Starry Night Bakery – Westminster, MD

Starry Night Bakery is located in Westminster, Maryland, which is about a 20 minute drive from my house. I’ve visited a few times, and they do a really good job with coffee drinks and sweets. They participated in Cupcake Wars for a reason – they know how to bake.

I started off with ordering a coffee drink. I ordered a dark chocolate mocha frappe with peppermint. The drink had nice flavor to it. The dark chocolate and espresso worked well together, and there was just an underlying hint of peppermint flavor. The consistency was also nice. There were a couple of sips in the beginning that were thick (but not icy), but after that, it was all good.

I took a few pictures of some of the offerings. They had some nicely designed specialty cakes, they had vegan friendly treats, and they had treats other than just cupcakes. So there are options if you have different cravings. I ended up ordering three cupcakes. One Total Eclipse, one Oreo Stuffed, and one Pumpkin Maple.

I started with the Pumpkin Maple cupcake. The consistency of the cupcake was very good and moist. The maple frosting had a nice flavor and was not overly sweet. The flavor of the frosting and flavor of the cupcake paired very nicely. This was a very good cupcake.

The next one I tried was the Oreo Stuffed cupcake. There was an Oreo cookie baked into the cupcake. The cupcake itself had good flavor and was moist. The Oreo was soft, but still had a little firmness, so it wasn’t soggy. It was the perfect consistency for a cupcake. The frosting worked well with his cupcake, and the added touch of Oreo pieces brought everything together.

The final cupcake I tried was a larger one, the Total Eclipse. The cupcake was really good. Nice and moist, good consistency. There was some chocolate filling in there, and then a really good fudgy frosting. Although all three cupcakes were really good, this was by far my favorite. I look forward to trying more flavors in the future.


Wednesday Morning in Westminster, MD for a Good Cause

When I have time on Sundays, I try to buy a couple of the Sunday newspapers. I was fortunate to get the local newspaper this past Sunday. There was an insert for Boscov’s and it mentioned a special event they were going to be doing today, starting at 8:00 AM. It is Boscov’s 23rd Annual Friends Helping Friends event. If a customer wants to donate $5 to one of the participating non-profits of their choice, they will receive a coupon for 25% off. Since that sounded like a good idea to me (even if I didn’t end up buying anything), I decided to plan my morning. We were scheduled to get some heavy rain starting anywhere between 10AM and 12PM, so I knew I would need an early start.

The two places I wanted to visit before Boscov’s were JeannieBird Baking Company and Birdie’s Cafe. They are about 3/4 of a mile apart. I decided to park close to Birdie’s Cafe and then walk down to JeannieBird, and then come back up. Sometimes a walk can do you good.

When I arrived at JeannieBird’s, there was not a long line (this was around 8:30 AM on a weekday morning, so it’s not surprising). I looked through the different sweet options since I had ordered a savory breakfast sandwich the last time I was here. The thing that caught my eye was Pumpkin Rolls. Think Cinnamon Rolls, only with pumpkin. I asked if there were raisins in it, and thankfully the answer was no. I had three options, though: regular frosting, cream cheese frosting, or crumb topping. I decided to go with a crumb topping, and I’m glad that I did. They warmed it up for me, which was even better.

The three main components to this are the dough, the filling, and the topping. The dough had good flavor. Not a heavy yeast flavor, not too sweet. And cooked to the right consistency. The filling was also very good. The spices and the pumpkin blended well together, so the pumpkin wasn’t overbearing, but it was definitely there. The crumb topping was great. There was a texture that I wasn’t used to in crumb topping, and it worked really well. I thought that it might be oats, so I asked the team, and they confirmed with the chef that they indeed use oats in the crumb topping. This was definitely a good choice by me, and something that I would order again.

While making the walk from JeannieBird’s to Birdie’s Cafe, I saw a couple of neat signs. The first was in front of the Post Office building and the second was on the building itself. I don’t remember when or if I’ve seen a Fallout Shelter sign before, so I thought this was pretty cool.

