Tuesday, April 29, 2008

TWD: Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

Its Tuesday again! I never thought I would be so excited for a Tuesday as I am now that I joined Tuesdays with Dorie. Last week was my first week and let me just say thank you to all the TWD bakers that left me comments. Since starting this blog back in October, I have never had a post with 23 comments! You are all very sweet :) (Keep the comments coming, I love it!)

This week's recipe was chosen by Caitlin at Engineer Baker. I was a bit hesitant about this recipe. I have never had polenta or figs (and I don't like Fig Newtons) and I didn't own a tart pan. I didn't want to sit out on my second week! I figured if the recipe was in the book then Dorie wouldn't steer us wrong, right?

Well, the tart pan problem was easily solved since I figured I would get future use out of it. Then, I couldn't find polenta or figs! Thanks to the comments by other bakers I found that apricots would be a good substitute and the recipe said yellow cornmeal would work in place of polenta.

So, the reviews started coming through from the people who had made theirs and said it was much like a very sweet cornbread. I LOVE cornbread. Once I determined what I was really making, I was really excited.

I cut the recipe in half and it made 4 small tarts. I did use the extra butter on top and as you can see, it left sinkholes. It was recommended to cut the sugar slightly but I used it all. When cutting the recipe in half, I accidentally forgot to halve the lemon zest. So, my tarts were a little lemony (good thing I learned to like lemon last week!). I didn't love the apricots so the next time I make this I will try another dried fruit, cranberries or cherries, maybe. My husband and I both love this.

Thank you Caitlin. Check out the other cakes on the TWD blogroll.

Monday, April 28, 2008

VTV: Avocados

First, I have to apologize for my delay in posting this week's vegetable. Sorry, Nina! The timing just didn't come together for me this weekend. So, with my avocados and mango super ripe and needing to be used I made my salad as soon as I got home from work tonight.

I was really excited about this week's vegetable but I guess I've really only eaten avocados as guacamole and not by themselves. I did make guacamole this week as well, stay tuned for that post. I wasn't as thrilled with avocados on their own. Maybe mine were a little over ripe and therefore a little too mushy. I'll have to play around with this one some more. I did really love the dressing on the mango though!

The avocado roundup can be found here and come back next week for asparagus!

Avocado and Mango Salad
Source: adapted from Joy of Cooking
Photo: my kitchen


1 lemon
2 avocados
1 ripe mango
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I don't think I used this much, I just eyed it)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper


Halve the lemon. Halve, pit, peel and thinly slice lengthwise the avocados. Squeeze the lemon over the avocados. This prevents the avocados from turning brown.
Peel and seed the mango. If you have a mango peeler, it really does the trick!
Whisk together in a small bowl the oil and lemon juice . Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over the avocados and mango.
Mix together and chill for 1 hour before serving.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

TWD: Bill's Big Carrot Cake

I have been watching for months now as every Tuesday my Google Reader fills up with bakers who have made a new recipe out of Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours.

I finally decided to purchase the very large cookbook and add it to my collection. I sent out the email requesting to join in on the fun. I can't tell you how excited I am to have jumped on this bandwagon. I had so much fun making this week's recipe.

I was excited when the recipe for this week was posted because Jake and I both love carrot cake. I had just recently made one for Easter and loved it so I curious to compare the two. The carrot cake I made for Easter was fabulous. I honestly don't think I can pick between the two. Dorie's cake had a lot of substance in it besides the carrots it had nuts, coconut and cranberries; not to mention lemon in the frosting. The whole combination of textures and flavors was just amazing. I wasn't extremely challenged with this recipe but I know a few of my fellow bakers had trouble with the cupcakes sinking but mine didn't sink at all. I don't know what I did different.

I was, however, challenge by flavors. At first I made the frosting without the lemon flavoring. Neither Jake or I like it. I got done mixing it and felt like it was missing something. I actually had a lemon in the fridge hoping to use my new microplane on it. I finally decided to just put the lemon juice in. Since I was sending these cupcakes with Jake to his rehearsal if I tried and didn't like it, hopefully, someone would and they wouldn't go to waste. I LOVED it, I couldn't stop tasting it. I had to force myself (and Jake, who also loved the lemon frosting) to stop eating the cupcakes so there was enough for Jake to take to his rehearsal.

Thank you to Amanda from slow like honey for selecting this week's recipe! Check out the blogroll at Tuesdays with Dorie to see everyone else's carrot cake.

Bill's Big Carrot Cake

Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Photo: my kitchen

Yields 10 servings (24 cupcakes)


For the cake:

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon salt

3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (I used pecans)

1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened) (I used sweetened)

½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries (I used crasins)

2 cups sugar

1 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract (I used the juice from 1 fresh lemon)

½ cup shredded coconut (optional) (I omitted)

Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional) (I omitted)

Getting ready:

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another. (I decided to make cupcakes-so I lined 2 pans will cupcake liners.)

To make the cake:

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (I baked my cupcakes at 325 for 20-25 minutes.)

The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

To make the frosting:

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.

If you'd like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.

To assemble the cake:

Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft.

Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.


This cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and while it's good plain, it's even better with vanilla ice cream or some lemon curd.


The cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen. Freeze it uncovered, then when it's firm, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

VTV: Artichoke

This week's Vindicate the Vegetable was artichoke. I was really excited about this because I have never eaten a fresh artichoke but I've eaten cooked in other things like spinach and artichoke dip. I'm pretty sure I used a can of artichokes when I made that. I did some browsing for a recipe using fresh artichoke and was planning to use Giada's Baked Artichokes.

Unfortunately, I had a rough week and didn't get back to the farmers market until our regular shopping. Upon arriving at the market, there were no artichokes to be found.

