Flag Fruit & Dessert Platter

Flag Fruit & Dessert Platter  |  Lemon & Mocha

Memorial Day weekend always feels like the official start of summer. I’m sure I would feel differently if I was a teacher or if Matt and I had kids in school, but for us, come Memorial Day we are in full summer mode! Up here in Boston it usually means we will have warm weather from here on out without any random 50 degree “spring” days – not that I want to jinx it. It also means summer barbecues and outdoor eating are sticking around for the next few months. I love the casualness of a barbecue and it goes well with my new-found love for easy entertaining.

Flag Fruit & Dessert Platter  |  Lemon & Mocha

If you know me, and especially if you’ve been to dinner at my house, you know I tend to… over-do it when it comes to food. Everything from scratch, multiple courses, me barely sitting because I’m making sure the fresh ravioli will be ready the same time as Matt is done searing the sous vide steak. Sound familiar? I love cooking, and I especially love cooking for other people, so when I have a chance to go all “chefy” and put my pent-up absorption of Top Chef season viewings to good use I go to town.

Flag Fruit & Dessert Platter  |  Lemon & Mocha

However, in the last six months or so I have realized how amazing it is when you have people over and keep things simple. The food is still delicious, everyone still has a great time and best of all I (and my sous chef, Matt), get to fully enjoy the company. I have completely embraced grocery store shortcuts and I don’t plan to go back anytime soon. I still love to have at least one thing I get a little “chefy” with, whether it’s some homemade bread or a crazy dessert, but it doesn’t need to be the whole meal.

Flag Fruit & Dessert Platter  |  Lemon & Mocha

That’s where this Flag Fruit & Dessert Platter comes in. This is the perfect easy entertaining dish to serve at Memorial Day barbecues, Fourth of July parties or anytime you’re feeling patriotic. As I’ve mentioned in the past posts, Babu and I used to make a flag cake every July 4th so I’m always looking for new ways to reinvent the iconic red, white and blue dessert. I thought it would be fun to do a snack board that’s easy to put together and make ahead of time, whether you’re hosting or bringing it to someone’s house. I went with a sweet and salty theme, although feel free to get creative if there are other treats you would prefer to include!

Flag Fruit & Dessert Platter  |  Lemon & Mocha

For the red stripes I used cherries, strawberries and watermelon. For the white stripes I used store-bought yogurt covered pretzels and Chex Mix Muddy Buddies. I wasn’t able to find these in the Market Basket by me, but I might not have been looking in the right spot. Does anyone else get overwhelmed in there? I found both things at 7-11, although I know Trader Joe’s carries yogurt covered pretzels and the Flipz brand also has some. You can certainly make your own Muddy Buddies as they are just Chex cereal covered in chocolate, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar, but I was trying to keep it simple. A word of warning if you buy the Muddy Buddies – do not buy the cookies and cream flavor. Actually, let me re-phrase – buy the cookies and cream flavor to eat because it’s delicious, but do not buy it for this platter because it has speckles of Oreo that would throw off your white stripe.

Flag Fruit & Dessert Platter  |  Lemon & Mocha

The blue stars are where I went a little “chefy”, but it’s not even really that fancy because it’s still so simple. Matt loves gummies so I wanted to include them in this dessert platter somehow. I tossed them in with the blueberries for the blue star portion of the flag board. These are lemon-lime gummy bears that I dyed blue. If you would rather another flavor you could substitute with a different fruit juice, such as orange or grape, but don’t use pineapple because the enzymes do something to the gelatin that makes them not turn out right. Making homemade gummy bears is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while and I finally went for it after reading the reviews on these cute animal silicone molds. The gelatin, juice and honey mixture gets heated in a saucepan then piped into the molds using a big dropper that comes with the molds.

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After 20 minutes in the fridge to set they pop right out of the molds, cute smiles, paws and all! I highly recommend these molds if you want to try homemade gummies, otherwise feel free to go full simple and buy them at the store! I have another easy entertaining recipe to share on Wednesday so stay tuned! In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite recipes on Lemon & Mocha that each include some sort of grocery store shortcut:

