Now that summer is in full swing, it’s the perfect time to grab your big floppy hat and an ice cold glass of lemonade as you lounge under the sun with our newest book club pick – The Vacationers by Emma Straub. When considering how I was going to describe this book, the phrase “perfect beach read” came to mind. But then I stopped to wonder, “What exactly makes a book a ‘beach read’?” I’ve decided some requirements include: light, breezy language that doesn’t require you to do too much deep thinking (basically, the opposite of Shakespeare); an engrossing plot that takes you away from your current situation and places you right in the story along with the vibrant characters; picturesque descriptions of settings; and bit of humor for good measure. Based on this definition, I am confident in saying that The Vacationers is the ultimate beach read!
The novel follows the Posts and their friends on their summer vacation to Mallorca where family drama escalates immediately. All members are going through changes, and readers will find themselves developing empathy, frustration, joy, heartbreak, and deep affection for the seemingly real life characters. My favorite line from the book jacket states, “The Vacationers is irresistibly funny and enchantingly warm as it shows us the wonderful, messy truth about family, friendship, and love.” What more can I say? Grab yourself a copy and join us in reading The Vacationers. You’ll be left with a smile on your face and hopefully a bit of a tan!
Stay tuned for our beach inspired book club meeting in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, what is your definition of the perfect beach read?
July Book Club Selection:
The Vacationers by Emma Straub
Questions about book club? Email us!
Even though I’m a June baby—just like Leah!—I’ve never warmed up to ice cream cake. It’s such a summer-birthday default! But something about the chocolate crunchies and the melty-mess doesn’t have me screaming for ice cream.
This year, though, I decided to give a two-toned semifreddo a try. This Italian “half cold” ice cream cake is a sophisticated twist on the childhood classic. Bonus: It’s completely make-ahead, perfect for parties! To make it, all you need to do is whip up a mousse-like base. Don’t panic! It’s much easier to do than you’d think (and it hardly requires any ingredients).
I decided to spike my base with the flavors of a Strawberry Shortcake Bar—one of my favorite ice cream truck treats! For the strawberry layer, I folded a quick, no-cook strawberry syrup into the egg mixture. For the cream layer, you have a choice: Leave it plain or splurge on an extra ingredient and stir in a little almond extract for added nutty-sweetness. Toasted almonds add a ton of texture and flavor, whether you decide to go with the extract or not.
PS. Serve this color-blocked dessert with plenty of bubbly!
Strawberry-Toasted Almond Semifreddo
serves 6 to 8
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup sugar
4 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
OPTIONAL: Almond extract, for flavoring
1. Toss the berries and 2 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl; set aside 5 minutes. Meanwhile, line a loaf pan with plastic wrap leaving an overhang on all sides.
2. Transfer the strawberry mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Strain into a liquid measuring cup through a fine-mesh sieve, stirring and pressing down firmly on the solids to release all the liquid. Discard solids. You should have about 1 cup strawberry syrup.
3. Whisk the egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar in a large heatproof bowl until combined. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and whisk until thick, pale yellow and doubled in volume, about 6 minutes. Set the bottom of the bowl in ice water to stop the cooking process; let cool.
4. Beat the heavy cream and remaining 2 tablespoon sugar with a mixer until soft peaks form. Add a big scoop whipped cream to the egg yolk mixture and whisk together to lighten. Add the rest of the whipped cream and fold together until combined using a rubber spatula.
Transfer half of the custard to another bowl; add the strawberry syrup and fold to combine (it’ll be a little runny). Stir a drop of almond extract to the plain custard, if desired.
5. Sprinkle the toasted almonds in the bottom of the prepared pan. Top with the plain (or almond-flavored) custard; press and spread to the edges of the pan using an offset spatula. Top with the strawberry custard. Cover with the plastic wrap overhang and freeze at least 8 hours or overnight.
To serve, unfold plastic and invert onto a serving platter; remove plastic wrap. Slice with a chefs knife (dipped in hot water, if needed).
It’s time to channel your inner hippie! Well at least that’s what I did when I broke out the fabric dye and rubber bands to make these Tie-Dye Firework Napkins.
