Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

  Happy New Year to all of you from me. And the human too. Who despite having slacked a lot this month on baking still redeemed herself with buying me this new perch thingy. But never fear, she has new cookbooks and a desire to try them out so expect yummy posts in 2011!


Monday, December 20, 2010

TCS: Cranberry Cake

This month's recipe over at the Cake Slice Bakers was particularly festive and timely considering the holiday season. All those juicy red cranberries that just make everything look so pretty. That said, I was grumbling a bit when it was picked as I hadn't really wanted to make it (not that I remember what I voted for anyway now). I know this may strike horror into the hearts of cooking purists, but I've always been a  whole berry cranberry straight out of the can kind of gal. So cooking with fresh cranberries struck horror into MY heart.

There is something to be said for stepping outside of our comfort zone. The cake was a lot better than I had been willing to give it credit for when I knew it was the month's pick. Yes, there are some tart bites that you get when eating the cake but it's wonderfully blended with the sweetness of the cake. And the cake is beautifully moist. It went over very well at a staff holiday part I had gone to so thanks to my coworkers, I don't have to eat a great deal of this by myself (although I had been prepared to make the sacrifice).

Just a word of warning when it comes to making this...the batter as others have reported is a very thick one. And extra cooking time may be warranted depending on your oven - I cooked mine for another 20 minutes over what the recipe called for. 

Adding this to my list of cake keeper cake's for sure.

December’s Cake: Cranberry Cake
(Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

For the Streusel
1 cup sliced almonds
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp light brown sugar

For the Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
3 eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries

Method – Streusel
Heat the oven to 300F. Grease a 10inch round springform pan.
Combine the butter, almonds and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Work the mixture between your fingers to form large crumbs. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Method – Cake
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Combine the eggs and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium high speed until the mixture is lightened and increased in volume, about 5 minutes.

With the mixer on low speed, add the butter in a slow stream. Turn the mixer to medium speed and beat for another 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla.

Gently but thoroughly fold in the flour mixture, half a cup at a time. Then stir in the cranberries.
Scrape the butter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Sprinkle the streusel over the batter. Bake the cake until it is golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, about 1 hour to 1hour 10minutes.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Release the sides of the pan and use a large spatula to slide the cake from the pan bottom onto the wire rack. Cool completely before cutting into wedges and serving.

Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vanilla Pudding with English Toffee Bits

I'm not normally a big vanilla pudding person.  Give me butterscotch or pistachio or lemon any time. But what I am is a woman who when she needs dessert, needs it now and as recipes went, this was a simple and easy one to put together with what I had in the house. And life is always better with English toffee bits after all.

Since I had no milk in the house, I substituted Half and Half for a very rich and creamy pudding. This would have been perfect with some whipped cream, but in lieu of that sprinkling English toffee bits on top made for a nice flavor contrast. Even if this wasn't one of my favorite pudding flavors, it was still a satisfactory, flavorful pudding that did the job on a cold fall evening.

Vanilla Pudding

Adapted from Ehow.Com)


  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • English Toffee bits for garnish (optional) 
  1. In large sauce pan, blend together the cornstarch, sugar and salt. Set aside for a minute.

  2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and add in the milk. Stir into cornstarch mixture.

  3. Cook over medium heat until it thickens but be sure to stir it the entire time. Constant stirring will ensure that it doesn't burn.
  4. Once it thickens, continue to cook and stir for an additional minute.

  5. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Blend well until smooth and creamy.
  6. Pour into a serving dish (one large or individual serving size dishes) and chill before serving. However, this is really great still warm. You can also pour this into a graham cracker crust or a cookie pie shell for a wonderful pie once chilled.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I woke up last Sunday morning with a craving for McDonald's McGriddles. Not so much that they're what I want (although they are yummy) but they are convenient since I live a block away and most weekends wake up feeling too lazy to cook. But in my effort to eat more mindfully (eat what I make as much as possible), I started googling away and came up with this lovely treat which was a great way to start my Sunday morning off on. I used Ghirardelli chocolate chips in the recipe and it was just sublime.After getting halfway through the prep I also realized I had no milk so I substituted half and half instead.

Overall, this is a great recipe. At first, the pancakes seem ordinary but then the buttery goodness hits the tongue followed up by a whollop of chocolate to seal the deal. I liked them. I would probably add a hint of cinnamon the next time just because cinnamon would give a  tiny spicy warm bite to the batter and as a great plus would pair well with the chocolate.

 Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Recipe Courtesy Gale Gand, “Butter Sugar Flour Eggs” by Gale Gand, Rick Tramonto, Julia Moskin, Clarkson N. Potter Publishers, 1999


  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, or less to taste
  • Butter, for cooking


In a small saucepan, combine the butter and milk. Place over low heat just until warm and the butter is melted. Let cool slightly. In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix well.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with a fork. Whisk in the milk mixture. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until barely blended. Add the chocolate chips and mix.
Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Add about 1 teaspoon of butter and melt until bubbly. Ladle 3 tablespoons of batter for each pancake onto the hot surface and cook until bubbly on the top and golden brown on the bottom. Turn and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 30 seconds more. Repeat until all the batter is used up. Serve hot.

