Archive for the ‘Tasty Treats’ Category

Making Whoopie!

March 24, 2009

One of the highlights to visiting my best friend, JC, in Chambersburg, PA is getting breakfast at the Big Oak Cafe.  The food is delicious and almost gourmet for a town where the only places open on a Sunday afternoon is Cracker Barrell, a Chinese restuarant, and K-Mart.

After eating at Big Oak, we usually head right next door to The Butcher Shoppe to get a little shopping done.  Last time we headed there, I let out a little squeal and froze when facing a small display of whoopie pies.  I couldn’t choose between gingerbread flavored whoopie pies or pumpkin ones, so I grabbed both!

Whoopie pies are another sweet treat that really bring me joy.  You can’t find them everywhere, so they have proven to be a surprise and special treat.  Actually, even more difficult than finding a whoopie pie is explaining them.  I have met way too many people who just have no idea about this treat and I have found myself explaining them as being “like Little Debbie oatmeal pies but homemade by the Amish” more than I would like.

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The New York Times must have felt that way too because they wrote a whole article on it, which has prompted me to write about.  Seriously folks, next time you’re in Pennsylvania, at a craft show, or anywhere with the Amish, try to grab a whoopie pie, guaranteed it’ll make your day!

Oh yea, and because they must have known that I would read the article, they gave a recipe.  Whoopie!

Whoopie Pies
Adapted from Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Ann Arbor, Mich

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Time: 1 hour

 

FOR THE CAKES:
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup buttermilk

 

 

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM FILLING:
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon sea salt.

 

 

1. For the cakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until light and creamy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking soda, salt, flour and cocoa. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in three parts, alternating with buttermilk, and combining well after each addition.

2. Using an ice cream scoop or a spoon, scoop out 12 1/4-cup mounds of batter and place about 6 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling.

3. For the buttercream filling: For best results, follow directions carefully, paying attention to required temperatures. Fill bottom half of a double boiler (or a medium saucepan) with an inch or two of water, and bring to a boil over high heat. In top half of double boiler (or a metal bowl), combine egg whites and sugar. Place over simmering water and whisk just until sugar is dissolved and temperature reaches 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

4. Using a whisk attachment on a heavy-duty mixer, whisk egg whites and sugar on high until they double in volume and become thick and shiny. Continue to whisk until cool. Reduce speed to medium and begin to add butter about 1/2 tablespoon at a time, until all the butter is incorporated. Add vanilla and salt. If mixture looks curdled, continue to whisk until it is smooth. Increase speed to high and whisk for 1 more minute. Use immediately or place in an airtight container and chill for up to 3 days, whisking buttercream again before using.

5. For assembly: Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, place 1/4 cup buttercream on flat side of each of 6 cakes, spreading it to edges. Top filled half with another cake to sandwich the buttercream. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or wrap individually and freeze for up to 3 months.

Yield: 6 pies.

Make Mine a Barrel!

March 22, 2009

Capt. and I are going to an engagement party in New York in a couple weeks.  The friends whose wedding we’re celebrating enjoy their booze, so we’re getting them this . . .

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We’re such suckers for good packaging!

Green Cupcakes!

March 16, 2009

After enjoying lunch and shopping at the Baltimore Coffee and Tea Company on Saturday, Capt. and I headed to Baltimore Cupcake Company to indulge in the number two (edible) thing that makes me happy . . . cupcakes!

The store was in Locust Point and ended up being easier to get to than I thought, of course Capt. is familiar with the area and he was driving so that might not be true . . .

On the outside the store was advertising that it carried Lillian Vernon, Vera Bradley, and all other preppy merchandise to go along with the cupcakes.  I guess so you can shop and eat.  Well, I guess they were switching inventory or sold out of everything that they had because the place looked empty.  That has nothing to do with cupcakes, but hey, they were advertising it so I feel the need to comment!

The flavors they had available were Key Lime, Vanilla Woo, Chocolate Woo, Peanut Butter Cup, Bailey’s Chocolate, and something coconut whose name we can’t remember.  We decided to go with Peanut Butter Cup (for Capt.), Key Lime, Vanilla Woo, and the Bailey’s flavor (all for me).  The Bailey’s was our in honor of St. Patrick’s Day selection . . . I just had to do it . . .

