A Where the Wild Things Are Birthday

Where the Wild Things Are Chocolate Cupcakes

Yesterday we celebrated my nephew’s 1st birthday!  My sister held an adorable themed party – Where the Wild Things Are.   Growing up, I remember reading that book over and over again as a child, thinking how imaginative his mind was. To have a forest grow within his room, go to another land with beasts,  become their king, only to realize that he DID miss his dinner and decided to calm down and come back to reality.  Funny thing about this story is I don’t see this in my nephew at all, yet. But, he IS only one year old!  Perhaps one day he will be parading around in a wild outfit, aggravating my sister while she is cooking.  I look forward to hearing stories of her wild and wonderful adventure with her beautiful son.  🙂

For the party, I made cupcakes with crazy looking hair similar to the creatures in the book.  At least I tried.  It helped that there were toppers and wraps to outfit the cakes making a nice finish.  The recipe I used was Add a Pinch, and then I added my own spices to the mix to jazz it up.  The cupcakes were a hit!

Jazzed Up Chocolate Cupcakes -makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of All-Spice
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon bourbon vanilla
  • ½ cup boiling water

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Add liners to muffin pan and spray cooking oil on the liners. Don’t overspray. Combine in a stand mixer all dry ingredients.  Add the wet ingredients and mix again.  This will create a wet mixture, so I poured it into a large measuring cup to pour into the liners without making a mess.  Bake for roughly 20 minutes depending on your oven.  Once cool, add your favorite frosting to top.  I used my own which is a little of this a little of that. I really don’t have it measured out, but I do use salted butter to balance out the heavy sugar load.  Also a splash of milk helps the texture smooth out.

Where the Wild Things Are Food 15079002_10155341543539240_5812808363216727072_n 15085577_10155341544029240_820606144068354252_nimagejpeg_0-2

cupcakechocolate cupcake

RAWR! Dinosaurs in Motion!

DinosInCLT

Yesterday, we had a wonderful experience at Discovery Place checking out some pretty cool dinosaurs.  Not the kind you are traditionally used to at the big museums, but something I would call even better!  Walking into the room, my kids and I were faced with a HUGE T-Rex – 44 feet to be exact, which was an excellent way to start exhibit.  At first my littlest one hid behind me, due to it’s sheer size, but then warmed up to the whole piece of art, just in awe of it.  As did I.  A great artist by the name of John Payne of Asheville, NC created these amazing beasts using recycled metal.  I cannot imagine the time it must have taken to weld these pieces together.  But I’m glad that he did, because these metal giants are not just a replication, but interactive works of art, and you can take your children to play with them!  The dinos are harnessed to pulley systems and connected to either levers or remote controls to direct their movements.  Hands down, this makes dinos more fun and less intimidating to children.

Opening day starts tomorrow, October, 4th at Discovery Place uptown in beautiful Charlotte, NC.  It is a free exhibit along with the normal museum admission. Don’t miss it, as the exhibit will only be around until January 15th.

 

Disclosure: I was given free admission to write this article.  The opinions of this feature are mine.

Van Gogh Alive- Discovery Place

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What?  No talk of food?  Not today, my friends!  This exhibit that I had the privilege of viewing, is just as good to the senses as food is to the palate.  Located at the very popular, Discovery Place in uptown Charlotte, hosts beautiful Van Gogh images that are synthesized onto large screens, strategically placed at various angles in the room, as well as on the floor and poles.  These “larger-than-life” masterpiece projections give you the visual sense of being in the painting; almost feeling how the artist felt at the time of creation.  With classical music piped into the room, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace, mystery, and adventure.  One could get swept up in emotion here… The biggest tug on my heart with the exhibit was the written letters and quotes that were imaged, showing his raw feelings.  Combined with the colorful projections and music, it was an incredible and emotional experience.
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The colors, the sounds, the letters… Raw emotion.  The entire event was harmony on a plate.  Gorgeous.  Indescribable.
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Just go see it for yourself, you will not be sorry that you did!
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When I left the building, I was talking with someone who asked my thoughts on the exhibit.  I said that I wished I had a room at home with such imagery that was synchronized with music.  It would be the perfect place for a glass of wine, and some time to unwind.