Monday, November 29, 2010

French Onion Soup

One of my all time favorite things to order when I go out to eat is French Onion Soup. I mean, what can possibly be better than all of that gooey cheese, toasted bread and rich broth? It's happiness in a bowl to me.
Which is why I am completely perplexed as to why I've never tried to make this on my own.  My only excuse is that sometimes, I think I am convinced that creating something this good has got to be really complicated. Plus I have had some broiler issues in the past (one involving setting scones on fire in the oven by accident) that got in the way of recipes like this.

Whatever it was, I'm glad I got over it. I had had all of the ingredients in the house already and finally decided that a cold November day was the perfect time to get over my french onion soup phobias and have a big bowlful for lunch. The only substitution was using sourdough bread for french bread since that was all I had in the house but it was a delicious sacrifice I had to make.

Definitely would make this again. Thank you, Julia Child, for such a tasty recipe! 

French Onion Soup

Recipe adapted from Julia Child, "The Way to Cook (Food Network)


  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 2-1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 8 cups homemade beef stock, or good quality store bought stock
  • 1/4 cup Cognac, or other good brandy
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 8 (1/2-inch) thick slices of French bread, toasted
  • 3/4 pound coarsely grated Gruyere


Heat a heavy saucepan over moderate heat with the butter and oil. When the butter has melted, stir in the onions, cover, and cook slowly until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Blend in the salt and sugar, increase the heat to medium high, and let the onions brown, stirring frequently until they are a dark walnut color, 25 to 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour and cook slowly, stirring, for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool a moment, then whisk in 2 cups of hot stock. When well blended, bring to the simmer, adding the rest of the stock, Cognac, and wine. Cover loosely, and simmer very slowly 1 1/2 hours, adding a little water if the liquid reduces too much. Taste for seasoning

Divide the soup among 4 ovenproof bowls. Arrange toast on top of soup and sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Place bowls on a cookie sheet and place under a preheated broiler until cheese melts and forms a crust over the tops of the bowls. Serve immediately.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

SMS: Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

It's been awhile since I've been able to bake along with everyone at Sweet Melissa Sundays. But no matter how busy or chaotic life is, I will never ever be able to pass up the chance to make a pecan pie. There's just something about all that sugary, gooey yummy filling that makes Thanksgiving for me. So many thanks to Jennifer of Oh Sweet Day who picked this pie and will have the recipe on the website today.

Apart from some issues with the pie crust, it was a snap to make. And the pie crust was strictly my own personal issues with it despite it being store bought...which is why you don't really see a crust in the picture. I'd burnt the edges of the crust and ended up cutting a square from the middle so my offering wouldn't look completely mangled in the picture.

Oddly enough, the dessert wasn't as sweet as I've been accustomed to with store bought pecan pies. I liked that the recipe allowed the pecans to really shine through and the aftertaste of chocolate that followed after each bite of the pecan filling. Definitely would make this again.

Please check out everyone's offering over at Sweet Melissa Sundays to see how they fared with this delicious pie!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

TCS: Cinnamon Pudding Cake

A few years back, I was completely gonzo for Haagen-Daz's "Sticky Toffee Pudding" Ice Cream. I think I may have spent a small fortune on it as I picked up a pint every time I was at the store but this was the seriously best ice cream. Ever. And since it was a limited time flavor, there are more than a few of us who still mourn the loss of it.

 However, thanks to Lauren Chattman and the bakers over at The Cake Slice, I can now once again get my Sticky Toffee Pudding fix through this month's cake "Cinnamon Pudding Cake."

In a busting worthy. Delicious. Awesome. The new culinary love of my life. Pick your choice, they all apply.

As appearances go, its looks are deceiving. The cake was a little tricky to photograph and as soon as I cut a slice, the caramel sauce poured across the plate. But I can live with that. This is a great cake. Just a small word of warning: the sauce may be a little on the sweet side for some people (fortunately I am not one of them). But a little does go a long way with the cake...after indulging in a second bowl, I was feeling the effects of all that sugar.

For presentation, I went with serving this in a bowl  to make it a little easier to eat. My only regret is that it's not the type of cake that I can take to work and dump on the coworkers but I'll make the sacrifice and eat it myself if I must.

Definitely a keeper recipe. Please check out the other bakers over at The Cake Slice to read about their experiences and opinions of the cake.

Bon appetit!

