Monday, July 30, 2012

Missing My Old Roommates -- Apricot Baked Chicken

So, once upon a time in college I decided I wanted to be an RA. Coincidentally, this was the year that I was not guaranteed housing on campus. While I went through the application and interview process, convinced I would be overseeing a floor in my dorm the following year as a school-appointed-peer-authority figure (which my advisers assured me I'd be IDEAL for), my college friend group secured an apartment for the next year.

As fate often does for me, it threw me a serious curveball when I discovered that I was not hired for the position. All of my friends were securely housed with no extra space, and I was denied housing by the campus lottery system. It was time to freak out.

Brookasaurus girls all ready for St. Patrick's Day Parade

Thankfully, my mom had randomly met another woman whose daughter went to my college and needed a roommate. Turns out, this girl (Jessye) and I had been on the verge of becoming friends for the first two years of college but it never quite happened, even after studying abroad together. After many trials and tribulations and searching, not only did we find a lovely little apartment in Brookline, we also acquired two roommates--one was another girl we studied abroad with and the other was a craigslist roommate who also went to our school.

I was nervous to move in, in recent years I've found it hard to step out of my comfort zone and make new friends. However, despite never hanging out before and only knowing a tiny bit about each other, my new roommates soon became some of my most treasured friends from college. Jessye (other blog here), Steph, Sarah (other blog here) and I had so many adventures in our apartment, lovingly dubbed Brookasaurus, including late night impromptu dance parties, suggestively frosted Christmas cookies, sing-a-longs in the livingroom to either Disney movies or Jessye playing guitar, many tipsy nights off box wine, and many, many cooking adventures. It was here that my first serious experiments with food began, two years before I would begin to actually blog about them.

Dance Party at midnight. I think one of our neighbors came to see the
commotion and took this picture.

I look back on my year with these roommates with much love and nostalgia. Now these friends all live in NYC, and if I'm lucky I get to see them about once a year. It's just amazing how well we all got along, being strangers who happened to live together by chance. I will always remember them and I hope we always keep in touch.

Our Christmas Party and awesome tiny Charlie Brown Tree in the

This chicken recipe was in a little booklet of handwritten recipes that Jessye brought with her when we all moved in. It was one of the first recipes I made myself after breaking my vegetarian streak, and one of the most flavorful and delicious chicken dishes I've ever made. For some reason it reminds me of a 50's Housewife type recipe, probably because it involves mixing together a bunch of seemingly random food products (mostly processed--to my organic/localvore friends, I apologize) to make a family-friendly dish. I've had to adapt it a bit, since some of the suggested ingredients no longer exist (Polar all-fruit apricot soda, for one), but I'm sure it's just as good as the original. I paired it with the Cheesy Risotto and some asparagus I roasted and drizzled with truffle oil.

Jessye's Aunt Elly's Apricot Chicken, Edited by Ashley

  • 4 chicken breasts (bone in keeps them nice and moist, but boneless also works fine)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 envelope French onion soup mix
  • 1 small jar apricot preserves (about a cup. Pureed fresh apricot also works)
  • 2 cups Polar Orange Dry Soda (I think this is a New England brand of soda, if you cannot find it then Orangina is very similar)
  • 1/2 bottle French dressing

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Chop onion and arrange on the bottom of a casserole dish. Place chicken on top of onions and sprinkle with soup mix. Slather apricot preserves on top, and pour soda around the chicken. Top with the French dressing.

-Bake for about 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Check often, if the top of the chicken is getting dry, spoon some of the liquid mixture over the top. Serve immediately with a hefty scoop of the sauce on top.

-Note, if you would like the sauce to be thicker, scoop some out of the casserole dish and place in a saucepan over low heat. Mix one teaspoon of cornstarch with one tablespoon cold water and slowly add to the sauce. It should thicken up a bit.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What I Ate -- The BAHAMAS!

And here we are! The Bahamas Post!

I look rather sleepy and messy here... because I was sleepy and very sun-burnt
under that suit, but I LOVED hanging with the dolphins :)

I really, REALLY enjoyed my family vacation to The Bahamas! It was just the most gorgeous place. I have visions of winning the lottery now so I can go live in that paradise all year round. We stayed at the Atlantis Resort, which felt awfully fancy. We were a bit disappointed with how expensive everything was, considering how expensive it is to stay there, but with some good budgeting and lots of time just laying on the beach, we made it work with the budget we gave ourselves. Also, the nice thing about the heat is that it kind of curbs your appetite--we found we could get by just fine with a light breakfast, a few snacks, and a larger meal later in the day, plus gallons and gallons of water (so so necessary in the heat!). Not sure if this works for everyone, but it worked for us.

