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A few years ago, there was a pumpkin shortage.  You couldn’t find canned pumpkin at any grocery store.  Since then, my sister and I have felt a need to always have a supply on canned pumpkin on hand.  However, when moving across country (and already feeling overwhelmed at the amount of stuff you have decided you NEED to bring with), canned pumpkin seems like the kind of item you don’t need to bring with you.

Well, it only took about a month for me to miss this special ingredient in my life!

Last year, I was introduced to this super easy, fairly healthy recipe by my friend Abby.  She’s an awesome cook, interior decorator, and rivals any man friend in her mad power tool skills!

Fair warning: this muffin has no oil or other added fats or sugars so it will taste like a “diet muffin” (it will still have a moist texture).  So if you’re looking for a good-for-you, slightly sweet treat, this is for you!

And now, for the line-up:

Yep!  Just three ingredients: apples, pumpkins, and spice cake mix.

Next, add your can of pumpkin to your dry cake mix.

I repeat: do NOT prepare the cake mix according to the box directions.  You just want the dry mix.

Start stirring.

Keep stirring.

Question me in your head.

But keep stirring.

And be grateful for the unexpected upper body workout!

If you need a break from stirring, you can take the opportunity to chop your apples.

Personally, I didn’t peel mine but if the skins will bother you or your family, go for it!

The type of apple (I used gala because it’s what I had) and amount (I used about two) is also up to you.

Incorporate the apples.

This won’t take much stirring–I promise!

Okay–it’s finally time to load your pan!

These are going to look very rustic when you finish so don’t fuss too much.

While they are baking, you might decide to take a picture of your favorite dish towel.

Especially if it was given to you by a super sweet friend who indulges you in your love of all things owl.

And there you have it!

While you’re waiting for them to cool, you might decide to take pictures of the sweet new shoes you scored at bargain prices!  I love shoe shopping.  No matter how you feel about yourself or whether you ate a healthy muffin or the full-fledged thing, they will always fit!

Aren’t they cute?!

Yesterday, I got caught in a freak, thirty-minute snow storm with these and they are still holding up!

Well, it’s time to check on my cakes (for cake decorating class) and finish watching the Neverending Story with the hubby!  Happy Sunday!

Apple Pumpkin Muffins

1 spice cake mix

1-15 oz can of pumpkin

1-2 apples

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tin with paper liners or spray with cooking spray.

2. Mix dry cake mix and canned pumpkin.

3. Chop apples into small, fairly uniform pieces.  Incorporate into pumpkin/cake mixture.

4. Spoon into muffin tin.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.

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Shop Til You Snack

A year ago, an all day shopping marathon with my sister or friends would have been no biggie.  Encouraged by the recent return of energy that the second trimester is so famed for, I thought, I can handle a few hours of shopping!

Seven hours and fourteen stores later, this girl needed a snack and a nap!

This journey took place in a Richmond neighborhood called Short Pump.  The original purpose of the trip was a journey to World Market.  It didn’t take too long to realize this upscale shopping destination had lots of awesome shops!

This shopping policy, found outside Tom Leonard’s Farmers Market, was definitely a good sign!  Inside we found samples galore (fresh squeezed orange juice, pineapple, strawberries, hummus, muffins, etc, etc!), some amazing produce deals, and a great clean atmosphere.

Next, we hit up World Market where I picked up a totally unnecessary indulgence.  But have you had these?!  They are so good!

After World Market, we scored some sweet deals at Kohl’s and Target.  I get such a thrill out of those 80% and 90% off signs!  My favorite finds were a black maternity dress for $8.98 and a tank for $2.40!

All that shopping can leave a girl hungry!  After driving for awhile to make sure we weren’t settling, we decided on Red Robin.  We were richly rewarded.  Did you know–if not, I’m so glad to be the one to tell you–that Red Robin now has bottomless SWEET POTATO FRIES?!  Score!

Stuffed, but not in a food coma (my husband is notorious for those!), we decided we needed some time to walk it off.  We found this great pseudo-pedestrian mall called the Short Pump Town Centre.  There, we ooh’ed and ahh’ed over adorable dishes in Crate and Barrel, checked out a sweets shop (on the hunt for cupcakes), went into H & M for the first time (got a cute beret!), had to stop at NY & C (my favorite!), and then got back to our grocery schedule.