November’s Cake: Cinnamon Pudding Cake
(Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

For the Caramel Topping
1 cup plus 2 tbsp packed light brown sugar
¾ cup water
1 tbsp unsalted butter
½ tsp salt

For the Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
2½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method – Topping
Heat the oven to 350F. Spray the bottom and sides of an 8 inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.Combine the brown sugar, water, butter and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally, then set aside to cool.

Method – Cake
Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sakt in a medium mixing bowl.

Combine the butter and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add a third of the flour mixture to the bowl. Add half of the milk and the vanilla. Add another third of the flour, followed by the remaining milk and the rest of the flour. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.

Scrape the batter onto the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Pour the topping over the batter (the pan will be very full). Carefully transfer the pan to the oven and bake until set, 45 to 50 minutes.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, invert it onto a large rimmed serving platter and serve warm.

Let any leftover cake cool completely before storing in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day or in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cornmeal Pancakes with Ham

Sunday mornings and pancakes just seem to go together. So when I was flipping through my cookbooks, feeling that I needed to do something creative and get back into some regular cooking, I came across this recipe and the search was over. Granted, I have a known love of ham that pops up on the blog on a regular basis but even without it, I think I would have made this anyway. With the onions, there's a pleasing reminder of potato pancakes, which brings back some happy memories of my best friend and I chowing down on her mom's potato pancakes with apple sauce and syrup.

I had some issues with getting the consistency that the recipe called for but it might have had more to do with the water not being at a full boil when I added it to the cornmeal. And I also had issues with grating the onions, so I made do with chopping them and adding them to the mix. But considering I've never been a fan of polenta, which I always associate cornmeal with, the texture of this was surprisingly good and tender. This would be a great dish for a company brunch if I ever do one. But I would definitely make this again for myself!

From Williams Sonoma Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch

1 1/2 cups fine grind white or yellow cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 small yellow onion grated
1/4 to 1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup finely chopped cooked ham
Freshly ground pepper
2-3 tbsp melted butter
Sour Cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Whisk cornmeal, sugar and salt in large bowl. Add boiling water slowly and whisk until smooth and batter is very stiff. Let batter stand for 10 minutes. Stir in onion. Stir in just enough milk to make a batter with a porridge like consistency. Stir in ham and season with pepper.

Place large griddle or frying pan over medium heat until pan is hot enough for a drop of water to sizzle and evaporate. Brush with melted butter. Ladle 1/4 cup batter for each pancake onto pan and flatten cake with spatula. Cook until browned and crisp, approximately 5-7 minutes. Carefully flip pancakes and cook other side for 5-7 minutes. Transfer to platter in oven to keep warm - do not cover or pancakes with get soggy. Repeat with remaining batter and butter.

Serve with dollop of sour cream or drizzle of warm maple syrup (or both if you're anything like me!).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

CI:Mushroom Sauce with Ham and Tomato

Oh so close and yet so far. On my way to cooking one of the November recipes for my blogging friends over at Cooking Italy, I got waylaid by this delectable recipe right before it. At least my heart was in the right culinary direction.

Now despite the fact that I love mushrooms in most dishes, I was a little worried about the amount of mushrooms called for in the recipe and the secondary nature of the tomatoes in this dish. But to be fair to Marcella, my experience throughout my childhood with Italian cooking was entirely limited to the American Italian restaurants my family went to where there was not much variations with sauces or noodles or flavorings. Pizzas, raviolis and spaghettis with basic tomato sauces ruled and mushrooms, ham and tomato sauces were nowhere to be found back then.

Oh, the deprived culinary life I lived then. This sauce was great. 

Even better, for once, I actually followed the directions exactly, despite some misgivings about how the amount of mushroom water was supposed to evaporate during cooking (it did) and trying to figure out exactly what Marcella meant by a "lively heat". And I'm glad I did because this dish was, for me, a great flavor eye opener. It's one of those dishes where the attention to detail goes a long way. And it's a hearty dish perfect for a November evening.

Due to a few factors such as reconstituting the mushrooms and then cooking the mushroom water down, the cooking time was a little longer than I had expected but still from start to finish, I would estimate it was maybe a little longer than an hour.

Definitely would make this again. Now I need to go find the eggplant at the store to try the other recipe that looks just as intriguingly tasty.

from "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan

3/4 cup fresh white mushrooms
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly mashed
1/3 cup boiled unsmoked ham cut into julienned strips of 1/8 inch wide or less
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
Filtered water from mushroom soak
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Black pepper freshly ground
1 cup canned italian plum tomatos chopped fine with juice
1 pound fusilli pasta

Soak porcini mushrooms for 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms through strainer and set liquid aside.

Wash white mushrooms under cool water. Slice and set aside.

Place oil and mashed garlic clove into sautee pan. Turn heat to medium high. Cook until garlic is colored a light nut brown and remove it immediately.

Add ham strips (be care as the oil will splatter up at this point) and stir for a few seconds. Add porcini mushrooms and filtered water. Marcella recommends cooking at a lively heat which on my stove translated to medium high heat. Continue cooking until all mushroom liquid has evaporated - towards the end, stir mushrooms lightly to prevent them from sticking to the pan.