And, of course, because I consider myself a budding foodie, I took pictures of nearly every single thing I ate. We didn't get too much "authentic" Bahamian food, but everything was fantastic and as we all know, calories on vacation don't count!

Here's my little review of what was consumed over the 6 days we were there :)

After finally arriving at the resort, we were tired and starving. We just wanted something as quickly as possible, so we headed to the Johnny Rockets on the resort. I've only ever been to Johnny Rockets as a part of a resort or amusement park, so I'm not sure how the experience compares to the usual place. Honestly, I think I prefer Red Robin. These burgers were nothing special, but the staff was amazingly friendly and the little ketchup designs were adorable. Johnny Rockets is one of the cheaper places to grab a bite at the Atlantis Resort, so definitely keep this in mind if you ever go!

My younger brother, 20, was able to legally have a drink with me.
(The drinking age in the Bahamas is 18!)

 For starters, we arrived on a Sunday. Now, I don't know about you, but vacation just doesn't seem like vacation to me without a few cocktails! Unfortunately, we weren't quite ready to start throwing down $15 for mixed drinks at the resort (EVERYTHING on-site was sooo pricey!) so we scrambled to find a liquor store. However, the Bahamas are pretty religious, and NOTHING is open on a Sunday, especially not liquor stores. The one place that was open was a tiny little quickie-mart type place, and we luckily found these Daily's Frozen Cocktails. They were very silly, but contained a bit of alcohol--and the frozen-ness was a refreshing treat in the crazy heat. They do have these here, but they weren't amazing enough that I'd seek them out regularly. We all sipped some from each other's packs, and my favorite was the peach.

The Athena Cafe & Bar ended up being my second favorite place we ate at during the trip. The food was so fresh and delicious! I don't often have Greek food, and I never have even tried a gyro, but everything was just so fantastic. This gyro was my first experience sampling lamb. Though, ethically, I am not a fan of eating baby animals (the process for slaughter is way too heartbreaking...though it is for adult animals too... this is my dilemma that makes me try to go veg every two years or so, oy.) this lamb gyro was so so good. I probably won't make lamb a regular part of my diet, but I was glad I tried it so that I finally know what it's like. The yogurt sauce was the real star of the dish though, my stepdad was smart enough to get extra and slathered it on every bite. I felt wonderfully full and satisfied after the meal. We also got Conch fritters as an appetizer, and they were FANTASTIC. Conch is one of the staples of a Bahamian diet. The fritters tasted like a slightly fishy fried dough, and the sauce was like a creamy cocktail sauce. If you find yourself on Bay Street in Nassau (it's across the bridge from Atlantis) and you want a light and reasonable lunch, do yourself a favor and check out this place!

The most reasonably priced restaurant at the Atlantis resort, aside from the fast food options, is Murray's Deli. Don't let the name fool you--it's not a Deli, it's a diner. We all had a great time with this meal. The food is certainly not gourmet, but when you're paying $50 a plate at other restaurants on site, it's a welcome, budget-friendly dinner. I got the French Dip, a diner favorite of mine, and was pleased that the gravy they served it with was more like a traditional au jus. The pickles they served as an appetizer were fantastic too! Again, it's nothing fancy, but it's a good dinner if you're hungry.

My mom and I found a pirate and took a picture with him while shopping in downtown Nassau.

Pina Colada in a "yard cup"--half-yard is more accurate, but I'm not picky.

My absolute favorite place we ate at was Senor Frogs. And no, it wasn't just because they served their drinks in these crazy souvenir cups!

These nachos probably had something to do with it...

Or these chimichangas...

Or these crazy-awesome fajitas that words cannot even describe how good they are. The flavors in the meat--woah. Juicy, marinated, amazing. I have never even made HOMEMADE fajitas with this kind of care, and when I took a bite I was expecting nothing more than a run-of-the-mill, chili's-esque experience. Hells to the no. These were legit, amazing fajitas.