WHICH brings me to the upcoming events you might be interested in!  (Click on the headline link to register.)

Van Gogh and Vino – Saturday, May 3rd – 5-8:30pm 

  • Join us for an exclusive opportunity to experience Van Gogh Alive and to participate in a BYOB workshop on texture painting in the style of Van Gogh, led by educators from The Mint Museum.

Vinyasa and Van Gogh – Friday, May 9th 7-9pm

  • Let the colors and sounds of Van Gogh Alive surround you as you flow through a series of yoga poses and breathing exercises to experience a balance of body, mind and art.
    Adam Whiting from Y2 Yoga and Big Horizon Yoga will lead a 75-minute Vinyasa yoga class in the gallery of Van Gogh Alive. This is an all-levels class. Participants should bring their own yoga mat.
    After the class, participants will have time to explore the exhibition itself. Water and light snacks will be provided, thanks to our friends at Earth Fare. Don’t forget to enter to win a basket of Earth Fare goodies!

Van Gogh Family Workshop – May 17 – multiple times, click here for details

 
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Starry Watermelon Fun…

Patriotic Watermelon Bowl

This weekend I went to a picnic at my sister’s place and was asked to bring a fruit salad.  Well… that’s easy enough, but why bring it in a bowl when you can make this festive starry watermelon bowl?  Perfect for patriotic holidays!  Oh, but I can’t take all the credit… if you want the tutorial, go this this site!  Cheers!

Patriotic Food

With Memorial Day approaching, I thought a recap of what I have done in years past would help!  Now… to decide which one to make this year…

My personal favorite for a crowd… the Red, White and Blue Trifle

Patriotic Trifle

Going healthy? Add a little chocolate dressing to this Patriotic salad!

Patriotic Salad

Need a little healthy, a little sweet?  Go with the Patriotic S’mores

Patriotic S'mores

Got kids? Try the red, white and blue chocolate bark for a quick bite.

Cat in the Hat Chocolate Bark

Like something to honor our troops? Go with this simple cupcake idea.

Patriotic Cupcakes

Lastly, the very fun play on food… Faux hamburgers!

Faux Hamburgers

Sweet Tooth Festival – 2013

Sweet Tooth Festival

This past Saturday evening, I attended the annual Sweet Tooth Festival held at the Blacklion store in Pineville, NC.  The event once again was a big success and they changed it up this year by making it a closed event in the evening, complete with a red carpet entrance!

Greeted in the foyer, I was given a Yelp swag bag with a Fuze drink and a big cake box (very necessary!)  Immediately, the fun began as I headed to the tables loaded with all sweets and a familiar faces.  The big theme that I noticed within the festival was the amount of cupcake makers!  My goodness, I never knew we had that many cakeries in the Charlotte region, but then again, I’m used to my little South Charlotte “box.”  It was really wonderful to see the many varieties of cakes, cake pops, cookies, chocolates and even granola.  One bakery had “milk shots” to wash down the sweet tooth everyone was gaining from the sugar rush.  Good idea!
Think Chocolate

To help everyone keep track of what station they hit, there was a Passport to ensure we stopped everywhere. This year, the Sweet Tooth Festival pulled in 28 companies!  That is a serious amount of sweets, which is why I was grateful for the cake box to stash for another day.  By the time I left the event, my arms were full of goodies, and I was ready to head home and share a few bites with my Hubby.

Did I have a favorite company?  Wow, this year I have to say was TOUGH!

For cupcakes, I was intrigued this year with the Man Cake… dark chocolate, beer, bacon, and smoked caramel…Yes, really!  I hear those cupcakes ran out fast, and you can see why!

So this year, my Best Cupcake award goes to: Hot Sugar Confections!

For cookies, I must say that I’m not a big cookie eating person, unless it has chocolate, however, I was definitely loving one company and her variety of sugar cookie.  Sweet, buttery and soft, the perfect sugar cookie, with unique designs was a clear winner.