Add fresh mushroom, parsley, salt, and several pepper grindings. Stir for 30 seconds before adding tomatoes and juices, stirring until all ingredients are coated. Turn heat down until sauce bubbles steadily - for my stove this was a high low/low medium temperature. Cook for 25 minutes or until oil begins to separate from sauce.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wordless Thursday

Katie holding down the fort while mom is busy...more baking coming soon though!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Favorite Pumpkin Bread

After this month's recent challenge with the Cake Slice Bakers, I started thinking about my favorite pumpkin bread. It's been awhile since I've made it mostly out of sheer laziness and a over abundance of cookbooks mostly unused which are staring at me reproachfully wondering when I'm going to get around to them. But with fall officially here and the leaves turning all sorts of lovely colors, it's finally inspired me to drag this book out and try to give it a slightly healthier spin by substituting apple sauce for the oil. And as it's a quick bread, it's easy even for a lazy girl like me to whip up on a fall afternoon. The recipe will make 2 large loaves or three smaller loaves. I opted to make a small bundt cake and 4 mini loaves instead. 

 Even with the substitution of apple sauce for the oil, this still made a very moist and tasty cake, with a pleasing pumpkin flavor and just enough of a cinnamon hint to go very well with the store bought chocolate dulce de leche sauce I served along with the cake.

Now if you'll excuse me, there's a plate of cake with my name on it taunting me from across the kitchen.

 Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens Complete Book of Baking  

3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup apple sauce
4 eggs
3 1/3 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2/3 cup water
(1) 16 oz can pumpkin

Mix apple sauce and sugar together. Add eggs. In separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients together. Add dry mix to apple sauce/sugar mix, alternating with water, beating on low speed until combined. Beat in pumpkin.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 50 minutes if using large loaf pans. If using a bundt pan and mini loaves as I did and you  forget to set the timer, cook loaves for approximately 30 minutes and bundt cake for 40 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

TCS: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

This month, my fellow bakers and I started a new book "Cake Keeper Cakers" by Lauren Chattman. And although my first pick wasn't picked this month, I was still pretty pleased with being able to make pumpkin pound cake.

Now I thought this cake was good, but not great, although I think the fact that I used dark chocolate chips (it was all I had in the house) instead of milk chocolate chips definitely took something away from the cake. Plus, I have a favorite pumpkin bread recipe that I think I was also unfairly comparing this recipe to. I was hoping for a little more of a pronounced pumpkin taste in the cake was well. 

Still, overall, a good cake, and something I might bake again for friends and serve alongside some steaming mugs of hot cocoa or coffee.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pound Cake
(Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

1¾ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cloves
Pinch nutmeg
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1¼ cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts

Heat the oven to 350F. Coat the inside of a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and dust with flour.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary.
With the mixer on medium low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the pumpkin puree and vanilla. Stir in the milk.
Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture, ½ cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake the cake until it is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, 55 minutes to 1 hour. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, invert it onto a wire rack and then turn it right side up on a rack to cool completely.
Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic for up to 1 week.

Monday, October 18, 2010

CI: A Farm Wife's Fresh Pear Tart

After a short hiatus with my fellow bakers/cooks from Cooking Italy, we're back and baking our way again through Marcella Hazan's amazing "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" book. This week, (well, last week's recipe really...I am a just a  little late making this) is "A Farm Wife's Fresh Pear Tart."

For once, I followed the instructions fairly precisely (I know, who would have thought it) and went with her recommendations of using Anjou Pears (Bosc is another) for the best flavor results. However, as I didn't have whole cloves, I sprinkled a pinch of clove and cinnamon into the batter instead.

Now the most amazing thing is that I really liked this. And that's unusual as I am normally a big sugar fiend and this is a very understated dessert, allowing the pears to shine through as the focal point. Although, I will confess, I did use some homemade caramel sauce as a drizzle but it didn't overwhelm the tart and actually complemented it nicely.

This is something I would definitely make again. Even better, it's not horribly high in points as I'm on Weight Watchers (for the record, it's 7 points if you make 6 servings) so it made a wonderful Sunday morning breakfast for me.

A Farm Wife's Fresh Pear Tart
Slightly Adapted From: Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian cooking

2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
pinch of cloves and cinnamon 
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 lbs fresh pears (Bosc or Anjou)
9 inch round cake pan
Butter for greasing pan and dotting cake
1/2 cup dry unflavored bread crumbs.

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine eggs and milk together. Add sugar and salt and whisk until incorporated. Add flour slowly until you have a thick batter.

Peel pears. Slice in half and remove core and seeds. Slice pears thinly and stir into batter until pears are evenly distributed.