Senior Frogs definitely has a reputation for being a college-kid party spot, and it certainly is. Mid-day on a Wednesday and the drinking was going strong. But the food was out of this world amazing. They are a chain restaurant that operates almost exclusively in the tropical vacation destinations. There is a full list on their website, check them out if your next vacation coincides with a Senor Frogs location!

I was craving conch fritters one evening when our lunch was our "big meal" of the day, so I ventured out and about in the resort and picked up these from Bimini Road, a casual-dining restaurant at the resort. I was also intrigued by the crab spring rolls, but I kind of wish I'd just gone with the fritters. The crab rolls were way too fishy, mushy, and the chili sauce was the only redeeming quality. I slathered those suckers with the stuff before deciding I'd had enough. The conch fritters were fantastic, like the ones I'd had at Athena's. And the pina coladas they served at every Atlantis bar, though pricey, were perfection. Bimini Road's prices were pretty steep for dinner, but for a quick snack it was perfect!

My family and me outside of the hotel pool

For our last night, we shelled out the big bucks and dressed up all fancy to go to Carmine's at the resort. Because it was a family-style restaurant, the portion sizes were HUGE. The hardest part was deciding on a dish the whole family would like. For an appetizer, we got the stuffed mushrooms. They were SPICY, but so delicious. Stuffed with what tasted like sausage, peppers, and breadcrumbs. They were great. Even the bread they served with the meal was fantastic: white, wheat, and even pizza bread with some garlic olive oil for dipping. For our main course we got the chicken marsala and it was out of this world! My only suggestion is that they have at least a FEW options for those who don't wish to dive in "family style"--what if you go alone? Or with just one person? The four of us couldn't even finish this thing! But I suppose that's the point ;)

Anyways, it was a wonderful vacation, full of great food, and I will never forget it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What I've Been Eating -- pre-vacation (nicer pictures)

The Crumpin-Fox Golf Club

And now for the nicer pictures of What I've Been Eating, from the times I actually had my camera with me!

First we have Zeke's Smokehouse Grill. Full disclosure: this restaurant is actually owned by the company I work for. Before, Zeke's was a little place to grab a quick bite after a round of golf. They had the usual: soups, sandwiches, salads, and so on. However, now that the restaurant will be open year-round, the company decided to make it into something a little extra special. Zeke's is now a fully Cajun and BBQ inspired menu, and it is seriously awesome. Everyone I work with knows about my blog, and the president of the company even popped his head in my office saying "try Zeke's! Blog about it!" so, how could I say no? I promised that if I liked the food, I'd give it a good blog entry. If I did not like the food, out of respect for my place of work, I just wouldn't blog about it.

Guess what. I liked it.

One particularly sunny day I decided to try it out with some lunch. I am a pulled pork FIEND so I knew right away what I needed to order. I was also intrigued by the fried okrah, since I'd never tried that particular veggie before, so even though I knew my lunch appetite would not be big enough for both dishes, I decided to risk it anyway.

Fried Okrah

The fried okrah was lovely. It reminded me of fried zucchini, and the ranch dipping sauce was the perfect creamy component to the crispy fried veggie. The pulled pork was great--they serve the BBQ Sauce on the side, so that if you like your BBQ the traditional way (sans sauce) you can do that. I, of course, slathered that sucker with all the sauce in that little cup. It was great, I loved the juicy pulled pork PILED onto the bun, and the sweet yet spicy sauce. 

But the real winner here was the baked beans. Oh goodness. Not since my Dad's Special Baked Beans had I had such a wonderful little pot of bacon-greased, brown sugary goodness. If you're going for a side, definitely choose the baked beans.

The pulled pork is escaping the bun here.

You can be sure I'll be spending many more sunny days this summer on Zeke's patio nomming on the rest of the menu. I'd like to try some more Cajun-inspired dishes next time!

Om nom nomming
Zeke's Smokehouse Grill, Parmenter Road at the Crumpin-Fox Golf Club in Bernardston, Massachusetts.

Next up is a place that holds a sentimental spot in my heart: the Bluebonnet Diner, which my family and locals call "the Bucket"--I have no clue why.

