…I have been looking for a lavender cider for AGES.

And by “ages”, I mean since last summer. Ha!

In all seriousness, I got on this odd kick for lavender cider last year. I can’t quite remember what spurred it, but I do remember being up way too late one night scouring Google for anything relative to the NYC area. Nothing came to fruition…heheh…until I found Fruition without even trying!

(I know, I know, I drive my followers away en masse with dumb word play, surely. Haaaa.)

Truth be told, I was at my local beer bar two days ago, hoping that they’d have cans of Citizen Cider’s Tulsi – which I’m wicked eager to try! – since Broadway Dive almost always has something from Citizen either on tap or in cans / bottles for sale, but I spied a few cans of Fruition : Lavender in their cider fridge, and felt like that was my destiny.

Fruition : Lavender by Citizen Cider

This cider was a wonderfully quenching pucker to it, almost a little Champagne-y, and it is not overloaded with lavender. You smell it when you bring the can to your mouth to take a sip, then it slightly dissipates until you taste the slight herbaceousness of it as you swallow. In my opinion, that’s PERFECT. Lavender can be overwhelming, and this cider hit the perfect balance of having it be present without knocking you on your ass. 😂

I’m not sure that I’ve ever had a cider I’ve disliked from Citizen, and the winning streak has clearly continued! They utilized the lavender – Vermont-grown, by the way – wonderfully. Can’t wait until I can go up to their tasting room in Burlington, Vermont again – I highly recommend a visit if you’re in that area, with social distancing rules in effect as I type this, most likely!

Fruition : Lavender by Citizen Cider – and yes, my prop board was slightly tilted. How can you tell? 😂

InCider Info – tl;dr:

Off the bat, I’ll say this: It’s a “cheater cake”. Read: I added cherries to a box of Duncan Hines yellow cake mix.

We all have our Sandra Lee semi-homemade moments.

While I do love making cakes from scratch – namely, my baked cake donuts! – the simplicity of having a cake mix or two in the pantry when I have a craving is invaluable to me. I’m not the Food Police here: make your cake from scratch, buy a cake mix with 50 ingredients in it, buy an organic GF / DF cake mix, you do you! But being able to have a sweet summer treat mixed in baked in roughly 40 minutes is all I want sometimes. I don’t always want to measure things out, sift flour, and drive myself crazy in general.

Plus, when I’ve got to pit a bunch of cherries, I want to take some shortcuts elsewhere.

Cherry Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

The buttercream, though? That I’ll make from scratch. I’ve used the same proportions for YEARS, which yields a simple batch of vanilla buttercream, roughly 2 & 1/2 cups or so: 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, 2 sticks of butter, 2 tablespoons milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. BOOM.

Take some shortcuts for a wonderful summer dessert! Cherry season doesn’t last for too long, and we’ve got to take advantage of it!

Cherry Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

Cherry Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

(Makes two 9″ round cakes)

Ingredients:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups cherries, pitted and chopped; this amount was yielded from 1 pint of fresh cherries.
  • 1 box yellow or white cake mix of choice
    • Add eggs, water, oil, et al, in accordance to directions listed on the mix’s box.

Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 2 sticks butter, unsalted and softened for at least 30 minutes prior to use.
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven in accordance to the directions on the cake mix box, depending on the type of cake pans being used. Oil and flour cake pans; set a round of parchment paper at the bottom of each cake pan, if possible. (There is a great tutorial here!)

2.) Prepare cherries for cake mix by pitting and chopping; the chop should be fairly uniform, but it’s okay if there are a few larger pieces of cherries. Set aside.

3. ) Combine cake mix in accordance to the directions on the box. Fold in cherries until combined.

4.) Bake cakes in accordance to the directions on the box. (Should be 25 – 30 minutes.) Test doneness by inserting a toothpick into the middle of one of the cakes; if it comes out clean, the cakes are baked. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack for 10 minutes before removing from cake pans; continue to cool cakes on rack until room temperature.

