Quite possibly the best chocolate cupcakes ever…

chocolate cupcake

To be honest, we devoured most of the cupcakes without frosting (they are that good!) but I saved one or two to frost and enjoy in the traditional manner.

The other day, my daughter bounded into the room and declared, in no uncertain terms, that we were going to be making chocolate cake for desert. Nevermind that our dinner guest only eats raw food, or that it was about one hundred thousand degrees out (who wants to turn on the oven?)

I decided to leave her to her own devices, hoping that her mind would wander and that we would be back to watermelon slices in no time, but no such luck. She went online, found a recipe that she decided would be perfect and set out to make up a shopping list.

So we did it, switching to cupcakes when I couldn’t find the cake pans in our mess of a cabinet, and I must admit they were quite possibly the most moist and tender, melt-in-your-mouth cupcakes I have ever eaten. Which made me check out the blog that my daughter found (on her own… my little girl is growing up… sob!) and I now have a new favorite that you should all check out: AddaPinch.com.

We made a couple of changes– we used half cacao powder and half unsweetened chocolate because, well, I had the cacao powder sitting around and I felt virtuous using it at least partially. We also used chocolate frosting instead of the buttermilk one called for, but I’m sure either flavor would be equally delicious and, as I mentioned, we barely used frosting at all as these little cakes were SO MOIST!

You are going to love them. I promise.

Chocolate Cupcakes
by Robyn Stone of addapinch.com

Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup cocoa (we used 1/4 c cacao and 1/4 c cocoa)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon espresso powder
½ cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup boiling water

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 325º F.
Place cupcake liners in muffin tin. Spray lightly with cooking spray.

Add flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk through to combine or, using your paddle attachment, stir through flour mixture until combined well.

Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to flour mixture and mix together on medium speed until well combined. Reduce speed and carefully add boiling water to the cake batter. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to add air to the batter.

Evenly distribute cake batter. Each cupcake liner should be about ¾ths full.

Place in the oven and bake 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow the cupcakes to cool completely.

Escape in a bottle

apoktheke room diffuser

Mind you, this diffuser comes from Apotheke the scented home products company, not the craft bar. Though both businesses are in Brooklyn and seem pretty great…

A few weeks ago, I was in our local pharmacy picking up a few last minute items for our trip to Maine and I saw these Apotheke room diffusers in their understated cardboard, artisinal, made-in-brooklyn style packaging that is my weakness… and then the scents were things like “woods” and “sea salt grapefruit”. How is a person supposed to resist that?

I went for “woods”, and I now have the most delightfully scented bathroom a girl could want. Not at all overpowering, but it does feel like a much needed escape every time I walk into that room.

And we all can use a little escape in our lives, can’t we?

Yesterday, at some point…

treasures from maine

I have been MIA for a little while… First days of summer aka 24/7 parenting, always take me for a loop, and then we went up to a tiny island off the coast of Maine which is mostly, and gloriously, off the grid. And full of treasures like the ones above.

But now I am back in civilization. In the land of math tutors and financial worries, of the frightening reality of racial violence and dangerously insane presidential candidates. But also of artists and the ocean and gleaming skyscrapers and friends.

Here’s to making the crazy reality we are experiencing into the beautiful future we most want to see.

________________________________
Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day. The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting. If not, feel free to ignore it.

Monday, Monday– or more links about summertime cooking

cheesecake

Amazing beautiful inspirational and surely delicious strawberry balsamic cheesecake from Adventures in Cooking.

This might be the easiest-yet-also-most-delicious ice cream sandwich recipe ever. (And it comes from the pastry chef at Del Posto to boot!)

I have traditionally always made a chunky gazpacho, but I’m thinking this year I may give this creamier version a try…

What is a summer picnic without deviled eggs?

If a salad that combines cucumbers, tomatoes and yogurt doesn’t say summer, I don’t know what does.

