My daughter recently had a camp out with a few friends in our backyard. They slept in a giant, 14-person tent. What fun! 🙂 The camping was combined with another event on their summer bucket list- a “dip-night.” (inspired by TikTok 😉 )
The girls each contributed a different dip, savory or sweet, to create the feast. We made this Mexican layer dip and served it with tortilla chips and Trader Joe’s corn dippers. The recipe was adapted from ThePioneerWoman.com. I loved that her version incorporated warm beans as the base of the dip. It was an easy crowd-pleaser.
1 can refried beans (I used Trader Joe’s Fat Free Refried Beans)
hot sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula, to taste (I omitted it for this crowd)
1 can diced green chilies (I used Trader Joe’s mild green chilies)
ground cumin, to taste
3/4 to 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (mild or sharp)
tortilla chips (and/or other corn chips), for serving
Begin by heating the refried beans in a small pan over medium-low heat.
Add one or two dashes of hot sauce, if using, and a small can of undrained diced green chilies. Stir well.
Sprinkle the bean-chile mixture with a little bit of ground cumin. Stir to incorporate.
Spread the beans on the bottom of a glass bowl or high-sided or wide serving dish.
Sprinkle the shredded cheddar evenly over the top.
Next, dollop the sour cream over the cheese. Spread it into a single layer, as much as possible, being careful not to disturb the cheese underneath.
The next layer is the guacamole. (I used my favorite guacamole recipe (link above) using 2 avocados and garlic-chipotle salsa. This time, I omitted our traditional add-ins of chopped tomatoes and red onions.)
Next, sprinkle an even layer of shredded Monterey Jack cheese over the guacamole.
Top with a generous layer of Pico de Gallo.
Sprinkle chopped black olives over the top, if using.
Microwave an ear of fresh corn for 1 minute on high. When cool enough to handle, place upright in a bowl and slice of the kernels. Sprinkle the kernels over the top as the final layer.
Garnish with jalapeños and cilantro, if desired. Serve with tortilla chips.
Every year, we make a double batch of strawberry shortcake cookies to share. This year, I had the intention of sharing this cake as well, but…oh my! We ate the entire cake (well, almost) in one sitting. Oops.
My husband said that it was one of his “favorites” and my son described it as “like our homemade strawberry ice cream- but warm.” ❤ It was slightly crispy on the outside, moist on the inside, and the strawberry filling oozed just perfectly.
The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Nigella Lawson. I incorporated whole wheat pastry flour, unsalted butter, coarse salt, used homemade strawberry-vanilla bean jam in the filling, and modified the baking time.
Although similar to one of our favorites, warm strawberry crumb cake, it was different enough for me to justify indulging in both this strawberry season. 🙂
My family really embraces strawberry season. We can’t get enough freshly picked Long Island berries! 🙂 After making our essential Strawberry-Vanilla Bean Jam, I made this super moist, coarse-textured snack cake which incorporated my special jam.
I baked the cake a day in advance and served it for dessert with homemade Fresh Strawberry Gelato. Yes, it was over the top! We ate the leftovers for breakfast. In retrospect, although it is sweet enough to be a dessert, I think that I would serve it for breakfast, or as a special snack with tea or coffee, next time. It was a wonderful breakfast- such a treat.
This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Sarah Jampel. I modified the baking time and used homemade jam. The jam sinks to the bottom of the cake and, with the granulated sugar coating, forms a crispy, caramelized crust. Yum.
Yield: One 13×9-inch sheet cake
8 to 10 oz strawberries, hulled, thinly sliced lengthwise
238 g (1 cup plus 3 T) granulated sugar, divided, plus more for pan
1 tsp Kosher salt, plus more
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan (or use cooking spray for pan)
Gently toss strawberries, 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar, and a pinch of coarse salt in a medium bowl. Let sit, stirring occasionally, until ready to use.
Grease a 13×9-inch metal baking pan with oil or cooking spray. Line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on 2 long sides.
Grease parchment with oil or cooking oil spray. Generously sprinkle pan and parchment with sugar, tilting to coat pan in an even layer; tap out excess.
Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, 200 g (1 cup) sugar, and 1 teaspoon coarse salt in a medium bowl.
Whisk eggs, egg yolks, sour cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla in a large bowl until well combined.
