Wednesday, September 30, 2009

MSC: Banana Pecan Cupcakes

Woo hoo, it's my second Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club challenge! This was a bonus challenge this month, since we already did the zucchini spice cupcakes earlier this month. I was all for a bonus challenge so I could work on my cupcake skills.

These cupcakes were relatively easy to prep, although they made lots of dishes! I am quite a mess-maker in the kitchen in the first place, but today's mess was pretty colossal. I also realized that Martha must be some kind of descendant of Julia Child, the way she uses butter. I buy butter in bulk (I know it's not super-spiffy European butter, but it saves a couple of bucks), and I've already gone through 4 pounds of butter in the last couple of months. It's not all Martha's fault - I happened to buy some crappy cocoa powder which screwed up two batches of my chocolate buttermilk cupcakes, but still.

I got a little creative on Martha this time - I didn't have buttermilk, so I made some sour milk out of whole milk and vinegar. I also made some kid-friendly cupcakes without nuts, since most of the kids I know are under the age where nuts are OK. The mini-cupcakes took about 12
minutes to bake, and they were kind of exciting - they were my first mini-cupcakes!

Husband said the banana flavor was a bit mild, so maybe next time I'd add another banana, but other than that, the flavor was quite good. I paired my cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, because I have a serious backache and couldn't stomach the idea of standing over the stove to make caramel today. So cream cheese was it. I also altered the cream cheese frosting, since this was my second time making it - I omitted the extra 4 oz of cream cheese, since the packages I buy are 12 oz. So instead of making cream cheese frosting with 16 oz of cream cheese, I used 12 oz, which yielded a much stiffer frosting that I much preferred. I will make a note in my book
about that.

I also learned how to use my camera better when it comes to photographing my cupcakes (and other food!). I learned about the macro function - yay! So instead of my cupcakes looking like this...

They look like this!!

The recipe is available in the Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book, on p. 41. Don't forget to tune in around the 15th of next month, to see our next project, the Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes from p. 236, selected by Kim at What the Whisk.

What's on My Nighstand: September

This was a somewhat productive reading month - I did read a bunch, but American Wife slowed me down a lot. I had a hard time getting through it, but once I was glad I was able to finish it off. I'm really looking forward to a lot of the books in my To Be Read pile, and I'm debating whether I'll read Rebecca or The Lovely Bones first, though I'm also itching to read The Lost Symbol. Though I've apparently misplaced my copy of The Lovely Bones, so I guess that will have to go to the bottom of the pile until I can find it!

Polished off this month:

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain - Review to be posted this week, but here's a sneak preview - I really, really liked it!

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld - Still not sure what I think about this book.

Going Overboard: The Misadventures of a Military Wife by Sarah Smiley - This was a book club selection for this month - I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. It was just kind of middle-of-the-road for me.

Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook by Martha Stewart - Love, love, love this cookbook. I got it at the library, and will totally be asking for it for Christmas. There are some awesome tutorials in it and some great recipes, too. I look forward to cooking with this one.

Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share (Martha Stewart Living Magazine) by Martha Stewart - I was much less impressed with this than with the Martha Stewart Cupcakes book. There were some good recipes that I jotted down, but most didn't feel fresh and new to me - just recipes I'd seen in Martha's magazines repeatedly over the years.

Still in the to-be-read pile:
Everything Changes by Jonathan Tropper

Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

How I Became Famous by Steve Hely

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Steak & Onion Sandwiches

Did you know that Everyday Food is put out by Martha? In theory, it's her more user-friendly recipes, and earlier this year during a trip to Home Goods with my best friend, I picked up their cookbook anthology, Everyday Food: Great Food Fast, which so far has yet to let me down. This recipe is one I happened to watch my best friend prepare this last week and it smelled so awesome that I had to hurry up and put it on my own menu.

This was a super easy meal to put together this weekend. We all (except Baby, but then again he's not into meat) really enjoyed it. I used cuban bread for the toasted country bread, and I used yellow onions for my medium onions.