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Oh my goodness, these cupcakes tasted as wonderful as they look!  I consider myself to be somewhat of a cupcake expert, especially after spending a day in NY sampling and rating cupcakes from 5 different places (all for pleasure, of course) and Baltimore Cupcake Company’s treats certainly would have ranked high on my rating.  I don’t care for frosting that is too heavy or sugary and the frosting on all cupcakes, although very sugary and sweet, were not overpowering.  The sweetness in the Key Lime cupcakes were pretty strong, but I kind of expected that from Key Lime.  If you can’t handle strong sugar, I’d recommend staying away from the Key Lime and maybe go for something a bit more mild.

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Now, the most important part of a cupcake to me is the cake.  I cannot stand dry cupcakes!  Dry cake can ruin a cupcake, and I do not stand for it!  All the cupcakes we received had nice, soft, moist cake.  I was most impressed by the Bailey’s cupcake, whose cake and frosting could have each stood alone and given me enjoyment.  The Key Lime was again, the least impressive cake-wise.  It didn’t have much flavor, but in the end that was probably for the better because of the sweetness of the frosting.

So, at the end of our Saturday afternoon, Capt. was happy, I was happy, and I am still waiting to enjoy Vanilla Woo . . . YUM!

Oh, and they have Cupcake Happy Hour.  Who can turn down cupcakes for $1?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is!

March 1, 2009

I got Girl Scout Cookies!

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Have you gotten yours?

You Can’t Eat These Flowers!

February 28, 2009

But they’re absolutely adorable!  JF alerted me to this and I love it!  It’s part of Martha Stewert’s collection with 1-800-Flowers.  I swear, that Martha, she taunts me!

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Holy Sweet Tequila!

February 27, 2009

I bet that got your attention!  I’m actually not writing about tequila, but a great product that comes from the tequila plant!  It’s called Agave Syrup, have you heard of it?

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I actually had never heard of Agave Syrup until I started following Heidi Swanson’s recipes.  Heidi occasionally uses Agave Syrup as a sugar alternative on her blog, 101 Cookbooks, and in her book, Super Natural Cooking.

I have to admit, I don’t think I would have ever tried Agave Syrup without Heidi’s recommendation.  But, also my high usage of Splenda — about 3 packs a day — made me decide that I need to alternate it with a more natural sweetner than sugar (I try to avoid sugar as much as possible, not easy when you love sweets).  I really love using honey, but have always been curious about Agave.

Here’s a little overview of the health benefits of the plant:

Especially in the last century, the western diet has become increasingly dominated by refined sweeteners such as granulated sugar and corn syrup. The problem with these substances is their high glycemic index and glycemic load – both measures of the relative impact that foods have on our blood sugar. Foods that raise blood sugar quickly trigger the release of the hormone insulin. Excessive releases of insulin and, more specifically, chronically high blood sugar and insulin levels are linked to Metabolic Syndrome (also called Syndrome X), which is a complex of health disorders. Associated ailments include insulin resistance and type II diabetes, abdominal weight gain and obesity, problems with blood lipids (raised triglycerides and cholesterol) and high blood pressure.

One of the most health-promoting properties of agave nectar is its favorable glycemic profile. Its sweetness comes primarily from a complex form of fructose called inulin. Fructose is the sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. The carbohydrate in agave nectar has a low glycemic index, which provides sweetness without the unpleasant “sugar rush” and unhealthful blood sugar spike caused by many other sugars. Agave nectar is a delicious natural sweetener that can be used moderately – by dieters, some diabetics, and health conscious cooks – to replace high-glycemic and refined sugars.

So, when Capt. and I were shopping at Wegman’s the other night and stumbled upon Agave I decided to try it out.  I stirred it into a cup of tea and ta-da! It’s sweet!  It’s somewhat flavorless, not like honey, which has a distinct flavor.  The Agave I purchased (pictured above) comes in liquid form, similiar to honey but much more runny. 

For those who bake, the Agave Website recommends has measurements for substituting it with regular sweetners.  I actually want to bake or at least make something sweet so I can test it out! 

If you have, let me know what you think!

Oh, and I came home and showed off my Agave Syrup to my dad, who quickly snacked it from my hand and took a swig of it.  It was very gentleman-like.

Eat a Pancake!

February 25, 2009

Many people at my new office are getting excited for Mardi Gras.  There are a lot of Mardi Gras traditions I didn’t know about, like the King Cake (I did NOT win the baby), that are positively delightful.

My favorite new tradition for today was introduced to me by my dear friend, DC, who isn’t even from New Orleans (they’re not the only people who celebrate the days leading up Ash Wednesday).  It’s called Shrove Tuesday, AKA Pancake Tuesday!  My friends and I have interpreted this as being a day where you eat pancakes and drink beer . . . a bit more wholesome than showing your boobies for beads, but just as fun!

