Easy Mulled Wine

It’s almost Thanksgiving! To celebrate I wanted to pull myself out of my writing slump and share some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes with you.

I love cooking for Thanksgiving, and after a few years of doing the bulk of the cooking, I’ve started to find my groove and even find my own thanksgiving meal style. I like rustic presentations and dishes that feel fancy but are really simple to make. So if that sounds good to you, keep reading and check back often!

I wanted to start with the most important dish; the booze. What, you thought I was going to say turkey? I’m sorry, but when the holiday includes lots of family getting together, booze is more important than the bird.

Now, I consider myself a wine lover, but for me, it’s definitely more of a quantity vs quality thing. I have the wines I like, I stick to them, and I couldn’t tell the difference between an expensive wine and cheap wine if you paid me. But still, I am a lover of wine. Now, some very gracious people hear that I love wine and gift me bottles of wine that I will never drink, namely, red wines. Which is how I found myself last year with several bottles of red gathering dust and taking up precious space on my wine rack.

What is a girl to do? Search the inter webs for how to make mulled wine! I looked at so many recipes, took my favorite parts from a couple of them, and just went for it. A lot of the recipes I looked at said they were easy, or used ingredients you would already have, but then they asked for spices I do not own or a cheesecloth. I don’t have a cheesecloth. I have tons of mismatched Tupperware, but no cheesecloth. This recipe is pretty pared down compared to others, but still tastes great and looks very pretty.

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 3 cups spiced apple cider
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 apple
  • 1 orange
  • 4 cinnamon sticks

Directions

  1. Cut up the apple and orange into thin slices. Cut from top to bottom for the prettiest slices.
  2. Dump everything into a crockpot, or large pot and stir.
  3. If you are cooking on the stove, cook on low for about ten minutes. If using a crockpot, set to low and give it about 45 minutes.

See, super simple, and thanks to those apple and orange slices, and cinnamon sticks, a drink that looks as good as it tastes.

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Bird’s Birth Story

This post talks about miscarriage, problems conceiving, and pregnancy difficulties. If that’s not your cup of tea, you should skip this one.

My beautiful boy, your beginning begins with an end.

In early March, 2015, I miscarried when I was eleven weeks pregnant. The very first thing I thought was, “it’s ok. You’ll be ok. You’ll survive this and somehow be better for it. You’ll start exercising, lose weight, start writing again. You’ll be better.” And my second thought was, “what kind of horrible person thinks about exercising at a time like this? It’s no fucking wonder this is happening to you. You don’t deserve another baby. You are worthless. You are nothing.”

And I was broken. For a really long time. I took a few days off work, because I could, I binge watched happy shows about strong women, I mourned. And then I moved on. But I was still broken, still stuck with this empty feeling. My belly should be growing, little feet kicking. But I’m empty. I focused on things I couldn’t do if I was pregnant. I dyed my hair pink. I drank. A lot. I ate rare steaks and drank unpasteurized juice. I got hermit crabs because I really wanted them when I was eight years old so goddamn it I was going to have hermit crabs. It was a strange time.

And after some time passed, we started trying to get pregnant again. And after six months of trying, I was convinced that something was wrong. A woman can only pee on so many sticks. So I called my doctor for a referral.

In January I went to see the woman my doctor had referred me too. I felt good. Proactive. This doctor would tell me what was wrong and help me fix it. I show up early and get signed in. I fill out the paperwork, there’s a problem with my insurance. The doctor I have the appointment with doesn’t take my insurance. In fact, there was only one doctor in the building who took my insurance, a man, would that be alright? Well, it’s not my first choice, but I’m a big girl, I can deal. I just want to get pregnant. The receptionist leaves to see if the doctor can see me at the time of my original appointment.

While she’s gone a pregnant woman comes in and sits opposite me. Tears start to fall, I can’t stop them. When the receptionist comes back, I’m sobbing uncontrollably. I can see in her face that she thinks it’s because of the mix up with doctors. I tell her about my miscarriage, about having trouble getting pregnant. She hands me tissue. Tells me her sister miscarried last year. She’s still not over it.

