Cupcakes 103: 14 Ways to Decorate Cupcakes Like a Pro

It’s the final installment of my three-part series on cupcakes! Are you excited? I’m excited.

Cupcakes 103: 14 Ways to Decorate Cupcakes Like a ProPictured: Butterscotch Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

We baked great cupcakes in Cupcakes 101, learned frosting techniques in Cupcakes 102, and now we’re on to the main event – the decorations! Decorating cupcakes is SO SUPER FUN, and the decoration will determine the level of “oohs” and “aahs” you get when people first see your cupcakes. The cake itself will wow them as soon as they take a bite, but it’s whatever creation you’ve placed on top that will initially grab their attention.

I chose not to include any decorations involving fondant, gum paste, or modeling chocolate, because those techniques can be complicated and time-consuming. Also, most home cooks don’t have those techniques in their repertoires. My goal with this list was to offer quick, easy-to-make cupcake toppers that will wow a crowd without sucking up all of your free time.

Here are 14 of my favorite ways to top a cupcake with a “wow” factor! [Read more…]

Cupcakes 101: 10 Tips to Bake the Perfect Cupcake

Ok – I’ve been working on this cupcake series for a LONG. LONG. LONG. time. And I’ve been eating my weight in cupcakes in order to get all of the recipes tested and all of the photos taken. I know, I know, WHAT a sacrifice. It’s all for you guys. You’re totally welcome.

10 Tips to Bake the Perfect CupcakePictured: Pumpkin Ale Cupcakes with Maple Pumpkin Ale Frosting

Let me start by saying that I was really lucky. My grandma (a wedding cake baker) started teaching me to decorate cakes from the time I was a kiddo, and when I wasn’t learning from her I was in the kitchen with my mom (a caterer) so I was pretty much covered on the learn-to-cook front. I don’t remember ever seeing a can of cream-of-whatever in our house, and homemade pizzas and pastas were totally normal. So were homemade cupcakes (YUM).

[Read more…]

Tequila Battered Onion Rings with Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce

A few weeks ago, Kyle had a super brilliant idea. And it was this: TEQUILA WEEK. After the super success of Mac and Cheese Week, I’d been wanting to attack another recipe theme for a few months but went back and forth a billion times trying to decide on what the theme should be. Fortunately, Kyle is smart. And came up with this rock star plan. And selflessly offered to taste test all Tequila Week recipe contenders for me. What a guy.

Tequila Battered Onion Rings with Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce

But seriously. WELCOME TO TEQUILA WEEK, FRIENDS!

Tequila Battered Onion Rings With Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce

It’s going to be amazing. I went through a whole bottle of tequila while I was working out the recipes. Just for you guys. Because I care that much about you. And tequila.

Tequila Battered Onion Rings with Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce

PS – I like to think that I’m a really good speller, but does anyone else have those days when they say or type a word so many times that it starts to look totally foreign to them? Because I love tequila and drink it often (not TOO often, Mom and Dad, don’t worry) but I definitely just had to Google it to make sure I was spelling the thing right. Because suddenly, I was looking at the word tequila and was all, “WAIT. This looks wrong. SO WRONG.”

Tequila Battered Onion Rings with Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce

But Google backed me up. And here we are now. Victorious spellers who are on the brink of the greatest week ever. Maybe I’ll make a cheer. About tequila. That I can cheer. By myself in my kitchen. While I drink tequila. Maybe Kyle will cheer it with me. But more likely he will just laugh at me and walk away. Whatever.

Tequila Battered Onion Rings with Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce

Also, I’ve just finished making some sweet updates to my Resources Section – if you haven’t clicked through it before, you should now! I added some pretty pictures and some new information about my equipment and contracts for ya. Hopefully all my fellow bloggers can find something helpful in there!

Tequila Battered Onion Rings with Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce

I guess maybe I should tell you about these onion rings. They’re kind of awesome. And there is a whooooole lot of tequila in the batter. Yes, they’re fried, but the greek yogurt honey lime sauce is light and bright, which helps balance out the fried-ness. The sauce is tangy (as greek yogurt sauces are prone to be), so if you aren’t a fan of greek yogurt I’d recommend switching it out with regular plain yogurt. You could also use mayonnaise, if you’d prefer, but I have a truckload of Chobani in my fridge that just keeps calling my name. But for real: these onion rings are pretty bomb. And I think they are a most excellent start to Tequila Week. Stay tuned for another boozy recipe comin’ atcha tomorrow!

