Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Girl's Night In

The other night my good friend M came over and we decided to have a girl's night of baking. M is not only a good friend but she is one of the most encouraging and positive people I know. She works a full time job plus goes to school so when the opportunity to bake something together came along, she was excited and happy. Both recipes come from the Allrecipes website. The first one we made was for the classic Snicker doodle cookie, one of my all time favorites. I have previously posted a recipe for Snicker doodles before but when my coworker brought in these cookies to work a couple weeks ago, I had to try the recipe out myself. They are so delicious--a little puffy and soft in the center with nice little crispy edges. Yummy!

The second recipe we made that night was for Butterscotch Bread Pudding (is your mouth watering yet)? Make sure you use an extra large mixing bowl when putting this together. The thing I like about making bread pudding is you can improvise as you go along, like maybe adding a handful of raisins or how about a dash of rum into the mix? The bread type can be varied too depending on your taste. For this bread pudding though, we pretty much stuck to the recipe and it turned out lusciously good. Right out of the oven the pudding is well, very pudding-ish in consistency. If you can stand to wait a day like I did before digging into it, the bread pudding will be firm and full of delicious butterscotch flavor.
M and I had so much fun baking that night that we've decided to make our girl's night of baking a monthly thing. Happy Baking!
For the recipes click here:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Stick To Your Ribs Cooking

Whenever I think of comfort food, I usually think of something warm, rich, and hearty. Sweet or savory, a dish that comforts you like a fuzzy blanket or a childhood teddy bear is something to be eaten with pleasure and appreciation. This recipe for country style pork ribs is a perfect example of such a comforting dish. Made with only brown sugar and tomatoes, the ribs pretty much cook themselves in the oven for about 3 hours. These turned out so tender and the flavor was simply delicious. What could be better than simple comfort food like this?

Comforting Pork Ribs (adapted from the Encyclopedia of Creative Cooking)
1 12-ounce can tomatoes
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 pounds country style pork ribs

Layer the ingredients as listed in a large casserole dish starting with the tomatoes and ending with the ribs. Do not stir. Cover with foil and bake at 325 degrees F for 3 hours. Uncover during the last 45 minutes of baking.
Yields about 6 servings.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Shake It Up

Lately, my drink of choice has been the milkshake. I think for the last month (at least), I've had one milkshake fix a day. It's a wonderful comfort "food" and makes me happy. Let's see, so far I've tried milkshakes from Wendy's, Burger King, Del Taco, Carl's Jr., and of course McDonald's! My favorite has to be the vanilla shake from McD's--so simple yet so thick, rich, and delicious. Yesterday I decided to finally break in my Kitchen Aid hand held blender by making my boyfriend a vanilla shake. Since he's lactose intolerant though, I used soy vanilla ice cream and lactose-free milk. I added a tablespoon of caramel sauce and topped it off with whipped cream. The verdict? He loved it and drank the whole thing up.

Soy Vanilla Shake:
1 cup soy vanilla ice cream
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk

Blend the ingredients together for about 15 seconds. If you like, drizzle with caramel sauce and finish it off with some whipped cream.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How About Some Chicken?

This evening I felt like cooking something for my boyfriend and me. Yes, it's been awhile since I've actually done any home cooking...seems like we've been doing more takeout than anything else these last few months. Since I had some lovely chicken thighs and legs in the freezer, I opted for this simple yet very tasty dish from Mark Bittman's cookbook, "How To Cook Everything". Keep in mind that your kitchen may get very hot during the cooking process but luckily for us, it was a cool, breezy day here in Southern California, and our smoke detector only went off once. Enjoy!

Roast Chicken Parts With Herbs and Butter

4 tablespoons of butter

1 whole chicken (3-4 pounds), cut up (I used 4 legs, and 4 thighs)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combination of herbs (I used dried herbs--thyme and basil)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. When hot, put 1 tablespoon of butter in a roasting pan and place it in the oven--leave it there until the butter is melted.

2. Add the chicken, skin side up, season with salt and pepper, and return the pan to the oven. Combine the herb and the remaining butter in a bowl and mix until blended.

3. After the chicken has cooked 15 minutes, spread about 1/4 of the herb/butter mixture over it, turn, add another quarter of the mixture and roast another 10 minutes. Turn the chicken over again (now skin side up) and add another quarter of the herb mixture.

4. Cook until the chicken is done (you'll see clear juices if you make a small cut in the meat near the bone), a total of 30-40 minutes (mine took about 25 minutes to cook).

5. When serving, drizzle the melted butter/herb sauce over the chicken and serve with Japanese udon noodles also drizzled with the butter. Hope you like!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Something To Brighten Your Day

These days, I cannot pass up any opportunity to make my day a little brighter, a little happier even. So, when my dear friend T from Chicago shared this recipe for Key Lime Pie With Blueberry Compote, found in the Chicago Tribune and fervently (but sweetly) asked me to bake and blog about it, I could not say no.
Life has been a little tough for me lately and baking and cooking have not been on my regular repertoire, but because I knew this would actually be good for me to do and because I love T, I went out today to get all the ingredients and baked the pie today. As I was putting the recipe together, I discovered that I missed baking and being in the kitchen. I missed that sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with throwing eggs and butter and blueberries together and then coming up with something delicious to nourish our bodies and our souls with. This evening I treated myself to two slices of this creamy, tangy, yummy pie and made sure to add extra whipped cream for myself. Yes, this day was a little brighter. Thank-you, T.

Recipe for Key Lime Pie With Blueberry Compote (adapted from Chicago Tribune):
Crust: - You can purchase a graham cracker crust, or make this one:
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used cinnamon graham crackers)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (I used bottle Key Lime Juice)
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup blueberries
1 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar – I cut this down to 1/4 cup for less sugar
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Crust: Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and salt in a medium bowl; stir in the melted butter. Press the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch, buttered pie pan, just even with the rim. Bake until crust just begins to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven; set aside to cool, about 5 minutes.
Filling: Combine the condensed milk, lime juice and zest in a large bowl until blended; whisk in the eggs. Pour the filling into the baked crust. Return to oven; bake until set, about 20 minutes. Cool completely on a rack; scatter the 1/4 cup blueberries evenly over top. Cover; refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours. (Pie may be refrigerated up to 3 days.)
Compote: Combine the blueberries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. (Compote may be refrigerated, covered, up to 3 days.) Cut the pie into wedges; serve with compote and whipped cream
(this post is dedicated to my late father, who would have celebrated his 79th birthday today. Happy birthday, Pop).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Brotherly Love