And then she tells me the doctor can’t see me then, but he could see me later. Could I come back in five hours? Sure, whatever, I just want to get pregnant. She tells me what a good doctor he is, how everyone loves him. She tells me his name. It sounds German. My maiden name is also German. In fact, his name, and my maiden name are only two letters away from being the same name. And, his first name is my dad’s name. Which means that five hours later than my original appointment with the female doctor I would be seeing a male doctor whose name was only two letters different than my estranged father’s. At this point I’m convinced that not only is there something wrong with me, but also that the cosmos are fucking with me.

I wanted a doctor to tell me what was wrong, and boy, is that what I got with Dr Almost-Dad. He told me it was probably because they didn’t do a D and C after my miscarriage (darn those midwives), he’d schedule an ultrasound. I mentioned having trouble nailing down when I was ovulating, he told me I probably wasn’t ovulating, as soon as I was done with him I needed to have blood drawn to be sure. And, while they’re drawing blood, they’ll take a look at my testosterone. Because I have hair above my lip…….. Dude. Cheap shot Dr Almost-Dad. And for the record, I’ve never needed to wax or bleach my upper lip like millions of women, so it really felt like he was grasping at straws, and furthermore, he’s a big stupid butthead and I don’t like him. He did a Pap smear, ordered the blood work and ultrasound and sent me on my way. Now feeling broken AND self conscious.

The blood work came back first. Dr Almost-Dad, who I shall now call Dr Downer, called with the results. One of my hormone levels was lower than it should be, it would appear that I wasn’t ovulating. (My testosterone level was fine, by the way.) Than my Pap smear results came back. Dr Downer called again. I have decided that Pap smears are the medical equivalent of a Magic 8 Ball. Dr Downer let me know that my Pap was abnormal. But he couldn’t say if there was anything to worry about. I’d have to have another test done to be sure. It was the medical equivalent of “Ask Again Later”.

In the midst of all of this, all this bad news, it happened. You happened. I came home after a brutal day at work (and more bad test results from Dr Downer) and all I wanted to do was take a scalding hot bath and drink a bottle of wine. Two things that are definitely not recommended while pregnant. My period was supposed to start that day, and I had one extra pregnancy test, so I figured what the hell. I’ll pee on this stick while I draw the bath. And I was pregnant. While I felt so lost, so completely unsure of myself, you came to be. I called for your dad. I looked at that stick, and I laughed. And I cried. And I released a breath I had been holding in for almost a year.

The next day I called Dr. Downer, naturally he had more bad news. With where my hormone levels were he didn’t think I would keep the pregnancy. I needed to see a doctor yesterday he said. He was writing me a prescription for progesterone to hopefully get my hormones where they should be, and I needed to find another doctor because Dr. Downer didn’t handle pregnancies anymore. So, some good news, I’d never have to talk to Dr. Downer again. I left work early and started making some calls. I found a doctor who could see me the next day.

Now, granted it has been awhile since all of this happened, my memory probably isn’t 100% accurate, but the new doctor looked exactly like Putin. He had a firm handshake, a tacky gold watch, and while performing my pelvic exam, he told me my cervix was funny. I should keep taking the progesterone, set up an ultrasound for when I was at seven weeks to see if there’s a heartbeat (and my heart stopped, IF there’s a heartbeat?), and leave the paperwork I needed signed for work with his nurse.

The next few days I called his nurse’s line probably about ten times. First I called because the progesterone (or one of the other two medications he prescribed me) had made me break out in a hideous and very itchy rash. The first nurse I talked to told me to cut back to only one dose a day. The rash went away. A different nurse called back and told me to go back to two doses a day. I explained that it gave me a rash. She said it shouldn’t, I said, but it did. There was a lot of back and forth, never once did Dr. Putin call me himself. I also called several times to see when I could get my paperwork for my work signed. It basically said that I was pregnant, and might need to miss work occasionally for pregnancy related issues. Pretty straight forward. After a week of run around your dad went down to his office and was told by Dr. Putin that he doesn’t sign paperwork like that.

So I once again started looking for another doctor. This time I knew just where to go. I asked an old coworker of mine who her doctor was. That way I knew he’d take my insurance and sign my forms and at this point that was all I cared about. The very first thing he did was sign my forms. Then he told me that I seemed very healthy and he was sure it would be a fine, healthy pregnancy which after Dr. Downer and rashes and medications, I really, really needed to hear. He made terrible dad jokes, and while I was googling him I found out that he had “left” his previous job after finding a gun and throwing it in a trashcan instead of telling the police, but at that point I was like, good enough. Nobody is perfect.

