To the Future (Pink Champagne Cupcakes)

At 11,060 feet above sea level, looking over what felt like the entire world, I realized what it would take to make me happy.

Last week (February 12-19) Courtney and I left for Mammoth Lakes California to go snowboarding. Courtney, being the dread headed, nature loving, snowboarding “badass” that she is; used to live in Mammoth and frequently left me wondering what that part of the country was like. As an East Coast Jersey Girl, I don’t think I was ready.

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The Top of the World, Or Mammoth mountain.

Growing up at sea level or below, I did not know what a real mountain looked like. Sure there are ski resorts around us, but I never realized that standing 800 feet above sea level just made you a tall hill. When I first learned to snowboard I went to Bromley Mountain in Vermont, standing 3,281 feet high that was the tallest thing I ever saw, but I never went to the top (so many regrets, but I think that saved me from breaking a few bones when I was just learning).

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Mountains out of the desert, coming from the hot springs

Arriving in Mammoth On Wednesday February 12 was a life changing experience for me. Never in my life have I felt so small. These snow covered giants putrid from the dessert making you focus all of your attention on them, and what small bit of attention is left goes to the beauty of the nature around you. The dessert, so vast and so wide, makes you wonder how anyone found what wonders you see in front of you. The pine trees, whose height puts the Rockefeller Center tree to shame, towers over everything, and watches the sunrise with the mountains before everyone else each morning. When the mountain air reaches your nose you wonder why anyone would want to live in the city. The clean fresh air tickles your nose with the smell of Christmas pine and snow, bound to bring you back to those holiday candles you spent hours in the store picking out.

 

The first full day there we went snowboarding. I have to admit, this terrified me for months leading up to this trip. I am used to a hill, I trained on a hill, I practiced on a hill, and this was a mountain, literally a mountain. But soon my fear proved to be silly, the quality of the snow was unlike the icy east and I was easily able to descend the slopes with confidence and ease. Like my Vermont experience years before I never snowboarded down from the top, but I did go there. The world is in your eyesight, but lies just out of reach of your fingertips.

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Lake Convict, California

I am born and raised a Jersey Girl. I have driven down route 195 going 90 miles an hour, windows down and music blasting, to reach the beach before the New York Bennys. I have laid in a drunken collapse in the sand with salt in my hair bullshitting about being famous one day. I have promised myself that I would never leave the Jersey lifestyle of not pumping our gas, giving the finger to those who look at us weird, and the beach that has put us on the map. I have promised myself I would never leave, until now.

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Arriving at the airport and seeing the mountains for the first time

I have traveled before, I have been to small islands and major cities, I have been to different countries and different continents, however this is the first time I really felt small. There is so much out there to see. I want to travel the world. I want to work on a snow covered mountain top for a few seasons of my life and I want to be able to determine what makes each mountain range different. I want to see islands, and be able to jump off a boat when I feel like a swim with the dolphins is in order. I want to see the world, and what makes it so big. This vacation made me realize that while I am 100% happy sitting on a beach in Jersey drinking vodka out of a water bottle, there is so much more I have not seen.

All of this dreaming big does come with an anchor, my car lease. Okay, I admit, that sounds silly. I am giving myself until the end of my car lease or 33 months to save up money to make the first move of my life. I am aware that I will have to leave my cushy desk job and start over somewhere completely different, and this scares me, but there is so much the world contains that I have never seen.

So cheers to new beginnings to the rest of our lives.

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Pink Champagne

Pink Champagne Cupcakes

Based off Betty Crocker’s Recipe  

Yields about 20

A guy at work asked me what is up with the alcoholic cupcakes lately. I have no idea. I cheated again using a box mix, sorry “home-made-to-the-death”ers. This cupcake comes out super light with a mild champagne flavor. I used Yellow Tails Pink Champagne, but you can substitute it with any kind, try different flavors for an interesting combination.

