Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blueberry Lemon Cake

Right now I'm out in Connecticut for Thanksgiving, staying with my fiancé's family. I thought I'd try winning their love by making this bread for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning (haha). Anyway, everybody loved it, it was super delicious, and definitely a good appetite-whetter for the big meal to come this afternoon. (PS Sorry these pictures are crummy, I took them with Sam's phone after half the loaf had been eaten. And we were watching Star Trek, so maybe I was a little distracted by my visceral connection to Zachary Quinto's eyebrows.)
I made it the night before and it was still scrumptious by morning. I'd also like to thank my fiancé Sam for his help in doing the little tedious bits like zesting lemons and coating pans and such. Gracias!
Blueberry Lemon Cake

For the Loaf:

1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided (the 1T is to coat the blueberries later)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (Pace I think makes yogurt cups just this size)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons) (When Sam was zesting, he got through less than one lemon and was like "Ok, that's enough," and my citrus instinct kicked in and I said "NO!!! WE MUST HAVE MORE! CONTINUE THE ZEST! WE SHALL NOT BE CONQUERED!!!"...or something. So he did two whole lemons, we had lots of zest, and it turned out super lemony and delicious. You're welcome, family)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil (we used corn oil)
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed (we had about half that or less, because the blueberries were unknowingly munched on throughout the day. Oh well. It was still berry good.)

For the Lemon Syrup:

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar

For the Lemon Glaze:

1 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of one 9 x 5-inch loaf pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing loaf to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.

5. While the loaf is cooling, make the lemon syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir together the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside.

6. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the warm loaf. Brush the top and sides of the loaf with the lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush again. Let the cake cool completely. (Don't be overly methodical about this. I started out poking holes in a grid pattern and ended up just going to town poking it wherever. And there was no brush available, so we used an old painting sponge, complete with the remnants of dried red tempra paint. And it was fine and dandy.)

7. To make the lemon glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 2-3 tablespoons of the lemon juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable. Add up to another tablespoon of lemon juice if the mixture is too stiff. Pour the lemon glaze over the top of each loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the lemon glaze harden, about 15 minutes, before serving. (Or overnight. Whatever.)

Three-Layer Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Cake

Preparing for the wedding has been a tough exercise in patience. Things don't go right. A couple of weeks ago, our cake maker decided to have surgery the day before the wedding, which is in another couple of weeks. Terrible timing. So then I was on the hunt for another cake maker with a tight timeline and a very specific cake outline.

I decided I'd make it myself just to be sure my dreams weren't completely ridiculous. So I got my best chocolate cake recipe, my best chocolate ganache frosting recipe, and looked up a mousse recipe that actually started out as an espresso recipe, but I just replaced the coffee powder with cocoa, and planned to fold in diced strawberries.
And lo, it was the greatest cake I've ever tasted, hands down. The other 9 people I tested it on thoroughly agreed. It was amazing.
Fortunately, I've since found a cake maker that will do it exactly as I want (minus the ganache-- buttercream is less rich, and therefore apparently better for the common palate). But here, for your baking pleasure, is the recipe to the best cake ever:

Chocolate Cake
Also, I made this cake before for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, where you can go to see better pictures mid-production, etc

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper. Somehow when I read this, I read it as "butter and flour the paper," which is something that you do sometimes. Anyway, it didn't really need to be done I suppose, but I like that there was absolutely no stickage, so I'm going to recommend you do it, but it's apparently not necessary.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (although two of mine were done in that time and the other needed probably another 7 minutes, but apparently my granparents' oven is a little weird), or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this.

Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting (which I used in this chocolate cake recipe)

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups heavy cream, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt to a boil. Remove from heat; add 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped, and let stand, without stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk just until combined. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until spreadable, about 1 hour.

Mousse (I googled mousse recipes and this one-- which was originally an espresso one-- seemed like it would work best)

6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (62.5ml) whole milk (or, if you're me, 2% lactaid milk)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/2 stick butter
1 egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream, cold

1. In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (known in the more poorer people's world as a makeshift double boiler), melt together the chocolate, milk, cocoa powder, and butter. Remove from the heat and let cool to lukewarm. Whisk in the egg yolk. In a mixer, whip the cream to medium peaks and fold it into the chocolate mixture (a handheld egg beater works great for this).

2. Dice a bunch of fresh strawberries (I just did a regular strawberry box from the store). Fold them into the mousse. Refrigerate for a bit (while the ganache frosting is cooling, per example).

Putting it together

This is super easy. You take a layer of cake, spread a bunch of mousse on, throw on another layer, more mousse, another layer, do a crumb layer with the ganache, then spread on the rest of it thickly so that it looks nice and pretty. Mine didn't look pretty because I didn't freeze the layers beforehand, but man was it tasty. Man.
Ignore my face. I wasn't aware it made it into the picture.

