Happiness Project Recipe #59: Strawberry-Lemonade Toddler Ice Pops!

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Oh my sweetness, my friends! Spring is officially upon us! Ehr…those of us in California, that is. Which means warmer weather. For better or for worse, depending on if you actually like warmer weather. And strawberries. Beautiful, lush, ripe strawberries. Ultimate Mommy happiness. And did I forget to mention prime Popsicle-making season? It tis! Especially for Toddlers. Okay, and maybe for those of us adults who are also kids-at-heart, too. I promise I won’t tell any of the “other” adults.

Anyhow, back to this glorious, long anticipated Popsicle-making season. I’ve been wanting to create my own Daughter appeasing fruit popsicles for a few months now. But had to wait for the perfect strawberries. And well, here they are! Strawberry-Lemonade Ice Pops! With the lovely tang of sweet lemonade and juicy bits of chilled strawberries. The best of everything a picky Toddler and busy Mom could ever want.

Point in case? Even though it only took me maybe 45 minutes (from start to finish) for these pops to become the perfect frozen consistency, my Daughter consumed 3 of these in less than 10 minutes. I kid you not. Less than TEN minutes. And then ran back up to the fridge, while enthusiastically hopping up and down, saying, “More!” Yes, I did said, “No.” 3 of these is quite enough for one mere Toddler sitting. I swear I’m not a mean Mom. I swear!

Ready for a taste? Here ya go!

3-4 cups fresh lemonade

1 cup sliced or diced fresh strawberries, washed before hand

12 baking cups with a wax interior molding (the easiest baking cups to unmold once frozen)

12 wooden popsicle sticks

Arrange up to 12 baking cups onto a small baking sheet. In each cup, pour in enough lemonade to fill the cup all the way up to the top edge. Place the lemonade filled cups into the freezer for about 20-25 minutes.

While the lemonade cups are firming up, wash, slice & dice the strawberries until you have 2 to 3 strawberry pieces per lemonade cup.

Before adding in the strawberry pieces, check that the lemonade cups have firmed up enough to be slightly harder than a slushy (consistency). Gently push 2 to 3 strawberry pieces into each cup before placing the pops back into the freezer. Again with the freezer, I know.

Once the pops have been in the freezer for another 10 minutes, remove them from the freezer and push in each popsicle stick, into the direct center of each cup, from top to bottom. Freeze again until fully frozen.

Once you’re ready to serve them up to all of those hungry Toddler tummies, simply peel away each baking cup and hand em over.

So. Ridiculously. Easy.

Just promise me that you’ll save at least 1 for yourself, okay?

Happy Spring, my friends!

Happiness Project: #53: My Baby Girl’s Favorite Strawberry Frosting!

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It’s official! My sassy, determined, brave, loving, beautiful Baby Girl is now TWO years old! TWO! Hence I have tears of pure joy streaming down my cheeks, as I attempt to write my heart out. Which is not always an easy thing to do, when your heart feels like it’s exploding within your chest and tears are blinding your very sight. But write I shall! Because writing, to me, is truly THAT important. For therapy, sanity and love. Most especially, for love.

Love that began with my Husband, nearly 10 years ago, and was multiplied with the Miracle of my Baby Girl. This Miracle that I reflect on and am immensely grateful for, every morning that I rise, with her smile shining down upon me, and every evening when I close my eyes, with those soft brown Toddler curls dusting my pillow. But how, how do you truly explain this type of forever Love? A love so empowering and so depthless that it becomes the very air that you breathe and beat of ones heart? In all actuality, you can’t. This kind of Love, the Love that only a Mother has, is indescribable. And like no other, in this wide, brimming world of ours. But not necessarily one that I haven’t found a way to express. With words. And recipes. Especially, in recipes.

So to honor the birth of my beautiful Daughter, two years ago, on March 8th at 10:36am, I present to you a frosting that I’ve been working on for over an entire year. This frosting that embodies so much of the beauty, sweetness and uniqueness of my mischievous two year old. My Baby Girl’s Favorite Strawberry Frosting! Who’s ready for some Love??

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/4 cup pureed fresh strawberries, washed, cored & diced before being pureed

2 to 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

On a stand mixer, on medium speed, whip up the softened butter for a few minutes until smooth and shiny.