I have fond memories of Pancake Tuesday last year.  My friends and I skipped out of work to watch the New York Giants Super Bowl parade and visited a local diner afterwards to indulge.

Much to my surprise, a number of place in the Baltimore area promote today, whether it’s celebrated as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Tuesday doesn’t really matter.  So much so, that the Baltimore Sun even wrote an article and published a recipe to go along with the celebration!

Here’s the recipe, enjoy!

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Blue Moon Pancakes

(Makes 4 to 6 five-inch pancakes or 12 to 14 silver-dollar pancakes)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

2 eggs

2 to 3 tablespoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups milk

3 tablespoons melted butter

3 tablespoons sugar

Combine all ingredients and stir until lumps are gone. Ladle onto a hot (350 degrees) griddle coated with vegetable oil or clarified butter.

If you would like to add extra ingredients, such as chocolate chips or berries, sprinkle them on the wet side of the pancake now, while the underside cooks.

Look for bubbles on the wet surface (a sign that the air is cooking out of the pancakes), or use a spatula to peek underneath, making sure the pancake is golden brown. Flip and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Serve with syrup, whipped cream and more berries or chocolate chips.

Courtesy of Sarah Simington, chef/proprietor of the Blue Moon Cafe in Fells Point

PER PANCAKE (BASED ON 6 LARGE PANCAKES): 255 calories, 7 grams protein, 9 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 34 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 91 milligrams cholesterol, 232 milligrams sodium

PS – I sooo planned on eating pancakes for dinner tonight, but I ended up playing racquetball instead and was not hungry at all afterwards.  I am making up for it by drinking beer.

PPS – Sorry for the light posting this week.  I’m a bit overwhelmed and disoriented, in a good way, from starting a new job.  I’ll be back in the game next week!

Give to the Girl Scouts!

February 21, 2009

Here’s one way that you can give back and eat at the same time!  Make an effort this month go out out and find a local girl scout and buy her cookies! 

USA Today ran a story recently (see below) about how girl scouts are seeing a decline in their cookie sales due to the economy.  I think it’s easy for people to forget that all the money they contribute to the Girl Scouts by buying cookies go to troops for trips, community projects, and scholarships.  The girls need everyone’s help in order to expand their reach in the community.

I am a former girl scout and as I get older and look back, I am very proud to have been involved in an organization whose sole purpose is to strengthen the women of tomorrow.  It’s a program that teaches our girls self esteem, self empowerment, and self relience.  It’s kind of like kicking off feminism early and that is definitely something I, and hopefully you, can get behind.  Too many youg girls today don’t have the resources or don’t utilize the resources that gives them the knowledge and personal strength that the Girl Scouts give.  Please help them!

Visit www.girlscoutcookies.org to get more information about where to find Girl Scout cookies in your area!

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Sales are a little thin for mint and other Girl Scout cookies so far this year.

National numbers are not yet in, but regional Girl Scout councils nationwide are seeing the impact of the down economy, as well as bad winter weather, in declines as large as 19% in pre-order sales, which took place January through early February.

 Pre-order sales— mostly door-to-door and workplace — make up around 70% of cookie sales, council leaders say. Councils are hopeful they will make up for the drop-off with sales at shopping center booths through early spring, says Michelle Tompkins, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Among the councils reporting declines:

• Eastern South Carolina Council, near Charleston, shows pre-sales down 19% from 868,386 boxes in 2008 to about 700,000 boxes so far this year, says product sales manager Keisha Frost.

• Northeast Ohio Council, near Cleveland, reports pre-sales down about 16%, from 2.5 million to 2.1 million boxes, says Marianne Love, director of business services.

• Nation’s Capital Council, in Northern Virginia, Washington and parts of Maryland, sees 5% fewer pre-sales, down to 3.7 million boxes, says public relations and marketing director Nancy Wood.

• Frontier Council in Las Vegas sales are down 1.3% from 612,792 to 604,524 boxes, says development director Emily Smith.

About two-thirds of the 133 Girl Scout councils nationwide sell cookies from January through March, Tompkins says. The rest sell in the fall. Most proceeds, she says, go to troops and councils to pay for trips, community projects and scholarships.

Love said some leaders are reporting longtime customers purchasing in smaller quantities.

“If a customer was purchasing six to eight boxes, now they’re purchasing three to four,” she says.

Sales aren’t down everywhere. Natalie Martin, director for marketing and communication at the Northeast Texas Council, near Dallas, says that council has seen a 2% increase in pre-sales this year. For the first time in 10 years, headquarters reduced each box size by about one ounce this year because of increased ingredient and transportation costs, says Denise Pesich, vice president of communications for Girl Scouts of the USA. The $3.50 average cost per box has been the same for the past five years, Tompkins says.

