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The Times
  • Food for Thought: Cupcakes for every occasion

  • GateHouse News Service's weekly Food for Thought with tips on cupcake decorating, how to avoid unhealthy snacks, and added sugars.

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  • Maybe it's the single serve proportions, perfect cake-to-icing ratio or approachability of this iconic treat, but America's love affair with cupcakes is holding strong. These tasty treats can be adapted to any occasion, and whether it's a favorite holiday, birthday bash, girl's night out or just because, the color, sweetness and fun of cupcakes makes people smile.
    Think of cupcakes as a blank canvas easily personalized with the right tools. For example, Wilton has products to make it easy for bakers and decorators of all skill levels to make their cupcakes amazing, no matter the occasion. Wilton's new book, "Cupcakes!" is available at your nearest craft store and www.wilton.com, and showcases unique tips, techniques and products for swirling your way into cupcake greatness. Play Dress Up. Add personality with playful baking cups - from vibrant stripes to pretty polka dots to festive flowers. Top off your favorite cupcakes with cookie decorations; try a Shamrock for St. Patrick's Day or an apple for an unexpected teacher's gift on the first day of school. 
    Entice with Icing. Play with icing color to add visual interest - think icy blue for a wintry treat or pale yellow for autumn. Sprinkles are an easy way to make icing sparkle. Sugar gems create an eye-catching crystal effect, and seasonal toppings add an extra special touch. It's Hip to be Square. Round out your cupcake repertoire with Wilton's Square Cupcake Pan and baking cups; the square shape is a fresh take on everyone's favorite treat. 
    Colorful Cupcake Trio Each cupcake serves 1
    You'll Need:  Pink Wave, Black and White Doily Kit or  Warm Stripes Square Baking Cups Favorite cupcake recipe or mix Ready-to-use White Decorator Icing Rose Icing Color (Ombre Cupcakes) Pink Sugar Gems (Sugar Striped Square Cupcakes) Lemon Yellow Icing Color (Zebra Lace Cupcakes) Zebra Icing Decoration (Zebra Lace Cupcakes)   Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place wave or solid black baking cup in standard muffin pan; place square baking cup in square cupcake pan.   Prepare cupcake batter per package or recipe instructions. Pour cupcake batter into prepared pan. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center of cupcake. Remove pan to cooling grid; let stand 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan; cool completely.   Rose Ombre Cupcakes
    Divide icing, and tint six shades of rose from dark to very light. On top of cooled cupcake, using a tip 12 and the darkest rose icing, pipe large dot in center; add ring around dot at edge of cupcake. Switch to a slightly lighter shade of rose icing and, with tip 12, add another large dot to center top of cupcake, make a second ring around the inside edge of the first ring. Continue piping next three shades of lighter rose icings with tip 12 and create smaller rings of icing on the inside edge of the previous ring. Once at the center using the lightest shade of rose icing, pipe one last ring around top with tip 12, adding a swirl.  Sugar Striped Square Cupcakes
    Page 2 of 3 - Using white icing and tip 12, cover top of cooled cupcake with large zigzag. Top with Pink Sugar Gems.
    Zebra Lace Cupcakes
    Tint icing yellow. Add tip 12 swirl to top of cooled cupcake. Add Zebra Icing Decoration. 
    Swirl Like a Pro  To prepare, start with cupcakes that have been baked according to package directions, in the baking cup of your choice, and fully cooled. Place a coupler and a large round tip (like a 12 or 2A) on your Wilton decorating bag; fill with the icing of your choice.
    1. Hold the decorating tip approximately 1/4 inch above the cupcake at a 90 degree angle to the cupcake. Starting at the center, pipe a large dot of icing onto cupcake top. 
    2. Pull the dot of icing to the outer edge of cupcake and begin piping a spiral of icing around the cupcake top, working inward and upward.
    3. Once at the center, stop pressure and pull tip away. It's as easy as that.
    -- Family Features
    Tip of the Week
    On long commutes or shopping trips, pack some fresh fruit, cut-up vegetables, low-fat string cheese sticks, or a handful of unsalted nuts to help you avoid stopping for sweet or fatty snacks.
    -- ChooseMyPlate.gov
    Easy Recipe: Strawberry Mascarpone Panini
    Yield: 4 servings
    8 slices fresh bread (1/2 inch thick) 
    1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
    1/2 pound Florida strawberries, hulled and sliced thin
    Confectioners' sugar for dusting
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted Heat a panini press or griddle over medium heat. Spread a thin layer of mascarpone on top of each bread slice. Add an even layer of strawberries to 4 bread slices. Use the other 4 slices of bread to top the sandwiches. Brush sandwiches with butter and grill or press until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer panini to cutting board and dust with confectioners' sugar. Serve warm.
    -- Family Features
    Food Quiz
    What is the oldest patented soft drink in America that is still being sold today?
    A. Vernors Ginger Ale
    B. Dr. Pepper
    C. Coca-Cola
    D. IBC Root Beer
    Word to the WIse: Pâte sablée
    Pâte sablée is the richest of the French short pastry crusts. It is used to make sweet flans and tarts. A pâte sablée is made with butter, flour or powdered almonds, butter, egg, sugar and flavored with vanilla.
    -- Cookthink.com
    Number to Know
    Page 3 of 3 - 16: Percent of calories in the average American diet that added sugars contribute to. Added sugars are sugars that do not occur naturally in a food, but are added to food during processing or preparation.
    -- USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans
    The Dish On...
    "Forks Over Knives - The Cookbook: Over 300 Recipes for Plant-Based Eating All Through the Year"
    Forks Over Knives—the book, the film, the movement—is back again in a Cookbook. The secret is out: If you want to lose weight, lower your cholesterol, and prevent (or even reverse!) chronic conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, the right food is your best medicine. Thousands of people have cut out meat, dairy, and oils and seen amazing results. If you’re among them—or you’d like to be—you need this cookbook.
    Del Sroufe, the man behind some of the mouthwatering meals in the film, proves that the Forks Over Knives philosophy is not about what you can’t eat, but what you can. Chef Del and his collaborators Julieanna Hever, Judy Micklewright, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and Darshana Thacker transform wholesome fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes into 300 recipes—classic and unexpected, globally and seasonally inspired, and for every meal of the day, all through the year.
    -- Amazon.com
    Food Quiz Answer
    B. Dr. Pepper
    Although it was once thought that Vernors Ginger Ale was the oldest surviving soda in America (debuting in 1866), the U.S. Patent Office and the Dr Pepper Snapple Group (who now owns Vernors; can you say soda conspiracy?) say otherwise. According to the patent office, the first glass of Dr. Pepper was legally sold on Dec. 1, 1885.
    -- Delish.com
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