Strawberry Basil Gin Jammer

Spring has officially sprung!

Strawberry Basil Gin Jammer | CaliGirlCooking.com

And that means it’s time to start eating (and drinking) alllll the strawberries. This Strawberry Basil Gin Jammer is going to make you want to jump head first into the season and never look back. It’s soooo tasty!


First, important question: Are you pro- or anti-gin?? My friends and I were having this discussion at my little birthday get-together the other week and two of them just absolutely can’t stand the taste of gin. I am staunchly in the other camp, because gin just happens to be one of my favorite liquors. I love how flavorful and botanical it is, and I feel like it adds so much more character to any beverage.

I would like to point out, though, that one of these friends that was so anti-gin had mentioned that she’d enjoyed a farm-fresh cocktail at one of our local bars that involved gin, and had actually loved it because the flavors were so perfectly balanced. I haven’t had her taste this Strawberry Basil Gin Jammer yet, but I bet she’ll feel the same way she did about that farm-fresh cocktail once she does!

Strawberry Basil Gin Jammer | CaliGirlCooking.com

Okay, so enough of the gin discussion, let’s talk strawberries. We are incredibly lucky here in Santa Barbara because we live smack dab in the middle of strawberry country. We have Oxnard, home of the California Strawberry Festival, just 45 minutes south of us, and Watsonville, home of Driscoll’s Strawberries, just three and a half hours north of us. Because of this, we always have tons of farm fresh strawberry options available both at our grocery stores and in our farmer’s markets once March rolls around.

That being said, I realize all of you might not be as “strawberry lucky” as we are, but that’s the great thing about this Strawberry Basil Gin Jammer. You don’t have to be! This drink gets most of its strawberry flavor from strawberry jam, with just a few fresh strawberries muddled in for good measure. And, honestly, you could even use thawed frozen strawberries and nobody would know the difference.

You will, however, need to track down some fresh basil, but I’m pretty sure fresh basil is available year round these days so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Strawberry Basil Gin Jammer | CaliGirlCooking.com

The most important step, of course, is to use your favorite gin! There are many different flavors and styles out there, so if you don’t have a favorite already, do yourself a favor and taste a few to get a feel for what you like. There are gins that are more juniper-forward, others that are more foral…Every gin brand uses its own combination of aromatics and spices, so even if you don’t like, say, Tanqueray, you might like Hendrick’s!

Once you have your fresh strawberries, strawberry jam, basil and gin, your Strawberry Basil Gin Jammer will come together in less than five minutes. Grab your cocktail shaker, some ice and a glass and you’ll be sipping on this deliciousness in no time!

Strawberry Basil Gin Jammer | CaliGirlCooking.com

Strawberry Basil Gin Jammer | CaliGirlCooking.com
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Strawberry Basil Gin Jammer
Prep Time
5 mins
Total Time
5 mins
 

The perfect cocktail to kick off spring - in-season strawberries are muddled with fresh basil, topped with a refreshing gin and jam mixture.

Course: Drinks
Servings: 1 cocktail
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 3-4 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon strawberry jam
  • 2 ounces gin
  • More whole strawberries for garnish (if desired)
Instructions
  1. In a rocks glass, muddle the strawberries and basil. 

  2. In a cocktail shaker filled with about ¾ cup of ice, combine the strawberry jam and the gin. Shake vigorously for about 20 seconds and then pour contents of shaker (including ice) into the rocks glass.

  3. Garnish with a fresh strawberry if desired.

Strawberry Basil Gin Jammer | CaliGirlCooking.com

Lavender Vanilla Cupcakes with Blood Orange Glaze

Happy birthday to me!

Lavender Vanilla Cupcakes with Blood Orange Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

That’s right, it’s my birthday! The big 3-2 to be exact (ugh) but hey, at least I’m celebrating with Lavender Vanilla Cupcakes with Blood Orange Glaze! And for someone that didn’t even plan what she wanted to do to celebrate until, ohhhhh, last week (thanks to lots of pressure from my hubs and friends,) I’d say we’re off to a pretty good start.