Snowbird from Birdie’s Cafe

Birdie’s frozen coffee drinks are called Snowbirds, which is a pretty fun take on their name. They have plenty of options as well. Since we are still in the season, I decided to go with the Pumpkin Snowbird. There was a nice pumpkin flavor, which was not too heavy, and a very subtle spice flavor. This was not icy at all. The straw was very thin, and there were no issues drinking this, which means there were no chunks of ice to clog things up or get stuck on the bottom. Very good drink and one I’ll get again. I’ve been to Birdie’s Cafe several times, but haven’t had a chance to write about it until today.

I took a couple of tree pictures, but this was the best of them. Quite a few colors, which made for some nice scenery. I was walking when I took this one. There were some other tree ranges which looked really nice, but I saw them while I was driving. There are signs that indicate no stopping unless for emergencies, so I couldn’t stop to take pictures.

I did finally make my way over to Boscov’s. I paid $5 for a non-profit of my choosing, and got a coupon. I only bought a couple of clothes that were already on sale, so my 25% got me less than $5 off, but I was perfectly fine with that. I wasn’t sure if I was going to buy anything. I had to assess my needs versus my wants, with a little grey area for in between. My wants included an all in one turntable/CD player/Radio/Cassette, but that was not something that I really need right now or have the room for in my house right now. There were some cooking appliances that fell into that same category. It didn’t matter to me, since I was just there for the $5 to a non-profit anyway.

The rain started to pick up a little after 10:30AM, so it was while I was finished shopping at Boscov’s, but still running errands close to home (grocery shopping). I took a video of the sounds of the rain from my enclosed patio. Feel free to check it out on my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr account if you would like.

There are days when I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot in a short amount of time. Today was one of those days. I can’t help but feel positive after a morning like this.

Quick and Easy White Chocolate Pumpkin Pudding Pie Recipe

I am sharing a twist to a recipe that some of you might be familiar with. You might have seen the traditional pudding pie recipe on places such as the back of the label of a graham cracker crust, the side of a pudding box, or somewhere else. White chocolate and pumpkin occasionally go together in recipes, which is the reason I wanted to try this twist today.

The total prep time for this was less than 20 minutes. Once it’s put together, it should still be refrigerated for at least an hour or so, but at least the prep work can go by fairly quickly. The ingredients I used for this are as follows:

4 cups of milk split into two equal portions (I used 2% milk)

1 small package instant pudding – Pumpkin Spice

1 small package instant pudding – White Chocolate

1 Graham Cracker Pie Crust

1/2 – 3/4 of an 8 ounce container of whipped topping

The first step is to make the instant pudding packages as directed (usually 2 cups of milk and the pudding mix mixed together for about 2 minutes). If you happen to have a 32 ounce Blender Bottle around, this works really well for mixing each of the puddings. Once the puddings are in their bowls, they should take about 5 minutes to set.

I put the puddings into the Graham Cracker Pie shell side by side.

I then used a fork to swirl them together. I didn’t want to have them completely mixed together, but wanted there to be a distinction between the white chocolate pudding and the pumpkin spice pudding.

The final step was to put the whipped cream topping on top. If you want to use the entire container, then go for it. I only used slightly more than half the container, since I didn’t think it would need a heavy amount of the topping, and it would be harder to use the lid to seal the pie if there was too much.

It is now ready to dig in. I hadn’t tried this before, but I like how the flavor turned out. The white chocolate pudding is a very smooth, mild flavor. The pumpkin spice pudding gives it a little kick that it needs. The graham cracker crust adds another layer of flavor as well as some much needed texture. The whipped topping adds some creamy sweetness to round it all out.

I have tried different variations before, but usually with chocolate pudding – layering with ganache, combining the pudding and whipped topping together, etc. It was nice to try something I hadn’t done before and have it turn out to taste good, too.

A Nice Saturday Morning in Columbia, MD

It’s nice when a plan works out as intended. I had an idea for how I wanted my morning to go, and it ended up going pretty well. I would have preferred my football team won, but that was beyond my control (even though I was wearing my lucky shirt).