Hi guys. Some of you may be wondering what's happened to me lately with my lack of fabulous recipes and posts this summer. Well, let's just say, sometimes life can be challenging and tricky. But, at the same time, life can be beautiful and wonderful too. Like tonight, when my little brother drove over 40 miles to see his big sis and cook her some delicious spaghetti. Yep, am I lucky or what? He cooked up a big plate of pasta and added his own touches like chicken Italian sausage and a luscious marinara sauce. Pretty soon I'll be cooking up a storm again but in the meantime, I sure don't mind having my brother spoil me with his own culinary talents.
Spaghetti with Italian Chicken Sausage
1 package (1 pound) Spaghetti, your favorite brand
1 package (about 5 links) Italian Chicken Sausage (You can use any type of sausage you like, I thought chicken would be a little healthier)
1 jar Trader Joe's Rustic Southern Italian pasta sauce
Parmesan Cheese for garnish

In a large saute pan, brown the sausage and cook until cooked through. Add the pasta sauce and cook until heated through. Set aside.
In a large pot, boil 2 quarts of water (don't forget to season the water with salt!) and cook the spaghetti until al dente, about 7 to 10 minutes.
When the pasta is done, you can either pile it up on a plate and put the sauce on top, or mix the pasta and the sauce together and then put it on the plate. Sprinkle with parmesean cheese to taste. Buon appetito!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Feeling Like Flan

For the next few weeks the theme of my food blog will be all about "soft foods". Think puddings, soups, tofu...you get the idea. Maybe you're wondering why. Well, just last week I endured two hours in the dental chair to have two new crowns placed. Right now, I've got a couple temporary crowns which are not the most comfortable things to have in one's mouth. Those of you with crowns can relate to this, I'm sure. Yet, I'm determined to make the "best" of this situation and more than that, determined to not have these temporaries fall out until my next dental visit during the first week of August. This of course means the less chewing and chomping I do, the better, and hence, the "soft food" diet is upon me. So, today I made flan. I have never been a big flan fan until a coworker brought some in for our last Cinco De Mayo potluck. It was light, creamy and not overly sweet. In fact, that was the recipe I was hoping to make today but I discovered I left the notes at work. I opted for this Vanilla Flan recipe from Epicurious instead. It's a little lighter than other flans in the fat department--you can actually use skim milk if you'd like but I chose low fat. It was deliciously smooth and yummy and the best part was, my teeth didn't have to do a lot of work to enjoy it.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ina's Lamb Kebobs

We enjoy a good lamb dish every once in awhile and this particular recipe is so quick and easy, I just had to share it. It comes from one of Ina Garten's recipes so you know it must be good, right? All you need is a large mixing bowl, salt, pepper, and a few other ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen and you're good to go. You do need to marinate the lamb for at least an hour though so make sure you plan on that when you make this dish. After that, the cooking is a cinch--only 10 minutes under the broiler and you have juicy, tasty lamb that is perfect for a summer meal. Enjoy!

Lamb Kebabs (adapted from Ina Garten)
1.5 lbs boneless lamb sirloin
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red win vinegar
1 teaspoonful dried basil
1/2 teaspoonful thyme
2 garlic cloves (minced)
Coarse salt, pepper
Metal or wooden skewers

Cut the lamb meat into large chunks and place in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper, olive oil, vinegar, basil, thyme, and garlic. Mix using your hands. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the fridge from 1 to 3 hours to marinate.

Preheat oven broiler; place the lamb meat onto skewers.
Broil the lamb for a total of 10 minutes, flipping the meat half-way through.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


It feels so good to be baking and blogging again. These last several weeks, I have been a bit under the weather and had to take a little break from the kitchen. The good news is, I am on the mend and thought I'd "celebrate" my first post for July with a beautifully rich and moist Beer Cake from today's Los Angeles Times Food section. This cake made my whole house smell so good while it was baking and I really couldn't wait to take a bite of it as soon as it was done. Since I didn't want to burn my tongue though, I managed to wait for the cake to cool before giving it a taste this evening. Wow, this cake is delicious! It reminded me of a luscious spice cake but with a lot more rich flavor to it. The beer truly adds to this flavor but believe me, there's definitely no "beer-taste" anywhere to be found. Hope you will give it a try. Happy baking! (click here for the recipe)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Amy's Peanut Butter Cookies

Here's another recipe from the Politics and Pot Roasts cookbook that I shared with you on my previous post. This time the recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies is compliments of our former "first daughter", Amy Carter. Did you know that Amy was only 9 years old when her dad Jimmy, our 39th President was elected? A couple other tidbits taken from the book: "Amy occasionally roller skated in the White House and had a tree house built for her in the South Lawn." Pretty cool huh? Well, I'm not sure if Amy actually baked these cookies herself in that huge White House kitchen back then, but I'm pretty sure she must have shared them with her peanut-loving family. I personally loved the soft, delicate texture of the cookies which reminded me a lot of a butter cookie. Surprisingly though, they were a little weak on the peanutty flavor. Next time I think I'll use a full cup of peanut butter and maybe add some chopped up peanuts to the mixture as well. By the way, these taste wonderful with a cold glass of milk.

Amy Carter's Peanut Butter Cookies:
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup warm water
3 cups sifted flour

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, shortening and peanut butter
2. Beat in the sugars and salt.
3. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
4. In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the warm water; add this to the large bowl and mix well.
5. Stir in the flour. Mix until dough is smooth.
6. Wrap plastic wrap over bowl and place in the fridge for 1 hour.
7. After 1 hour, preheat oven to 400 degrees F
8. Using a small ice cream scooper or a spoon, scoop dough into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Gently flatten the ball using the tines of a fork; (create a criss cross pattern with the fork, if desired).
9. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown
10. Allow to stand for 10 minutes on the baking pan before transferring to cooling racks
(Makes about 4 dozen cookies)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Fit For A President

My boyfriend recently surprised me with a new cookbook titled, Politics and Pot Roasts, An Unofficial, Unauthorized and Completely Unclassified Cookbook by Sarah Hood Salomon. It's an interesting, fun, and educational read, filled with some of the "favorite" recipes of over 40 U.S presidents and their wives. Starting with George Washington and rounding up with George W. Bush, I got a kick out of learning about our former president's food preferences as well as tidbits on entertaining styles of the presidential families. I decided to try this simple and quick recipe for Corn Muffins from the collection of Ida McKinley who was the wife of our 25th president, William.
According to the author, the recipe was first published in 1896 in The Canton Favorite Cookbook by the Ladies of the First Baptist Church in Canton, Ohio. The simplicity of this recipe makes it very appealing--it can all be made using just one bowl and one wooden spoon for mixing, and the muffins turned out moist and light with just a hint of sweetness. My boyfriend took one bite and declared them "presidential-tasting!" Okay, you be the judge. Enjoy!