Smear pan well with butter. Sprinkle light coating of bread crumbs into baking pan and tap to remove excess crumbs. Place dabs of butter across top of batter. Place pan in top half of oven and bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove tart from pan while still slightly warm. Marcella recommended spatulas which did not work for me, so I slid a knife around the edge, inverted it onto a platter and flipped it over to another platter which worked well.

Serve slightly warm with optional drizzle of caramel and enjoy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gingerbread Pancakes

Anytime my sister comes to visit, it's time to break out the pots and pans and try something new. I believe she has now rightfully earned the honorary title of Most Brave Sister Guinea Pig at this point.

I had been thinking of doing something nice and healthy from one of my weight watchers cookbooks but waking up to a cool morning made me want for something hearty and warm. This hit the right spot. I always know when I have a winning recipe with my sister based on her mmm's.This was was a mmm from beginning to end. It's a nicely understated spicy perfect fall breakfast .

from Essentials of Breakfast and Brunch by Williams Sonoma

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup water

Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 250 degrees.

In large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. In another bowl whisk together brown sugar, eggs, molasses, butter and water. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until just blended. There will be small lumps in batter.

Preheat griddle pan until hot. Spray with cooking spray or brush with butter. Cook pancakes to desired doneness. Remove pancakes to plate in oven to keep warm while cooking - do not cover plate or pancakes will get soggy. Serve pancakes warm with syrup.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

SMS: Banana Cupcakes with Coconut Pecan Frosting

This week, the bakers over at Sweet Melissa Sundays got a yummy pick by Eliana of "A Chicka Bakes"  AND a challenge to pick the cake of their choice to go along with it. I've never been a big fan of German Chocolate cake which I've always associated this frosting with. However, I've always been a big fan of 99% of all known frostings so it was time to give this frosting a second chance...just with a new cake.

I went with a very yummy and moist Banana cupcake recipe from AllRecipes.Com. For awhile, I had been trying to figure out a way of giving it a pineapple filling but soon gave up on that because I couldn't find the right consistency and flavor. Also, it helped that the banana and coconut went very well together all by themselves.

For the frosting, you definitely need to check out Eliana's blog where she will be posting the recipe. And stop by the other Sweet Melissa Sundays bakers who are sure to be posting some very yummy combinations of their own.


Banana Cupcakes with Coconut Pecan Frosting


  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar. Add the eggs, vanilla, bananas and buttermilk. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to banana mixture. Fill 18 paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full.
  2. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. In a small mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar and enough milk to achieve desired spreading consistency. Frost cupcakes.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ham and Bean Soup

It's been a rough couple of weeks with slightly falling off the weight watchers wagon. Okay, maybe totally falling off the wagon if I have to be honest. A few pounds gained back. But I'm getting my mind back on track by deciding the best way to avoid going overboard with eating is to make dinners and desserts myself because I keep getting distracted by McDonalds on my way home from the train station.

Now combine that with the cooler weather that we've been having this week in Chicago and soup seemed the perfect dish to warm me up and get me back on track. I found this recipe in a book I've had sitting on my bookshelf for a few years now which I've never used until today.

I would recommend using a little more pepper than the recipe calls for as with all the lighter ingredients it does need a tiny little flavor kick. Overall, I liked this more than I would have thought considering I've never been a big fan of navy beans. I think I would make this again but would use more ham next time(can there ever be too much ham???).

Slightly adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens - Family Favorites Made Lighter

1 cup dry navy beans
1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
1 cup sliced carrots (2 medium)
1 cup cooked onion (1 large)
3/4 cup chopped fully cooked lower sodium ham
2 lower sodium chicken boullion cubes
1/2 turnip
3 small potatoes
1 tsp dried thyme, crushed
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp pepper

Rinse beans; drain. In large saucepan, combine beans and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour.

In same pan, stir together beans, 4 cups water and remainder of ingredients. Bring too boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 1/4 hours or until beans are tender. Discard bay leaves. Using a fork, slightly mash beans against side of saucepan to thicken soup a little. Sprinkle with additional pepper grinding if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Maple Ice Cream

When it comes to Ice Cream, every day is a good day. I'm one of the only people in my immediate circle who can go to the store on a bitterly cold below zero degrees day and still want Ice Cream when I see it in the freezer display. I have David Lebovitz's Perfect Scoop and Ciao Bella's Gelato Book and I gaze up on them as fondly as I suspect I might with the White Sox winning another World Series (Next Year...For Sure).