Our next destination was Whole Foods.  I had never been to one before but we’ll be back!  So much good stuff!  I scored some awesome granola, a few green power drinks to try, and more importantly, this beauty:

This strawberry creme cupcake was DIVINE.  The frosting to cake ratio was beautiful and the frosting had so many strawberries in it!  Even my chocolate-preferring husband couldn’t resist!

From here, we tried another sweets store (no cupcakes), stopped at the vitamin store, and then, after much searching, found Frostings!  Frosting was a cupcake shop featured on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.

I gotta say, I didn’t love this salted caramel chocolate cake as much.  I’m not sure what it was as I usually love the salty-sweet combo, but not a cake I’ll get again.

Finally, as if this day could get better, we made it to Trader Joe’s!  I picked up some of our favorites (including some ingredients I’ll feature in my next post) including $0.99 honey crisp apples!  By this point, I was desperately in need of a snack.  I snagged some TJ’s granola bars.  It’s been one of the funny things about pregnancy for me.  I can almost instantaneously feel when I’ve gone too long without food and I can also almost instantaneously feel RELIEF when I get something in my belly!

It was a long day, but a good one.  Armed with all these new ingredients, dinner was a breeze and I even got to watch a movie with the hubby!

Hope your week is going well!

Mad Skills

Oh yeah.  You read that right.  My Fort Lee friend and I are picking up some mad CAKE DECORATING skills care of Wilton’s Cake Decorating Basics Class at our local Michael’s craft store.

Now, as many of you know, my sister already has mad cake decorating skills. Imagine, as our forces unite… we will be unstoppable at our soon-to-be kiddos birthday parties!

For the first class, you mostly sit through a lot of instruction. And learn to not be grossed out when you find out your frosting will call for two cups of lard. Buttercream will never be the same.

Eventually, you get to start practicing on your nifty new practice board!

Finally, you get to show off your first projects to your friends!

Next week, we get to learn about piping transfers and more icings.  Rumor has it cupcakes will soon be on the scene.  Can’t wait!

Last weekend, families and friends from all over the country got together to enjoy some of the finer things in life: good company, sweatpants, and of course, copious amounts of chips and dip.  Come to think of it, there might have been a football game going on too.

We were invited to participate in these festivities with several of the hubster’s classmates.  The overall food situation was OUT OF CONTROL (the apartment resembled a convenience store mixed with a bar and grill) and I admit, we contributed to the madness.  In addition to another batch of those delightful chocolate chip cookies and some buffalo chicken dip, I tried a couple of new recipes: Jalapeno Popper Dip and Chorizo Black Bean Dip with Pastry Chips.

First, the Jalapeno Popper Dip.

Like with most party dips, it involves a generous amount of cream cheese but I think the real winner in the dish is the bacon.

Note: I loathe, despise, and abominate frying bacon.  This was truly a work of love and sacrifice.

The finished product involves a topping of cheese, panko bread crumbs, and butter.

If the bacon didn’t get you, this will!

Next up, Chorizo Black Bean Dip.  Now, Chorizo Black Bean Empanadas are one of my most favorite appetizers.  However, they are a bit time intensive and I just didn’t think this crowd was fully going to appreciate the effort level.  So I decided to attempt a sort of deconstructed version.  I’d make the filling into a dip (just a bit more mashing of the black beans) and I’d see if I could turn the pie crust into chips.

Fair warning: this has a bit of kick!

A stroke of genius!

These would probably be delightful sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and served with a sweet dip.

Here’s hoping you had a wonderful Super Bowl Sunday as well!

Jalapeno Popper Dip

(original recipe found here)

16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup mayonnaise
8 pieces of bacon, cooked and chopped up
6 jalapeños, minced (if you can’t get fresh, substitute a 4-ounce can diced jalapeño peppers, drained)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon cumin
1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese

Topping:
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, bacon, jalapenos, garlic, cumin and cheddar cheese in a mixing bowl. Pour the mixture into a casserole dish or 9×13 baking dish.

