UNLEASH THE INNER FOUR YEAR OLD (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles)

IMG_6921So… Has anyone REALLY ever died from eating cookie dough, or is someone out there just trying to damper our hopes and dreams? This is an honest question. I cannot tell you how many spoonful’s, cups, even POUNDS of cookie dough I have consumed in my life, and I’m relatively normal!

This whole salmonella thing (or salmon-In-Ella, as I pronounce it), is it real? TO THE INTERNET!!!

According to the CDC salmonella is estimated “to cause one million illness in the United States, with 19,000 Hospitalizations and 380 deaths.” Oh. Well. What’s my chances that I’ll actually get it… I might take them all for the love of the dough!

In my 24 years I have tried a lot of dough, in 2012 I was on the quest for the perfect low-fat chocolate chip cookie recipe. I strongly believed if the dough tasted good the cookie would come out good. You see, there is one problem with that theory, all cookie dough taste good, and even when it doesn’t taste spectacular it is still not that bad!!!IMG_6926

I strongly believe that cookie dough is the reason that I will never have abs. I can run 8 to 15 miles a day, and come home and “make cookies”, end up eating a good quarter cup of dough and wake up wondering why my weight loss plan is not working. Well, maybe I will add a mile or two to compensate for the doughy desire that I need to fill.

While today’s creation will not help your diet, it will not make you die of Salmonella and that’s a promise! This cookie dough is eggless, super creamy and covered in chocolate, what more could you want? This is the first time I ever made a cookie dough with sweetened condensed milk and I might look into using it more in the future, the dough is super smooth and creamy, what dreams are made of.

If your sweet tooth does not include a love for super sweet, sugary, creamy goodness, do not even bother with this. While it is perfect for the cookie lover, the average Joe of desserts might not find these too amusing. Kids, young adults, and all of my coworkers came begging back for more, and hopefully you will too!

Special Shout out to Zach who submitted this idea!

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

Have your cake and eat it too with these delectable truffles. Egg free will leave you worry free and quickly floating on a bed of happiness and chocolate. Makes roughly 4 dozen.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condense milk

1 cup mini chocolate chips

2 cups melting wafers for the outer shell (I used a bag of Ghirardelli that I found at Wegman’s)

Toping extras (mini chocolate chips, crushed Oreos, sprinkles, white chocolate)

Directions:IMG_6918

  1. Using a mixer cream together butter and brown sugar, make sure to mix till smooth, no brown sugar clumps!
  2. Add vanilla
  3. Mix in flour 1 cup at a time until incorporated.
  4. Mix in sweetened condense milk until smooth and incorporated with the dough.
  5. Stir in chocolate chips to taste.
  6. Cover bowl and refrigerate until dough hardens, 45 minutes to an hour
  7. Roll cookie dough into 1 inch balls on a wax paper lined cookie sheet (I did not have wax paper, I used parchment paper, a slightly more expensive mistake)
  8. Place the balls in the fridge until the chocolate is melted.
  9. Melt chocolate wafers (microwave, double boiler, I’ll leave this method up to you)
  10. Using a toothpick or knife stick the balls into the chocolate until covered, remove and place on wax paper to dry.
  11. Once dry, keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
  12. Best if eaten within 1-3 days of making.

Death to Cupcakes: A New Era Begins (Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes)

Last year, I called it. Just saying.

Its official Crumbs, one of the nation’s largest cupcakes chains, has closed its doors. It seems Americans are tired of this once trend. We no longer feel the need to have a portion sized, personal cake with frosting decorated to wow us. We no longer want art on a platter, we no longer feel the need to pay $3.00 for a cupcake. Americans are tired of your shit cupcakes, you’re out.

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So that leaves me wondering, what’s the next trend? Cheesecake on a stick would be awesome! But then we would have to find portable ways to keep it cool. Gourmet Brownies, that’s something I can get on board with. What about good ol’ fashion cookies? Nah, too… ordinary.

What do you think the next food trend will be? Well if you figure it out let me know… in the meantime…

Chocolate and peanut butter go together like Bonnie and Clyde, Thelma and Louise, Tom and Jerry and Beyoncé and Jay-z. It just works, the salty and sweet, sweet and salty, throw a little sea salt on top and you have an edible euphoria unlike any other.

