Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Good Food - Ina's Coffee Cake Muffins

I am in the middle of making these muffins right now and absolutely must share the recipe. This is my second time making them and they are soooo good that I have told Gary I may never make muffins from a box again. This is saying a lot, since I tend to put Sandra Lee to shame.

Ina makes these with blueberries, but I think you could make them with whatever you have on hand. The first time I did them with the same cinnamon/sugar/pudding mix I use on my cinnamon rolls (ANOTHER recipe I must post sometime!), and tonight I am making them with chocolate chips. The batter is really delectable simply on its own.

So here you go!

- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 c. sugar
- 3 extra large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 t. pure vanilla extract
- 8 ounces (about 1 c.) sour cream
- 1/4 c. milk
- 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 2 t. baking powder
- 1/2 t. baking soda
- 1/2 t. kosher salt
- (add ins...2 pints blueberries, etc.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place 16 (ish - depends on the size of your muffin pans. I think Ina uses the big ones.) paper liners in muffin pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla, sour cream, and milk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed add the flour mixture to the batter and beat until just mixed. Fold in the blueberries with a spatula and be sure the batter is completely mixed.

Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin pans, filling each cup just over the top (Ina suggests using a ice cream scoop - it works brilliantly) and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the muffins are lightly browned on top and a cake tester comes out clean.

If you can make it through without practically licking the paddle clean, you are a better person than I. For the record, it is WAY better than cookie dough.

And just because I know 98% of people are reading this in hopes of seeing her rather than a new recipe:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Baby vs. Grinch - Seven Months

Is it just me, or does she look exceptionally fat in this picture??

Maybe one of my favorite Grinch pictures so far. It's funny - you would think that he would scare her, but he's really one of her favorite stuffed animals. She just sees him across the room and starts giggling.

Seven Months

This has been hands-down one of my favorite months.

Maggie is just developing more and more into her own person with each day. I'm not quite sure how to fully describe it, but she is so much more aware of what's going on around her. She's also starting to interact with us more...which is a ton of fun. Almost like she understands us.

This month she conquered:
- Sitting up on her own. She still has the occasional topple, but she's fairly steady most of the time.

- "Solid" foods
- Sleeping sans swaddle
- Taking longer than 30-minute naps (most days)
- Putting herself to sleep
(The last three can be summed up in one word: FREEDOM!)

She loves:
- Playing games/songs with her hands (pat-a-cake, Father Abraham, etc.)
- Talking and singing. She says "Heh" a lot, which we like to think is her saying "Hi" or "Hey" back to us, but we know she's a long way from talking.

I like this picture because it looks like she's telling you a story with a sassy attitude.

- Peek-a-boo (more than happy to play this on her own)
- Putting EVERYTHING in her mouth (STILL)

- Being outside. Thankfully it's been a wonderful spring so far.
- Her dad. Her face when she sees him every night after work just melts my heart.

Seeing/hearing them play and laugh together is one of my favorite things.

- Rolling. Doesn't show too much interest in crawling, but can roll across the room before you can turn around.
- Every morning when I get her out of her crib, I go over and open up her blinds. She gets the biggest kick out of it. Even though she can't quite grab on, she still tries. Every morning.

She also started reaching this month...for things, people...it's just awesome to see her understand and express what she wants.

I apologize for the slew of pictures. Sort of. I've been nearly glued to my new camera lens since Friday night...and what better subject to practice using it on than a roly-poly baby??

The Little Things

Thursday, April 15:
G: "So, I just want to be sure that we're on the same page and that we're past the point of expectations and big surprises for birthdays."

Friday, April 16:
A GREAT birthday. And not because Gary fed me that line the night before to throw me off track, but because he did just that. And you know what? It was the little things throughout the day that meant more to me than a million surprise parties or expensive dinners or ginormous Costco cakes.

Some highlights:
Waking up to this.

