Monday, September 26, 2011

Lemon Yogurt Cake

Secret Recipe Club time!  That means another month has zoomed by...It's all going too quickly.

Today is reveal day for The Secret Recipe Club, when everyone posts a recipe from their secret blog assignment for the month.  The group was founded by Amanda of Amanda's Cookin' and is a great way to discover new blogs.  The group is up near 300 participants now and is broken into 4 separate groups of about 75 each all with different reveal dates each month.  To learn more about The Secret Recipe Club click here.

For September I was assigned Kate's blog,  A Spoonful of Thyme.  I spent quite a bit of time browsing her lovely blog.  She has a vast array of fantastic looking recipes as well lots of fun travel adventures.  Maybe Kate will let me tag along on her next vacation!  Kate has a number of tasty looking shrimp recipes that especially caught my eye and I have bookmarked for future use.  In the end, my sweet tooth took over.  How shocking!  And with an abundance of lemons in my fridge, I selected Lemon Yogurt Cake by Ina Garten.  Kate has shared the cake on her blog 3 times.  Sounds like the mark of a good recipe! 

The cake has a serious lemon flavor going on.  There is lemon zest in the cake.  A lemon syrup is poured over the cake while it's still warm and seeps in to further moisten the cake.  When the cake is completely cooled a lemon glaze goes over the top.  That's a triple lemon punch!  The cake is easy to make and super moist.  It would be great for breakfast, an afternoon snack or dessert.

I tend to like my lemon flavor a bit more subtle, so I might skip the lemon syrup next time.   All in all a good cake.  To make it even more special, top each slice with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Go check out Kate and A Spoonful of Thyme for more great recipes.

Lemon Yogurt Cake
from Barefoot Contessa at Home via A Spoonful of Thyme

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Dust flour inside the pan coating all sides.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl and set aside.  In another bowl whisk yogurt, eggs, 1 cup of the sugar, vanilla and lemon zest.  Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Fold vegetable oil into the batter until fully incorporated.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, stir 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook until sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear, about 5 minutes.

When the cake is done cooking let it cool in the pan on a rack for about 10 minutes.  Use a knife to loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and carefully remove the cake and set it on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.  Pour the lemon syrup over the cake allowing it to soak in.  Let the cake cook completely.

Make the glaze by whisking together the confectioners sugar and lemon juice.  Pour glaze over the fully cooled cake.  Allow the glaze to set for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Chicken Piccata

It's been a busy week at work.  I rarely mention work on the blog, mostly because I when I blog I get to immerse myself in a different world that has nothing to do with work.   Like I can pretend that I don't really have a full time job in corporate America.  Don't get me wrong, I really like my job and adore the people I work with (and yes, my boss reads this blog...hi Amy).  But it's nice to get away to blog land several nights a week and think about all mouth watering sweet treats and savory eats that can be made.  Unfortunately this week has cut into my precious blog time and I'm a little behind with a backlog of 6 posts sitting in my drafts folder.  I also didn't get to spend as much time in the kitchen as I would have liked.  Something I plan to rectify on Saturday. 

Now, let's get on with the important business.  Chicken piccata.

Hubby LOVES chicken piccata.  He has a handful of dishes that he gravitates to and this is one of them.  I'm not sure why I've never tried to make it at home before.  But I'm glad I finally did.   A little wine, a little lemon juice and zest and a few capers and you have a delicious chicken dish. 

You start by pounding out chicken breasts out thin or about 1/4 inch thick all around (see instructions below on how to pound out the chicken).  Pounding out the chicken breasts allows them to cook evenly and quickly.  Lightly season the chicken and coat it in flour.  Be sure to season the chicken before you flour it.  I like to cook mine in a non stick stainless steel skillet (like All-Clad) because all the good bits of chicken that brown and stick to the pan get released when you pour in the wine and other sauce components.  More browned bits equals more yummy flavor. 