3. Combine the panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and melted butter in a small bowl, tossing with a fork until the mixture is evenly moistened. Sprinkle evenly over the cream cheese mixture.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the dip is bubbling. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips, crackers, vegetables, etc.

Chorizo Black Bean Dip & Pastry Chips

1 lb chorizo sausage

1 can black beans

8 oz pepper jack cheese

2 pie crusts

Cooking Spray

1. In a skillet, brown the chorizo.  Drain any excessive grease.

2. While the chorizo is browning, rinse off your black beans.

3. Once chorizo is cooked, add black beans to pan.  Use a potato masher or the back of a fork to begin mashing the beans.  You may find that you’ll want to add a little liquid (add a tablespoon at a time) if you’re mixture isn’t sticking together.  You’ll want about 80% of the beans completely mashed.

4. Let the mixture start to come together over low heat.

5. While that is going, grate your pepperjack cheese.

6. Add half the cheese into the chorizo/black bean mixture and stir until completely melted.

7. Pour mixture into a 9 X 9 baking dish.  Top with remaining grated cheese.  Bake at 350 degrees until warmed through and cheese is melted.

Pastry Chips

1. Simply take your pie crust, roll it out on a lightly floured surface, and use a pizza cutter to slice into square chip-sized portions.

2. Place on a cookie sheet and lightly spray the tops with cooking spray.

3. Put in the same 350 degree oven as your dip and cook for approximately ten minutes.

Enjoy!

Since the weather was so nice this week (thus far), a friend and I decided to journey up to Richmond to enjoy the day.  Our first stop was Maymont Estate.  It consists of several acres of grounds, a turn of the century mansion, and surprisingly, a small animal rehabilitation area (plus a petting zoo).  And best of all, it’s free to spend the day there (they do appreciate donations–which we were happy to provide!).  Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the grounds (I don’t think February pictures would have really done it justice), but I did take some pictures of the animals because GUESS WHAT THEY HAD…

…OWLS!

Is this a beauty or what?!

There were also some gorgeous hawks.

And a bald eagle!

Did you know these birds mate for life?

After exploring the grounds, we had the opportunity to take a tour of the Maymont Mansion.  Unfortunately, they don’t let you take pictures inside.  Some of the highlights: a giant bronze lion guarding the inside staircase, amazing woodwork (everywhere), and a 93 year old tour guide who knew everything there was about the history of the Dooley family.

Famished from all that exploring, we went in search of sustenance.

Back to Careytown Cupcakes!

Thin Mint Cupcake.

Vanilla cupcake, filled with chocolate ganache, topped with mint frosting.

From there, we wandered through Careytown.  There’s so many unique shops!  After stopping in one store where we found some awesome $800 Jimmy Choo’s, we found ourselves in an “upscale consignment shop.”  They had some lightly used Jimmy’s for $80!  With a great deal of self-restraint we walked away, but return trips are in order!

After this there was more walking, more eating (a YUMMY gyro for dinner), and an early bed time!

Hope your week has been blessed!

So, in addition to the more recent mini donut rage, I have long admired (from afar) the glory that are cake pops.  Who can resist Bakerella’s bite sized works of art?  A couple of years ago, I helped a friend try to make some cake pops for a baby shower.  I’m not sure if we got the frosting/cake ratio wrong or what, but the balls were way too heavy and they kept sliding down the sticks.  Since then, I’ve been a bit hesitant about the whole thing.

THEN, this past fall at my cooking group (I had the privilege of getting together with about a dozen awesome women every two weeks; we took turns teaching each other about three new recipes per week), the lovely Miss Erin (how I wish she had a blog!) introduced us to brownie balls.

Mind hole blown.

First of all, I love me some brownies (or any kind of bar) more than cake.  I know, it’s weird given my cupcake obsession.

Secondly, no worrying about frosting/cake ratio!

If you’re a brownie eater and it pains you to leave crumbs in the pain, you may have already noticed that brownies stick to themselves.  It’s like they are just begging to be made into this easy treat!

First, bake up a couple of pans of brownies.

And trust that your friends won’t judge you for the junk on your counter in the background of the photo.

Next, use a couple of forks to turn your brownies into something that looks like the kind of thing you hope your kids will leave alone if they find it in the backyard.