Steak & Onion Sandwiches

Everyday Food: Great Food Fast

Click here for printable recipe **NEW! Tell me if you like this feature!**

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rings
Course salt and fresh ground pepper
4 minute steaks (3 ounces each)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Toasted country bread

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onions until browned, tossing occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; remove.
2. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the same skillet over high heat. Season the steaks with salt and pepper. Cook for 30 seconds on each side; remove. Add the Worcestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons of water to the skillet, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Return the onions to the skillet; toss.
3. Sandwich the steak and onions between toasted country bread. Serve immediately.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Honey Mustard Chicken

This is a super easy recipe to throw together on a night where you've got chicken and just don't know what to do with it. That happens to me a lot, because I stock up on boneless skinless chicken breasts when they're $1.99/lb. That's the best deal we seem to get around here.

Not only that, but Baby LOVES this chicken. He's not a huge fan of meat these days, so we use "special sauce" to liven up meat, like pan sauces and such. This recipe has a built-in sauce, so just boil it for about 5 minutes to kill any bacteria in it from the raw chicken and serve.
Honey Mustard Chicken
Printer-friendly recipe

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 tbsp melted butter
1/3 cup honey
3-4 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Trim chicken, if necessary, and place in a glass baking dish.
3. Combine remaining ingredients with a whisk and pour over chicken.
4. Bake at 375 for approximately 30-45 minutes, flipping chicken every 8-10 minutes. Chicken is done when juices run clear.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Menu Plan Monday for September 28th

What a ridiculously busy weekend! Didn't feel like much a break this week, especially with Husband heading out of town again on Monday. Oh well. At least I have a tasty menu for the week to look forward to.

Last week was full of new recipes left and right. I even started producing some of my recipes in a super-easy printable format. Did you like that? Make sure to leave me a comment to tell me so! This week there are a few more new recipes on the horizon, including one from Martha and one from the Publix Aprons collection, which I've never cooked from before. Also, this week I'll be posting my latest cupcake adventure with the Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club, Banana Pecan Cupcakes, so make sure to check in this week for that.

Monday - Mac and Cheese with Cheddar-Garlic Biscuits from the Food Network Magazine (biscuit recipe to be posted)
Tuesday - Spaghetti and Garlic Bread (or possibly garlic knots if I find the time)
Wednesday - Teriyaki Chicken and Garlic Noodles (Baby just LOVED those noodles)
Friday - BBQ Chicken on Garlic Toast (a new recipe, from Martha - recipe to be posted!)
Saturday - Brown Sugar Glazed Pork (another new recipe, from Publix Aprons - recipe to be posted!)
Sunday - Burgers on the Grill

Friday, September 25, 2009

My favorite age (and not at the same time)

I realized this week that Baby is quite possibly at my favorite age at the moment. Sure, he has his tantrum-filled moments, but I think I take most of them in stride so far, but he also seems to have a sense of humor. This child loves to laugh. He will come up to me and say, "Mama. Tickle. Tickle." He wants to be tickled, because he wants to laugh! So far, he hasn't quite learned the art of tickling other people.

We also have this cute little game - one of Baby's favorite things is the concept of up and down. I don't know that he entirely understands it yet, but this was one of the ways we started teaching him. One of us would lay down, and we would say "Mama down" or "Dada down." Now, Baby thinks it's a game. He'll push one of our shoulders, and says "Mama. Down" and expect for us to lay down. At that point, he'll totally body slam whoever's laid down. In my case the other day, I
think he may have actually bruised my ribs with his elbows.

My little man

By far, though, my favorite thing is the conversations that we have. The fact that he can have conversations is just so amazing to me in the first place. He was a late babbler as a younger baby, and I was constantly concerned about it. I'd bring it up at every pediatrician visit, and my pediatrician would always tell me to relax, that all babies do things at their own pace. It didn't help that I was friends at the time with another mom whose baby was almost six months younger than mine who was babbling far better. It just worried me. Then one day, he just started to babble. And then, he started to speak. "Dada" was his first and only word for a long time. I think "doggy" was his second word. Now, it seems he picks up more words every day, and he's positively mastering the art of mimicking how we speak. He just amazes me.