According to The thechocolatestore.com Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate each year, which is approximately 11.6 pounds per person.  On the other hand according to the National Peanut Board (yes this exists), Americans spend $800 million a year on peanut butter, that’s a lot of jars! Obviously this paring is not going out of style any time soon!

Courtney’s coworker requested chocolate peanut butter cupcakes for his birthday and I am always more than happy to deliver. I made a rich chocolate cupcake using both dark chocolate coco powder, and regular coco power. I also decided that this needed a peanut butter filling, so a mock Reese’s filling was pumped into the middle of these suckers, topped off with a peanut butter butter cream.

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Chocolate Peanut butter cupcakes:

If you are allergic to peanuts, these will surely kill you. But if you are a chocolate peanut butter fanatic, these are sure to melt your heart!

Makes 24 cupcakes

The cake was adapted from: Hersey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” chocolate cake recipe

2 cups sugar

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup Hersey’s Dark Chocolate Cocoa powder

1/2 cup Hersey’s cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup boiling water

 

Filling taken from a Wilton recipe:

1 1/2 Tablespoons warm melted butter

1/2 cup peanut butter room temp

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

 

Peanut-Butter, Butter Cream adapted from the wonderful Martha Stewart:

2/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1 stick of butter, softened

2 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons whipping cream

 

 

 

Directions:

Cake:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F
  2. Mix together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).
  3. Pour into cupcake liners or greased cupcake tins, fill 3/4 full.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle come out clean

Filling:

  1. Core the cupcakes using either a knife or a cupcake corer if you have one
  2. Melt the butter and mix into the peanut butter and confectioner sugar till combined
  3. Resist the urge to eat all of it
  4. Using a spoon, or a bag fill the cored cupcake with this mixture.

Frosting

  1. Mix butter and peanut butter together, add in confectioners’ sugar, and add in whipping cream.
  2. Whip till desired consistency
  3. Again resist the urge to eat it all
  4. Either pipe, or spread on cupcakes.

 

 

 

 

Drunken Banana (Fool Proof, Drunk Proof, Easy Banana Muffins)

It starts at eight am, the phone calls, the emails, the issues, the drama. From eight am till five you are chained. Chained to a chair (which between you and me is not that comfortable), and doused with other people’s problems and lit on fire. It sucks. Day in and day out we continue this pattern. Issue after issue, crisis after crisis, and not one person likes it; not you, not the person on the other end of the phone and definitely not your boss. But we wake up each morning and do it anyway because we are crazy.

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Anyways, ranting aside, we all hate work, that’s a given. But on the occasion we all like to do nice things for our coworkers,Martini recipe like bake them chocolate chip banana muffins for breakfast, to show them how much you appreciate them not literally lighting you on fire when you complain. But also on occasion you like to drink away a hard day at work, and three key lime pie martinis in you realize those muffins are not going to bake themselves.

 

Coworkers around the world, I have done you a favor. Drunk proof muffins!! *I think I am required by law to say that if you are under the influence take my ideas lightly, while it might be fun for me to make muffins and risk burning the house down, you might want to think twice about this idea.* After a few cocktails sprawled out on the chase lounge by the pool, those damn muffins still linger in the back of your head. Well have no fear, follow this recipe somewhat and your muffins will come out wonderful!

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 Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins

These muffins are super simple to make and one of my house hold favorite. When the bananas go bad and the fruit flies start buzzing be sure to reach for this recipe and not waste those sweet, beautiful bananas.

Makes roughly 24 muffins

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup butter, softened

1/2 Cup sugar

1/2 Cup packed brown sugar

2 Eggs

1 – 1/2 Cups mashed ripe bananas (bout 3)

3 Teaspoons Vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 Teaspoons baking soda

1 bag of chocolate chips (or less, to taste really)

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer cream butter and sugars
  2. Beat in eggs, bananas and vanilla.
  3. Combine mixture until combined.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips
  5. Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups half way
  6. Bake at 350* for 15 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.
  7. Wait 5 minutes before removing from pan.

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Island Time… (Toasted Coconut Key Lime Pie)

Paradise to me has always been on a beach. There is something so relaxing about the crashing sound of the ocean, the heated sand under you, and all of your cares washed out to sea. Paradise for me is located in a place I’d like to call home, Hawaii. Island time is really different than Eastern Standard Time. When work calls you at three in the morning, you can roll over and hit ignore and nobody cares. When you try to contact people at 9 o’clock island time, and no one answers, it is kind of relaxing. At 12 in the afternoon if you feel like going surfing on your lunch break, it’s expected.May 21 through June 1 I was lucky enough to go to Hawaii with my parents, a graduation present for finally finishing college. From May 21 to the 26 I was in Oahu, and from May 26 to June 1 I was falling in love with Maui.