(I’m clearly on a big lavender kick right now – did you catch the Spiked Lavender Lemonade I posted on Friday? So refreshing and tasty!)

Lavender Vanilla Cupcakes with Blood Orange Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

Is it just me, or is your 32nd birthday just sort of “meh?” I mean, I certainly went all out for the big 3-0, and might find some inspiration when I hit number 35, but it seems like all of the birthdays in between those milestones kind of just come and go without much pomp and circumstance. Especially when your birthday falls on a Wednesday, how un-fun is that?

So, after I kept getting nagged about what I wanted to do to celebrate, and after avoiding the question for as long as I could, I finally decided I wanted to keep it casual with Happy Hour at our local waterfront bar/restaurant, and let friends and family stop by whenever they wanted.  We celebrated with our parents this past weekend, and if you ask me, that’s all this gal needs to celebrate another trip around the sun!

Lavender Vanilla Cupcakes with Blood Orange Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

To be honest, I first made these Lavender Vanilla Cupcakes with Blood Orange Glaze a few weeks ago, when I decided it was high time for me to add another cupcake recipe to this here blog. It has, after all, been almost exactly one year since I posted the only other cupcake recipe on this site – these Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Irish Cream Buttercream – which BTW would be perfect for you to whip up for St. Patrick’s Day on Friday!

I was trying to decide what flavor I wanted to make my cupcakes this time around, and remembered I had a big jar of culinary grade lavender that my parents had given me a while back. We all know that culinary grade lavender isn’t exactly something you reach for in your pantry on the reg, so it had been sitting in there practically untouched ever since I got it. I knew it would be perfect to integrate into a spring-friendly cupcake, but that it might need a little assistance from some other amazing flavors to keep it from tasting too much like soap (side note – this can easily happen if you use your lavender in the wrong context, like adding lavender syrup to your brewed coffee, don’t do it.)

Lucky for us, vanilla is a great complimentary flavor for lavender, and also perfect in cupcakes! I’ve talked about it before, but I swear by this creamy vanilla bean paste that I order on Amazon. It’s a little pricy, but you get a HUGE bottle and it lasts for such a long time! I highly recommend you order some if you bake nearly as much as I do.

Lavender Vanilla Cupcakes with Blood Orange Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

With all of the soft, floral notes I was going for in the cupcakes, I knew I wanted a stark contrast in flavors for the frosting. I happened to still have quite a few blood oranges on hand from my winter stockpile, so instead of a buttercream or whipped cream frosting, I decided to top the cakes with a tart, blood orange glaze.

Turns out, my instincts were spot on and these cupcakes turned out perfectly balanced yet full of flavor. They’re also not overly sweet, which means you could totally get away with calling them muffins and eating them for breakfast. It’s my birthday after all, so I give you full permission. Cheers to another year and thanks for celebrating with me!

Lavender Vanilla Cupcakes with Blood Orange Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

This post contains affiliate links. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for continuing to support the brands that make CaliGirl Cooking possible!

Lavender Vanilla Cupcakes with Blood Orange Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com
Print
Lavender Vanilla Cupcakes with Blood Orange Glaze
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 

Light and fluffy cupcakes filled with the delicate flavors of lavender and vanilla, perfectly contrasted by a tart blood orange glaze. 

Course: Dessert
Servings: 12 cupcakes
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
For the cupcakes:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons culinary lavender, ground (I used a mortar and pestle for this)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the glaze:
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup fresh blood orange juice
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a cupcake pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. 

  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, milk, butter, eggs, yogurt and vanilla until combined. 

  3. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour, lavender, baking soda and salt, then add this mixture to the wet mixture, beating until just combined. 

  4. Using a 1/3 cup measure, scoop batter into cupcake pans. Bake in 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely before topping with the glaze. 

  5. While waiting for the cupcakes to cool, make the glaze. In a medium mixing bowl, beat together all of the glaze ingredients until smooth and no lumps remain. 