Today was a great weather day. Low 50s when I left, low 60s when I was out and about, and low 70s when I got back home. I started the day off by heading down to Wegman’s. I got myself a breakfast sandwich and a pumpkin frappe, so I was off to a good start. I then ran a couple of errands, which included heading over to Big Lots. When I was leaving Big Lots, there were some Canada Geese in the parking lot.

Not surprisingly, they do not walk in a “V” formation. 🙂 It’s not unusual to see them walking around in Columbia, but it was just one of those things that made my morning even better. I ran a few more errands and then made my way over to The Mall in Columbia. There was one main reason for to go there, and that was to try the new Pumpkin Spice Chocolixir at Godiva. I walked through a few stores along the way, and showed some good restraint by not making any purchases.

When the drink was being made, I was asked if I wanted some of the cinnamon mix blended into my drink, and I answered in the affirmative. I am glad that I did. The drink was put together nicely, with the added touches of the drizzle on the side and on top of the whipped cream. The consistency was very much like a thick milkshake, so they were successful there. With my first couple of sips, it tasted just like a pumpkin pie. There was a very strong pumpkin flavor in those first few tastes. As I drank more, the cinnamon mixture that was in the drink and swirled on the sides and on top started to become more integrated into the drink. This added a nice layer of sweetness to the drink, which brought a nice balance to the pumpkin flavor. When I finished up the drink, the consistency was still there, so I was happy with the overall experience. This was the first time I ordered this drink, and I will get it again if they bring it back next year.

I still had a few more errands to run before I picked up lunch. While driving, I noticed some really nice scenery. When I was walking out of Barnes & Noble and heading over to my car, some nicely colored trees in the distance caught my eye. I drove over to the parking lot and decided to take some pictures of the trees and leaves. All pictures were taken with my iPhone 6.

I like how this picture turned out. I think the cloud formations in the background add a nice element to this one. There is a nice combination of colors in this tree.

I wanted to get a little closer, just so you can see the different colors that are coming through in this tree.

Even closer still. The colors were more vibrant in person, but the camera doesn’t do them justice.

This was another tree that I saw and enjoyed visually.

I tried to get a close up, but I don’t think it came through very well. There are some leaves that have changed colors, but there are also some leaves in there that had already changed color and were starting to shrivel up.

This leaf was laying on the ground. I like how you can see the red and orange, as well as some yellow in the veins.

This was another leaf that caught my eye because there was still some green in the veins.

This last picture of a leaf was on the parking lot, not too far from the others (they are all from the same tree). The red in this leaf was much more prominent than the others.

When I have mornings like this, I can’t help but be in a good mood (even with only 4 hours of sleep). I had a rough outlined of my morning planned out for more than a week. I added a couple of errands yesterday, but was really happy to have the extra bits of nature highlight my day. I look forward to what tomorrow brings, even if it doesn’t go exactly as I might hope. I’ll just stay positive and keep on smiling!

Spring Mill Bread Co – Gaithersburg, MD

Yesterday, while I was out and about, I made a stop by Spring Mill Bread Company in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I usually visit there 3-5 times a year, and always get the same thing, their Pesto Asiago Bread. I know I should branch out and try some of their other breads, and I will eventually do it, but their Pesto Asiago Bread is just really good.

When you walk into the store, it’s just a small area for the customers. I think this works really well, since the real star of this place is the food. There is another area with sweets, but I didn’t take a picture of it yesterday. One of the things I really enjoy about this place is that the oven is right there, so you can see what is being baked. I’ve come in and watched as they were rolling out the bread, watched as they were taking things out of the oven. This is baked fresh on-site, so these aren’t being shipped in from somewhere else and then re-baked to “freshness”. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just think the fresh bread experience is really neat.

While I was perusing through the different options, I noticed some samples. I asked for a sample of an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie. I’m not a fan of raisins, so this sounded good. It also tasted good. Definitely a cookie I would get again. I also noticed that they had a pumpkin log, so I purchased a slice of that. The flavor was on point. The pumpkin roll had the flavor of pumpkin and spices together. It had a firmness with the pumpkin roll that worked well with the spongy interior. The cream cheese frosting was a nice additional touch. It may seem like a lot, but when paired with the pumpkin roll, it worked perfectly. The outside was dusted with powdered sugar, which was a nice finishing touch.

