This Thursday is summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year and the official beginning of summer. Some cultures celebrate this day with festivals and rituals, but at our house we just tend to stay outdoors and marvel at how it's still daylight at almost 10 pm.

There's a certain magic to this time of year that hides in plain sight. Maybe you've noticed that green things are awake. Plants and vines are growing wild under summer's spell, and I can't seem to keep well-camouflaged caterpillars and leafy-looking bugs off of my tomato plants. I wanted to make something sweet that celebrated the green things taking over our landscape, so I began digging through my overfilled box of cake decorating supplies.

Father's Day is just around the corner, and we're hosting a proper cookout for the special guys in our lives. I already have a couple of potluck-style desserts in mind for the day, but I also wanted to make something cute and kind of funny. Inspiration struck when I found a bag of smoky Lapsang Souchong tea in the pantry. Steeped in heavy cream, it makes a marvelous smoked ganache - and it's a fitting flavor for a chocolate cigar!

You won't need a fancy gadget to make these. Waxed paper rolled into tubes makes a simple and effective cigar mold.

I hope you're not tired of seeing cactus cakes, because I have yet another to add to the ever-growing collection that fills our Instagram and Pinterest feeds. Lately I've been paying special attention to things that make me smile, and there's just something so funny - almost silly - about these little succulent cakes. I certainly had a laugh at the end of this project, not to mention a slice of lemon buttercream-covered cake!

Cakes get a lot of attention here, and maybe that's why this blog is a little deficient in brownie recipes. It doesn't make much sense because I adore brownies, especially when they are dark, dense and fudgy like these.

Summer all but here (and officially on June 21st), so that makes me want to celebrate tropical flavors, like coconut! Not only do these brownies have a heaping helping of golden toasted coconut on top, they also have a coconutty secret ingredient inside.

We are in the midst of strawberry season, and this breakfast bread pudding recipe is a great way to put those berries to good use! It's such a simple fix, and so flavorful. Below the toasty top layer of bread and berries you'll find pockets of cream cheese... seriously folks! I'm not kidding when I say this is one of the best bread pudding recipes I've ever made. The acidity from the red berries gives balance to the creamy elements. My husband says it's like eating strawberry shortcake for breakfast. I'd have to agree!

This is a great family-style dessert that's easy to make and will feed about 10 hungry people. My favorite way to serve it is as pictured: plop ice cream scoops on top and then give everyone a fork. Somehow the cookie tastes even better when everyone is standing around the stove top, hovering over the skillet for a bite. The cookie also slices neatly into triangles, and it goes without saying that people with better manners could serve it on plates at the dinner table.

The combination of warm peanut butter-oatmeal cookie with melting vanilla ice cream on top is seriously amazing. The cast iron skillet gives the cookie chewy edges while the center remains soft, but if you don't have a cast iron skillet a 10-inch round cake pan will work just fine.
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