Missed a day of Tequila week? Not to worry – catch up here: 

Monday – Tequila Battered Onion Rings with Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce

Tuesday – Tequila Lime Shrimp Tacos

Wednesday – Raspberry Margaritas

Thursday – Blackberry & Tequila Glazed Chicken Sandwiches

Friday – Strawberry Thyme Margaritas 

Tequila Battered Onion Rings with Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce

Tequila Battered Onion Rings with Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce
 
YIELD: Serves 4 (Makes 20-25 rings)
INGREDIENTS
For the Onion Rings:
  • 1 onion, sliced and separated into rings about ⅓? thick
  • 3 cups milk
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. Tequila
For the Tequila Batter:
  • ½ cup tequila
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups flour
For the Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce:
  • ½ cup plain greek yogurt (substitute regular plain yogurt if you’re not into the tangy-ness of the greek stuff)
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • salt and pepper to taste
For Frying:
  • 6 cups vegetable or canola oil
INSTRUCTIONS
For the Onion Rings:
  1. Stir together the milk, apple cider vinegar, and tequila in a large bowl to form a buttermilk-like mixture.
  2. Submerge the sliced and separated onion rings in the buttermilk mixture and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (I like to pop them in the fridge while I get the rest of the stuff ready and heat the oil, but you could leave them in for several hours if you’re making them in advance).
For the Tequila Batter:
  1. Whisk tequila, milk, salt, and 1 cup of the flour together to form a batter. Set aside.
  2. Place the remaining 1 cup flour on a large plate or platter and set aside.
For the Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce:
  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it.
To Assemble and Fry:
  1. Heat the 6 cups of vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large, sturdy pot. (I used my Le Creuset) It will take 20-30 minutes to heat up, depending on the size of your pot. Test the oil after 25 minutes by flicking some flour into the oil. If it sizzles, it’s ready to go. If not, wait five minutes and test it again.
  2. When your oil is hot, line up your onion rings (still in the buttermilk), plate of flour, and tequila batter to make a little battering/frying station. I also like to have a plate ready with a few paper towels on top, to drain the onion rings once they’re fried.
  3. Pull onion rings a few at a time from the buttermilk, shake off the excess, and dredge them in flour. When the rings are covered in flour, transfer them to the tequila batter and turn to coat them completely. Shake off any excess batter and gently place the battered rings in the hot oil. Put rings in oil one at a time, to allow the oil to come back up to temperature for a few seconds in between each addition. I like to fry 4-5 large rings at a time (6 or 7 if they’re small).
  4. Fry onion rings for 3-4 minutes on each side until they’re a deep golden brown. Remove fully cooked onion rings to a paper-towel lined plate and repeat the battering & cooking process until you’ve fried all of your onion rings.
  5. Serve onion rings immediately with Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce (recipe above) on the side for dipping.

Tequila Battered Onion Rings with Honey Lime Yogurt Sauce
Tequila Battered Onion Rings

Deep Dish Skillet Pizza

There is SO MUCH to TELL you today! I can’t even decide where to start. Wait, no, yes I can. This pizza. It was awesome. And I cooked it in a SKILLET. Which was the best part. But the other best part was how delicious it was. It was my first real attempt at deep dish, which is a big deal when you’re living in Illinois and dating a boy from Chicagoland. Because I don’t know if you’ve all been to Chicago before, but they are SERIOUS about their pizza. So it was very important, when I made my own deep dish, that I did NOT screw it up. (Mission Accomplished). But more on the pizza later, because I have a super exciting announcement today! (Wahoo!)

Deep Dish Skillet Pizza

Today marks the official launch of Life As a Strawberry’s BRAND SPANKIN’ NEW RESOURCES SECTION! I’ve been working on it for several months and am SO excited that it’s finally ready to share with you all! Starting a food blog was such a crazy and fun and challenging process, and I compiled a pretty impressive arsenal of books, web links, tutorials, and other resources during my research process. To help other bloggers develop their own skills, I’ve collected all of those great resources together, in one place, along with some thoughts and tips of my own that I hope will help new and veteran bloggers alike.

Deep Dish Skillet Pizza

What’s MORE, to CELEBRATE this super-exciting launch of the BRAND SPANKIN’ NEW RESOURCES SECTION, I am hereby dubbing February the MONTH OF GIVEAWAYS! Yes, the capital letters are necessary. Because it is THAT EXCITING. Every Monday during the month of February, a new giveaway (4 total) will begin, featuring a book from one of the pages in the BRAND SPANKIN’ NEW RESOURCES SECTION. Giveaways will run Monday through Friday each week. This week, I’m kicking off the giveaways with a tool I think is indispensable to any blogger: a book called The Recipe Writer’s Handbook by Barbara Ostmann and Jane Baker. It’s featured on the Starting a Food Blog page of the BRAND SPANKIN’ NEW RESOURCES SECTION (okay, did I wear that out already? My bad) and this book is an amazing resource. The authors have spent their careers writing and reading about food, and their advice will help you develop your writing skills to create clearer, more direct and accessible recipes.


And SPEAKING of recipes, you should really make this pizza. It is Illinois-resident approved (wooo) and is a pretty convincing substitute (in my humble non-Chicagoan opinion, at least) for Chicago’s powerhouse deep-disheries. Like a classic deep dish at Giordano’s or Gino’s East (the aforementioned powerhouses), it’s built with thick layers of cheese and sausage and finished with a layer of pizza sauce. I made it for a pre-Super Bowl lunch yesterday and wound up reheating leftover pieces for second and third helpings until 3 in the afternoon.

Deep Dish Skillet Pizza

But back to the giveaway! (Didn’t I tell you? SO MANY THINGS TO TALK ABOUT!)

Deep Dish Skillet PizzaHere’s how you enter:

Leave me a comment telling me about the best thing you’ve ever cooked!

This Giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered!

Deep Dish Skillet Pizza

Deep Dish Skillet Pizza
 
PREP TIME
COOK TIME
TOTAL TIME
 
YIELD: 1 pizza
INGREDIENTS
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Press pizza dough into a 10-12" cast iron skillet. (If you don’t have cast iron, use a skillet or pot with very thick sides. The pizza has to bake for a long time so you want the heat to distribute very evenly. A ceramic casserole dish would also do the trick. A too-thin pan will burn the crust – you want it soft and chewy!) Flatten dough against the bottom of the pan and press it all the way up the sides of the skillet, like so:
  2. Spread ¼ cup of the pizza sauce on the pizza. Then, spread a layer of ¾ cup mozzarella. Continue layering by adding the sausage, and top the sausage layer with the remaining mozzarella cheese.
  3. Spread the remaining pizza sauce on top of the last layer of cheese.
  4. Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Slice and serve immediately.

 

 

New England Clam Chowder

OKAY. Remember how last week I was desperate for clam chowder?

New England Clam Chowder

WELL. After a disappointingly short expedition to the grocery store (I was thinking clam-finding would be a bit more of an adventure, but apparently my meat/seafood counter is better stocked than I thought it was…WHATEVER) I emerged victorious! (…with clams!)

New England Clam Chowder

SO. I made clam chowder. And YES, there will be lots of words in all capital letters in this post. Because CLAM CHOWDER is THE MOST EXCITING THING EVER.

New England Clam Chowder

Also, I took about a zillion pictures. Because like I mentioned earlier, my parents got me a SUPER AWESOME 50mm macro lens for Christmas and I am totally.obsessed.with.it.

New England Clam Chowder

Also, big news – Life As a Strawberry is now on Instagram! And y’all should follow me. You’ll get super-interesting snapshots of my life as seen from my couch. But there will ALSO be witty commentary (which I know you all love). So check it out!

New England Clam Chowder

Actually, while I’m plugging social media, I might as WELLLLLL tell you that you should also follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter (Insert cheesy but lovable grin here).

New England Clam Chowder

But enough of that. Today is all about CLAM CHOWDER! And how you should make it. Immediately. And how I am about to go back to the grocery store and buy a million more clams so I can make this again tomorrow.

New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder
 
COOK TIME
TOTAL TIME
 
YIELD: Served 2 people who like to eat a lot of soup
INGREDIENTS
  • 2 Pounds Fresh Clams
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, sliced into ⅓-inch thick pieces
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 large red potatoes, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 and ½ cups reserved clam broth
  • 1 cup milk (I use skim)
  • 1 and ½ cups half-and-half
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional, for garnish)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Check to make sure all of your clams are still alive – live clams’ shells are tightly closed and won’t have cracked open. If any of your fresh clams have open shells, throw them out! Next, run each clam under running water and scrub them with your hands or a small loofah to remove any grit and sediment.
  2. Place the cleaned clams into a large stockpot and add the water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until clams have steamed open and the water has taken on their flavor to form a clam stock. When clams are cooked, pull them out of the water with a slotted spoon and place them in a separate bowl. Continue to boil the water you cooked the clams in, uncovered, while you prep the other soup ingredients. This will reduce some of the water and concentrate the clam flavor.
  3. Pull cooked clams out of their shells and chop. Set aside.
  4. In a large pot (I’m in LOVE with my Le Creuset for soup-making. Seriously) cook bacon over medium heat. I like my bacon super crispy, so I let it go for about 10 minutes. Pull it out whenever it’s at the crispy-ness point you like best! Place bacon on a paper towel, but leave the grease in the pan over medium-high heat! (I didn’t say this was a HEALTHY soup…) You’ll use the bacon pieces later to garnish the soup.
  5. Add onion, garlic, salt and pepper, potatoes, and celery to the bacon fat (YUM) and cook for 3-4 minutes until onions are translucent.
  6. Tie bay leaves and thyme sprigs together with kitchen twine to make a bouquet garni. Add this bundle to the pot.
  7. Add butter to pot and stir until it’s melted. Then add flour and stir to make a roux – this will help thicken the soup. Cook for one minute.
  8. Remove clam broth from the heat. Check it for grit and sediment – if you’ve done a good job scrubbing the clams, the broth will be free of any dirt. If there’s any sand or grit floating around, though, strain the stock through a fine strainer to remove it before you proceed. Ladle 1 cup of it into the soup pot and stir to break up any chunks of flour that might be hiding. When you’ve mixed everything well, add the remaining 1 and ½ cups of stock. Keep the leftover stock in the fridge for another day or discard it.
  9. Add chopped clams to the pot. Then add milk and bring soup to a simmer. Simmer for 25-35 minutes or until soup has thickened considerably. (I sometimes leave the soup on the stove all afternoon – just add more clam stock every hour or so to keep the soup from reducing too much and burning!)
  10. Add half-and-half to soup and stir to combine. Return soup to a simmer and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until soup is thick and creamy and delicious-looking. Remove soup from heat and ladle into serving bowls. Top with crispy bacon and parsley and serve immediately.

New England Clam Chowder

New England Clam Chowder