I have been looking forward to this weekend since oh, early April. A bunch of friends from various areas were all coming into town, and we were going to have a girls' weekend at a local winery (yes, they have those here in Illinois!) and spend a couple days just hanging out. There was one stipulation though.
I had to bring cupcakes!
I'm sure we still would've gotten together anyway, but the cupcakes made it even better. I'll get to those in a minute though...
A bunch of us met up at a Dunkin Donuts yesterday morning for coffee and breakfast, and there was no lack of things to talk about. Then, Carrie said it best... "I'm done with coffee, I'm ready for wine!"
We stopped at the non-local girls' hotel first to drop off some bags and a cooler, and then headed down the street to the Lynfred Winery in Roselle, Illinois. I'd read about it before, but had no idea what to expect. We were greeted by a gorgeous ivy-covered house and a welcoming staff.
We wandered around the gift shop for a few minutes while we waited for our tour to start, and I was amazed to see the vast variety of wines. There were some named for Chicago, some that were more traditional, some expensive, and some that were fruit-based.
Our tour began at 2 p.m. so we opted to do a wine tasting. For $9 we got to taste 7 different wines: Chenin Blanc 2007, Pinot Grigio Reserve 2008, Riesling 2008, Sangiovese 2007, Merlot 2006, Petite Sirah 2006, and Kiwi-Rosé. Each pour was quite generous, and served by a lovely woman who told us a little bit about each wine. My favorite, by far, was the Riesling! I'll have to go back and get more soon.
Needless to say, we thoroughly enjoyed our wine (see girls? You're on the blog!!)
L-R: Me, Amanda, Amy, Carrie, Nicole, and Liz
We spent nearly an hour and a half sipping wine and talking about what we liked, didn't like, things we had in common, our husbands, families, other friends... it was a great time! Before we knew it, we were heading down into the cellars of the winery and learning its history. While it's not a typical winery in that the grapes and fruits aren't grown on the premises, but they're carefully selected from crops all over the country. They currently have 80,000 gallons of wine in their cellars!
We also learned about the bottling process, and that there's one man whose sole job is to feed the bottles onto the conveyor belt through a little window.
The winery was downright gorgeous! I love that there's this little gem of a place just down the street from me!
I treated myself to a bottle of Lynfred's Cherry Wine made with cherries from Michigan. You can trust that I'll let you all know how it is. It was official, after we finished shopping though: we were hungry, a bit tipsy, and downright sweaty! It hit 97 degrees and with the wine...yeah, not pretty.
We went together to the hotel and laid out a spread of delicious treats: my cupcakes, Amy's black-bottom raspberry cheesecake, hummus and carrots, and some cherries.
I believe these cupcakes were enjoyed all around. I promise, I'll get to the recipe in a minute! OH! You want to know what kind of cupcakes they were?? They were fluffernutter. If you don't know what a fluffernutter is, I'll explain in a minute too. But for now, just be jealous of these gorgeous girls who got to enjoy them!
Ok, now that you can see that the cupcakes were indeed enjoyed, I'll fill you in on the secret of the fluffernutter. A fluffernutter is nothing more than a peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich. They can be glammed up a bit by using Nutella, homemade bread, homemade marshmallow... but in its purest form, its fluff and peanut butter and that's it.
I had the idea for a fluffernutter cupcake during lunch at camp one day when a camper had a fluffernutter sandwich. It seemed like a great idea for a cupcake, and an even better one to bring to our little get together. I scoured the internet for cupcake recipes, and while I found a few more standard cake recipes that merely added peanut butter, this one from Cooks.com struck my fancy because it was a) easy, and b) involved putting my mixer on high speed. I did adapt quite a few things from the original recipe.
Peanut Butter Cupcakes
1 3/4 c. cake flour
1 c. milk
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. peanut butter
1/3 c. butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 cupcake tins with papers. Measure all the ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat all ingredients together for about 2 to 3 minutes until well combined, then turn the mixer to high speed for 2 minutes. Spoon into cupcake tins, about 3/4 of the way full. Bake 18-22 minutes until lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before frosting.
The frosting made another whole challenge for me. So many marshmallow frosting recipes called for a jar of marshmallow Fluff, and I just wasn't having any of that. I looked and researched, and finally came to the conclusion that a simple boiled icing was my answer. I made it once before and it was an utter FAIL, so I followed these simple directions from eHow.com and it was perfect! I did, of course, make a few alterations to the recipe, including upping the water to 3/4 c. and added 1/4 c. dark brown sugar to the mixture before boiling.
The final product? Well, there were many "yums" and "mmms" from the girls, but the best reaction was from Liz who said "this is the most interesting cupcake I've ever had, and I mean that in a good way!" I'll take interesting over boring any day!
And with that, I leave you... wish me luck taking my campers ice skating tomorrow!
Have a wonderful night, and TGIM!