Ingredients

For the Cake:

1 Box White Cake Mix

1 1/4 Cups of champagne

1/3 Cups vegetable oil

3 Egg whites

Champagne Frosting:

**Before making see note below**

1/2 Cups butter or Margarine, room temp

4 Cups powdered sugar

1/4 Cup of Champagne

1 teaspoon Vanilla

Red Food Color to look

Directions:

Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, line cupcake pan with wrappers
  2. Dump the packaged mix, champagne, Veggie oil and egg whites into a large bowl and mix until the lumps are gone.
  3. Fill cupcake wrappers 3/4 of the way with batter.
  4. Bake 17-20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Frosting:

  1. Let the butter sit until soft or room temp.
  2. Mix the Butter with a stand mixer, adding the powdered sugar one cup at a time.
  3. Mix in the champagne and the vanilla. If the frosting is too thick add more champagne.
  4. Mix in the food color until it get the pink color as desired

**Note** After mixing let this frosting sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to harden. The champagne makes this have a weird texture, but once refrigerated this loses the weird consistency.

 

Questions or Comments? Please email NotSoCulinaryGraduate@hotmail.com

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On Tradition: Or Lack there of

“Santa’s coming! Santa’s coming!” Quick pole, who do you think in my household would be more likely to shout this?

  1. Me
  2. My Mother
  3. My Cat
  4. A small child who snuck into our house at night

If you guessed anything other than, B. My Mother, you are wrong.

Thanksgiving morning every year my mother turns back time and becomes a child. She wakes everyone up at promptly 9am singing that the Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade is about to start. While my father and I stumble down the stairs in our Pajamas and squirrely bed heads, whispering obscenities under our breath; my mother sits like a child on the couch watching the parade waiting for the arrival of the holiday season kickoff, Santa.

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It’s a tradition, a weird backwards tradition. The balloons go by, the marching bands, the weird singing acts that get stranger with each passing year, until finally my mother’s big moment. I watch them build, like puddles on a rainy day, her eyes slowly gloss over then overflow with tears of memories. For the past 50+ years my mother has done the same thing every Thanksgiving without skipping a beat, as a child, to young adult, to mother, to now. Thanksgiving morning has always brought her to tears knowing that the season of family, love, and Santa Clause was about to Kick off.

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Another tradition in the family is the pies. It doesn’t matter who makes the dinner, or who says they will make the desserts; my family still makes the pies. Until last year it was solely my mother; apple pie, chocolate cream pie, and pumpkin. But some traditions need to be spiced up.

Until two years ago I never made a pie, any kind of pie. You name it, I’ve never made it. But that was the year of the great apple picking. My mother and I went apple picking and bought our weight in apples. We don’t know why we did this, but for the next few weeks there were apple everything. Meals, sides, sauces, turnovers, pancakes, if you are what you eat, I was a big fat juicy apple. My favorite way to eat an apple is on a stick, covered in M&M’s and caramel, that’s when I found the recipe for a caramel apple pie.  

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It sounded perfect. What is not to love about caramel, apples, and brown sugar? There is something about this combination that is warm and inviting. It is like the pie is wrapping you with a warm brown sugar blanket saying, “sit down and stay awhile”.  I made this for the first time at home; it was a bonding experience for my mother and me, my first pie. It came out perfect. Warm, crispy, and with the home made love that you just taste. For the beginning pie maker this is one of the easiest pies you can ever make. We spent hours on the crust (as you can see in the recipe I am joking), after a few ingredients thrown together and an hour in the oven, this masterpiece is complete.

From my tradition to yours, I hope you enjoy your caramel apple pie, don’t forget the ice cream!!!

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Caramel Apple Pie

Ingredients:

1 Box premade pie crust (I recommend Pillsbury)

½ Cup caramel topping (try butterscotch caramel!!)