Add dry ingredients to sour cream mixture and whisk gently to combine.
Using a spatula, gradually fold in 3/4 cup oil until batter is smooth and homogenous with all of the oil incorporated.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.
Stir the strawberry jam to make more fluid. Using a small spoon, dollop jam onto surface. (I made 36 small dollops over the surface of the cake.) Using a butter knife or small offset spatula, gently swirl jam into batter.
Arrange reserved strawberries on top of batter in even rows, touching at widest points. (You may have extra sliced berries; reserve for another use.) See note.
Sprinkle all over with remaining 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar.
Bake cake until risen and deeply bronzed with no damp spots in the middle, the sides begin to pull away from the pan, and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes in a convection oven or up to 40–45 minutes in a standard oven.
Note: Because the strawberries will shrink and sink a bit during baking (how much depends on their size and sweetness), make sure they’re placed shoulder to shoulder on top of the batter. (My design didn’t hold up very well during the baking process but no one seemed to mind.)
Do Ahead: Cake can be made 4 days ahead. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and store at room temperature.
My entire family looks forward to my husband’s birthday feast. It typically involves a lot of comfort food like fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. 🙂 We always have his favorite Vanilla Bean Cheesecake as our celebratory dessert.
When my food blog friend Jess@Cooking is My Sport posted Cornmeal Sage Chicken Biscuits, I knew that my husband would absolutely love them. My first thought was to serve them on Valentine’s Day but then I realized that they would be perfect for his birthday dinner. Jess is an amazing cook and baker but most of all I must say that she is a complete master of biscuits. I learned many new techniques from her post in order to make biscuits thick enough to create a sandwich. Flaky and amazing! I also loved that she incorporated cornmeal in both the biscuits and the seasoned flour that is used to coat the fried chicken. This recipe also made all of us fans of Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute.
I served these fried chicken biscuits with classic macaroni and cheese and green salad dressed with Icebox Buttermilk Dressing. The chicken biscuit recipe was adapted from CookingisMySport.com. I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs, modified the proportions, cut the biscuits into squares, and omitted the topping. My daughter declared it was the best birthday feast ever. 🙂
Yield: Serves 12 to 14
For the Cornmeal & Sage Biscuits:
Yield: approximately 14 2-inch biscuits
5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tsp coarse salt
2 T baking powder
2 tsp ground sage
1 T savory spice mix (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
12 T (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, frozen
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk, plus more if necessary
For the Fried Chicken Thighs:
Yield: about 16 to 18 pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
4 tsp baking powder
4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 heaping tsp savory spice mix (I used Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
2 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 cups buttermilk
8 to 9 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds), trimmed, halved crosswise, patted dry
8 cups vegetable oil
hot sauce, for serving, optional (we used Chipotle Cholula)
bread and butter pickles, for serving, optional
To Make the Cornmeal & Sage Biscuits:
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cornmeal, coarse salt, baking powder, sugar, ground sage and the seasoning mix.
Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the butter directly into the dry ingredients; stir with a fork.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; add the sour cream. Using a fork, incorporated it into the dry ingredients until it forms thick clumps.
Make another well in the center of the dry ingredients; add the buttermilk. Use a large fork and a large rubber spatula to stir the mixture together. If it seems a little dry you may add the additional buttermilk, just until it forms a shaggy dough. (I added 1 3/4 cups of buttermilk.)
Sprinkle a pastry mat, wooden cutting board, or a clean, smooth countertop with flour. (I used a silpat baking mat.)
Turn the dough out onto the floured surface and pat a few times with your hands until it loosely holds together. (Don’t knead it too much or the warmth in your palms will melt the butter and cause the biscuits to be tough.)
Use a bench scraper (or a large sharp knife) to divide the dough in half. Roughly shape each half into a square.
Stack one of the halves on top of the other and use a rolling pin to roll it together into one mass. Repeat this process 4-5 more times before patting it into one final rectangle. (This is a process of layering so that the biscuits will bake flaky.) (I formed a 9×7-inch rectangle, about 2-inches thick.)
Tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
Preheat oven to 425°. (I set my oven to convection.) Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place a shallow pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.
Sprinkle your work surface with flour and unwrap the biscuit dough out onto it.
Using a bench scraper (or very sharp knife), trim the edges of the rectangle. (I trimmed it to form a 6×8-inch rectangle.)