  6. Once cupcakes are cool, spoon glaze evenly over cupcake tops. Let glaze dry completely before serving. 

Lavender Vanilla Cupcakes with Blood Orange Glaze | CaliGirlCooking.com

Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad

The perfect weekend recovery food!

Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad | CaliGirlCooking.com

This Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad is a perfect, healthy, filling meal if I ever saw one, and it’s oh so delicious. If any of you had a weekend like I had, you’re definitely ready to whip this up with your favorite lean protein for dinner tonight.


As I mentioned on Friday, we were up in Santa Cruz visiting my parents this weekend, which also happened to involve helping my little sis move into her new house and having an early Sunday birthday brunch for me. All of the family affairs, celebrations and craziness never make for the healthiest eating, but I never restrict myself (everything in moderation!) and just make sure to eat extra-healthy in the days leading up to and following all of the madness. That’s what balanced living is all about!

So when we rolled back into town late last night, all I wanted was a big bowl of whole grains and veggies. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of this Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad sitting around in the fridge, so we had to settle with takeout. Not necessarily the healthiest of options (although we still try to get a well-balanced meal even when we order out) but we knew we’d get right back in the groove of healthy eating today. Smoothies for breakfast, salads for lunch. You get the idea! This should last all of two days since my birthday is on Wednesday, but we only live once, right?

Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad | CaliGirlCooking.com

It’s no secret that ever since I tried the most delicious grain salad in Napa, I have been obsessed with the idea of them. It was way back in May of last year that I made this Herbed Grain Salad with Broccoli Rabe and White Beans, so I figured now that we’re having some warmer “salad-friendly” weather here in California, it was high time for me to come up with another fun version featuring some of spring’s freshest produce. I’m very happy to say that this Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad is not going to let you down and, even better, if you don’t love butter as much as I do, you can easily make this dish vegan!

Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad | CaliGirlCooking.com

So let’s get down to the dirty details. First of all, if you live anywhere near a Trader Joe’s, you’re already in great shape. I got all of my ingredients for this salad there, except for the lemons because we have an abundance of them growing in our yard at the moment. That being said, you really shouldn’t have any trouble getting these ingredients at just-your-average grocery store, TJ’s just makes it soooo convenient.

I started out by sautéing some fresh leeks and garlic in a healthy dose of butter. It may seem like a lot at first, but keep in mind that we’re adding much more to this dish than just leeks and garlic, and all of those extra ingredients mean we need all of that extra butter. BUT, if you are trying to be uber-healthy or if you follow a vegan diet, you can swap in good ol’ coconut oil and this salad will still turn out amazing. Promise.

After our leeks and garlic have started sweating it out a bit, we add some fresh corn kernels. If you don’t happen to live in an area where you can get fresh corn year round, frozen kernels would also work just fine.

The corn kernels are followed by our cooked, shelled edamame, which Trader Joe’s conveniently sells prepped and ready to go in their produce section. Again, if you don’t have access to these, a frozen bag of shelled edamame would work just fine. Just be sure they’re already cooked!

Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad | CaliGirlCooking.com

The final steps are to throw in some pre-cooked barley (a great thing to meal prep on the weekends and throw into healthy meals all week) and some snipped fresh chives. The only sort of dressing that graces our salad is the aforementioned butter and a hefty dose of fresh lemon juice. I do want to mention one thing about the ¼ cup quantity I’ve called for here: we have Meyer lemons in our backyard, which tend to be more sweet and less tart than your average lemons. That being said, if you are using standard lemons, you may want to dial it back just a tad. Just remember to taste as you go and balance the acidity out with the salt. You’ll do just fine!

This Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad is full of filling carbohydrates (which I know some of you colder-weather readers are still totally craving right now) yet plenty of fresh, vibrant produce to remind us that spring is just around the corner. It comes together in under 20 minutes and tastes just as good hot or cold, making it perfect to have on hand for any situation that requires a healthy meal ASAP. It’s quickly become another go-to of mine and I hope it will soon become one of yours too!

Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad | CaliGirlCooking.com

Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad | CaliGirlCooking.com
Print
Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad
Prep Time
5 mins
Cook Time
15 mins
Total Time
20 mins
 

This hearty and healthy grain salad is the perfect dish to usher in warmer weather - loaded with filling carbohydrates and vibrant produce, enjoy it alone or with your favorite lean protein!

Course: Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or coconut oil, for vegan version)
  • 1 trimmed leek, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 cups corn kernels (about 2 small ears)
  • 1 1/2 cups shelled, cooked edamame
  • 2 cups cooked barley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Instructions
  1. Melt butter or coconut oil in a deep saute pan over medium heat. Add leeks and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes, until leeks begin to sweat and become fragrant. Add corn kernels and turn heat up to medium-high.

  2. Let corn kernels cook for another 3 minutes, then add edamame. Let cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the corn and edamame begin to get golden flecks on their skins (a slight char.)

  3. Turn heat back down to medium and add barley and chives. Stir to combine.

  4. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper (tasting as you go) until you’ve achieved your desired level of balanced flavors. Serve warm or cold. 

Fresh Corn, Leek and Edamame Grain Salad | CaliGirlCooking.com

Spiked Lavender Lemonade

Because spring is just around the corner!

Spiked Lavender Lemonade | CaliGirlCooking.com
This post is sponsored by Sonoma Syrup Co. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for continuing to support the brands that make CaliGirl Cooking possible!

And that means everything should be pastel-hued and full of the brightest, freshest flavors. This Spiked Lavender Lemonade is just that. It’s a simple cocktail to make, but so perfectly balanced. It’s incredibly refreshing and just as fitting for a happy hour or welcome drink as it is for brunch. It’s also the perfect cocktail to kick off my birthday week!

We’re heading up to my parents’ house this weekend to start the celebrations (since they’re heading to Hawaii without me next week…how rude!) and a big Sunday birthday brunch is on the agenda. This Spiked Lavender Lemonade might just have to take the place of our usual mimosas, because it’s that good and, yes, spring is right around the corner! I’m pretty sure once our families taste this they may never want any other sort of brunch-y beverage ever again.


Spiked Lavender Lemonade | CaliGirlCooking.com

Speaking of spring, the changing of the seasons always calls for a little reorganization of my pantry, and more specifically a rotation of all of my Sonoma Syrup Co. products. The winter-y products (like the Vanilla Bean Simple Syrup I used for this Winter Spiced Vanilla Eggnog) get pushed to the back, and out come the warmer-weather flavors such as Mint, Lime and, of course, the Lavender I used for this Spiked Lavender Lemonade. I love that there are so many different flavors to choose from, so I can always find something that will be a total game-changer in whatever cocktail I’m whipping up, no matter the time of year.

We’ve had a lot of rain this winter, which means our citrus trees are exploding with gorgeous lemons and oranges. I love having such a big selection of vibrant fruit right at my fingertips, no trip to the store required, so I try to use fresh citrus juices in my recipes as often as possible. Plus, it’s warmed up to the 80’s this week (is our California “winter” officially over?) so nothing sounds better than a tall, icy glass of fresh squeezed juice with a sweet hint of lavender. I don’t think I’m going to have any trouble using up our huge citrus crop if I keep making this tasty drink!

Spiked Lavender Lemonade | CaliGirlCooking.com

I also love that this Spiked Lavender Lemonade has just four ingredients (another reason I’m such a fan of Sonoma Syrup’s products, all the flavors in one little bottle!) This is all you’ll need:

Vodka
Fresh lemons
SONOMA SYRUP CO. LAVENDER SIMPLE SYRUP
Club soda

Just pour everything into a glass over ice, give it a little stir and you’re good to go. And to make the drink look just as good as it tastes, try adding wheels of fresh lemon to the glass (tuck them on the sides between the ice and the glass before adding the liquids) and garnishing with a fresh lavender sprig. These little touches makes the drink look over-the-top and completely brunch-worthy.

Spiked Lavender Lemonade | CaliGirlCooking.com

So what are you waiting for? It’s Friday and the sun is shining, time to turn lemons into lemonade!

