Strawberry Daiquiri

July 19: National Daiquiri Day

Summers are hot, especially in Texas, so Highlander sometimes chills out with a strawberry daiquiri. The fruit is in season and is abundant around this time of the year here. So much so that we have been to two strawberry festivals in Texas (Poteet and Pasadena) which sell the fruit by bushels and baskets! On a hot summer day, relax and cool off with a classic cocktail—strawberry daiquiri—on National Daiquiri Day.


(Adapted from Cocktails at Love to Know)


  • 1 ½ cups ice
  • ¾ cup rum
  • ½ cup lime juice, fresh squeezed
  • 3 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries (washed and leaves removed)


In a blender, place the ice, rum and lime juice. Sprinkle the sugar.

Add the strawberries. Blend/puree/liquefy well. Pour into glasses. Garnish with a strawberry or slice of lime (optional).


  • For a mocktail (virgin version of strawberry daiquiri), eliminate the rum and substitute with lemon-lime soda.
  • Search our blog for more cocktail recipes.

Texas Caviar

July 18: National Caviar Day

Our Ukrainian friend Olga W. eats real Russian caviar but we have not acquired a taste for that luxury cuisine. We even tried to fill some champagne macarons with caviar as well but we still did not care for it.

Perhaps our taste (buds) leans toward the beer (budget) than champagne (and caviar) kind. So for National Caviar Day, we went the cheap route and asked our friend, Karen B., to make her version of Texas Caviar for our blog. Her recipe does not have roe but lots of richness from the earth instead—beans and colorful chopped vegetables.

Our guest chef is a true Texan and is the perfect person to share her recipe for Texas Caviar. Born and bred near Houston, Karen loves her cowboy boots, the rodeo, BBQs and country music. She and Islander are friends through the local culinary and cake clubs.

Served as a side salad or as an appetizer with (Texas-shaped) tortilla chips, Texas Caviar is an economical alternative to expensive caviar on National Caviar Day!


From Karen B.


  • 1 small onion (or half a Texas-sized sweet onion), chopped
  • 1 bunch of green onions/scallions, chopped (green parts only)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 5 small Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black eyed peas, drained
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels
  • 1 bottle (8 ounces) zesty Italian dressing


Finely chop the sweet and green onions, green/red/jalapeno peppers and cilantro leaves. Mince the garlic and dice the tomatoes. Put them all in large mixing bowl. Stir in the drained black beans and black eyed peas. Add the sweet corn kernels. Pour in the zesty Italian dressing and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for about two hours to allow the flavors to meld. Serve in a bowl, garnished with extra chopped cilantro leaves, if desired.


  • Thanks to Karen B. for taking some photos for our blog and for making Texas Caviar for us. Take special note of her adorable Texas-shaped bowl that she used to serve the dip with tortilla chips.
  • Our church puts on an annual “Denim and Diamonds” fundraiser so we were inspired to photograph the food with our jeans and rhinestones. “Denim and Diamonds” is a popular party theme in Texas and is also a perfect backdrop for Texas Caviar.


Patriotic Peanut Butter

M&M Cookies

July 4: American Independence Day

Americans are celebrating the 4th of July today by shopping the sales, seeing a blockbuster movie, watching fireworks, having a picnic or barbecue or enjoying the summer season with family and friends. Whenever we gather with them to celebrate USA’s independence day, we like to make festive food to share, such as these peanut butter cookies studded with red, white and blue M&M peanut butter-flavored candies. This dessert is easy to make and is always a welcome treat at parties with a patriotic theme. Happy 4th of July!



  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter M&Ms (we used the seasonal red, white and blue peanut butter-flavored M&M candies)
  • ¼ cup sugar, granulated white


In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the brown sugar. Mix in the peanut butter. Beat in the egg. Blend well.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Gradually add the dry to the wet ingredients and mix until everything comes together. Fold in the M&Ms. Scoop 1-inch size balls form the dough. Roll in the sugar.

Place each dough ball on a lightly greased cookie sheet, leaving about two inches to allow for spreading. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and let the cookie cool completely. Store in an airtight container. Yield: Approximately 2 ½ dozen cookies.