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Waikiki from the pier

Oahu was nice, if you like the city. High rise building and double digit floor hotels rose off the beach like concrete giants. Honolulu could compare to a small New York City, with bustling storefronts, and business men and women struggling to predict the latest trend in there respected markets. While the city remained busy, the mountains kept a watchful eye in the background, reminding the workers that an escape was only a short drive away.

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The Waikiki beach, so idolized in movies and TV shows, appears nonexistent in this Jersey girls eyes. On the East Coast beaches can stretch as far as a half mile, but here you had maybe 20 feet until the water’s edge, if you were lucky.  A rocky coral lined the beach, which did not affect the standard surfer, but kept the midlife beach goer out of the water. I did take a surf lesson with Gone Surfing, and let me tell you, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I am not weak by any means. I work out almost every day, and I pride myself on my toned body, but paddling the quarter mile out or whatever it may be killed me! Luckily the Gone Surfing team helps you get out, or I would never have surfed in Waikiki.

As you traveled away from the highly commercialized, somewhat polluted city the true colors of the island finally showed through. The island is beautiful! All of the beaches on the island are open to the public, and all of them have something unique to them. I would love to travel to the North Shore in the winter and see the giant wave’s crash on the beach and everything else around them. For now the lush green beauty of the mountains and the calm pristine beaches held me over.

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The pristine beaches of Maui

Maui was something entirely different, Maui was an island of dreams. As we flew in (it’s a 15 minute plane ride from Oahu) we could see sugar cane growing all over the island, and the mountains reaching into the clouds at a height of over ten thousand feet. On the ground it smelled sweet, a mix of sugar cane and plumaira filled the air. We stayed at the Honua Kai in Lahaina and trust me I would live there if I could. Golden sand beaches stretched on, with a sunset every night just over Molokai. There was a reef maybe 6 feet off the beach with the best snorkeling I have ever seen and I have snorkeled all over the world. There was turtles, parrot fish, the entire cast of Nemo, and even an eel or two, I was in fish heaven. On land the things to do greatly outnumbered my time spent there. The road to Hana highlighted my trip. 1 road, 68 miles, roughly 620 curves and 59 one lane bridges all to view the best of Maui. Scenic overlooks, arboretums, waterfalls, and a black sand beach are just a few things that made this drive so special.

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One of the many wonders of Hana

Without a doubt the most busy tourist section of the island was Front Street in Lahaina. We went there every night, may it be for entertainment, dining, or shopping, Front Street was the place to be. The Old Lahaina Luau was a wonderful interpretation of the islands rich culture through the best way they know how, dance. It was amazing to see these dancers contort their bodies, as well as tell the history of the islands all in a way that everyone could understand. I also managed to strike up a conversation with our “waiter” about snowboarding, which I found odd in Hawaii, yet loved.

The fruit in Maui is unlike anything I have ever tasted. On the road to Hana I stopped by a roadside stand and got 7 bananas for a dollar, 7!!! They were the sweetest, freshest piece of fruit I have ever tasted. I also stopped at a different road side stand and got a home grown avocado. This thing was huge!!! Nothing like the store bought avocado in Jersey this thing was the size of my face!! The pineapple drips juices like watermelon. After breakfast each morning I found myself having to wash up because I was covered in sticky juices from the pineapple I devoured. If I lived in Hawaii, the only thing I would eat would be fruit that I picked in the morning, avocado, and fresh fish, what else could I need?

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I was not leaving without a fight

I did not want to leave. In fact my father had to peel me off of a palm tree. I miss the 78 degree weather every day. I miss watching the rain shower come off the mountains in the mornings. I miss talking about surf, and the morning fishing report with the locals. I could move there for an extended amount of time and never run out of things to do. One day I will return only to make plans to live there for a year.

 

Coconut Key Lime Pie:

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One of my favorite desserts (Kona Coffee flavored ice cream aside) was Key Lime Pie that I had at Lahaina Fish Co. I normally don’t like key lime pie, but this was the epitome of island taste. It was so fluffy I thought it was cheesecake at first, but the taste cannot be denied. It had the light texture of damp clouds, and the flavor of tropical islands, definitely one of the most memorable desserts on the island.

