Every woman has a finite number of meals within her. By the time my mother divorced my father, her meal quota had long been maxed out. Keep in mind that my mother's idea of a meal, even during her 'cooking years,' usually consisted of cottage cheese for an appetizer, lettuce with a quartered tomato and a festive slice of cucumber laced with bottled dressing, some Green Giant veggies, and protein. My mother's protein-based recipes were as follows:
1. Take chop (strip steak, lamb chop) or slab of meat (London Broil). Shake one spritz of garlic salt on top. Broil until pink.
2. Take chicken. Sprinkle paprika (or if very bold, a lashing of teriaki sauce). Bake.
She had some occasional 'specials,' like corned beef on St. Patrick's Day, pot roast (which I found stringy), homemade French fries, a kasseri cheese melt and a particularly wonderful meat loaf. But that is only because the best meat loaves are always made by the worst cooks--the less effort you expend upon them, the better they taste.
Needless to say, spaghetti was Ronzoni and Ragu (and that is Ragu with a capital letter, not 'ragu' in the Italian sense of a meat sauce).
When my mother divorced my father, like many women, she went on a diet. The first thing she eliminated was all sweets and most starches. I was a tubby child, but I probably burned at least a few calories with my relentless screaming and cajoling to get a few, precious sweets in our shopping cart.
My mother soon stopped buying even the spices and sauces she had used when married, and gradually began microwaving the meat "because it saves time and is less messy."
In case you're wondering how I managed to stay chubby, despite this regime, it's pretty easy to explain--after wolfing down whatever Entenmann's doughnuts or Haagen-Dasz ice cream was at hand, until the next trip to Shop Rite, it would be me and a jar of peanut butter, a tub of cream cheese, and a jar of jam in front of Nickleodeon after school. I'd bike two blocks home, but needless to say that was not nearly enough physical activity to burn off the hours of eating and watching You Can't Do That on Television and Turkey TV. My preferred vehicle for peanut butter delivery was cinnamon raisin bread. I'd start by toasting the slices, but I also kind of liked using non-toasted and toasted slices for different combinations of toppings. A foodie in training (sort of).
Clearly, it's better to eat one or two of what you really want, in moderation, which is the approach I still strive for with peanut butter. (Although just once, you have to try cinnamon raisin bread with cream cheese and marmalade, or toasted cinnamon raisin bread with peanut butter and strawberry jam).
These cupcakes are tasty, rich and peanut butter-y. It's not quite Christmas baking season for me (I need another week) and the kids are still in school, so have these with a nice, cold glass of milk while you work on your list to Santa. This year I'd like a KitchenAid Mixer, a food processor, a scanner, Adobe Photoshop, and some hardwood floors. And a pony.
Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting
--makes 12 cupcakes--
Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Adapted from How Sweet It Is
1/4 cup room temperature, softened butter
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup white, granulated sugar
2 beaten, large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup milk (I used skim)
Roasted peanuts for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with 12 liners.
2. Cream butter and peanut butter with sugar. Add eggs and vanilla.
3. Sift flour and baking powder. Spoon dry mixture into the 'wet,' alternating with the milk.
4. Pour batter into tin, sprinkle tops with nuts if desired.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick is extracted 'clean.'
Peanut Butter Frosting
Adapted from Epicurious
1 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup softened butter (half of a stick)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
milk as needed (I used one tablespoon, you may need more)
1. Beat powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter, and vanilla until smooth
2. Add milk if needed until frosting is spreadable.