Friday, March 27, 2009

Cupcake Heaven

By Millicent K. Brody

I am in awe over the cupcake frenzy. Growing up, I dearly remember going to the neighborhood bakery with my grandmother. She’d let me select a cupcake to have with my glass of milk. We’d do this every Saturday; it was a ritual.

I also remember the 3 delicious chocolate cupcakes that came in a cellophane wrapper. They were called Yankee Doodles. You’d unwrap the cellophane and select the largest of the three, (of course, they were always the same size, but one always looked a tad larger). Then you’d carefully peel off the fluted paper and open your mouth... wide. Naturally, chocolate crumbs would scatter all over your face and shirt, but they were always delicious crumbs.

Today, cupcakes are a major trend. They’re not just chocolate and vanilla with matching frosting. No! You can purchase Easter-egg yellow-frosted cupcakes with numbers written on them in various colors. You can get vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting, or chocolate cupcakes with swirls of vanilla and chocolate frosting. I suppose if you were planning a birthday party, you could color coordinate the cupcakes to suit your table decor.

But now, I’ve noticed something new and different. Crumbs, the fashionable, trendy cupcake bakery that exists on New York’s upper Westside has arrived in Westfield. And wow!

Frankly, I could not believe it. I’d first heard of Crumbs when friends chose them to bake their wedding cake. I absolutely could not envision a wedding cake filled with tiers of chocolate and vanilla cup cakes topped with a bride and groom draped in corresponding swirls of frosting. But, it happened!

And as I entered the store today, there was a case filled with all sorts of occasion cakes. But that’s not what captured my fancy. I headed straight for their signature chocolate/chocolate frosted cupcakes with sprinkles cupcakes ($2.95 each). Then I asked the salesperson to fill a box with their red velvet cupcake, a German chocolate cupcake, and a brownie cupcake, (all $3.75 each). In addition to all of the cupcakes singing to me, I added a big, soft and chewy, chocolate-dipped chocolate chip cookie ($2.75 each).

I know what you’re thinking. “Do this every day, and you’ll surely become the newest, fattest, cupcake/cookie monster. But hey, I wasn’t the only one standing at the counter trying desperately not to buy one thing. A gaggle of kids wandered in, and they were busy making all kinds of decisions. Filling a box, then a bag, then a napkin so they could wander out on to East Broad Street in Downtown Westfield and munch their cookie as they thought of the caramel chewy cupcake they were going to devour after dinner.

Crumbs Bake Shop, 130 East Broad Street, Westfield.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Green in Your Glass

By Maureen C. Petrosky

No, I’m not talking about money. This week it’s simply the color of springtime that has me thinking about what to pour in my glass. Though it may be a bit premature to break out the flip-flops and tank tops, it’s definitely not too soon to start pouring warm-weather white wines.

I’ve said it before: I change my wine with my wardrobe and without even noticing it this time of year I start passing over big reds and reaching for bottles of crisp whites to sip. The greenest of all white wines is most definitely Sauvignon Blanc. At first sight you’ll notice these wines are tinged with green hues. One sniff invokes an aura of springtime, with grassy and herbaceous notes along with a squeeze of fresh bright lemons and limes.

While things are going green in the garden, it’s not quite warm enough to indulge in these acidic sips just yet. With sunshine and mild weather flirting their way into our lives, it is indeed time for something white to toast with, but it needs body and soul to soothe us out of our wintry blahs. So this week pick up a bottle of white Burgundy. Bourgogne will be on the label and Chardonnay will be in the bottle. By law whites from Burgundy are made from 100% Chardonnay, but tend to be leaner than the oakier styles of California. They have that sultry body that gingerly coats the palate, but are layered with more minerality and terroir, making for an intriguing finish. So if you’re craving something cold to sip but aren’t quite ready for the kick of Sauvignon Blanc, go for a bottle of Georges Faiveley, Bourgogne, 2005, $19 for the perfect pick to ring in spring.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Not-So-Guilty Pleasure

By Brianne Harrison

Shopping for luxury items, especially in these difficult economic times, is usually thought of as a guilty pleasure. But what if you could buy something beautiful and help make the world a better place at the same time?

That’s the mission of Ruff&Cut, a company that produces exquisite jewelry that features uncut diamonds exclusively from conflict-free areas. Ruff&Cut also donates 10% of every sale and a share of its profits to training, educational, and other programs in Africa. These programs help improve the lives of those who live there and who have been affected by the blood diamond trade and civil ware in Sierra Leone.

To give New Jerseyans a chance to see some of Ruff&Cut’s beautiful offerings, Devon Fine Jewelry in Wyckoff is hosting an exclusive showcase of some of the company’s latest designs. On March 26 and 27, customers can view such pieces as the Solitare Mediallion Pendant, Avens Earrings, and the Candor Ring. A portion of the money from each sale during the showcase will go toward the Devon Foundation, a nonprofit Devon Fine Jewelry founded to train the people of Madagascar in the art of cutting gemstones. So go ahead, treat yourself. You’ll feel better for it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

French Toast: It's What's for Dinner

By Pat Tanner

I grew up one of seven children in a working-class Roman Catholic family. That meant that (1) we observed the Lenten restrictions on eating meat and (2) money was always tight. These two onerous-sounding facts came to mean, much to my childish delight, that at this time of year we often had pancakes or French toast for dinner. It is a tradition I still maintain even though my religious practices and my circumstances have changed substantially.

This version of French toast is my latest, greatest find. Not only is it delicious and simple to make, it relieves the cook from having to be at the stove flipping and serving individual pieces. It is equally good for breakfast, brunch, or dinner. I can’t recall ever eating pancakes or French toast for lunch, but I suspect that works, too.

Source: Georgia Pecan Commission
Makes 8 Muffins

16 slices cinnamon raisin bread
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
8 tablespoons prepared apple butter
Confectioners’ sugar
Maple syrup
Whipped cream (optional)

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line eight 3-inch muffin pan cups with large foil muffin cup liners.

2. Tear bread into small bite-size pieces. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and salt until blended. Add bread pieces and toss well to moisten evenly. Sprinkle brown sugar and pecans over all and toss again lightly to distribute.

3. Spoon some of bread mixture into bottom of each lined muffin cup, filling each cup about 1/3 full. Spoon 1/2 tablespoon apple butter on top of each. Spoon another portion of bread mixture on top to fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full. Spoon remaining 1/2 tablespoon apple butter on top of each and finish with remaining bread mixture; mound it to generously fill each cup. Lightly press down on mixture in each muffin cup to pack firmly.

4. Bake muffins 20 minutes or until firm, golden brown, and slightly springy in the center. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve warm or at room temperature with maple syrup and, if desired, a dollop of whipped cream. (Note: muffin cup liners can be removed easily if muffins are cooled to room temperature.)