A month or so ago, we were doing some grocery shopping, and Husband said "Hi Publix" when we walked in, and Baby said it right back to him (Publix is my grocery store of choice). I was so proud, I had to walk up to one of the customer service managers, who I regularly chat with, and tell her all about it.

His quest for independence sometimes gives me a headache - especially last week when he fell down in the driveway and scraped up his arm because he was trying out outrun me, rather than climbing into his car seat. I understand intellectually that he's just learning, but sometimes it can be a little bit of a blow to the ego when he doesn't want anything to do with me. Then he'll turn around later that day and give me a bear hug for no reason (where he grabs me and grrrs like a bear - so sweet!).

Motherhood has been an insane adventure these last nineteen months, one I couldn't possibly have prepared for. Despite all the parenting books I have read (and continue to read), there's nothing like the on-the-job training (or lack thereof). I'm still learning every day.

So tell me, my reader mommies - what was your favorite age? Is the best yet to come?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Teriyaki Chicken and Garlic Noodles

I think you've probably figured out that I really like teriyaki. I do. Chinese and Japanese foods are some of my favorites, and so far, teriyaki is the one I can produce best at home. I tried a new teriyaki recipe recently, but I have to say - I didn't care for the flavor of the teriyaki sauce. I much prefer the sauce that I make with my beef teriyaki recipe. I did, however, really like the cooking method, so I may very well try this again with my teriyaki sauce recipe.

As for the noodles, they were quite tasty, but wow, the recipe is WAY too big!! I have enough leftovers to feed us for a week practically!

Teriyaki Chicken
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Line a 9x13 pan with foil and add chicken.
3. In a small saucepan, whisk cornstarch and water together until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients for sauce and whisk until combined, then simmer until thickened. Make sure to stir frequently to avoid the sauce burning.
4. Once the sauce has thickened, pour over the chicken and mix with rubber spatula to coat well. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Garlic Noodles
**Warning: This makes a ton!**

1 box angel hair pasta, cooked and drained
5 tbsp butter
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cup green onions, chopped
2 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar

Heat a large saucepan and melt 2 tbsp butter. Saute garlic and green onion for about 3 minutes then add fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and 3 more tbsp butter. Make sure the sugar is dissolved before adding the cooked angel hair pasta and toss it all together.

**NEW feature! Make sure to comment and tell me if you like it!**

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Simple Cheese Pizza

I feel like I've hit a cooking milestone - I used a baking stone for the first time! Can't believe it took me this long, especially with my love of pizza. I was really impressed with how this turned out - it was super easy to put together and tasted great, too. Perhaps not as awesome as my famous pan pizza, but still pretty darn good. Not only that, but Baby liked it. A lot! He ate almost two whole slices! Can't beat that!

Basic Pizza Dough
adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Click here for printable recipe!

4 1/4 cups bread lfour, plus extra for the counter
1 envelope (or 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups water, warm

1. Pulse 4 cups of the flour, yeast and salt in a food processor (fitted with a dough blade if possible) to combine. With the processor running, pour the oil, then the water through the feed tube and process until a rough ball forms, 30-40 seconds. Let the dough rest for 2 minutes, then process for 30 seconds longer.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball, about 4 minutes, adding the remaining 1/4 cup of flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Classic Cheese Pizza
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

1 recipe Basic Pizza Dough
Flour for the counter
3 cups pizza sauce (I use Ragu's and I think it's pretty good)
12 ounces mozzarella, shredded (3 cups)
Olive oil

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a baking stone on the rack, and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Let the baking stone heat for at least 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, cut it into three even pieces, and cover with plastic wrap. Working with one piece of dough at a time, shape into a smooth, round ball, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
3. Uncover one ball of dough and stretch and shape the dough into a 12-inch round on a piece of parchment paper. Spread 1 cup of the pizza sauce over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch edge of dough uncovered. Sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella all over. Lightly brush the edge of the dough with oil.
4. Slide the parchment paper and pizza and pizza onto a rimless (or inverted) baking sheet, then slide it onto the hot baking stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and the cheese is golden in spots, 8-13 minutes. Prepare the second pizza while the first bakes.
5. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, discarding the parchment paper. Slice the pizza into 6-8 wedges and consume immediately!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cider-Braised Pork Medallions

