Category Archives: Celebrations

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes 2-Ways: Gluten-Free & Lactose-Free

While planning the menu for the bridal shower I was hosting, I used a couple of different recipes to accommodate those gluten-free and lactose intolerant guests. (I am reluctant to describe guests by their food sensitivities, but using their names on-line is even less appealing.)  Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting anchored the dessert table at the request of the Bride-to-Be.  I was thrilled to see Meyer lemons already available in stores and picked up the first of the season.

Although, I had a companion gluten-free cupcake in this same flavor for my daughter (recipe below), it seemed too confusing to try to do both for the event, so the cupcakes shared the dessert table with Cheesecake Strawberries with Chocolate Accents (also a crowd-pleaser).  The Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes were lactose-free, the Cheesecake Strawberries were gluten-free, and so there were safe dessert choices for everyone.

You will love these tender, citrus infused cakes with flecks of poppy seeds, topped with velvety cream cheese frosting. They are perfect for showers, parties, or as a treat with afternoon tea.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting [Lactose-Free Options]

Source: Recipe adapted from original recipe by Guilty Kitchen
Yields 12 cupcakes
1/2       cup  butter, coconut oil, -or- Meyenberg goat milk butter
— room temperature
1 1/2    cups  cake flour
1/2       tsp  baking powder
1/4       tsp  baking soda
1/4       tsp  sea salt
1          cup  sugar
2          large  eggs
1           large  Meyer lemon, or 2 small — juiced and zested
1           tsp  vanilla extract
1/2      cup  buttermilk -or- lactose-free milk + 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1           tablespoon  poppy seeds

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2      cup  butter, coconut oil, -or- Meyenberg goat milk butter
— room temperature
8          ounces  cream cheese – or – Tofutti® Better Than Cream Cheese
— room temperature
1           tbsp  vanilla extract
1 1/2    cups  powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake tins with paper liners. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a small bowl.   In bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about five minutes. Incorporate eggs one at a time until well blended. Mix in the zest, lemon juice and vanilla.

Add flour and buttermilk to batter in two separate additions, until well mixed. Fold in poppy seeds.  Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full, bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating half way through baking time. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For Frosting:
Beat butter and cream cheese together until fluffy.  Add-in the vanilla and stir to combine.  Mix-in powdered sugar on low speed until incorporated. Pipe onto cupcakes and serve immediately.

Note: Since lactose intolerance was the concern and not a milk allergy, goat milk or butter is often a fine substitution.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting (GF)

Yields 12 muffins
Source: Recipe adapted from Gluten Free Gobsmacked
8         tablespoons  butter
1          cup  sugar
2         eggs
3         tablespoons  lemon zest — 1-2 lemons
4         tablespoons  lemon juice — 1-2 lemons (of those used for zest)
1 1/4   cups  King Arthur Gluten-Free Flour Mix
1/2      cup  almond flour
1          teaspoon  xanthan gum
1          teaspoon  baking powder
1/2     teaspoon  salt
2         teaspoons  poppy seeds
1/2     cup  buttermilk

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2      cup  butter — room temperature
8          ounces  cream cheese — room temperature
1          tbsp  vanilla extract
1 1/2   cups  powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.  Cream together butter and sugar.  Add the egg, lemon zest, lemon juice, and buttermilk, and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, and almond flour until combined.  Add the dry ingredients to creamed mixture and stir just until moistened–do not over mix. Gently fold-in poppy seeds.

Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for 16-20 minutes until lightly golden. A toothpick inserted in the muffin should come out clean. Once removed from the oven, allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire racks. Cool completely before frosting.

For the Frosting:
Beat butter and cream cheese together until fluffy.  Add-in the vanilla and stir to combine.  Mix-in powdered sugar on low speed until incorporated. Pipe onto cupcakes and serve immediately.

NOTE: If using another flour mix, check to see if it already has the xanthan gum. If so, omit adding it separately.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
Mom Trends Friday Food
EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck
SS & GF Slightly Indulgent Tuesday


Cheesecake Strawberries with Chocolate Accents

My first introduction to the concept of filling a strawberry with the flavors of cheesecake was featuring a post by Nutmeg Nanny many Fridays ago. When I finally got serious about making these little gems for a bridal shower, there were tweaks to the recipe I could not resist—lemon zest is a must in cheesecake—and they were absolutely fabulous.  Juicy, ripe strawberries dressed in flavors of cheesecake, graham cracker, and chocolate create a beautiful presentation and a memorable dessert for a shower or any gathering.  What a great way to make the most of what is left of summer berries!

