked
 I took a trip to the farmer’s market this past weekend and picked up some gorgeous tomatoes.  Almost too pretty to eat.  These are nothing like the spongy, flavorless “tomatoes” that I find at the grocery store — these are juicy and bursting with flavor. This means that they only need simple treatment to be turned into a fabulous, healthy meal.
These provencal tomatoes are perfect for a light and refreshing summer dinner. They are a great side, but also make a stellar meal when served with some crusty bread to soak up all the juices. I took my beautiful, flavor-bursting tomatoes from the market, and filled them with aromatic provencal flavored breadcrumbs, garlic, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. 
What is your favorite summer vegetable?
With love, 
Erica

Ingredients

  • 4 tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup fresh rosemary, thyme and basil
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
    after being baked

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Slice the tops off the tomatoes and scoop out a little bit of the center of each. Arrange the tomatoes in a casserole dish and sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
In a separate bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, herbs, garlic, and parmesan. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over each tomato. Drizzle the tomatoes liberally with olive oil.
Bake for 15 minutes. Broil for 2 minutes, or until golden brown.

summertime supper

We are enjoying delicious June weather here. — perfect for blissful early morning runs and lazy afternoons spent reading magazines outside. There is so much to do now that the weather is nice and school is out! My grade is taking a class trip to Six Flags this week, and I’m psyched to get my swimsuit and sunscreen out again for the first time this summer! Tonight, I fixed a simple dinner to honor the succulent summertime flavors that are just beginning.

My ratatouille tart is one of my go-to summer recipes, it is fresh, healthy, and showcases colorful summer vegetables beautifully.  Ratatouille a favorite at my house (check out my recipe for the best-ever ratatouille!) in the cold months of winter. In the summertime, instead of serving it in a big, warm casserole dish, I like to serve it in a lighter, prettier way — arranged on thin, buttery, flaky sheet of puff pastry.

served with my favorite jam and crackers


I served my tart alongside a tomato watermelon salad. This salad has a beautiful contrast of sweet, salty, and savory. It is a delicious alternative to the traditional fruit salad, and the addition of fresh sea salt makes it oh-so refreshing and sophisticated. Some may call me crazy, but I always sprinkle a little bit of sea salt on my watermelon — it brings out the succulent sweetness of the melon juice. The juicy watermelon and tomatoes are balanced out by tart balsamic vinegar, fruity olive oil, fresh Thai basil, and tangy feta cheese. Fresh, healthy and beautiful — the perfect way to welcome summer.
What is your favorite summertime dish?
With love,
Erica

ratatouille tart

inspired by Smitten Kitchen

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 small eggplant
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 long red bell pepper
1/3 cup tomato sauce (sometimes I like to throw in a little tomato pesto as well!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 375°F. Place the puff pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and gently roll until it measures about 11 x 15 inches. Prick the pastry all over with a fork.
Spread the tomato sauce over the pastry, leaving a one-inch border around the edges.
Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash and pepper.
On a mandoline or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices.
Arrange slightly overlapped slices of vegetables concentrically over the tomato puree or sauce.
Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle de-stemmed thyme leaves over the vegetables. Finish with a little sprinkling of Parmesan (as much or as little as you like).
Bake in the heated oven until the pastry is puffed and browned and the vegetables look softened (about 30 minutes) Slide onto a cutting board, sprinkle with a little bit more cheese, and cut into squares or strips. Serve warm or at room temperature.

tomato watermelon salad

inspired by Merry Gourmet
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup finely chopped fresh basil (I love Thai basil)
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper


3 cups cubed watermelon, seeds removed
6 tomatoes, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped or torn fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup feta (or more or less, depending on your taste)
Make vinaigrette: Mix vinegar and minced garlic in bowl. Whisk in olive oil, then whisk in basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Add watermelon, tomatoes, and torn (or chopped) basil leaves to bowl. Sprinkle with feta. Toss gently with the vinaigrette and let sit before serving to allow the rich flavors to sink in.

lemon yogurt pound cake

This simple cake embodies summer — from its energizing citrus-y aroma to its fabulous, vibrant yellow color. Unlike a traditional pound cake, this cake does not have butter — but personally, I like the fruity, exotic notes of olive oil and the tang from Greek yogurt (although this might not be the cake for you pound cake purists!).

Just like a wheel of Gouda or a pair of jeans, this cake actually gets better with age. It is delicious straight from the oven, but it is out-of-this-world after sitting on the counter for a few days. Time really lets the succulent lemon syrup sink in, making the loaf super rich and super moist. So, if you can resist, keep this loaf on the counter for a day or two, and then indulge — the wait is worth it!

This would be a perfect easy, elegant dessert for a brunch, served with berries and whipped cream — or even better all by itself with a nice cup of tea. This loaf freezes up beautifully, so luscious, velvety lemon-y goodness can always be at your fingertips.
With love,
Erica

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • Zest of two lemons
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan (either regular or mini). Grease and flour the pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean. (35 minutes for mini loaf, 50 minutes for regular loaf)
Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.

Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe on the Food Network