Cheesy Pesto Bread with Crispy Prosciutto  |  Lemon & Mocha

Cheesy Pesto Bread with Crispy Prosciutto

Crab Dip Puffs  |  Lemon & Mocha

Crab Dip Puffs

Best Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs  |  Lemon & Mocha

Best Slow Cooker Cocktail Meatballs

Chicken Cacciatore with Mushrooms & Artichokes  |  Lemon & Mocha

Chicken Cacciatore with Mushrooms & Artichokes

Babu's Coffee Cake

Babu’s Coffee Cake

Summer Berry Trifle

Summer Berry Trifle

Chocolate Drizzled Peanut Butter Crunch Chocolate Brownies

Chocolate Drizzled Peanut Butter Crunch Chocolate Brownies

Triple Berry Naked Angel Food Cake

Triple Berry Naked Angel Food Cake

Flag Fruit & Dessert Platter
 
Ingredients
for the platter
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon, diced
  • Cherries
  • White yogurt covered pretzels
  • Chex Muddy Buddies
for the gummies
  • 3 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • ⅓ cup lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Blue food coloring
Directions
for the platter
  1. Wash and dry the berries and cherries. Place your bowl in the top-left corner and fill with blueberries and blue gummy bears. Lay the cherries horizontally on the top of your platter for the first stripe. Follow with a horizontal stripe of the yogurt covered pretzels. Then a stripe of the strawberries (you can hull and cut this if you prefer) followed by a stripe of the Chex Mix Muddy Buddies. Finish with a horizontal stripe of the diced watermelon at the bottom of the platter.
for the gummies
  1. Place the silicone gummy molds on a baking sheet that will fit in your fridge. I use two toaster oven sized pans. This will fill up one and a half of the silicone gummy molds in this post.
  2. Combine the gelatin, lime juice, honey and lemon zest in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk until the mixture has melted and combined. Add a few drops of blue food coloring and stir to blend. Use the dropper to fill the silicone gummy molds. Place in the fridge and let set for 20 minutes. Pop them out of the molds then serve or place in the fridge in an airtight container.
Notes
I didn’t put amounts for the platter ingredients because it will depend on the size of your platter. The platter pictured here is roughly 11-inches by 17-inches. I used roughly 7 ounces of yogurt covered pretzels, 5 ounces of Muddy Buddies, 3 cups of cherries, 3 cups of whole strawberries, 3 cups diced watermelon, and ½ pint of blueberries.

To prep ahead of time place all the fruit in their spots except for the watermelon. Place the gummy bears in their spot as well. Cover and put in the fridge. When ready to serve, add the yogurt covered pretzels, Muddy Buddies and watermelon (their juices will run on the platter).

 

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Grilled Asparagus with Chimichurri

Grilled Asparagus with Chimichurri  |  Lemon & Mocha

These are the grilled asparagus from the Grilled Steak with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce dish, but they have been kicked up a notch. The chimichurri sauce is olive oil, parsley, garlic, lime juice, oregano, salt and pepper pureed together in a blender. Super simple and nicely concentrated with fresh flavors.

Grilled Asparagus with Chimichurri  |  Lemon & Mocha

It’s also delicious over grilled steaks and breakfast tacos, but today we are drizzling it over grilled asparagus. Maybe even doing a little dunking and swiping action, too, because it’s so good you will want every last drop.

Grilled Asparagus with Chimichurri  |  Lemon & Mocha

Matt and I love asparagus so I’m always brainstorming for ideas to jazz it up while still keeping it healthy and quick to make.

Grilled Asparagus with Chimichurri  |  Lemon & Mocha

I highly recommend making all three dishes from this week together – the Hawaiian BBQ Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, the Asian Pineapple Slaw, and this Grilled Asparagus with Chimichurri. When the Hawaiian sauce mixes with the slaw and the chimichurri it is the definition of complete magic! Enjoy and happy Friday!

Grilled Asparagus with Chimichurri  |  Lemon & Mocha

Grilled Asparagus with Chimichurri
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
for the chimichurri
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons packed fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
for the asparagus
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
for the chimichurri
  1. Combine all the ingredients except the asparagus in a blender. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Set aside.
for the grilled asparagus
  1. Remove and discard the woody ends of the asparagus. If you lightly bend the asparagus stalk it will snap at a natural spot where the thick stem ends. Drizzle the asparagus with the olive oil then toss to coat. Season with the salt and pepper. I usually do about 5-6 grinds each of our salt and pepper grinders (they are small).
  2. Heat your grill or grill pan so it’s at medium-high heat. Grill the asparagus for 5 minutes, tossing/turning once while grilling. If your asparagus stalks are very thin you may only need 3 minutes, if the stalks are thick you may need longer than the 5 minutes. If you are using a grill not a grill pan I would suggest using a grill grid or basket so the asparagus doesn’t slip through the grill grates and adding about 5 minutes of grilling time. Top with the chimichurri.

 

Asian Pineapple Slaw

Asian Pineapple Slaw  |  Lemon & Mocha

Ta-da! Here is the slaw I referred to in Monday’s Hawaiian BBQ Slow Cooker Pulled Pork recipe. It’s an Asian Pineapple Slaw to be specific and, yes, it is definitely as delicious as it sounds.