Now, onto the Pesto Asiago Bread. This was good, as is always the case. The crust is firm, but not solid. The inside bread part has the perfect squish to it. The swirl of pesto and asiago cheese gives it a nice flavor without being overpowering. I tend to heat these up in my toaster oven and then add a little bit of butter, unless I’m having pasta, in which case I’m just going to dip it into the sauce or eat it with the pasta. One of the things I really enjoy about this bread is that no two loaves are exactly alike. I can appreciate the bread you get in the grocery stores, where there is uniformity. But when you have a bread like this, I think having some variance is what makes it better. Each bite will not taste the same. Some will have more pesto than others, some more asiago cheese, some more bread. I enjoy multiple bites of happiness every time.

I look forward to my next visit down to Gaithersburg. Maybe I’ll try a different bread. Maybe I’ll stick with just the Pesto Asiago Bread. No matter what, it will be a good and positive experience.

French Toast Crepes – French Twist Cafe

French Toast Crepe

I happened to notice that the specialty crepe at French Twist Cafe was the French Toast Crepe. I’ve had this before and enjoyed it, so I wanted to have it again while it was still available. It was delicious, as was the pumpkin frappe that I ordered.

The French Twist Cafe has a small shop on the first floor, and you are able to watch as the employees make your coffee drinks or your crepes. The crepe making process is always fun to watch, but today it was even better.

I enjoy when someone is very structured in their processes, whether it’s putting items on a shelf, doing a training, making food, or anything else. The person making the crepe was very structured and focused on their job, which I enjoyed watching. There is a poetry to the way the food was made, and it was a captivating poem to watch.

They started out be putting the batter on the crepe griddle and using the batter spreader for even distribution. Once this was done, they waited until the bottom was a nice brown and then they flipped the crepe over.

Next, they cracked two eggs on top of the crepe. They then started lightly spreading the eggs all around. The best way for me to describe this is as a light scramble. Not to get the eggs fluffed, but to combine the yolk and whites to add a nice layer on top of the crepe. Once this was complete, the cinnamon sugar mixture was swirled on top of the eggs. A swirl of maple syrup was next, but before that, the employee made a slight adjustment to make sure everything looked good. This is something that is going to be on the inside of the crepe and not visible to the person eating the food, but it’s something that makes me really appreciate how much someone truly enjoys what they are doing. To me, it is artistic to consider the aesthetics of something being done in the middle of the process, even if it won’t be seen or viewed in the final product. It’s an attention to detail during the creation of the food that makes me appreciate it even more. Once the swirl of maple syrup was put on, the crepe was folded in half.

After about 10 seconds (just my guess), the crepe was ready to be folded into thirds. Powdered sugar went on top, then a maple syrup drizzle, followed up with three dollops of whipped cream on the side. It was a beautiful piece of work, which I hope you can see in my first photo. But more importantly, the crepe was delicious. The combination of the eggs, cinnamon sugar, and maple syrup truly gave this a French toast flavor to the tastebuds. And adding in just a little bit of whipped cream on some of the bites gave it a tinge more sweetness, which worked really well with the cinnamon.

The crepes and the coffee drinks at French Twist Cafe continue to make me go back for more. The employees who work there give it a family feel, and their care and dedication in everything they do makes for an even better experience.

This was definitely a great way to start the morning. Stay Positive!

Kismet Cafe – Eldersburg, MD

This morning I took a short drive to another place that I frequent, Kismet Cafe. I have always just gone there for a coffee drink, but today I decided to try one of their bagels as well. The last couple of times I went there, I noticed some of their cream cheese flavors, which is what made me decide to try them.

I’m not the biggest fan of bagels. I will get them every so often, but it’s not normally a food I crave. When I walked into Kismet Cafe this morning, I knew the coffee drink I would be getting: Pumpkin Spice Kismeccino Frozen Coffee. I perused the bagel options and one definitely stood out for me: Challah bagel. So I ordered that, toasted and then had to decide on the cream cheese. There were some good options, but it was ultimately between garlic herb and bacon horseradish scallion. I opted for the garlic herb today, but might try the other one in the future.