And I was pregnant. And I was happy. And throwing up all the time. And scared. My “Ask Again Later” pap smear results came back with bad news. There were abnormal cells present. Dr. Dad Jokes referred me to a specialist. I didn’t realize it was a cancer specialist until I was filling out the forms. So that was scary. But everyone seemed to agree that there was nothing to suggest that I couldn’t wait to treat it until after having you, so that’s what I did. Your test results were also problematic. Everything was always “on the cusp of normal”. My hormones remained “on the cusp”, your development was always “on the cusp”. So there were extra visits with Dr. Dad Jokes and extra tests. But there were also extra ultrasounds so that was nice. We got to see you almost once a week. That was one thing where you weren’t “on the cusp”, you were growing so big. 99th percentile big. You just kept getting bigger and bigger.

You were due October 3rd, a year and ten days later than my previous pregnancy’s due date of September 23rd. At my last visit with Dr. Dad Jokes, in the middle of September, he didn’t bother having me make another appointment, he knew you were coming soon.

On September 22nd there was a thunderstorm. I was in bed reading and listening to the rain.  Your dad came to bed late, around 11:45. I said I had to pee one more time and then we could turn out the light. I went to the bathroom and my water broke.

We woke up your sister, dropped her off with your grandparents, and headed to the hospital. The nurse on duty asked if there was a storm. Apparently the change in barometric pressure that accompanies a thunderstorm can cause labor and I was the seventh woman who had come in that night. They were a little short staffed that night.

Dr. Dad Jokes popped in around 4am, ordered pitocin, and said he wouldn’t be delivering, as he had just finished a twelve hour shift. The doctor who delivered you was a woman, sweet and supportive. I was glad to see her. I was done with male doctors. Also wonderful was our nurse, who not only helped me through labor, but also chased off visitors, mainly your grandparents. With your sister I had let people in the delivery room and it had been very stressful, so with you, I wanted it to be just me and your dad. And the doctor and nurse of course.

And then, at one in the afternoon, on September the 23rd, thirteen hours after my water broke, you were here. Big, beautiful, and healthy.

You’re two years old now. You love those around you so easily. You give the sweetest hugs. It’s funny to look back on it now. To remember just how hard, and scary the whole thing was. To think about all of those “almost bad” test results and scares. To remember just how desperately we wanted you and how hard we fought for you. I love you with my whole heart, my little bird.

“I Love You Even Though You’re My Daughter”

Sunday night was the most scared I’ve ever been. My almost two year old son fell into a pool. He’s completely fine and my husband and I are recovering slowly. We were at my mom’s house and we wanted to take the kids outside after dinner. While my husband and I were attempting to control the dogs, our kids, almost nine and almost two, took off. When they got to the end of the patio my daughter veered left and my son veered right, straight towards the deep end of my mom’s pool.

I shouted “NO!” and closed the distance between us almost immediately, but not quickly enough to stop him from jumping in.

You always hear that time slows down in those type of situations, for me it was more like my brain sped up. What surprised me was how many thoughts I was able to have in just that split second. My first thought was, “jump in”, naturally. And then (this sounds silly and horrible) I thought about whether or not I should take my shoes off. You always see it in movies, people taking their shoes off before diving in to save someone, but then I thought of how long it would take to take my shoes off. After having all those thoughts, I realized I just needed to grab him and pull him out. His hair wasn’t even wet, my brain had just gone on super drive.

And then everything slowed down. We stripped his wet clothes off him, my husband got a big fluffy towel from inside, we wrapped him up and I held him. I put his head on my chest, wrapped him up in my arms, and rocked him. I wished I could put him back inside me, have him be a part of me again. Keep him safe. I wished I had a kangaroo pouch I could carry him and his sister in. Keep them safe.

I spent that night in his room, awake, aware of every breath he took, every shift he made. In the other room, my husband had nightmares.

Traumatic experience aside, it’s been a very nice week. There’s been a lot of fun and a lot of catching up with dear friends I don’t see often enough. There have been coffees, lunches, playdates and drinks. All with other kick ass moms I’m lucky to know and have as friends. Some of these moms are new moms, and some have been doing it awhile. With all of them the conversation turned to motherhood.