2 Tablespoons AP flower

8 Cups of apples that are peeled, cored, and sliced (this should be 6-8 medium apples, I always use 7)

½ Cup brown Sugar

2 Tablespoons AP flower

1 Teaspoon milk

1 Teaspoon Sugar

 

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Prepare crust as directed for a two crust pie.
  3. Combine caramel topping, and flour in a small bowl and spread it on the bottom of the pie crust.
  4. In a large bowl combine apples, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Pour over the caramel mixture and shape with the highest pile of apples in the middle.
  5. Place crust on top of apples, pinch edges all the way around, and cut air holes in the top.
  6. Brush milk over the top of the crust and lightly dust the sugar.
  7. Place in over for 50-60 minutes (Cover crust after 30 minutes of cooking to prevent browning)  

 

 

 

A Lemon Christmas (Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins)

I used to wish my Christmas tree would burn down.

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Using an old grater for my zest

I hated Christmas. I hated the fact that after Halloween (my favorite holiday), Christmas music would start. I hated the fact that it got cold. I hated slushy snow. I hated speeding hours in a kitchen with my mother. I hated spending countless hours, or multiple days, decorating an 11+ foot tall Christmas tree that we would get every year.

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Lemon and sugar mix

I guess you can call the child me a Grinch. I didn’t understand it. Why bother cutting down a perfectly good tree (as if humans aren’t doing that enough already), and spending countless hours arguing about how to decorate it, only to throw it out the week after Christmas.  Sure it looked pretty for that occasional family member that wandered over to drop something off, but what was the point?

We spent evenings that felt like eternities manipulating cookies to taste just like the ones from the store. What was the point? Couldn’t you just, I don’t know, buy them?!?! During the Christmas season everyone just complains about their diet anyways.

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Someone was interested in the Sour Cream mixture.

Looking back to how much of a Grinch I was, it makes me wonder how I got to where I am today. I cannot wait until snow hits the ground, this means Santa’s coming!!! The smell of the tree, while sitting next to the fire, looms my dreams for the rest of the 11 months. Don’t get me started about cookies; I think it is obvious what happened there (if not feel free to read my post on Chocolate Chip Cookies).

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Batter

An Odd thing about me and Christmas, for some reason I always associate Lemon with the holidays. Perhaps it is because almost every Christmas morning my mother would make Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins. Or perhaps it has something to do with the lemon drop cookies that I spent hours recreating. It could just be my obsession with zesting things and the smell that lingers on my fingers afterword’s.

Anyways, last night (while dancing to Christmas music) I made mini lemon poppy seed muffins for breakfast at work. These guys love when I bring in treats for them, and it gives me an excuse to eat all day. Throughout the morning I had countless people exclaiming how I am ruining their diet, while stuffing three mini muffins in their mouth and taking two for after they swallowed.

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My mini muffins in my cookie jar, almost gone that is

Looking back at my childhood I am almost 97.2% positive that my mother never made these from scratch. I think she cheated and used a mix. Well that cheater, cheater, pumpkin pie eater; try this one next time!

Mini Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins

Ingredients

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2/3 Cup sugar

2 cups AP flour

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 Cup sour Cream

2 large eggs

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Stick unsalted Butter, melted

2 Tablespoons poppy seeds

Directions:

  1. Preheat Oven to 400 degrees, grease muffin tins (or use liners, your call)
  2. In a large bowl mix the lemon zest in with the sugar. This is easiest done with your fingers. Mix until all the sugar is wet with lemon.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix this together well.
  4. In a medium size bowl whisk together sour cream, eggs, vanilla, and butter.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones and mix until wet.
  6. Add Poppy seeds then stir to combine
  7. Fill muffin cups 3/4 of the way and bake for 10 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.

Optional Icing

For icing I did not have any lemon juice, or lemons lying around. I only had 1 which I used for the muffins. I used a vanilla glaze, but a lemon glaze is what I intended on doing so I’ll give you both options.

Lemon

1 Cup Confectioners’ sugar

2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice (preferably fresh)

Mix till combined, drizzle over cooled muffins.

Vanilla

1 Cup confectioners’ sugar

2 Tablespoons milk

1/2 Teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix till combined, drizzle over cooled muffins

Makes 4 dozen mini muffins, almost 1 dozen normal sized muffins (amount ranges on size of the tins)