Culinary Adventures: Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes

Strawberry Margarita Cupcakes: rich, buttery, sweet and citrus cupcakes, great for a spring get together.

The market near our house had some awesome local organic strawberries with some great flavor, so I thought I’d try some to make some strawberry margarita cupcakes for a spring party we were going to. First I googled a recipe for strawberry margarita cupcakes, and found one on The Baker Chick’s blog. I opted to skip her filling recipe and make my own frosting instead, but I used her cupcake recipe.

 

**Note: The recipe yields about 11 cupcakes, so I doubled it so that I would have enough to bring to the party. Recipe below is original for 11-12 cupcakes. 

Receipe from http://www.thebakerchick.com/2014/04/strawberry-margarita-cupcakes/

Ingredients:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 small limes, zested and juiced
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk- room temperature

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
Blend in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the lime zest, lime juice and vanilla.
With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat each addition just until incorporated.
Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ full. Bake 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely

The cupcakes turned out rich and dense. A little denser than I like, but I think the denseness comes from all the buttermilk and butter in the cupcakes (not the healthiest, I know, but fat is flavor right?). The buttermilk together with the lime juice gave them that tangy lime citrus flavor that they needed.

For the frosting, I pureed some strawberries in the food processor with lime juice and a quality silver tequila, and used that for the liquid to mix in with the 1 and a half sticks of butter and about 2/3 of a 32 oz bag of powdered sugar. (I never measure stuff with frosting, I just make it to taste based on those ratios of powdered sugar and butter and a liquid mixed in to the right consistency and taste).

I have made strawberry frosting before with fresh strawberries, and one word of warning is that the heavy fruit does make the frosting loose its shape. You don’t want to add too much more powdered sugar to make it stand up better, because then the frosting will be too sweet and too stiff. My motto is that it’s always better to have it taste good than look pretty.

**Note: be sure cupcakes are completely cool before frosting, or your frosting will melt all over the place. 

The pretty  frosting pouf that I piped on with a pastry tip deflated a bit, but the frosting tasted good. I don’t think I put enough tequila and lime in the frosting, however because you could taste the citrus in the cupcake and the strawberry in the frosting but the margarita concept seemed lost to the party guests gobbling the cupcakes. They were tasty though, and I got lots of compliments on them.

strawberry margarita cupcakes
strawberry margarita cupcakes

I think that next time, I will add more tequila and lime to the frosting, and some candied lime slices and maybe little drink umbrellas sticking out of the cupcakes. The cupcakes were good, but they were pretty much just strawberry lime.

Another note on using fresh strawberries as a topper: They begin to mold very quickly, so only top as many strawberry margarita cupcakes with fresh strawberries as you think will be eaten, and remove the strawberries from any leftovers.

Overall I would recommend this recipe for strawberry margarita cupcakes. They are a welcome sweet addition to any summer BBQ.

Coping with Travel Fever When You’re Stuck in the 9 to 5

Coping with travel fever when you’re stuck in the 9 to 5: Ways to get through those long periods between trips when you’re stuck in a 40+ hour work week at a job that is not your dream job.

 

We write about our travels, but we aren’t travel writers. We have jobs, bills, a mortgage, two cats, aging parents, and family and friends we love to spend time with. You know, responsibilities and stuff. We’re childfree, which helps us tremendously in the travel department, but we can’t travel full time. Coping with travel fever in between adventures is tough, especially because travel is addicting. The more you travel, the more you want to travel. The more off the beaten path you get, the need for a more unique travel experience to top the last becomes more and more unbearable. For us, travel isn’t about sitting on a beach with a mai tai and trying to unwind. It’s a cultural learning adventure. Maybe someday we’ll find a way to travel more.

But for now, we have things that keep us in one place most of the year. We feel lucky that we can travel as much as we do, and we travel more than most of our friends and family. We are grateful for every experience we’ve had, and grateful for all the ones to come. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t go to work fighting the urge to turn our cars around and drive off into the sunset (or sunrise). Coping with travel fever can be hard, but there are ways we try to ease the pain:

1. Plan your next trip

If you don’t have your next trip planned already, start planning. The only way things happen is if you plan them and set goals. Figure out where you want to go, how long you want to (or can) travel for, and finally how much it will cost (always overestimate). Buy a guidebook to get the basics, and spend the rest of the time googling and reading about places on tripadvisor.com. I’m a planner, and I probably over-plan a bit, but I also plan for days without plans in my destinations. If you have a long time to travel, try to stay a bit longer in a few key destinations to really get to know them and leave room for spontaneous moments. For me, coping with travel fever is a lot easier if there is a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. If we have a trip to look forward to, and I can obsessively read about the culture, food, restaurants, weird tourist attractions, transportation methods, etc–and I’m a lot happier.

coping with travel fever

2. Watch travel documentaries

Unfortunately, there are a lot of really bad travel documentaries out there. I am so sick of the overly peppy, pseudo-knowledgeable travel host going to all the major tourist spots.