I served the chicken over mashed potatoes but next time I would use angel hair pasta.  I thought the wonderful lemony wine sauce got a little lost in the mashed potatoes.  The chicken would also be good with rice.  And I might also double the sauce component next time because the sauce was really delicious and I wanted more, more, more.  I'm kind of a sauce girl.

This recipe is a keeper!

Chicken Piccata
adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny

Serves 2-4

1 pound chicken breasts, pounded out thin (see below for instructions)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of canola oil
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used 3/4 cup)
4 two inch wide strips of lemon zest (see below for instructions)
4 teaspoons lemon juice (I used 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon chilled butter

Getting Ready:

Pound out chicken:
Place a long piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board and place your chicken breast face down.  Plastic wrap should be long enough to fold in half and cover the chicken breast.  Using the smooth side of a meat mallet or a small heavy bottomed pan, slowly pound chicken starting in the center and working your way out.  You want to get an even thickness across the entire piece of chicken, just under 1/2 thick.  I like to cut my pounded out chicken into 2-3 pieces.  Repeat process with remaining chicken.

Zest lemon:
Use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove a wide strip of the outer skin of the lemon, being careful only remove the yellow part of the skin and not white part, which is bitter.

Prepare remaining ingredients for the sauce:
Squeeze lemon juice, rinse the capers, mince the garlic, measure the chicken broth and wine and measure out 1 tablespoon of flour and 1 tablespoon of chilled butter.

Start Cooking:

Make the Chicken:
Season chicken cutlets with salt and pepper.  Place 1/4 cup of flour in a shallow dish (large enough to hold a chicken cutlet).  Dredge chicken cutlets in the flour and shake off any excess.  Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Place floured chicken in the heated oil and cook for about 3-4 minutes on one side and turn chicken and continue cooking for an additional 1-2 minutes, until just cooked through.  Remove chicken to a plate and cover the plate loosely with foil to keep warm. 

Make the Sauce:
Once chicken is removed from the pan, add the capers and minced garlic to the oil left in the skillet and heat to medium.  Cook for about 30 seconds being careful not to burn the garlic.  Stir in the remaining tablespoon of flour.   Whisk in broth, wine and lemon zest strips.  Be sure to scrape all the browned bits off the bottom of the pan for additional flavor.  Bring sauce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 until slighly thickened and reduced to approximately 1/2 cup.

Bring it all together:
Turn off the heat and remove strips of lemon zest.  Stir in lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of butter until fully incorporated.  Return the chicken cutlets to the pan with the sauce, including an juices from the chicken. Heat through for 30 seconds to a minute.

Serve your chicken cutlets and sauce over mashed potatoes or angel hair pasta.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti

Delicious.  Easy.  Quick.  And healthy.  What more can you ask for in a dinner? 

My best friend sent me an email last week sharing this recipe.  She recently discovered it in her Cooking Light magazine and it's already been repeat meal in her household several times.   And I can tell you this will definitely be a repeat recipe in our house too.  Hubby loved it.  I loved it.  Those 2 things don't happen every day when it comes to food.

When I make a recipe for the first time, I am especially slow in getting it all together.  It usually involves me reading and re-reading the recipe about 50 times.  I tend to fumble around with the ingredients and my cooking utensils.  Realize I forgot to take out like 3 things.  Despite this being the first time I've made this recipe, it came together in about 30 minutes.  Which is fast for me.  Seems like all the meals that are supposed to take 30 minutes, like Rachel Ray's meals, never go down that way for me.  It's like you have to be an energizer bunny with mad knife skills to pull it off.  But this one really is so simple, and fast. 

A couple of notes.  I used feta cheese, because that is what I had on hand, and it was yummy.  I was anxious to get my pictures taken before the light disappeared so I didn't think to mash up some of the cherry tomatoes to make more of a light sauce on the spaghetti.  After the photos were taken and I sat down to eat, I poked all my cherry tomatoes with my fork and they burst open creating a tasty sauce to coat the pasta.  So imagine the spaghetti in the photos covered in a light red sauce.  If you want to add a little protein some marinated grilled shrimp would go great with this.

