Man! I can't believe we're already at the halfway point of summer (well... almost there)! It seems like it just got here! But on the plus side, all that summer produce has been rolling in! I just love Missouri. I really do. If you stick something in the ground, it'll grow. Like anything. There's so much variety here and it all does great. I live in an apartment, so I'm unfortunately unable to have a conventional garden, but I do have a container garden. This was an experiment in (organic) container growing and it's working out awesome! My roommate and I planted some tomatoes so we now have three tomato plants bearing small green tomatoes. My best friend gave me the gift of a container of basil in early May. There were three little plants, about six inches tall, begging to be shown some love. I transplanted them into a larger container, and they did okay and grew a couple more inches but then they started to turn yellow and look like death. I was not about to lose this basil (especially since I planned on making a very large batch of pesto with it)! So I replanted it into a larger container with some better quality soil, fed it coffee grounds daily (full of nitrogen, the source of most yellowing), and moved it into a better sun-catching position. The result?
Not three, but FIVE, three foot tall plants, vibrantly green, and heavenly aromatic:
It's been harvested here and there (PESTO!) (THAI FOOD!)(SANDWICHES!) since then, but I can't keep up with the flowers on the three main plants. I'll probably harvest it some more then let it go to seed. I'm a novice gardener so I don't really know how these things work. I should look it up. My boyfriend's grandparents also have a huge organic garden and I've been gifted with lots of great stuff. Organic, garden-fresh peas, green onions, and green beans have been the first of the batch. I'm also excited for some of my dad's Tabasco chiles. I'm really looking forward to my own house so that I can have myself a much bigger plot (though who knows when that'll be!).
We've also ghettorigged the back porch to be our clothes dryer. Awesome. I live on the second story of a fourplex and my porch isn't that big, but we still stuff it with some country flair. Lol. It's nice and sunny out there and it's able to catch a nice breeze so it's a good setup!
Oh, yeah... remember those Strawberry Cupcakes I mentioned so many weeks ago? Well, I finally found the recipe! These little gems are just as delicious as they are cute! With a moist strawberry-vanilla cake, a luscious strawberry buttercreme frosting, and strawberry slices on top, these little cakes scream summer! Everyone liked these and I'm glad I remembered to snap a photo before everyone started munching them down. I've made them on multiple occasions and people just cannot get over how moist they are and how much the "real strawberry" flavor shines through. They are always a hit!
Also, I wouldn't recommend that you put the strawberries on top until you're about ready to serve them (if you even decide to do that). Otherwise, they get all juicy and they just slip right off the frosting. And don't do what I did! I thought I had used a particular knife as my strawberry slicing knife but it turned out to be my red onion slicing knife... Seriously, when will I learn to clean as I go?? I could swear I tasted onions, but I don't think anyone else noticed... And, if you have too much leftover purée you can just set it aside for something else, like a fresh topping for some plain pancakes or a soyogurt parfait. I used some extra to top my overnight oats and it was delicious. They're used in this recipe both as the namesake flavor enhancer and as the egg replacer. The amount of sugar might not seem like a lot, but it creates an excellent balance between the cake and the strawberry buttercream.
I also made mini-muffins, since I'm lacking in the regular-sized cupcake tray department. If you make mini-muffins it makes about 36. I would assume that it would make 12 regular-size cupcakes and the baking time would take longer as well.
Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes:
2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 c. turbinado sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 Tb. rice vinegar
1/2 c. puréed strawberries
1/3 c. canola oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting:
1/2 c. unhydrogenated shortening
1/2 c. Earth Balance, softened
2 c. powdered sugar
2 Tb. puréed strawberries
1 tsp. vanilla
To make the cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Stir together the almond milk and rice vinegar and set aside. I use rice vinegar because I think it has a milder flavor that other vinegars. Other "milks" are fine to substitute as well.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together to combine.
4. Purée strawberries in a food processor. This usually takes about 1/3 to 2/3 a carton, depending on the size of the strawberries and their quality.
4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond milk mixture, sugar, puréed strawberries, oil, and vanilla until nice and combined.
5. Using muffin trays sprayed with nonstick cooking spray or pans filled with cupcakes liners, fill each cup/liner about 2/3 full of batter. Try to get all the cupcakes in the oven at once so they don't go flat. Bake them at 350 for 15-18 minutes for mini-cupcakes or for 23-28 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, for regular cupcakes. Let cool before frosting!!
To make the buttercream:
1. Cream together the shortening and Earth Balance until well combined.
2. Stir in the pureed strawberries and vanilla and mix completely.
3. Add the powdered sugar (make sure there are no lumps), and mix thoroughly.
4. Frost the completely cooled cupcakes. The frosting will melt if the cupcake is too hot.
June has been an awesome month, but my camera has bitten the dust. It's okay though! I'm not sad. That camera was the biggest POS I've ever used in my life and my iPhone takes perfectly awesome pictures until then!