Asian Pineapple Slaw  |  Lemon & Mocha

It probably has the shortest and easiest directions of any post here on Lemon & Mocha. “Add all the ingredients to a medium mixing bowl. Stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.” That’s it!

Asian Pineapple Slaw  |  Lemon & Mocha

Two of the ingredients are reduced sodium soy sauce and sesame oil to bring in the Asian flavor profile, but the fresh pineapple and agave syrup sweeten it up. Add some lime zest to give it some citrus zing (and a bunch of other ingredients that aren’t as exciting so I won’t mention them here) and you have a bright and crunchy veggie side dish.

Asian Pineapple Slaw  |  Lemon & Mocha

I have actually only ever made this slaw when I’m serving the Hawaiian BBQ Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, but it would taste great with chicken burgers or teriyaki grilled salmon. And probably a whole lot of other things, but those are the two dishes I think I will pair it with next. Enjoy!

Asian Pineapple Slaw  |  Lemon & Mocha

Asian Pineapple Slaw
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 cups shredded red cabbage, packed
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • Zest from ½ lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Add all the ingredients to a medium mixing bowl. Stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Hawaiian Barbecue Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Hawaiian Barbecue Slow Cooker Pulled Pork  |  Lemon & Mocha

Oftentimes I will make a dish that’s really good, but because I have so many different recipes that I want to try I won’t make the dish again for a year or more. This is not one of those times. Even though I’m like a squirrel when it comes to recipes and meal ideas, constantly getting distracted by the next delicious thing, there are a few recipes out there that get our attention so much they end up on our exclusive rotation. This Hawaiian Barbecue Slow Cooker Pulled Pork is on that short list.

Hawaiian Barbecue Slow Cooker Pulled Pork  |  Lemon & Mocha

It’s savory, succulent and sweet. The savory umami-ness of the pork comes from the soy sauce and rich beef broth. The pork is slow cooked with lots of liquid ingredients making it incredibly moist and tender. I love when pork has a little sweetness to it and we get that with the pineapple juice, brown sugar and ketchup.

Hawaiian Barbecue Slow Cooker Pulled Pork  |  Lemon & Mocha

My favorite part about the pork is the thick sauce that gets drizzled on top. After combining the pineapple mixture you pour half over the pork while it cooks, while the other half gets cooked down separately on the stovetop along with some garlic and ginger to make a concentrated savory-sweet explosion of a sauce.

Hawaiian Barbecue Slow Cooker Pulled Pork  |  Lemon & Mocha

Other than being lick-your-fingers delicious, the other reason this Hawaiian Barbecue Slow Cooker Pulled Pork made the list is because it’s very easy to make (hello, slow cooker!) and other than the pork and pineapple juice I always have everything already in my kitchen. Sometimes Matt and I will eat the BBQ pulled pork with the Hawaiian rolls, like in these photos, but usually we will just eat it with the cabbage slaw and asparagus sides I’m going to share later this week as our attempt to keep it “low-carb”.

Hawaiian Barbecue Slow Cooker Pulled Pork  |  Lemon & Mocha

We usually get a few nights out of it and then freeze the rest. If you don’t eat pork, I’ve made this with boneless skinless chicken breasts before and it tasted really good. Not as good as the pork, because it’s pork vs a chicken breast, but still good. If you really want to get into the island mood, pair this dish with the Pineapple Mojitos from last week!

Hawaiian Barbecue Slow Cooker Pulled Pork  |  Lemon & Mocha

Hawaiian Barbecue Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
 
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients
for the dry rub
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
for the pulled pork and sauce
  • 1 6-ounce can pineapple juice
  • ⅓ cup beef broth
  • ⅔ cup ketchup
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons hot sauce
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 ½ pounds boneless pork shoulder or pork butt
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons grated ginger
  • King Hawaiian rolls for serving, if desired
Directions
for the dry rub
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, paprika, salt, black pepper and ground ginger. Set aside.
for the pulled pork and sauce
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pineapple juice, beef broth, ketchup, brown sugar, soy sauce and hot sauce. Set aside.
  2. Place the chopped onion and carrots in the bottom of the slow cooker. Coat the pork completely with the dry rub and continue to rub it into the pork until it has all been used up. Place the pork on top of the onion and carrots. Pour half of the pineapple juice mixture over the pork. Cover the remaining reserved half and place in the fridge. Cover and slow cook the pork on low for 7-8 hours.
  3. Remove the pork from the slow cooker and place on a large cutting board. The meat should be falling apart. Shred the pork using two forks. Place the pork in a serving bowl or storage container and add a few tablespoons of liquid from the slow cooker, stirring to combine.
  4. Heat the canola oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and grated ginger and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the other half of the pineapple mixture and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce to low and let simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve drizzled over the pulled pork.

