dessert

Chicago Cupcakes

No trip is complete with cupcakes. We tried two cupcake bakeries on our trip to Chicago and I only wish we had had time to try more.

First up was Sprinkles. The location in Chicago is one of ten now around the country (including one cupcake ATM, seriously!). Sprinkles was definitely at the forefront of the cupcake bakery craze. I had made Sprinkles cupcakes before from the mix you can buy at Williams-Sonoma, which I bought almost purely because I loved the adorable packaging. Well, that and I just had a good feeling about a cupcake company named Sprinkles.

The store was modern and sleek. Flavor upon flavor of cupcake were beautiful to look at behind the big glass case. I didn’t even have to think about what my selection would be. Red velvet is a total no brainer for me. Dane went with the carrot cake. And the little take out box was cute too! A great presentation gets me every time.

We didn’t make it far with these cupcakes. The four of us walked outside the store, realized there was a bench right in front, and sat down to enjoy our mid-afternoon treats.

Yes, my shirt has a cupcake on it and says “love”. No, I actually didn’t plan that, but it worked out well. The cupcakes were moist and fluffy and the icing was perfect. Easy to see why Sprinkles is doing so well!

The last day in Chicago we visited More. Their tagline is “Forever More Cupcakes”, which is a philosophy I can fully support. Again, the shop was stylish and we were greeted by a huge glass display of all our options.

They had some really fun flavors and it took us a while to decide. Actually, it took three of us a little bit, but Dane decided immediately the second he saw a cupcake called Bacon Bacon Bacon. Then his mind was made up. Super cute packaging on these take out cupcakes too.

We found a little seating area right outside the shop so decided to sit at a table and eat our More selections in the sun. We tried totally different flavors than we had at Sprinkles and enjoyed them just as much.

What’s not to love about these? So yummy.

I love the popularity of cupcakes. Perfect portion size and cute presentation. Maybe the cupcake craze will wind down eventually, but I’m going to take advantage of it as long as I can and in whatever city I can!

Do you have a favorite cupcake bakery? How about a favorite cupcake flavor? Always looking for suggestions!

Sugar on Snow in Vermont

Right before Christmas, Dane and I went up to Vermont to visit with Sam and Jason and their families. There’s always something to do or a new Vermonty thing to try (yes, Vermonty – it’s a word now). We’re always open to trying things, even though we’re the “city friends”.

When we first met Sam and Jason a few years ago, they told us about sugar on snow, and we’ve wanted to try it ever since. We finally got our chance! After heating maple syrup, you pour it over packed snow, which cools it and creates a soft candy consistency. There was plenty of snow up in VT, and obviously plenty of maple syrup.

Sam started with heating the maple syrup.

You should heat it slowly, because I learned that once it boils the maple syrup begins to bubble up really fast and can boil over. Learned that the hard way. Scared me when it started growing uncontrollably and I had to yank it off the burner.

Then she went outside and got some snow and packed it into a pan.

I was told you could use a candy thermometer for the syrup to watch when it gets to the right temperature. But, that’s not what Sam’s family does. Instead she takes a cold cup of water, and drops a little bit of the syrup into it. When the syrup blob hardens and sinks to the bottom, you’re ready to pour it over the snow. If you’re wondering about the temperature, I looked it up and you have to heat the syrup to 255 Fahrenheit.

Then pour it over the snow!

The maple syrup starts to harden as soon as it hits the cold snow, turning it into a soft candy texture.

Now take a fork to pull up the syrup and twirl it around like so. Jason will demonstrate.

The snow and cold was really fun to eat with the warm and gooey maple syrup. It gave it a really fun texture and the temperature difference was fun to eat together.

I learned that some places also call this Maple Taffy, and it seems pretty obvious why. The syrup becomes a taffy-like texture, complete with the stretch of taffy.

We are so happy we finally got to try this Vermonty treat! Thanks to Sam’s mom for making this for us and having us as guests again. We are pretty easy to make happy, and this was definitely a great way to do just that!

Traveling Ice Cream from PA

Dane and I went to visit Penn State for a football game a few weeks ago. Although PSU lost, we still had success with our visit to the Berkey Creamery on campus.

