Tuesday, April 29, 2008

TWD: Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

My doesn't that name sound delicious! Believe me, I was spectical of this recipe...but I am so glad that I made it. This might be one of my favorites, it's sweet but not too sweet, and when paired with a cup of strong black coffee, it's delicious...in fact I just might have it for breakfast tomorrow! I loved the texture...when the cake touches your tongue there is a slight grain from the cornmeal, so great, but then again I love anything with cornmeal!

This recipe came together in no time flat. I halved the recipe and it made 6 cute little fluted tarts, mainly because that is all the ricotta I had left in the house. What a great way to use up leftover ricotta!

The recipe begins by whisking together the dry ingredients, followed by the usual mixing of the wet ingredients. Probably almost quicker than cookies, the batter is ready lickety-split and after a short time in the oven, (perfect timing, just enough to clean up) it's ready.

I sprinkled powdered sugar over the top and plated it over cherry jam. Delish!

Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

About 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed (I used dried cherries)
1 c. medium-grain polenta or yellow cornmeal
1/2c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 c. ricotta
1/3 c. tepid water
3/4 C. sugar
3/4 c. honey (if you’re a real honey lover, use a full-flavored honey such as chestnut, pine, or buckwheat)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
1 stick butter, melted
1 stick butter, cut into tiny bits (I only used 1 T)

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 -inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Check that the figs are, indeed, moist and plump. If they are the least bit hard, toss them into a small pan of boiling water and steep for a minute, then drain and pat dry. If the figs are large (bigger than a bite), snip them in half.

Whisk the polenta, flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the ricotta and water together on low speed until very smooth. With the mixer at medium speed, add the sugar, honey, and lemon zest and beat until light. Beat in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are fully incorporated. You’ll have a sleek, smooth, pourable batter.

Pour about one third of the batter into the pan and scatter over the figs. Pour in the rest of the batter, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if necessary, and dot the batter evenly with the chilled bits of butter.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake should be honey brown and pulling away just a little from the sides of the panm, and the butter will have left light-colored circles in the top. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Cinnabon watch out!

Saturday mornings around our house are either completely relaxing or full of things to do around the house.  This week it was spring cleaning and finishing up some projects on the house.  After the week of the normal cereal and toast, I like to switch things up and make a new recipe.  This weekend we were running out of eggs, but I still wanted to make something yummy, delicious, and very sinful!

Well these Quick Cinnamon Rolls by Cooks Illustrated fit the bill...and the best part they are not sinful at all.  Why they taste the part, but because they are from the Best Light Recipe, they are not all that bad for you!  What more could you ask for!

These come together in a breeze, do not have any yeast so you don't have to wait, and come out of the oven, warm, gooey, and so soft.  They will forever be my cinnamon roll recipe.  At Easter I made them into caramel rolls, but we like them both ways~what's not to love:)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

TWD: Bill's Big Carrot Cake, Amazing!

I was really exited for this week. If I had to choose one cake I love, and I don't even like cake that much, it would be carrot cake! This one is so yummy...I loved the different textures that hit your tongue while you are eating it. It is not overly spiced and chock full of good things. The only thing I left out were the raisins, I just don't care for them:)

While Alex was out of town this weekend I decided to make the cake. It comes together like a breeze, very easy especially if you have a food processor for the carrots. I did fourth the recipe again, only because it was just me eating it. Alex gave it one bite and that was enough for him. If I had made the entire cake, I would have been in trouble. Instead I ended up with 6 cupcakes. Perfect!

As I was adding ingredients I came to the oil. Having finished up our oil the night before I just subbed half plain yogurt and half olive oil. End product, didn't seem to change things a bit!

If ever making carrot cake again, this will be the recipe I will turn to. It was delicious!

Bill's Big Carrot Cake

Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Yields 10 servings


For the cake:

2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¾ teaspoon salt

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

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

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

2 cups sugar

1 cup canola oil

4 large eggs

For the frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

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

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

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

½ cup shredded coconut (optional)

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

Getting ready:

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

To make the cake:

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

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

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

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

To make the frosting:

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

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

To assemble the cake:

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

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


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


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

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sugar Snap Peas all tossed up!

Last week we had dinner and I needed something quick, easy and nutritious to go along side of our yummy meatball subs.  Ten minutes before dinner, while perusing the new Everyday Food, I came across this great recipe.

With five pounds of snap peas in the fridge (thanks Sam's Club; only $5) I had everything on hand and this refreshing and delicious side came together in no time!

