Cupcake Week

Last week was a great week for cupcakes! A friend came to visit me in the city, and after we went to a blues and bbq festival on Pier 84 (that pulled pork sandwich really hit the spot!), we went down to Molly’s Cupcakes in the West Village.

There are no words to describe the heaven we were in. I had been there one time previously and loved it, but this time there was no comparison. We couldn’t make a choice at first, and then I had the BRILLIANT idea to get three cupcakes and just cut them in half. I see that all the time on the blogs I follow, so how was that not the plan from when we walked in the door? Crisis averted!

We finally chose the Mixed Berry, Chocolate Decadence, and Creme Brulee and settled into our swing chairs for some cupcake bliss. I knew from the second I cut into the chocolate one that we were in for an amazing experience. We were not disappointed.

I started with the chocolate (obviously!), and it was so rich. I don’t think I could have handled the whole thing. It certainly lived up to its name! Then I moved on to the mixed berry, which was like a perfectly sweet blueberry muffin. The cake and buttercream were light and fluffy, and it was like I was eating a cloud. We each saved the creme brulee for last, since another friend was raving about it before we got there. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It had a thin glaze over a creme-brulee-flavored cake, with a custard filling. It was the perfect ending.

Every so often for the rest of the weekend, when one of us would remember these cupcakes, we would both reply with an “OMG so good!” and sigh in contentment. It was almost a religious experience, and I can’t wait to make the pilgrimage again soon!

Shifting gears, I finally redeemed the voucher I won for frosting the best cupcake at Butter Lane last year. I thought it would be a yummy treat for me and my new roommates. I headed over there after work, eager for another sugary indulgence.

I picked out a Sea Salt Caramel, Strawberry, Salted Caramel with Popcorn, Peanut Butter Banana, Cookie Dough, and Chocolate. I knew immediately that under no circumstances would I share the Sea Salt Caramel cupcake. It was mine.

It was torture waiting for people to come home so we could dig in. I figured we would cut the cupcakes in fours, so we could get a bit of (almost) each. When I ate the Sea Salt Caramel earlier, I had the thought that I didn’t want to share the rest, which made me all the more impatient for later in the evening. In the end it was worth it, as we crowded around the table and sampled the night away.

Home Sweet Home

It’s happened! I’m officially an apartment renter! No longer a dormer! Is this real life? Seriously, am I a legit adult now? Do I actually have to pay for utilities now? No more lights for me, haha! I still don’t fully believe it. I may not have a publishing job yet, but I love my tutoring work and I start a new babysitting gig next week. My life is now work, work, work, and not school, school, school. For the first time in seventeen years. It’s been an adjustment, but I think I can manage. That ever-present knot in my stomach is ever-so-slowly going away, but if only things would stop popping up to make it suddenly reappear.

The best part about this place is definitely the kitchen (sorry roomies!). So much counter space! So many cabinets! Today I had to open every single cabinet in order to find the dishes. I’ll learn my way around soon enough. I can’t wait to start baking. I can just imagine all the delicious things that will be made and shared here. Soon. I just need to restock ALL of my baking ingredients. Which will happen. Sometime.

In the meantime, I want to move away from food shopping in Manhattan. Of course I’ll still get cabinet items and such from Trader Joe’s, but I want to start getting my produce in the neighborhood. A goal I have is to try to shop less frequently at chains, and to push myself out of my comfort zone by checking out local stores and restaurants.

I walked over to The Angel’s Fruit Market after work today, and I was very pleased with their selection, price point, and staff. I scoped out some items in the front of their store and determined that was the quick sale area, because everything was about half the price of the same items inside. When I have a particular recipe in mind–or want to eat an entire pint of strawberries in one evening ($0.99/pint, OMG!!)–I think I’ll pick stuff from this area. I moved into the store and there was so much produce! I took a lap around first to see what I might want, and then I grabbed a basket and commenced filling.

I wanted to buy everything I saw. I think this store will be a great excuse to try new things. There was a large variety of familiar and unfamiliar items, and I might try out one new thing each time I go. I know I want to go back tomorrow in order to get carrots to put in a salad, and maybe I’ll get an apple or two.

