Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking

April 29, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

Filed under: blogging events, dessert, Tuesdays with Dorie — Tags: — Emily @ 3:28 am

It’s Tuesday again!! This week’s recipe was chosen by Caitlin of Engineer Baker. I am not the biggest fan of figs, but I thought I would try it out anyway. Aaron LOVED the figs. Me, not so much. However, the cake was amazing!! I think I would like to try the cake again without the figs–or maybe half and half, so Aaron would be happy. I think Aaron might have been drooling over the cake—I could barely get a picture taken before he started eating it (so excuse the picture quality). He ate it for dinner.

Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

About 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed (I used Mission)

1 c. medium-grain polenta or yellow cornmeal (I used Polenta)

½ c. all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 c. ricotta

1/3 c. tepid water

¾ c. sugar

¾ 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

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 tablespoon, cut into bits and chilled

2 large eggs

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 ½-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.


April 27, 2008

Stir Fried Beef and Snow Peas

Filed under: beef — Emily @ 6:31 am

I got this recipe originally from someone on the cooking message board that I frequent. I cannot remember who it was–I apologize. Come forward if you see this! It was excellent and healthy, which is always important!

Stir-Fried Beef and Snow Peas


3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T minced peeled fresh ginger
3/4 lb boneless sirloin steak, trimmed and cut into thin 2-inch-long slices
1/2 lb fresh snow peas, trimmed, or thawed frozen snow peas
1 cup canned sliced water chestnuts, drained
2 T reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 T orange juice
1 t cornstarch
1 T water


1. Spray a large nonstick wok or deep skillet with nonstick spray and set over high heat until a drop of water sizzles in it. Add the scallions, garlic, and ginger; stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beef and stir-fry until browned, about 3 minutes. Add the snow peas and stir-fry about 1 minute. Add the water chestnuts and stir-fry 30 seconds. Stir in the soy sauce and orange juice; bring to a simmer and cook 20 seconds.

2. Stir together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl until smooth. Add to the wok and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce bubbles and thickens, about 30 seconds.

serving size = 1 cup (recipe serves 4)

Steak Sandwich

Filed under: beef — Emily @ 6:28 am

I got this recipe by watching it on the Barefoot Contessa. Aaron was literally salivating over the TV, so a few days later I surprised him by making her steak sandwich. I had the hardest time finding the focaccia buns, but I finally found them at Whole Foods by going to the deli section and just ordering the bread (instead of a whole sandwich). They turned out perfectly. The sandwich was fantastic.

1 (12-ounce) 1-inch thick New York strip boneless beef top loin steak
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 yellow onions, sliced in rings
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 recipe Mustard Mayo, recipe follows
2 mini focaccia buns, sliced in 1/2
1/2 cup baby arugula

Season the steak liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saute pan over high heat until it’s almost smoking, then sear the steak on each side for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and cook the steak for about 7 to 10 minutes, turning once, until very rare in the middle. Remove to a plate, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Slice the steak into strips.

Using the same saute pan, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and thyme and saute for 10 minutes, until the onions are brown and caramelized, stirring occasionally.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread a tablespoon of Mustard Mayo on the bottom half of each bun. Place a layer the steak strips on top of the mayo, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top with the caramelized onion rings. Place the baby arugula on top of the onion rings, and cover the sandwiches with the top half of the buns.

Mustard Mayo:
3/4 cup good mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl. Serve at room temperature.

Yield: 1 cup

April 26, 2008

Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

Filed under: cookies, dessert — Emily @ 8:16 pm
Aaron and I are going over to a friends’ house tonight (as we did last Saturday) for dinner and a rousing game of Settlers of Catan—a board game. I know, we are dorks. I promise, it is really fun! We’ve played it with several of our friends in the past, in Chicago, Nashville and now, Los Angeles. Check it out—you won’t be disappointed. But it was my job to bring dessert. I turned to my trusted Dorie Greenspan book and found something to bring. I got a pic, but I’m never happy with how oatmeal based cookies look—but they taste amazing!!
Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

From Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

3 cups old-fashioned oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon salt

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup peanut butter–chunky (Dorie’s choice) or smooth (my choice because it’s what I had—-don’t use natural peanut butter)

1 cup sugar

1 cup (packed) light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 ½ cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Mix in the chips. If you have the time, cover and chill the dough for about 2 hours, or for up to 1 day. (Chilling the dough will give you more evenly shaped cookies.)