Mrs. McKinley's Corn Muffins :
Preheat oven to 425 degrees farenheit
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Mix the dry ingredients together. Beat egg lightly and add to the dry ingredients.
2. Pour in milk and melted butter.
3. Mix until everything is just moistened.
4. Spoon into muffin tins, about two-thirds full.
5. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Yields 6-8 muffins

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday's Sweet Treat

I just wanted to share a quick post with you today. It's for a Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze, a recipe that can be found on the Leite's Culinaria website. The cake is loaded with a combination of both Granny Smith and Fuji apples as well as lots of pecans, then topped off with caramel. It is lusciously moist and is perfect for breakfast or dessert. I would recommend a big mug of coffee or a cold glass of milk to go with it. Click here if you would like to give this delicious recipe a try yourself.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How About Some Tofu?

Despite all the baking I love to do, I also make an effort to eat as healthfully as I can most of the time. Treats and sweets are usually reserved for weekends and so my meal planning centers mostly around things like vegetables and whole grains, leaner cuts of meat like chicken breast or extra lean beef, and fresh fruit. On occasion, I also like to experiment with non-meat main dishes such as tofu. Lately, this Tofu Oat Loaf has been appearing on my menu more often. A lot of people shy away from tofu because of its reputation as being “boring" and "bland”. Well, I can assure you that there is nothing boring or bland about this loaf. The recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks called Oat Cuisine which as the title suggests, incorporates heart-healthy oats into most of its recipes. Here, the tofu is mixed together with uncooked oatmeal, tomato sauce, and fresh herbs. I also included some peppers for an extra kick. Eat it with some marinara sauce on top or maybe as a sandwich with some melted low fat cheese and toasted rye bread? Now I’m not promising that you’ll enjoy this more than a “true” meatloaf mind you, but it does make a nice, healthy alternative and who knows, you just might find yourself getting excited about tofu.

Tofu Oat Loaf (adapted from Oat Cuisine by Bobbie Hinman):
1 pound firm tofu
1/3 cup tomato or marinara sauce
1/3 cup fresh basil chopped
1/3 cup fresh chives chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 chopped, seeded jalapeno pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. Coat a loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray
3. Rinse the tofu and pat dry; place it in a large bowl with 1/3 cup of marinara sauce. Add the herbs, spices, jalapeno pepper and ground pepper. Mash everything well together with a fork.
4. Add the oats and wheat germ and mix well until blended.
5. Press mixture firmly into prepared pan.
6. Bake for 45 minutes; after baking, allow the loaf to cool slightly for about 5 minutes, then invert onto a plate.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A Curry Craving

Another food craving hit me over the weekend and this time, it was for the spicy flavors of curry. I love a good curry dish and since I had a freezer-full of chicken and all the ingredients I needed already, I decided to make chicken curry. This was a recipe I made up as I went along, trying to incorporate all the ingredients that I enjoy whenever I go out to my favorite Thai restaurant for curry. Sometimes though, I find that curry dishes can be a little on the heavy side so I found that by making my own, I was definitely able to control that aspect of it. I used a combination of coconut milk and plain yogurt in this recipe which balanced out the spiciness of the curry paste and added a nice tanginess overall to the dish. Whether you eat this with some rice or pasta or even over plain toast, you will be sure to have your curry craving cured.

Chicken Curry
3 chicken breasts, 3 chick thighs, 4 drumsticks
1 15 oz. can chicken broth
1 lemon grass stalk—slice up the white bulb part
1 piece of ginger-sliced
1 cup of coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoonful red curry paste
handful of basil leaves
handful of mint leaves
handful of cilantro
whole black olives (optional)

Rinse the chicken in water and pat dry; except for the chicken legs, cut up the chicken meat into smaller pieces, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil and brown the chicken for about 4 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Pour the chicken broth into the skillet, add the lemon grass, ginger, and coconut milk; allow this mixture to slightly boil then turn down the heat to a simmer. Add the tomato paste, curry powder, curry paste, turmeric, and mustard seeds and stir for about 3 minutes. Add the yogurt to the mixture and stir well. Next, add the chicken back into the skillet, bring the mixture back to a boil and then turn down the heat again and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Finally, add the olives, basil, mint and cilantro and then remove from the heat.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Make a lemon cake!
Over the last three days, I have been craving lemon cake. Ever since my boyfriend described a delectable slice he had the other day at a business event, lemon cake has been on my mind. My brain cells began working overtime, trying to find a recipe that would fit my needs and satisfy my craving. First, my cake had to be luscious and moist; second, and this was a bit more challenging, I did not want a cake that was too fattening or high in calories; lastly, being the citrus-lover that I am, the cake had to pack a whopping punch of lemony flavor. Searching through my cookbook collection for something that fit the bill was a bit tricky but when I found this recipe for yogurt cake, I knew I could make it work. The recipe comes from the cookbook, “Chocolate and Zucchini” and makes a wonderful base for all sorts of flavors, particularly lemon. I loved how simple and straightforward this recipe was, and with just a few tweaks here and there, I was able to customize it to my liking. You would never know that I only used one-third cup of oil and non-fat yogurt because the texture of the cake was quite moist, luscious and delicious. Though the cake tasted so good on its own without a glaze or frosting, I chose to make a low fat lemon curd to top onto the cake. This made for a nice, refreshing, and lip-puckering touch. I would have to say that this dessert has achieved a spot on my favorite list. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Lemon Yogurt Cake (adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusolier)
Serves 10 people:
1/3 cup Canola oil
1 cup plain, non-fat yogurt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon rum (optional)
Juice of one whole lemon
Zest of one whole lemon
1 and 2/3 cup AP flour
1 and ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
A pinch of sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray the sides of a 10-inch spring form pan or a cake pan with cooking spray (line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper if not using a spring form)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the yogurt and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla, oil, rum (if using) and mix again. Lastly, stir in the lemon juice and zest.
In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Pour the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture and whisk until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and allow to stand for about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the pan to loosen or if using a spring form pan, unclasp the sides. Flip the cake onto a plate a place back on the rack.
Lemon Curd (from Alice Medrich's Chocolate and the Art of Low Fat Desserts)
1/3 cup strained, fresh lemon juice
fresh lemon zest from one-half of a lemon
5 tbsp sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
In a small sauce pan, over medium heat, combine sugar and lemon juice. Add the lemon zest, stir until the sugar is dissolved completely.
In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg. While whisking constantly, very slowly stream the hot lemon-sugar syrup into the egg. Beat for about 2 minutes , then transfer this mixture back into the saucepan by pouring through a strainer. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the curd just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.Transfer to a small airtight container and allow to cool. Store in the refrigerator.
Makes about 2/3 cup.