I call it "The Nana Place"--whenever I meet my Nana for a meal, I always choose the Bluebonnet Diner (or Friendly's, but mostly the Bucket). And, I always get one of two things: The French Dip, or the Lobster Salad Roll. Something about this place just brings back memories of my childhood, and special days with my Nana, as she used to babysit my brother and me a lot when we were little. Usually this would be a lunch after a day at Look Park, another special Nana treat. The food isn't gourmet by any means, but it's good stick-to-your-ribs comfort food. The fries are always perfection, and the spicy seasoning they sprinkle on top puts them over the top. The lobster salad roll is served year-round, so it's definitely not fresh-caught lobster, but it's delicious all the same. Served on a toasty, buttery bun, it's probably my favorite lobster salad roll out there!

Bluebonnet Diner, 324 King Street, Northampton, MA.

And, finally, we have Bistro Les Gras. This is from about a month ago, when they were doing Restaurant Week. I'd been meaning to try this place out and Restaurant Week was the perfect excuse--3 courses for $22. What's great about Bistro Les Gras is that their menu is all locally-sourced, so it changes frequently. I love local food, it just tastes so fresh and amazing. Plus, it's all French food, and you know those French know their stuff! The ambiance and food immediately transported me back to Europe and made my heart ache for Paris. Le sigh. These are the seared scallops with creamy dill sauce and white beans. Sounds like a strange combo, but I inhaled this thing it was so good. I'm sure it would be off the menu by now, but it was a great introduction to the restaurant and I hope I have the chance to go again soon!

Bistro Les Gras. 25 West Street, Northampton, Massachusetts.

And that's what I've been eating in Western Mass! Stay tuned for my Bahamas-Themed post, coming up next. And then, I promise, I'll get back to the recipes ;)

Monday, July 23, 2012

What I've Been Eating -- Pre-Vacation (phone pictures, sorry)

I've been lazy with these, I know. Does this picture of me kissing a dolphin make up for it?

Bimini the dolphin at Atlantis' Dolphin Cay

Anyways. To start with, I had an absolutely amazing vacation and my brain is still totally in the Bahamas. But I'm slowly getting back into the Western Mass state of mind and out of Vacation Brain and I really hope this tan lasts because, dang, I look goooood.

Ready for a night on the town!

The vacation was a graduation present for my brother and me--he graduated high school the year I graduated college, but financial stuff made it so the trip couldn't happen until now (two years later). My mom, stepdad, brother and I spent last week at the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas. It was absolutely gorgeous and if you have any chance of going, definitely do! We explored the resort, sunned on the gorgeous beach, played in the pool, enjoyed the on-site water park as well as the ten huge aquariums, and we even got to swim with dolphins! Not to mention the fantastic food I ate! Conch fritters are HEAVEN. I'll be posting about them soon!
On our hotel room balcony. Isn't the view incredible?

And I'm totally going to do a What I've Been Eating: Bahamas next. Seriously, uploading the pictures immediately after these! I just realized I'm waaay behind on posting all of the various delicious foods I've been taking pictures of. Why embarrass myself by taking pictures of every. friggin. thing. I eat if I'm not going to talk about them? Hehe.

This post will be crap-tastic phone pictures, as I do not have one of those fancy-pants smartphones with the impressive picture resolution, the next will be "nice camera" pictures, and then Bahama Food, yay!

I don't think I've ever mentioned Thai Blue Ginger here... But I'll mention it now. I've only ever sampled their lunch menu, but the fact that they let you order the lunchbox for takeout is fantastic. Salad, rice, main dish, and an appetizer. The peanut sauce is amazing, I could drink that stuff forever and be a happy lady. No idea what this place is like during non-lunchtime, but it's a great, inexpensive, and tasty lunch for sure. I usually get one of the curry dishes in the lunchbox, my favorite is the yellow curry because it has pineapple and I LOVE the burst of sweetness in the otherwise spicy curry. The portions are also decent and I can usually stretch this into two lunches.

Thai Blue Ginger, 298 Main Street, Greenfield, MA

My plate at my favorite sushi place, Zen, which I've talked about multiple times here so I'll keep it brief: if you missed out on their most recent special, the Pyramid Roll, you really did miss out. A combination of spicy fish and veggies with a delicious sauce drizzled over the top and shaped into an adorable yet hard-to-eat-because-it's-huge pyramid. It's my absolute favorite roll I've ever had there. Also shown is the crunch roll, another favorite of mine. I love Zen and in my opinion it's the best sushi in Western Mass. The fish is always fresh, the rolls are creative, and the overall ambiance of the restaurant and the friendliness of the staff is unmatched. If you haven't been there yet, and you love good sushi, check it out!