If the dough is not chilled, drop rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the baking sheets. If the dough is chilled, scoop up rounded tablespoons, roll the balls between your palms and place them 2 inches apart on the sheets. Press the chilled balls gently with the heel of your hand until they are about ½ inch thick.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. The cookies should be golden and just firm around the edges. Lift the cookies onto cooling racks with a wide metal spatula–they’ll firm as they cool.

Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

Makes about 60 cookies

Storing: Wrapped airtight or piled into a cookie jar, the cookies will keep at room temperature for about 4 days. Wrapped and frozen, they’ll be good for 2 months.

Playing Around

: You can substitute soft, moist raisins for the chocolate chunks or just stir in some raisins along with them. If you’re really looking for crunch, toss in chopped peanuts too (salted or not). With or without the chocolate chunks, raisins and nuts, these cookies are great with ice cream or around ice cream.

Crispy French Toast

Filed under: breakfast — Emily @ 7:48 pm

Back in December, Aaron and I stayed at the gorgeous La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla, California. For breakfast Aaron had crispy French toast and the next day he starting asking if I could try to recreate this recipe. Now, I am not a big breakfast food person (I think it is because I don’t like maple syrup), but I decided to try to recreate the recipe for him. This was what I came up with. We served it for Christmas morning. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture because my family dug into it so quickly!

Crispy French Toast

3 eggs
1 cup half-and-half
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups corn flakes cereal, crushed to 1 cup
8, (3/4 inch thick) diagonally cut slices French bread
strawberry syrup
Fresh strawberries, raspberries and/or blueberries

1. Grease 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan. In shallow bowl, combine eggs, half-and-half, sugar, vanilla, and salt; beat well.
2. Place crushed cereal in another shallow bowl. Dip each bread slice in egg mixture, making sure all egg mixture absorbed. Coat each slice with crumbs.
3. Place in greased pan; cover. Freeze 1-2 hours or until firm.
4. Heat oven 425 degrees F. Bake bread slices 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, turning once. Serve with syrup and fresh berries. If desired, garnish with whipped topping.

Gorilla Bread

Filed under: breakfast, Uncategorized — Emily @ 7:36 pm

This post is way overdue! I was looking for something special and different to have on Christmas morning. I decided to make monkey bread. However, when I started looking for recipes, I came across Gorilla Bread—which looked even tastier! It was definitely a hit and I want to start making it a tradition to have Gorilla bread on Christmas morning every year!


1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
2 (12-ounce) cans refrigerated biscuits (10 count)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.Spray a bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray. Mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon. In a saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar over low heat, stirring well; set aside. Cut the cream cheese into 20 equal cubes. Press the biscuits out with your fingers and sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar. Place a cube of cream cheese in the center of each biscuit, wrapping and sealing the dough around the cream cheese. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nuts into the bottom of the bundt pan. Place half of the prepared biscuits in the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, pour half of the melted butter mixture over the biscuits, and sprinkle on 1/2 cup of nuts. Layer the remaining biscuits on top, sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar, pour the remaining butter mixture over the biscuits, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of nuts. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Place a plate on top and invert.

Source: Paula Deen

LiveSTRONG with Corn Chowder!

Filed under: blogging events, soup — Emily @ 4:13 am

I recently heard about a blog event called “A Taste of Yellow” which helps support LiveSTRONG Day  on May 13, 2008. LiveSTRONG is Lance Armstrong’s foundation which aims to raise awareness for cancer. Thankfully, I have not had too many personal experiences with cancer. However, as a pediatric nurse practitioner, I have had many patients who have succumbed to this horrible disease. I was very excited to participate in this event. The challenge was to make and blog about any type of yellow food. I have been meaning to make this corn chowder for awhile, so I thought it would be perfect. It tasted awesome!