Please check the VTV site for the roundup on artichokes. Then come back here next week to find another new vegetable!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I couldn't help myself!

A friend of mine came across this and I just couldn't help myself! I laughed so hard. And I watch it every time I need a good laugh. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

from me to you...

I have had a rough couple of days this week. So, last night Jake decided I just needed to be pampered. This included making dinner for me. This is not an unusual task as we both love to cook so we share the responsibility. Out menu for the night was turkey burgers. We had planned ahead to try adding grilled pineapple on top for something fresh with salads on the side.

When he served dinner this is what I found...

...a smiley face :) Just what I needed. After dinner, he cleaned up and tucked me on the couch for some quality DVR time. What a fabulous husband I have!

P.S. The grilled pineapple on top was excellent!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

VTV: Yellow Summer Squash

While my in laws were visiting for Easter, we had a conversation about the vegetables that Jake has learned to like, while the list is very short; his mom was very impressed. I believe she said, "Wow, he never used to eat any vegetables as a kid!"

So, I was really excited when my friend, Nina started a new blog, Vindicate the Vegetable. While I enjoy eating many different vegetables, my husband does not. We have been working very hard at introducing new vegetables into our diet. I was glad the first week was a vegetable that we both already like, yellow summer squash. This recipe is one of our favorites ways to eat squash. In the past, we've also used eggplant in this. Today, I decided to top them with some lime zest. It was amazing! (Thanks Mom#2 for the microplane!)

(don't worry, I took the picture mid-cooking, the chicken was fully cooked before we ate it!)

(Source and Photos: my kitchen)

2 chicken breasts
2 small yellow summer squash
4 small red potatoes
1 lime
onion powder
garlic powder
non-fat sour cream
reduced fat Mexican blend cheese
tortilla shells


Season both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Grill until almost fully cooked then slice and add to the vegetables to finish cooking together.

While the chicken is grilling, I microwaved the potatoes in order to cook them faster. I chopped the squash, added it to the wok and seasoned it. Once the potatoes were cooking, I chopped them, added them to the wok and season them as well. (Note: if you don't precook the potatoes, don't add the squash till the end. It will cook very quickly and turn to mush.)

Let everything finish cooking together. Warm the tortilla shells for 30 seconds in the microwave or toast them in the oven. Layer the chicken and vegetables on the bottom. Add a little non-fat sour cream, shredded cheese and the zest of a lime. Yum!

Husband Rating: A+ He ate all this vegetables tonight and thought the lime zest was a great addition.

Wife: A+ A favorite that we haven't had in a while and it was so refreshing and guilt free, no oil or butter!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


My Google Reader is getting out of control! I am addicted to blog reading however, I cannot keep up anymore! If you read my blog (lurkers too!), leave me a comment. Otherwise, I'm cleaning out my reader and I may never read you again. Save yourself!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Master Baker #2: Easter Candy (Entry #2)

When Nikki first posted this month's Master Baker ingredient, I knew I wanted to use Reese's PB cup eggs. They are one of my favorites! I decided that I would bake them into some brownies. They turned out 200% better than I even thought they would!

I also sent these with Jake to one of his rehearsals and a couple of the vocalists told Jake that I should go into business and they wanted to market my brownies! Well, I can't take credit for the recipe but I'm pretty sure they are expecting me to send more (often!)

Chewy Cocoa Brownies
Source: Sweet Savory Southern
Photo: my kitchen


1 2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup melted butter or margarine
2 tablespoons water
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla
1 13 cup flour
3/4 cup baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped nuts (I omitted)
1/2 mini chocolate chips (I replaced with Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Eggs)


Preheat oven to 350. Grease 13x9 pan.

Combine sugar, butter and water in large bowl.
Stir in eggs and vanilla.
Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in medium bowl.
Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture.
Add nuts and chocolate chips.
Spread into prepared pan.

Bake for 18-25 minutes or until wooden tooth pick inserted comes our slightly sticky.

I cooked them about half way then pressed 2 peanut butter eggs into the top and finished cooking the remaining time. I thought I had melted them too much but once they cooled the peanut butter eggs cooled perfectly!

Makes 12 servings

Master Baker #2: Easter Candy

My review of this recipe: Super easy to make, super colorful, super yummy in taste-not so great in texture.
I am a total texture eater so this wasn't really my cup of tea. The concept of a jelly bean really comes through in this recipe-a really sticky spot of gel in the middle of a cookie. In the future I will stick to eating cookies and jelly beans, separately!
I sent them off with Jake to his rehearsal and they were a hit! The leftovers went home with a single man around 50 who doesn't get baked goods very often. I'm glad I could make him something special.

Easter Biscotti
Source: Culinary in the Country
Photo: my kitchen


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, divided - at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
12 ounces Jelly Beans


Preheat the oven to 375°

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Mix in the vanilla.

Add in the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the Jelly Beans. The dough may be a bit sticky.

Scoop dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Take one half and roll lightly back and forth making a log about the length of your baking sheet. Carefully place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the second piece.

Using wet fingers if the dough is sticky, flatten each log a bit.

In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg and brush evenly over each log.

Bake for about 23-28 minutes or until they are slightly golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10-15 minutes. (I cooled them for quite a while and they still seemed to crumble a bit when I cut them.) Using a serrated knife, carefully slice them on the diagonal into about 1/2" slices. Stand each slice back on the baking sheet - it is ok if they touch.

Bake for another 10-12 minutes until the edges turn a slight golden brown. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Easter Cake Bake 2008

The polls are open! Please go visit A Slice of Cherry Pie and vote for MY cake!!!