Strawberry, Vanilla, and Red Wine Sorbet

What’s a girl to do with four bottles of opened red wine? Well for one, drink it. Though I don’t drink that much to begin with so the thought of finishing four bottles of wine is not appealing. OK, so drink one, share two, and make sorbet with the last one. YES! Sounds like a plan.

This strawberry, vanilla, and red wine sorbet is so refreshing and just perfect for a summer treat.

Our friends Courtney and Steve were taste-testing wines for their upcoming wedding and I was able to get the remaining leftover, unwanted bottles. Free booze – woo! Oh wait, not woo! – opened bottles of wine usually go bad in a few days because of oxidation. Ack! Chris and I enjoyed a bottle to ourselves and then brought two up to Calistoga while we were there last weekend for 4th of July.

I wanted to use the last bottle of wine for cooking or baking. So I used half to make a mushroom and bacon ragù and the other half for this amazing sorbet. Red wine and strawberries make the perfect pairing. This recipe is so easy, and simple with only five ingredients. You mix everything together, blend, and freeze. And ta-da!

This sorbet is great dessert on a hot summer’s day! Its smooth and soft and bursting with strawberry flavor. The red wine taste is nice and subtle and mellows out the sweetness of the strawberries. Plus who wouldn’t enjoy a dessert packed with a double dose of antioxidants?

Strawberry, Vanilla, and Red Wine Sorbet
Makes about 1 quart
Recipe from Asian Flavors of Jean-Georges by Jean-Georges Vongerichten


  • 2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and quartered
  • 1 cup dry red wine (I used Zinfandel, the 2011 Crooked Path to be specific)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, plus more to taste (I ended up only using 1 cup)
  • 4 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise and seeds scraped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

*Put the strawberries, wine, sugar, and vanilla (both seeds and pods) and lemon juice in a large bowl and set aside for 45 minutes.
*Remove the vanilla pods, transfer the mixture to a blender, and purée until smooth. Taste and adjust the sugar, if desired. Transfer to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.



Project M + A Wedding Cake: Cake Tasting

Baking has taken over my life! I’m not complaining. I enjoy baking and even getting up at 6am to say, make croissants, but baking a wedding cake is exhausting on a whole other level. As I said before I am making a friend’s wedding cake. I am absolutely thrilled and slightly terrified at the same time to be doing this. That’s where planning and practice comes in hand. I’ve been baking a bunch of cakes to get a feel for the right recipes and also to practice my frosting and decorating skills. A couple weeks ago, I held a tasting in my teeny apartment for Michelle and Adam, and our two other friends, Chris and Lorie.

Research (and commonsense) told me that cake tasting should come with food. Otherwise, we would all be on a crazy sugar high and probably get diabetes. For dinner I made a light pasta with shredded zucchini, tomatoes, ricotta, lemon zest and chives – no sauce necessary! The lemon zest and chives were bold and fragrant enough to flavor the dish. I also served some baked polenta fries (recipe coming soon). We also had some cheese, salami and salad. I wish I had a picture of dinner but we ate it too fast.

After filling our stomachs with some calories, I cleared the table, got out new plates and shiny forks to begin the real festivities. I was adamant about everyone not filling up too much during dinner. Though there is always room for cake, let’s be real.

I made four different (mini) cakes: a vanilla cake with mango-lime curd and blueberries and vanilla buttercream, a spice cake with strawberry filling and buttercream, a chocolate cake with salted caramel buttercream, and a pineapple carrot cake with cinnamon (American) buttercream.

They were all super fun to make. Though it was a lot of work. I think I have purchased more butter and eggs in the past month than in my entire life combined. The biggest cake I have made before all of this was Ina Garten’s Coconut Cake which is a 2 9-inch layer cake. And I probably have made that cake a handful of times but it’s always been for my family, an easy crowd to please. Much to my relief, everyone liked all the cakes. Even when we went around and ranked the cakes from our most favorite to least, each cake was number on someone’s list.

The winner of the night for Michelle and Adam was the first cake, the vanilla with mango-lime curd and blueberries:

(Photo taken the next morning.)

I tried out three different vanilla cake recipes and although I liked the one we had that night I will ultimately use this Martha Stewart recipe. I like the texture and color better of that cake (it’s the one I used for my birthday corgi cake). The mango-lime curd here got a little soggy. For my birthday cake, I whipped in some buttercream to the curd and that helped hold it better. It’s been a lot of trial and error so far. I also have found a favorite Swiss meringue buttercream recipe which I will share in a later post.