When you get together with a new mom there are always questions. Simple, casual enough, questions that only hint at bigger questions and concerns. “When did yours start sleeping?”, “Do you get out a lot?”, but what you really want to know when you’re a new mom, what I wanted to know, was, “Is this normal?” and “Does this get easier?”.

Yes, it’s normal. Normal to be exhausted, normal to miss your independence, normal to wonder in the back of your head if motherhood was a wise decision. Normal for your baby to not sleep, or not poop, or sleep too much, or poop too much.

No, it doesn’t get easier. Because sleepless nights turn into toddlers running towards pools or eight year olds screaming, “Are you happy now?” before stomping into their bedroom.

My wonderful week of mom time was capped off with drinks with my own mom tonight. I mentioned all the other moms I had seen, the conversations I’d had, and how difficult motherhood can be. She said….

“What no one can understand until they become a mother, is that it’s all the time. I thought I would have you, but then I’d go to class, or work, and not be a mom for awhile. But your kids are always with you. And then, I thought once you were eighteen it would be this relationship between two adults, but I’m still a mom. Even when your kids are in their thirties and have kids of their own, that need to provide, to protect, and make sure you’re happy, it never goes away.”

As we said goodbye she hugged me and said, “I love you even though you’re my daughter.”

“Jesus mom,” I scoffed.

“You know what I mean,” she said.

Yeah, I do. I love you even though I had to give up parts of who I was. I love you even though you make me second guess myself and worry constantly. I love you and sometimes wish I could stuff you in a big kangaroo pouch and protect you from the bad things. I love you even though you make me tired and crazy. I love you because even as you grow apart from me, you are still a part of me. The very best part.

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Popcorns: Honey Butter and Air Popped in the Microwave

Air Popped in the Microwave

Once upon a time, it was the last day of summer vacation. The kids were screaming and chasing each other around the coach.

“Who wants popcorn and a movie?” I asked.

My family eats a lot of popcorn. We usually make it on the stove in a big pot with oil. So while the kids picked out and started a movie, I went to start the popcorn, only to find we were out of oil. 😱

This left me with a few options; 1. Pile the kids in the car in the ninety nine degree heat and go to the store. 2. Tell them I couldn’t make popcorn and face the inevitable tantrums. 3. Figure something out.

I’d seen online that it was possible to make popcorn in the microwave, but I always assumed it was a “fail” waiting to happen. But heck, how bad could it be? So I looked it up online, found the ratio of popcorn to oil, made sure I could use olive oil, and tried it. And…. it worked! Not only that, it was really good! So much lighter than popping it in oil on the stove.

Instructions

  1. Pour 1/2 cup popcorn kernels, and 1 tablespoon oil (I used olive) into a paper bag. And sprinkle salt on to the kernels.
  2. Fold the top of the bag two or three times. You want to make sure the bag doesn’t open, but you also want to leave room in the bag for the kernels to pop. And don’t worry about trying to make the bag flat, like your typical microwave popcorn.
  3. Put the bag in the microwave standing up. Set the timer for three minutes on high heat. Stop the microwave when the popping slows down.
  4. Pour in a bowl and season as desired. Speaking of seasoning……

Honey Butter Popcorn

My son loves honey. I mean, really, really loves honey. He still has trouble saying “dada”, but ask him what he wants to eat and he’ll proudly say “honey” loud and clear.

I’m always trying to figure out things to do with honey. One afternoon, he was once again asking for honey, when I was reminded of the honey popcorn I’d seen at Disneyland way back in the day. Hmmmm.

I popped my popcorn in the microwave, melted 2 tablespoons honey with 2 tablespoons butter, and poured it on top. Then I salted generously.

Okay, I’m pretty much a purist when it comes to popcorn. Give me salt and butter or give me death. I am not a huge fan of kettle corn, it tastes like it can’t make up its mind. So I had low expectations for the honey butter. I figured it’d be a nice treat for the kids, but not so much my cup of tea.

Little did I know, put honey butter on popcorn and you have the popcorn equivalent of crack. I could not get enough. In fact, I immediately had to make a second batch.

FYI, 2 tablespoons each of honey and butter is a lot, and will generously cost your popcorn. Feel free to go with less, or less of one or the other. I like my popcorn well coated, and found that 2 tablespoons of each was pretty perfect.