I've never cooked with pork medallions before. But, when I read this recipe in All You magazine last month, I tore it out, because it reminded me of the flavor of my glazed pork chops recipe, which I love. I wasn't super impressed with this, though both of my men loved it. The pork was super tender, but I would've preferred having the glaze from my pork chop recipe rather than the chicken broth/apple cider sauce that this recipe made. Still, it was a nice, fast weeknight dinner. I will probably keep this one in my meal rotation, and work on tweaking the sauce to something a little less chicken-tasting.

Cider-Braised Pork Medallions
All You magazine, September 2009 issue
Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 18 minutes
Serves: 4
Cost per serving: $1.19

1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup apple cider

1. Cut tenderloin into eight 1 1/4-inch-thick medallions. In a small bowl, combine flour, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Dredge medallions in flour mixture and shake off any excess.
2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm butter and oil until butter metls. Cook medallions, in batches if necessary, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes per side. Remove to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
3. Pour off any fat remaining in skillet. Return skillet to heat and pour in broth and cider. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Boil rapidly, stirring with a wooden spoon to pick up browned bits on bottom of skillet, until liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
4. Return medallions to skillet, reduce heat to medium and cook, turning, until sauce is syrupy, and medallions are cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Tips from All You:
* Try poultry. This dish is also delicious with the same about of skinless, boneless chicken breasts. Rinse the chicken, pat dry and slice into strips.
* Choose juice instead. Can't find apple cider? Substitute apple juice. Just be sure to look for a variety that is 100 percent pure juice.

Monday, September 21, 2009


My mom never made snickerdoodles while I was growing up. I was an adult before I had my first snickerdoodle, actually. And when I did, I loved them. I don't have them often - generally just at bakeries, I'd never tried my hand at baking them myself before today. I was shopping recently at Fresh Market (I love that place, and I always get into trouble there in some way), and the bakery lady offered me a snickerdoodle for my munchkin. Munchkin has been very sheltered in the ways of sugar thus far (in part because I'm convinced that if I let him have much of it, he'll build the insane addiction I have to sugar), so I was hesitant at first, but when she said that they had snickerdoodles, I relented. This child loves cinnamon.

Being the good mom that I am (sometimes), I didn't just hand the cookie over - no, I broke off a piece for him. And then one for me. Oh my goodness. Super, super yummy. They were crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, and oh so delicious. Ultimately, I probably split the cookie about 60/40 with my munchkin (he's smaller, he only needs 40% of a cookie!). That was when I decided I needed to make some of my own.

This was my first time using my long-stashed Silpat Nonstick Silicone Baking Mat. I'd actually kind of forgotten about it, but I won't forget about it again, that's for sure! That thing is awesome. It's like parchment, only better, because it's washable and you don't have to throw it out! Sure, it costs more than parchment, but I think you ultimately will recoup the cost. Also, the cookies browned beautifully on the bottom, and didn't stick a bit. Can't wait to try out the Silpat on a sticky cookie recipe, like some brownie cookies I've got my eye on. Stay tuned.

This recipe is not the end-all, be-all snickerdoodle recipe I wanted it to be. I need to try Martha's recipe. This one comes from Baking Illustrated, and yielded cookies that were crisper than I generally like them to be. I much prefer a more dense, chewy cookie than this, but they were definitely enjoyable. If you like crunchy snickerdoodles, this is definitely the recipe for you!!

