Lemon and Strawberry Cream Mini Cupcakes

When I started off with this mini cupcake idea I was inspired by all the cherry blossoms in the area. I wanted to make mini cupcakes that looked like the puffs of pink and white flowers all around DC. Then I got strep throat  — then I played tennis because I was feeling better (even though I was warned I could relapse) — then I felt sick again and half assed my cupcakes.

The plan was angel food cake so they would be totally white and spongy, but I ended up using the lemon cake mix box in the pantry instead because I started feeling tired and lazy. “Yellow is okay too” I thought. Then I took out the raspberries that I had planned to add to a cream-cheese frosting. I thought the dark raspberry color was perfect and the little buds of berry that didn’t burst would look like the centers of the blossoms. Turns out they went bad in the fridge after just three days. Did you know raspberries go bad really quickly? So we went with frozen strawberries instead.

*1 box lemon cake mix *2 mini cupcake pans *1 box mini cupcake liners *8 oz. cream-cheese *1 stick of unsalted butter *2 cups powdered sugar *10 frozen strawberries thawed 

They taste good. They look pretty, but they weren’t the intended recipe or outcome. I frosted enough for the photos and then felt even worse… I needed to lay down. Currently there are about two dozen un frosted mini lemon cupcakes in my fridge. Sigh…

*Mix cake batter according to box directions. Use only one teaspoon of batter per cupcake liner (they will rise dramatically) Each batch (two pans) takes about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. For the frosting, mix/whip room temperature butter and cream-cheese in a standing mixer until it it is soft and incorporated. Add the sugar one cup at a time until it is also incorporated.  Add the thawed berries last. Stop mixing when you get your desired color. Sweeten with more sugar if necessary (the trick is to taste it constantly!). I bought these disposable frosting bags and tips from Wilton so I can do fancier things. But those little “cherry blossom” dots take forever!

UPDATE: Nick frosted the rest of my cupcakes for me last night… Now that’s love.

What I Love about This Sunday

1. It’s truly Spring this weekend. I love the pink buds on the trees outside our apartment. It won’t be long until they bloom into leaves.

2. It started off gloomy today, but it’s sunny and about 70 degrees right now. We played tennis for the first time this season. Honey even got to run free off her leash in the court since it’s fenced in. She chased the ball after ever serve. 

3. On the way to the dog park earlier we stopped for Dunkin Donuts. Nick got a strawberry frosted donut with rainbow sprinkles (If I was doing P90X with him I might have gotten one too). I got an iced coffee. Soon it will be only iced coffees. I can’t drink it warm in the summer.

4. Honey hurt her leg last weekend and had to stay off of it. You have no idea how hard it is for a puppy to not play. We took her to the dog park for the first time in two weeks today. She ran around like a maniac and loved it. (And she played tennis as I mentioned above!) To top it off she got a Frosty Paw when we got back. (doggie ice cream) Tired and happy Honey.

5. Nick got me this “Spring bouquet” this week since I wasn’t feeling well, I put it out on the porch today in the sun and it looks lovely. I am about to make some cupcakes that I will post soon, AND buy some Spring dresses online (thanks Mom!) It really doesn’t get much better than this.

Strawberry Butter

I have some kind of intense sore throat issue going on right now. This morning I had no voice, it progressed to a light rasp and now we are back to almost no voice (it’s a bit painful as well, I’m praying it passes).  I was a bit hazy on my way to work and drove right past my exit. Then I dropped my phone getting out of my car and cracked the touch screen. Needless to say as soon as I spoke in the office — and they heard the rasp — the Lysol came out and I was sent home.

Things got a little better while I worked from home with Honey Bear at my side. She was so glad to see me. Later we decided to made a snack for Nick. It was really easy and could be an impressive housewarming gift or something fun to serve at brunch.

*2 sticks unsalted butter *half cup powdered sugar (or more depending on the sweetness desired *teaspoon salt *About 6 frozen strawberries

I let the strawberries thaw a bit and made sure the butter was at room temperature. Plop the butter sticks (cut in smaller pieces) into a food processor with the powdered sugar and pulse until it seems fully incorporated. Add teaspoon of salt (really boosts the flavor), 4 berries and pulse again until butter becomes soft and pink in color. Add the remaining berries and pulse just a couple times to leave some bright red berry chunks.

