Not-too-Sweet Yellow Party Punch

This punch is close to crossing the line between a drink and a punch: it’s not nearly as sweet as most punches can be.  This would look beautiful served with blueberries, lemon, or orange slices frozen in a smaller portion of the punch (minus the ginger ale).

Yellow Punch

Ingredients:

2 (6 oz.) cans frozen orange juice concentrate

2 (6 oz.) cans frozen lemonade concentrate

1 (46 oz.) can pineapple juice

2 quarts water

1 (2 liter) bottle ginger ale

Preparation:

Combine all juices and water. Chill.  Add ginger ale when ready to serve.

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Lemonade Cupcakes with Homemade Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemonade Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting

Lemonade Cupcakes with Cream Cheese frosting

I loved the light, fluffy flavor of these cupcakes.  They were a nice change of pace from the ordinary cupcake texture–almost like a cross between a pound cake and an angel food cake–in a very good way.  We used Duncan Hines white cake mix.  This recipe would make a great regular cake as well.  This is another Southern Living recipe.  I have altered the original instructions: pour the batter into the cupcake pan until it is almost full, not 3/4 full as the original states.  We found that the cupcakes barely rose at all.  This will change your yield to roughly 21 cupcakes.

Frosting:  the original recipe goes for an easy, semi-homemade approach using a canned cream cheese frosting and assorted colorful candies for topping.  However, semi-homemade cupcake batter was about as far as we were willing to trod down the easy-path.  We did try a canned frosting to save time for testing purposes only, but we can testify that the unbalanced, sugary taste  of the canned stuff definitely detracts from an otherwise great recipe.  Take the time to make the homemade stuff.

You don’t need a ton of frosting with this cupcake.  We even managed to get a pretty presentation without any kind of cake-decorating skill required.  We simply used the largest round tip we had and iced in a spiral, then topped each cupcake with three blueberries and dusted with lemon zest.  I loved that the zest added color and flavor without all the artificial coloring.  It’s a great alternative to sprinkles.Sometimes my spirals didn’t turn out perfectly; but when finished with the blueberries and lemon zest the mistakes almost disappeared.  Magical!  The blueberries and zest were added for looks, but I was surprised by the wonderful impact they had on the flavor.  It really brought the whole thing together.

Lemonade Cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 (6-ounce) can frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed

1 (18.25-ounce) package white cake mix

1 (8-ounce) carton sour cream

1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

3 large eggs

Preparation:

Remove 2 tablespoons lemonade concentrate from can, and reserve for another use.

Combine remaining concentrate, cake mix, and next 3 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat at low speed with an electric mixer until moistened. Beat at high speed 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides. Spoon batter into 30 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each almost full.

Bake at 350° for 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans; cool completely on wire rack.  Serve with homemade cream cheese frosting.

Homemade Cream Cheese frosting

Instructions:

1 (8 oz.) package of cream cheese

1 stick butter

1 box powdered sugar

1 tsp. genuine vanilla

Preparations:

Beat cream cheese and butter.  Add sugar a little at a time, creaming after each addition.  Add vanilla,

Lemon-Basil Sherbet

I know what you are thinking.  “Basil???…Sherbet???”  But trust me, this is lovely.  This may be my favorite recipe from my daughter’s first birthday party.

It was wonderfully light, summery, and fresh with a very subtle basil flavor.  This would make a gorgeous little palate-cleansing entremets if you were planning a truly luscious dinner party.  We used it as a simple taste-of-something-sweet after lunch, but before the real dessert, lemonade cupcakes, was served.

I found this recipe over at Baking Obsession, where you’ll also find a beautiful (but a bit labor intensive) presentation idea: serving in a lemon-half.

This recipe freezes perfectly, so feel free to make this several days in advance of your event.  That’ll give you more time to scoop out lemons and find itty-bitty basil leaves for garnish.  😉

Lemon-Basil Sherbet

Ingredients:

A large bunch of basil (leaves weight – 30 g)

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)

2 2/3 cup whole milk

Grated zest of 2 medium organic lemons

Preparation:

Tear the basil leaves roughly. Put the leaves and sugar into a medium bowl. With your fingers massage the leaves with sugar to release the basil aroma. Add the lemon juice to the bowl, stir, cover, and let stand for an hour.