Then, take small handfuls of brownie and roll them into small balls.

And for the grand finale, fling some chocolate around!

Once dry, store like any other baked good

(HIDDEN so that they aren’t devoured by your husband before you get to take them to the intended potluck)

Okay, maybe that’s being a little extreme but finally, FINALLY, this weekend I met the only other wife to accompany her husband to this training.  It’s SO different than at Fort Benning where it seemed everyone’s spouse came along for the ride.  Anyhoo, we were able to to go out to breakfast with this couple and it was so refreshing!  Leaving the security of my social world in Iowa has really shown me how much having the company of others affects my energy level.  Just a few hours of quality time recharges my batteries and makes me feel like I can take on anything (conversely, too many hours of isolation finds me lying on the couch like a bump on a log).

So feeling recharged by not only Saturday’s quality time, but the hope of quality time to come (said friend wife lives just a couple buildings away), I felt ready to embark on another culinary adventure.  Enter: Enchilada Pasta.  Now, I love me some Iowa Girl Eats (which is where this recipe originates) and I LOVE me some enchiladas so I was really really looking forward to this dish.  Unfortunately, a rough couple of days of evening nausea (thought this was supposed to be over in the first trimester!) prevented me from enjoying the dish, but I still thought I’d share!

Like IGE mentions, having the chicken done up ahead of time really helps.  Thankfully I had this left over from a couple of days ago!

Here’s some of the characters from the main line up.  I gotta say, I am majorly picky about enchilada sauce.  Even though I didn’t officially taste this brand, I’m pretty sure from the color and smell, it’s not going to be a returning cast member.

Okay, so this is just my attempt at ingredient transparency.  Yes, we have four containers of cumin.

In my defense (there’s none really)…

1. We did just combine two households

2. I think at least one of these were from a time I was cooking at my sister’s and she didn’t have any

(No, I don’t know why I didn’t let her keep it if that was the case)

3. Is there really such a thing as too much cumin?

Well, excuses aside, I’m going to make it my goal to be down to two containers by the time we leave Virginia!

Good things starting to happen on the stove top!

Finished product!

Well, at this point, I thought I was still going to manage to eat some and well, we know about me and condiments.

For most of you, garnishing with avocados, sour cream, and whatever else you love on your Mexican food would dress this dish up a bit!

Enjoy!

First C = Cuties

As in, look at these cuties:

I mean, even if you’re a chocolate person (another awesome C-word), aren’t they adorable?

Second C = Crap!

Yes, I said it!  After four batches, four different recipes, four different flavors, four different icings.  Nothing.  Nada.  They ALL tasted horrible.  I was so disappointed because I was ALL about the baked doughnut craze.

Third C = Continue

Even if you spend all day, wasting your efforts and your very last egg on baking attempts, dinner still has to be made.  Thankfully, earlier in the week I had found this little gem.  Just a chopped red pepper, green pepper, some leftover potatoes and onions (from the sausage corn chowder), and some Italian turkey sausage links.  Roast and done!

Okay, now that this post is on the upswing, let’s keep the trend going 🙂

Fourth, fifth, and sixth C = Chocolate Chip Cookies

Let’s be honest.  If you have any self-knowledge, you know where you fall on this ultra important continuum.

Do you prefer:

Chewy and thick?

Chewy and thin?

Crispy and thick?

Crispy and thin?

Semi-sweet chocolate only?

As many types of chocolate and nuts that the dough will hold?

A cookie stuffed with another cookie or brownie (I know there are some Picky Palate fans out there!)

Anyway, you get the idea 🙂

Personally, I am a thick and chewy cookie girl with a lot of flexibility regarding add-ins.  As much as I love the good ol’ Nestle recipe, it just doesn’t typically yield the texture of cookie that I’m looking for.  While browsing for that elusive successful baked doughnut recipe, I stumbled upon a number of chocolate chip cookie recipes that called for a recipe I hadn’t considered: molasses.

Seventh C = Curious

Yeah, so I was curious.  Could molasses really work?  I’m going to let the photos do the talking:

Yes, it has brown sugar and molasses.

The batter will look a little weird after you add the molasses.  Don’t worry–it’s normal.