  • The use of red, white and blue M&Ms in this patriotic-colored recipe is similar to the one of the election cookies we made a few years ago.
  • Change the colors of the candies to suit the season (for example, red and pink M&Ms for Valentine’s Day and red and green M&Ms for Christmas).
  • Search our blog for other patriotic-themed recipes.


Great Canadian Ketchup Cupcakes

July 1: Canada Day

Canadians seem to have an affinity for ketchup. Ketchup-flavored potato chips are a wildly popular snack—and ketchup cupcakes are a relatively new novelty from our northern neighbors. We made the latter to share with Highlander’s co-workers and proudly observe the national holiday of his birth country.

At first, he did not reveal what the “secret/special” ingredient (ketchup) was in the cupcakes, which look a lot like red velvet flavor. So it was a surprise when his co-workers tasted a tangy yet sweetly spiced cupcake. Canadian flag colors of white and red complete this confection; it is topped with white maple syrup-infused cream cheese frosting and red candy maple leaves.

The Great Canadian Ketchup Cake was introduced by the Heinz company to mark its centennial year in Canada in 2009. Curious cooks like us wanted to try the recipe (in cupcake form) and post the experience appropriately on Canada Day. It is a decent dessert from a creative advertising campaign!


(Adapted from Heinz via Kraft Canada)

For the ketchup cupcakes

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup tomato ketchup (we used Heinz organic)
  • 2 tablespoons liquid red food coloring
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs


In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, stir together the water, ketchup and red food coloring. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the brown sugar until fluffy.

Beat in the eggs. Gradually add some of the flour mixture, alternating with the ketchup mixture and blend until smooth.

Scoop into red paper cupcake liners. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on wire racks.

For the maple syrup-infused cream cheese frosting and maple leaf candy toppers

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (see Notes)
  • red candy melts (we used Wilton brand)


In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter with the cream cheese. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Stir in the maple syrup and blend well. Use a spatula to frost the tops of the cupcakes.

Melt the red candy melts according to the package directions. Spoon into mini maple leaf molds. Let set, unmold and place the candy maple leaves in the center of the cupcakes. Chill in the refrigerator and let the cupcakes come to room temperature for serving. Yield: Approximately 20 cupcakes.


  • Instead of maple syrup, substitute with a teaspoon of maple extract for a more pronounced maple flavor.
  • We bought our fall leaves candy mold when it was in season at our local craft store. The particular mold we used can be ordered online at 
  • Search our blog for more Canadian recipes (see our Theme Menus). 


Minion Milano Cookies

June 30: Movie Premiere of “”Despicable Me 3” (2017)

The Minions are back with more mayhem in the movie, “Despicable Me 3”, which premieres today. Those scene-stealing stars had their own eponymous movie a few years ago and we made Minion Twinkie cupcakes for the occasion (and for many parties and potlucks as well). This time, instead of Twinkies, we used Milano cookies to make a quick and easy despicably delightful dessert. Make Minion Milano cookies as a fun food to celebrate Gru’s crew of Minions and his family’s return in the third film of the “Despicable Me” franchise.



  • Milano cookies
  • Blue confectioner’s coating, candy melts or white chocolate tinted blue
  • Black tube icing
  • Candy eyeballs


Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Set aside. Unwrap the Milano cookies. Melt the blue confectioner’s coating in a deep bowl. Dip the end of a cookie halfway. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Continue dipping the rest of the cookies. Place in the refrigerator to allow the coating to harden. Remove from the refrigerator.

With a small round decorator’s tip, use the black icing tube to pipe in details of the Minions, such as the hair and eye pieces. Press a candy eyeball onto the black icing while still wet. Finish the mouth details. Vary the expressions of the Minions. Arrange cookies on a serving tray.


  • Minion Mayhem is a simulator ride attraction at Universal Studios in Florida and Hollywood. Japan is set to open one as well.
  • Make Minion Twinkie cupcakes to add to the Minion Milano cookies for a despicable dessert table.