Cheesecake Filled Strawberries with Chocolate Accents

Yields approximately 30 Stuffed Berries
2   pounds  strawberries — stem and core removed, bottom trimmed flat
2   teaspoons  lemon zest — minced fine
8   ounces  cream cheese — softened
3   tablespoons  powdered sugar
1    teaspoon  vanilla extract
2   squares  graham crackers or Milano cookies — crushed fine
1   cup  white or dark chocolate — chopped or in chips, melted

Rinse strawberries and dry well. Trim the cap and hull strawberry with a paring knife, creating a small pocket. In order to stand the berries upright, trim the bottom of the strawberry creating a flat base.

Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla with a mixer until creamed and fluffy. Add cream cheese mix to piping bag or large Ziploc bag with a small piece of the bottom corner cut off.  Set aside.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler.  Place a dime-size amount of chocolate on a baking sheet or tray lined with wax paper. Place a strawberry on top of chocolate and cooling until chocolate hardens. This chocolate base adds stability to the strawberries, especially in transport.

Using the piping bag or Ziploc bag, fill strawberries with the cream cheese filling. Sprinkle with crushed graham crackers.  Accent with chocolate to finish the strawberries.  Allow chocolate to harden or set.

NOTES: Large strawberries are best, requiring fewer berries, yet any size will work. Strawberries kept in the refrigerator will sweat in a warm room. Remove from refrigeration well in advance to allow time for the berries to come to room temp and dry well before dipping in chocolate or filling.

Shared on the following Blog Hops:
Simply Delish
Mom Trends
EKat’s Kitchen Friday Potluck

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries [via Nutmeg Nanny]: Feature Fridays

It is Fourth of July and folks will make some amazing patriotic themed foods this weekend.  When this post from Nutmeg Nanny caught my eye last week, I quickly scooped up the recipe for a bridal shower, but then realized a single blueberry on top of this fruity, cheesecake goodness would make a fabulous red, white, and blue treat (without the artificial food colorings).  Take a look, browse a little, and do what the photo suggests. Enjoy!

Check out this version of Cheesecake Strawberries with Chocolate too!

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries with Chocolate Accents

Happy Father’s Day!

Porterhouse Steaks Piled High

Classic Caesar Salad

Plenty of Grilled Squash, Tomatoes, Sweet Onions, Garlic, and Bell Peppers

What will your Father’s Day Menu include?

Ghirardelli Grand Fudge Cake with Coconut-Pecan and Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

German Chocolate is the favored cake of two in our household, but the least favored of two others. We do not indulge in dessert often, birthdays being the exception. In order to honor birthday wishes and still include everyone in a celebratory cake, this “halvsies” cake has become a standard that suits everyone. Ghirardelli Grand Fudge Cake is a fantastic base for the classic Coconut-Pecan Frosting and of course, it marries well with Ghirardelli Buttercream Frosting.

By now I am sure you’ve noticed I am more cook than baker, so it should be no surprise that the photos reveal that my cake fell; it was still absolutely delicious, so that is what we will focus on.  My lack of passion for baking and living at altitude does not help with delicate baked items, but I get by. 😉  Although I only frost half the cake with each one, I do not reduce the frosting recipes—not only is it hard to measure half an egg yolk it is easy to use the leftover frosting for graham cracker treats.

It has been a whirlwind birthday season at our house with four cakes in just 7 weeks, Ghirardelli Grand Fudge Cake with Coconut-Pecan and Chocolate Buttercream Frosting was a delightfully sumptuous finish.

Ghirardelli Grand Fudge Cake

Yield: 2 layer, 9 inch cake
Serves 16
2        cups  all-purpose flour
3/4    cup  Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa
1         teaspoon  baking powder
1         teaspoon  baking soda
1/2     teaspoon  salt
1         cup  butter, softened
1 3/4  cups  sugar
2         teaspoons  vanilla
2         large  eggs
1 1/3   cups  milk

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease and lightly flour two 9-inch round cake pans or place a round of parchment in the bottom of each cake pan and butter the sides. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

Reduce speed to low, and add vanilla and eggs one at a time, scraping bowl after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and milk (starting and ending with the flour mixture), while mixing on low speed. Continue to mix until smooth.

Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of cake comes out clean. Cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

Ghirardelli Grand Fudge Cake with Coconut-Pecan Frosting

Coconut-Pecan Frosting

Frosts tops and sides of two 9″ layers.
1           cup  sugar
1           cup  evaporated milk
1/2       cup  butter
3           whole  egg yolks
1 1/2     cups  flaked coconut
1 1/4     cups  pecans — coarsely chopped
1            teaspoon  vanilla

In 2-quart saucepan, mix sugar, evaporated milk, butter and eggs yolks and cook over medium heat, while stirring, until mixture begins to bubble, approximately 12 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Mix coconut and pecans in a large bowl to break up any clumps of coconut. Pour caramel sauce over pecans and coconut, add vanilla, and stir until it reaches spreading consistency (it will thicken as it cools). Cool completely before frosting cake.