Adapted from Baking Illustrated

2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 tbsp unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 1/2 granulated sugar, plus ~3 tbsp for rolling
2 large eggs
1 tbsp ground cinnamon, for rolling

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, cream the butter, shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 1-2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs and beat again until combined, about 30 seconds. Add in the dry ingredients, and beat at a low speed until just combined, about 20 seconds.
4. In a small, shallow bowl, combine 3 tbsp sugar with 1 tbsp cinnamon and stir to combine. Working with a heaping tablespoon of dough at a time, roll the dough, then roll in the cinnamon sugar and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Use a drinking glass with a flat bottom to gently flatten the dough balls to 3/4 inch thickness. Don't forget to butter the bottom on the glass before starting, and dip it in sugar between cookies if it begins to stick.
5. Bake for 9-11 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are beginning to set and the centers are soft and puffy. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 2-3 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Menu Plan Monday for September 21st

Wow, I just realized that it's almost October. Woo hoo, that means it's almost really fall! I can't wait for the temperatures to start to dip. Fall and winter are my favorite seasons, because they are the only seasons in Florida where you won't feel yourself roasting to a crisp outside. Not that we have a real fall or winter, with snow or leaves changing or anything, but still. A relief from the insane heat and humidity is always welcome in my book. (Though, inevitably, I will gripe about the cold, too.)

So, Husband is travelling again this week (argh), but I'm going to try to make a regular menu. That basically means that I have to hope that Baby is getting better at entertaining himself while I cook, which is often problematic. Here's what's on this week's menu:

Monday - Cider Braised Pork Medallions
Tuesday - Honey-Soy Glazed Chicken (I am going to try this with boneless chicken and see how it comes out)
Wednesday - Spaghetti and Garlic Bread
Thursday - Mac & Cheese and Cheddar Bay Biscuits (I will share the biscuit recipe, if it's good!)
Friday - Beef Teriyaki with white rice
Saturday - Steak and Onion sandwiches (I'll be sharing the recipe!)
Sunday - Baked Honey Mustard Chicken (I'll be sharing the recipe!)

So, wow, four new recipes to try out this week! And I'm baking snickerdoodles this week, too, so it will be like recipe overload here on Type A Mommy this week. Enjoy! And don't forget, if you need menu inspiration, visit Org Junkie, who quite possibly hosts a record-shattering number of bloggers' menus on her website every Monday.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

I may very well be the last person to read this book, but I'm glad that I did finally get around to it. I had this book on my shelf for well over a year before I wound up taking it to the used bookstore to trade in. Then, a few years later, my best friend insisted I read it - the same best friend who recommended The Help to me, so I trusted her opinion on books. She was totally right.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I tore through it pretty quickly, despite the fact that lately when I climb into bed to read, I fall asleep less than a page or so into it. Not because I'm not interested, but because I've been so tired lately. Fortunately for me and my book, though, Husband went out of town yesterday, so after I put Baby to bed last night, I was able to pick up my book and polish it off.

Between Baby's incessent (and mindless) enjoyment of "Yo Gabba Gabba" and "Thomas and Friends" lately, I really enjoy losing myself in a book. An adult book, with a truly unique story. This was one of those books. I truly could lose myself in this book, imaging the people, the events, the setting. It was beautifully written, and just resonated with me. I never thought I would enjoy learning about bees and honey, but Ms. Monk Kidd seamlessly wove parallels between the bees and the way the life of the main character, Lily, is unfolding. This book is totally going on my A+ Reads List.

I'm hoping to watch the movie over the weekend, which I've heard it super authentic and wonderful. I sure hope so, I've got high hopes.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Yesterday, I finally finished reading American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld. I'm relieved to be done with it, it was definitely a long one. I'm not entirely sure that I would recommend this book to someone, in part because I don't like to talk politics unless I have to (I'm too much of a peacekeeper in that respect), and in part because it wasn't the fantastic read I had hoped for. If you do choose to read it, it's better as a library book, in case you don't love it (wish I'd done that).

When I first heard that Ms. Sittenfeld was going to write a fictionalized version of Laura Bush's life, but with some very different events and characters, my interest was piqued. Not too sure why, since I've never really followed the history of Laura Bush, but it sounded like an interesting concept, I suppose. It didn't quite live up to the expectations I had for it. Perhaps because at some point, it felt a little too real, and I didn't quite feel like reading a biography.

While the plot held my interest nicely in the beginning, by the time Alice Blackwell, the Laura character, made it to the White House, my interest fizzled. I had a hard time finishing that last quarter or third of the book; perhaps the other reason was because I had started to read another book simultaneously, one that's truly captivating, and that's The Secret Life of Bees. Perhaps my interest just focused elsewhere.