A Mother’s Diet: Guilt, Shame and Brussel Sprouts

A few months ago I was getting dressed and my pants were tighter than normal. I looked down at my belly, my rolls, and thought, “Oh my God, I’m a f**king Before picture.” I wanted to scream. That morning I decided to lose weight. But it wasn’t that simple, nothing ever is. I almost immediately started to argue with myself.

“Why do you want to lose weight?” the voice in my head asked, “Are you insecure? You shouldn’t be insecure, everyone is beautiful.”

“Don’t focus on your weight, that’s one small aspect of who you are. You’re being vain.”

I started to spiral, worried that people would judge me for wanting to lose weight, worried people already judged me for not losing weight, but my biggest concern was my daughter. How could I consciously try to lose weight without setting a bad example for her? I remember growing up around women who focused on their weight, I remember thinking how silly they sounded, but what if my daughter didn’t think it was silly? At almost nine years old I know that she is already receiving those messages that weight is important, despite our best efforts to avoid them. How could I, her biggest influencer, in good conscience add to the narrative that thinner is better?

I remember her mentioning her stomach one time after coming home from school and my heart broke. Always, always with her we talk about health and what her body needs and wants. When she mentioned her stomach I told her it was exactly the right size for her. We talk about food we talk about eating lots of different kinds of food because that’s what her body needs to be healthy and grow big. When she gets an upset stomach from too much sugar, we tell her that it is her body’s way of telling her it doesn’t like having all that sugar.

I have been so careful about how ( and how much) we talk about health and diet, not only so that she grows up healthy, but also so that she has a strong sense of ownership that it is HER body, and no one else’s….. Why wasn’t I doing the same thing for myself? After years of breastfeeding, being pregnant, trying to get pregnant, my body finally feels like mine and mine alone again. So why did I feel my wanting to lose weight was up to anyone other than me?

So, I started to exercise and I started to diet. I’ve lost twelve pounds so far and I feel great. But honestly, that great feeling has so little to do with losing weight. I feel great because I’ve put myself first. For just a few hours a week, I am no one’s mom, daughter, friend, I’m just me. Focused on myself and getting stronger, and faster. And doing that for myself, caring for myself first, has made me that much more present for the people I love.

Today I walked farther and faster than I ever have before. I started to tear up. I realize, I’m not a Before picture. I will always be an After picture. After becoming a mom, after becoming a wife, after losing a pregnancy, after dealing with depression, after, after, after. It’s not Day One, or Day Twenty, it’s just another day. I won’t discredit where and who I’ve been before, because they’ve gotten me where I am today. Happier, stronger, and healthier.

Goodbye Summer

One of my favorite things to do as a mom is walk my daughter to school. Walking feels almost like a remnant of a bygone time, so I treasure it. Her school is a couple blocks, and one big grassy park away, and only takes us fifteen minutes to get there. Sometimes if the weather is really awful we’ll drive, but I try to walk as much as we can. We watch for our neighborhood family of roadrunners on the way. We say good morning to the dogs. Today we met Stella and Luna, very good dogs indeed.

The walk is calm until we get to the park. Once there you can hear the crossing guard’s whistle, and kids yelling to their friends. Sometimes they’ll yell at my daughter and we’ll walk the rest of the way with friends. The girls walking in front, talking, the grown ups and my son following close behind. It’s loud, and energetic and joyful.

And then the bell rings. Kids go to class, parents go to work. My son and I walk home. The once bustling park is now quiet and empty with the exception of a few joggers and retirees. It’s a completely different place. We listen to the wind in the trees, and watch out for robins and sparrows. It’s peaceful.

Today was my daughter’s first day of third grade. It also marked the end of my first summer as a stay at home mom. I’m not going to lie, I was nervous about this summer. I mean, I love my kids, but spending all day every day with them? I don’t love anyone that much. But, we survived! We all still love each other, and we even had fun! Of course we didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to. My daughter wanted to go to the beach and that didn’t happen. My house is not as clean as I was hoping to get it, and I didn’t write as much as I meant to. My kids watched way more television than I had wanted. But we had fun. And I got through it.