Note: The cake can be eaten slightly warm or at room temperature. Once its cool you can wrap the cake in foil and keep at room temperature for several days. The flavors get more intense and delicious after a day or so.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Better Than Delivery...

The other night my boyfriend wanted to call up the local pizza parlor and order his favorite pizza (usually some pepperoni concoction with pineapple on it). I quickly stopped him in his tracks and told him that I would make a pizza for him instead. What was I thinking?? I’m not sure what made me say that as I was pretty certain that I had no frozen pizza dough or flat bread (unless you count the freezer-burned pita bread that really needed to be thrown out), and no pepperoni in the house. Well, it was too late to turn back at this point and retract my offer as my boyfriend happily put down the telephone and had a big smile on his face. I hid my panic with my own smile and confidently said, “dinner will be ready in about 45 minutes.” So the challenge began. I opened up my freezer and saw the box of Trader Joe’s puffed pastry that I bought for apple turnovers a few weeks ago. Thankfully, I still had one sheet of pastry left in the box. Woohoo! Next, I looked in the fridge and grabbed the shredded mozzarella cheese, some Chinese sausage, a Tupperware of marinara sauce, and the leftover top round steak that I made for some beef tacos the previous day. Lastly, I checked the pantry and found a can of crushed pineapple. Putting all the ingredients together was a breeze and a lot of fun. I first brushed the puff pastry with a little egg white wash, then spread a nice, thick layer of marinara sauce right over that. My boyfriend loves his pizza on the "saucy" side so I was pretty liberal with the marinara. Next came a few handfuls of part-skimmed mozzarella cheese, and then I sliced up one Chinese sausage and spread this out on one side of the pizza; the other half of the pizza was topped with the sliced top round steak. Finally, I added some of the crushed pineapple here and there because for my boyfriend, a pizza just ain’t a pizza without some pineapple on top! Into the preheated 400 degree F oven it went, and in about 20 minutes, the pizza was done. The end result was, to quote my boyfriend, “one of the best pizza’s I’ve ever tasted”! Can you believe it?
Since I received such accolades with the aforementioned puffed pastry pizza, I decided to make another for tonight’s dinner. This time though I changed up my toppings and used Canadian bacon, black olives, cherry tomatoes, precooked shrimp, and of course pineapple! Once again, the pizza turned out great and we didn't even have to pick up the phone. Saturday night cooking should always be this simple. Hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers Go To The Opera

I have to admit, I was a little hesitant about completing this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge. Well, maybe intimidated is more accurate! I mean, could I possibly pull off such a complicated sounding recipe such as this Opera Cake? I had never even heard of such a dessert until a little less than a month ago when our lovely hosts Ivonne, Lis, Fran and Shea announced that this would be our challenge for May. I initially read the recipe over a couple times and each time thought, 'this sounds too hard!’ I didn't pick up the the recipe again until a few days before the long Memorial Holiday weekend and this time, after a few more reads, I actually felt excited about attempting this challenge. This is gonna sound corny but as I was reading the recipe for the third and fourth time I began to think about what being a Daring Baker means and why I joined DB in the first place. I knew one reason I joined was to stretch and challenge myself in the baking arena; another was to learn more from others who shared a passion for baking; and most of all, I joined the DB'ers to have fun! And was this Opera Cake FUN to make! Yes, it did entail many steps, and YES, I did have some frustrating moments especially when the butter cream which turned out so lovely on Saturday night, did not look so hot on Sunday morning. Still though, this recipe allowed me to be a little more creative by choosing the flavorings which was an orange and almond theme. I chose to add some Mandarin oranges in between the layers of the jaconde, added Grand Marnier to the white chocolate ganache, almond extract was used in the syrup, and I topped the finished cake with almond slices and more oranges. Oh my gosh, this cake was delicious! The Opera Cake made its "debut" at a family get together this past Sunday and was a huge hit! The flavors worked well together and despite all the butter, cream and chocolate, there was still a lovely lightness to the cake. Are you up for the Opera Cake challenge? If so, you can find the full

recipe on Ivonne's site if you click here. I'll see you at the Opera!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cookies To Make You Chipper

How do you like your chocolate chip cookies?
a) soft and chewy
b) thin and crispy
c) all of the above
Well, if you answered "c" then I think you will enjoy this cookie recipe by pastry chef Sherry Yard. She calls these her "quintessential chocolate chip cookies" and by the taste of them, the name is quite fitting. The cookies manage to possess crisp, delicate edges and a soft, chewy center. That's the perfect chocolate chip cookie in my book! Yard recommends the use of a high quality bittersweet chocolate that she cuts into 1-inch pieces versus the more traditional chocolate chips. I used a mixture of dark chocolate as well as mint chocolates in my cookies so feel free to experiment with whatever you like. The interesting step in this recipe was shaping the dough into a log and then popping it into the fridge to chill. I'm more used to the usual drop cookie method of making chocolate chip cookies which, by the way, is also an option with this recipe.
So grab a tall glass of milk, or whatever your poison might be and hope you will enjoy these delicious cookies. Bet you can't eat just one either!

Chocolate Chip Cookies (by Sherry Yard, Desserts By The Yard)
1 and 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1-inch pieces

directions-(Prepare oven and cookie sheets once the cookie dough has already chilled for a minimum of one hour OR if skipping the chilling process, proceed as normal)
1. Place racks in the middle and lower third of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Sift together the flour and baking soda and set aside.
3. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), cream the butter on medium speed until lemony yellow, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sugar, brown sugar, and salt. Continue creaming the mixture on medium speed until it is smooth and free of lumps, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle.
4. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on low speed for 15 seconds or until the egg is fully incorporated. Do not over beat. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
5. On low speed, add the sifted flour mixture. Beat slowly until all the flour is incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the chocolate chunks and mix in.
6. Remove small handfuls or spoonfuls of one half of the dough from the bowl and center them along the bottom of a sheet of parchment or waxed paper, creating a log of 1 and 1/2 inches wide and 12 inches long. Fold the parchment over, creating a sausage. Twist the ends over and wrap in plastic. Repeat with the remaining dough. Chill for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight. You can freeze the dough, well wrapped, for up to 2 weeks). When the dough has chilled, remove it from the paper and using a serrated knife, slice 1/3-inch-thick rounds off the log. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
**Note: if baking right away, skip step 6 and spoon heaping tablespoons 2 inches apart on the prepared sheets.
7. Bake, rotating the sheets from the top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking, for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and slide the parchment off the baking sheets onto a work surface. Cool the baking sheets between batches and allow the cookies to cool for at least 5 minutes before eating.
Cookies will keep for up to 3 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

There's A Banana In My Biscotti!

