Meatless Monday: Must-Trys

If you find yourself with a bunch of garden fresh, home-grown, or farm fresh tomatoes, you have to try this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen.

For the record, 2 1/2 pounds of tomatoes is about nine medium tomatoes. For the bread, I didn’t cube it; I just cut it open and tore out chunks that were about an inch big. I had Flora feed the crusts to the birds. Also, I forgot the basil — which, I still can’t believe I did that. I put garlic and basil in nearly everything with tomatoes in it. I attribute it to “pregmantia” (thanks to @mattieflap for that lovely term) and, possibly, being really hungry when I was making this dish. Besides, you can always garnish with basil. It’s just as good.

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On Sunday, Kate declared we just HAD to make Dora cupcakes.

Never mind that I am not a baker — I am certainly not a cupcake decorator. And I had nothing like “dark-chocolate melting wafers”, prepared frosting, or brown and red paste food coloring to hand. Oh, AND I had no car — Dan’s car broke down on Friday night (in Pittsburgh, thank goodness; water pump — BAH!) and he had taken mine on Saturday for his Ohio trip.

Nonetheless, while Dora cupcakes were not feasible, some kind of cupcake could be in order. We were on hour 30 of my no-relief weekend, and I had to find something for us to do. (Cleaning and television were only holding the girls’ attention for so long.)

I immediately ran into another problem: lack of a cupcake recipe. Of all the cookbooks I own, none of them is especially focused on baking. (Shocking, I know.)

But, hey, this is why the Internet was invented.

I found this straightforward recipe, and I had all the ingredients, except the vanilla. Fortunately, this is why neighbors were invented, and my MIL had a bunch of extracts to choose from — I stuck with vanilla, but I have scoped out caramel and lemon as possibilities for the future.

Oh, and I had to wait for the butter, which I used instead of shortening, to soften. I must have planned to bake at some point in the past (possibly Christmas), because I had both salted and unsalted butter in my freezer. Unopened. (Yes, I used unsalted.) Because I do like muffins, and have made them successfully, I had paper cups and the proper baking pan for this recipe. Sometimes, I get lucky.

I take absolutely no credit when things turn out good — I really don’t. I attribute any and all successes to the recipe and my ability to read and follow directions.

The cupcakes were lovely — perfect little cakes (the recipe make about 18). And they smelled heavenly. Tell me true: people just bake to make their houses smell good, don’t they? While they cooled, the girls had “quiet” time, which I had to interrupt to make Kate run around the house five times. That girl had more energy than either I or or her sister this weekend. And yet, I couldn’t drive them outside to play for some reason. Well, with the exception of sprinkler time for a bit on Saturday.

Then I used this frosting recipe, the cocoa variation. Who knew that whipping up buttercream frosting was so easy? Besides everyone but me, probably.

We had two casualties, one right out of the pan (I made the girls share it), and one of the ones Kate was “frosting”. I let the girls lick the beater thingies — seriously, what are those called? The extensions? The mixers? — and the butter knives they were frosting with when they were done. I think Flora did four, Kate did two including the one she dropped (clever Kate), and I did the rest, and the girls added sprinkles (I have pictures, honest).

I was so buoyed by my success in the cupcake baking endeavor, that I may just get crazy enough to try it again. I may make lemon cupcakes with citrus frosting. Or caramel cupcakes with the cocoa frosting again. If I’m correct (and I know I may not be) I could just swap out the vanilla extract for another flavor, yes?

Anyhoo, we all survived the weekend, even stranded at home as we were. And my house was not a disaster area, all the cooking and baking aside. I even got the girls to clean up after themselves! (Along with the tomato gratin and cupcakes, I also made eggplant parmesan, for which I don’t even need a recipe. It was a weekend of good eating at Casa di RPM! Too bad Dan missed it!)

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3 thoughts on “Meatless Monday: Must-Trys

  1. You’re welcome for pregmentia. Such a great term.

    Anyhoo, congrats on the cupcakes! I love to bake and don’t do it as much as I would like because I would resemble the size of my house if I did. You can substitute extracts just fine – shouldn’t be a big deal. And those beater thingies? They’re called beaters. 😛 If you feel you want to simplify your cupcake baking, you can buy a box cake mix and make those into cupcakes. I bake from scratch, mostly, and I still make the occasional box cake because they are honestly quite tasty these days. Moist, too! One of our fav combos is a spice cake (boxed!) with Cocoa Mocha Frosting (chocolate/coffee flavor). VERY. TASTY. And the leftover frosting is killer on graham crackers. If you want the frosting recipe, let me know.

    I agree, buttercream is super easy to make and so very good. I make cut out sugar cookies and frost them with buttercream. They are really good.

    • The term cracks me up, but I wish I didn’t suffer so horribly from it!

      I think I’m not much of a baker *because* I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Plus, cooking has latitude to it — you can sub ingredients, play with amounts, and so on. Baking is much more exact.

      I would (will?) bake more from scratch. It really does seem simpler, knowing exactly what’s going into what I’m making. But having a box or two of mix on hand could come in handy for times like this weekend! I’m just glad I had milk and eggs.

      I have some left over frosting from this weekend. Putting it on graham crackers sounds so civilized. Compared to the way I was going to eat it later: out of the tupperware container, with a spoon.

      The other thing I am discovering about baking: it is something fun to do with my girls. Unlike cooking where there are sharp knives and hot stoves, baking usually just involves some bowls, an electric mixer, and the patience to keep their fingers out of the batter!

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