Spiked Lavender Lemonade | CaliGirlCooking.com
Print
Spiked Lavender Lemonade
Prep Time
5 mins
 

Not your average lemonade - this refreshing cocktail gets a kick from vodka and a fresh, floral taste from lavender simple syrup. 

Course: Drinks
Servings: 1 cocktail
Author: CaliGirl Cooking
Ingredients
  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 2 ounces Sonoma Syrup Co. lavender simple syrup
  • 2 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • 3 ounces club soda
  • Lemon wheels and a sprig of fresh lavender for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. Fill a highball (or large rocks) glass with ice. If using garnishes, tuck lemon wheels into the sides of the glass using the ice to hold them in place. 

  2. Add vodka, lavender simple syrup and lemon juice to glass and stir gently.

  3. Top with club soda and garnish with fresh lavender sprig, if desired.

Spiked Lavender Lemonade | CaliGirlCooking.com

Brown Butter-Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

Let’s ease on into this Monday with a super-easy (and super tasty!) recipe for Brown Butter-Balsamic Roasted Asparagus.

Brown Butter-Balsamic Roasted Asparagus | CaliGirl Cooking

This is the perfect, uncomplicated vegetable side dish to whip up with your favorite protein for an easy weeknight meal. It’s been my go-to for quite some time now and basically the only way I prepare asparagus. The nuttiness of the browned butter paired with the rich acidity of the balsamic showcase the roasted vegetable in the most perfect balance of flavors. How can something so simple be so good?


Good and simple is most definitely how we roll these days, and I’m sure you feel the same way. Who wants to spend these fun, long days of summer slaving over the hot oven or stove for any significant amount of time? I’m still recovering from attending a wedding in over 100 degree heat this past weekend so that’s the last thing I want to think about right now.

Speaking of the weekend, what did everyone do? Were you sweltering in the heat or surprised by some late-season rain? We had a great weekend in San Luis Obispo watching our pals Dan & Leah tie the knot (even if it was a scorcher.) Two down and one more to go before our own! Maybe after the next one our wedding will actually start to feel real 😉

But I digress. Back to the very important topic of this post. Even though this Brown Butter-Balsamic Roasted Asparagus does require a little bit of cooking time, it’s literally less than 20 minutes, so no sweat there. And, if you really can’t bring yourself to turn on the oven, you can always cook the asparagus on the grill! Then you’ll just have to turn on the stovetop for less than 10 minutes to whip up your brown butter-balsamic sauce to drizzle over top. Easy peasy.

Brown Butter-Balsamic Roasted Asparagus | CaliGirl Cooking

I love this recipe because it works just as well for a regular weeknight meal as it does for an elegant dinner party. It comes together quickly with very few ingredients, most of which you’ll already have on hand in your pantry. If you’re looking for further menu inspiration, here are a few dishes from my archives that will be the perfect pairing for this Brown Butter-Balsamic Roasted Asparagus:

The perfect start to a Monday meal, because we all know we need a little extra help on this dreaded day of the week. Let’s kick it off on the right foot and take the week by the horns. Because that’s how we roll, right?

Brown Butter-Balsamic Roasted Asparagus | CaliGirl Cooking

Brown Butter-Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Yield: Served 4

A quick and easy vegetable side dish featuring fresh asparagus bathed in a delicious brown butter-balsamic sauce.

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter (I prefer Kerrygold)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl (or I often use a loaf pan) combine asparagus, olive oil, salt and pepper and mix well. Place olive oil-coated asparagus on prepared jelly roll pan and roast in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes.
  3. While asparagus is cooking, prepare brown butter-balsamic sauce. Place butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until butter has melted and started to take on a golden brown color. Add balsamic and let cook for just a couple minutes more. Remove from heat.
  4. Remove asparagus from oven and place in mixing bowl or loaf pan again. Pour brown butter-balsamic sauce over asparagus and gently toss to coat. Place asparagus on a platter to serve.
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Brown Butter-Balsamic Roasted Asparagus | CaliGirl Cooking

Love these glorious greens <3