When I think of the 4th of July, one visual always comes to mind, big bright and beautiful fireworks. What works better to replicate their wild explosions of color than tie-dye? Let red and blue fabric dye bleed into cotton napkins and create wild patterns. You can get as crazy as you like with this project! Whether you are hosting a 4th of July barbeque, beach party, or backyard celebration, these wild firework napkins will definitely bring some color and patriotic flare to your table.
Here’s what you need:
white cotton napkins, washed and dried
red fabric dye
blue fabric dye
plastic drop cloth
Note: Look for tie-dye kits to make this project much easier! I found a small tie-dye kit with red, blue and yellow dye at Joanne Fabrics that came with squeeze bottles and rubber bands. I have also seen similar kits at craft stores!
1. Start by washing and drying white cotton napkins. Do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets. This step is essential to ensure that the dye is absorbed into fabric properly.
2. Prepare a work area by covering it with a plastic drop cloth to protect your surface from staining.
3. Prepare both red and blue fabric dye according to packaging in small squeeze bottles.
4. Starting at the center of the napkin, pinch and twist small pieces of the napkin and wrap with a rubber band. Repeat as many times as you would like across the napkin. Each twist will create one “firework.”
5. Wearing gloves, squeeze a small amount of red dye onto the center of each twist.
6. Squeeze out a ring of blue die around the base of each red twist. This does not have to be perfect! Don’t worry if it’s abstract…the wilder the better.
7. Allow die to dry completely before removing rubber bands. Wait 6-7 hours before machine washing in cold water or according to fabric dye directions.
photos by Leah Bergman
Happy Friday friends! Today I’m thrilled to announce that we have a new cocktail contributor here on Freutcake. Elana Lepkowski has been making my mouth water with her gorgeous and creative cocktails on Instagram and her blog Stir & Strain for some time now. I’m honored to have her on team Freutcake! – Leah
Lately I’ve been strolling the Farmers Markets with one goal in mind: seek out the new. I’ve usually been shy about investing in something I’ve never heard of, or that looks difficult to handle, or that I’ve been told should be rushed home and used within 45 minutes lest it spoil. Oh, and it’s $25 a pound. Le sigh! So, I’ve started small with this new item endeavor: I’ve set my eyes on the herbs.
Do you know how many varieties of basil there are out there? A lot. Like, a whole lot. Over a hundred, in fact. Sweet basil is the usual strain you’ll see in grocery stores, or taste in your pesto. But this weekend I spotted some purple Thai basil, and the beautiful smelling Lemon basil. If cutting into a fresh lemon makes your mouth curl up into a smile, you’ll love this herb. I knew I had to take it home with me when the farmer encouraged me to stick my nose into a bag of it and take a deep breath: heavenly.
Those fresh smelling basil leaves were destined for a cocktail from first sniff. The resulting cocktail really is a citrus bomb! Freshly squeezed lemon juice heightens the lemony aroma from the basil in such a way that it’s just juicy and bursting with flavor. I paired this with a more neutral spirit, Aylesbury Duck Vodka (no ducks were harmed in the production of this vodka), so that the subtle earthiness from the basil still shines through. A quality tonic water provides just enough sweetness. And the last touch? A couple dashes of lavender bitters to create another subtle layer of floral on the nose and a slight bitter edge on the pallet.
Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed at the farmer’s market, calm yourself with some herbs. Pack them into a cocktail for a drink bursting with sunshine for your long summer days.
Double Basil Citrus Bomb Cocktail
small handful of lemon basil and Thai basil leaves
½ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 ounces Fever-Tree Indian style tonic
3 dashes lavender bitters (optional)
basil flowers for garnish
1. In the bottom of a mixing glass, muddle together basil leaves and lemon juice. Add vodka, bitters, and ice. Shake well for 20 seconds.
2. Strain into a highball glass filled with fresh ice and top with tonic. Garnish with basil flowers.
Do you remember when working at Hot Dog on a Stick was really, really cool? Ok, so maybe it was just really cool to me as a little girl to see those big kids with their tall striped hats pounding out lemonade by the bucket-fulls.