Already thinking about when I will make it again.  Must buy more cherry tomatoes.

Thanks for a great recipe Crystal (and Andy too!).

Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti
adapted from Cooking Light

4 quarts water
2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
2 2/3 cups cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped or torn fresh basil
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled semi soft goat cheese
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot or dutch oven.  Add 1 tablespoon salt and the uncooked spaghetti to the boiling water.  Cook for 10 minutes or until spaghetti is al dente.  Reserve at least 1/3 cup of cooking water and set aside.  Drain spaghetti and then return to the pan and keep warm.

While the spaghetti is cooking, toss the tomatoes in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, vinegar, 3/8 teaspoon salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes and sliced garlic on a jelly roll pan or baking sheet.  Bake the tomatoes for 10 minutes or until they are soft and lightly charred in places.

Add the tomatoes and any juices from the baking sheet into the pot with the spaghetti.  Add 3 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water to the pan and using a wooden spoon scrape any browned bits off the pan.  Add this water to the pan along with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and warm over medium heat.  Add remaining cooking water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the spaghetti is moist, tossing frequently with tongs.  Stir in basil and parsley.  Sprinkle with cheese and serve immediately.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Banana's Foster Fritters

The first time I remember having bananas foster was early on in my dating life with Hubby.  We went to a dinner party hosted by one of my co-workers at the time and they made it for dessert served over ice cream. As I watched my co-worker's husband make the dish, I was wowed by the drama of it.  The rum caught on fire lighting up the pan while the bananas flambeed amdist a gooey caramel like rum sauce.  What I was most impressed with was the simple ingredients involved and how quickly a delicious and impressive dessert came together. 

Baked Explorations Banana's Foster Fritters are inspired by the classic dish.  It's bananas foster meets donut.  I was worried this would be a lot more complicated than its inspiration dish.  But it really wasn't.  The dough is very simple and comes together quickly and easily.  The rum dipping sauce takes just a few minutes in a saucepan.  The most challenging part was the frying.  I still struggle with frying and getting oil to the right temperature.  The recipe recommends 375 degrees, but I found that too hot.  My first fritter was very dark on the outside but still raw on the inside.  I lowered the heat and found 350-360 worked best for me, however, the outside was still a tad darker than I would have liked it to be.  But at least the dough wasn't raw!  As you can see I gave these a solid dusting of  cinnamon powdered sugar.

The result?  A crisp texture on the outside with a moist cakey inside.  The bananas are incorporated into the dough and the dipping sauce is what makes this a "fosters" fritter instead of just a banana fritter.  With brown sugar, butter and a little rum, among other things, the sauce has the same flavor as the gooey goodness from a traditional banana's foster.  Seems like the sauce was a big hit with many of the Club: Baked bakers.  Some have even suggested this would be a good sauce/syrup for pancakes, waffles or french toast or a topping for ice cream.  All great ideas!

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you the best part!  You probably already noticed in the pictures, I added chocolate chips into the dough of a few of the fritters.  I love banana and chocolate together.  It was delicious!

Hubby enjoyed these (the ones without chocolate chips of course), which is always a pleasant surprise coming from my non dessert loving husband.  I made half a batch and ended up with 8 small fritters.

Thank you to Stephanie of Ice Cream Before Dinner for choosing this week's tasty recipe.  You can find the recipe over on her site.  To see how other bakers did with their fritters head over the Club: Baked site

Next up on the Club: Baked roster...Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins on October 1st.  I'm not gonna lie, this one sounds a little odd to me.  I have had mixed feelings about savory muffins in the past.  But I'm curious about the combination of pumpkin and cheddar.  This one is definitely outside my comfort zone--which isn't a bad thing!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made these tasty cookies for my Dad's birthday.  Happy Birthday Dad!  No, I did not present them to my Dad with this cute red ribbon.  I dressed them up a little more "manly" a glad ware container with a blue lid.  I did tie a thick blue ribbon around the container for a little pizazz.  I couldn't resist. 