Ingredients:

For crust:

1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 tablespoons of sugar

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup toasted coconut

For the filling:

1, 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

4 large egg yolks

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh or bottled Key Lime juice

Toasted coconut to taste

Directions:

To make crust:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a large bowl combine cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter and coconut until combined.
  3. Spread with a fork in a greased 9 inch glass pie pan
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and let cool.

Make filling

  1. Whisk condensed milk and yokes until combined
  2. Add juice and coconut flakes and whisk again until combined.
  3. Pour into the middle of the crust and bake for 15 minutes.
  4. Cool pie completely on a rack.
  5. Chill, covered for 8 hours.

 

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Which came first: Tequila vs. Revolution (Vanilla Lime Cupcakes)

One tequila, two tequila, three tequilas more, four tequila, five tequila, six tequila, floor.

Happy Cinco De Mayo, we Americans will spend it sipping margaritas, taking shots of tequila followed by sour faces, and the hugging of the porcelain express. Leave it up to Americans to take a holiday from another country and turn it upside down, IT IS NOT A MEXICAN DRINKING HOLIDAY.

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WARNING HISTORY LESSON AHEAD: In 1861 Mexico was going through an economic crisis, debt was not being paid, other countries were involved, it was not a good time. Good ol’ Napoleon III decided that France should take over Mexico because of the prime real estate next to the US. So the French army went over to Mexico and started a French vs. Mexican war. On May 5th, 1862 they Mexican army was surprised by the French in Puebla but somehow, although the Mexican army was out numbered, they defeated the French for the battle of Puebla!

Mexico City was still taken over by the French, until they decided that they did not want it anymore in 1866 then handed it back over to the Mexican government. Cinco de Mayo in Mexico serves as a day of Mexican pride where they hold parades and mock battles, but tequila is not a requirement.  END HISTORY LESSON.

America has a great way of taking something and blowing it out of the water. Alcohol companies did a great job taking a celebration of pride and turning it into a day of drunken stumbling in the US, but hey who can resist a good shot of patron?!?

Unfortunately tequila and cupcakes don’t match, just like tequila and anything creamy doesn’t match, trust me I tried. However what is a must have with tequila? Limes of course and despite the lime shortage this year I was able to snag a handful and make wonderful Vanilla lime cupcakes. So take a shot, and chase it with these vanilla lime cupcakes! Happy Drinking Everyone!

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Vanilla Lime Cupcakes

Since tequila and cupcakes lead to a sour blend, these cupcakes signify what comes after the shot, and I am not talking about a sour face! This vanilla cupcake is super light and goes down easy, while the buttercream Lime frosting is not too sweet, but chases the cupcake like a champ!

Makes 12

Ingredients:

Cake

1 2/3 Cup of all-purpose flour

1/2 Teaspoon baking powder

1/4 Teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 Teaspoon of salt

1 Cup granulated Sugar

1/2 Cup unsalted butter, melted

2 Egg whites

1/4 Cup vanilla yogurt

3/4 Cup Milk

2 Teaspoons Vanilla extract

Frosting

1 Cup Unsalted butter at room temp.

6 Cups Powdered sugar

Juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed

Zest of 1 lime

Few drops of green food coloring

Small lime slices for garnish, if desired.

 

Directions:

Cupcakes –

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a medium bowl mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside
  3. Melt the butter.
  4. In a stand mixer (or a large bowl for a hand mixer) mix the butter and sugar. Mix in the egg whites, yogurt, milk and vanilla until combined.
  5. Mix the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until incorporated with no lumps.
  6. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 the way with batter, bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Frosting –

  1. With a stand mixer beat butter until lite and fluffy.
  2. Add powder sugar, salt, lime juice, and zest and mix until creamy
  3. Mix in a few drops of green food coloring
  4. Transfer into a piping bag and frost the cupcakes when cool

 

Send Inspiration!!! (Perfect Chocolate, Chocolate Cake)

Lately I’ve gotten tired of the same old questions, “what’s new?” “Nothing”, “Whats up?” “Same ol’ same old.”, “Hows work?” “worky”. I need difference in my life, I need excitement. Luckily with the weather warming, cabin fever is finally wearing off and we can go for hikes and walks outside. Actually this past weekend I got to (re)plant potatoes with a local organic farm and got really, really sunburn – lobster status.