Here is the recipe...would be great with anything or mixed with quinoa or couscous for a more substantial dish.

Raw Snap Pea Salad (as adapted from Everyday Food)

1 pound trimmed sugar snap peas
1 C finely chopped red onion
3 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
Salt and Pepper

In a large bowl, combine sugar snap peas, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces, red onion, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.  Let stand, tossing occasionally 10 minutes.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 18, 2008

OMG, Frozen Peanut Butter Torte!

Last week, it was my sister in law Patty's Birthday!  Happy Birthday!  We celebrated as a family with a fiesta in her honor and for dessert I brought the Frozen Peanut Butter Torte, that was OMG delicious!  This recipe is so easy and so adaptable to so many different palates.  Like mint, sub out the ice cream for mint chip and the peanut butter cups for andes.  So many delicious choices, I know this dessert will find it's way to the table again.  Besides, who doesn't love ice cream!

Frozen Peanut Butter Torte

Bottom Layer:

1 box of brownies or your favorite brownie recipe 
4 miniature peanut butter cups, chopped
1/2 C  chocolate chips

Make brownies according to recipe or box.  Add mix ins.  Bake in a round cake pan, lined with parchment to ensure easy removal.

Middle Layer:

Oreo Cookies
Fudge Sauce (I made Dorie Greenspan's...so good)

Crumble half of a package of oreos, leaving some large chunks.  
Prepare fudge sauce.  If using jarred, melt.  Use about 3/4 C.

-After the brownies cool, place in a springform pan.  The brownies will not reach the edges, that is okay!  
-Pour Fudge sauce over the top of the brownies.  
-Sprinkle oreos over the top of the fudge sauce, and in the space between the brownies and the edge of the pan.  Top with more fudge sauce.  Do not use it all b/c you will need some for the end.

Top Layer:

Pint of your favorite ice cream (I used chocolate peanut butter swirl)

-Let ice cream sit out until softened, about 10 minutes.  Place ice cream in large bowl or mixer and mix until smooth.  Pour ice cream into a round cake pan lined with plastic wrap.  Make sure enough plastic wrap hangs over the edge.  Wrap ice cream so top is covered with plastic wrap.  Place in freezer for at least 3 hours.

-When the ice cream is back to it's normal consistency, take out of freezer and unwrap.  Place the ice cream circle on top of the oreos and spread to the edge of the pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze again until serving.


1/4 C peanut butter melted
1/4 C reserved fudge sauce
4 miniature peanut butter cups, chopped

Using a spoon, drizzle peanut butter and chocolate over the top of the torte.  Top with chopped peanut butter cups.   Serve and enjoy.

Yield:  12 servings

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

TWD: Marshmallows or so I thought!

This week the chosen recipe was for Marshmallows, chosen by Judy of Judy’s Gross Eats. Oh how excited I was to do this one. I have always wanted to make marshmallows, though I do not even really like them:) They just seem so pretty and delicious as well as a great gift to give away to others.

Last night I went to make them, and again remembered that I did not have a candy thermometer. I fared really well last week with the lemon cream without a thermometer so I decided to embark upon the marshmallows, no thermometer in hand. Well after last night, it's time to buy one! At least next week's recipe, chosen by Amanda of slow like honey, is Bill's Big Carrot Cake (one I also am looking forward too) does not require a thermometer.

I wish I would have read the comment on the TWD page before starting. I would have changed a few things. But the recipe was almost fool proof I am sure, as long as the temperature was right. I ended up with marshmallow mush as mine did not want to set. Will that stop me from trying again...NO! I will make marshamallows one day:) The ingredients came together really well and everything went great...until this morning when I realized they were very thin and not going to set at all. But I did get a pic that I will put up a bit later.

So for all of you with a sense of adventure give homemade Marshmallows a try...but not without your candy thermometer!

Here is the recipe:


Makes about 1 pound marshmallows
About 1 cup potato starch (found in the kosher foods section of supermarkets) or cornstarch
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 1/4-ounce packets unflavored gelatin
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup cold water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar

GETTING READY: Line a rimmed baking sheet -- choose one with a rim that is 1 inch high -- with parchment paper and dust the paper generously with potato starch or cornstarch. Have a candy thermometer at hand.

Put 1/3 cup of the water, 1 1/4 cups of the sugar and the corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, continue to cook the syrup -- without stirring -- until it reaches 265 degrees F on the candy thermometer, about 10 minutes.