This was beyond good for me (then again, I'm the one who is always happy when someone brings those maple leaf candies to work even if it is pure sugar). The only thing that would have made this better would have been the addition of some walnuts, or as the recipe suggested toffee bits,  but as I was in a hurry (read I needed a sugar fix bad) I didn't have the time to toast or carmelize the walnuts or go to the store for toffee bits both of  which would have made this so over the top I would still be in a sugar coma after having eaten the entire quart in one sitting.

from About.Com


  • 1 cup grade B maple syrup, or dark amber
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup skim or low fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, cornstarch, and egg yolks. Pour about one third of the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly, then stir the egg yolk mixture into the remaining cream into the saucepan. Stir to blend well. Lower the heat to medium-low and heat, stirring constantly, until hot and slightly thickened. Do not boil. Pour through a mesh strainer into a clean bowl. Stir in the milk and vanilla. Cover and chill thoroughly.

Freeze in your ice cream machine following manufacturer's directions.
Makes 1 quart of maple ice cream.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fresh Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze

I ended up making this cake twice. Mostly because of a small little glitch in the glaze the first time around when I ended up melting a rubber spatula while stirring because the glaze had boiled up and gotten a lot hotter than I had expected it to. Naturally, this did not occur to me until after I'd had a piece of the cake, fortunately with no ill effects. 

While I liked the first cake, it felt a little greasier than I would have liked from all of that oil. So when I remade the cake, I only used 1/2 cup of oil and substituted unsweetened apple sauce for the rest of the oil. I also went with mini square cakes but that was mostly because I have every intention of saving one more piece for myself and taking the other ten pieces to work tomorrow.Also, because of lack of bowl space, I ended up reversing some of the instructions and incorporated the egg mixture into the flour mixture with no ill effects.

My reaction to the revised cake...I actually liked the second cake a lot more. It helped that the brown sugar glaze wasn't toxic this time of course. But what I liked most about it was the fact that the apple sauce seemed to leave a more pronounced apple taste to the cake combined with the diced apple. I would definitely make this cake again using the substitution. Plus, I can rationalize eating more of the cake now that it's healthy for me with all of that fruit. :) 

This was a great cake to end with from Southern Cakes. 

Fresh Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze
(Recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott)

Fresh Apple Cake
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups finely chopped apples
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

Brown Sugar Glaze
1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp evaporated milk, half-and-half or cream

Method – Fresh Apple Cake
Heat the oven to 350F. Grease a 13 by 9 inch pan or two 8-9 inch cake pans.
In a medium bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir with a fork to mix everything together well.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a wooden spoon or a mixer at low speed until pale yellow and foamy. Add the oil and vanilla and beat well. Stir in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon and continue stirring the batter just until the flour disappears. Add the apples and nuts, stir to mix them into the batter until fairly uniform. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cake is golden brown, springs back when touched lightly near the centre and is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Place the cake (still in the pans) on a wire rack and spoon over the glaze while still hot.

Method - Brown Sugar Glaze
Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Then cook for 3-5 minutes.

To Finish
Spoon the hot glaze all over the hot-from-the-oven cake. Let the glazed cake cool completely before serving straight from the pan.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pecan Brown Sugar and Bacon Ice Cream

Yes, it is true.

Bacon and I are back together.

Granted they're a bit tricky to include in Weight Watchers on a regular basis unless you decide to use your sister as a Guinea Pig for a bacon blow out weekend. And even then, you will eat too much and then sit down with yourself to have the "This has to stop...beginning Monday, we will eat like a grownup" speech said in a very firm no nonsense voice.

So I have had in one weekend way too much Ice Cream and Bacon and Caramel but I am okay with that. Just as long as I weigh in on Saturday instead of Thursday and be a very good girl the rest of the week.

Just a word of warning. This is a very sweet tasting ice cream. If I were to make it again (which would be dangerous unless I had more guinea pigs to eat most of it up for me) I would definitely cut back on the amount of sugar. The recipe called for 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar but I think you could easily use 1 cup, maybe even of light, and still have a delicious recipe. The book called suggested using  a caramel bacon sauce but I think this recipe would do better with a different perhaps with a bit of spice in it to contrast with all the sweetness in the Ice Cream.

Pecan Brown Sugar and Bacon Ice Cream

3 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar(I highly recommend cutting this back to taste)
4 egg yolks
1 cup chopped pecans
1 pound bacon cooked until crisp and chopped fine

Combine milk, cream and sugar in heavy sauce will froth up quite a bit so I would recommend going with a deeper saucepan than you might think you need. Cook over medium high heat until hot and sugar is completely dissolved, stirring occasionally.

In small bowl, beat egg yolks until smooth. Slowly whisk in one cup of hot cream mixture. Return yolk mixture to saucepan, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture coats back of wooden spoon. Do not let boil.

Strain mixture into clean bowl and let cook completely, Stir in pecans and bacon and freeze in Ice Cream maker. Savor and enjoy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pecan Pancakes with Caramel Bacon Sauce

I have met the culinary cookbook love of my life.

I feel badly though. I used to think it was my book, "The Great Big Butter Cookbook." But after wandering around in a Borders Store dragged in there against my will by myself and nobody else, I found it. The book. The book of all books.


Seriously. How could anyone resist this book?

