strawberry lemonade cupcakes

Spring is here! Sort of. And in celebration of the “warmer” weather, and because I offered to bring dessert to Easter dinner, I decided to try to make a strawberry lemonade flavoured cupcake. These cupcakes are light and fluffy, and have just the right zing of lemon to them! The lemon-strawberry buttercream is sweet with just the right amount of lemony tartness.


Fresh Lemon-Strawberry Buttercream

Lemon cupcakes I used my go-to cupcake recipe but added lemon & removed the vanilla.
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
1/2 cup buttermilk
Juice & zest of 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 350*F.

In a medium bowl, add cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together with whisk, and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed about 30 seconds. Add vanilla, oil, lemon juice & zest. Beat.

Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add about half of the flour mixture. Add half of the milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk. Beat until just combined. Scrap down the side of the bowl.

The batter will be thin. Pour batter into a muffin pan prepared with paper liners. Fill liners about 2/3 full.

Bake cupcakes in pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes.

Cool in pan 1-2 minutes, then remove cupcakes from pan (carefully) and finish cooling on a wire rack.

Strawberry Lemon Buttercream
1 1/2 cup fresh strawberries
2 cups unsalted butter
5-6 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tbsp lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
Heavy cream as necessary

Puree the strawberries a blender or using your immersion blender.

Transfer the strawberry puree to a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Add lemon juice & zest. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Stir often and cook for about 20 minutes. Puree should reduce by half. Remove from heat and cool completely. (You can do this step way ahead of time!)

Beat the butter in your electric mixer using your paddle attachment.

Add 1 cup of sugar and beat until just blended.

Add 2 tbsp of puree. Beat until just blended.

Add 2 cups of sugar followed by 2 more tbsp of puree. I ended up using all of the puree.

Add the remaining sugar and beat until you achieve the desired consistency. If the buttercream is too runny,add some sifted sugar. If it’s too dry, add some of the heavy cream, about 1 tbsp at a time.



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peanut, ginger and beef stir fry

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a genuine weak spot for peanuts. Peanut butter, honey roasted peanuts, peanut sauce… You name it? I love it. This is why I often resort to this dinner favourite of mine. It’s got just the right enough amount of peanutty taste, spice and tang.. It doesn’t hurt that the boys really enjoy it, too!

Peanut, Ginger and Beef Stir Fry
3 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp fresh lime juice, or juice from 1 lime
1 tsp sriracha
1 tbsp unpacked brown sugar
3 tbsp peanut butter, crunchy, unsalted
1 cup water
2 tbsp canola oil, split
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp ginger root, minced
12 oz uncooked lean beef round, cut into thin strips
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 medium sweet red pepper, chopped
2 cups uncooked broccoli cut into small florettes
2 tbsp basil, chopped
1 tbsp water
2 tsp cornstarch

Combine the soy sauce, lime juice, sriracha, brown sugar, peanut butter and 1 cup of water until smooth. Set aside.

In another small bowl, mix cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water; set aside.

In a wok, heat 1/2 the canola oil. Cook the garlic and ginger until aromatic. Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Crank up the heat to high and cook the beef until no longer pink. This should take about 2 minutes. Remove from the wok and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium-high and add remaining oil. Cook onions and pepper for about 2 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and cook for another 2 minutes.

Reduce the the heat to medium. Add the sauce and garlic/ginger mixture to the wok and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes.

Add the beef, basil and cornstarch. Cook until the sauce thickens.

Serve over rice or rice noodles.



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do you want to build a snowman?

Do you have kids? Then you know that song. It’s been on repeat in our house for about a month.I think it’s also what inspired my kid to ask for a snowman cake for his 4th birthday last weekend. As all good mothers tend to do, I complied.

To create this snowman cake, I baked the cake in two different-sized stainless steel bowls, sliced the top half off of each, slathered the middles with delicious buttercream and placed the tops back on. I then covered each half in more buttercream and covered it all with fondant. The decorations are all fondant, except for the nose and arms which are fondant mixed with gumpaste. I also formed the arms around some wooden skewers which I stabbed into the sides of the cake. They helped the arms keep their shape and not fall off the edge of the platter.




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raspberry swirl buttermilk pancakes

Moms of older kids will commiserate with me on this one – the time when your kids are finally able so get up and turn the TV on by themselves, granting you a blissful half hour to 45 minutes of extra sleep. I couldn’t get back to sleep this morning, but I lazed in bed checking my email, Facebook & browsing Pinterest. I hit up the recipe section (obviously!) and spotted this beautiful looking recipe

“That looks yummy, I thought to myself. I can do that!” I had all the necessary ingredients and could probably whip up the raspberry sauce while my coffee brewed and I mixed up some buttermilk. And, while I mixed and stirred and pureed the berry mixture, I kept thinking how pretty this would all look once all cooked up…

It started off well enough, although I couldn’t get the swirls just right, I figured the technique out by the fourth pancake. Then came time to flip the pancakes; that’s when the raspberry sauce started pouring out over the edges and burning faster than the pancakes could cook. My frying pan was quickly starting resemble a murder scene of bloody raspberries and massacred pancakes.

I decided to hide all evidence by quickly shovelling the slaughtered pancakes in my mouth as I pulled them out of the pan, so the final picture here looks a lot better than the rest of the meal, those 6 pancakes are pretty much the only ones that turned out half-decent looking!

All this being said, these were delicious and I’d definitely make them again. I’d just leave my expectations of a pretty looking breakfast at the door. Or, better yet, I’ll just drizzle the sauce on the finished pancakes instead, you know, because that would be a thousand times easier!

