Red Wine Cupcakes

A couple of months ago, my friends at Avalon Winery asked me to come up with a recipe to promote their new cooking contest for this year. If you’ll remember, they sent me to the Charleston Food & Wine Festival last year to compete in their America’s Greatest Foods Recipe Challenge. I didn’t win, I came in last actually (hey, some people can’t handle the idea of fish served with red, even when chorizo is involved – what are you going to do?) but after that trip – visiting the city of Charleston for the first time, meeting such influential chefs like The Lee Brothers and the great Art Smith (he asked me where to get a cup of coffee, y’all – and then he went to that coffee shop the whole time he was in town!), getting drunk with Kelly Liken, and making some new friends… I came out a winner in the end anyway!

So when they offered to send me a few bottles of their delicious Cabernet Sauvignon to develop a recipe with, of course I jumped at the offer. Guys, it’s seriously one of the best reds you’ll find for the price point. For under $10 a bottle, it really can’t be beat. Rich and fruity, with all kinds of delicious berry notes going on. Rolls right off the tongue, with very few harsh tannins that tend to come along with red wines. It’s available nationally, I always have luck finding it at Whole Foods (if your Whole Foods carries wine that is!). But, if you can’t find it – definitely ask your local wine distributor to carry it. I promise that you won’t be disappointed!

I ended up making two dishes with the bottle I opened…since I can’t do much drinking of the stuff at the moment due to baby #3. The first of which was more traditional, and I plan to share with you guys soon – then there were these cupcakes. Red wine and chocolate pair so well together anyways, I thought a cupcake wasn’t too far of a fetch. Boy, do I love being right!

The batter was absolutely beautiful…light and fluffy, and baked up gorgeous! For the frosting I went  the traditional route, used my simple vanilla buttercream with a bit of the wine added to it for flavor and a tint of color. It was definitely unlike any cupcake I’d had before, but still absolutely delicious. I loved how the acidity of the wine cut the sweetness of the frosting. And, of course the color was lovely!

These cupcakes would most definitely be perfect for your Valentine, and they’re something different that friends and family probably haven’t seen before – but will most certainly be intrigued by. I hope you guys enjoy, and a big thanks to Avalon for giving me an excuse to make them!

Lavender Lemonade

The neighborhood sharing program continues here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My girlfriend and neighbor Colleen bought me 3 gorgeous bundles of fresh lavender from her garden last week. I gave one bundle to my other girlfriend, evidently lavender is good for the hen house. Then, the other bundles I got a little crafty with, and put into vases. However, now that I’ve discovered the simple equation of lavender + sugar + water = lavender simple syrup, I’m not sure how long I’ll have them around for decoration. Which is a shame, because it’s so damn pretty!

But this lemonade. Oh my. It’s so different and delicious, I know that I’ll be drinking it all summer long. The lavender is not overpowering, and the tart lemon still definitely shines through. It’s such a perfect balance. And how lovely is it in a tall glass filled with ice, and a little sprig of lavender for garnish? The only thing that would make it lovelier is a splash of vodka or gin. Now, please excuse me while I go plant a lavender bush. Then I’ll harvest it next year, and channel my inner Joan Crawford.

Blackberry Cream Soda

The Cream Soda has long been one of my favorite cocktails. Such basic ingredients, and it tastes so darn good. I remember being shocked by how much the simple combination of Capt. Morgan’s, ginger ale, and fresh lime tasted exactly like a cream soda. You remember, those sodas from your childhood that no one else would drink? They were always the last thing floating in the cooler of ice, long after all the Cokes had been picked out. But, this one definitely isn’t for the kids…

I recently tried a bottle of Captain Morgan’s newest release, their Black Spiced Rum. It’s darker and bolder than the “OG” – but everything you love about the traditional spiced rum is still there. Notes of molasses, vanilla, and cinnamon. And smooth! An absolutely wonderful rum.

I think it’s safe to say we’ve all had a few nights “sailing away with the Captain”, and this is definitely a drink that makes it easy to do. Since I was using the Black rum, I thought it would be fun to add another “black” twist – in the form of blackberries. They added a gorgeous hue and a little pucker that I loved! But still completely tasted like a cream soda.

It’s only Monday, but I’m already looking forward to the weekend. Memorial Day is the official start of summer here at the beach, and we are all ready for it to begin!

Pink Moscato SangriaI hope everyone is busy planning their Mother’s Day festivities! Whether your the lady being celebrated, or are lucky enough to be celebrating with your mom this year – I think there’s one thing most ladies in your life could use: a lovely cocktail that includes lots of fresh berries this Mother’s Day! One of my favorite wines to drink in the summer months are Moscatos – and I’ve been seeing more and more of them pop up on the shelves these days. They are light and fruity, and if they’re good  - not to sweet.

One of my favorites is Bello Boy, a Moscato infused with rose petals to give it a distinct flavor, and a gorgeous shade of rose. It’s delicious, light & complex at the same time. The man behind it is Jaime Laurita, a well-known chef who’s worked with many notable people and artists in his culinary career. Incidentally, he also happens to be of the Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Laurita crew, which I’ve made no secret is a guilty pleasure. He’s got a couple bubbly wines under his label now, as well as some other wonderful Italian products – top notch olive oils and dried pastas to name a few.

The sangria comes together in a snap, and just gets better as it sits and the flavors mingle. I went with a berry theme – choosing strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. But really, any combo of fruit would be wonderful. Looking forward to fresh peaches from the orchard down the street, they’ll be a wonderful addition.

And to celebrate Mother’s Day, I thought it would be fun to have a giveaway! For the past couple months or so, I’ve totally been crushing on the folks over at Hen House Linens. They’re based right here in Maryland, and their selection of fun, colorful prints is out of this world. Any fellow food bloggers will know what I mean when I say “kid in a candy store”. They’ve been so kind to offer an adorable cocktail apron to one lucky winner. All you need to do is comment below answering the question: What are your plans for this Mother’s Day weekend? I’m looking forward to spending time with all my guys. And on Sunday, our first taste of crabs for the year at The Red Roost with my parents. It’s become our Mother’s Day tradition. You have to take a 2-car ferry to get there – the boys just love it, and so do we!Hen House LinensWant a couple of extra entries?:

Like Hen House Linens on Facebook – leave a separate comment letting us know you did so.
Like Bello Boy Moscato on Facebook – leave a separate comment letting us know you did so.

Contest will end Thursday, May 16 2012 @ 11:59 PM EST. Winner will be selected using a random number generator.

Congratulations to Entrant #2 – Diana. Thanks so much for entering, everyone!

Disclaimer: I received Bello Boy Moscato and Hen House linens to review at no cost. As always, all opinions are my own.