The first recipe I tried was Pecan Pancakes with...wait for it.....Caramel Bacon Sauce.


This is just divine. No other word for it. I mean the pancakes are really  good, and had I made it exactly like the recipe called for they would have been awesome. But this Caramel Bacon sauce goes beyond words for me. Just try it. You'll thank me for it.

Pecan Pancakes with Caramel Bacon Sauce
Adapted from "Seduced by Bacon" by Joanna Pruess with Bob Lape

For the Caramel Bacon Sauce
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
 1 tbsp dark rum or bourbon (optional- yes, you better believe I went for it)
 6 slices thick sliced bacon, cooked until crisp and finely crumbled

For the Pancakes/Waffles
2 cups sifted flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
5 tbsp melted butter
1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

Make the Caramel Bacon Sauce 
Combine sugar, water and corn syrup in medium sized heavy pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil and cook undisturbed until sugar begins to turn golden. Continue cooking until sauce becomes a rich amber color and immediately remove from heat.

Carefully stir in cream as it will bubble up.(Mine actually seized into a giant clump but dissolved once on the heat again). Return to heat and bring sauce to boil before removing from heat. Stir with spoon until smooth. Stir in butter, vanilla and rum or bourbon. Add bacon and serve warm. Sauce will keep in fridge for a few weeks and makes about 1 1/4 cups sauce.

Make Pancakes
In large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon. In separate bowl, beat eggs, milk and butter until smooth. Stir in pecans. Combine dry and wet ingredients and cook. Serve pancakes with warm Caramel Bacon Sauce.

Monday, August 30, 2010

BB: Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich

 I haven't been able to bake along with the Barefoot Bloggers as much as I have wanted to the past few months so it was nice to be able to catch up with them this month and bake along with all of the recipes. Even better, we got a bonus recipe this month from Ina Garten's new cookbook How Easy Is That? which is set to be released on October 26, 2010.  Ina’s cookbook publicist sent an advanced copy of the book to our blog leader, Tara, and has encouraged us to start trying some of the recipes. 

This is a seriously good grilled cheese sandwich recipe. Very decadent. And definitely not for those who are on a diet. I am currently on Weight Watchers and even after making some adjustments to the recipe (deleting the butter, using reduced fat cheddar cheese and mayonnaise, spraying the foreman grill with pam) one sandwich alone ended up being 16 points which is more or less 3/4 of my daily food calories.

That said, it is so worth it.  It was a little saltier than I had expected, most likely due to the bacon. And although I'm not sure how it would have tasted without the modifications, it still tasted very good to me.  I did not have a pannini press (despite my best efforts to rationalize buying one, I didn't get around to it) but my foreman grill worked perfectly.

Ultimate Grilled Cheese
as chosen by Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake
serves 6

12 slices thick-cut bacon, such as Nodine’s applewood smoked
1 cup good mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 white pullman loaf or sourdough bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick (12 slices)
6 tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
6 oz aged Gruyere or Comte cheese
6 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, such as Cabot or Shelburne Farms

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Arrange the bacon on a baking rack set over a sheet pan in a single layer and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until nicely browned.  Drain on a plate lined with paper towels and cut in 1-inch pieces.

Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Lay 12 slices of bread on a board and spread each one lightly with butter.  Flip the slices and spread each one generously with the mayonnaise mixture.  Don’t neglect the corners!

Grate the cheeses in a food processor fitted with the largest grating disk and combine.  Distribute the bacon evenly on half the slices of bread.  Pile 1/3 cup grated cheese evenly on top of the bacon and top with the remaining bread slices, sauce side down.

Heat an electric panini press.  When the press is hot, cook the sandwiches for 3 to 5 minutes in batches until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted.  Allow to cool for 2 minutes.  Cut in half and serve warm.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

BB: Mixed Berry Cheesecake

I love Ina Garten's food. Between how yummy it always looks and how calm she is when she's making it, it always makes me feel like I can do the same thing. So when I saw that Nathalie of Snowball Jewelry had picked cheesecake, I was optimistic. It's been a long time since I've made traditional cheesecake, but considering how I've struggled with not eating an entire pan of it in the past, I decided to quarter the recipe. Which is not as easy as it sounds when it comes to quartering 5 eggs and 2 egg yolks.

Poor little cheesecake. It never had a chance.

There were a couple of issues that I had with it. And by it, I mean the adjustments I made to it. The cheesecake recipe by itself would have been lovely. I was happy when everything came together well. The cheesecake filling tasted great despite the adjustments. . But I didn't quite compensate enough for the reduced pan size with the baking times, so the graham cracker crust tasted slightly burnt.  Also, the outside of the cheesecake turned very brown. And let's not forget the cracks in the crust ( from when the cheesecake rose too high, then cracked open and slightly caved in) that I decided to cover up by drizzling sarabeth's strawberry rhubarb jam over it until I realized that there was no way anyone would ever be able to identify that brown pat as a cheesecake unless I cut it open for them.