The Kismeccino was a good coffee drink. The flavor blend of the pumpkin was nice and the overall consistency was good, with just a little iciness to it. The bagel was really good. The outside had a nice crispness to it, and the inside was very light and not too chewy. It was not like the bagels that I’m used to eating. The garlic herb cream cheese was also really good. There was a definite flavor explosion, but it was not so overpowering that I couldn’t enjoy the bagel. I will get this cream cheese again, but I will also try the bacon horseradish scallion (if they have it).

I didn’t realize it until it was too late, but they have also started baking pumpkin bagels. I might try one of those in the near future. I already know which specialty cream cheese will be a great complement: honey walnut. So I’ll take a future trip here and know that the food will be worth it. I already knew the coffee drinks were worth the visit, but it’s good to know that I can enjoy their bagels as well.

Stay positive and enjoy the day!

Enjoying New Freedom, and Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania

Earlier in the week, I thought about a possible destination for Saturday, and I followed through with it. I took a scenic drive up to New Freedom, Pennsylvania. The drive was beautiful. I passed by some cows and some horses, which were so close that I would have been able to pet them if I was walking next to the road. I took the long way, so there were some parts of the trip where there was only 1 1/2 lanes, so I was fortunate that I was the only one on the road. There were also some spots of gorgeous scenery.

There was one part of the drive where the road was winding quite a bit, but then there was a curve to the right and it was the perfect visual spot. The road opened up a bit and there was a slight valley and then a low mountain full of trees. Seeing those trees along my sightline made my eyes happy. I was fortunate enough to drive through some small towns and very out of the way places.

My first destination was New Freedom, PA. I planned on going to the New Freedom Rail Trail Cafe. The last time I was there was about 2 1/2 years ago, when I was looking for houses (ended up getting one in Maryland, but there were some in Southern Pennsylvania that almost won me over). When I arrived at the cafe, there was a lot of hubbub going on. The town was setting up for their Fall Fest. I got there too early to stick around and see it, but I did go to the cafe.

I had wanted to get the Boxcar Tourist, but they had a special menu for Fall Fest, so I had to improvise. I’ve had the Boxcar Tourist before, and it was really good. It’s sausage gravy on biscuits with a fried egg. I ended up getting a pumpkin spice muffin and a hazelnut/chocolate coffee drink. The muffin was good. It was a bit heavier due to the pumpkin and had a slight spice flavor. I enjoyed it, but would have liked a little more nutmeg or cinnamon in there. The coffee drink was really good. I know I’ve been getting the pumpkin drinks everywhere, but I had a Nutella type coffee drink on my mind, so that’s what I went with. I ended up heading out after I was done, since I didn’t want to wait another hour or so for the Fall Fest to start. It looked like it was going to be pretty fun, though, just based on all the setup they were doing.

My next destination was The Markets at Shrewsbury. This is another Amish Farmer’s Market that is only open Thursday through Saturday, which is why this was on my agenda for today. This Farmer’s Market is huge. It looks bigger than the one in Annapolis. Although there are some similarities with the products, there are some distinct differences. I did enjoy visiting and plan on coming back again. I bought some items at the bakery, and will go back for more when the weather is cooler and the food that needs to stay cool will make the 1 hour drive back home.

I know that this picture isn’t clear, but I’m okay with that. It’s a huge building and I couldn’t capture everything at once. But I like how the sun is shining on top and the rays are coming down over the building.

These are some pictures from inside the building. The first one is just to show how deep this market goes. The other two are pictures I took at the bakery. I was tempted to buy some donuts, but was already full from the pumpkin muffin and had some other desserts in mind for purchase. There are a lot of vendors to choose from, which is why I plan on visiting again. Now, onto the bakery treats.

This first one is called Angel Food Flips. My pictures don’t do it justice, but it definitely tastes better than it looks. You’ve got the nice texture and consistency of the Angel Food cake in a taco shape, with what I believe is a whoopee pie filling on the inside and then drizzled with chocolate. This was something I haven’t seen before, so it was definitely worth the trip.