Zen, 41 Main Street, Northampton, Massachusetts

Another local favorite: the Duck Breast from Eclipse. Seriously delicious. This was from a dinner out with my mom, when we had a special Groupon deal for the restaurant. I LOVE Eclipse--next to Zen, it's my favorite restaurant in Downtown Northampton. It's pricey, so I reserve it for special occasions and when it's on Groupon or Pioneer Valley Deals I scoop up as many coupons as I can. The duck is so moist and tender and delicious, I can't get over how much it actually tastes like steak of some sort. This was the first place I ever ate duck, and the best duck I've had so far. Their menu changes with the seasons, so you can ensure it's always the freshest, tastiest food it can be.

Eclipse, 186 Main Street, Northampton, Massachusetts.

I tried the Doritos Loco Taco because I couldn't  NOT try it. This was actually pre-surgery, in case you're wondering how I possibly stomached this monstrosity. I was actually heavily unimpressed, which is odd because Dorritos are my guilty-pleasure snack food and Taco Bell is my go-to for guilty pleasure fast food, and Doritos and Taco Bell seem like a match made in heaven. The dorrito flavor was barely there, and the taco was crazy soggy. I intend on trying it again when I work up the courage to risk it with my gallbladder-less digestive system, since I feel like the sogginess probably isn't a feature they usually have. Maybe some day when I know I won't be far from a bathroom...

On Thursdays, the 99 Restaurant has Trivia Night. It's really awesome fun, and the Macadamia Crusted Chicken on the $9.99 menu, paired with the house $3.99 Margarita is a perfect way to compliment the fun times while you try to win some Sox tickets! I, sadly, did not win tickets on this night, but I did win an awesome beer glass from Harpoon Brewery! Score.

When my friend suggested on my last Boston visit to check out Veggie Galaxy in Central Square, I was hesitant. A Vegetarian/Vegan diner? Really? How can that be good? Even a recovering vegetarian like myself was highly skeptical. Um, well, it totally can be good. In fact, it was awesome. My friend ordered the Vegan Monte Cristo and it was delicious--the perfect combo of savory and sweet and the tempeh bacon wasn't actually half bad. The vegan cheese sauce would have convinced me it was pure bovine had I not known better. Here I have a grilled cheese with tomato slices with a cup of roasted tomato soup--I don't think I've ever had such a great grilled cheese and tomato soup!* So. Good. We even got vegan desserts that you'd swear contained boatloads of cream but actually were made of tofu. If you're a vegetarian and in Boston, you NEED to go here. Hell, if you're a meat eater and in Boston you NEED to go here! The decor reminds me of Pizza Planet from Toy Story meets a 50s Diner, and you won't even miss the meat. 

Veggie Galaxy, 450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge MA.

Wendy's chili cheese fries... so much potential, yet so much fail. I was hoping they had thickened up their chili to make this work, but sadly this was not the case. I suppose it's good if you want a quick fix, but you must consume it even quicker than that because the watery chili will make the fries soggy and inedible very fast.

I... can't even remember what this is. It might be from the Chill and Grill in Hatfield, but I miss the old restaurant that was there so much that I doubt I could give an unbiased opinion about the new place. The food was only okay in my opinion, plus we ordered mostly pizza and that's a food I just can't stomach anymore... I suppose in a town where there are a grand total of three restaurants, the food isn't half bad. I'm never in my old hometown anymore though, so I don't think I'll be back there anytime soon.

Right before I left for vacation, I had lunch at Grub, the new sandwich shop in downtown Northampton. The buzz was good, and the fact that it's the sister shop to Bistro Les Gras (a new favorite of mine in the area), was even more incentive to go. And I was not disappointed! I ordered the banh mi and it was juicy and flavorful and the best banh mi I'd ever had. The juices and seasonings blended perfectly with the pickled veggies and soaked into the bread and was just divine. I love interesting sandwiches and little sandwich shops like this are right up my alley. My one dislike is that the bread was very hard, and therefore hard to chew. I think it was just the type of bread, because it certainly didn't taste stale, but perhaps next time I'll inquire as to if there is softer bread. Also, those pickles and pickled peppers are amazing! I appreciate the late-night menu, and I know I'll be stumbling in there post-bar-hopping often. I'm even tempted to try some of the vegetarian options, as they sound as delicious as the meat-eater ones!