Please allow me to share with you yet another biscotti recipe, would you? Yes, I sure love my biscotti and I do enjoy baking up these little cookies. Today's recipe for banana biscotti was found on the website Cookie Madness and could not have been discovered at a better time because once again, over-ripened bananas were invading my kitchen counter. If you are looking for ways to use up bananas that are beyond their prime then I hope you'll try this recipe. It's a nice alternative to banana bread and compared to lots of other cookies and treats, relatively low in fat (only 1 tablespoon of oil for the batch). I decided to omit the nuts in mine but feel free to use them here. Whenever I eat biscotti I make sure to have a big mug of either coffee or hot chocolate for dipping. That and the Sunday paper and I'm set for the day. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Fruity Blondies

It's been a busy week as my boyfriend's nephew and his girlfriend were visiting us from Chicago. It was lots of fun showing them around the city especially because they had never been to California before. Since they were in town, I did a little baking and decided to bake up a batch of cranberry and raisin blondies, a recipe I've had my eye on for some time now. If you are a blondie fan (and I’m not talking about the 70’s rock band here), I think you will find many things to like about this bar cookie which is filled with not only luscious cranberries, but rum-soaked golden raisins too. You could probably make them even more decadent by adding some butterscotch chips or chocolate chunks, but I decided not to this time. I also left out the nuts because I wanted the focus to be more on the juicy cranberries and raisins. Coming out of the oven, I was worried that the blondies were going to be a little on the dry side. The baking time said anywhere from 35 to 45 minutes but you know how ovens can vary, so I opted for the 35 minute baking time. Still though, I prefer a chewy, gooey blondie and these were just a tad drier than I liked, almost with a tea cake-like texture. So, my recommendation is to keep an eye out on the baking time and check how they’re coming along perhaps at the 28-30 minutes mark. I enjoyed the butterscotch flavor of these blondies very much, and found the cranberries and raisins added quite a tasty and pretty touch.
Fruity Blondies (adapted from Gourmet's Best Desserts)
1 C cranberries, rinsed, picked over and chopped
1 and 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup rum (light or dark will work)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 and 3/4 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Butter/grease an 8X8-inch pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Toss the cranberries with 2 tablespoons brown sugar in a small bowl and let the mixture stand for 15 minutes.
3. Combine the raisins and rum in a small saucepan; bring the liquid to a boil and simmer the raisins, covered, for 5 minutes or until they have absorbed the rum. Let cool.
4. Melt the butter in a saucepan over moderately low heat; add the remaining 1 and 3/4 cups brown sugar, cook the mixture, stirring, until it is just bubbly. Transfer the mixture to a heat-proof bowl and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Beat in the eggs and vanilla, add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir the batter until it is combined well. Fold in the cranberry mixture and raisins, and turn the batter into the baking pan, spreading it evenly (batter will be very thick).
5. Bake it in the middle of the oven for 35-45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. (Check at 30 minute mark so you do not over bake).
6. Allow the pan to cool on a rack and cut into bars.
Yields about 30 small bars

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday Morning Banana Crumb Muffins

Aside from banana bread, which I love, I'm always on the lookout for new and delicious ways to use up those overripe bananas that sit on my kitchen counter or that I have hidden away in my freezer. One recipe that I have made before and loved is for banana crumb muffins which I discovered on Allrecipes. They were a huge hit when I made them the first time for a brunch party and I decided to make them again this weekend. Like most banana bread recipes, everything can be done by hand, no need to use your electric mixer for this one! It's also one of the easiest and quickest recipes to put together, and would make a very nice addition to say, your Mother's Day breakfast table, perhaps? Happy Mother's Day to all you moms! This post is dedicated to my own mother, who was a fabulous cook and who gave me so many beautiful and wonderful memories. She has been my inspiration for this food blog. Thank-you, Mom!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Another Indonesian Treat

This is my second Indonesian dessert that I have posted so far (see black sticky rice), something I found on Arfi's lovely website, HomemadeS. The dish is called Kueh Klepon which translates to sticky rice coconut balls. It is made with sticky rice flour, the stuff that Japanese mochi is made from, and can be filled with either grated palm sugar or even better, if you can find it, dark brown palm sugar. I only had regular palm sugar on hand so I stuck with that. It’s a pretty simple and fun dessert to make and really didn’t take much time at all. My friend T from Chicago was visiting one weekend and we decided to make these together on a Saturday morning. I didn't have any pandan paste so mine did not have the traditional green shade that Arfi's had, but they still tasted good. If you are a fan of mochi, I think you will like these treats. If you have not tried sticky rice desserts yet, give this recipe a try. I used a brand of sticky rice flour called Mochiko which you can find at most Asian grocery stores. I added a pandan leaf to the boiling water to give it a more traditional Indonesian flavor. Pandan leaves may be a little tricky to find at your Asian grocer but the wonderful aroma and flavor that you get with them is worth the effort of seeking them out. You may have to ask around and check in the frozen food section. To see the recipe and to check out Arfi's very pretty Kueh Klepon, click here.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Chocolate Toffee Scones

I have another scone recipe to share with you. It comes from the cookbook, Desserts By The Yard by Sherry Yard. I was pretty excited when I first got this book because the author happens to be the executive pastry chef at one of LA’s trendiest and swankiest restaurants, Spago. Yes, call me a little impressionable and star-struck but this really is one beautifully photographed and well written cookbook. It reads like an autobiography of Yard’s life, chronicling her career over the years at the various restaurants she’s worked at including of course, Spago.
These scones were a little different than the kinds I’m used to baking. For one thing, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, I have never used cream of tartar in a scone recipe before. Little did I know that this is a commonly used ingredient if you’re going to make a traditional English scone, which this recipe is. This resulted in a scone that was lighter and flakier than what I'm accustomed to. I also liked the sugar and cream coating that I brushed the scones with before popping them in the oven. This added such a nice crispness and subtle crunch to the scone in addition to giving it a bit of sweetness. The recipe is a very versatile one and you should feel free to add whatever suits your fancy. I was thinking of making chocolate chip scones but ended up chopping up some chocolate and toffee candy and mixed it into the dough. Next time, I think I’ll try some juicy raisins.