(Japanese Cucumber Salad)

June 14: National Cucumber Day

As the hot summer season starts soon, stay cool as a cucumber with a light Japanese-style salad called sunomomo. Many Asian countries have their own version of a vinegary cucumber side dish, like the Filipino suka pipino we made for National Vinegar Day on November 1. The ingredients have changed slightly by using the products from that particular country. This recipe has a little alcohol (mirin—a sweet rice wine—or sake—Japanese rice wine) added to it for a subtle sweetness in this side dish. Sunomomo tastes great with grilled meats (Japanese teriyaki steak, chicken and/or seafood are sensational for a summer BBQ) and on National Cucumber Day.


(Adapted from


  • 1 large cucumber
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin or sake
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • pinch of dried mint or dried parsley (optional)


Wash and peel the cucumber. Cut into thin slices. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix the rice wine vinegar with the mirin or sake.

Stir in the sugar, water, salt and red pepper flakes. Toss in the cucumber. Sprinkle dried mint or parsley. Cover, refrigerate and allow the flavors to set for at least half an hour.


  • Try our teriyaki sauce and baste some steak, chicken, shrimp and salmon when grilling or barbecuing meats.
  • Bake teriyaki chicken as an alternative to grilling/barbecuing. Serve with sunomomo.

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp

June 8: World Oceans Day

Islander grew up on the south-central shore of Oahu. But sometimes she and her family went up to the North Shore for some reason or another. The drive was about an hour one way but the mauka and makai scenery was a nice distraction that made the trip seem shorter. While on the other side of the island, we would stop to eat at one of the many food trucks/lunch wagons that sold shrimp dishes (classic cocktail, sweet and spicy, lemon pepper, fried coconut and garlic butter flavors). They taste so ‘ono (delicious)!

While the North Shore shrimp trucks use fresh shrimp from the Kahuku farms, we use sustainable shrimp harvested from the world’s oceans to cook our mainland meals. When trying any of the seafood recipes posted on our blog, we encourage readers to use brands that practice ethical and sustainable fishing and farming methods (look for labels on the package).

Celebrate World Oceans Day with sustainable seafood and cook Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp. Aloha!


(Adapted from I Love Hawaiian Food Recipes)


  • 12 jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined, tails intact
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/8 – ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ stick butter
  • 12 cloves garlic, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoon white wine
  • lemon wedges (optional garnish)


Rinse and pat dry the shrimp. In a pie plate, combine the flour, paprika and cayenne pepper. Dredge the shrimp in this mixture, shaking off the excess flour. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.

Saute the chopped garlic for about a minute. Then lay the shrimp on the bottom of the skillet. Sprinkle salt to taste and cook for about three minutes. Turn the shrimp over and cook for a few more minutes. Finish the dish with white wine, cook until slightly evaporated, the garlic has browned and the shrimp is reddish in color. Serve hot with scoops of white steamed rice garnished with lemon wedges.


  • Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp is a variation of our shrimp scampi. Search our blog for other seafood recipes.
  • After eating at the shrimp truck in the North Shore, we would head to Ted’s Bakery for dessert and have a slice of chocolate haupia pie. Try our copycat recipe here.
  • One of our favorite movies is Disney’s “Moana” (“Vaiana”), which means “ocean” is many Polynesian/South Pacific languages. It is fun to watch this film on World Oceans Day.
  • Islander’s hometown is ‘Ewa Beach. Her ‘ohana (family) would spend some Sunday afternoons at the nearby beach park, with a distant view of Honolulu and Diamond Head. While Daddy would grill something on the hibachi, she and her brother and Mommy would gather a little limu (seaweed) for a side salad to complete our supper menu.
  • Islander is partial to the Pacific as her home state of Hawaii is right in the middle of the ocean. She used to participate with her schools to do volunteer trash pickup in ‘Ewa Beach so the community’s park and shore would stay clean. Please keep ALL beaches beautiful by picking up your trash (especially plastic products) and pet waste! Protecting our oceans from land litter is one of the premises of World Oceans Day.