This year, my Best Cookie award goes to: Hey Sugar Shop!
Hey Sugar Shop
For chocolate, ahhh my favorite topic. 🙂  Many of you know that I have loyalty to a particular company, but this year, I have to say that a different company took the win this year.  Complete with a full chocolate making demonstration and beautiful artisan style chocolate, along with flavors… quite the show.

This year my Best Chocolate award goes to: Bar Chocolate!
Bar Chocolate

Lastly, I’d like to give an Honorable Mention to a new group!  Their granola was very tasty and their name fits their grace they carried when sharing their product…

Please welcome Royal Oats Granola!

Granola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Were there other things than cake and chocolate and cookies?  Yes! There was a spice company, a candy party group, and some ice cream to sample as well.  A perfectly wonderful very SWEET tooth satisfying event!

Milk shots

Flavors of Fall Contest by Tropical Foods

Just a few weeks ago, I was invited to a tasting contest held at Johnson & Wales, featuring the Flavors of Fall.  Taste some food?  Place my own judgements on it?  These were Johnson & Wales students that made it to the finals… was I qualified enough to place my thoughts on paper??  OK, so I was to be in the audience, but we still got our right to vote too!  My kind of Saturday afternoon, if you ask me.

The event was sponsored by Tropical Foods, and their requirement was that the students had to use their products to incorporate into a fall food item.  Tropical Foods held different tiers that the J&W students could win from, one being a Facebook vote.  I will tell you that what I had voted for online was different once I was tasting the food!  All of the J&W students that participated should be commended, as the food was outstanding!  It really was a joy to be there in company with future chefs.

Here are the food items and my personal thoughts:

    •  Buffalo Chicken Marinara – Spicy crispy chicken sliced thin over top a buffalo bowtie pasta with a cool slaw.  This one got my vote in the top 3!  I have a heart for anything spicy buffalo flavored and I naturally had to vote for this dish.  The slaw on the top balanced the flavors out nicely!

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    • Autumn Fried Rice w/ Buffalo Nuts – Well, the name speaks for itself except what you may not know is that the rice also carried squash and apples in it as well.  I didn’t care for this dish, as it arrived cold (was it supposed to be??) and I didn’t see any bites of the apples or squash in my dish.  The judges at the main table got the better view of what was in the dish that us in the audience.

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    • Banana Split Baklava – Very cute baklava cups filled with the banana split nut mixture that was roughly chopped.  I love baklava, and it had a great balance, but it didn’t wow me.  Still great flavors, and the judges approved overall.

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      • Fall-n-Fire Wontons – wontons filled with grass fed meat and Mexicali Fire mix, and it was dressed up beautifully.  The wonton cup was placed over a sweet potato puree.  I had voted for this beauty online, but I didn’t really savor it in person as much.  I found it difficult to eat, and a tad dry.  BUT, again, the audience didn’t see what the judges saw, and they raved over this dish!

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      • Holy Mole’ Autumn Burger – A big ol’ burger made with a mole sauce on top and smoked Munster cheese.  This burger was definitely something you can enjoy on a chilly day, as it packed a lot of heat!  The secret was truly in the sauce… the mole sauce was made with ground up Mexicali mix, giving it that fiery taste.  Great burger, and it didn’t win, but I think it would have had a chance if kept to a slider version rather than the full size.

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      • Apple Pie w/ PB&J Streusel – PB&J mix blended with apples and topped with whipped cream.  Very sweet and tasty dish and it was a big challenge to be using that mix.  I think the student did a great job in presentation for the judges.

PB&J

    • Mexicali Black Grouper – Mexicali crunch on the outside of the grouper, served with a stone ground grit cake.  The grouper was A-MAZING.  Hands down the best thing on the menu.  It was pleasantly topped with an avocado aioli sauce which just enhanced the entire flavor of the grouper perfectly.

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    • Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars – Unique sweet cake mixed with the Buffalo mix.  Some of the nuts were in the cake, softened with cooking, which was VERY unusual, but oddly pleasing to the palate.  Then completed with a blue cheese frosting.  Say what??? Oh yea… I voted for this as well on Facebook, and I was happy to taste the odd flavor combinations.