While the syrup is cooking, work on the gelatin and egg whites. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining cold water (a scant 7 tablespoons) and let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it is spongy, then heat the gelatin in a microwave oven for 20 to 30 seconds to liquefy it. (Alternatively, you can dissolve the gelatin in a saucepan over low heat.)

Working in the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in another large bowl with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until firm but still glossy -- don't overbeat them and have them go dull.

As soon as the syrup reaches 265 degrees F, remove the pan from the heat and, with the mixer on medium speed, add the syrup, pouring it between the spinning beater(s) and the sides of the bowl. Add the gelatin and continue to beat for another 3 minutes, so that the syrup and the gelatin are fully incorporated. Beat in the vanilla.

Using a large rubber spatula, scrape the meringue mixture onto the baking sheet, laying it down close to a short end of the sheet. Then spread it into the corners and continue to spread it out, taking care to keep the height of the batter at 1 inch; you won't fill the pan. Lift the excess parchment paper up to meet the edge of the batter, then rest something against the paper so that it stays in place (I use custard cups).

Dust the top of the marshmallows with potato starch or cornstarch and let the marshmallows set in a cool, dry place. They'll need about 3 hours, but they can rest for 12 hours or more.
Once they are cool and set, cut the marshmallows with a pair of scissors or a long thin knife.

Whatever you use, you'll have to rinse and dry it frequently. Have a big bowl with the remaining potato starch or cornstarch at hand and cut the marshmallows as you'd like -- into squares, rectangles or even strips (as they're cut in France). As each piece is cut, drop it into the bowl.

When you've got 4 or 5 marshmallows in the bowl, reach in with your fingers and turn the marshmallows to coat them with starch, then, one by one, toss the marshmallows from one hand to the other to shake off the excess starch; transfer them to a serving bowl. Cut and coat the rest of the batch.

SERVING: Put the marshmallows out and let everyone nibble as they wish. Sometimes I fill a tall glass vase with the marshmallows and put it in the center of the table -- it never fails to make friends smile. You can also top hot chocolate or cold sundaes with the marshmallows.

STORING: Keep the marshmallows in a cool, dry place; don't cover them closely. Stored in this way, they will keep for about 1 week -- they might develop a little crust on the outside or they might get a little firmer on the inside, but they'll still be very good.

Playing Around

RASPBERRY MARSHMALLOWS: Fruit purees are excellent for flavoring these candies.
For raspberry marshmallows, you'll need a generous 1/3 cup of puree; reduce the vanilla extract to 1/4 teaspoon. After the batter is mixed, gently fold in the puree with a rubber spatula. You can use the same measurements and technique for other purees, such as strawberry, mango and passion fruit.

CAPPUCCINO MARSHMALLOWS: Sift 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons instant espresso powder and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon together into a small bowl. Stir in 1/3 cup boiling water and mix until smooth. Reduce the vanilla extract to 1/2 teaspoon, and add it to the espresso mix. After you add the sugar syrup and gelatin to the meringue, beat in the espresso mixture and continue.

LIGHT CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOWS: Melt 3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate and stir in 2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder. Reduce the vanilla extract to 1/4 teaspoon, and after the marshmallow batter is mixed, fold in the chocolate mixture with a large rubber spatula.

PUMPKIN SPICE MARSHMALLOWS: Whisk together 1/2 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin puree, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg and a pinch of ground allspice. After the marshmallow batter is mixed, fold in the spiced pumpkin with a large rubber spatula.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Donuts...so incredibly delicious!

Lately I have seen so many posts for donuts on other peoples blogs.  I don't love donuts and I don't hate them.  Once and awhile I have a craving and give in for usually, a chocolate raised donut.  Knowing I would never probably fry my own donuts at our house,  I just don't fry, so the only thing I could think of was baking donuts.  Now I have seen donut pans out there and had one on my Christmas list, but considering the holiday has come and gone and the donut pan is not in the cupboard, my options were limited.  That is until I happened upon the post by the Pioneer Woman.  This woman is incredible and her recipes all look so darn good.  While perusing her blog I happened upon this...


She calls them french breakfast puffs, but they are donuts.  Perfect...they are small especially when you make them in a mini muffin pan like I did (then they are like mini donuts) which means you can eat as many as you want:) (like I did for breakfast on Saturday)  I cut the recipe in half and it made 24 mini muffins.

Try them and you will see these are just like donut holes but better!  Enjoy!