Chris’ favorite cake was this pineapple carrot cake:

I kind of made up this recipe by combining two different ones. And the cake is vegan! Though unfortunately the buttercream is not. I pulled a MacGyver in the kitchen that night since we ran out of eggs (catastrophe) and I had to improvise on the original pineapple cake I intended to make (yay, day saved). There was an episode where MacGyver made up a cake out of thin air…and baked it with two paperclips, I think. 

And my favorite was the chocolate cake:

Some pineapple carrot cake got on this somehow…opps!

Coincidentally this cake is also vegan. There were two vegan cakes that night and this cake was intended to be vegan. I used Joanne Chang’s recipe and it was so easy to make. I loved the flavor of espresso in here and it paired really well with the caramel buttercream.

The last cake was a spice cake:

It was kind of like a gingerbread cake without molasses. If I make this cake again I would amp up the spices. The taste of cinnamon, cloves, and allspice were too faint for me. For this cake I paired it with a strawberry buttercream. Michelle and Adam can their own strawberry jam so I wanted to play around with that and incorporate it somehow in one of the cakes. The sweet strawberry buttercream went really well here to balance the spice of the cake.

And that was the night of the cake tasting. Of course there was lots of cake left over. Fortunately I seem to always have willing volunteers to take them off my hand. The wedding is about two weeks away! More cake to come!

Easy Cinnamon Rolls

Are you drooling?

Good, me too. Got a spare hour? Because you could be enjoying these soft, gooey, sweet cinnamon rolls just 60 minutes from now. When I saw Darla’s recipe I got an instant craving for them. Similar to the effect of KFC commercials on me. No joke. One Christmas, we were watching TV and a KFC commercial came on that must have had some sort of subliminal messaging because within seconds we were pushing our younger cousin out the door with orders of original recipe chicken, those snacker sandwich and biscuits… fortunately the double down hadn’t come out yet. Fast forward to an hour later, we found ourselves stuffed and learned Christmas dinner was ready. But it was so worth it.

Anyways, this is not a promo for KFC (that will be its own post).  

Back to the cinnamon rolls – that by the way, taste so much better than the store bought rolls. The original recipe calls for pecans and maple syrup but I decided to go with just a simple mixture of cinnamon and nutmeg and some vanilla instead. You could experiment with your own mix-ins as well. Hazelnuts and chopped chocolate would be my next attempt! 

Straight out of the oven and they are looking mighty fine even without the icing.

Bottom line, these rolls are awesome and sure to impress anyone especially when they learn how quick they are to put together and bake. It’s like having a Cinnabun in your own home, but cooler because you made them yourselves.

Cinnamon Rolls
Recipe adapted from Bakingdom
Makes 8 rolls


For the filling:

  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • dash ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

For the dough:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

For the icing:

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 to 2 tsp milk
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar

To make the filling:
*Combine all of the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add the melted butter and stir with a fork until the mixture looks like wet sand. Set aside.

To make the dough:
*Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Brush a 9-inch cake pan with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter.  
*In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, and stir until just combined. Transfer the dough to a flour work surface and knead until smooth (it will still be very soft, but will be smoother and less lumpy).
*Flatten the dough into a rectangle about 12 x 8 inches. Pour 2 tablespoons of the melted butter on and spread around with your fingers. Pour the filling over the dough and spread it evenly over the top, leaving about 1/2 inch or so border around the outside edge. Press the filling down to to pack it on top of the dough.
*Starting on the long side of the dough, roll the side up, pressing as you go, to create a tightly rolled log. Pinch the seam closed and lay the log seam side down. Cut it into 8 even pieces, and transfer each roll to the prepared cake pan. Brush the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Bake for 20 to 23 minutes, until golden brown.

To make the icing:
*In a medium bowl, mix the butter, vanilla and sugar until they come together. Add a teaspoon or two of milk to loosen it up. 

*Allow the cinnamon rolls to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Pour the icing over the rolls. Serve warm.
*These will keep in an airtight container for 3 days.

Note: For the buttermilk, I measured out just about a cup of milk and then added enough white vinegar to make it 1 cup. I let the mixture stand for 2-3 minutes before using. Also, I melted butter as I went along and found that was easiest to keep track of tablespoons of melted butter needed throughout the recipe.