These cookies start with a chocolate chip cookie base and have white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, toasted almonds, almond and vanilla extracts and dried cherries added in.  All the mixins make for a nice chunky cookie.  The almonds add a nice crunch and pair well with the cherries.  The tartness of the cherries bring balance to the sweetness of the white chocolate chips.  All said and done, a pretty solid cookie.   

Even though these cookies were for Dad, I couldn't resist dressing them up for fun photo shoot.  Over the last several months I have been making a conscious effort to improve my photos.  I have a nice camera, a Nikon D-5000, but I can't say I really know what to do with it.  I know I am "supposed" to use the manual settings and figure out F stops and apertures and stuff like that, but instead I usually just switch my camera to the "Food" setting mode.  That, along with shooting most things on the kitchen counter during daylight hours where a window lets in natural light, is about all I do.  For the most part it works pretty well....but I think it can only take me so far. 

That is why I am over the moon excited that I won a spot to participate in the White on Rice Couple's photography workshop in mid October courtesy of Food Gawker!  Todd and Diane of the White on Rice Couple offered 10 11 spots in an all day photography and food styling workshop in their brand new studio to raise money for a Fund for Jennie.  Their workshop sold out in no time and they raised an astounding $11,000 for Jennie.  A truly generous gift and a great cause. 

Food Gawker helped support the cause by securing one of the spots in the workshop and held a giveaway on their site last week.  I entered my comment for a chance to win, thinking maybe, just maybe, I would be the lucky one.  (I also think that for every other giveaway I enter (but don't win)).  The giveaway stated that you must be able to get yourself to and from Orange County, California.  Guess who lives in Orange County?  Me! I do!

Low and behold, on September 7th (which also happens to be my Dad's birthday) I received an email from founder of Food Gawker, Chuck Lai, telling me I was the winner!  Holy smokes!  Really??  I couldn't believe it.  I was smiling from ear to ear.  I found out when I was at work and resisted every urge to get up a do a little dance at my desk.  But I might have done a little dance in my chair.  Ok I did.  But no one was around.  Anyway, Dad and I both had a good day on September 7th! 

I cannot thank Chuck Lai and Todd and Diane enough for their generosity and this fabulous opportunity. 

If you haven't heard Jennie's story, it's a sad one.  Jennie is a food blogger, writer and mother of two little girls.  I didn't know Jennie, but I've come to learn a lot about her over the last few weeks.  My first encounter with Jennie was when I saw this peanut butter pie over on the Brown Eyed Baker on August 12th.  That same day, I started seeing peanut butter pies all over different blogs.  Not just one or 2, more like 20 plus pies.  And that is just on the blogs I follow.  The pies were made for Jennie's husband, Mikey, who unexpectedly passed away on August 7th of a heart attack.  Jennie shared the pie on her blog and invited people to make this pie in honor of her husband and all post on Friday, August 12th, the day his family would be celebrating his life.  It was completely moving to see the out pour of support for Jennie during such a tragic time. 

I cannot imagine what Jennie must be going through.  She is sharing her thoughts on her blog, In Jennie's Kitchen, as she tries to come to terms with the loss of the love of her life.  I have been following her blog and the posts are touching and heart wrenching all at the same time.  Definitely keep your tissue box nearby. 

The food blogging community took their support to the next level by starting a fundraising effort for Jennie.  Non profit organization Bloggers Without Borders (BWOB) started A Fund for Jennie with a goal of raising $25,000.  Little did they know they should have gone bigger!  In just a couple of short weeks, BWOB raised over $63,000 for Jennie.  Pretty amazing.  To read more about the project and Jennie's story, click here.

Now, go kiss and hug your loved ones.  And make them a peanut butter pie or these cherry chocolate chip cookies to celebrate family, love and life.

