Easy Strawberry Cupcake Recipe with Homemade Buttercream Frosting

Diva Entertains Strawberry Cupcake

A terrific baker and cook from the recipe site I belong to directed me to a picture of a white cupcake with a strawberry in the middle when I asked for suggestions for a ‘summer’ cupcake.   I did my own take on it by using a white cake mix that I doctored just a bit (to make the cupcake part easy).  And I decided that my way to make these really *divine* would be to frost them with real, homemade buttercream frosting and then finish them off with a bit of sweetened coconut for pizazz.

Diva Entertains Open Strawberry Cupcake

Let’s first talk about a white cake mix.  It keeps its white color because egg whites, not the yellow yolks, are used.  But it’s the yolks (in my humble opinion) that give most baked goods a rich texture and taste.  So I always add an extra egg yolk to any cake or cupcake recipe I make.  But in this case I simply replace one of the egg whites called for on the package directions with one egg (yolk and egg white).  I find the change in color is minimal if noticeable at all.  Then I also add 1/2 cup of either sour cream or plain, Greek yogurt.  To add moisture and richness.

As for the homemade buttercream frosting….

A real buttercream frosting is made from sugar, egg whites  and unsweetened butter. Often flavors (lemon juice) and extracts (vanilla, for example) are also added.  This type of buttercream frosting is light in texture and absolute divine in taste.   And a pleasure to work with.  And it’s easy to make.  Okay – not as easy as creaming powdered sugar and butter for what most people consider ‘buttercream’, but not that hard.

One thing, however, to take note of is that with this type of buttercream if you are serving it in hot weather (which would be the goal for a summer cupcake:) – keep it inside (best yet, in the refrigerator) until a bit before you are going to serve it.  It doesn’t hold up well in prolonged heat (butter turns to liquid in heat).  Serving these cold is an absolutely delicious treat!

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Pork Chops with Blueberry Sauce

Diva Entertains Blueberry Pork Chops

I love blueberries!  Most people think of them as a breakfast fruit or a dessert fruit – I sure did.  But then I came across this recipe for pork chops with a blueberry sauce and I just had to give it a try.  The recipe caught my attention because the ‘sweet’ was also tempered with Dijon mustard and lemon juice.

The recipe is very easy to make and the sauce can easily be made a day or two ahead of time.

Grilled Pork Chops with Blueberry Sauce (Cuisine at Home, June 2010)

Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice

For the Pork Chops

  • 4 bone in pork chops ( 4 to 6 oz. each)
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high.  Brush grill grate with oil.
  2. Saute shallots and jalapeno in oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat until soft, about 2 minutes.  Add blueberries, vinegar, brown sugar, Dijon, garlic powder, and salt; simmer until sauce thickens, 2 – 3 minutes.
  3. Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor; pulse until pureed.  Return sauce to pan over medium heat.  Stir in lemon juice; simmer sauce 1-2 minutes more, stirring often.  Remove sauce from heat; set aside.
  4. Season pork with salt and pepper.  Grill pork according to your preferred level of doneness; typicallly 4 – 6 minutes per side depending on the thickness of your chops.  Remove pork from grill and tent with foil; let rest 5 minutes.
  5. Serve pork with sauce on the side or drizzled over each chop.  If desired, brush some of the sauce over pork during grilling.

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Spinach Strawberry Salad w/ Honey-Peanut Dressing

Diva Entertains Strawberry and Spinach Salad

This spinach strawberry salad recipe is a snap to make.  Strawberries and spinach are the only salad ingredients but the heavenly honey-peanut dressing elevates this from simple to sublime!

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Honey-Peanut Dressing

Serves 6 – 8

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup salted peanuts
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. cider vinegar
  • freshly ground pepper (optional)*
  • 8 cups baby spinach
  • 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
  1. Blend first 6 ingredients in a blender or food processor until well blended but with bits of peanuts still showing.
  2. Arrange spinach and strawberries on a plate and drizzle with the dressing.  (Or you can put the spinach and salad in a large bowl and add the dressing to it.  Toss and serve.)