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Look! A wild Heron!

However even with this slight change in the weather I am still caught up in the mundane patterns of society. I don’t even know what to bake anymore, I’m running out of ideas, motivation is slipping from my slightly tan, and rather dry fingers. Bold statement warning: PLEASE SEND IDEAS! Ideas for baked goods, ideas for blog posts, give me a topic I can work with that. Give me a news article I can form something around that. I JUST NEED VARIATION IN MY LIFE. Okay boring rant aside I did get to make a pretty awesome cake recently. When you are 80 years old where do you see yourself? What do you hope to have accomplished in your life? To celebrate 80 years I made a 3 layered “zebra” cake for this wonderful lady (see photo below). This by far was the biggest cake I have ever made and the only time I made a tiered cake. I was actually stumped ealier in the week, I did not know what kind of support this cake would need. After a trip to A.C. Moore and $80 later I got the cake support I needed as well as a bunch of things I didn’t need. Image What I really want to tell you about in this cake is the chocolate. I used my favorite chocolate cake recipe, Hersey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate cake recipe. This is by far the richest, wettest, chocolatlyist cake I have ever had. This is not the first time I’ve used this recipe, Pair this with a peanut butter ganache you have a heart breaker. Pair this with a Bailys butter cream icing you have a dream. IMG_7964 Without further ado, Chocolate addicts please feast your eyes on the greatest chocolate cake recipe you may ever encounter   Hersey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake Recipe This will make a double layer cake easy. This time I paired it with a Bailys buttercream icing, it was a beautiful mixture of flavors. P.S. This is the same buttercream icing I use on the Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes. Ingredients: Cake – 2 cups sugar 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour 3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 2 eggs 1 cup milk 1/2 cup vegetable oil 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 cup boiling water Frosting – 2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature 5 cups powdered sugar 6 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream Directions: Cake

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees, and grease 2 9 inch round baking pans
  2. In a large bowl combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt
  3. In a stand mixer mix eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet along with boiling water and mix, the batter will be thin, this is normal.
  5. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Cool ten minutes before removing from pan, wait an additional 15 before frosting.

Frosting:

  1. In a stand mixer whip the butter on medium speed for 5 minutes scraping the sides of the bowl down periodically.
  2. Add the powder sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing between each cup, until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the Baileys and whip until light and fluffy.

Off the Funfetti Bandwagon (Faux Funfetti Blondies)

Bold statement warning: I HATE FUNFETTI, damn you Pillsbury for turning your sprinkles filled boxed cake mix into a phenomenon.

It seems that everything is Funfetti lately, walking through the food store you can stumble upon: pancake mix, woppie pie mix, cookie mix and of course cake mix. Don’t get me wrong, I love the colors. Trust me; I would be the last person to say that baked goods are better without rainbows, however Funfetti box mix dampers the creativity of bakers.

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Example 1, Courtney:

“I NEED A FUNFETTI BIRTHDAY CAKE!!!” she exclaims with the excitement of a three year old.

“Okay, I’ll just whip up my own Funfetti recipe and…”  I knew that wouldn’t fly. As soon as the words left my mouth regret struck. What was I thinking? Funfetti is Courtney’s birth right, that’s the cake she has always had for her birthday.

“No! I want the box!” 21 years of age, 21!!! I am scared that she is going to lie down in the isle and start throwing a temper tantrum like a 3 year old. I grab the box in hope that a meltdown is avoided. One isle later my fears again are stirred up, “LOOK, FUNFETTI PANCAKE MIX !” Okay, Im not going to lie, I make pretty boss pancakes, growing up I have never used a box mix; even in college I never used a box mix. For Courtney’s birthday I used a boxed Funfetti pancake mix.

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As a baker who is obsessed with doing things from scratch, I firmly believe that Pillsbury has everyone brainwashed. If I make a white cake and throw some sprinkles in you will have the same effect! Home Made Funfetti is way more convenient than running to the store and buying a box, and Funfetti pancake mix is just pancake mix with sprinkles thrown in I CAN DO THE SAME THING!

This past weekend was a washout, at least 3 inches of rain and nothing to do but bake all day. Can you guess what Courtney requested? Funfetti blondies. First of all, my feelings about Funfetti are stated above; second of all, I am not a Blondies fan I am a chocolate fan! Why have vanilla brownies? That’s just a waste of potential chocolate dessert in my eyes.