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies
highly adapted from Baking Bites


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup dried cherries (if cherries are large, chop so they are similar in size as the chocolate chips)
2/3 cup white chocolate chips
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup toasted slivered almonds (see instructions below)

Getting Ready:

Bring your butter to room temperature:
To soften your butter quickly, place the butter in a microwave proof bowl and heat for 1 minute at power 2. You want your butter to be soft, but not melted. Test your butter and if it's not soft microwave in 30 second blasts at power of 2.

Get out your measuring cups, spoons, a whisk and a rubber spatula, cookie scoop or two spoons to drop cookie dough onto the baking sheets.

Toast almonds:
Heat a small non stick skillet on medium and add slivered almonds to the dry pan. Stir almonds frequently to prevent burning and cook about 5 minutes or until almonds are lightly golden.

Preheat oven to 375 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. 
In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside. 

Get out your egg, butter, almond and vanilla extracts.  Measure out cherries, chocolate chips and set aside.

Make it:

In stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or using a hand mixer, mix butter and sugars together on medium speed for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Turn mixer to low and add the egg, almond and vanilla extracts until just combined.  With mixer on low speed slowly add the flour mixture until just combined.  Stop mixer and add dried cherries, white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips and slivered almonds.  Turn mixer on low until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Using a medium scoop (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) scoop out dough placing about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.  Use your hand to press down on the dough and flatten the cookie slightly. 

Bake it:

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are very lightly golden brown on top.  Cool on cookie sheets for 10 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Cheesy Zucchini Rice

Looking for an easy side dish?  This is it.  It's simple, tasty and the cheese takes this rice into the comfort food category.  Hubby and I had cheesy zucchini rice alongside grilled mahi mahi with mango avocado salsa on Friday night.  Whenever I serve a new dish, I anxiously await the verdict from my somewhat picky particular husband.  Apparently I'm not the only one. 

Have you seen the Pioneer Woman's new show on Food Network yet?  Hubby and I watched the third episode on Saturday morning and she shared some of the things her husband won't go near.  Like goat cheese and sauces containing wine.  I had to laugh when I heard this.  Especially with Hubby sitting right next to me.  He can't stand goat cheese and has a number of other particular food preferences.  (Though, I must give him credit, he does like wine based sauces.)  The Pioneer Woman decided to do a blind taste test with her husband and had him try her penne alla vodka. She didn't tell him it had vodka in it (just in case he carried over his aversion to wine in sauce to other alcohols).  He ate it and....drum roll please.....he liked it! 

And that's what happened with my Hubby and the cheesy zucchini rice.  Though I didn't keep any of the ingredients a secret.  Hubs generally isn't big on cheese, but enjoyed it in this dish.  He even went so far as to say he would like me to make it again...the true sign of a successful dish in our house.

I don't have kids, but would imagine if my picky particular Hubby likes this, so would my nieces and nephews.  Zucchini has a very mild flavor and brings a nice texture to the rice.  You get to sneak in some veggies but still lure them in with the cheesy rice. 

Good stuff for kids and adults alike!

Cheesy Zucchini Rice
from Pink Parsley adapted from Comfort of Cooking

Serves 4


1 cup long grain white rice (I used basmati)
2 cups chicken broth (use vegetable broth for a vegetarian version)
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
1 medium/large zucchini, grated on the large holes of a cheese grater
1 cup grated white cheddar cheese (or your favorite cheese)
Salt and pepper to taste

Getting ready:

Thoroughly rinse rice under cold water to remove excess starch.  Measure out chicken broth and butter. 

Start cooking:

In a medium saucepan bring rice, chicken broth and 1 tablespoon of butter to a rolling boil.  I also added in a 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  Turn heat to low and cover rice tightly and cook for about 20-25 minutes until the chicken broth is fully absorbed. 

While rice is cooking grate your cheese and zucchini.

