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May 2011

Moist 7UP Lemon Lime Pound Cake

7UP Pound Cake

Moist 7UP Lemon Lime Pound Cake

Years ago, when I was living on Beacon Street in Boston’s Back Bay, I was invited to a rooftop barbecue by my neighbor. Everyone was bringing something, so I thought a pound cake with fresh strawberries would be nice. It was a great party, and the host, who was raised in North Carolina, prepared an elaborate feast of primarily Southern Cuisine – ribs, chicken, baked beans, succotash, corn bread, etc. When it came time for dessert, everyone seemed to enjoy the pound cake and berries and I asked our host if he liked the cake. He said it good and asked if I made it with 7UP. When I said that I had NOT, he replied, “then this is pound cake’s cousin – a real pound cake has 7UP in it!” When I saw this recipe is the Summer Entertaining issue of Cook’s Illustrated, I decided to try it. It’s a great buttery cake with a delicious lemon-lime flavor. I guess my neighbor knew what he was talking about!

Download Moist 7UP Lemon Lime Pound Cake


2 ½ cups (17.5 ounces) granulated sugar

½ cup 7UP, room temperature (see note)

5 large eggs, room temperature

1 tablespoon grated zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon

1 tablespoon grated zest plus 2 tablespoons juice from 2 limes

½ teaspoon salt

20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

3 ¼ (13 ounces) cups cake flour



4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons lime juice

2-3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 cups (8 ounces) confectioners' sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon lime zest


1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour a 12-cup nonstick tube pan.

2. Process sugar, eggs, 7UP, lemon zest and juice, lime zest and juice, and salt in food processor until smooth. With machine running, slowly pour in butter and process until incorporated. Transfer to large bowl. Add flour in three additions, whisking until combined.

3. Spread batter in prepared pan. Gently tap pan on counter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 75 to 90 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet to cool completely, about 2 hours.



1. Whisk confectioners’ sugar, melted butter, lemon juice, and lime juice in bowl until smooth. Pour glaze over cooled cake. Let glaze set 10 minutes. Serve. (Cake can be wrapped in plastic and held at room temperature for 3 days.)

7UP Pound cake baking
7UP Pound Cake cooling
7UP can

Big Island Banana Macadamia Nut Bread

Big Island Banana Bread

I was recently visiting a close friend who lives on a macadamia nut farm in Hawaii. It’s a gorgeous place with sweeping views of lush green terrain and the deep blue Pacific. Each morning I enjoyed fresh papaya and pineapple with a nice piece of freshly baked banana bread. Now that I’m home, I thought I would a capture a little of that island flavor by adding some coconut and macadamia nuts to my banana bread. If you don’t have unsalted macadamia nuts, feel free to substitute pecans or walnuts.

Download Big Island Banana Macadamia Nut Bread

½ cup flaked, sweetened coconut

1 cup chopped unsalterd macadamia nuts (plus 3-4 extra for garnish)

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon table salt

3 very ripe bananas, soft with dark peel, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)

¼ cup plain whole fat yogurt

2 large eggs, beaten lightly

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Toast coconut and macadamia nuts on small cookie sheet, stirring every 2 minutes, until light golden brown, about 6 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. When cool, transfer to a mini-cuisinart and pulse 2-4 times (to a medium grind); set aside. (You can skip this step, but I prefer the texture it creates)

2. Readjust oven rack to lower middle position. Grease bottom only of regular loaf pan, or grease and flour bottom and sides of nonstick 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan; set aside. Combine flour, sugar, soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in coconut-macadamia nut mixture; set aside.

3. Mix mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Lightly fold banana mixture into dry ingredients with rubber spatula until just combined and batter looks thick and chunky. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan, sprinkle center of bread batter with 3-4 coarsley chopped macadamia nuts; bake until loaf is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 55-65 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Big Island Banana Bread coconut macademia
Big island banana bread prebake
Big Island Banana Bread baked

Traditional Swedish Meatballs (Köttbullar)

Swedish meatballs plate


Traditional Swedish Meatballs (Köttbullar)

My close friends, photographers Chris Makos and Paul Solberg (http://www.thehiltonbrothers.com/) are currently having an incredible time touring Sweden. They sent me this beautiful photo of Swedish meatballs prepared by Chef Tomas Lindh at the Hotel Skepps Holmen's wonderful restaurant. (http://www.hotelskeppsholmen.com) Chef Tomas Lindh unites "the best of Swedish cuisine with inspiration both of today's cooking and of traditional ingredients, with a modern twist, high quality and a bit of humor."   I was happy to learn from my friends that Chef Lindh uses a combination of pork and beef in his recipe, which I feel adds great flavor and texture to the meatballs. Of course there are probably as many versions for Swedish meatballs as there are chefs. Every Scandinavian cookbook has at least one recipe, usually several! One thing that rarely changes - the side dishes - which are most always Buttered Noodles, Pickled Cucumber and Lingonberries.

Download Traditional Swedish Meatballs with Pickled Cucumbers recipe


1 large egg

1/4cup heavy cream

1large slice high-quality white sandwich bread, crusts removed and bread torn into 1-inch pieces

8 ounces ground pork

1 small onion, grated on large holes of box grater (about 1/4 cup)

¼ teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon packed brown sugar

1 ½ teaspoons table salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

8 ounces (85 percent lean) ground beef

1 ¼ cups vegetable oil



1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 teaspoons packed brown sugar

½ cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon


For the Meatballs:

1. Whisk egg and cream together in medium bowl. Stir in bread and set aside.

2. In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat pork, onion, dry mustard, nutmeg, allspice, pepper, brown sugar, salt, and baking powder on high speed until smooth and pale, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl as necessary.