Every summer my Mom would pack me and my sister into the car and drive to Santa Monica Beach for a full day of sunbathing. Our first stop, before making the long hot walk across the sand, was to grab a cherry lemonade and a corn dog from Hot Dog on a Stick. There was nothing cooler in the world to my sister and me than a day at the beach and cherry lemonade. All of these memories for me are still synonymous with summer and Cherry Lemonade Cupcakes bring it all back…minus the sand in my food and the sunburns that is.
Whether you make these cupcakes for the 4th or July, a summer barbeque, or just to feel like a kid again, these Cherry Lemonade Cupcakes are a sweet must try recipe! I promise they will bring a smile to your face. Do you have any fond summer beach memories?
photos by Leah Bergman
makes 24-28 cupcakes
Note: the original cupcake recipe says it makes 24 cupcakes however I had enough batter to make about 28 standard cupcakes.
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons (about 3 tablespoons), plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.
3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
Cherry Buttercream Frosting
Makes: frosting for 24-28 cupcakes
2 cups butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening, softened
6-7 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice
6 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and shortening on medium speed for 30 seconds. Gradually beat in powdered sugar on low speed. Beat 2 to 3 minutes longer or until light and fluffy.
2. Slowly add in salt and maraschino cherry juice. Beat to combine.
3. Fill a piping bag with frosting or a large ziplock bag cutting a hole in one corner for piping.
How to Assemble:
maraschino cherries with stems
small lemon slices
large striped red paper straws cup into 1/2″ sections
1. Pipe a generous amount of frosting onto each cooled cupcake starting at the outside edges and spiraling inwards and up.
2. Top each cupcake with a maraschino cherry that you have dried off with a paper towel, a small slice of lemon, and a mini straw for garnish.
Back in my spa-manager days, one of my favorite skin care treatments to receive was our organic enzyme facial which included an amazing pineapple enzyme peel. After that treatment my skin would be glowing and feel new again. Nowadays, I get my peel-on at home with the homemade version, this Pineapple Papaya Enzyme Peel.
Both pineapple and papaya are packed with natural enzymes that break up protein, and as a result, exfoliate the skin resulting in a mild peel effect. Additionally, pineapple and papaya both contain alpha-hydroxy acids used in skin care products to moisturize and removing dead skin cells, improve the appearance of scars, help with aging, firm and smooth skin.
But don’t be fooled by these pretty tropical fruits! This may look like a simple smoothie for the face but this peel is powerful stuff. Blend up a batch for yourself and feel the results almost immediately as it tingles and itches, in a good way of course.
photos by Leah Bergman
Pineapple Papaya Enzyme Mask
1 cup fresh pineapple, cubed
1/2 cup fresh papaya, cubed
1 Tbsp honey
1. In a blender, puree pineapple, papaya, and honey until smooth.
2. Apply a thin layer to décolletage (face, neck, chest) avoiding the eye area.
* You will feel an itching and tingling sensation almost immediately as the enzymes work to exfoliate your skin. If the itching is too intense remove before the recommended time.
3. Leave peel on for 5-10 minutes. If you have sensitive skin start with 5 minutes, max. Wash face thoroughly with warm water and apply a good moisturizer.
Note: This is a gentle peel but still very active. You may have a bit of sensitivity during and after applying which is normal. Do not use more than once a week and always apply a moisturizer afterwards.
Last weekend I bought the cutest pair of kiwi print pants from Zara. I have to say, they were a bit wild on the hanger but totally fun and fresh on. They feel perfect for a casual weekend or summer vacation. Thanks to those fruity pants, I’m hooked on the idea of fruit prints for summer! From watermelon flats to pineapple print swimsuits, I can’t help but want to sink my teeth into all of these Summer Juicy Fruit finds.
Summer is here! That means longer days, warmer nights, ice cream sandwiches and the 4th of July. But why wait for the 4th to make a batch of Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches? This is a recipe that should be made all summer long…
Ah, the ice cream sandwich. Quite possibly the best excuse for eating two cookies and a scoop of ice cream all in one sitting. Rolled in sprinkles and frozen, Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches are the perfect summertime treat. I used my new scalloped ice cream sandwich cookie pan to make these ruffled little cookies, but of course you can always make your favorite sugar cookie using a scalloped cookie cutter for the exact same effect.