In a pretty sealed glass jar with a ribbon this would be a sweet gift to bring to a dinner party, or to a relative. (I may make some and bring it to Nick’s family around Easter time) Nick used it tonight to prepare his grilled cheese. Fantastic flavor! Be careful though, you must remember this is BUTTER. It’s hard not to want to eat with a spoon.

Co Co Sala, Chinatown Washington DC

Saturday was my third trip to Co Co Sala, a restaurant and “chocolate boutique” located in the Chinatown area of Washington, DC. While my visit wasn’t the best experience this particular evening, service and food in the past has been outstanding. Overall I would still recommend that every female in the DC area check out Co Co Sala with her girl friends at least once. It’s the perfect starting point for a posh “girls night out.” Even if it’s just for drinks or dessert.

Their menu consists of “small bites” and “sips” (hence the girls night, my man doesn’t do “small bites”) and their cocktails are fun to look at while remaining flavorful. I had their well known Co Cojito.  Others ordered “fetish,” strawberry infused vodka and foam served with a chocolate covered strawberry, (looked like a strawberry daiquiri).

The “Nouveau American” menu offered several choices for my vegetarian friends as well as small plates with “surf” and small plates with “turf.” Also cheese and charcuterie plates. We were particularly happy with the sweet and sour cauliflower with fried spinach. The cauliflower tasted amazingly like chicken while the spinach was packed with flavor and it’s fried texture was really unique. We had two orders.

The tuna tartare was aesthetically pleasing and tasted good as well. It was served with a wasabi sauce that could have used a little bit more of a kick but I still really liked it.

I tried the cheese plate this time and was not impressed. I didn’t see any signature twist. I could have ordered this anywhere, and honestly it might have been better there. I should have stuck with my “go to” Co Co Sala order. I recommended the mac and cheese served with a piece of chocolate covered bacon. Creamy and unique. Don’t be afraid of the chocolate covered bacon. It will become a fast favorite.

The ambiance at Co Co sala is trendy and lounge like with attractive servers in red dresses. Previously they have always been attentive and very nice. While I can’t say the same for our waitress Saturday night, Im sure it was just an off day. Unfortunately this may be why we didn’t stay for dessert. (That might have been the best part too, damn.) 

Tip: Make reservations ahead of time, if you have a party of more than six you can’t reserve a table after 5pm. (This is why I say it’s an ideal starting point for a night out) To be honest Co Co Sala would be enjoyed best with a smaller group.

Head over to Zaytinya for cocktails after Co Co Sala,  it’s two blocks over and one of the best restaurants in DC (owned by the renowned José Andrés). If you are a fan of Top Chef, you know that Mike Isabella –who made it to the final two in this seasons Top Chef All Stars — was their former head chef.

Melon and Prosciutto with a Honey Balsamic Dip

I was looking for a fresh snack for my blog today when I saw that cantaloupes were buy one get one free. I instantly thought prosciutto and melon but I wanted to give it my own twist. That’s where the sticks come in.

*1 Melon (cantaloupe or honeydew) cubed or balled *1/4 lb. Fresh from the deli section prosciutto (not prepackaged!) *1/4 cup honey *2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

I love this flavor combination, (salty and sweet is “so Michelle”) but it’s too hard to eat. The melon shoots out of the tougher textured prosciutto when you use a fork and knife or slides out when hand held. Instead of wrapping the melon with the Italian cured meat, tear it and fold it up into bite sized pieces then place it on toothpicks or mini skewers with the melon. This way you get one perfect bite each time.

The dip is a simple combination of sweet balsamic vinegar and honey whisked together. A spoon or fork won’t be enough to mix it, you need a whisk. Nick actually really dislikes cantaloupe (he tried some just to be sure and made a face I have never seen him make before and spit it out!), but he loved the dip that went with this dish. He took off the melon and dipped the prosciutto in it alone. It’s so simple but tasty.