The Berkey Creamery is part of the Agricultural Science department at Penn State, and the creamery store is famous for its ice cream. The creamery was first established in 1865, and today produces milk, sour cream, cream cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and more for campus dining halls and for sale. It’s a really amazing facility and things are produced on site from raising the cows to the finished product.

We stopped in around 10am, perfect time for some ice cream, and chose our flavors. This time around we went with Apple Cobbler Crunch and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. With at least an 8 hour drive ahead of us, we found they could pack the ice cream for travel.

They asked how long we’d be traveling and they got us all set up with a travel bag and blocks of dry ice.

The toughest part of what ended up being a 10 hour trip back to Boston was knowing there was ice cream right in the back seat and not being able to eat it. As soon as we got back, we had to figure out how to get rid of the dry ice. We thought we’d just put it in the sink and run water over it until it was gone.

Then our sink overflowed with the mist from the dry ice. And it stayed that way for about 2 hours. The dry ice definitely kept our ice cream frozen over the 10 hour trip, and there was obviously plenty left when we got home. Dane had a ton of fun with it and kept running the water so that the cloud would go over the sink and down onto the floor.

The trip was so completely worth it. The ice cream was delicious and the dry ice provided us with a few hours of entertainment. If you’re ever in Happy Valley, be sure to visit the creamery!

Cake Pop Cutie

Just look at this munchkin. A few weeks ago I made cake pops for my Grandma’s 80th surprise birthday party and luckily I had this little taste tester around to help me out.

I totally fell in love with cake pops when I first saw them. For my Grandma’s party, I used white cake with vanilla frosting and green chocolate. Each cake pop was individually wrapped with ribbon and a hand stamped tag with a clover on it. My Grandma is Irish, and loved the personal touches and details.

By the way, Bakerella has a book out now (in case anyone needs to buy me a present. hint, hint) with some really fun cake pop designs in it. These just add such a fun element to anything. Everyone from my 90 year old great uncle to my 2 year old niece loved them! Try some for your next holiday gathering!

Traditions: Pie in the Morning on Thanksgiving

This year we spent Thanksgiving in PA with Dane’s family. It was great to see everyone, and Dane & I were in charge of the Thanksgiving meal with his relatives and family friends.

Before we got started on dinner, we attending a Thanksgiving tradition at the home of Dane’s friends from college. Every year the family hosts a get-together on Thanksgiving morning. It’s the perfect chance to see everyone and catch up before things really get busy with family dinners. The centerpiece of this gathering is pie. Any kind will do.

We gather, we chat, we eat pie. It’s been an on-going tradition with the family for years. It was great to go and see friends who we probably wouldn’t have spent time with otherwise, because of how busy the holiday can be with family. I contributed some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Not pie, but everyone seemed totally OK with it.

Although we only planned to stay about an hour, we all know how timing goes when you start talking with friends you haven’t seen in awhile. We just enjoy their company too much to leave.

As if it could get any better with friends, family, and pie, it started to snow that morning. It was a light dusting, but just enough to really make it feel like the holidays had begun.

I just love this tradition. Family is incredibly important to both Dane and I, but our friends are just like extended family. We were so happy to spend some time together at the start of this holiday season!

What are some of your Thanksgiving traditions?

And then I fed a lemur an ice cream cone…

OK, this post is only vaguely food related, but I needed to share this. I got to cross off an item from my Bucket List that wasn’t actually even on my Bucket List because really, who would even think of this?

At a conference I met two volunteers with an animal rescue and conservation organization. They actually brought in different animals during the conference, and I just couldn’t stay away. Of course I struck up a conversation with them the first time I visited their booth, then kept coming back.

At one point I went over eating an ice cream cone and they brought out Felix the ring tailed lemur so I could meet him (since I had already met the owl and the lynx). Ed told me to save part of my ice cream cone, because apparently Felix really likes ice cream and sugar cones.

Then this happened.

Seriously. I fed a lemur an ice cream cone. That is definitely something I never thought I would be able to say. And he loved it!

Lemurs and ice cream. Enough said.

Homemade Apple Sauce

After we went apple picking we had a ton of apples, and wasted no time using them. I got home from work one evening, and Dane was in the kitchen cooking. He decided to make applesauce, which neither of us had made before. He got the idea from a recipe in the Betty Crocker cookbook (which I got for my bridal shower), but then just decided to wing it and make it to our tastes (he doesn’t always follow instructions well).