Note: Pecan pieces can be toasted in a 350° oven for 5 minutes until aromatic, before adding to the frosting, if desired.

Ghirardelli Grand Fudge Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Ghirardelli Buttercream Frosting

Frosts tops and sides of two 9″ layers.
6        tablespoons  butter — softened
2 2/3   cups  powdered sugar
1/2       cup  Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa
1/3       cup  milk
1/2       teaspoon  vanilla extract

In a bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix confectioner’s sugar with cocoa.

Blend sugar mixture with butter alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Beat until smooth. Blend in vanilla.

Special Note: For leftover frosting, spread on graham crackers as a filling between two crackers. Place sandwiched grahams into a plastic bag and keep in the freezer. Allow to thaw for only a few minutes and enjoy!

Tacos with Picadillo: Test Kitchen Tuesday

In honor of so many celebrating Cinco de Mayo, I decided to look through my cookbook, The World’s Finest Food for inspiration for Test Kitchen Tuesday this week.  Tacos with Picadillo looked interesting and simple to make—a new twist on an old standby, for sure.  According to on-line sources, picadillo is a traditional Latin American dish, which varies by region. Some recipes include potatoes or carrots, while others favor canned tomatoes or paste. The following recipe from The World’s Finest Food is a fair representation of the dish served as a main course, or as a filling for tacos, empanadas, large chilies, or bell peppers.  I hope you join me in this delicious adventure!

In the next week or so:

1.  Make one of the recipes (posted below)
2.  Leave a comment describing your experience, opinion, adjustments, or suggestions.  ♥ If you do focus on altering it to economize, choose healthier ingredients or techniques, make it gluten-free/allergy sensitive, embellish for entertaining, or incorporate into batch/once-a-month cooking, please mention that too.
3.  Subscribe to comments so you can see what others have done.
4.  If you are feeling especially proud of your creation, snap a photo and send it to me at so it can be included.

Tacos with Picadillo

Want to hear how to pronounce it? Picadillo
Source:  The World’s Finest Food 1994 p. 74
Serves 4
3        tablespoons  oil or lard
1         pound  ground beef
3/4    cup  onion — diced fine
2        tablespoons  dry sherry
1         tablespoon  lime juice
3        whole  plum tomatoes — skinned and chopped
2        whole  poblano pepper — finely chopped
1/3     cup  pimento stuffed olives — sliced
1         teaspoon  capers
1         whole  bay leaf
1/4     cup  raisins
2         cloves  garlic
1/2     teaspoon  cinnamon
1/2     teaspoon  cumin
salt and pepper
12     taco shells

Garnishes: (optional)
cheddar cheese — shredded
black olives — sliced
green onion — chopped
tomato — chopped
lettuce — shredded

In a skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons oil, beef, and onions, and cook over med-high heat until evenly browned. Lower heat, and add the sherry and lime juice. Cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, chilies, olives, capers, bay leaf, and raisins; simmer for another 20 minutes.

Heat the remaining oil in a small pan, add the garlic, cumin, and cinnamon, and toast for 3-4 minutes, then add to the meat with the pepper and salt. Simmer 5-10 minutes. Check the seasoning to adjust as needed.  Serve with warmed taco shells and suggested garnishes.

Painted eggs / Oua vopsite (via Droopi’s everything but the kitchen sink): Feature Fridays

While browsing Friday Potluck this morning, these beautiful eggs caught my attention. I thought they looked like stained glass, reminded of a time when our kids gathered around cups of jewel-colored water or joined friends to make Ukrainian Easter eggs.  I can still see their faces, wide-eyed and ready to witness the transformation from egg to art.  This post by Droopi’s everything but the kitchen sink is not only unique and  beautiful, it is also bilingual—Enjoy!

Easter is coming and because on Black Thursday we always paint the eggs, today I made special time for this.  I guess everybody knows how to paint plain simple eggs (just follow the instructions) but in our family there is a tradition (well, it’s more of an aesthetic thing) to paint the eggs in onion leaves. The procedure is not hard at all, but it requires a little bit of patience. I’ll explain it, step by step how it’s done.Read More

I wasn’t sure about the safety of eating the eggs when using this technique, so I found a few natural and equally beautiful egg coloring techniques.

Dyeing Easter Eggs with Onion Skins

Recipe: Naturally-Dyed Easter Eggs

Recipe: Naturally-Dyed Easter Eggs

Dye Easter Eggs Naturally – A DIY Tutorial

Dye Easter Eggs Naturally – A DIY Tutorial

Have a wonderful Easter — He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!