Traditional English Scones (from Desserts By The Yard by Sherry Yard)
2 C AP flour
1/4 C sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 oz (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 large egg
1/4 cup heavy cream, or more as needed
1/4 cup milk, or more as needed
1/2 cup chocolate-toffee bits (or chocolate chips, or toasted nuts, or raisins).

1. Place racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two 12x17 inch half sheet pans with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the first 5 ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the butter and orange zest and mix on low speed for 1 minute, until the butter and flour are broken down into pieces the size of walnut meats. Use your thumb and forefinger to flatten the "walnuts". Then take up the mixture and rub briskly between your hands.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, cream, and milk. Add to the flour mixture along with the chocolate toffee bits (or whatever you choose), and blend at low speed just until the dough comes together, about 10 seconds. If it seems dry, add a bit more cream or milk, a tablespoon at a time.

4. Line your work surface with parchment, dust the parchment with flour and scrape out the dough. Shape into an 8-inch square, about 1 inch thick. You can use a rolling pin for this. Cut the dough into 2-inch squares. Flip the scones over and place on the parchment-lined pans. Brush with cream or milk and sprinkle with sugar.

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until dark golden brown and puffed.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

This Was Crumby

We've all heard of crumb cake, right? Well, how about crumb biscotti? The difference here is to use any leftover cake that you might have tucked away in your freezer. Now I'm not a person who usually keeps leftover cake scraps or crumbs but it just so happened that I baked a chiffon cake a couple weeks ago and didn't end up using all of the cake. So, because I hate to waste perfectly good food, I sealed up the leftovers in a container and froze them. The cake actually came in handy a week later when I used some of it in a strawberry trifle, but even after that, I had quite a bit left over. This recipe helps take care of any leftover cake or even cookies, for that matter. It comes from what is becoming to be one of my favorite baking books, Nancy Silverton's Pastries From The La Brea Bakery. The biscotti came out very crispy and crunchy, though not too hard at all. Despite being made primarily from cake crumbs, it held together quite nicely and did not even crumble. Perfect for dunking! So make good use of your leftover cake and give this recipe a try. Let me know what you think.

Crumb Biscotti (from Pastries From The La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton)
1 and 1/4 cups unbleached pastry flour or unbleached AP flour (I used a combination of each)
1 and 1/4 cups dry cake crumbs (or cookie crumbs)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 extra-large egg
1 extra-large egg yolk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 extra-large egg white, slightly beaten, for brushing the tops of the biscotti

1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, crumbs, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger and mix on low to combine.
3. In a small bowl, whisk the whole egg and egg yolk together. Slowly whisk in the melted butter.
4. Turn the mixer to low and slowly pour in the butter mixture, mixing just until combined.
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your hands, flatten it into a rectangle and fold the dough over onto itself, packing it into a completely solid brick. Keep patting the dough and dropping it against the surface to compress it and eliminate all the air holes. Using both hands, roll the brick back and forth to round the edges. Continue rolling the dough until you have a log about 15 inches long.
6. Transfer the log to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten it slightly to form a loaf, brush the top with the egg white and sprinkle with the extra crumbs to cover.
7. Bake the loaf until firm to the touch, about 35 minutes; allow to cool completely.
8. Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Using a serrated knife, slice the loaf into cookies, about 1/4 inch thick. Arrange the biscotti on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake until dry, about 20-30 minutes.

**notes about drying your cake crumbs: I basically laid the cake scraps out on a baking sheet and placed it in the oven at around 300 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Check on your cake often though because you don't want it to burn. Once the cake is nice and dry, take it out and allow to cool before using the crumbs in the biscotti recipe.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lollipop, Lollipop...!

This month's Daring Baker's Challenge, Cheesecake Pops, was one of the most fun, creative, and whimsical recipes I've tried in a long while. I sort of felt like a candy maker as I dipped each cheesecake-on-a-stick into melted white and dark chocolate and then sprinkled all sorts of goodies onto the lollipops. I chose a bunch of different toppings for the pops like crushed graham crackers, chocolate and candy-coated sprinkles, crushed almond rocca, flaked coconut, and crushed chocolate wafers. This recipe makes a huge batch (I'm still making them as I type this!) so my lucky coworkers will be getting their share of lollipops come Monday morning. My boyfriend took a sample of a lollipop this morning and absolutely loved it. So a big thank-you to Deborah of Taste and Tell and Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms for choosing April's DB Challenge. And if you'd like to check out other DB'ers version of Cheesecake Pops click HERE, or to make your own, check out this recipe on Deborah's site. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

So Berry Delicious!

Last week, Deborah from Taste and Tell posted a recipe for Blackberry Pie Bars that looked so mouth-watering good, I knew I could not pass it up. I used strawberries in place of the blackberries which resulted in a dessert that tasted like “a strawberry pie on steroids” (this is a direct quote from a friend who took a bite)! I think his words described this dessert perfectly. Not shy in the butter department, the “pie” crust was melt-in-your-mouth delectable, and the strawberry-sour cream filling was rich, sweet, and tangy. These bars are perfect for sharing with others or for bringing to your next potluck. In addition to being so darn good, the recipe yields a pretty large batch and keeps well in the fridge (that is, if they even last that long)! I’m definitely going to make these again and will probably experiment with different berries next time. By the way, don't worry if you don't have a food processor large enough to mix the crust ingredients in. I mixed everything by hand and with my pastry cutter and the results were just fine! Thanks Deborah, for sharing this great recipe (click HERE for the bars).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Not Your Mother's Pumpkin Pie

Searching for the perfect “make ahead” dessert the other day, I came across a luscious recipe for Freezer Pumpkin Pie, once again found on the Allrecipes website. Not only could I make it a couple days before a dinner party I was hosting, but boy did this come together quickly. The only rate limiting step was waiting for the pie crust to cool down. I changed a couple things on the recipe though: I used graham crackers instead of ginger snaps, and a combination of walnuts and pecans for the crust. Everything about this recipe was nice and easy, and the end result was a huge hit with my friends. The ice cream mixture really did have the flavors of delicious pumpkin pie filling and the nutty crust was scrumptious! I liked this so much that I’m already thinking about serving this for Thanksgiving dessert rather than the traditional pumpkin pie. This tasted exceptionally yummy with some whipped cream on top too. Enjoy! (click here for the recipe).