Once rice is cooked, remove from heat and add grated zucchini and remaining tablespoon of butter on top of the cooked rice, re-cover and let stand for 5 minutes.  The steam from the rice will cook the fine slivers of zucchini.  Transfer rice to a serving bowl and stir to mix in zucchini.  Add cheese and salt and pepper to taste and stir until well combined.  Serve immediately.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Easy Corn Muffins with Honey Butter and Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

Hubby and I started and ended our summer with a hearty meal of ribs and cornbread.  For Memorial Day we made ribs for the first time.  We had purchased 3 racks of baby back ribs from Costco and froze two of them.  We decided another rack of ribs would be a great way to wrap up Labor Day weekend.  To check out our Memorial Day feast click here

Though the Memorial Day ribs were a success, the cornbread I made was not.  In fact I had to make it twice and it still didn't turn out right so I never bothered posting about it.  I thought Labor Day weekend was the perfect time to redeem myself.  I decided to go with a completely different cornbread recipe this time.  I remembered seeing corn muffins several months back over on Tuesdays with Dorie, the online group of bakers making their way through Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours.  The reviews were good so I gave it a go.

Redemption!  I am happy to say these were a big success.  Dorie calls these muffins the "Corniest Corn Muffins".  They have niblets of corn inside the batter, corn meal for texture and a little sugar to sweeten them.  I used frozen corn in the batter and next time I would like to try it with fresh kernels cut off the cob.  I also added in a little extra sugar because I like a sweeter muffin.  These muffins are easy to make and delicious. Especially with a generous dab of honey butter on top. This recipe is my new "go to" corn muffin recipe.

Now, the ribs.  Our ribs were tasty but a little on the blackened side this time.  Hubs didn't turn them as often as he should have causing the sugar in the barbecue sauce to burn a bit.  I am still sharing the recipe since we made it successfully before.  Just remember to keep an eye on your ribs and turn them frequently on the grill to prevent burning.  Ribs are easier to make than I thought, but they do take a little time. They start in the oven with a little barbecue sauce and steam beneath a foil covered baking dish for about an hour.  Then the ribs get transferred outside to the barbeque and are grilled and basted with more barbecue sauce until they have the lacquered finish you are looking for.  Ours took about 10 minutes.

This time we paired our ribs and corn muffins with grilled asparagus and zucchini parmesan crisps.  It was a ton of food and I'm still overly full as I type this post about 2 hours later.  The sad part is I keep thinking about when I will be hungry again so I can have another corn muffin with honey butter.  Yum.

Corniest Corn Muffins
from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours

Makes 12 regular size muffins

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
6 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional) - I used already ground nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled
3 tablespoons corn oil - I used vegetable oil
1 cup corn niblets (frozen, fresh or canned, drained and patted dry)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare a 12 cup muffin by spraying the wells with non stick cooking spray or lining with muffin liners if you are using.  Place the prepared muffin tin on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl whisk flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.  In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk buttermilk, eggs, melted butter and oil together until thoroughly combined.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula quickly, yet gently, to full combine.  Don't worry if there are lumps.  Don't over mix.  Gently fold in the corn kernels.  Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups.  Note: I filled mine just a 1/4 inch or less from the top and they didn't bulge over...they were just right.

Bake for 15 - 18 minutes until lightly golden and toothpick or thin knife comes out clean.  Mine took exactly 15 minutes.  Cool muffin tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Turn muffins and continue cooling on the rack.  Serve with honey butter (see recipe below).

Honey Butter

1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons of honey
Pinch of fine sea salt

In a small bowl combine butter, honey and salt and stir vigorously until the honey is fully incorporated into a smooth butter.  You can add additional honey if you like a sweeter butter.  Serve butter at room temperature.  Store butter in the refrigerator and remove about 30 minutes before you plan to serve it.