While I was browsing, I determined that some items were still cheaper at Trader Joe’s. I guess I’ll continue to buy my bananas and baby spinach there for the time being. My relocation is actually a really bad thing since TJ’s is right on my way home, and now I’ll have an unlimited Metrocard . . . uh oh! I’m going to need to show some restraint, or else I’ll be popping in there way too often. At least I have to walk a few blocks out of my way to get to The Angel. And it’s a $10 limit on credit cards, so I’m restricting pop-ins to cash only, which I almost never have on hand.

Cake Flour Brownies

It’s official. I don’t have any sugar of any kind left in my stock. I don’t count the sweetener packets for my tea as sugar, either, or else I’d have plenty! I used the last of my granulated and brown sugar in these brownies from Cookie Madness, and even then I almost didn’t have enough.

I can’t wait till I have my own kitchen and supplies again, because this whole being in transition thing is doing a number on me. I’m so excited to start moving into my first apartment this week and to have multiple people to bake for again. Just need to restock a few things . . . or everything! I expect I’ll be back to my regular self soon enough.

Thankfully I had some cake flour to use as a vehicle for chocolate delivery. I enjoyed these brownies, but I have to say I’m definitely a fudgey brownie person. Cakey brownies are good and all, but they’re not my first dessert choice.

The unsweetened chocolate, paired with the dark brown sugar I used, made for a rich chocolate flavor. I totally would have made a buttercream frosting to accompany these if I could have. Then I bet this treat would be just perfect!

Trader Joe’s Arugula Pizza

Since I don’t have any baking supplies left, I haven’t been able to make any pizzas. Boy do I miss that garlic crust. I picked up this Arugula Pizza at Trader Joe’s when I went the other day, and I must say I was pleased with the product.

It has arugula, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, manchego, provolone, and pecorino. I also sprinkled on a bit of parmesan cheese when I took it out of the oven. You can never have too much cheese!

The crust was thinner than I normally like, but it was still super yummy. Even though I ate half of the pizza and it has three servings, I wasn’t as full as I would have liked. This is something I would probably eat with a salad or some other veggies on the side.

With that said, I definitely want to get this pizza again. It would be too expensive to make it on my own, what with the multiple types of cheese. However, I will happily pay $4.29 for two delicious meals. Yay for Trader Joe’s!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Bread

Baking options have been slim lately because my kitchen stock is nearly depleted. I’ve now used up the last of my all purpose flour, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, powdered sugar, dark cocoa powder, and probably some other ingredients I can’t remember at the moment. I was actually down to my last half a stick of butter, but I broke down and bought some more on my way home from work last night. I’m sorry, but a kitchen without butter is not a kitchen I want to be in.

The last time I went grocery shopping, I thought I was in the mood for bananas, but as it turns out, I wasn’t. Which is how I still had 4 bananas left a week and a half later. Banana bread it is! It took some searching to find a recipe that worked with the supplies I had on hand, but I think I found a good one. It turns out I didn’t even need the butter I bought, so I can keep it for another recipe in the future.

I’m surprised that a recipe that only called for a tablespoon of oil (I used butter because I didn’t have any oil) tasted so good. I’m used to banana breads needing a stick or more, so this one from All Recipes was a nice change. I made a few alterations, so here is my version of the recipe.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Banana Bread

(Yields 1 9×5 loaf pan)

Wet Ingredients

1/3 cup skim milk

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 large eggs

3/4 cup granulated sugar

4 large bananas

1 tablespoon melted butter

Dry Ingredients

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup dark cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

dash of cinnamon

dash of nutmeg

  1. Preheat oven to 375*F. Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Stir the skim milk and lemon juice together in a glass measuring cup; let stand until curdled, about 30 minutes.
  3. Beat the eggs and sugar together with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  4. Mix in the mashed bananas, milk mixture, melted butter, and vanilla extract.
  5. Combine the whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  6. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until everything is combined.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.
  9. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.