Recipe adapted from Sandra Lee.

Pineapple Mojitos

Pineapple Mojitos  |  Lemon & Mocha

A lot of people ask me where I get the inspiration for the recipes that I post. Recipes from cookbooks, food magazines and other food blogs are common, as well as inspiration from dining out. However, a lot of the time the recipe idea comes from using what I already have in my kitchen. These Pineapple Mojitos are one of those times and I could not be more excited about it! I wanted to post a delicious cocktail before Mother’s Day so you all could have something fun to brunch with this Sunday. I came up with what I thought sounded like a perfect springtime cocktail – a strawberry mint rosé drink – but I wasn’t having much success getting it to taste just right. The next night, Matt mentioned he was thinking about making a mojito with the leftover mint leaves from my cocktail experiment. The wheels started turning and when I saw the small cans of pineapple juice on the counter (used for a tasty recipe I will be posting on Monday!) these Pineapple Mojitos were born.

Pineapple Mojitos  |  Lemon & Mocha

A basic mojito consists of mint, white rum, sugar, lime juice and soda water, but basic won’t cut it. After fiddling around with the recipe and trying different variations I came up with the one below. It’s simple, but so refreshing. I used agave as the sweetener because it mixes really well into the drink and who wants to stand over a stove making simple syrup when there are drinks in your immediate future?! The tropical boldness of the pineapple juice is both sweet and tart, bringing even more of an island vibe to your happy hour. I used Polar’s seasonal Pineapple Pomelo seltzer to bring in even more pineapple flavor, but you can use the seltzer of your choice.

Pineapple Mojitos  |  Lemon & Mocha

I am not a big mint fan, but I love this cocktail. The mint is present enough to deepen the flavor of the drink while being subtle enough to not be the dominant flavor. If you love mint, feel free to add more. I made this for a few friends and a couple of them had it without the mint and still loved it so you can certainly omit it if you wish, but I would suggest trying it with the mint first since it is a mojito after all! I will be making this many, many more times this summer. I hate to say it, but this just bumped the Leebreeze as my go-to cocktail at home – sorry Dad!

Pineapple Mojitos  |  Lemon & Mocha

I hope you enjoy this tropical sparkling cocktail! Happy Mother’s Day to all the fabulous Moms out there, and a special shout-out to my amazing step-mom, Diane, and my wonderful mother-in-law, Theresa!

Pineapple Mojitos  |  Lemon & Mocha

Pineapple Mojitos
 
Yield: 1 drink or 8 servings in a pitcher
Ingredients
for one drink
  • 6 fresh mint leaves, washed
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 2 ounces pineapple juice
  • 1 tablespoon agave
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 2-4 ounces sparking water
  • 1 pineapple wedge, for garnish
for 8 servings in a pitcher
  • 2 cups roughly packed fresh mint leaves, washed
  • 2 cups white rum
  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • ½ cup agave
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • Ice, for serving
  • 16-32 ounces sparkling water, for serving
  • 8 fresh mint leaves, for serving
  • Pineapple wedges, for serving
Directions
for one drink
  1. Lightly muddle the mint leaves in the bottom of your glass. I did this with the opposite end of a wooden spoon. You want to press it just enough to release their minty scent; if you tear or bruise mint leaves they turn bitter. Add the ice cubes.
  2. In a liquid measuring cup or cocktail shaker, add the rum, pineapple juice, agave and lime juice. Mix or shake to combine then pour over the ice in your glass. Top with the sparkling water and garnish with the pineapple wedge.
for 8 servings in a pitcher
  1. Lightly muddle the mint leaves in the bottom of the pitcher with the handle end of a wooden spoon. Make sure to do this very lightly; when mint leaves bruise or tear they turn bitter.
  2. Add the rum, pineapple juice, agave and lime juice. Stir until combined. Keep chilled until ready to serve.
  3. To serve, add 4 ice cubes to each glass. Add the rum mixture then top off with 4 ounces of sparkling water each. Garnish with the mint leaf and pineapple wedge. To release the oils of the mint leaf before adding to the glass, clap it in between your hands.
Notes
The range on the sparkling water is to account for personal preference and glass size differences. When I made them in these stemless wine glasses I had plenty of room so I did 4 ounces per drink and they tasted really good. I made them again using short glasses that didn’t have as much room so I only used 2 ounces per drink and they also tasted really good. Start with the 2 ounces, try a sip (or two!) and add more if desired.