I imagine that typical Funfetti Blondies would taste like cake, and most recipes I looked up did indeed require the boxed mix. As you can probably guess, I did not go that route. My blondies taste more like chocolate chip cookie dough, yes dough, not the cookies. I made these suckers on Saturday night and let me tell you, they tasted wonderful Sunday morning warmed up for breakfast!

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Faux Funfetti Blondies

Ingredients

1cup butter (room temp or slightly melted)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoon vanilla
Pinch salt
2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Sprinkles as desired

Directions:

  1.        Preheat oven to 350.
  2.        Cream the butter and the sugars using a stand mixer
  3.        Mix in the egg and vanilla
  4.        Add in the flour, baking soda, salt and mix till combined. The dough will be dry.
  5.        With a spoon or your hands mix in the chocolate chips and sprinkles
  6.        Spread out in  a 9X9 greased pan and cook until just golden or 18-20 minutes

 

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

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)  

 

 

 

The Cookies that Changed My Life

Life of a cookie

The games tied 1-1 and the Red Sox are up to bat. It’s the bottom of the 9th and only this inning can tell if the game goes to extra innings. The first batter is up to plate, hits a single to center. The second batter comes up; he hits a sacrifice fly to right field, and the runner on first advances. Third batter hits another single down the third base line. With runners in scoring position the teams lead homerun hitter comes up to bat. Could the Red Sox win it all? “Lauren come in here and help me with dinner!” screamed my mom from the kitchen.

“But mom! The game!” I stammer out.

“Lauren get your butt in here you can watch TV after dinner.”

I hated cooking. I hated the kitchen, always calling me away from the best TV shows a girl could ask for. Without fail my mother could be cooking for hours and she would ask for my help right when something started to get good, or right before the killer was discovered. I think she did it on purpose.

I think I got my dislike of cooking from observing my father. My father is the type of man who will work from nine to five, spend the rest of the day (or till the sun goes down) making acquaintances with worms in his garden. Soon after he will come inside, eat the raw pick of the day and be content with life. He always enjoys his food in the purest of forms, straight from the garden with a little dirt still on it. While sitting on the couch drinking a beer and watching sports, of course. There was no time for this “cooking shit” that my mother is so proud of. But after my mother cooked, my father would eat her hot meal without a complaint or hesitation.

Sugars, butter, vanilla and egg
Sugars, butter, vanilla and egg

Never would my father lift a finger to help my mother cook dinner. “Cooking dinner is a women’s thing” he would say to me. I always wondered if it had something to do with the chaos he caused when he walked in the kitchen. He always thought the food needed something extra and he would shove countless “secret ingredients” in my mother’s face. This inevitably would result in a shouting match over who is the true cooker of dinner.

Mother on the other hand, she always tried to force a wooden spoon in my hand. Stir this, watch that, cut this, sauté that. When I was seven she tried to teach me how to cut up veggies for soup. I did not want any of that, so I cut my finger instead (in reality I was just very bad at cutting things with knives).

My mother reminds me of spinach. When spinach is fresh, it is a great addition to salad; it is sweet, crisp and fresh. But once you cook spinach, or you get my mother mad, it is sour, pungent and it resembles something that should have just remained in the garden. My extreme dislike of helping my mother in the kitchen, made her like cooked spinach.

“You need to learn how to cook!” my mother would shout, “How are you ever going to survive on your own!”

“Mom, I’m nine! I don’t care!” I would scream back. This was a good enough excuse until I was sixteen.

For my sixteenth birthday I asked for the top of the line field hockey stick, an acoustic guitar, and a kitten. Why do I remember this you may ask? For my sixteenth birthday my mother got me sixteen cookbooks, just what my mother wanted when she turned sixteen. This made me even more upset, “MOM I DON’T CARE ABOUT COOKING, JUST BECAUSE YOU DO DOESN’T MEAN I DO!” I screamed. I yelled. I cursed. I hated the heavy hard covered doorstoppers that my mother forced upon me.

“You’ll regret it when I’m gone.” She would argue back, for some reason she always thought I would care more if she threatened me with her own death. I never understood that.