What are you reading? Do you love it? Don't forget to share your book recommendations with me, I love, love, love book recommendations.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Soft and Easy Garlic Knots

Garlic bread and rolls are one of my most favorite things. Whenever I make pasta, there has to be garlic bread along with it, even if it is frozen. I've tried my hand at making garlic bread the way my mother used to growing up, but it's been a long time since I've tried, and my attempt was beyond pathetic.

Soft and Easy Garlic Knots
Printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients for the dough:
3 cups bread flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. instant yeast
1 ¼ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup milk
1 cup + 2 tbsp. lukewarm water

Ingredients for the glaze:
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. melted butter
½ tsp. Italian seasoning

To make the dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients. Add the olive oil, milk and water. Mix until ingredients have formed a dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Dust your hands with flour and transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turn once to coat, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow dough to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 10 inch long rope and tie into a knot. Take the end lying underneath the knot and bring it over the top, tucking it into the center. Take the end lying over the knot and tuck it underneath and into the center. Transfer shaped rolls to a baking stone, or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes, until puffy.

To make the glaze, finely mince the garlic. Melt the butter, and mix melted butter, garlic, and Italian seasoning together.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Brush the glaze onto the shaped rolls. Bake until set and lightly browned, about 15-18 minutes.

Then consume until you're stuffed! These garlic knots are delicious, although I may experiment with the garlic flavor next time, and add some garlic powder to give the knots a little more garlic punch. Even my munchkin really enjoyed these rolls, and he's a bit of a garlic bread connoisseur - he will turn his nose up at a couple of brands of frozen garlic bread that aren't very good. The best part about the knots is that they're easy to make, and take very little time and effort.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

MSC: Zucchini-Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Have I mentioned how excited I am to be a part of the Martha Stewart Cupcakes Club (MSC)? Well, I totally am. I am so honored to be a part of it, and so excited to bake my little butt off.

What is MSC? Well...MSC is about cupcake love, freedom, and community. Our goal is to make and bake the 175 cupcake recipes in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book. All of those involved share one major thing - a love of baking and especially all things cupcakes.

And now, I've officially survived my first cupcake challenge with the Martha Stewart's Cupcakes Club!

See! I did it!

Tracey from Tracey's Culinary Adventures selected this month's recipe, the Zucchini-Spice Cupcakes (pg. 44) with Cream Cheese Frosting (pg. 303). To be honest, I've never baked anything with zucchini before, so it was an adventure from the get-go for me. I'd also never zested a lemon, so that was interesting too. All in all, despite the fact that I was doing some things I've never done in baking, I still enjoyed making this recipe. Maybe it was because I baked these while Husband was home to watch the munchkin and because I could kind of zone out and get into the baking zone.

I did omit the nutmeg, mainly because I wasn't about the drag my butt to Publix for just one missing ingredient that I could go without, but the flavor still seems to be quite amenable. I also wasn't a huge fan of the consistency of the frosting. Mine was really soft, and a little difficult to work with as a result. I had to immediately refrigerate the cupcakes, otherwise the frosting started to slide off the cupcakes, which wasn't so fun. I've made a few different cream cheese frostings and never had that problem before, so I'm not sure if I did something wrong or if that's just how Martha's is. Then again, the recipe did say something about refrigeration and the frosting recipe said to hand frost, not to pipe - I can't imagine this frosting piping too well, but I'll bet when I check out everyone else's blogs I'm going to see some piped cupcakes, because I am clearly a big novice compared to some of the other bloggers participating in these monthly challenges.

Mmm, look at all that frosting!

Next month's recipe will be hosted by Kim at What the Whisk, and she has selected the Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes, which I'm sure Husband is going to be counting down the minutes for. Pumpkin is one of his all-time favorite things about the fall, so I have a feeling he's going to love these. Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Menu Plan Monday for September 14th

How is it that Monday keeps sneaking up on me? Last week was understandable, Husband was on vacation and all...this week, no excuse. Oh well, at least the laundry's all done this Monday - I was such a procrastinator last week.