I think the crown jewel of this year’s strawberry season is going to be this strawberry balsamic creme fraiche cheesecake. Just sayin’…

This time of year, the hens are really laying the most sublime eggs. Who knew that most of us are not scrambling them to their true potential? Here’s what we all should know…

I’m thinking this is the summer that I take the popsicle to a whole new level involving coconuts, rainbows and chocolate…

Another thing I really don’t need but totally want, regardless

iphone meat thermometer

Don’t you ust love how the little orange loop/handle matched the orange part of the app of the phone? Photo by Mark Weinberg for Food52.

I wouldn’t say that I’m against tech stuff per se, but I do tend toward the vintage, handmade, analogue variety when I can get my hands on it. Hence the rotary phone, the vinyl LP’s, the hand stitched laptop sleeve… But sometimes you have to hand it to the super modern digital version of a thing. This range thermomenter that hooks up to your iPhone (or iPad) and gives you accurate temperatures, tells you when your roast (or hard candy, or home brewed beer) is ready to come out of the oven, and looks cute in the bargain is one of those exceptions to my rule.

You can even hook it up to your iPad in the kitchen and then have it send alerts to your iPhone so you don’t have to keep coming back to the oven to check the meat.

I would already own this if I didn’t have, oh, 4 or 5 oven thermometers in our kitchen drawer already. Though to be honest, I’m just one yard sale away from getting rid of all of them to make room for this baby…

Monday, Monday– or a few links to start easing us into summer

Scott Kelly's strange and beautiful photographs of the Earth from space.

Scott Kelly’s strange and beautiful photographs of the Earth from space.

Check out Krrb’s screen-free ideas to keep the kids busy on a road trip.

And here are a few screen-time tips for those of us parents who belong to the everything-in-moderation school.

But then again, sometimes, looking at screens can be a transcendent experience… like when you look at astronaut Scott Kelly’s photographs of the Earth from space.

It’s getting hot out there– so maybe it’s time to upgrade an old t-shirt into an airy twist-back top.

Nothing says summer like a triple flavored home made popsicle, if I do say so myself…

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could fill, like, 100 water balloons at the same time? Well it seems our prayers have been answered.

Perhaps a little whipped yogurt cheesecake with roasted rhubarb for desert?

Father’s Day

Father’s Day is almost upon us… and if you haven’t gotten it together yet, here are a few gift ideas. And if they arrive on Monday or Tuesday? Hey– better late than never, right?

father's gift box

Here is a box full of goodies that anyone would love… artisinal chocolate, coffee, handcrafted mug, sage bundle and other treats carefully curated by Chef Deena and offered by the ladies at Stone Fox Bride. Order by the 17th. Father’s Day Gift Box, $95.

leather earbud caddy

The gift of organization is always appreciated, especially when old school style meets new school tech. Leather iPhone earbud keeper, $28.

juniper soap

Who wouldn’t want their daily shower to be filled with the scent of evergreen, snowmelt and Mt Hood’s Timberline Trail? Juniper Ridge Trail Body Wash Soap, $32.

teakwood water bottle

Sure it’s just another stainless steel water bottle… But it looks so cool! S’well stainless steel teak wood bottle, $50

pizza pven

If your dad has a back yard, doesn’t he need a pizza over to go in it? Uuni 2S Wood Fired Pizza Oven, $299.

piozza stone

And if there isn’t a back yard for the oven, upgrade his kitchen-made pies with a pizza stone. Sparq Home Pizza Stone, $65.

hobo eat kit

And once he has made the pizza, he’ll need something to eat it with, right? Hobo eat kit, $28.95 http://shop.coolmaterial.com/products/hobo-knife

Monday, Monday– or a few links about the end…

Hundred of butterflies are released to commemorate the life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Hundred of butterflies are released to commemorate the life of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

There have been a few too many memorial services in my life these past few months, which is never fun. But it can be a profound reminder of our fragile place in this universe. Or just a reminder that we’d better get organized lest the state inherit everything when we’ve gone.

Because oh lordie just look at what is going on with Prince.

To help give you an idea of what we’re up against, I give you the business of death as an infographic.

Turning your loved one’s cremains into a tree might seem a bit crazy but is profoundly beautiful at the same time

The delicate art of obituary writing, explained by the pros.