Months into my sixteenth year I avoided the kitchen like the plague, always sneaking around it, making excuses to exit the front door instead of the garage door, which was located in the kitchen. Then one day while my mother was at work, I wanted something chocolaty, like a cookie. I went into the unoccupied kitchen, checking the time diligently to make sure my mother would not be home within the next four hours where she might catch me lingering in the kitchen looking for a snack. There was nothing to eat anywhere! Okay that might be a slight exaggeration. There was food everywhere, but not what I wanted. Bored, I sat down at the table and started thumbing through a dessert book my Mom had on the counter. That’s when my life changed forever.  There on page 136 this lady, Betty Crocker, outlined what she called “Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies.” That was exactly what I was looking for! My existence in this world was justified. I was put on earth to make these cookies. With no prior baking background or experience I decided right then and there that these cookies would be my first culinary masterpiece.

dough

I scrounged the kitchen looking for the ingredients. Three-fourths cup dark brown sugar and granulated sugar, what was this dark brown sugar? I could only find light brown sugar. To be on the safe side I used one cup of granulated sugar. Butter at room temperature? I did not have time for that! I melted it in the microwave instead. Baking soda? I didn’t like soda, I used powder instead. In the end the mixed glob that sat in the bowl before me, which contained one bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips and one bag of M&M’s dumped in it, was the best thing I ever created. I scooped the slop onto a greased cookie sheet (even though the recipe clearly stated ungreased) and let it sit for the suggested amount of time. Or ten minutes more.

Lil' Dough Ball
Lil’ Dough Ball

When the smoke detectors finally alerted me that the cookies were done, I pulled the pan from the oven to see that my creation faintly resembled chocolate chip cookies. I let them cool for about twenty seconds before shoving a three-hundred and seventy five degree cookie into my mouth, and losing all the skin in my mouth due to third degree mouth burns. Although they were burnt to a crisp I could taste it, the sweet taste of success (in retrospect it could have been some of the blood from my mouth burns too, but mostly success). This is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life! I wanted to put masterpieces together using my hands, I wanted to be better than those people who bought their cookies in packages, and I wanted to change the world. I wanted to make sweets!

Hours passed as I waited with baited breath for my mother to come home so I could show her my culinary masterpiece. What I forgot about, was the fact that my mother is the kind of person who keeps her closets in alphabetical order, whereas I am the person who takes everything out and lays it on the kitchen counter and leaves it there. In laymen’s terms, the kitchen was the aftermath of a category five hurricane in a trailer park. When my mother walked through the doors she had a small heart attack and immediately started screaming that we’ve been robbed. When I finally managed to calm her down and tell her that I have been baking she almost had another heart attack. I showed her my creation, and with utter disgust she managed to crinkle her nose and attempted to hide her disgust and to applaud my creation. I could tell that she was still in distress from seeing her kitchen a mess, and couldn’t take in the beauty and wonder of my creation.

Over the next weeks, months and years to come, my mother would encourage my baking. She explained to me that unlike cooking, baking had to be precise and the recipe had to be followed exactly or you ended up with “globbly-gook” like my first attempt at cookies. She still tries to force me into helping her cook dinner, but after another incident with a knife she came to the conclusion that maybe I was more of a baker, and let me stick strictly to that.  She took my sixteen cookbooks and turned them in to twenty-two recipe books strictly on desserts and sweets.

Today the smoke alarm no longer alerts me when my cookies are done; I take them out all by myself, well, with help from the kitchen timer. I no longer discard baking soda from recipes because of my dislike of soda, and I no longer make up my own amounts of sugar. My baking caused my family to change as well, my mother no longer nags me to get up off the couch when the game is on to help her with dinner. And my father no longer reaches for a dirt covered vegetable; he insists that a cookie or cupcake is way better than the crunch of gravel between your teeth, and I couldn’t agree more.

Baked COokies

Life Changing Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Betty Crocker’s “Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies”

These cookies are the basic introduction to baking that even the person with the smallest kitchen experience can manage; just make sure to follow the measurements and the time exactly.

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup granulated sugar

3/4 Cup packed brown sugar

1 Cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

1 Teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

2 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour

1/2 Teaspoon salt

1 Teaspoon baking powder

1 Package (12 ounces or 2 cups) semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Wisk sugars (brown and granulated), butter, vanilla and egg in a large bowl until mixed together and creamy
  3. Mix in with a wooden spoon flour, baking soda and salt, and mix. The dough will be stiff, mix until combined.
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips
  5. By rounded tablespoons drop cookie dough on an ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart
  6. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly, remove from cookie sheet and move to wire rack to cool completely