I totally flaked on my menu last week. I'm not sure if it was that Husband's business trip got cut short or what, but I totally skipped the "new" meals I was going to make last week, but I will still be posting my pulled pork recipe later today, just minus the pictures, since I didn't happen to make it.

Well, this week's menu is anything but exciting - it's a busy week this week, so I'm trying to keep things simple around here.

Monday - Waffles
Tuesday - Barbecued Chicken Fajitas
Wednesday - Spaghetti and garlic knots
Thursday - Meatloaf
Friday - Crock Pot Chicken Teriyaki (recipe to be posted)
Saturday - Cider Braised Pork Medallions
Sunday - Basic large pizza

What are you making this week? Share it with Org Junkie! Or just visit her for some serious menu inspiration!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Basic Blondies

I love reading other people's blogs, I really do. And I mentioned how much I love Tastespotting (and now FoodGawker too). Seriously. I check them daily. I know, I might be a smidge obsessed.

I've found a lot of awesome food blogs I might have never found otherwise! One I'm really in love with is Annie's Eats. This is a girl after my own heart with some of the recipes she's posted. I made one today from her blog, and it is insanely awesome, and simple. And you can do it all in one bowl! No muss, no fuss! Husband will be so pleased, I haven't made a holy mess of the kitchen while baking!

Also, I think I actually managed to line my pan, for the first time ever, without actually tearing the aluminum foil. That always seems to happen to me! But not today! My baking mojo must really be flowing. So without further ado, here is the awesome recipe, slightly adapted.

Basic Blondies
Source: Annie's Eats
Printer-friendly recipe

8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Mix-ins of your choice (see below)

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line an 8x8 baking pan with foil and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave (slowly, you don't want any butter explosions!). Allow to cool for 5 minutes. In the bowl of the electric mixer, mix the brown sugar with the melted butter and beat until smooth. Beat in the egg and then the vanilla. Add the salt, flour and baking powder and mix until just combined. Stir in your choice of mix-ins with a wooden spoon. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread to level out the top nicely.
3. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until well set in the middle. Allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting into squares and wrapping well.

Some mix-in suggestions:
1/2 - 1 cup chocolate chips (milk or semisweet), peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, or pecans)
1/2 cup M&Ms
1/2 cup chopped Reese's peanut butter cups
1/4 cup Heath toffee pieces
1/2 teaspoon mint extract, in addition to or in place of the vanilla extract

Seriously, this is the kind of recipe you can whip up super fast, and you more than likely have all of the ingredients at home, so print this one out and put it in a safe place. I definitely recommend it!

Oh, and BTW, I'm totally still sore. I stretched yesterday for a bit after my upper body workout with my trainer, but I'm still walking kind of like a pregnant lady because I feel like I can't totally straighten my legs. I'm sure it's super attractive. Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I can barely bend at the moment

Well, Tuesday's regular workout with my trainer really broke me. We did some hardcore leg exercises, like these evil front and back lunges with weights and even some plies (which I was pleased to see I could still sort-of do). When I ran into my trainer at the Y yesterday, it turns out that I'm not sore from the evil lunges. Or the plies even. It was something she called the "dead drop." Basically, I was so sore yesterday that I skipped my usual Wednesday workout class (Fit Fusion) and just hopped on the elliptical to get in some cardio without having to do any more squats or lunges. Getting on and off the elliptical proved to be quite challenging. After much Googling, it seems they call this evil exercise "deadlifts" online, and here's a sample, since I can't explain it terribly well:

The main difference between that and what my trainer had me do is that my feet were a bit more than shoulder width apart, and I brought the ball all the way to the floor and then back up again. Forty-five times. Super fun. And all because I couldn't do squats with the medicine ball (you lift it over your head while you squat). My arms are weak. And now my legs feel wickedly weak. Bending and sitting is really, really un-fun for me. It will be interesting to see how training goes today, but I do know we're working on our arms, so hopefully I'll be able to get through it okay.

Anyway, a few of you have commented about having enjoyed reading about my plight to get in shape, and have been curious about the results thus far, so I thought I would share some vague results, given that I still don't even let my husband see me get on a scale. As of last week, two months after the beginning of my personal training, I have lost 2 inches on my waist, a half-inch on my hips, one inch on my arms, and one inch on my quads. I seem to have lost a pants size, but the scale hasn't budged much - just a few pounds.