For more tips on perfect cake assembly, you can go to my post on said subject.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lemon Cupcakes

All three of you know this by now, but I didn't get to go to Italy. Let's leave it at that. Read more on my other blog if you're totally surprised by this.
Anyway! Last Sunday I made these oh-so-delicious lemon cupcakes. We changed the frosting to make it a lot simpler (and probably sweeter), but otherwise, it's true to Tartelette's recipe. They were so, so good. I wish it had made more than 16!

Lemon Salt Cupcakes

Note: since we changed the frosting, that means we didn't use the salt either. So I'm not even including it, but you can go to her website to get it. It also was originally made to be gluten free, but I just used regular flour.

Cupcake Ingredients

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk
zest and juice of one lemon


1. Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in my case, just a bowl and some good old arm strength and a wooden spoon), beat the butter and sugar until smooth and airy.

3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well in between each addition.

4. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Lower the speed of the mixer and add the flour mixture and milk alternatively to the butter/eggs mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

5. Add the zest and lemon juice and beat until smooth. Fill cupcake tins about 2/3 full.

6. Bake for 20 minutes until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out free of raw batter.

7. Let cool completely before frosting. (Seriously. It will melt right off. Try putting them in the freezer for a few minutes if you're in a hurry)

For the frosting, we just googled "easy quick frosting," added a little lemon juice to make it more lemony, and piped it on to the cupcakes using a snipped ziploc bag.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lime Cookies

A friend of mine recently called this blog "boring as heck." As much as that bugged me (he's always been a little too brutally honest), he's right. I'm sorry if you as readers have had the same feelings toward this blog, but hey! I don't really care. It's more like a repository of recipes anyway, and if you've ever looked through a recipe box, the most exciting thing you'll find in there are the butter stains on the recipe used most often. But hopefully you'll find something that makes you go "OOH I want to make that!"-- hopefully. If not, that's okay. There are thousands of other food blogs out there, so if you don't find something here that looks tasty, move on and look somewhere else, I won't be offended, really.

Now, that aside, I'm sorry I've been rather neglectful as of late! It's been an incredibly busy year, and it's not going to get any slower before the year is over. I do have exciting news though! Starting in September, I will be participating in a three-month study abroad to Italy, and I will be taking a cooking class conducted in Italian! I hope to post on here pictures of things that we make in class, tricks that I learn, and plenty of recipes. Fingers crossed. I'm also planning on including introductions to delicious foods I come across while in Italy, including the thing I've waited my whole life to try-- gelatto. That's right, I've never had gelatto, because in my mind, the first time I taste it, it will be in Italy. Blame it on this:
Okay, so there's no gelatto in the second picture, but if you've seen that movie, you know she starts eating it (and spilling it on Cary Grant's suit) a few more feet down the quay (okay, it's not in Italy either, but France is cool too).

In any case, here's a recipe for you now. The recipe for these is from Smitten Kitchen (surprise, surprise), and I knew I had to make it because to me, limes = summer. And powdered sugar tastes cool for some reason, and cool is great when it's summer.

These cookies were delicious on days one and two, a little stale on day three (but not anything seven seconds in the microwave didn't fix), and crunchy on day four-- but I ate them anyway. They probably keep a day or two longer if you keep them in an airtight container, but I felt the need to keep them in a paper bag. It looked cooler. Anyway, these are delicious, and the only bad thing about this super easy recipe is that key limes are rather recalcitrant when it comes to zesting (compared to lemons).
Without further ado, Smitten's recipe (copied nearly directly, which I usually try not to do, but today I am lazy, so I hope she doesn't mind). Pictures are, of course, my own (why would I try to blame such crappy quality photographs on her, anyway? I really need to stop taking pictures in the middle of the night with the scrapings of the barrel/batch).

Key Lime Meltaways
From Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Martha Stewart

You can make these with regular limes as well, but if you run into some key limes, they’re worth it.

You could also keep the logs frozen for up to two months, and use them as the meltaway craving hits.

Yield: 5 dozen

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
Grated zest of 4 tiny or 2 large key limes
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour (a.k.a. 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, cream butter and 1/3 cup sugar until fluffy. Add lime zest, juice, and vanilla; beat until fluffy.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, and salt. Add to butter mixture, and beat on low speed until combined.