Now, this particular recipe (see below) makes a whole heap of cookies.  And because you’re baking at a higher temperature, each batch will take less time (9:20 was the perfect time on my oven).  Which will annoy you if you’re trying to finish a book.

So, moral of the story: even when you’re met with a few challenges–in and out of the kitchen–I hope you’ll persevere and you just might end up with a sweet treat in the end!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

(recipe from Cookie Madness who says it’s from the White House Chef–heck, these cookies are even patriotic!)

3 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter — (2 sticks) softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 c molasses
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips — (one 12-ounce bag)
1 cup chopped walnuts

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar until thoroughly combined. Beat in the eggs, molasses and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. Stir in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Then stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and allow the dough to chill for 1 hour.  DO NOT SKIP on this step.  Chilling makes all the difference.  Plus, it will help you to get closer to finishing that book!

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat pads*

Drop heaping tablespoons or No. 40 ice-cream scoops of the dough 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets, flattening them slightly by hand. (Balls of dough may be placed next to each other on parchment-lined baking sheet, frozen, transferred to zipper-lock plastic bags, and stored in the freezer for up to 1 month. Place frozen cookies on prepared sheets as above, and defrost on the counter for 30 minutes before baking.)

Bake until just light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool the cookies for 5 minutes on the baking sheets before using a metal spatula to transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Chocolate Chip Cookies will keep in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.

*I had no problem with these cookies sticking but if you own Silpats, go for it!

Southern Comfort

The blustery, rainy weather combined with being given the Tricare shuffle on the phone today, plus generally missing life in Iowa, meant dinner tonight called for some major comfort.  Bring on the soup!

Tonight’s recipe is a conglomeration of this version, a few tweaks from my dear friend Angie, and a recipe I was given in a church bulletin I got on post last week.  It really does lend itself to adaptations so do what works for your family!

First, you’ve got to chop about half an onion and one jalapeno.  Get them going in a pot with about a tablespoon of butter.

While that’s going, go ahead and rinse your potatoes and start to brown your ground sausage.  I got a little over zealous in my rinsing and didn’t use all the potatoes.  But now they’re rinsed for the next meal I have planned for them!

So, I’ve gotta ask: do YOU have a magic kitchen wand?  Cause I do!

Okay, so maybe you’re one of those patient people who delicately pre-crumbles any meat they plan to brown.  And maybe you don’t mind handling  meat.  Either way, at least in my preggo state, it’s a no go.  This wand (okay, so it’s a Pampered Chef masher thingy) is awesome!

So, by now, you’ve got your onion and jalapeno sauteing, your sausage is browning, and your potatoes are chopped into bite-sized pieces.  Time to add the chicken broth and get those potatoes into their hot bath.

Once your potatoes are fork tender, it’s time for the remaining ingredients!

I did end up using two cans of cream corn, but my goal was really to make this soup stretch.  I chose to use cream corn and evaporated milk because in the past, I’ve been really hit and miss with the roux for this soup.  It also allowed me to thicken things up without adding whole milk (which we just don’t normally have on hand).

Anyhoo, the finished product!  Even after it was attacked by a hungry husband and preggo wife, we still had half a pot left!  Comfort achieved 🙂

Corn Chowder

Ingredients

1 lb ground sausage

1/2 sweet yellow onion

1 jalapeno

5-6 red potatoes

3 1/2 cups of chicken stock

2 cans cream corn

1 can fat free evaporated milk

Salt & Pepper

Directions

1. Chop onion and jalapeno.

2. Add to soup pot with one tablespoon of butter.  Saute for 3-4 minutes.

3. Rinse and chop potatoes.

4. In a separate pan, brown ground sausage.

5. Add chopped potatoes and chicken stock to soup pot.  Bring to a boil.

6. Once potatoes are fork tender, add sausage, cream corn, and evaporated milk.

7. Salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Well, to be honest, we’ve just begun to sample the cuisine. And none of it has been southern. But I’m sure we’ll get there 🙂

On Thursday evening, we had the opportunity to celebrate the start of the four day weekend with some of the hubster’s classmates. One of the women is Korean and she had recently scoped out a local restaurant called Koreana. With trepidation (on my part–the hubster was immediately enticed by the promise of tentacled morsels), we joined the group.