*I like to add a bit of fresh ground pepper to the honey peanut dressing.

Delicious, Moist Cornbread Recipe

Diva Entertains Corn BreadMy mother, who is a fabulous cook,  has been making this recipe for years.  And so have I.  It is so much moister than the cornbreads I’ve had when eating in restaurants – the latter always seem to disappoint.  But this moist cornbread recipe won’t.  It only takes minutes to mix and no need for beaters or a stand mixer; simply mix by hand.

This recipe easily doubles.  If you decide to make a double batch, bake it in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan.  You can even freeze the left overs!

Delicious, Moist Cornbread

Makes one 11″ x 7″ pan of cornbread

  • 1 (8.5 oz) pkg. corn muffin mix (I use Jiffy)
  • 1 (8 oz) can of cream style corn, (drain partially but leave some liquid)
  • 1 (8 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 1 (8 oz) container sour cream
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter (I prefer unsalted)
  • 2 large eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Stir together all ingredients and pour mixture into a greased 11″ x 7″ baking dish.   Bake for approximately 35 minutes or until top is lightly golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  3. Serve and enjoy!  (I told you it was easy!)

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Jicama Orange Salad – So Refreshing

Diva Entertains Orange-Jicama Salad

I had never had jicama* before until a friend served this jicama orange salad.  It was then that I realized I had really been missing on something delicious.   The salad is crunchy, sweet and refreshing.  And the salad contains no oil whatsoever.  Best if made with juicy oranges.  If your oranges don’t exude much juice, add 2 tablespoon of orange juice to the salad and mix well.

Jicama Orange Salad (Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, 1995)

Serves 4-6

  • 4 navel oranges, peel and pith cut away with a serrated knife and sections cut free from membranes (about 2 cups total), reserving the juice.  (If there isn’t much juice – add 2 Tbsp. to salad.)
  • 12 ounces jícama, peeled and cut into 2- by 1/2- by 1/4-inch sticks
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced thin lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • toasted pecans, chopped (optional)
  1. In a large bowl gently stir together all ingredients except pecans.  At this point, salad can be made up to one day in advance.  Keep covered and chilled.
  2. To serve, sprinkle each serving with pecans.

*Jicama: A crisp, sweet root vegetable used raw in salads and as crudités or cooked in stew.

Peach Blueberry Pie in the Best Pie Crust

Diva Entertains Peach Blueberry Pie

I made this  pie for the July 4th weekend and friends and family swooned over it!  The filling is ridiculously easy (well, aside from peeling and cutting all of the peaches).  And it is hands-down the easiest and best pie crust I’ve ever made. In fact – this blog post was really going to be just about making a great pie crust.  But then the filling turned out to be so darn delicious that it deserved to be recognized to!

This pie crust recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated magazine and is titled “Foolproof Pie Dough”.   Don’t be put off by the vodka in dough crust.  Its necessary for the amazing texture of the crust and it imparts NO flavor once cooked.

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Delicious Asparagus Appetizer – Bet You Can’t Eat Just One!

Diva Entertains Asparagus and Cheese Appetizer

To be honest, I was given this recipe 15 years ago by a close friend who raved about it.  But being a bit of a food snob back them (I’m way over that:) I disregarded it because it called for white sandwich bread, rolled thin, to wrap around the asparagus (along with cheese and Dijon mustard).   I am not too proud to admit that I was a fool to do so.  Because last week I gave it a try and it was absolutely delicious.  And I’m usually pretty careful about what I eat but I consumed 3 of these little appetizers within a matter of minutes.

The only true key to success for this is to monitor these wrapped asparagus appetizers as they bake.  Too little time and they are soggy from the melted butter, too long and they are burnt.  But if you watch them and turn them as needed, out of your oven will come these delightful, golden appetizers that will win rave reviews from family and friends.