I went to the local water park with my son on Labor Day, and found that my bathing suit no longer fits. That was a pleasant surprise, although an irritating one, as I kept adjusting my bathing suit bottom, which wanted to hang off of me. I've really enjoyed seeing little things like that here and there, so I know that my body is changing, I just don't really see it in the mirror yet. Stay tuned, though, I will certainly keep you all posted as to how my quest goes! Thanks for all the support so far, I really, really appreciate it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Frosted Chocolate-Buttermilk Cupcakes

I completely happened upon this recipe by accident, but wow, I'm glad I did. I was in need of a good chocolate fix this holiday weekend, and while visiting Martha's site, I came across this recipe from Everyday Food, one of Martha's magazines that is also a PBS show. The look of the cupcakes reminded me of my favorite cake, Brown Beauty Cake, so I figured these cupcakes were going to be good.

These were almost a one-bowl recipe and super easy to put together. I had them put together and in the oven within about 15 minutes, if that. I did use Dutch-process cocoa powder, from Williams-Sonoma (because I can't seem to find it anywhere else), and I used real buttermilk, not powdered. You can always make your own buttermilk at home if you don't have any, but I happened to have some on hand from a recent red velvet cupcake recipe I made (which I will be posting soon). To make your own buttermilk, use 1 cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice. I've read that you can also use vinegar, though I haven't tried that method personally.

Enjoy the yumminess!

Frosted Chocolate-Buttermilk Cupcakes
adapted from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food
Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 12 cupcakes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 tablespoons buttermilk
1 large egg
1 large egg white

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
2. With an electric mixer, combine cocoa and 3 tablespoons hot water until a thick paste forms (this process intensified the chocolate flavor - no joke, it really works!). Add butter, buttermilk, egg, and egg white; beat until combined. Whisk in flour mixture until smooth.
3. Scoop (or spoon) batter into prepared tin(s). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. Use an offset spatula or butter knife to spread icing over tops. Decorate as desired.

Here's Martha's suggestion for frosting: Light Cream-Cheese Icing (and this will keep your cupcake around 180 calories!).

Here's mine, the more decadent version:

Super Easy Vanilla Buttercream (sort of)
1 stick of butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp half and half
Shake of salt
3 cups powdered sugar

Beat butter first with a spoon, then add vanilla and half and half and beat in. Next, add powdered sugar gradually, and mix until combined. Taste. Does it need a little salt? Probably, especially if you use unsalted butter. Add the salt and combine, then spread with an offset spatula on cupcakes.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Looking for a Good Read? My A+ Reads!

My dream home library - so not what my actual "library" looks like!

In case you haven't noticed, I have two hobbies: baking and reading. I've been good about sharing my baking adventures with you all lately, but not as super on the reading front, in part because I'm in the thick of reading a book that's taking me a long time: American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. It's not that I don't like the book, it's just that I've only been reading at bedtime lately, and well, I keep falling asleep while reading. So my progress is quite slow at the moment, but hopefully with Husband travelling this week, I'll be compelled to read a little earlier in the evening.

In the meantime, I thought I would share with you my A+ Reads - books that will captivate you and hold your attention like no other, all marked with the official Type A Mommy seal of approval. I've read a ton of books in my lifetime (including over 200 in the second grade when we had a reading contest), but these are the ones that hold a special place in my heart and my bookshelf. Trust me, they're good.

Also, if I can manage to remember, I will continue to update this list as I continue to read more books.

Everyone Is Beautiful: A Novel by Katherine Center
How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
The Ridiculous Race by Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran
Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin
The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman
Jemima J by Jane Green
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Escape by Carolyn Jessop
She's Come Undone (Oprah's Book Club) by Wally Lamb
Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons: A Novel by Lorna Landvik
Patty Jane's House of Curl by Lorna Landvik
Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner
Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner
The Department of Lost & Found by Allison Winn-Scotch
Time of My Life by Allison Winn-Scotch
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