The High Line & Coconut Lime Granita

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Elevated above Manhattan’s bustling West Side is an urban oasis, as

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the former the New York Central Railroad freight train line is now High Line Park.

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In 1999 a non-profit group, Friends of the High Line, formed to advocate for repurposing the space rather than demolishing it. The public park opened 10 years later and runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th between 10th and 11th; there are nine access points along the 1-mile stretch.

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Awaiting visitors is a greenway filled with 210 species of plants

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and beautiful views of the Hudson River.

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It’s a gorgeous place to stroll, picnic,

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play in the water,

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or lounge in the chairs that roll on the railroad track.

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The High Line also offers cultural attractions and hosts temporary installations and performances, many of which are in Chelsea Market Passage. Located between 15th and 16th, what was once the Nabisco Building is now accented with stained glass and public art.

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If you don’t take the passage to Chelsea Market where you can find shops and eateries or visit the High Line’s beer garden or open air cafe, there are stands along the way for barbecue,

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coffee, or treats — including People’s Pops, which sells gourmet popsicles and freshly-shaved flavored ice.

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It’s been feeling more like summer than fall here on the East Coast — the perfect kind of weather for an afternoon on the High Line or a bowl of Coconut Lime Granita! Granita is a semi-frozen dessert that’s exceptionally easy to make and complemented perfectly by sorbet (raspberry this time) or gelato. After all, who wants to slave away in a hot kitchen when you could be out enjoying Indian Summer?

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Click Here To Print This Recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar, pulsed in food processor until superfine
  • Juice of 1 lime

Instructions:

  • In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.

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  • Pour into a shallow glass dish.
  • Freeze for about 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

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DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO NEW YORK CITY: 96 miles

Macy’s Parade & Pumpkin Spice Mini Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

When I think of Thanksgiving morning, I think of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Growing up within driving distance of New York City, my dad would take us to the parade each holiday morning. This year, with a gorgeous 50-degree forecast and family visiting from out of state, we decided to recreate childhood memories and go to the parade again.

Our day started as it always did, piled in the backseat of the car and pulling out of the driveway in the 6 a.m. darkness, with only headlights to light the way.

By the time the city skyline was in view, the sun was rising

and, after a quick drive through the Lincoln Tunnel,

and a few blocks’ walk from the parking garage,

we joined the crowds of people at 74th & Central Park West

(Photo Credit: Dennis Loria)

waiting for the parade to begin at 9 a.m.

While some people might argue that the parade is for the young,

I can assure you it’s also for the young at heart.  From the moment the first balloons came down the parade route,

the energy and excitement grew.  Listening to and dancing along with the marching bands,

the crowd waited to capture glimpses and photos of celebrities on floats,

(Jimmy Fallon & The Roots)

many of whom were just as excited to capture photos of them!

But the true celebrities of the parade were the balloons,

many of which brought back fond childhood memories.

Yes, you could watch the parade on TV, the way more than 44 million people do, but I wouldn’t trade the opportunity to see up close how the balloons are constructed

or who’s holding and steering them.

I’m also convinced that you can’t appreciate the sheer size and grandeur of the balloons without getting to see them firsthand and compared to the size of the nearest light post.

It’s enough to make the largest of adults feel like the smallest of children!

The parade captures the entire holiday season, beginning with Thanksgiving

and transitioning to Christmas.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,”

and he’s the last float of the parade, led by his reindeer

and joined by Mrs. Claus.

The sight of them lets you know the parade is over, and it’s time to head home for the Thanksgiving feast.

My experience at the parade inspired me to take something big and make it small again, so I found a Bon Appetit layer cake, tweaked it slightly, and turned it into Pumpkin Spice Mini Cupcakes with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting!

Click Here to Print this Recipe. 

Ingredients:
Pumpkin Spice Mini Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
  • 7.5 ounces canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 + 1/8 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange peel

Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/8 cup (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Candied orange peel for garnish (optional)*

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line mini cupcake tins with foil liners.
  • Whisk first 9 ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

  • In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat pumpkin, sugar, and oil. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Once incorporated, mix in orange peel. Add flour mixture in two parts; beat on low speed to blend.