Raspberry Swirl Buttermilk Pancakes

You can find my buttermilk pancake recipe here

1 cup of frozen raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp cornstarch

Combine all the ingredients in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat. Simmer on low, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender. Pour the sauce into a squeeze bottle.

While making your sauce, whip up your pancake batter.

Spoon your batter into your heated frying pan. Before the batter has time to set, squeeze some of the raspberry sauce into a swirl into the middle of each pancake.

When your pancake starts to bubble and the edges begin to brown, flip and cook until the other side is lightly golden.

Eat the ugly ones and delicately plate the half-decent looking pancakes.



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beef stroganoff

Beef Stroganoff is such a comfort food for me. I have fond memories of my mom making it for us growing up, but I also remember it somehow originating from a can or two of condensed soup. I try to steer clear of the canned soups due to their sodium content, but I did decide to whip this recipe up using conveniently pre-made meatballs. If I wasn’t so rushed, I probably would have used a nice piece of beef tenderloin to make this, but by using the meatballs, I had dinner on the table in less than a half hour. You just can’t beat the convenience in this case.

To come up with this recipe, I read through a few others and mixed and matched various ingredients that sounded like they’d be yummy together. The end result was delicious! The flavours were just right, the perfect balance of rich without being heavy. I even witnessed one of the boys licking their plate clean!

Beef (meatball) Stroganoff
1 package frozen meatballs, prepared as per the cooking instructions
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (the next time I make this I may use shallots instead! I think they would be an excellent alternate ingredient)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp paprika
1 lb white button mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp dry sherry
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
Salt & pepper to taste
Cooked, large egg noodles
Freshly chopped parsley for garnish

In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion & garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with paprika and cook another minute or so.

Add mushrooms and saute until browned and the liquid has evaporated, about 8-10 minutes.

Add sherry and deglaze your pan. Keep cooking until slightly reduced. Add broth & and stir. Simmer for a few minutes until the sauce just covers the mushroom & onion mixture.

Stir in sour cream and add meatballs. Simmer until everything is heated through. Serve over cooked egg noodles and sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy!


I realize you can’t really *see* the mushrooms in this picture, but they’re there. I promise.


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simple bolognese sauce

Pasta bolognese. The meal that will ensure that everyone in the household eats a good hearty meal. It’s all about the basics, isn’t it? I sometimes wonder why I bother with the fancy, complicated stuff sometimes when something as simple as a bowl of pasta with a rich meat sauce makes everyone happy.

I whipped up this lovely version of a simplified bolognese recipe from Giada De Laurentiis – simplified because it uses only ground beef and leaves out the pork, pancetta and wine that usually goes into a bolognese. Although simplified, the taste is still full and rich. We served the pasta on rotini which I find holds the sauce really well.


Simple Bolognese Sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 pound ground chuck beef
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes – I used a 28 oz can of whole San Marzano tomatoes which I crushed in my hands
1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chiffonade
8 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil until almost smoking. Add the onion and garlic and saute over medium heat until the onions become very soft, about 8 minutes.

Add the celery and carrot and saute for 5 minutes.

Turn up heat to high and add the ground beef. Saute, stirring frequently and breaking up any large lumps and cook until meat is no longer pink, about 8 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, parsley and basil and cook over medium low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes. Season to taste and top with parmigiano.




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beef with snow peas

This is, without a doubt, one of my husband’s favourite recipes and, because Mr. Difficult loves this recipe, so do I. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that he’s difficult and won’t eat my cooking, but he rarely raves about a recipe, or goes back for seconds. As he once explained it to me, he eats to satisfy hunger, not for the pleasure of eating (what on earth is wrong with him??? although, my thighs might benefit from that mentality…) I love it because flank steak is probably one of my favourite cuts of meat and the salty & tangy flavours are just plain awesomesauce (yes. I did just say awesomesauce.) Bonus – it only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish!

The Pioneer Woman deserves all the credit for this recipe I discovered it a few years ago, made it frequently and then it appeared to have slipped from my radar. Snow peas were on sale this week, and I absolutely had to try out my brand-spanking new cast iron skillet this weekend. Going through my recipe binder, I spotted this gem. I had some flank steak in the freezer and all the other required ingredients. Beef & snow peas it was! I made a boatload of food, expecting a few lunches out of the meal. It turns out there was only one pretty average-sized portion left over: an overall success!


Beef with Snow Peas
1 1/2 lbs flank steak, sliced very thin and against the grain
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp sherry or cooking sherry
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp minced ginger
8 oz (about 2 cups worth) snow peas, ends trimmed
5 green onions, sliced in 1/2 inch pieces
3 tbsp peanut oil

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Pour about half the liquid over the meat in a separate bowl and toss. Reserve the other half of the liquid.

In a heavy skillet (iron or wok), heat oil over high heat. You want that skillet as hot as possible. Throw in the snow peas and cook, stirring frequently for 45 seconds. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Let your pan get screaming hot again. Add about half your meat mixture to the skillet. Toss in about half of the green onions. Try not to touch or stir your meat for about a minute. Let it get brown and slightly crispy. Turn the meat over and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove your meat to a clean plate.

Add some oil to your pan and allow it to get very hot. Repeat the above with the rest of your meat. After you’ve turned it, add the first batch of meat, the rest of the marinade and the snow peas. Stir and cook for another 30 seconds and turn off the heat. Your sauce will thicken as it sits.

Serve right away over rice and enjoy!




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