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    • Autumn Delight Trail Mix Brittle – The student used a Diet Delight trail mix with Apple pie spice.  I am not a huge brittle fan, but I must say that she did an excellent job of creating a delicate and tasty brittle.  The bites I thought were a bit big throughout the candy, but it still was beautiful and I hear the judges had amazing presentation.  (Ours was just a piece of brittle on the plate, ha!)

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    • PB&J Bread Pudding – Crushed PB&J mix throughout the bread pudding, drizzled with a chocolate ganache on top, and topped with a bourbon flambe over whipped cream.  While the chefs said that this was just OK, I personally had an attachment to the dish.  I’m a chocolate fanatic you know… and while they didn’t like the chocolate, I did.  While they said the bourbon needed to be burned off more, I politely push back and say it was perfection.  This one got my vote!

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So, what were my personal top 3?  Black Grouper was first, Bread Pudding was second and the Buffalo Chicken was third (though that had basically tied up with the Buffalo Blue Cheese bars too!  Ugh… this is why I am not the best judge.  I love ALL foods!

The winners of the contest were very interesting to me, as the audience vote matched up to what the judges thought.  (OK!  We’re not bad judges then!)

  • Grand Prize – Mexicali Black Grouper
  • 1st Runner Up – Fall-n-Fire Wontons
  • 2nd Runner Up – Buffalo Bleu Tailgate Bars
  • Audience Vote – Mexicali Black Grouper
  • Facebook Vote – Apple Pie and PB&J Steusel

Congratulations to everyone who made it to the final round as well as the winners! 

Disclaimer:  Tropical Foods invited me to attend the contest.  The opinions above are mine, yours however may vary.  Thank you to Tropical Foods for the invite, and I want to give credit for 2 pictures shown above that is theirs. (The streusel and the headline photo)

Charleston and food trucks…

Last weekend we hit the beach, some historical sites and tried out some pretty delicious foods in Charleston.  I look forward to this trip each year in the fall because I know we’re going to do something new and eat at new locations.  Let me assure you, I have NEVER been disappointed yet.  Each trip has been unique to us and this one was very different from the last trips taken.

You would think the first thing you would do when you arrive to a beach town is RUN VERY FAST to the beach.  But this is where we ventured otherwise; and searched for ferry times to head over to Fort Sumter.  My daughter has a History Fair coming up and our trip has been directed around her needs this time.  Since her topic is on the fort itself, we decided that her seeing the site firsthand would be better than reading out of books or reviewing internet sites, etc.  I’m not an expert on history, so I find it comes alive when seen in person, helping me to identify better with history.  Being in the fort, I could almost visualize what took place.  Knowing that Anderson was doomed…

Fort Sumter

After our trip to the Fort, we ferried back to Patriots Point and enjoyed a bite to eat over on Shem Creek. If you don’t get to Charleston very often, I encourage you to take the 5 minute drive over to the area and eat.  It’s a beautiful setting with many choices of food.  We of course ate outdoors, ate seafood and walked the docks afterward, watching the sunset and fisherman try their last hand for the day.  Picturesque is the word….

The NEXT day we hit the beach.  Which one?  In the AM, we just did walking on the beach of Isle of Palm, since the air temp wasn’t quite warmed up yet.  Lunch was at Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island (yum!), and then we hit the beach (on Sullivan’s).  It is our absolute FAVORITE location.  It’s a little more laid back the IOP and not quite so well put together.  Rustic atmosphere and yet perfect.  That’s our speed when visiting the beach…

Sullivan's Island

After we left the beach, we were pleasantly surprised to find a Food Truck Rodeo held in the parking lot of a Piggly Wiggly! (The PIG!)  Ok, for those that don’t know what that is… it’s a grocery store.  🙂  So, this may be hard for you all to believe, but I had YET to try food from a food truck.  I’m talking the good ones, (not the ones found at fairs – no offense, but the new foodie trucks are just WAY different.)  How sad is it that I had yet to do a food truck event?  Truthfully, (and this is aimed at Charlotte!), we tend to have all of the food trucks held up toward the city… and I’m out here in the outskirts in the ‘burbs.  What can I say?  I like the ‘burbs/almost country territories.  SO Charlotte food trucks, please visit us in South Char sometime soon, I promise to stop and have a few bites!

