Cup of Dirt

Growing up, my favorite place to get dessert (besides cheesecake in Philadelphia…), was Ground Round. Ground Round, for those of you unfamiliar with the 90’s haven, was a chain restaurant that led kids eat for a cent per pound of their body weight. Crazy, right? Yes, crazy. And crazy cheap. But the best part for me as a kid was the dessert. Their specialty, if you will, was cup of dirt. A child friendly delicacy made out of pudding, Cool Whip, crumbled Oreos, and gummy worms. They were always a little chintzy with the worms, so I had to ration them out through the meal. So now that I’m an adult and it’s within my power to add more worms, I decided to make them on my own.

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INGREDIENTS:

Makes about 6 servings

1 package of chocolate pudding, made

1 8 oz tub of Cool Whip, thawed

1 small package of gummy worms

1 sleeve of oreos, crumbled (I smashed mine with a meat mallet)

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DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, fold the Cool Whip into the pudding. Be careful not to over mix. Put a few spoonfuls into a small glass. Slide a couple of gummy worms into the pudding, letting them hang over the side of the glass. Top with Oreo crumbles. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

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Sprinkles Vanilla Cupcakes

I remember the first time I heard of the California based cupcake bakery, Sprinkles. I was watching acclaimed reality show “The Girls Next Door”, the fairytale saga of Hugh Hefner and his collection of girlfriends. Bridget, his number 2 GF, was throwing a birthday party and brought in Sprinkles cupcakes for the occasion. “Doesn’t everyone order cake for a birthday? What’s the big deal?”, you ask confusedly. Well when you have your own kitchen staff like the Playboy mansion, you don’t have ANYTHING brought in unless it’s really spectacular.

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Several years later when I was interning at “E! News” in LA, I finally laid my paws on one during an event at the office. Little did I know that by then, a Sprinkles had opened in my home state of New York. It was everything I dreamed of: moist and delicate, with dense, creamy frosting. So when I found a recipe online, of course I wanted to try it. The recipe I found is for their peppermint cupcakes, so I adjusted it slightly to be plain vanilla, and to make 24 cupcakes rather than 12. I also used this fondant recipe to make the heart garnishes. Yes, I know they make the cupcakes look vaguely boob-like, for better or worse.

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Servings: Makes 24 cupakes

INGREDIENTS:

For the cupcakes:

3 cups all-purpose flour , sifted

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1 cup whole milk , room temperature

4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter , room temperature

2 cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature*

4 large egg whites, room temperature*

*If your eggs are warming too slowly, gently place them in a cup, then fill the cup with lukewarm (not hot) water until they reach room temperature

For the frosting:

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter , firm but not cold

1/4 tsp. salt

7 cups confectioners’ sugar , sifted

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. milk


DIRECTIONS:

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350°. Make sure the racks are in the lower two thirds of the oven. Line 2 cupcake tins with liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together milk and extracts; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just combined.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared cupcake liners. Gently shake the tins so that any raised batter flattens. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes– I know this is a super scary way to test them as opposed to the toothpick method, but they’ll keep cooking in the pan so take them out as soon as you can touch the top without getting any residue on your finger. Rotate tins once while baking. Transfer tins to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

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For the frosting:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Reduce the speed to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and beat until incorporated. Add the extracts and milk and beat until smooth and creamy. Do not overmix or the frosting will incorporate too much air; it should be creamy and dense, like ice cream. Add additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, if frosting does not have a spreadable consistency.

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To assemble:

While gingerly holding a completely cooled cupcake, scoop a large amount (thing about a half a tennis ball) onto the top of the cupcake using a spatula. Then, swipe the sides of the cupcake in a circular motion until the top looks flat and the sides are smooth, almost like a volcano. Place any decorations on top, then eat!

These can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days.

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Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

When I think of dyeing Easter eggs, PAAS is the first thing that comes to mind. For those of you who did not grow up with the neon, staining, metal egg dippers included, brand, PAAS is the mother of all Easter egg dyeing kits. If Easter was a a game of Monopoly, PAAS would be the Atlantic City Boardwalk. I have nothing against PAAS; it’s given me and my family wonderful memories of pink and purple tinted fingers, eggs dripping with a myriad of colors onto newspapers and plastic tablecloths, writing our names on the eggs in crayon before dipping… the list goes on. BUT, for the sake of trying something new, this year I made my own *natural* Easter egg dyes out of vegetables.

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The colors of the *natural* rainbow

The process was truly exciting for me. I loved seeing the colors emerge from the boiling plants, and enjoyed it even more when they transferred beautifully onto the eggs for the first time. This process does take longer than ripping open a box o’ PAAS, but I highly recommend it if you have the time!

I combined two sets of directions, from The Kitchn, and Food52.

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Beet, turmeric, red cabbage, yellow onion, red onion.

INGREDIENTS:

1 dozen hardboiled eggs

5 cups water

1 heaping cup chopped red cabbage

1 heaping cup red onion skins

1 heaping cup yellow onion skins

1 heaping cup shredded beets

5 tbsp white vinegar, separated

2 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp vegetable oil

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The ingredients

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Boiling veggies

DIRECTIONS:

In 5 separate saucepans, combine 1 cup of water with 1 of the vegetable/spice ingredients listed above (not the vinegar). Bring each to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the color has reached its desired intensity. Bear in mind that the color will appear several shades lighter on the eggs.

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Eggs taking a dip in the dyes

Let mixtures cool. Once cooled, strain using a fine mesh sieve into whatever bowls or cups you’ll be using for dipping the eggs. Add 1 tbsp of vinegar to each color mixture, and stir.

Dip eggs into mixtures. Remember: the longer you keep an egg in the dye, the more concentrated the color will be. Wipe off with a paper towel upon removal. Once sufficiently dry, dap with a tiny bit of vegetable oil.

TAKE THAT, PAAS.

 

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Beautiful eggs!

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They almost look like Cadbury eggs. Almost.