My morning present. Maybe a hint that I need to be out in the yard a little more? But awesome for two reasons: a) super cute Target design, b) I didn't ask for it. Either of these would be amazing on their own, but together? Wow. (I know - it takes very little to impress me)

Came downstairs to the Happy Birthday sign. "Really?" You ask, "You're really excited about a sign??" Considering that usually the Birthday Fairy is played by generally one person in the house and that I didn't even know that he knew where the sign was, yes, yes I was.

Shortly after Gary left for work I just about had a panic attack when I heard the back door open again. Almost had another panic attack when he came in with a box of Munchkins. Mostly chocolate ones. Evil or Knight-in-shining-armor? You decide.

Leftover birthday cake from a previous celebration. Made even better and more hilarious by the fact that it didn't transport home quite so smoothly.

Like I said. It's the little things.

OH - there was one surprise. But I couldn't take a picture of it because it's going to be a long, long time before I put my old lens back on my camera. And it's kind of hard to take a picture of the thing you're taking the picture with. (insert a million smiley faces and exclamation marks) Now I just have to figure out how to use it.

That's My Man

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mint and Daffodils

Last year we made the decision to give our front and side yard a facelift. In the never ending list of things to do on our house, it seemed like the best option in terms of improving that which affected others' view of things the most.

The backyard, however, remained untouched virtually all year. You think I'm joking.

So now that spring has sprung, we're starting to turn our attention to the back yard. Overgrown beds, weeds, dilapidated fences...we've got our work cut out for us.

It never ceases to amaze me that pretty much EVERY time I do yard work I end up thinking, "There's a sermon illustration here." It starts to get annoying. (Maybe that gives you a better idea of just how many weeds we have)

Last weekend as I was pulling, raking, digging and shoveling the weeds out of a certain severely neglected bed, I was thinking through my grievances of the annoying things in our yard. WHY are there so many weeds? ("there's a sermon illustration here") WHY are they so close to the ground and invasively hard to get out? ("there's a sermon illustration here") WHY do I continue to neglect things and be lazy when I know that it will just be more work for me next year? ("there's a sermon illustration here") WHY do plants keep coming up even when I've cleared these beds a million times before? ("there's a sermon illustration here") Specifically...WHY do I continue to dig up random tulips and daffodils only to replant them and they continue to grow in the same spots? And WHERE did this enormous hunk of MINT come from?? I didn't plant MINT!

And then in the midst of my little inner-rant it struck me that in all of this were growing MINT and DAFFODILS...two entirely lovely things. I mean, I have a dead tree full of carpenter ants in the front yard and I'm choosing to be annoyed with mint and daffodils??!

All week now I've been pondering the mint and daffodils in my everyday life. And now suddenly I can't wait to get back out and work in my garden again.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Hiding Place

Seriously, I have continued to be stumped by the sock saga. Mainly because they CONTINUE to disappear. Yesterday I discovered that I only had ONE matching pair and that pair was dirty, so Maggie wore mismatched socks all day. I was starting to think the no sock days of summer would have to hit our house early this year.

Even today as I was loading the dryer I found myself peeking my head inside like a crazy person wondering, "Is it REALLY possible for a dryer to eat socks? Where would they go? How can I find this out?"

And THEN. Tonight my mom made a fantastic discovery. She was getting ready to do the "clean" cycle on her laundry machine (something that will likely not happen for several years in our house) and as she was reading the instructions (even if I did do the clean cycle, this is something even less likely to happen) they mentioned something about making sure there were no clothes or things stuck in the gasket. AS SHE WAS SAYING THESE WORDS I pulled away the gasket and low and behold a rather large pile of socks was there staring me in the face. Ten to be exact. TEN!

YES! I feel so vindicated! I have WON the sock battle!

So GO! Now! Reclaim your socks!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Even MORE Good Food - Spring Chicken Roll-ups

I apologize if this is recipe overload...this is what we had tonight!

Spring Chicken Roll-ups

(I am just including the link, because I really didn't change much. I didn't have bacon or provolone...so I left out the bacon and used shredded mozzarella, and it was still delish!)