  • Fill liners with batter until 2/3 full. Bake until inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 8 minutes. Cool in pans for 4 minutes and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

  • For frosting, sprinkle 1/4 cup powdered sugar over bottom of a small, nonstick skillet. Cook over medium heat until sugar melts (do not stir). Cook until sugar turns deep amber, stirring occasionally, about 1-2 minutes. Carefully stir in 1/4 cup cream, vanilla, and salt (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir in remaining 1/2 tablespoon cream. Transfer to small bowl and cool caramel to room temperature. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter. Gradually beat in remaining powdered sugar. Beat in cooled caramel. Cover and chill frosting until firm enough to spread, about an hour and a half.

  • Using an offset spatula, frost mini cupcakes and top with small pieces of candied orange peel.

*For instructions on making homemade candied orange peels, like those in this post, click here and cut the recipe in half.

DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM MORRISTOWN, NJ TO 74th & CENTRAL PARK WEST: 38 miles

Yankee Stadium & Cracker Jack Cupcakes

Confession: When I bake, it’s in uniform — a Yankees apron and backwards Yankees hat. Even though for nearly ten years I’ve lived in a city where the baseball players also wear pinstripes, my loyalty still lies in the Bronx with the New York Yankees.

No matter how many times I’ve visited Yankee Stadium, there are a few seconds before entering the park, when I can’t help but look up in awe,

thinking of the legends who have played for the club previously,

and will take the field that evening.

On Thursday night, I joined my family (and 50,000 other fans) in the Bronx for Game 4 of the ALDS. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric as the Yankees hoped to clinch the series.

In addition to watching great baseball, another part of the fun of going to a major league ballpark is indulging in the concessions! Everyone in my family has a favorite — Dad always eats a soft pretzel, Mom orders a soft ice cream in a plastic helmet,

and Brother gets garlic cheese fries.

For me, all it takes is the 7th inning stretch suggestion from the singing of “Take me out to the ballgame” to start keeping an eye out for the Cracker Jack vendor.

The salty, sweet treat is the perfect companion for the remaining innings — especially when things get tense as they did in Game 4.

The Yankees lost the game in 13 innings but won the series. And since there’s still a lot of baseball left to play this postseason, I wanted to enjoy the upcoming games with a taste of the ballpark made right in my kitchen — Cracker Jack Cupcakes!

This recipe uses Martha Stewart’s butter cake, my own crunchy peanut candy filling, and Food.com’s salted caramel frosting.


Click here to print this recipe.

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:
Butter Cake
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk

Crunchy Peanut Candy Filling

  • 12 ounces lightly salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses

Salted Caramel Frosting:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 bag Cracker Jacks

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with 24 liners.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. On medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping bowl after each pair. Add vanilla and mix well, scraping down sides of bowl. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two batches of milk, and mixing on low speed. Set aside.

Prepare Crunchy Peanut Candy Filling in a medium sauce pan. Melt butter, vanilla, corn syrup, brown sugar, and molasses over medium heat, stirring frequently until combined. Remove from heat and stir in coarsely chopped peanuts with a rubber spatula until coated.

Fill cupcake liner 1/3 full with cake batter, add a layer of crunchy peanut candy filling, and top with more batter until liner is 2/3 full.

Bake until toothpick comes out clear, approximately 18 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in tins and remove to wire racks to cool completely.

For frosting, stir sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and continue cooking without stirring until mixture turns amber color. Remove from heat and add in cream and vanilla. Stir until smooth and set aside until cook to the touch, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat butter and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed. Reduce to low speed, add powdered sugar, and mix until completely incorporated, scraping bowl when necessary. Add caramel and beat frosting on medium high until airy and thoroughly mixed.

Frost cupcakes and top with Cracker Jacks.

Note: You will have leftover crunchy peanut candy filling. We highly recommend rolling your ice cream sandwich in the peanuts for a delicious treat!

DISTANCE TRAVELED FROM PHILADELPHIA TO THE BRONX: 105 miles

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