February 2011 Archives

Recipe Flash: Moosetracks Cupcakes

For our 10 Best Birthday Cakes (& Cupcakes), click here.

If you haven’t spent a lot of time eating ice cream in Maine, I’m not 100% sure that you’ll know what moosetracks even means. Besides, of course, the obvious, but that ostensibly has little to do with dessert.

“Moosetracks” is actually an ice cream flavor that’s prevalent across New England and especially in Maine. It consists of vanilla ice cream swirled with chocolate fudge and dotted with broken peanut butter cups. I have to admit I rarely order it–I’m too busy with Heath Bar Crunch, Cookie Dough, and other of my favorite flavors. But it seems to be beloved by nearly everyone else, including Elyssa, for whom I made these cupcakes as a birthday dessert for her brunch party, which Phoebe and I catered. Like the ice cream that inspired it, the icing on these cupcakes is sweet, flavored with chocolate swirls, and punctuated with rich, homey peanut butter cups.

From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,



Moosetracks Cupcakes
Makes 18 cupcakes

The trick here is to make sure that the chocolate stays swirled and doesn’t simply mix in with the vanilla icing. I did this by making a chilled chocolate ganache and layering it with the peanut butter cups and vanilla icing. When you go to spread the icing, these layers will become swirls.


For the cupcakes
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 stick butter, softened and cut into 8 pieces
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

For the frosting
1/2 cup cream
3 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk or cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
10 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, cup into sixths

Make the cupcakes: preheat the oven to 350°F and fit cupcake liners into 18 cups in two nonstick muffin tins.

Combine the sugar, salt, flour, and baking powder in a mixing bowl and use a handheld mixer to beat for a moment to distribute the ingredients. Add the softened butter, the eggs, vanilla, sour cream, and milk, and beat slowly to combine the ingredients. Then beat fast for 2-3 minutes until the batter is fluffy and creamy.

Distribute among the cupcakes cups, filling each about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove to a rack or a plate and let cool completely.

For the icing: put the choclate in a mixing bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small pan over medium heat, or in the microwave. Pour it over the chocolate and let it rest for 30 seconds to a minute. Then stir gently but thoroughly, helping to melt the chocolate and incorporating it into the cream until you have a thick, homogenous chocolate ganache.

Spread the ganache on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes, until firm.

When ready to make the icing, put the butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. With a handheld mixer, beat at high speed for several minutes, until creamy.

Take the ganache out of the fridge and cut it into small squares. Transfer about 1/4h of the icing to a small bowl or Tupperware. Scatter with about 1/4 of the chocolate ganache and 1/4 of the chopped peanut butter cups. Cover with another 1/4 of the icing, ganache, and peanut butter cups. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Use the icing at room temperature. Reach your knife or offset spatula into the container to make sure you get all the goodies. Spread each cooled cupcake with 2-3 tablespoons of icing.

Serious Eats: Miso-Marinated Flank Steak

Cara figures out how to cook steak while still eating for eight bucks. Check out her recipe for Miso-Marinated Flank Steak Rice Bowls on Serious Eats here.

Huffington Post: True Grits and Other Oscar Night Recipes

Phoebe shares her ideas for Best Picture themed potluck contributions with the Huffington Post. Check out the full list of dish nominees here.

How To: Host a Theme Party

As quarter-lifers, when we don’t know much about things, we tend to reach into the farthest depths of our minds, extract a few minor details, and generalize, often inaccurately, from there. In some areas, such as school, this is looked down upon. In others, like our first full-time jobs, we found it often worked out okay. And in food, this practice comes in handy when we host and attend theme parties.

We love choosing themes for dinner parties and party parties—and we think the best theme parties actually embrace generalizations. Say “Siberian,” and hopefully vodka will flow all night; think “Mexico,” and you can be sure they’ll be tacos, a piñata, and cerveza–maybe tequila, too. Themes bring out creativity, and while accuracy doesn’t gain you many points, enthusiasm does.

Here are our step-by-step recommendations for how to plan the perfect theme night.