Grub, 88 Pleasant Street, Northampton, Massachusetts.

Herrell's Ice Cream... I will always love you. I honestly have been ruined for other ice creams forever, growing up so close to the flagship store, because no other ice cream can hold a candle to Herrell's. Homemade, creamy amazingness with flavors that change daily and so so many options. A bit pricey, but I can usually curb a craving with a kiddie cone or kiddie sundae and save a few bucks. Shown here is a kiddie sundae with waffle cone pieces and sweet cream ice cream. Fun fact: the store owner's daughter was my roommate in college! Total coincidence and I am sure I annoyed the heck out of her with how much I gushed about her family's business. The occasional jar of hot fudge she brought home was always something I looked forward to--not to mention the fact she was an awesome person and one of my dearest friends from my college years. I remember once she asked me how to make a rootbeer float and I looked at her in shock. I will never forget it! And I will forever frequent Herrell's.

Herrell's Ice Cream, 8 Old South Street, Northampton, Massachusetts.

So that's the crappy-phone-pic roundup, kind of a harsh contrast to Sarah's AMAZING pics on her guest post, huh? But no worries! The next few posts will be much better, promise :)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Guest Post: Sarah from Dash and a Pinch shares a recipe for Piña Colada Cupcakes

Hey everybody! My name is Sarah, and I blog over at Last August, a mutual friend of ours heard that I had started teaching myself to cook and was going to start a blog, and he suggested that Ashley and I talk. Well, almost a year later, and despite the fact we live in different states and have never met, she has been the best friend a blogger could have. We exchange recipes, photography tips, book recommendations, and even relationship advice :P

So when she asked me to write a guest blog post while she was on vacation in the Bahamas, I absolutely agreed. I thought long and hard about what to make, until I decided to live vicariously through her! Though I may not be on a beach right now, or swimming with manta rays at a deluxe resort, it doesn't mean I can't bring a taste of the Caribbean to my non-airconditioned house in Upstate NY!

For the Piña Colada Cupcakes you will need:
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1 teaspoon rum extract
  • 1 can (8 oz) crushed pineapple in juice, undrained
  • 1/4 cup of milk

Heat oven to 350 and line 24 muffin cups with bright, tropical baking cups. Then, in a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat room temperature butter with electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, beating well after each addition. Beat for 2 minutes longer, then add eggs one at a time. Add the coconut and rum extracts. Drain a good amount of the pineapple juice (using a strainer helps). On low speed, alternately add flour mixture and milk mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in the pineapple. 

Divide batter evenly between baking cups, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then carefully remove cupcakes and transfer to a cooling rack. 

For the piña colada buttercream frosting you will need:
  • 2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened to room temperature
  • 6 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons rum extract
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 cup shredded coconut 
Buttercream is always my go-to frosting, because it's so simple. I attempted to make a fluffy frosting with whipped egg whites, but since it was 90 degrees with 95% humidity, my egg whites refused to form stiff peaks. So I created a yummy buttercream instead!

In a large bowl, mix together the butter and powdered sugar on low speed. Add the extracts and 1 tablespoon of milk. Slowly add the remaining milk until you achieve the desired texture, which should be smooth and easily spread. 

I find that piping the frosting onto the cupcakes using a 1M star tip takes the least amount of time, and makes the cupcakes look nice. After they are frosted, gently dip the tops of the cupcakes into the shredded coconut. 

Soon, you too will feel like you're on a tropical vacation! My only notes are to make sure you leave a little bit of the pineapple juice, because if you drain it all the cupcakes will be too dry. You want them moist and fluffy and beachy! 

Serve the cupcakes with a little drink umbrella to make them even more festive. Or, use real rum in the cupcake and frosting recipe to give them a bit of a kick! It certainly wouldn't be the first time Ashley or I have baked with alcohol...

So instead of being jealous that Ashley is basking in the sun right now, or swimming with dolphins, or any other vacation activity that sounds a million times better than going to work on a Monday, do yourself a favor and bring the beach to you. 

Check out my blog, at, or like me on facebook! 

Side note: doing food photography with sand and shells was either my best idea, or my worst. On the one hand, I love the final pictures! On the other house is covered in sand. There is sand on my cupcakes. I repeat: sand on my cupcakes!