I thought briefly about trying to make this again, but realized that I'd be in trouble if it turned out well. And by trouble I mean, burying my face in the cheesecake, diet be damned. Which I'm trying very hard not to do after only gaining one pound after two weeks of going off the rails with watching what I ate earlier this month.

End result is that I liked it. But I don't see myself making this again. Just too much temptation in a creamy sweet just one more spoonful taste kind of way.

Mixed Berry Cheesecake

Recipe courtesy Ina Garten
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted


  • 2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  • 1 cup red jelly (not jam) such as currant, raspberry, or strawberry
  • 1/2 pint sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 pint fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 pint fresh blueberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake.

Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.

To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss berries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed. Arrange the berries on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

SMS: Sweet Almond Cupcakes with Lemon Curd and Mascarpone Frosting

I haven't baked with the Sweet Melissa Sundays Group for several weeks now to a host of varying (read sometimes boring and occasionally preventable) reasons. But when I saw this weeks recipe, selected and hosted by Katie of Katiecakes I had to face facts.

This was a recipe to make time for. Yes, okay, so I have a bit of a lemon fetish when it comes to baked goods. That was a helpful motivator right there. And mascarpone cheese wasn't something I had baked with before, but considering how delightfully it goes with my beloved Tiramisu it really didn't take a lot of persuading to set aside part of my Sunday to pull this together.

Excuse me for just a moment as I wipe the drool off my chin.

So good. Really. I knew it was going to be good when I kept tasting the batter. It had a taste similar to a french macaroon batter. Because I was a little worried about having an entire cake like this in my house, I ended up halving the recipe and going with cupcakes instead. There was a brief moment of panic when I saw how thin the batter seemed but I relaxed a bit when I figured that hey, for once I was actually making the recipe far enough in advance to redo it if the cupcakes turned out to be a dud.

I went with the 350 degree temperature called for with the cake but cut the baking time to 20 minutes. And they looked perfect when I pulled them out. Also, because I am so proud of having done this despite the fact that you cannot tell it from the photo, I have to tell you that I  even scooped out some of the cupcake center and filled it with lemon curd before covering it with the frosting and a tiny dollop of curd. The only bit I cheated on was going with a store bought curd instead of making my own. But it still tasted as good as the homemade lemon curd I've made in the past and it saved me a lot of time.

Go check out Katie's blog as she gets to post the recipe there and definitely try this yourself if you haven't already. Yum. Thanks Katie for picking an awesome recipe!

Friday, August 20, 2010

TCS: Tres Leches Cake

I really really wanted to like this cake due to my love of sweetened condensed milk. If I have to be honest, I'm known to dip a spoon into a can of sweetened condensed milk and eat a spoonful (and enjoy a potent sugar rush afterward).

That's why I was disappointed that it wasn't all that for me. I followed the instructions to the letter (which is unusual for me) except for quartering the recipe. I even added a little extra drizzle of sweetened condensed milk. Maybe it was just a question of having too high expectations for the recipe what with my SCM issues. But it was just okay for me. I don't think I would make it again at least not from Southern Cakes recipe but I would be interested in how it turns out using another recipe.

To console myself and get over how the cake turned out, I added whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup to ease my pain which helped a little :) 

Please check out the other bakers over at The Cake Slice to see how their recipe turned out.

Tres Leches Cake
Recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk

Three Milk Sauce
1½ cups milk
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
One 12ounce can evaporated milk
1 tbsp grated lime zest

Sweetened whipped cream for garnish (optional)
Fresh fruit, such as kiwi or berries for garnish (optional)

Cake Method
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 13 by 9inch pan. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and stir with a fork to mix well.
In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar and beat with a mixer at high speed to mix well. Add the eggs one by one, beating well each time and stopping to scrape down the bowl now and then until the mixture is light, fluffy and smooth.
Add one third of the flour mixture and then half the milk, beating at low speed each time just until the flour or milk disappears into the batter. Add another third of the flour, the remaining milk and then remaining flour in the same way.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, springs back when touched lightly in the centre and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
While the cake bakes, make the sauce. (You want the cakes to still be warm when you add the sauce)

Three Milk Sauce
Combine the milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk a medium saucepan. Heat gently over medium heat, stirring often until the mixture forms a smooth, steaming hot sauce. Do not let it come to the boil. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before using.

To Finish
Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the lime zest over the cake. Punch holes with a toothpick in the top of the cake, about 1 inch apart.
Slowly pour the warm milk sauce over the warm cake, in stages, stopping to let the cake absorb the sauce before adding more. You may not need it all. You can add more later if needed.
Let the cake stand for 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate, allowing the cake to come to room temperature before you serve it. Cut into squares and serve right from the pan. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit if desired.