Good Food - Gingered Flank Steak

I realized after posting the Orange Chicken recipe it was probably wrong of me not to post my "Best Meal" ever after mentioning it...

Here you go. No explanation needed. And no excuses not to make it, as I have an entire meal laid out here for you.

Gingered Flank Steak
• 1 1 pound flank steak (I get this at Costco - you get two in a pack, and it's just as much work to make two when you're already making one, so I make one to have and freeze the other one. It is a great treat to know it's already in your freezer ready to go!)
• 1/4 c. soy sauce
• 3 T sugar
• 3 T ketchup
• 1 T bottle ground fresh ginger (I use Rachael Ray's technique of grating about a 1-1.5 inch piece of fresh ginger. Peel the other pieces and cut them into 1 inch pieces and freeze - then it's already set to go next time you need it...like for your Orange Chicken night)
• 1 T cider vinegar (I always use rice vinegar because that's what I have on hand...I think anything would work)
• 1/4 t ground red pepper

Combine steak and all ingredients into a zip-lock back. Marinate up to 2 hours. Grill for 5 minutes on each side (a little longer if using a grill pan - my personal favorite). Cut the steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices.

Sauteed Snow Peas
• Snow peas (or sugar snap work well, too!)
• Dark sesame oil
• Salt and pepper

Saute snow peas in a bit of olive oil and water. Toss lightly in dark sesame oil, salt and pepper.

Rice Noodle Salad
• 3 c. cooked rice noodles (thin)
• 1 c. cucumber, sliced
• 1 c. sliced baby carrots (optional)
• 2 T soy sauce
• 1 T rice vinegar
• 1 t sugar
• 1/4 t crushed red pepper

Combine rice noodles and cucumber. Mix other ingredients for the dressing. Pour dressing over noodles, toss well. Serve chilled.

Good Food - Chinese Orange BBQ Cashew Chicken

I always find that I never quite know where the line is to "overstay one's welcome." Last week Gary's mother was in town, and I think she felt that she crossed this line even before she came. However, as usual, by the end of the week we were all wondering where the time had gone and how was it already time for her to leave??

Muggs and I are constantly sharing little tips, tricks and recipes with each other whenever we are together. It is always fun to have someone to share your latest culinary delights and pick up new ones! In one of our many Barefoot Contessa-eque conversations, we were both exclaiming that much of our Joy of Cooking comes from how much we just LOVE FOOD. There is nothing better than taking a bite of what you've made and experiencing a little party in your mouth.

I have several recipes in the queue that elicit such sensations that I've been meaning to share...strangely enough most of my recent ones are all asian-inspired...but here's one that I made last night that Gary equated with my Ginger Steak, which says a lot, as he has claimed that my "Best Meal" to date. Not only is it delicious, it's healthy, easy and quick to make.

So here you go - my adaptation of Rachael Ray's Chinese Orange BBQ Cashew Chicken:
• 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (or olive - I use olive oil for everything)
• 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, chopped into bite-size pieces (I cut up the chicken AFTER I cooked it - I felt like it kept it more moist)
• Salt and ground black pepper
• 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced (Add whatever veggies you have...I did a mixture of peppers, broccoli and carrots...anything would work!)
• 1 onion, chopped
• 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
• 1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated (fresh ginger is key!)
• 1 tablespoon hot sauce
• 2 tablespoons tamari
• 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
• 1/2 cup orange marmalade (AT LEAST! - this is about 1/2 a jar...but I think you could add more if you wanted even more orange flavor)
• 1/2 cup regular or honey-roasted cashews
• 3 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
**Note - the original recipe also calls for a 1/2 c. chicken stock. I left this out last night, as I felt like the time before the sauce was a little runny. If anything, leaving it out only intensified the flavors.

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat with 2 turns of the pan of oil, about 2 tablespoons. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. When the pan is very hot, add in the meat and stir-fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the meat from the pan and reserve on a plate.

Add the veggies, onion, garlic and ginger to the skillet and stir-fry until tender, 3-4 minutes. While that’s cooking up, stir together the hot sauce, tamari, hoisin sauce, orange marmalade and stock in a small bowl.