Apple Sauce

  • 4 or 5 apples, peeled and cored
  • about 1/4- 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Cut the cored apples into quarters (they cook faster that way). Add the water to a medium saucepan, and put in all the apple pieces. Over medium heat, cook the apples until they begin to break down.

This took a while, and we actually started to think they weren’t going to ever get soft, but have a little patience and they will. Use a wooden spoon to break them up once they begin to break down to your desired consistency. We like a few chunks of apples still in the sauce.

Once at the consistency you like, remove from the heat and add the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir it up and enjoy! You can have it warm, or chill in the refrigerator before you eat it.

all done!

Other recipes called for orange zest, lemon juice, allspice, and a variety of other things. I think the best thing about this recipe is you can really add whatever you want to flavor it the way you’d like. If you want to get crazy, you can try it with pears too. If you’re feeling sassy, maybe even add some craisins. It’s up to you! Enjoy!

Apple Picking at Honey Pot Hill Orchards

Every year we make it a point to go apple picking in the fall. There’s nothing quite like those fresh apples from the orchard. We planned our trip this year about a month in advance, which meant a month of excitement leading up to the weekend. It doesn’t take much to make us happy, and I had big plans for those apples we were going to pick.

The past few years we’ve gone to Honey Pot Hill Orchards in Stow, MA. There’s always some apples to pick, and afterward we enjoy some cider donuts, caramel apples, and cider. Plus, the all important hay ride. On a weekend in October, it was definitely busy at the orchard but some patience will get you through while having fun.

We went with a group of friends, which always make the trip more fun, including Tasha and Clint who had never been apple picking before! We brought them into the apple picking world.

We spent a while walking through the orchards, climbing to the top of the tree to get the perfect apple, and trying to get a few of every type of apple that was offered.

Then we found this crate. And my immediate inclination was to climb in it, just to see if I would fit. I did, and was actually quite comfortable. Then Dane decided to join me, and it was a bit of a process.

All for this picture…

We also learned a few things while we were there. I’ll leave it to Scott to show you.

After a long day at the orchard, we headed back to Becca’s house for dinner and dessert. And I made these little guys.

And they were really yummy. I had a mini apple pocket pie mold from Williams-Sonoma that I wanted to try, and it worked great! These little guys were the perfect end to an apple filled day.

Honey Pot Hill is fun, but I will warn you that during October on a weekend you definitely need to have some patience. There were crowds and lines at the concession area with the cider donuts and hot dogs were really long. We were in no rush, so we took our time and had fun with it. In the orchards there is more than enough space for everyone, and the first weekend in October had more than enough apples to go around.

We had a ton of apples coming home, and you’ll see more posts coming up with our apple recipes!

how2heroes Video #2: Cherry Ice Cream

We were thrilled when our favorites over at how2heroes asked us to do another video for them. We set up a date and time and prepped for our second shoot, Cherry Ice Cream.

The crew came the day of the shoot and set up in our kitchen again. My favorite part was still this:

This time they let me play with it too. So fun! We’re basically movie stars.

They set up the cameras, put our mics on, and we got started with the shoot. I definitely messed up the first introduction by patting my microphone, which made a really loud noise on the camera. Oops. Once we got past that it was smooth sailing.

And without further ado, here’s the final video! We had a blast with the how2heroes crew, of course. Thanks to them for setting it up and coming out!

Sweet, Boston

Cupcakes. One of my favorite things. Ever.

Sweet exclusively makes cupcakes, and they do an amazing job. Whenever friends come up to visit, this is a spot I love to take them and they are always happy that I suggested it. (Confession: This is also partially for my own benefit. I just can’t get enough. Obviously.)

Let’s take a look at a few of the offerings you can find at Sweet, shall we?

As if the cupcakes aren’t enough, Sweet also has frosting shots for 25 cents each in all of their frosting flavors. Perfect amount of sweet frosting in a convenient single serve container. Bring a bunch of those to a get-together and I guarantee people will thank you and you’ll have the most original contribution.

If you haven’t been to Sweet, get over there! If you’re a cupcake fan, your taste buds will be eternally grateful.

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