Using a biscuit cutter or a knife, cut the dough into rounds or squares about 2″ each. You can recut the leftover dough into new biscuits, just try not to handle it too much. (I cut my dough into 12 2-inch squares and reformed the trimmed edges into 2 additional 2-inch squares.)
Place the cut biscuits on the parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet, placing them close to each other (it will help them rise higher).
Place the tray into the freezer for about 15 minutes.
Spray the top of the biscuits with cooking spray.
Bake until golden brown, 15 to 22 minutes, covering them with foil if they brown too quickly. (I baked mine for 22 minutes total, covering them with foil after 20 minutes.)
To Make the Fried Chicken Thighs:
Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper, foil, or plastic wrap on the bottom; place a wire rack on top.
Line a second rimmed baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels; place a wire rack on top.
Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, cayenne, spice mix, salt, and black pepper in a bowl.
Pour buttermilk into a separate bowl.
Working with one piece at a time, toss chicken in flour mixture, dip in buttermilk, then toss again in flour mixture. Transfer to the wire rack over the wax paper/foil/plastic wrap-lined baking sheet to allow batter to set, about 2-3 minutes.
Repeat dipping process until all of the chicken is double-coated.
Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil to 350 degrees. (I used a large stainless steel Dutch oven fitted with a thermometer. I found it much easier to control the temperature of the oil in this pot versus using a cast iron skillet as I have in the past.)
Working in batches of no more than 3 or 4 pieces at a time, use tongs to place the chicken in the hot oil. Using a slotted spoon, turn it occasionally and cook until each piece is golden brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side. (I tried to cook pieces similar in size at the same time.)
Using a slotted spoon or clean tongs, remove chicken to the wire rack over the paper towel-lined sheet pan. At this point, use an instant read thermometer to confirm that the chicken is cooked, having an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
To assemble: Split a biscuit in half (it will have a natural breaking point) and assemble the sandwich with chicken topped with pickles, as desired. Serve with hot sauce to pass at the table, as desired.
Much to my husband’s displeasure, another birthday tradition is to document the many seasonal feathered visitors who arrive to celebrate with us. Like clockwork, the night heron arrived on his birthday morning while I was making pancakes. 🙂
My daughter and I made these cheerful cupcakes together. She is obsessed with sprinkles! 🙂 She wanted to give them to her friends as a little surprise. We put one in each of their mailboxes with a note. ❤
The cupcake recipe is from The Magnolia Bakery Handbook- A Complete Guide for the Home Baker: Baking Made Easy with 150 Foolproof Recipes & Techniques by Bobbie Lloyd. The recipe is adapted from their recipe for “Everyone’s Favorite Vanilla Cake.”
The vanilla frosting recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes, via Martha Stewart.com. We used fine sea salt and weighed the ingredients when possible for both the cake and frosting. They were moist and tasty- Fun too!
For the Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes:
Yield: 24 cupcakes
3 cups (345g/12.2oz) cake flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup (240g/8.5oz) whole milk (I used 1%)
1/2 cup (115g/4oz) sour cream
1 cup (2 sticks/226g/8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cup (300g/10.6oz) granulated sugar
1 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup (130g/4.6oz) confetti sprinkles, plus more for decoration, if desired (We used rainbow sprinkles)
For the Fluffy Vanilla Frosting:
Yield: frosting for 24 cupcakes (about 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
confetti or rainbow sprinkles, for decoration, optional
To Make the Vanilla Confetti Cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 325F. (I set my oven to convection.) Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk and sour cream until no lumps remain. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl.
With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add the egg whites, a little at a time, beating until incorporated before adding more. Once the egg whites have been incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape down the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl.
With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix for about 15 seconds, just until incorporated.
Scrape down the paddle and the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the sprinkles and mix for 20 to 30 seconds, until smooth and combined.
Using a scoop or a 1/4-cup dry measuring cup, evenly ration the batter into the prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 20 to 24 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched and a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean.
Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.
To Make the Fluffy Vanilla Frosting & To Decorate the Cupcakes:
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
Reduce speed to medium. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed; after every two additions, raise speed to high and beat 10 seconds to aerate frosting, then return to medium-high. This process should take about 5 minutes. Frosting will be very pale and fluffy.