**Tips and Tricks**

Pick a Theme. When dinner is involved, themes often stem from certain types of cuisines. This is a great place to start. Many ethnic theme nights also correlate with holidays throughout the year, so if you are craving dumplings, and it is January, perhaps wait until the end of the month to host a Chinese New Year’s party. Same goes for Irish in March and Mexican in May. Holidays like St. Patty’s and Cinco de Mayo that naturally call for certain cuisines make having a theme party to celebrate nearly obligatory.

Google it. We trust your creativity will get you far when it comes to brainstorming ideas for your theme night. But when in doubt, rely on google. You’ll be amazed by how the internet’s ability to free associate matches that of your quirky brain. Be careful: googling certain themes will often lead you to year-round Halloween supply stores, and you might not be able to resist buying those wholesale boas in bulk for all your guests or a full-blown safari outfit for yourself. (See more on attire below).

Decide If It Is a Dinner Party or Party Party. Start with how many people you will be inviting to dinner. Theme parties are among the most fun dinner parties we have, and often we invite over a large group and set up the meal buffet style. It can also be fun to make the themed meal a massive potluck, like our friend Evan did for his Mexican-themed birthday party. These occasions blur the line between dinner party and party party. But if you only want to have four people over, there is no reason why you shouldn’t host a themed dinner. We’ve been known to dress up in full Mad Men get-ups–pencil skirts, blouses, and the like–and go to an intimate dinner, where the liquor flowed in Mad Men-esque proportion. Big or small, you are entitled to get as festive and outrageous as you want.

Design the Invite. Especially if you are keeping the group small, designing an invite that is special and themed, gets your guests in the proper (excited!) mood for the evening ahead. We love Paperless Post. As far as email invitations go, it still feels more along the lines of getting a handwritten card in the mail, and they have ample layouts and icons to fit your theme.

Dictate Attire. We love dressing up. And it makes us really yearn for our college years, when going to vintage stores and buying the most puffy, glittery 70’s disco dress we could find was a standard practice. While a Mexican potluck might not be the time to ask your friends to dress up (though you could provide sombreros), if you are hosting, say, an Olympic potluck party, everyone should be implored to dress up as their country or athlete of choice, in addition to bringing a dish from that land.

Buy Decorations. Don’t underestimate the power of a tchotchke. A few decorations go a long way in getting people pumped about a theme. When Phoebe’s friend Hallie hosted an Outlaw Theme Night, she picked up a few toy guns and cowboy hats and let her guests get into character from there. If you live in New York, Party City is a great resource—just don’t go crazy!

Favorite Theme Night Menus. If you are new to theme nights, try starting with one of the ideas below!

Weekend Fiesta

Outlaw Theme Night

Salsa Dancing & Tapas Party

St. Patty’s Day Brunch Blowout

Mad Men Sunday Night Dinner

5 Best Bring-Your-Own Lunches

Bringing your lunch–to work, when traveling, or on days when you’re too busy to sit down and eat–is one of the best ways to save money and stay healthy. These five packable favorites are perfect for lunch in your cubicle or on the go. Don’t forget to add a napkin, water bottle, and disposable fork. If you prep just a little, you can eat home-cooked, BGSK-recommended food anytime, anywhere, anyhow.


1. Rice Bowl with Peanut Sauce

2. Cous Cous with Pears and Blue Cheese

3. Pomodoro Fresco Pasta Salad

4. Crunchy Spicy Hummus Wraps

5. Quinoa Tabouli with Mint, Parsley, and Preserved Lemons

5 Best Get-Better Foods

When you’re feeling under the weather, there’s nothing like home-cooked food for rapid improvement. Garlic and Chicken Soup will easily nurse you back to health, and Rice Pudding Cereal will deliver you into the comfort of your mother’s kitchen–at least Cara’s mother’s. When you’re nearly back on your feet, invest twelve hours of couch time watching your no-knead bread rise, then eat it toasted with butter or butter and cinnamon sugar. Last but not least, to celebrate your return (or near return) to health, feast on nourishing, soul-feeding Mac and Cheese.


1. Garlic Soup

2. Small Kitchen Chicken Soup

3. No-Knead Bread, Toasted, Buttered, and Sprinkled with Cinnamon Sugar

4. Rice Pudding Cereal

5. Mac and Cheese (for when you’re starting to feel better but are craving comfort food)