3. Using fork, mash bread mixture until no large dry bread chunks remain; add mixture to mixer bowl and beat on high speed until smooth and homogeneous, about 1 minute, scraping bowl as necessary.

4. Add beef and mix on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl as necessary.

5. Using moistened hands, form generous tablespoon of meat mixture into 1-inch round meatball; repeat with remaining mixture to form 25 to 30 meatballs.

6. Heat oil in 10-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat until edge of meatball dipped in oil sizzles (oil should register 350 degrees on instant-read thermometer), 3 to 5 minutes. Add meatballs in single layer and fry, flipping once halfway through cooking, until lightly browned all over and cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. (Adjust heat as needed to keep oil sizzling but not smoking.) Using slotted spoon, transfer browned meatballs to paper towel-lined plate.

For the Sauce

1. Pour off and discard oil in pan, leaving any fond (browned bits) behind. Return pan to medium-high heat and add butter. When foaming subsides, add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until flour is light brown, about 30 seconds.

2. Slowly whisk in broth, scraping pan bottom to loosen browned bits. Add brown sugar and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce is reduced to about 1 cup, about 5 minutes. Stir in cream and return to simmer.

3. Add meatballs to sauce and simmer, turning occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and serve.



1 pound pickling (Kirby) cucumber (3 small), sliced very thin (use mandolin if possible)

1½ cups white vinegar

1½ cups sugar

1 fresh bay leaf

1 teaspoon table salt

12 whole allspice berries

1. Place cucumber slices in medium heatproof bowl.

2. Bring vinegar, sugar, bay leaf, salt, and allspice to simmer in small saucepan over high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Pour vinegar mixture over cucumbers and stir to separate slices.

3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes. Uncover and cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Pickles can be refrigerated in their liquid in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.



Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes

Strawberry Cupcakes frosted 

Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes


These are great to make with fresh strawberries, which are just about in season now, but you can use frozen unsweetened as well. The recipe is based on the Sprinkles Cupcakes recipe that aired on the Martha Stewart show. I’ve changed the recipe for the frosting to one of my own – I thought their recipe was a tad sweet. These are perfect for a Memorial Day celebration!


Download Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes recipe


For Cupcakes:

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (7 ½ ounces)

1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)

1 teaspoons baking powder 

½ teaspoon table salt 

8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature

1/3 cup pureed fresh strawberries (or thawed unsweetened frozen)

¼ cup whole milk, at room temperature

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract 

1 large egg, room temperature

2 large egg whites, room temperature


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and strawberry puree; set aside.


  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, for about 1 minute on medium-high speed. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.


  1. With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.


5.     Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups using 2-ounce ice cream scoop. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until tops are just dry to the touch,. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool 5 minutes in tin and then remove to cool completely.


Easy Strawberry Buttercream

Makes 1 1/2 cups, enough for 12 cupcakes


10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 ½ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Pinch table salt 

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract 

1 tablespoon heavy cream 

3 tablespoons pureed fresh strawberries (or thawed unsweetened frozen)  


  1. In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.


  1. Add confectioners' sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds.


  1. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla, strawberry puree, and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

 Strawberry cupcakes wire rack

Overnight Spinach Gruyere Breakfast Strata

Breakfast strata piece  

Overnight Breakfast Strata with Spinach and Gruyère Recipe

Makes one 8 by 8-inch strata

Download Overnight Breakfast Strata with Spinach and Gruyère Recipe 



This is great for a Mother's Day morning breakfast because you can throw it together the night before. I make two or three pans for big brunch parties. You can vary the fillings – add sausage or bacon, leftover vegetables and feel free to substitute any good melting cheese, such as Havarti, sharp cheddar. To weigh down the assembled strata, Cooks Illustrated suggests using two 1-pound boxes of brown or powdered sugar, laid side by side over the plastic-covered surface (A gallon-sized zipper-lock bag filled with about 2 pounds of sugar or rice also works.).


8 - 10 slices supermarket French bread (1/2-inch thick) or Italian bread (6 - 7 ounces)

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

4 medium shallots, minced (about 1/2 cup)

1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1/2 cup medium-dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc

6 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

6 large eggs 

1 3/4 cups half-and-half 

¼ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste



1.    Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 225 degrees. Arrange bread in single layer on large baking sheet and bake until dry and crisp, about 40 minutes, turning slices over halfway through drying time. (Alternatively, leave slices out overnight to dry.) When cooled, butter slices on one side with 2 tablespoons butter; set aside.


2.    Heat 2 tablespoons butter in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sauté shallots until fragrant and translucent, about 3 minutes; add spinach and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally, until spinach and shallots are combined, about 2 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl; set aside. Add wine to skillet, increase heat to medium-high, and simmer until reduced to 1/4 cup, 2 to 3 minutes; set aside.


3.    Butter 8-inch square baking dish with remaining 1 tablespoon butter; arrange half the buttered bread slices, buttered-side up, in single layer in dish. Sprinkle half of spinach mixture, then 1/2 cup grated cheese evenly over bread slices. Arrange remaining bread slices in single layer over cheese; sprinkle remaining spinach mixture and another 1/2 cup cheese evenly over bread.


4.    Whisk eggs in medium bowl until combined; whisk in reduced wine, half-and-half, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture evenly over bread layers; cover surface flush with plastic wrap, weigh down (see note, above), and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight.


5.    Remove dish from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature 20 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Uncover strata and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese evenly over surface; bake until both edges and center are puffed and edges have pulled away slightly from sides of dish, 50 to 55 minutes (or about 60 minutes for doubled recipe). Cool on wire rack 5 minutes; serve.


 Breakfast strata bread 

Breakfast strata filling 

Breakfast strata pan