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ga Ga For Granola

I love granola. I love eating it for breakfast with some yogurt and fruit, or for dessert with some vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce, or how about sprinkling granola on a slice of wholegrain toast that's been slathered with peanut butter? Need more ideas? The next time you make a batch of blueberry pancakes, why not top it off with a few handfuls of granola for some added texture and crunch? That one happens to be a favorite of my boyfriend's who discovered this at one of his favorite breakfast spots in Chicago long ago. You can even stir some granola into the batter and have some granola-baked pancakes. Okay, you get the picture. Now, what I really don't love about granola is all the sugar and fat that many store-bought ones have in their ingredients. Luckily, I have the solution to this--make your own granola at home. It's really quite easy and does not take much time at all. This recipe for granola has been my go-to granola recipe for several years and has never let me down in the taste department. It’s loaded with all sorts of goodies and of course, you’re free to improvise as much as you‘d like. Feel like adding shredded coconut to your granola? Go for it. Or how about some dried banana chips? Chocolate or carob chips perhaps? The possibilities are endless! This recipe also makes a huge batch so why not throw some together now and share it with your friends? You’ll be giving them a hearty and healthy treat and I think they’ll love you for it. How do you eat granola?

Homemade Granola (adapted from Alton Brown):
1 and 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
8 cups rolled oats (quick or old fashioned)
Chopped pecans, walnuts, whole almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, cashews (or any combination/proportions to equal 2 cups chopped nuts)
Dried fruit suggestions: chopped up dried pear, cranberries, blueberries, golden raisins
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Combine the brown sugar and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat in microwave for 5 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from microwave and add vanilla extract and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, nuts, and brown sugar syrup mixture until thoroughly mixed. Spread the granola onto the cookie sheets and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until golden and crunchy. After removing from the oven, add the dried fruit and allow granola to cool completely. Store in airtight container once cooled.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sweet Memories

I remember first baking this Lemon Pistachio Biscotti for my sweet mom almost 20 years ago when I first discovered my love for baking. She raved about the biscotti and it soon became an often-requested treat in our house back then. The recipe came from one of my earliest-acquired cookbooks, Sunset Magazine's Low-Fat Cookbook. Recently, I felt like baking them again not only because lemon and pistachios are two of my favorite ingredients, but also because they remind me so much of my mother and all the warm and fuzzy feelings those memories bring up. They simply put a smile on my face! I hope you too will enjoy this "twice-baked" cookie. Personally, I think they taste great even without the lemon glaze but I'll leave that up to you to decide. Oh, and please don't forget the coffee!

Lemon-tipped Pistachio Biscotti (adapted from the Low-Fat Cookbook, Sunset Magazine)


2 cups AP flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 cup butter (at room temperature)

2/3 cup sugar

grated lemon zest from 1 lemon

1 whole egg

2 egg whites (I used 1/4 cup of liquid egg whites)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup shelled salted roasted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped

for lemon icing:

In a small bowl stir together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice until you get a nice, spreadable consistency.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

1. Using a medium sized bowl, stir together flour and baking powder until blended; set this aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and lemon zest until well blended. Beat in egg, then egg whites. Beat in vanilla.

3. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until well blended. Stir in pistachios.

4. Divide dough in half. On a lightly floured board, shape each portion into a long loaf about 1 and 1/2 inches in diameter. Place loaves about 3 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Flatten each loaf to a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Bake in the 350 degree F oven until firm to the touch (about 15-18 minutes)

5. Remove baking sheet from oven; cut hot loaves crosswise into about 1/2 inch thick slices (I actually made mine a little thicker than this).

6. Turn slices cut side down and spread slices out on baking sheets (you'll likely need two sheets).

7. Return baking sheet(s) to the oven and continue baking until biscotti look dry and are lightly browned (about 10 more minutes).

8. Transfer biscotti to cooling racks and allow to cool.

9. Drizzle lemon icing on one side of biscotti, or spread icing on one end of the biscotti (or both ends if you want!) Let stand until icing is firm.

Yields about 24 biscotti.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

This Scone's A Star

Being the early-morning person that I am, I actually enjoy waking up early on the weekends to cook something special for breakfast. This time I went back to a favorite recipe of mine, maple pecan scones. I made similar scones and wrote about them last year after I was searching for something that resembled the maple oat scones that Starbuck's sells. The ones I made certainly came close! On this particular morning, I baked a batch and decided to have some fun with the dough. Happy Baking!

Maple Pecan Scones (adapted from Simple Joys of Friendship):
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk and 1 /2 tablespoon lemon juice)
1 t. vanilla extract
2 T. maple syrup
1 t. maple extract
3 c. AP flour
1/2 c. uncooked,quick-cooking oats
2-1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 c. butter
1/2 c. chopped pecans

lemon glaze (optional)
Simply mix 1 cup powdered sugar with a couple tablespoons of milk and a dash of lemon juice. Stir it up to desired consistency.

directions- (preheat oven to 425 degrees F)
1. Mix first 5 ingredients; set aside.
2. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the next 6 ingredients; cut in the butter until mixture has a cornmeal consistency.
3. Stir in pecans. Pour in egg mixture; stir with a fork to make a soft dough.
4. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead to get a slightly uniform dough.
5. Shape into a circle about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 16 wedges (or use biscuit or cookie cutters if you'd like).
6. Place on a greased baking sheet at 425 degrees F for 16-18 minutes or until lightly golden.
7. Allow to cool on a rack and then if you'd like, drizzle with the lemon glaze.
Yields about 16 scones.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

An Apple Treat

In our house, we love eating apples so there's almost always an abundance of them in our kitchen. Whether eaten raw, or cooked in a savory or sweet dish, apples are probably one of the most versatile fruits out there. So, when I came across this recipe that incorporated apples with other wonderful things like nuts and spices, I was eager to give it a shot. These Apple Squares were posted on one of my favorite food websites, http://www.allrecipes.com/. With its almost pie-like, gooey texture, they are a more delicate version of the "bar cookie". Eat them plain or topped with some whipped cream because either way, they are delicious! I hope you enjoy! (click here for the recipe)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Lessons Learned...

Several things motivated me to bake bread over the weekend: there was the nearly-empty bag of bread flour sitting on my pantry shelf taking up precious space, I was making lasagna for dinner and wanted a good bread to go with it, and most importantly, I had an inkling to bake something savory rather than sweet for a change.
Remembering also that I had a small bag of unused soy flour lurking somewhere in my kitchen, I decided to peek into a cookbook I haven’t picked up in years, The Whole Soy Cookbook, sweetly given to me by my younger brother almost 10 years ago. Inside, the recipe for soy parmesan focaccia caught my eye because it didn’t require a lot of ingredients, had only one rising time (yippee), and doesn't focaccia go so well with lasagna?
The recipe used a combination of both unbleached AP flour and soy flour, but leave it to me to not leave well enough alone. Remember that bread flour I mentioned? Yeah, you guessed it… I used this in place of the AP flour. Little did I think that bread flour, with its higher gluten and protein content, would create a texture that was not as soft and tender as I would have liked. Oh, the focaccia was not a complete disaster and actually looked quite lovely coming out of the oven but truthfully, I was disappointed with the toughness of the bread. On the bright side, I can probably still use this as a base for some homemade pizza, and if you really want to punch it up a little more, how about adding some sun-dried tomatoes or kalamata olives next time? Oh, and stick with the all purpose flour too. That’s key.