Add salt and vanilla; beat until frosting is smooth. The frosting can be tinted with food coloring, if desired.
To decorate, fill a piping bag with desired tip and pipe onto cupcakes. Top with additional sprinkles, if desired.
Note: If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 10 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.
My kids haven’t had a snow day in a couple of years, but today we had our second snow day of the season. We were very happy for the break from reality. 🙂 Everyone slept in this morning and then my daughter made this special breakfast. ❤
These baked donuts were quite a treat- I had to post them right away. The recipe was adapted from bunsinmyoven.com. They were very light, tender, and moist. The batter would also be great to bake in mini-bundt pans. Next time!
I’m looking forward to another indulgent breakfast tomorrow morning… We just found out that my kids have another snow day! 🙂
Yield: 12 mini donuts
For the Donuts:
1cup all-purpose flour
1/2cup granulated sugar
1/4cupcocoa powder, sifted
1/4cupmini chocolate chips
1/4teaspoon coarse salt
1/2teaspoon purevanilla extract
6tablespoonssour cream or Greek yogurt
1/4cupmilk (preferably whole milk)
For the Glaze:
1 1/2cupspowdered sugar
1/4cupmilk (preferably whole milk)
1teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of coarse salt
To Make the Donuts:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection. Coat two mini-donut pans with cooking oil spray.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
Whisk in the mini chocolate chips.
In a small bowl, using a hand-held mixer, beat together the vanilla, egg, sour cream, milk, and oil.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined.
Using a small cookie scoop or spoon, distribute the dough into two greased mini-donut pans.
Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until the tops spring back when you touch them and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs.
Let the donuts cool in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack.
Let the donuts cool completely before glazing.
To Make the Glaze:
Place a piece of plastic wrap, parchment paper, wax paper, or newspaper under a wire rack to catch drips of glaze.
In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
Dunk the donuts in the glaze to fully coat and place on the wire rack to set, about 5 minutes.
These New York crumb cake muffins have a few qualities that elevate them a step above others. They not only incorporate lemon zest and browned butter, they also have additional crunchy crumbs hidden inside each muffin. Genius.
The recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used the zest of an entire lemon and modified the baking time for a convection oven. They were quite large but baked perfectly in a standard muffin tin. Great.
Yield: 12 muffins
For the Topping:
1/2cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 1/3cups/165 grams all-purpose flour
1/2cup/110 grams dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4teaspoon ground allspice or cardamom
1/4teaspoon fine sea salt
For the Batter:
3/4cup/180 milliliters sour cream
2teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4teaspoon almond extract
1/2teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (I used the zest of 1 large lemon)
1 1/2cups/190 grams all-purpose flour
2/3cup/135 grams granulated sugar
3/4teaspoon baking soda
3/4teaspoon baking powder
1/2teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into 1-inch slices and softened
Heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection, and line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.
Make the Topping:
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter, then let it simmer until the foam on top falls to the bottom of the pot and turns brown, 4 to 6 minutes. It will smell nutty when it’s ready. Immediately pour butter into a small bowl to keep it from getting any browner, and let cool for 5 minutes.
Whisk together flour, sugar, spices and salt in a medium bowl.
Pour in the brown butter and stir, pinching the mixture together, until crumbs form. Set aside.
Make the Batter:
Whisk together sour cream, eggs, vanilla, almond extract and lemon zest in a mixing bowl.
In a large bowl, using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld electric mixer, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt until combined, about 10 seconds.
Add softened butter and beat for 20 seconds to work it into the flour.
Add egg mixture and continue beating until the batter is very smooth, about 1 minute.
Sprinkle a scant tablespoon of the topping crumbs into the bottom of each muffin liner. (I used a cookie scoop.)
Spoon the batter on top of the crumbs, dividing it evenly. (I used a large cookie scoop- plus a little bit extra- per well.
Bake muffins for 5 minutes to firm up the tops so the crumbs don’t sink into the batter. Remove muffin pan from the oven and lower heat to 350 degrees.
Sprinkle the remaining crumbs on top of each muffin. (I used 1 tablespoon per muffin, rationed with a cookie scoop.)
Continue to bake until the muffins are springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 17 on convection or up to 30 minutes longer.
Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.
Use an offset spatula or butter knife to lift the muffins out of the pan. Finish cooling muffins on a rack.