Stir the milk into the lemon juice mixture. Strain through a fine sieve into another bowl or a large liquid-measuring cup, pressing lightly on the basil leaves. Add the lemon zest. Chill for about 4 hours. Process in an ice cream maker. If there’s any lemon zest accumulated on the dasher, scrape it and stir it back into the sherbet with a fork. Serve the sherbet soft right from the ice cream maker or transfer into an airtight container and transfer to the freezer to firm up (at least 3 to 4 hours) before serving.

30-minute Yeast Rolls

 We didn’t get any pictures of these gorgeous, tasty rolls, but here is one from Your Home Based Mom, who got the recipe from here.

I did not name this recipe, so don’t worry about recipe-transcription mistakes when you notice that the times listed don’t really add up to 30 minutes.  Do the math and know that this is still super-fast for a yeast roll recipe.

Just don’t do like we did, and accidentally leave the pan in the oven too long trying to warm them up. An entire pan of yeast rolls was sacrificed, and that is a sin.

30 Minute Yeast Rolls

Ingredients:

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp warm water

1/3 cup oil

2 Tbsp yeast

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

3 1/2 cups bread flour (seems to work better but all purpose flour will also work)

Preparation:

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

In your mixer bowl combine the water, oil, yeast and sugar and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Using your dough hook, mix in the salt, egg and flour.

Knead with hook until will incorporated and dough is soft and smooth. (Just a few minutes)

Form dough into 12 balls and then place in a greased 9 x 13 pan and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees or until golden brown.

Honey Mustard Dressing

This is a very good Southern Living recipe.  You can also do the basil infusion trick here to be able to make the recipe further in advance and be able to store the leftovers longer.

Honey Mustard Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons yellow mustard

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

Preparation:

Whisk together all ingredients; cover and chill at least 4 hours.

Citrus-Basil Vinaigrette

Here is another of my favorite recipes from my daughter’s first birthday party.  We needed to get this made in advance, so we made only one small adjustment to the recipe: rather than chopping our basil, we placed the basil leaf whole in the dressing, and allowed it to infuse.  If you choose this method, you’ll want to give it at least eight hours to infuse before removing your basil (no straining required).   You can adjust this recipe to use with any kind of citrus.  Try it with a red orange or red grapefruit.  We happened to have champagne vinegar handy; you can use a white wine vinegar if you prefer.   This has a pretty yellow color and would look lovely served in a cut crystal cruet.

Citrus-Basil Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbsp. orange juice

1 Tbsp.  lemon juice

1/4 lemon, zested

1/2 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp.  honey

1/8 cup chopped fresh basil, or whole basil leaves

1 tsp. champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

Preparation:

In a jar with a lid, mix the olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, honey, basil, and vinegar.  Seal and shake well.  Chill 2 hours in the refrigerator if you chop your basil, 8 hours for whole leaves.  Strain chopped basil or remove leaves before serving.

Doesn’t Get Easier Grilled Chicken

In the midst of all the craziness one of the last things to get done was a really good recipe for our grilled chicken.  We were getting desperate.  After tasting another Weber seasoning (Garlic and herb) we have used and loved in the Reel household, my mom picked up Weber’s Zesty Lemon.  At that point, with three very busy days to go before the party and no chicken recipe picked out, she gave the prepared seasoning a go, and was duly impressed. The incredibly easy chicken “recipe” we ended up with was so delicious you’d think it involved actual work!

Doesn't Get Easier Grilled Chicken and Spring Mix Salad

Doesn’t Get Easier Grilled Chicken and Spring Mix Salad

Amazingly, this simple rub gave the chicken a lot of flavor, even in just four short hours.  The chicken didn’t really scream lemon; instead, it had a very well rounded, summery, and fresh taste with subtle lemon flavor.    It would also be delicious on salmon.

Doesn’t Get Easier Grilled Chicken

Ingredients:

Boneless skinless chicken breasts

Weber Zesty Lemon seasoning

Preparation:

At least four hours before grilling very lightly score your chicken, only on the fattest area of the breast.  Sprinkle with lemon seasoning.  Refrigerate four hours.   Grill, being careful not to overcook.  Allow the chicken to rest for five minutes before slicing.

Serve with salad, if desired, and citrus-basil vinaigrette.