Soy Parmesan Focaccia (adapted from The Whole Soy Cookbook by Patricia Greenberg):
1 cup warm water
1 cup soy milk
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1/2 cup soy flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
Cornmeal, for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons or more chili flakes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or soy parmesan cheese if you'd prefer)

1. Combine the first four ingredients in a large bowl and stir until yeast is dissolved and foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, pepper, and rosemary; gradually add the yeast liquid, mixing thoroughly with a rubber spatula until a soft dough forms.
3. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes or until dough is no longer sticky (dough will be very sticky so add flour as needed).
4. Form dough into a ball and place in a slightly oiled bowl; cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F; line a11 x 17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal.
6. Flatten the dough on a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle to fit the baking sheet; sprinkle the top with the parmesan cheese and the chili flakes. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Slice and serve hot.
(yields 8 large pieces)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Something Peanutty

I celebrated my blog's 1 year anniversary this week! April first, to be exact. It's been an awesome year of cooking, experimenting, trying, failing, succeeding, and best of all, getting to know some of my fellow foodies and food bloggers from all over the world. Thank-you so much for visiting my little site, and giving me your feedback and encouragement. I've appreciated all your comments and support! Tonight I really felt like making something yummy and comforting with one of my favorite food groups: peanut butter! I came across this recipe for Crunchy Peanut Butter Brownies on the Slashfood website. It had everything I was looking for and seemed like a fairly simple recipe to throw together. The topping is actually a combination of cream cheese, peanut butter, eggs and sugar that is baked with the brownie base. Hmmm...the topping was okay but I was wanting something a bit more decadent and rich. I think next time I will substitute this part with a simple cream cheese and peanut butter frosting instead, and slather this onto the brownies after baking and cooling them. Still though, the brownie had a nice chewiness which I loved and the combination of chocolate and peanut butter is always a treat. I think I'll pour me some milk to go with this one.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Perfectly Fine Cake--Daring Baker's Challenge For March

I completed my cake this morning! Yippee. I really loved the taste of this cake—it's very chiffon-like with its light, airy texture and that hint of citrus. I pretty much followed the recipe to a tee except I decided to create mini layer cakes instead of 1 large one. I halved the butter cream

frosting recipe for this reason and unfortunately, my frosting never got thick enough during the mixing process. (Did any other DBers have similar problems with their butter cream frosting)? So, I ended up with a rather runny frosting that didn't quite make the prettiest presentation but I did my best with what I had to work with and am pretty pleased with the results. It sort of reminded me of a snowball with all the coconut flakes so I added the cherry on top to give it a bit more balance. Even though the cake did not turn out as "perfect" as I would have liked, I still had fun with this challenge and plan to serve my mini party cakes later today when my two brothers and their families come over to visit. This month's challenge for the Perfect Party Cake (a Dorie Greenspan recipe, by the way), was hosted by Morven of Food, Art, and Random Things. If you would like to bake your own party cake click here for the recipe, and party on!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Gado Gado Cravings

Oh, it feels good to be home. But, to be honest, a little strange to be blogging again. Though I haven’t turned on my oven since returning from Bali last Friday night, I do plan to start some cooking and baking this weekend. My experiences in Indonesia were filled with so many beautiful sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. I will try to recapture some of those experiences through pictures of the foods we tried while there. Luckily, Indonesian food is one of my favorite cuisines in the whole world so I had a bit of a culinary adventure of sorts. One of my favorite dishes is called Gado Gado and I indulged in this tasty, healthy dish as often as I could throughout my journey. Think of Gado Gado as a big, juicy salad, Indonesian style. I’m not just talking lettuce and tomatoes here either! Come to think of it, Gado Gado doesn’t even contain any lettuce or tomatoes to begin with! Instead, this dish is composed of an assortment of fresh vegetables that have been lightly steamed such as cabbage, green beans, carrots, bean sprouts, cauliflower, and even some potatoes. Typically, slices of hard boiled egg, tofu and fried tempe are thrown into the mix as well. What brings this dish all together for me though is the delicious, tasty, and sometimes spicy peanut-sauce dressing. My mother used to make her peanut dressing using roasted peanuts and grinding them herself but if you’re short on time (or on peanuts), then smooth peanut butter is a perfect substitute. Many times Gado Gado is also served with some crunchy shrimp chips on the side or crushed on top of the salad. Each time I ordered Gado Gado in Bali I was impressed at the presentation. No matter how small or homey or mom and pop the restaurant was, I was amazed at the time and effort the cook took to make sure the dish was as gorgeous as it tasted. I’m happy to say that I didn’t have one “bad” Gado Gado during my trip. I’d love to know if you have tried Gado Gado yourself and what you thought of it. And if you want to give your taste buds a trip to Indonesia, give the following recipe a try.

Gado Gado recipe adapted from Indonesian Regional Cooking by Sri Owen
Serves 4
2 large potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup sliced green beans
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup cabbage, shredded
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cucumber, sliced
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

Peanut Sauce Dressing:
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 and 1/3 cups raw peanuts
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 shallots, chopped
Thin slice of shrimp paste (optional)
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 cups water
1 tbsp juice of a lemon
directions for the vegetables:
--Steam or boil the vegetables just until cooked and refresh under cold water to maintain their bright color (should take 3-4 minutes for most veggies except for the bean sprouts which should only need 2 minutes. Probably best to boil the potatoes until tender).
--Layer serving plates with some shredded cabbage and mound the vegetables in the center; arrange the egg slices, potatoes, and sliced cucumber on top.

directions for the peanut sauce:
--Stir fry the peanuts for 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain in a colander, and allow to cool.
--Pound or grind the nuts into a find powder using a blender, coffee grinder or pestle and mortar. Discard the oil, except for 1 tablespoonful.
--Crush the garlic, shallots, and shrimp paste in a mortar with a little salt and fry in the remaining 1 tablespoon oil for 1 minutes. Add the chili powder, sugar, soy sauce, and water. Bring this to a boil, then add the ground peanuts. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce becomes thick (should takes about 8-10minutes). Add the lemon juice and more salt to taste.
--Pour the sauce over the vegetables and serve either warm, room temperature, or cold.