Red Velvet Cupcakes

Photo of three Red Velvet Cupcakes with sprinklesGrand Old Flag
I think it’s fair to say that most people will be celebrating the Fourth of July next Monday. How they are celebrating is a totally different question. Some will have backyard BBQs with family and friends. Some will watch parades and wait for the fireworks in the evening. Others will look forward to some downtime in the pool and a day of doing nothing. If they happen to catch a few fireworks in the sky, so much the better.

Not sure which camp I fall into. All of them sound good. But, I can’t deny the appeal of the latter. The last couple of weeks have been a bit crazy. As of this moment, there are no set-in-stone plans. We may go to our local parade if only to absorb a little small town Americana. Or not. There might be a BBQ with friends. There may also just be my husband and me sharing a rack of ribs al fresco. What I do know for certain is that there will be a flag cake. It might be small. It might be big. But, there will be a flag cake.

In my family, it’s not Fourth of July without a flag cake. The type of cake varies from year-to-year. But, the frosting on the top is always cream cheese. And, there are always berries—raspberries and/or blueberries.

Because plans are sort of up in the air this year, I might go with red velvet cupcakes instead of a sheet cake and arrange them to look like a flag. The recipe is the same, but the cooking time changes a bit. This way if it just ends up being the two of us, I can make a smaller batch and finish them with a couple of blueberries on top so the red, white, and blue is covered.

Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Yields about 24 cupcakes Read more…

Grilled Corn Salad

Image of Grilled Corn Salad on a plateCorn on the Side
Summer dinners tend to be a lot easier to produce. There is very little in your fridge that can’t go on the grill. Chicken, fish, beef, and veggies can all take a turn over the flames. The same is true when it comes to your side dishes.

Since you are going through the trouble of heating up the grill, might as well get the most out of it. If you’re like me, you have garden zucchini coming out of your ears. It’s easy to toss some with a little olive oil and salt and pepper and throw it on the grill next to your steaks. Corn is another great vegetable to put on the grill. You can leave it in the husk and grill it as is for on-the-cob greatness. Or, you can grill it husk-free for the Grilled Corn Salad recipe below.

Just prep the ingredients before you start grilling and while your meat is resting, throw it all together for a tasty smokey side. Bonus points if you grill the peaches too…

Grilled Corn Salad Recipe
Adapted from Love and Lemons
Yields 4 servings Read more…

Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel Cake

Image of piece of Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel CakeBerry Corn-ucopia
I like cake. I like dessert in general, but I can definitely assert that I like cake. That being said, I have noticed that my cake tastes have changed in recent years. It used to be that if I went out to eat and a dessert menu was placed in front of me, my eyes would immediately be drawn to whatever was the most decadent, usually chocolate, option.

Not the case anymore. Nowadays if I am out on the town and it is time for dessert, nine times out of ten I will choose the fruity option over the chocolate. Unless it involves coffee or any mention of mocha…that’s a game-changer.

I have also noticed that I prefer less sweet offerings which is probably why a “Death By Chocolate” cake, while potentially fantastic and perfect in the right moment, is skipped over for something with lemon or berries. I find that I only eat what I call the birthday-style cakes for birthdays. (I know…birthday cake for a birthday?? I’m such a rebel.) I don’t make three-layer chocolate devil’s food cakes for a random Sunday night dinner. I will, however, make something like this apricot cake, which was amazing with the apricots from my brother-in-law’s tree.

Fruity cakes are great because it’s easier to justify eating them at all times of the day and not just for dessert. A slice of my Lemon Pound Cake Bliss with some coffee or tea in the afternoon can be just what you need to get you through the rest of your day. During the summer months, making a cake with any of the wide variety of fresh berries in the market can easily fill in as breakfast. I mean a muffin is just a smaller version of a cake, am I right?

A number of my favorite eat-all-day cakes include the use of corn or corn meal. I really like the flavor combination as well as the texture that corn can add to a cake. This is a great one for snacking but I also like cakes where the berries are baked in and not just spooned on top.

One of my favorite flavor combinations is blueberries and cornmeal. My recipe for Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel Cake is an excellent example. The streusel on top suggests that this cake would work well for breakfast…or brunch…or lunch…or tea…or a midnight snack!

Blueberry Cornmeal Streusel Cake Recipe
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman
Yields 16 small squares Read more…

Cheesy Cornmeal Waffles

Image of Cheesy Cornmeal Waffles on a plate with sour cream and bacon toppingWaffling
Waffles are a Sunday morning staple for my family. I have a fabulous two-sided flip waffle maker that I love which makes it possible to churn out a whole stack of piping hot waffles in a very short amount of time. Sometimes we use a prepared mix and other times we make ‘em from scratch. But, no matter how they come into being, everyone in my family can make a mean waffle.

Deciding what kind of waffles to make, however, can be a source of tension.

For the most part, the kids don’t care what flavor the waffles are as long as they magically appear, but they do have their preferences. My daughter is a fan of pecan waffles. These require toasting some pecans, chopping them up, and throwing them in the batter. When cooked and doctored up just right, they kinda taste like pecan pie. Lately, the boys have been partial to blueberry waffles. I take dried wild blueberries and reconstitute them in hot water for about 10 to 15 minutes, drain them and throw them into the batter. The dried wild berries provide a more intense blueberry flavor than fresh.

For me, I have gone to the savory side as of late. I have been especially fond of my recipe for Cheesy Cornmeal Waffles (with some cheddar cheese and green onion mixed in and sometimes crumbled bacon). For some bizarre reason, I find that they are fantastic with butter and syrup—and even better topped with some fried chicken for dinner.

My husband though is not a fan. He’s a waffle puristso boring!

Cheesy Cornmeal Waffles Recipe
Yields approximately 8 regular or 4 Belgian-style waffles Read more…