Barbecued Baby Back Ribs
adapted from Paula Deen

2 racks of baby back ribs, each rack cut in half
3 cups of your favorite barbecue sauce - we used KC Masterpiece Private Reserve (from our favorite place....Costco of course!).  Sweet Baby Ray's is another favorite store bought sauce.  For Paula Deen's barbecue sauce recipe click here.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rub the racks of ribs with 1/2 cup of the barbecue sauce (or more if you are feeling extra saucy).  Place the ribs, meat side down, in a large casserole baking dish.  The racks will overlap a bit.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour or until the meat starts to pull away from the bone.  Remove the ribs from oven and pre-heat your grill to medium/high heat.  Brush ribs to coat generously with the sauce and grill for 2-3 minutes and turn them over and repeat the brushing with sauce, grilling and turning until the ribs are a little crisp on the outside, about 10 minutes.  Let ribs rest for 10 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Boston Cream Pie

Pastry cream.  Pastry cream.  Pastry cream!

Boston Cream Pie (which is really in fact a cake, not a pie) is filled with sweet delicious vanilla and chocolate pastry cream.  I am super jazzed that I have finally made pastry cream.  I think my life has been incomplete without it.  Well maybe that's a slightly dramatic, but really I can't get over how much I love pastry cream.  Pastry cream is a pudding like filling often used between cake layers or to fill cream puffs or donuts.  I have eaten it before, but have never made my own.  Lucky (or perhaps unlucky) for me it is very easy to make.  I could not stop dipping my (of course impeccably clean) fingers into the bowls to get just another taste.  Then I did something I haven't done in years....I licked the bowl.  Well not really.  I used a spatula to scrape all the delicious remnants straight into my mouth.  I didn't let any of this precious magic cream go to waste.  I was little skeptical about using 2 flavors of pastry cream.  I believe traditional Boston Cream Pie only uses vanilla.  But the chocolate and vanilla pastry creams were equally delicious. 

Is it really obvious I adored the pastry cream portion of this dessert?  I guess I need to discuss the other components now.

Let's start with the milk sponge cake.  It had a slightly bizarre texture.  Almost a little tough?  But still moist?  Is that even possible? I don't know.  When you layer all that tasty pastry cream in there it's hard to tell.  I don't think I'd use this sponge cake recipe next time I make Boston Cream Pie (already planning for the next time!).

The cake is topped with rich chocolate ganache-like glaze/frosting.  I thought the topping was pretty delicious and love the contrast of the dark chocolate glaze with the soft luscious pastry cream.  See how I took it back to the pastry cream? 

Overall, this is a pretty special dessert.  Even hubby liked it....well sort of.  Guess what?  He only liked the (vanilla) pastry cream!  He said the cake was "weird" and he's not a chocolate fan.  But like me, he couldn't keep his (not so impeccably clean) fingers out of the vanilla pastry cream.  I am already looking forward to eating this again for breakfast!

Making a Boston Cream Pie is a bit involved with three (well technically four) separate components that have to be made then all assembled.  Consider making the pastry cream the night before you plan to serve the cake.  It needs to chill for 4 hours (or overnight).  You could also chop your chocolate for the chocolate glaze at the same time you chop the chocolate for the chocolate pastry cream and store it in a tupperware for use the next day.  The day you want to serve the Boston Cream Pie bake the sponge cake and once cooled store the layers wrapped in plastic wrap in the refrigerator while you make the glaze.  The cake is easier to slice in layers when it is chilled. 

I halved the recipe and baked the cake in 2 six inch cake pans.  My cake layers were on the thin side because of the size pans I used, but it worked out ok, because the layers of pastry cream were about equal in size to the layers of cake.  Can't get enough of that pastry cream.

Ok, this is ridiculous.  I have used the words "pastry cream" 20 times in this post thus far.  I will consider seeking help.  Right after I think of other ways to incorporate pastry cream into my life...

Boston Cream Pie marks recipe number 5 with Club: Baked.  You see, a group of food bloggers are baking our way through Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.  So far the recipes have been pretty darn impressive.  If you'd like to join our baking adventure head over to the Club: Baked site and get in touch with Karen.  It's a ton of fun, a great way to learn new things and meet some great people.  To see how the other bakers of Club: Baked did with their Boston Cream Pies, click here.  At a minimum, I am pretty certain your life would be enhanced by a little pastry cream.  ;)