And we had adventures! There was the girls weekend my daughter and I took with my mom at Tamaya Resort, where we spent all day at the pool and ordered room service. We spent two weeks outside of Durango at the family cabin. We had family friends come stay with us, marking my daughter’s very first sleepover. It was a summer of firsts and also the familiar. And I don’t think I would’ve changed a minute of it.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Mousse

My birthday was a few weeks ago so naturally, I used the occasion as an excuse to make some delicious cupcakes. I like to go all out for birthday desserts (i.e. my husband’s birthday cake) and my birthday is no exception. I’ve been making some iteration of this recipe for more than ten years. I had a similar cake at a local bakery and fell in love with it. When I went back for more a few months later, it was no longer on the menu. So I had to make my own. It’s taken me awhile to get it to where I’m really proud of it.

IMG_0044_16
My birthday cake from 2010. We all have to start somewhere.

Now, there are a lot of components to this recipe, but all of the components are easy to do, I promise. Because of all the components, and because it takes a while for the mousse to set, and the cupcakes to cool, I tend to make the mousse and cupcakes the day before I want to serve them and then put everything together the day of. It can totally be done in one day though. I just tend to get antsy waiting for the mousse to set completely. Also, I use a cake mix to make my chocolate cupcakes. Don’t hate me.

Ingredients

For the strawberry mousse

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups cut up fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream

For the cupcakes

  • 1 Devil’s Food cake mix
  • whatever ingredients cake mix calls for

For the ganache

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

For the whipped cream

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

Directions

For the strawberry mousse

  1. Sprinkle the gelatin on top of the 1/4 cup of water. Let it sit for five minutes while you get your strawberries going.
  2. Put your strawberries and the sugar into a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Move your strawberry and sugar mixture to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the gelatin mixture until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
  5. Chill in the refrigerator until cool and the consistency of egg whites.
  6. Once your strawberry mixture is cool, start to beat your cream into whipped cream. Start at a low speed until foamy, and then increase your speed to medium/medium-high. Beat until peaks form. You’ll know it’s done when you can tilt the bowl on it’s side (slowly, otherwise, uh-oh) and the whipped cream holds its shape instead of sloshing all over.
  7. Gently fold in your strawberry mixture until fully incorporated. And I mean gently. You don’t want to lose all that air you just beat into your whipped cream, so be gentle and sweet to your mousse. 😉
  8. Let chill for at least 30 minutes. You want your mousse to be nice and firm.

    IMG_2770
    Mmmm. Perfectly set mousse.

For the cupcakes

  1. Prepare your cupcakes according to the box, or use your favorite chocolate cake recipe. Honestly, after getting the mousse just right, you’ve earned the right to make the cupcakes as easy as possible.
  2. Let them cool COMPLETELY.

Assembling the cupcakes

  1. Once your mousse is set, and your cupcakes are cool, you’re ready to put them all together.
  2. To fill the cupcakes you’ll need a pastry bag (or large Ziploc or sandwich type bag) and a long, thin, pastry tip. Fill the pastry bag with your mousse, about half full (more than that and you’ll end up with strawberry mousse all over your hands like I did). Stick your pastry tip into the center of the cupcake about halfway. Pull out the tip a little bit and squeeze the mousse into the cupcake. At the risk of sounding like a big old weirdo, this step is a lot of fun! You can actually see the cupcakes getting filled with mousse. You’ll know it’s good when little cracks start to form in the top of the cupcake.
  3. Once all of the cupcakes are filled, it’s time to make the chocolate ganache to put on top. Melt the chocolate chips and cream in a saucepan on medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Nothing is worse than burned chocolate. Once the ganache is smooth and shiny, take it off the heat and top your cupcakes.
  4. I put the ganache on with a spoon, while holding the cupcake at an angle. I start at the edge of the cupcake, and let gravity do most of the work for me. I keep adding ganache on the edge, turning the cupcake as I go, and once I have enough on there (and a little goes a long way) I use the back of the spoon to smooth it out and cover the middle, where I filled the cupcake with mousse. Doing it this way cuts down on how much mousse mixes with the ganache and makes it look prettier. And if a little pink gets in your ganache, don’t worry, you can cover it up with whipped cream.
  5. I top my cupcakes with whipped cream and sliced strawberries right before I serve them. The whipped cream helps cut through all the richness and sweetness, also, everything is better with whipped cream. And the strawberries look cute. Make your whipped cream the same way you did with the strawberry mousse, start at a low speed, increase when it gets foamy. You can use another pastry bag and pastry tip for fun shapes, or just scoop a little dollop on top, you literally can’t go wrong when you’re adding whipped cream to things.

And there you have it! My favorite cupcake and my birthday tradition. I hope you enjoy!