5.) For the vanilla buttercream frosting, cream butter in a large bowl on medium-low speed for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Adding in 1/2 cup at a time, add sifted confectioners’ sugar to the butter and continue to blend. After adding in a total of 3 cups of the confectioners’ sugar, add in 1 tablespoon of milk and the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Beat and add in the remaining sugar. If the mix is a little dry, add in the additional 1 tablespoon of milk.

6.) Once cake has cooled, brush off any crumbs from top and sides, and cut down the top bottom layer if you have a “cake dome”. (See tutorial here.) apply an even layer of buttercream to the top of one cake, roughly 3/4 of a cup in total. Place the second cake securely on top, and use the remaining frosting for the top and sides, spreading evenly.

7.) Enjoy this cake!

I’ll go on the record to say that Austin Eastciders is one of my favorite cideries in the country. Always happy, always pleased, and always eager for the autumn when they release their Spiced Cider. (Oh yeah, you WILL be seeing me post about that a few months down the road!)

The folks at Austin Eastciders have a great line-up, flavors to please the dry cider lovers and the fruity cider lovers. Me? I’ll take any of ’em, and the Blood Orange cider is excellent. Whether it’s a cold winter Sunday brunch at a bar eating nachos while a football game is on*, of if it’s a stifling hot summer’s day and you’re winding down after a long work day, Blood Orange satisfies. While some flavors are seasonal – I’m not sure I’d be as tempted to drink their (or any) watermelon-flavored cider during the winter – citrus is a flavor that transcends seasons.

Blood Orange Cider by Austin Eastciders

For me, the hit of citrus doesn’t come when it first hits the lips, but once it hits the back of my mouth. It’s pleasant, not too tart but it has that little bit of sour to complement the sweet. Zesty would be a great descriptor!

You really can’t go wrong keeping a good Blood Orange Ciders on hand!

InCider Info – tl;dr:

*- If you know me well enough, you know I’m ignoring the football game and focusing on the cider and nachos. HA!

The deeper into summer we get, the more I am craving summer fruits and vegetables. The crisper and juicer, the better.

When I was home in Connecticut a few weeks ago – for a much-needed, yet socially-distanced & masked visit to my parents’ house – I took advantage of a quiet kitchen and a wide-open backyard to whip up & enjoy some foods. Cooking at my parents’ house absolutely hits differently than cooking in my NYC kitchen, despite my apartment’s kitchen being HUGE by NYC apartment standards. (No exaggeration, I can stand in the middle of the kitchen and not touch anything if I stretch both of my arms out. Nothing short of miraculous!) It’s a more peaceful and pleasurable experience.

Feeling invigorated, I whipped up some smashburgers and this salad, with my mom coming in hot with her potato salad, which is better than your mom’s potato salad. (Don’t @ me. Facts are facts.) This salad – admittedly, inspired by an ad I saw on Instagram for Stop & Shop toting their recipe for it! – hit all of those crispy and juicy notes I was craving. The addition of feta gave it a hint of saltiness, while the mint added a mellow coolness.

Cucumber Watermelon Salad
Cucumber Watermelon Salad

This is a super easy recipe to pull off, and it’s great for keeping in your fridge for when you need a quick meal side or a snack. It’s been a rough few months, embrace dishes that have minimal effort involved.

Cucumber Watermelon Salad
Cucumber Watermelon Salad

Cucumber Watermelon Salad

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 4 cups watermelon, seeds (if any) removed & cubed; this equates to roughly 1/4 of a watermelon chunk you’d see at the grocery store.
  • 1 large English cucumber, peeled & chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup mint, roughly chopped

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt

Before We Get Started…

  • You can substitute a regular large cucumber for an English cucumber, just remember to remove the seeds before dicing!

Directions:

1.) In a large bowl, toss together all salad ingredients.

2.) In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until emulsified.

3.) Pour dressing over salad and toss thoroughly to combine. Serve immediately! (See? Told you this was an easy recipe.)

NOTE: Salad can be kept in fridge for up to 7 days. This is reported back from my parents that told me they ate the leftovers of this salad seven days after I made it. Ha!