With Independence Day only two weeks away, I added a little American flare by giving them a quick roll in some red, white and blue sprinkles and candy stars. Individually wrap these in foil and pop them in the freezer and you have a sweet ice cream treat any time a craving hits. Or make a double batch and serve at your 4th of July barbeque. So, what flavors should I make next? I’m thinking chocolate sandwich cookie with cherry ice cream filling.
photos by Leah Bergman
Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp water
Vanilla Ice Cream
Red, White & Blue Sprinkles
Star Candies – Wilton
1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 and spray your ice cream sandwich cookie pan with non-stick spray.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, beat to combine.
3. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. With mixer on low, slowly add in your dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
4. Add in 1 1/2 tsp water to help the dough come together.
5. Scoop one level Tbs of dough into each mold pressing down flat with your fingers. Do not overfill!
6. Bake 10 minutes or until just golden and set. Remove to a cooling rack and cool completely.
7. Remove from pan.
8. Top half of the cookie rounds with a scoop (1/4 cup) of ice cream. Top with a second cookie pressing down to flatten a bit.
9. Freeze on a cookie sheet to firm up the ice cream if too soft.
10. Roll in sprinkles, candy or nuts, and re-freeze until firm. Enjoy!
Everyone needs a few solid summer dinner ideas on hand beyond just grilled dogs and burgers. The one dish I make all season long is this 5-Ingredient Bacon-Corn Alfredo. It’s easy enough for a lazy weeknight dinner, but fancy enough for guests (and super inexpensive).
The trick to my recipe: There’s no heavy cream! Or butter for that matter. To make the tangy, creamy sauce I just alternate adding pasta water and soft fresh goat cheese to the hot pasta until everything melts together into cheesy perfection. It’s still rich, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a simple ingredient hack that lends a ton of flavor using as few ingredients as possible.
Speaking of ingredients, I love using slab bacon for this pasta and cutting it into little cubes. If you’d rather just use bacon strips, that’s totally fine. Crumb those babies up once they’re crisp and sprinkle ‘em over at the end! And if you’re willing to splurge on one extra ingredient, teeny basil leaves will really up the freshness factor. Just an idea—bon appetite!
serves: 4 to 6
5 strips bacon or 1 small piece slab bacon, cut into pieces (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 ears corn, kernels cut off
1 pound linguine
6 to 8 ounces fresh goat cheese
PANTRY STAPLES: Salt and pepper
1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.
2. Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate to drain using a slotted spoon; set aside. Add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the bacon drippings in the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the corn; turn off the heat.
3. Add the linguine to the boiling water and cook at the label directs. About 2 minutes before the pasta is done cooking, return the corn mixture to medium heat.
4. Reserve 3/4 cup pasta water; drain the pasta and add to the skillet with the corn mixture. Add a splash of reserved pasta water (about 1/4 cup) to the skillet and cook, stirring, until simmering. Add a large spoonful of goat cheese and cook, stirring, until melted. Repeat, stirring in pasta water and goat cheese, until you’ve reached your desired consistency (I usually use about 1/2 cup water and all but a few tablespoons goat cheese, which I use for topping at the end). Stir in salt and pepper to taste.
5. Divide pasta among bowls. Sprinkle with bacon and more freshly ground pepper.
One of my great loves is shopping for vintage kitchen accessories. Huge shocker? I don’t think so. From vintage barware to jello molds, ice cream cups, and dishes, I am always on the lookout for pieces that catch my eye. Some of my favorite finds have come from the most unlikely of places like the Salvation Army in our old neighborhood. You just never know what treasures will go unnoticed by fellow thrift store shoppers!
But if you haven’t the time to dig through your local thrift store, there are a few great sites that regularly supply fabulous vintage finds. A few of my favorite online sites for vintage barware are Hunter’s Alley, One Kings Lane, Chairish and Etsy. Where do you shop for vintage goods? What is your favorite find? Here is my most recent treasure.