Overall impression: less scary than anticipated but it was a no go with the cartagena-to-be. Whew–killer heartburn the whole next day!

If you haven’t had the opportunity to have Korean food before, our friends tell us you can judge the quality of the restaurant by the quality of items they serve with the main dish.  Most restaurants will serve between 6-7 side dishes with your main option.  Ours included spicy bean sprouts, cucumbers, broccoli, sardines (ack–couldn’t get past the eyeballs!), and a few others I couldn’t identify.

I ordered a pretty traditional beef Korean BBQ dish while the hubster went for the more adventure “hot bowl.”  It included some kind of meat, greens, rice, hot paste, and originally had an egg on top.  The restaurant owner mixed it all together at the table and it looked like this:

Apparently it was pretty spicy.  It managed to slow down the boy who thinks EVERYTHING tastes better with pickled jalapenos.  Seriously.

After taking a day to recuperate (I normally love spicy food, but whew, this stuff took me out!), we decided to head north to the Richmond area to do some exploring.  We weren’t really sure what we were hoping to find or hoping to do.  At first, we checked out an uppity mall area that was recommended by a couple we had met the night before.  It was a nice suggestion, but just not our speed.  Next, we were going to try to find a good Mexican place (if anyone can find a safe way to send me El Azteca salsa, I will be your friend forever!!) but then we discovered there was a local Caribbean joint (thank you Trip Advisor).  When there are tostones within a thirty mile radius, we can’t be deterred.

Following a crap-do-we-have-any-change toll scare, a few moments gawking at the gorgeous houses in the neighborhood we ended up in, and several minutes of debating the parking situation, we ended up at this little gem:

Now, I’m a hole-in-the-wall junkie.  I love a good, local, ten or less tables joint.  If that’s not your cup of tea, Kuba Kuba will stress you out.  But if you don’t mind Barbie doll legs coming out of the light fixtures (not sure why) coupled with great Caribbean food, I highly recommend this place.

On Saturdays and Sundays, they have a brunch menu which delighted my soul.  Not realizing our entrees would be accompanied with tostones, we immediately placed an order.  ONLY $2.95 for at least a dozen.  I would show you the picture but they were consumed before I thought of it 🙂

I got this AMAZING Cubano sandwich (made on locally baked bread) for only $6.95!

The hubster’s entree was a little bit pricier but it was enough food that he actually ate it for dinner that night as well (it’s rare that a dish, especially a Caribbean dish, doesn’t get polished off immediately).

Stuffed to the gills,  we paid (FYI: they do take cards but don’t divide checks), and decided to take a walk through the Careytown area.  It’s a quirky neighborhood with several independent small shops.  Of course, I only took photos in the important ones: where chocolate was available.

Our first foodie stop was Careytown Cupcakes.  Now, I’m a bit of a cupcake snob, but if you’re the average consumer, please take my review with a grain of salt.  Then again, if you’re an average consumer, you may be thinking, who THINKS about their cupcakes?!  Just eat, woman!

Store: clean, cute, good seating.

Selection: they only sell until they run out and we weren’t there until late afternoon.  It looked like they ordinarily have 5-6 choices per day.

The Cupcake: marshmallow frosting was good, but the frosting-to-cake ratio was a little lacking (for my preferences).  The best part: a surprise graham cracker layer at the bottom of the cake, making it truly, a s’more cupcake.

Our next chocolate stop was an amazing little place called:

Our favorite part was the variety of chocolate they had from all over the world (including our favorite Puerto Rican candy bar).  We managed to keep our purchased stash within reason (comforted by the proximity if repeat trips were needed).

All in all, it was an enjoyable day.  We’re really looking forward to doing more exploring in the area.

Last but not least, here’s some photographic evidence that we do feed our minds (not just our stomachs):

This AWESOME rare and used book store was a treasure trove!  We found a map of Iowa from the 1850s, a book on the Spanish American War where Puerto Rico was spelled Porto Rico, and overheard a sales person say they just sold a signed copy of an Emily Dickinson text for $10,000.  We managed to get out with just a reasonably priced vintage engineering text.  Once again, return trips in store!