Dropping the mixer speed down to a lower setting, slowly add in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until fully blended.

With the mixer still blending, add in the 1/4 cup of freshly pureed strawberries, mixing until just incorporated.

Add in up to 3 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream, depending on how thin or thick you like the texture of your frosting and beat on high speed for a few minutes, until whipped and nearly doubled in size.

And FROST. On cookies or cupcakes. Or pop in a cup or so of this yummy treat into the fridge (covered) for 15 or so minutes until cooled enough to use as a fruit dip. Yes, I DID just say that you can use this lovely, sweet frosting as a fruit dip! Because strawberries, my friends! Strawberries!

From my Heart to your kitchen & the many tummies of those you love, enjoy!

Happiness Project #33: Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins!

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Okay, I have a confession to make. Even though I LOVE (LOVE!) all things chocolate, you know what I love just as much? Strawberries. Plump, juicy, sweet strawberries. I can very easily settle down with a entire bowl of this fruit and eat them all. Every. Single. One. Without feeling a single twinge of shame. It’s a strawberry, for heavens sake! Natures all-natural, guilt free form of dessert indulgence! Right? Right! And please don’t delude yourself into thinking that you’re above consuming an entire bowl of these lovely, ripe beauties. Because we all know the honest truth. *wink wink*

Fortunately, even though it’s technically winter here in California (all of my California friends know why I’m laughing at the word “technically”), there are still a few hole-in-the-wall type markets who just so happen to carry (unusually ripe) baskets of this lovely fruit. Hallelujah, I say! A kitchen without strawberries is just as sad as a kitchen without chocolate or coffee. Terrifying thought, I know. So after quite joyfully picking up all of the supplies I needed for muffin making, you know what transpired shortly thereafter? Not only did my Baby Girl fall (very) sick (enough so that it was scary to me), but I, too, very quickly followed suit. To the point where even though I’m on 3 different prescriptions, I’m still mostly-in-bed a-sick after 6 days. No. Fun. My Baby Girl though is feeling much, much better and already frolicking around in her usual contagiously joyful manner. Which, to me, makes EVERYTHING better. Anyhow, to make a long story short, right up until today, those happy-go-lucky strawberries sat very quietly in my fridge, waiting to be freed. Hence, these pretty little muffins. With cream cheese spread. And my (rather) simple version of heart shaped strawberries. Want? Here you go…

For the Muffins:

3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup salted butter, softened at room temperature

1-1/4 cups granulated sugar, plus 3-4 tablespoons for tossing

3 eggs

1 large egg white

1 cup whole milk

1-1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups finely chopped strawberries

Firstly, finely chop or slice up the strawberries (after removing their green heads) and gently toss them in your reserved 3-4 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Otherwise, they will taste somewhat wet & slimy within the actual baked muffin. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350F. Fill up two cupcake pans with paper baking liners.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder until well mixed. Set aside.

In a bowl on your stand mixer, cream together the butter and 1-1/4 cups sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add all 3 eggs, plus the egg white, and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. After dropping your mixture speed to a lower setting, slowing add in the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the 1 cup of whole milk, always starting with and ending with the flour mixture. Once gently but fully combined, grab a spatula and mix in the chopped & sugar tossed strawberries.

Using a large spoon, scoop strawberry batter into each paper liner, filling to the top edges. Pop the two pans into the oven and bake for 22-25 minutes, until the muffin top edges are a very light golden brown. Let cool on a wire rack, while you’re preparing the cream cheese spread.

For the cream cheese spread, you’ll need:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1 (8oz) package of cream cheese, softened at room temperature

2-3 cups powdered sugar

1-2 tablespoons whole milk (optional)

In a large, clean bowl on a stand mixture (or by hand held) cream together the butter and cream cheese until nicely blended and smooth. To avoid any clumping, scrap down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Drop your mixer to a slower speed and add in the 2-3 cups powdered sugar, mixing until well combined. For a silkier texture, add in up to 2 tablespoons of whole milk.

Spread or frost your strawberries to your hearts contentment! Or if you’re not keen on cream cheese, you can also sift some powdered sugar onto each muffin instead!

Bam! Fruity Muffin Happiness! For everyone!

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