BACK to the food truck rodeo… My husband and I found one pretty amazing place called Carolina Creole.  Gosh, my mouth waters now just thinking about the Crawfish Etouffee that I enjoyed with my slab of cornbread.  My hubby had their Jambalaya and his was just as amazing as mine.  The kids both had stuffed crepes, no sweet tooth surprise there.  Hannah had hers filled with chocolate chips and bananas, while Ella had the same only with cheddar cheese added.  Seriously?  Cheese, chocolate and bananas?  Yep, and it worked!  Lastly we washed our meals down with homemade sweet tea which was flavored a lemon lavendar from Dulce.  THE. BEST. EVER.  I found it odd that the best food we ate in Charleston that weekend was sitting on the side of a curb in the shade still covered in sand from the beach and in wet suits, enjoying stuffing our faces with the amazing food of Lowcountry foodies.  Sometimes the best of the best food is when you least expect it, and there is no dress code required. 🙂

Birth of Coffee: Featured at Discovery Place

 Birth of Coffee Discovery Place

Coffee… It’s the first thing that starts many people in the morning.  All I have to do is jump on my computer and see dozens of comments of the topic or photos in the early hours until sundown of coffee cups, coffee pouring from a Keurig machine, or maybe a random coffee store picture with cup in hand.  Coffee has become a lifestyle, not just a drink.

Discovery Place has a very interesting exhibit going on RIGHT NOW, one that you coffee lovers will really enjoy.  Featured on the 3rd floor, in a quiet setting, is gorgeous photography by Daniel Lorenzetti and text by his wife, Linda Rice Lorenzetti, capturing the people working from the birth of coffee, the harvest, and production, all to fill your cup. While some of you may be connoissers of coffee, I found I was not.  Here is an interesting tidbit on the discovery of coffee that you may enjoy found on The National Coffee Associations website!

In the Ethiopian highlands, where the legend of Kaldi, the goatherd, originated, coffee trees grow today as they have for centuries. Though we will never know with certainty, there probably is some truth to the Kaldi legend.  It is said that he discovered coffee after noticing that his goats, upon eating berries from a certain tree, became so spirited that they did not want to sleep at night.

Guess you better thank the goats for this discovery!

So, what else did I learn?  Did you know that it takes a LONG time to harvest these beans? 5 years for one plant to produce it’s fruit!  I think we need a high level of appreciation when all things are considered here.  I spoke to the Director of Marketing at S&D Coffee, John Buckner, about this fact and learned that we really could not afford to harvest coffee in the USA due to cost.  The labor that goes into harvesting coffee is intense and super expensive if we tried to do this here.  Try… $200+ for a cup of coffee.  Really? Yes, really.  And the photos in this amazing exhibit are proof of that.
Birth of Coffee Discovery Place

What are the pictures like?  You really do need to see them for yourself to be captured by the truth behind the bean.  But my thoughts?  Beautiful.  The faces that are captured in the fields, or the production areas, are truth.  Seasoned faces of the reality of coffee production.  Honestly, coffee IS about the people that produce it.  Not the bean.  Not the flavor, nor the aroma.  It’s the people.  Daniel Lorenzetti does an amazing job of capturing that.  As I look at my coffee in my cup, right now, I think about the hands that were involved in providing me this dark rich flavor that starts my day…

You can see this exhibit, free of charge, thanks to the sponsor, S&D Coffee, from October 2, 2012 – January 7, 2013. 

 Birth Of Coffee Discovery Place

Disclaimer: Discovery Place invited me to attend this special media event to provide you with insight.  The opinions are of this post are mine, yours however may differ.

Disney Social Media Moms On the Road – Charlotte

Check out what I’m attending tomorrow here in CLT!

OH yea!! I am really happy to be invited and meet some pretty incredible Moms (and Dads) at this event!

Tomorrow, I’ll be a Tweetin’ fool!  Check out my Twitter feed at @Chocolatebottle.

Want to hear other Tweets regarding the event?  Search on the hashtag #DisneyOntheRoad!