3. Between two 8-by-12-inch pieces of parchment paper, roll dough into two 1 1/4-inch-diameter logs. Chill at least 1 hour. (I only had plastic wrap, and it worked fine)

4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Place remaining 2/3 cup sugar in a resealable plastic bag. Remove parchment from logs; slice dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place rounds on baking sheets, spaced 1 inch apart. (Again my lack of parchment paper didn't turn out to be the end of the world. These cookies won't grow and won't stick, so you're probably fine sticking them directly onto the pan, as long as you have a good pan.)

5. Bake cookies until barely golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool slightly, just three or four minutes. While still warm, place cookies in the sugar-filled bag; toss to coat. Bake or freeze remaining dough. Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. (I'm certain she means a plastic ziploc bag, but I only had paper bags, so that was what I used. Powdery dust flew out the bottom though, so make sure you hold it over the sink if that's what you end up using too)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Strawberry Summer

Often during the summer I will lose my appetite for everything except pizza. Sometimes even pizza is gross (if you can imagine!), so I just want bread and fruit. Fortunately, someone smarter than me didn't head for the bag of bread and canned peaches. Instead, he made this amazing strawberry salad, and it was. so. delicious. I don't even like strawberries all that much, and it was so, so good, and perfect for hot summer nights when you don't feel like really cooking.
My one word of advice for this is to start it in advance so you aren't eating dinner at 10:45 at night. Yep. And excuse my grainy pictures I took with my phone right before I finished eating.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced onion
10 ounces fresh spinach - rinsed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
1 quart strawberries - cleaned, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup almonds, blanched and slivered

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce and onion. Cover, and chill for one hour.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries and almonds. Pour dressing over salad, and toss. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Eat with a loaf of french bread. I insist.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Exciting Ramen

I kind of got sick of regular old ramen a while ago, and I'd read a few stories on how to make ramen more interesting, and wanted to try it. I was inspired to finally do so when the roommate of a friend of mine demonstrated how to use an egg in his ramen.

For mine, we added frozen vegetables, an egg (just drop it into the boiling water and stir it around, or stir and then drop it in and stir again, whatever), and some shredded/cut pre-cooked spiced chicken.

We used two bags of Mama shrimp-flavored ramens and one Top ramen chicken. Only the packets from the two Mama ramens were used (pour them into the boiling water prior to adding anything else), and it was a little bland in the end. Apparently if you use all spice packets, and make sure that the flavors match (ie don't mix shrimp and chicken), then it should come out alright. Mostly the reason I used Mama was because I like the texture of the noodles better than Top.

The idea is basically to make ramen more exciting, so go ahead and add whatever you like that you think will taste good.

Happy experimenting!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Coconut Curry

This year has been one of enjoying new foods. Up until last night I have not really liked curry much at all, but my friend Megan made some delicious vegetarian curry that I absolutely LOVED.

I was a little worried about the apples, but they turned out tart and delicious (though a little too soft, but maybe that's because we didn't know the potatoes would take so long to cook). I was also concerned about the excessive amount of onion, but seriously they were so good after being imbued with coconut for however long. I was eating them by the spoonful by the end.
Here's the recipe (sorry, I didn't think to take pictures, I didn't know it would be as amazing as it was):

Coconut Milk Curry
from friend Megan, who got it from another person, who recited it from memory

2 potatoes
2 apples
2 carrots
1 sweet onion
1 cup water
1 can coconut milk
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Large pinch of salt
Large pinch of black pepper

Put everything but apples and coconut milk in a pot. Bring to a boil. Turn down to medium and add the apples and coconut milk. Simmer until potatoes are soft, at least half an hour, maybe more. We didn't time it because we just waited for them to be soft.

Serve with white rice!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Tale of Two (Kinds of) Muffins

I've recently learned to love banana bread (as long as there are no nuts). I bought bananas about a month ago and they finally were brown enough to use. The day actually coincided with the day I tried the store brand of apple sauce I'd bought in attempt to save money (note to self: there's usually a reason the store brand is not the leading brand). It turned out to be too gross to eat, but I'm on a strict no-wasting policy now (I've always been bad at this, I'm turning over a new leaf), so I reached back into the files of my memory and recalled a time when I made applesauce muffins with my mom. I think I might've been about four years old. I have no idea. Maybe I wasn't. In any case, I don't remember anything else about them except that I had fun making them, and that they were good.

I googled an applesauce muffin recipe, pulled up a banana bread muffin recipe my friend had given me, and thus began the great muffin project!

It went along pretty much without a hitch (aside from a quick trip to the store mid-mix to get more brown sugar and butter), and I was able to successfully create 36 muffins from scratch in a one-hour window (curse starting late due to distractions and needing to finish on time so you can attend the soccer game of certain amazing boys and girls).
An army of muffins!