Cinnamon Donuts
(yields 12 muffins or 48 mini muffins)

3 Cups Flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 Cup Sugar
2/3 C shortening
2 eggs
1 cup milk 
1 1/2 C sugar
3 teaspoons Cinnamon
2 Sticks butter (I used 6 T)

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease 12 muffin cups (I made mini muffins).
-Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.  Set aside.
-In a different bowl cream together 1 C sugar and shortening, then add eggs and mix.  Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.  
-Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.
-In a bowl melt 2 sticks butter.  In a separate bowl combine remaining sugar and cinnamon.  Dip baked muffins in butter, coating thoroughly, then coat with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

-recipe adapted from the pioneer woman

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

TWD: Perfect Lemon Tart

So this week for the Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was The Most Extraordinary French Lemon Cream Tart...and it was delish!

I think that this was definitely one of my favorites, though much to my chagrin!  I usually love chocolate desserts but this was light yet decadent, creamy and delicious.  

When I started out prepping the recipe I noticed that my candy thermometer was not where it should be...then I remembered that it broke quite some time ago and I never replaced it...did I stop and buy a new one, no I pressed on, following Dorie's perfect, straight forward and almost tactile directions.  It worked!

With my bowl in the water and lemon zest, juice, and egg in the bowl, I began whisking away, and what a beautiful sight that cream was.  Into the blender the mixture went, butter added, cream superb!

I knew that Alex and I would never eat all of them, nor did we need any more pie dough in the freezer, so I did what most would never...I cut the recipe in half, and then half again!  I used our cute little tart pans and made 2 individual servings and boy were they delicious!

I can't wait for next week...Judy of Judy's Gross Eats, has chosen....MARSHMALLOWS!

Monday, April 7, 2008

It's sad to be gone...

This past week I haven't cooked much at all, well actually at all!  Last week I was in Wisconsin visiting my family and celebrating my dad's 60th birthday!  I had off so I went in the middle of the week.  When I returned, Alex was gone on Thursday.  But on Friday...we found out that the offer was accepted on our investment property and we were so excited we decided to celebrate with dinner at Kincaid's.  The meal was good, but nowhere near amazing.  

Hubby had steak while I went with their pan seared chicken with mushroom stuffing (with brie, goat cheese, almonds, and caramelized onions).

Here are some pics from the night...unfortunately we didn't get one of dessert!  People must just think we are nuts:)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

TWD: Gooey Chocolate Cake...yum!

Finally...I was able to make the recipe! I have felt so terrible lately because two weeks have passed since I have made a recipe...the flan went unmade (okay b/c hubby and I do not like flan) and the snickery squares, which I still want to make. So many things have been happening but now things are back to normal and baking, cooking, and eating are back on our agenda!

This recipe was chosen by Leigh of Lemon Tartlet...and they were well, good. The recipe came together easy enough, much quicker than I anticipated, and I followed the directions to a T, including the bake time of 13 minutes. This is where the problem came in...Our oven must be off a little, but I think they were over cooked b/c they were not that gooey, that or I did not add enough chocolate:)

Either way they were delicious, but if I were to make another gooey chocolate cake or lava cake I would probably go back to this one from Cooking Light. But anything chocolatey and warm is right up my alley. I decided to plate my gooey cakes with caramel and chocolate topping and freshly whipped cream. A great end to a Monday night, especially a SNOWY Monday night!
Up for next week from the TWD team, well actually Mary from Starting with Scratch is a delicious French Lemon Cream Tart...that one will get made b/c I have a hubby who might even lick those spoons!

Have a great day and here is the recipe:

Gooey Chocolate Cake

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4teaspoon salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate,
4 ounces coarsely chopped,
1 ounce very finely chopped
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
6 tablespoons of sugar

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. butter (or spray – it’s easier) 6 cups of a regular-size muffin pan, preferably a disposable aluminum foil pan, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Put the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together.

Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, put the coarsely chopped chocolate and the butter in the bowl and stir occasionally over the simmering water just until they are melted – you don’t want them to get so hot that the butter separates. Remove the bowl from the pan of water. ( I used a regular saucepan on very low heat...just easier:))

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and yolk until homogenous. Add the sugar and whisk until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients and, still using the whisk, stir (don’t beat) them into the eggs. Little by little, and using a light hand, stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and sprinkle the finely chopped chocolate over the batter.

Bake the cakes for 13 minutes. Transfer them, still on the baking sheet, to a rack to cool for 3 minutes. (There is no way to test that these cakes are properly baked, because the inside remains liquid.)

Line a cutting board with a silicone baking mat or parchment or wax paper, and, after the 3-minute rest, unmold the cakes onto the board. Use a wide metal spatula to lift the cakes onto dessert plates.