Next up is a Homemade Butter Cake. I’ve had Butter Cakes before, and they can be hit or miss. I’m not just saying this because they don’t have chocolate in them. 🙂 This Butter Cake was fantastic. The bottom layer was cooked perfectly and the top layer was a little gooey, but not so sticky that you couldn’t enjoy the bite. There was also a slight brown butter taste to it, which helped make it a more well rounded taste. Sweet, but not too sweet.

The last thing I got was a Chocolate Coffee Cake. They had several options for coffee cake, but I wanted to try this one. Sometimes a chocolate coffee cake can be too dry, especially on the chocolate layer. And when you have a huge amount of crumb topping like this one had, there is a tendency for the crumb to dry things out. This was not the case with this treat. The chocolate cake layer was moist. The crumb layer was nice and crisp on top, but it maintained it’s moisture underneath. I was able to bite through the entire coffee cake, instead of having to crunch through the top and have a crumb disintegration issue. Hopefully, you’ll understand what I’m trying to convey.

Today involved a lot of eating, but I’m okay with that. It was good food, good scenery, and good people. And as an added bonus for me, when I was driving up in the morning, “Always” by Atlantic Starr was playing. It’s been a while since I heard that song, so I was quite happy to sing along to it. And since it was a 1 1/2 lane road and I was the only one on it, it’s better that there was no one around to hear or see me while I was enjoying the music and enjoying the ride.

There are days when I get to just drive around, and I really enjoy them. I get to see places and scenery that not everyone else has a chance to see. I get to eat things and try things that others might not be able to experience. So I appreciate and enjoy these opportunities while I still have them. Stay positive!

Norwood Ice Cream – Sykesville, MD 9.17.19

After enjoying a nice lunch, I decided to top it off with some ice cream. The temperature was in the upper 70s, so I thought it would be a nice and refreshing treat. I decided to go to Norwood Ice Cream in Sykesville, MD. This is a nice little store on Main Street. Downtown Sykesville really has a true old town feel to it and is what I enjoy about Small Town Living. There are plenty of ice cream options, and they also sell Wockenfuss chocolates, so you can get a sweet fix in a couple of different ways.

There were plenty of options, as you can hopefully see from the picture of the flavors. I tried the Pumpkin Spice (bonus flavor that wasn’t listed) and the Scout Mint. The pumpkin spice had a nice pumpkin flavor to it, but I was in the mood for some mint flavor. The Scout Mint had a nice creaminess to the ice cream. There were some tiny flecks of Thin Mint cookies, but every so often you would get a nice sized chunk of the cookie, which were the bites that I really enjoyed.

I had a bit of a bonus with the spoon. When I saw that it changed colors with the cold temperature, I had to smile,. I’m not sure why, since I don’t remember those being around when I was younger. But it was just one of those moments that made me feel young. I took the spoon home with me, by the way.

I liked this ice cream. I’ve enjoyed some of their other flavors as well. They make small batches in the store, which means there will almost always be something a little unique or different available. And it brings people like me coming back for more!

Krispy Kreme – Pumpkin

I decided to go to Krispy Kreme to try some of their pumpkin offerings. I was unfortunately a few days late to the pumpkin spice stuffed donuts party (it ran from 9/2-9/8), but I was still able to get their Pumpkin Spice Cake Donut and their Pumpkin Spice Frozen Latte. I added in an original glazed donut just because I could.

I started off with the original and devoured it in three bites, which is easy to do when it’s nice and warm (having a big mouth helps as well). I then went on to the pumpkin spice cake donut. The glaze was on the top but not on the bottom of the donut, but that didn’t really matter. The donut had a nice texture to it and the flavor of the spices were not overwhelming. It was a very good cake donut. The coffee drink was an interesting one for me. It was a bit too thick to start and very heavy on the pumpkin flavor. I was not a fan of my first few sips. After I gave it a couple of minutes, the consistency got better, and I was able to stir in some of the cinnamon that was sprinkled on top of the whipped cream. Once this happened, the drink was the perfect thickness and the cinnamon perfectly complemented the pumpkin flavor. This ended up being a very good frozen coffee drink, much to my pleasant surprise.