All in all, I was really impressed with the taste. We ended up giving 4 to one of the aforementioned soccer-playing girls, 6 to a group of those soccer-playing boys, and 8 to one other soccer-playing boy who really needed them (though I'm certain his roommates ended up eating them too). That left 18 to be consumed by my roommate and I, and boy was it worth every bite (no, we did not eat them all at once. I would have, but that would've been gross). And now, the recipes.

Applesauce Spice Muffins
adapted from (mine has more spice)
For muffins:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
~2 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
~1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (didn't use, which is why there's so much more cinnamon)
~3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
6T butter
1 1/3 cup applesauce
1 cup pecans or walnuts (3 1/2 ounces), coarsely chopped (I omitted. Yuck, nuts!)

For topping:
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
~1 teaspoon cinnamon
~1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (again, didn't use)
~3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Prepare muffins:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Grease muffin pan or line with muffin papers. (The batter makes about 16 muffins)
Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together eggs and brown sugar in a large bowl until combined well, then add butter, a little at a time, whisking until mixture is creamy. Stir in applesauce, then fold in flour mixture until flour is just moistened. Stir in nuts (if using) and divide batter among muffin cups.

Make topping and bake:
Stir together all topping ingredients and sprinkle on top of muffins. Bake until muffins are puffed and golden, about 18-20 minutes (depending on your oven-- keep an eye on them, you do NOT want these gems to burn).

Banana Muffins
adapted from with tips from my friend Reyna and my own adjustments
1/2 stick butter
1 1/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla
2 large heaping spoonfuls flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 c. sour cream
3 mashed ripe bananas
cinnamon and nutmeg to taste
1/2 c. chopped pecans (I omitted, again nuts=gross)

Grease or line muffin pan (again makes about 16 muffins). Beat butter until fluffy. Gradually add sugar. Continue beating until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Add to sour cream to the sugar mixture. Add bananas and pecans (if using). Sift flour, baking powder, soda, and salt together; mix just until well blended. Turn into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes (depending on your oven) or until pick inserted into center of muffins comes out clean and they look and smell delicious.

P.S. Forgive my blurry and unprofessional photos. I live in a basement and took them at night.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Long Time, No Eat

No excuses from me. I'm sorry for the absence.
I actually made this back in January (eek!), possibly even before the soup post, I'm not sure. In any case, I wanted to show y'all that I don't always make desserts, and that I am also capable of making things that don't require several ingredients.
Thus, I give you...
...And yet, so delicious! I started with frozen chicken tenderloins (cheaper than breast, but I'm definitely paying the extra next time, to avoid tendoniness) and marinated them in Worcestershire sauce/Mesquite spice/thyme/who knows what. I then proceeded to fry them up in olive oil, then steamed some peas in butter, and through some frozen sweet potato fries in the oven until they were (mostly) crispy. Add a side of ranch dressing, and WABAM, dinner!

I was very pleased with myself A) for having something other than macaroni and cheese for dinner, B) for remembering to take a picture of it for posterity, C) for using frozen food successfully, and D) for the marinade actually tasting good, even though I was pretty sure it wouldn't.

I took issue with the stringiness of parts of the meat (again, next time I'll splurge on breast). I was also kind of irritated that the fries were still a little mushy, even after cooking them longer than was required. Maybe that is just the way of sweet potato fries, but I wish it wasn't so.

Okay, I know this was a lame post, but I need to get back into the groove of blogging. It's been far too long.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cold and Hot

I woke up this morning feeling pretty sick with the beginnings of a cold. I got through about three hours of school before downing a bunch of Ibuprofin, which got me through the next three hours, and as soon as got home I decided I needed to nip this cold in the bud.

The people in my neighborhood swear by green onions as a cold cure, so I decided to try it. Their philosophy is to eat the entire onion raw, and do it again to a few other onions. However, when my roommate tried it out a few months ago, she said she made a soup and just ate them that way. I decided that sounded a lot more appetizing, so I went and bought some green onions and chicken bouillion, and made a lovely soup!
Basically I boiled a little water in a pot, put in about five finely sliced green onions (cut down to about an inch or so above the root), then added two buillion (chicken flavored) cubes into the pot and stirred until the cubes were dissolved. I made sure to inhale the steam of the soup as it cooked, since that's part of the cure apparently.
I was afraid it would taste nasty, or not be salty enough, or some other thing, but it was actually fine just as it was, which was very surprising to me, because I don't like onions hardly at all. I didn't even need to add any salt! I just sipped the hot, hot soup and munched on the onions. Of course, a few saltine crackers didn't hurt.

After eating it all, I feel loads better (although I've downed so much of it I feel like popping), and I think it may have done the trick. So if you're feeling sick, try this out, and let me know if it works for you.

Note: I think there are a number of colloquial grammar mistakes in this post, but I'm chalking it up to being sick :)