Hundreds of butterflies created a beautiful memorial for one of the most poetic authors of our time…

OK I am outing myself as a trekkie here, but this may be, in my humble opinion, one of the most moving death/funeral scenes ever filmed.

Or actually maybe John Hannah (as Matthew) reading Auden’s “Funeral Blues” in Four Weddings and a Funeral takes the cake. I challenge you not to cry…

Last night for dinner we had the 3 P’s (pasta, peas and prosciutto) and it was really good

These are three things that i know my 8 year old likes, so she can't object to trying them in combination... at least one time...

These are three things that i know my 8 year old likes, so she can’t object to trying them in combination… at least one time…

In my next life, I’m going to be one of those food bloggers who cooks meals during the day in my kitchen next to the picture window that floods the entire soapstone or reclaimed wood counter with lovely, even northern light. My masterpieces will be photographed in pottery dishes (handmade by my daughter, natch) with linen napkins and tiny vases of flowers casually placed nearby.

Unfortunately for you all, I have yet to be reincarnated and, as such, am just barely getting a shot off before the food gets shoveled into the mouths of my waiting family. (I include myself in that group, by the way.) But hey, if this isn’t authentic, I don’t know what is.

Flowers or no, this recipe, which I stumbled upon while searching Smitten Kitchen for I don’t know what) is delicious, fast, and easily elevated to culinary peaks simply by purchasing quality ingredients. We didn’t happen to have tortellini, so I skipped the part where you make the tortellini crispy (don’t worry, we’ll be doing that next week, I’m sure!) and used the shell pasta we had on hand. Add some top notch prosciutto and creme fraiche from The Bedford Cheese Shop (about as top as a person can get, in the notch department) and we were good to go.

Total home run, if I do say so myself.

Crispy Tortellini with peas and prosciutto
(from Smitten Kitchen)

In the skillet
3 thin slices prosciutto (optional)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 13-14 ounce package frozen cheese tortellini (about 3 cups)
1/2 cup frozen peas, no need to defrost
1/3 cup water

To finish
3 tablespoons crème fraîche or mascarpone
Juice of half a lemon, more or less to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few fresh mint leaves, cut into thin slivers
Grated parmesan (optional)

Heat a large, deep skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. If using, add prosciutto in a single layer and cook until curling and browned underneath, about 2 minutes. Flip over and let cook until browned on the other side. Transfer a paper towel to blot oil and cool.

Add oil to same skillet and heat it for a minute. Add frozen tortellini in a single layer and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, until they’re browned underneath. (We skipped that and just added al dente shells) Sprinkle with frozen peas and add water to pan. Be careful; it’s going to ROARHISS wildly. Put the lid on, and let them steam for about 5 minutes but don’t go too far because if the water cooks off too quickly, you’ll want to add a splash more. At 5 minutes, all water should have cooked off. Scoop pasta and peas into bowl. If you find any pasta has stuck, just add a splash more water over high heat to “deglaze” them off — loosen them with a thin spatula and toss them around until they’re crisp again.

Immediately dollop on crème fraîche so it melts over the pasta. Squeeze lemon juice over, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, crumble prosciutto over (if using), then slivers of mint and parmesan, if desired. Dig in. Give your freezer a pat on its back.

Monday, Monday– or more links about fashion, dance and tiny cubes of food…

This danced out version of the exquisite corpse game we played as kids is mesmerizing and beautiful and a crash course on who’s who in contemporary dance. (Plus our good friend and local action hero Elizabeth Streb is there at 2:49!)

This is an incredible, mind-blowing reality checking interactive chart about World War II.

If I were in charge, the Encyclopedia Britannica entry for OCD would most certainly include a photo of these tiny, perfectly cut and strangely beautiful cubes of food.

Yes, there is a blog out there called The Pen Addict.

There may actually be help for the junk drawer that lurks in each and every one of our homes (except for maybe Martha Stewart’s…)

How to make your own cucumber kimchi, according to the great David Chang.

And lastly, for all you Grace Coddington fans out there, this NY Times slideshow is a captivating survey of a remarkable life in fashion. Which, by the way, seems to be constantly evolving and growing even now, well into her seventh decade. There is hope for us all.