There are also some really good ones. I have a post about our favorite travel shows that you can check out. We are big fans of Departures, Anthony Bourdain, and Zane Lamprey. Watching travel shows is a method of coping with travel fever, but it also kind of makes your travel fever worse. Be warned.

coping with travel fever Departures TV Show
Scott and Justin in Departures.

3. Read travel books

Books will always go more in depth than shows. Reading someone’s well-written memoirs of their travels is more educational, and allows you to live vicariously through their experiences. My favorite travel book that I’ve read is the Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner. He is a former NPR journalist who decides to travel around the world to the world’s proclaimed “happiest countries” to find out what makes them happy. He also travel’s to one of the world’s unhappiest countries in contrast. It is a really interesting read and very well written.

Other favorites:

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain

 

4. Take short weekend getaways

Go on little adventures for the weekend to places within a few hours’ drive of your city. Stop for food at little hole-in-the-wall restaurants and diners, go on a new hike, visit that town with the unusual name that you’ve only seen while looking at a road atlas. We are a bit lucky in Seattle to have so much natural and diverse places to visit within a three hour drive. I believe there is something interesting to see everywhere. Check out what your region has to offer.

coping with travel fever Hiking the High Lakes Loop Trail at Mt Rainier National Park, WA
Hiking the High Lakes Loop Trail at Mt Rainier National Park, WA

 5. Visit new restaurants and try new foods

One of the biggest parts about travel is trying new foods. Food is always what Paddy looks forward to the most in our adventures. A great method of coping with travel fever is to go to a restaurant with a type of cuisine you haven’t tried before. This is more easily done if you live in an urban area with lots of culture. Yelp can be a great tool to hunt for different restaurants. Have you tried Ethiopian food? Indonesian? Dim Sum? Eating at a restaurant can be a foreign cultural experience in itself.

coping with travel fever lunar new year seattle asia bbq
Asia BBQ in the International District, Seattle

6. Host a theme party around your favorite travel destination

Have an Italian dinner party, a Polynesian luau, a Mexican fiesta, a Parisian brunch, or a Danish Julefrokost. Make a bunch of food from your favorite travel destination and invite friends to share and learn.

coping with travel fever
Watermelon jalepeno margaritas are also a good remedy for travel fever

7. Learn a new language

You may not be able to travel right this minute, but you can improve your language skills for your next trip. Many community colleges offer continuing education language classes in the evenings that anyone can take. A friend of mine keeps her Spanish fluent by attending a Spanish language conversation group. You might even meet some new travel buddies or new friends to share travel tales with. If you live out in the sticks or local classes don’t work for your schedule, I’ve heard the Rosetta Stone is a great self-learning tool. Check and see if your local library has it available to use for free.

8. Look for cultural festivities in your city

If your city has any kind of diversity (as most cities do), there are probably many cultural celebrations and events open to the public that you can check out. Some aren’t as well advertised as others, so you may have to do some research. Seattle has Scandinavian breakfasts and movie nights at the Swedish Cultural Center (I also heard they recently had an ABBA night as well,) a Lunar New Year/Chinese New Year celebration in the International District, and a whole plethora of cultural festivals at the Seattle Center throughout the year (Hawaiian, Arab, Iranian, Japanese, Brazilian, Polish, Italian, Croatian, Turkish, Mexican Dia de Los Muertos, Filipino, Irish, and more). Check out what the city nearest you has to offer.

coping with travel fever Chinese dragon dance, Lunar New Year in Seattle
Chinese dragon dance, Lunar New Year celebration in Seattle’s International District

Coping with travel fever is hard, but getting little doses of culture and learning in combined with quick weekend getaways helps tide us over until our next travel adventure. We also always have to be planning our next adventure–there can’t be an indefinite period of no travel. Something needs to be planned. Don’t let the 9-5 bog you down. If you have vacation time, plan a trip and go for it. Happy travels!