Tompkins adds the Girl Scouts haven’t dealt with salmonella-contaminated peanut products because neither of their baking companies, Little Brownie Bakers and ABC Interbake, buys from the peanut plants involved.

Pesich is optimistic booth sales will be strong.

“We’re hopeful right now. The country, when in situations like this, goes back to what’s nostalgic and gives them pleasure,” Pesich says.

Everything is Better Dipped in Chocolate

February 20, 2009

My friend, KW, sent me a link to The Crispery, a small New York company dedicated to rice crispy treats. 

The treats The Crispery makes looks absolutely delicious, they are affordable, and since it’s a business that works entirely online, they are also accessible for all!

Here’s what the owner, Vicki Mate, has to say:

In 1995, The Crispery was founded by me…my name is Vicki Mate. Its creation was due to the fact that I was a mom who had a strong passion for marshmallow… yes, marshmallow. Even as a young girl my most favorite desserts were those classic marshmallow crispy treats. Remember the ones you made from the recipe on the back of the breakfast cereal box. Well… my love affair with marshmallow never really ended. It went on and on, through college, graduate school and eventually to the real world. So with my flair for business and a talent in cooking; it was inevitable my mission was to set out to create the most delectable marshmallow crispy bar ever.

My plan was to sell to all those people (both young, old and in between) who shared my same obsession for this extraordinary marshmallow dessert. Then, after about a year of serious experimentation, it was finally created. Simply the most delicious homemade marshmallow crispy bar ever; with a taste that was just unbelievably scrumptious!! Your first bite of our crispy bar took you back to the best part of childhood. The gooey sweetness of the marshmallow and the delectable crunch are perfect all on their own. But I took these crispy bars to another dimension and well beyond!!

I was finally so satisfied with the finished product that I decided it was time to sell and market The Crispery.

As I suspected, my very first sales call was a big success. The owner from a very popular local store loved them so much he purchased them on the spot! Within a very short amount of time, The Crispery was selling in many stores across the country. That’s basically how it all happened.

Now, due to an overwhelming demand from our customers all over the country… The Crispery is expanding from the wholesale world of business into the retail one via Internet. Offering a spectacular line of gift items. These gift items of crispy bars are all handmade, made fresh daily and are customized for all occasions. Please look for our new gift items such as our own line of creamy hot cocoa when ordering The Crispery’s crispy bars for family and friends. Make sure you also treat yourself to a box of your favorites…you won’t want to share. The Crispery ships though out the United States.

The Crispery has been continuously growing for over a decade now. I still love and enjoy this business as much (if not more) as I did when I first started it. Just remember…The Crispery is always evolving, creating and growing in so many amazing directions. We look forward to you continuing the journey with us being such loyal and dedicated customers that you have been all these years.

If I had to choose what rice crispy I would want, it would probably the drizzled mini-marshmallows or the chocolate dipped, or at $2.95 each, I could get them both!

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Just guess which one this is!

Fond of You Fondue

February 12, 2009

Fondue is fun because it’s a polite way to play with your food.  Some people consider it romantic.  I say eh about that, but that’s just me.  BUT, as we all know, I like wine.  Wine is fun and romantic and this weekend, people in the Baltimore area can combine the two at Boordy Vineyards

I think Boordy Vineyards is pretty awesome because they always have cool sounding events going on.  In the summertime they did a dancing under the stars series, where they offered wine tasting and dancing.  They also did a good time series where they hosted speakers about various food topics and had local vendors sample food. 

This winter they’ve done a soup and wine month, a chili and wine month, and now are doing the fondue and wine month.  Capt. and I have aimed on attending at least one of each of their series, but sometimes we get lazy and forego cool events in exchange for laying in bed or hanging around bookstores.  We’re working on getting better about that.  I’ll just say that I’m saving up all my energy and dollars for their Red White and Bluegrass series in April.

The Fond of You Fondue event is running all February and they are opening up an hour earlier on Saturday, when romance is most prevelant.  In my opinion, this would be a fun and affordable (hello!  $12!) Valentine’s Day activity, regardless of whether or not you have a Capt. to take you to it!

PS – the promo mentions roasting marshmallows.  Smores are another one of my favorite desserts.  If this thing combines wine, fondue, marshmellows, and live music, it’s really kind of like a dream chalk full of happiness.  Truly.

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Get more info here and get tickets here.