Friday, July 30, 2010

Because Yellow is my Favorite

My son has an unnatural obsession with yellow. I realize each child has his or her own set of nuances, but this is almost out of control. I believe it started a few years ago (he’s almost 4) when he decided he wanted to be a school bus driver. And so the school bus craze began.

We have a motorized riding school bus, several school bus toys and even a conductor’s hat that we’ve deemed appropriate attire for his school bus driving ensemble. After all these toys were purchased, he all of the sudden decided that no, he did not want to be a school bus driver anymore.

He wanted to be yellow.


Me: “Jack, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Jack: “Yellow.”

Me: “You know yellow is a color, right? You can’t be YELLOW when you grow up.”

Jack: “But I want to. Yellow’s my favorite.”

Well, okay then. Yellow, it is.

I say all this because whenever I make a treat for him of any kind, I make it yellow.  He gets so excited, I just can't help myself.  It's the little things, isn't it?

This is a recipe I got from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. If you've never been to her site, you will spend hours there - I promise! She consistently amazes me with all her creative treats, and her eye for food photography inspires me. Her stories are interesting, honest and thoughtful - and really funny.  Check her website out.  You will not be disappointed!

Magnolia Vanilla Cupcakes
Adapted from More from Magnolia by Allysa Torey, via Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature (VERY important!)

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Vanilla Buttercream (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth with electric mixer on medium speed.. Gradually add the sugar and mix until fluffy, roughly 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time.  Beat well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients gradually (in three parts), alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. Make sure and scrape down the batter in the bowl to get all the ingredients blended. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely before icing.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

6 to 8 cups confectioners sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla.  Beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes, on medium speed with mixer. Gradually add the remaining sugar, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. Keep in mind, you may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly.

PS - What is better than one of these?


*** Side Note.  Please be aware that I'm not only new to blogging, baking and cooking, but I'm also new to taking food pictures.  I hope this blog will eventually show some improvement!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's Just So Pretty

Having mentioned that I had a baby five months ago, losing the baby weight is high on my list of things to do. I’m still looking for a good night’s sleep, an automatic bottle washer/maker, and more time in the day. Obviously, the only thing I can totally control is my weight (generally speaking).

With this in mind, I make a salad most days for my lunch. Boooooorrring, you might think. Me too, up until recently. I discovered that if you put one thing on your salad you really enjoy, it might be an easier pill to swallow. Sometimes I use REAL Ranch dressing, some days I cut up half an avocado, and some days I have extra feta cheese (a fairly new love).

Today, it was BACON. Isn’t everything better with bacon? I used one piece that was cooked all crispy and wonderful, and then I crumbled it in my salad with hopes of me enjoying this daytime treat. Do you know what happened? I actually looked forward to my salad for lunch!

As far as losing weight goes, the only trick I know is that you have to make food you like. If you don’t, you will become discouraged, and eventually raid the fridge like it’s nobody’s business. I know. I had an unusually unhealthy relationship with chocolate chip cookie dough. But that’s a story for another day.

Today’s salad includes both green and Romaine lettuce, chopped tomatoes, red onions, carrots, green and red bell peppers, cucumbers, a hard-boiled egg white, roasted chicken breast, BACON, and my special oil & vinegar dressing. Try this recipe for a refreshing topping to your salad. It’s a pretty basic combination, but the reward is fantastic. I seiously recommend putting real bacon in your salad, too. Makes lunch feel like a treat!

LK’s House Dressing
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ Water
¼ Red Wine Vinegar
1 Splenda packet
Juice of ½ a lemon
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ cup olive oil

Combine all ingredients, with the exception of the olive oil. Once everything is well combined, slowly add olive oil. I usually keep this in a sealed Tupperware container and shake it before I add to my salads. Keep remaining dressing in refrigerator for up to three days (it gets yucky after that).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thin-Crust Pizza. There Goes the Diet.

I just recently had my second child five and a half months ago. She’s wonderful, beautiful, and perfect, and she joins her 3, almost 4 year old brother. As perfect as she is, she doesn’t sleep. My son is fine once he gets to sleep (after three trips to the potty, a book, his back rubbed, and several 'night-night' games), but my daughter? No way. We have tried so many ways to get her down, and finally - FINALLY, I think we've turned the corner to the luxurious event of all-night sleeping. I realize I’m jinxing this new development as I type. Such is life.

There is a reason for this little nugget of information. After all these months of sleepless nights, my husband and I are feeling a little more energetic. With this newfound energy, we have decided to have an “us” dinner once a week after the kids go to sleep. Once a week, my husband and I will eat like kings. No more cereal for dinner! No more frozen waffles for dinner! No more Lean Cuisines for dinner!

Now, I must warn you. My husband is not very adventurous. In fact, he is so unadventurous he could (and does, unfortunately) eat hot dogs three times a week. His palate is geared toward all things that are kid-friendly and covered in ketchup.

Our “us” dinners will consist of no vegetables, nothing fancy, and nothing your basic toddler won’t eat.

Last night, we tried Brown Eyed Baker’s Thin-Crust Pizza. All I can say is YUM. My husband is so happy with the results, he’s already requested it again - this time TWO - for this weekend. I'm an amazing cook! ** Please know I'm kidding... ***

The crust is easy to make, and it freezes well, too. I made the dough on Sunday and froze it until we were ready on Wednesday. It worked out perfectly. I also used THIS recipe for the sauce. I made it on Sunday and put it in the fridge until Wednesday. WONDERFUL!

Thin-Crust Pizza

Adapted from Cooking Light December 2007, via Brown Eyed Baker


1 package of active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees) ** I just ran the water in the faucet until it was warm
1-½ cups all purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon of olive oil
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt ** I used ½ teaspoon of table salt
2 teaspoons yellow cornmeal ** I didn’t have cornmeal, but I used a sprinkle of Jiffy cornbread mix

1. Mix yeast and sugar in large bowl with warm water. Let sit for five minutes.
2. Slowly stir in 1-1/4 flour into to yeast mixture, along with salt.
3. Knead dough (USE YOUR HANDS AND GET DIRTY!) until it is formed into a soft dough.
4. Flour your surface and roll dough until it is sticky, adding flour as you go to keep it from sticking to your fingers.
5. Use another large bowl and coat it in oil (I just used a generous spray of Pam.)
6. Cover and keep in a warm place, free of any drafts. Leave covered for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
7. Push dough down and let rest for five minutes.
8. Sprinkle surface with remaining flour and roll onto a 14-inch surface, sprinkled with cornmeal. (I rolled out and put on a foil-lined pizza pan.)
9. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
10. Place pan on lowest rack. Sprinkle pizza with olive oil and a dash of salt.
11. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.
12. Remove from oven, top with desired toppings, and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.
13. Let stand for five minutes before serving.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Third Time's a Charm

Hello Blogosphere! Not an original introduction, is it?

This will by my third and final attempt at blogging. I have tried twice in the past, but ended up neglecting it for various reasons. This time, I WILL NOT QUIT! I’m hoping to gear this blog as a catalog for all the recipes I try, along with using this as a diary of sorts. If not a diary, maybe a chronicle of my life, that happens to involve food.

I’m nowhere near a good cook, but with trial and error, I hope to be able to create meals my two young kids look forward to. My husband falls into the “picky eater” category, so I hope to please him as well. This is a learning process for me, and I will take any help given.

Excuse my fragmented sentences, my overused CAPS, too many exclamation points, and the never-ending elliptical I’m so fond of. I write as I talk – and think - and I will try to clean it up for the two readers I may or may not have.

Wish me luck!