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Getting Tipsy at the Bar

Well, maybe the word is giddy...and I was surrounded by underage customers because it was at a cupcake bar. I'm talking about Treat Cupcake Bar in Needham that opened its doors in July. With pastel circles and stripes highlighting the interior and the front door exhaling sweet baking smells, it's no surprise this place was a huge hit from day one. The founder, David LaLiberte, knew that cupcakes were hot—seems a new cupcakery pops up somewhere every month—but took them a step further. The difference with Treat is the frosting. A customized frosting in which you select up to three toppings that are hand-mixed and then served alongside a plain cupcake. The fun part is deciding whether you want to slather on the whole thing and dig in, or lightly dab frosting on each bite of cake. There are six cake flavors, five frostings, and almost two-dozen treat toppings from which to choose. There are also ready-made flavors like Needham Cream Pie (gold cake with vanilla filling and chocolate frosting) and Peanut Butter Overload (chocolate cake with peanut butter cups, peanut butter frosting, and ganache). With so many possible varieties, everyone in the family gets giddy.  

Gold Cupcake and Vanilla Frosting with Dark Chocolate Chips, Peppermint Patties, and M&Ms

Seems silly to hope, but FitMamaEats wondered if there was anything a little healthier on the menu? The answer is sort of. Treat offers vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free options that are made with soy milk, trans-fat-free soft margarine, and an egg replacer consisting of flaxseed and water. The gluten-free cupcakes are made with garbanzo bean flour. These modifications translate to less cholesterol and saturated fat but not necessarily less calories and total fat. Thankfully there's automatic portion control if you can remain content with one cupcake, and you receive much more frosting than you actually need so using less saves calories as well. Head baker and manager, Adie Sprague, reports that they get many requests for lower sugar versions, which she is currently testing in the kitchen using sucralose and agave nectar, but admits the recipe needs perfecting. She also wants to test a lower fat version if she ever gets a break from baking: their daily demand is high with cupcakes selling out almost every day.   

Vegan Chocolate Cupcake with Dairy-Free Frosting

I ordered a customized cupcake with three mix-ins (dark chocolate, M&Ms, and Peppermint Patties). The cake was moist but with a large crumb, almost like that of a muffin. I chose the particular mix-ins because I like them individually as treats; blended together in a sweet heavy frosting is a different story. It was really too much and the mint didn't taste good with the vanilla buttercream. Next time I'll ask Treat for mix-in advice, or else just keep it simple with one add-in. I also sampled a ready-made vegan chocolate version that came with a dallop of dairy-free frosting the size of the cupcake itself. It seemed moister than the customized one and I preferred its less busy flavors. My honest overall opinion is that Treat cupcakes taste pretty good. There are bakeries with lighter yet more flavorful frosting and cake, Babycakes in Quincy for example. But Treat is more than its cupcakes—it's about the atmosphere and unique concept. The hours are great, open every day from 10 am to 9 pm with plenty of onstreet parking. They can also host children's parties where kids participate in both the baking and decorating of their own cupcakes.


Milk the Moment

That's the theme of this year's 75-city Milk Mustache Mobile Tour, rolling into Boston next week with celebrity chef and family man, Tyler Florence. He'll be around to demo some kid-approved recipes and to promote the importance of eating healthy dinners together. There will be interactive displays, a local registered dietitian available for nutrition questions, and free milk from Garelick Farms, HP Hood, and Nestle. Studies show that when kids eat dinner with their families they’re more likely to have nutritious diets, healthier weights, and do better in school. They also tend to have higher fruit, vegetable, and calcium intakes. “Family dinnertime provides a host of emotional and health benefits,” says Jenny Bourbeau from the New England Dairy and Food Council. Milk can pump up the nutrient content of any meal as it is a major source of calcium, vitamins B and D, and protein.   

Catch the got milk? crew at Faneuil Hall Marketplace on Monday, August 23 from 10 am to 7 pm. Tyler Florence will be cooking from noon to 1 pm. The Tour will also appear at Zoo New England/Franklin Park Zoo on Tuesday, August 24 from 11 am to 1 pm.

Here's a special giveaway for FitMamaEats readers: A copy of Tyler Florence’s latest cookbook Dinner at My Place and a got milk? t-shirt and picture frame. Tyler's cookbook offers pared-down everyday comfort food recipes. Examples of the family-focused chapters include "Pregnancy Pasta" and "Workin' Late." He even includes recipes for freshly prepared baby foods. Just click on "Contact Me" and send me your name and email address by August 24 to be entered in a random drawing—I'll shoot you a note if you're the winner! Apple


Just Peachy Couscous Salad

If you love couscous, what's better than eating those delicate little grains of pasta? Eating bigger grains of couscous! Otherwise known as pearl couscous or Israeli couscous, it's chewier and heartier than regular couscous and makes the perfect base for adding vegetables or meat. My super intern Christina Regon, not to be confused with my other wonderful contributor Christina Nelson, created this recipe using fresh summer produce including juicy sweet peaches now available everywhere. Christina R. is studying to be a dietitian and is a foodie and former restaurant co-owner. This dish would perfectly complement barbequed chicken or fish or taste delicious solo as a light lunch. When I recreated the recipe, I was able to find all of the produce and herbs at one farm stand. Feel free to use whatever ripe produce you like as just about anything works. I made a few minor changes such as using regular Israeli couscous because I couldn't find whole wheat. I also substituted sliced almonds for the pine nuts, which have a hefty price tag. Even at Trader Joe's, which has the cheapest high-quality nuts around, they cost $7.99 for 8 ounces. No big loss, the almonds worked beautifully. I also cut the oil to about 3 tablespoons. This recipe is easy and kept my 3-year-old son Jake, who has now graduated to Master Stirrer, quite busy!


Couscous Salad


(Makes about 4-6 servings)

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups whole wheat giant pearl couscous (Israeli couscous)

Vegetable or low-sodium chicken stock (enough to cover toasted couscous for simmering)

2 T lemon juice

1 T balsamic, sherry or rice vinegar

1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut into halves

1-1 1/2 cups peaches, cut into wedges

1/2 cup green onions, chopped

1/2 cup bell peppers or radishes, sliced

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

10-12 basil leaves, cut in pieces

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add couscous and toast, stirring, until couscous is golden brown (about 2 minutes). Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover with lid, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender but firm and chewy (4-6 minutes). You may need to add more broth or water if the couscous is drying out before it’s tender.
  2. Remove from heat and transfer couscous to a large bowl, fluffing with a fork. Stir in remaining olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. Set aside to cool. 
  3. Once couscous has cooled, transfer mixture to large bowl and add remaining ingredients.