Asparagus Appetizer

12 rolls, 4 to 6 portions

  • 12 pieces white sandwich bread
  • 12 asparagus spears, not too thin
  • Dijon mustard
  • 6 slices swiss cheese squares*
  • 3 Tbsp. melted butter, preferably unsalted.
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Remove crusts from bread slices.  Using a rolling pin, roll as thin as possible. (They don’t roll out all that much.)  Cut cheese slices in half.
  3. Cut asparagus spears to approximately the length of a slice of bread.  Put spears in microwave on high for 35 seconds.
  4. Spread Dijon mustard very thinly to cover one side of bread slice.  Lay one piece of Swiss cheese atop the bread slice near an edge, then place one asparagus on top of the cheese. Roll the bread up firmly.  Brush all sides with the melted butter and lay, seam side down, on a baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 6 minutes and start checking for browning on the bread wrap.  Once golden, turn wrapped asparagus over so the that side browns.  Watch carefully – the second side takes much less time to brown than the first side.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

*The size of your Swiss cheese is usually dependent whether you buy it at the supermarket deli (squares) or refrigerated section (larger rectangle sized).  If the latter you will only need 3 slices.

Grandma Joanie’s Flank Steak

Diva Entertains Flank SteakHistory:  Growing up this was my mother’s (Joan Ravin) flank steak recipe.  The one we loved and clamored for.  It was an exciting day in the Ravin household when we had it for dinner.  And then came the grandchildren (now ages 16 – 27).  The recipe soon became their all-time-favorite.  And was then known only as “Grandma Joanie’s Flank Steak”.

My mother always made it with pancake syrup which is still my preferred way of making it.  However, you can use pure maple syrup if you would prefer.  We like to cook ours rare to medium-rare.  But whatever level of doneness you like your steak, served with this marinade, it will be absolutely scrumptious.  Thanks mom!

Grandma Joanie’s Flank Steak

  • 3/4 cups pancake syrup or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • dash of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. fresh, minced garlic
  • 2 lb. flank steak
  1. Mix all ingredients in a ziplock bag or large dish.  Add steak.  Marinate overnight.
  2. Heat grill.  Remove steak from marinade.  Discard marinade.  Grill to desired doneness.
  3. Slice thinly against the grain.  Serve and enjoy!

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Diva Entertains Chicken with Cilantro Sauce

This easy yet delicious recipe is a cinch to make.  You reserve part of the chicken marinade for the sauce,  add cilantro and then puree it in a blender.  The sauce is so visually rich – your plate  looks amazing! (Tastes that way too!)

Lime Cilantro Chicken (adapted from a Womansday.com,  June 2010)

Serves 4

  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. minced jalapeno pepper*
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1.5 Tbsp. sugar
  • up to 12 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4″ – 1/3″ thickness
  • 1/2 cup cilantro

  1. Combine oil, lime juice, orange juice, garlic, jalapeno pepper and salt in a medium bowl.  Transfer 1 cup of this mixture to a ziplock bag and add the sugar; seal bag and turn a few times to mix.  Reserve the remaining lime juice mixture (about 2/3 cups).  Add chicken breasts to the ziplock, turn to coat chicken.  Refrigerate chicken and reserved marinade, separately, overnight.  Occasionally turn the ziplock bag with the chicken the next day.
  2. Brush grill with oil or coat with nonstick grilling spray.  Heat outdoor grill or indoor pan (that’s what I used) over medium-high heat.
  3. Put reserved lime juice mixture and cilantro in blender.  Blend until smooth.
  4. Remove chicken breasts from bag (discard liquid in bag).  Grill chicken 2-4 minutes per side (if pounded thin), turning once, until nicely browned and grilled through.  Remove from grill.
  5. Serve hot or at room temperature.  Serve with the sauce drizzled on each breast.

*If spicy isn’t your thing you can leave this ingredient out.