When the veggies are tender, return the chicken to the skillet and pour the sauce over everything. Add the cashews to the skillet, toss to coat and continue cooking until the sauce thickens up, about 1 minute.

Serve the stir-fry over brown rice, garnished with scallions.

My only problem with this recipe is that even with leaving out the chicken broth I still cannot come up with that sticky, gooey consistency of "normal" orange chicken sauce. The flavor's there, but it is just like a runny teriyaki sauce. Please let me know if you figure this out!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

She's Going to Kill Me for this Someday

This is a picture of the World's Second Largest Blowout.

The World's First Largest Blowout occurred today. Unfortunately I did not have my phone with me when I took her upstairs to change her. I say unfortunately for two reasons:
a) You would not believe it even if you saw it. It put the above picture to shame. Up the back, to her neck, in her hair, around the side, in her armpit...are you feeling nauseous yet? Because I definitely got the dry heaves. And she's not even eating vegetables yet!
b) I had no way of setting her down once the damage was discovered to make a phone call to COME HOME NOW.

Recently Maggie has taken to pooping ONLY when she's in her exersaucer. Which, for those of you without kids or without an exersaucer, is a guaranteed blowout. Meaning some days she is not allowed in it until night, and also that I continue to be more and more thankful for my new washing machine and Oxy Clean. Because both getting a lot of use these days.

This was one of those occasions that two things suddenly became very clear for me:
a) why God gave us TWO parents (although the necessity for at least one to work doesn't help a TON in this situation), and
b) the term SUPER MOM is definitely not overused or overrated:
After using at least half the bag of wipes, holding her up with one hand while simultaneously wiping and trying to balance her to keep her from grabbing the wipe packet (one of her favorite things), I recalled back to the Powder Puff days and tucked her under one arm while running down the hall and the stairs saying over and over, "Please don't pee. Please, please don't pee now." Then I had to clear out the clean dishes from the sink (15 pounds was starting to feel pretty heavy with one arm at this point), get the bathtub, fill it, forgot her towel - got that, and FINALLY the bath (a job in and of itself)!

I apologize if I've thoroughly grossed you out, and I'll put a dollar in Maggie's therapy jar for posting this - but I thought it would be good to post something on Life Lately since my updates have been on the low side for several months now.

Tonight? Carrots! (On a somewhat related note: we started oatmeal last week and as expected she is LOVING EVERY BITE.)

I think I'm going to go wash my hands now. Again.

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

While Sunday was a great day for everyone in general, there was one member of our family who had to deal with a hard life moment. It's true - after nearly 10 years of Halo-playing, guest accommodating and man-cave dwelling - the Futon is no longer here to scream, "My owners still have dorm room furniture!" to whoever walks by.
Don't worry. He'll get over it.

In the meantime, I am LOVING the reason the futon got displaced.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


What a wonderful Easter Sunday! Slept in. Enjoyed sunny blue skies. Attended church, which was particularly meaningful and powerful today. (As it should be) Joined my family for Easter dinner at my parents' house. (Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE not traveling for holidays? Because it's awesome.) And now we are home, listening to the rain and thunder, watching the Tour of Flanders in our sweats. A good day.

Helping Dad enjoy his Easter treats.

With Grandma and Grandpa Wells. (Names TBD)

Reaching for the camera.

Take #21 of the "family pic." I now understand the difficulty of taking pictures with multiple children!

I purchased this dress with the intent of her wearing it for my sister's wedding in October. She is now finally wearing it over five months later! Little peanut!

With Auntie Hannah. Somehow we didn't get a pic with Auntie Laura. :(

Hannah with her (*ahem) artistic Easter Eggs.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools

The weather has been amazing this spring so far. So great in fact that I haven't even found myself envying our AZ and CA friends as much as I normally do by this date. Today the temperature reached a record 83! We've all been enjoying taking advantage of being outside. Looking forward to the snow we'll most likely have next week.