Blanchard’s Corn Chowder

From the cookbook At Blanchard’s Table by Melinda and Robert BlanchardServes 8

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 medium yellow onions, chopped (I only used 2)

5 carrots, cut into ¼-inch slices (I only used 4)

5 celery stalks, cut into ¼-inch slices (I only used 4)

6 cups fresh corn kernels (about 12 ears of corn)

3 cups chicken broth (I wanted mine a little creamier, so I used 2 cups chicken broth and 1 cup heavy cream)

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 large red bell peppers, seeded and cut into ½-inch pieces (I used 1)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish

**I decided to add some crab meat to my chowder so I used 1 tub of fresh, lump crab meat that I flaked into the chowder at the end and let simmer for a few minutes to heat

Melt the butter in a large pot. When the butter is hot, add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook just until tender, stirring frequently, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the corn and cook 2 minutes more. Remove 4 cups of the vegetables and transfer to a food processor (I used my Magic Bullet). Puree the mixture until fairly smooth and return it to the soup pot.

Add the chicken broth, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, add the peppers and simmer for 2 minutes (this is when I added the crab). Add the dill, and taste for salt and pepper. Serve hot, garnished with more dill (and some good crusty bread!)

**This post is specifically dedicated to Zackerie and Gwendolyn–two patients I was recently with at their moment of death from cancer–whom I will never forget.

April 22, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie

Filed under: dessert, Tuesdays with Dorie — Emily @ 6:27 pm

I recently joined an online food blogging group called Tuesdays with Dorie . It is a group of bakers who bake a new recipe every Tuesday (or whenever during the week and post it on Tuesday) from Dorie Greenspan’s book Baking: From My Home to Yours. This was my first week to participate and it was really fun! Today is Aaron’s birthday, and luckily, he loves carrot cake. I only made a two layer cake instead of a three layer cake because those were the only pans I had. It still turned out well—I will let you know when I’ve tried it!

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-I used walnuts

1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

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

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.

Chipster-Topped Brownies

Filed under: dessert — Emily @ 5:58 am

Last weekend Aaron and I went on a “Engaged and Young Marrieds” retreat with our church. It was at an awesome beach house in Oxnard (literally, right on the beach). We were in charge of dessert for the weekend. While the house was awesome, the oven (and everything else in the house) were straight out of the 80s. We were just doing boxed brownies (but we did get the good Ghiradelli kind), but the oven completely failed us. After an hour and a half in the oven, we finally managed to get something out of the pan and we ended up eating runny brownies (but they were still pretty good).

When our new friends who organized the retreat invited us over for dinner the following weekend, I really felt like I had to make up for those brownies! Luckily, I had just purchased Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, so I had an abundance of recipes to search through. I saw this recipe and though “what could be better—chocolate chip cookies and brownies together—two of my favorites.” This recipe definitely did not disappoint—a chocolate lovers’ dream. While it was a little tedious to make everything from scratch, it was definitely worth it and is actually a little easier then you may think.

Chipster-Topped Brownies

For the brownie layer:

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 2/3 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

For the cookie layer:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar

2/3 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chips, or 1 cup store-bought chocolate chips

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9×13 inch baking pan, line it with wax or parchment paper and butter the paper. Put the pan on a baking sheet.

To make the brownie batter: Put both chocolates and the butter in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stirring occasionally, heat just until the ingredients are melted, shiny and smooth. If the mixture gets too hot, the butter will separate from the chocolates. Remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and eggs on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until pale, thick and creamy. Beat in the salt and vanilla extract. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate and butter, mixing only until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then, still on low speed, add the flour, mixing only until it disappears into the batter. Using the spatula, fold in the walnuts, and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Set aside.

To make the cookie dough: Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Working with the stand mixer in the cleaned bowl or with the hand mixer in another large bowl, beat the butter and both sugars together on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. One at a time, add the egg and the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the dough. Still on low, mix in the chopped chocolate. Drop the cookie dough by spoonfuls over the brownie batter and, using a spatula and a light touch, spread it evenly over the batter.

Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until the cookie top is deep golden brown and firm and a thin knife inserted into the brownie layer comes out with only faint streaks of moist chocolate. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature.

When the brownies are completely cool, carefully run a knife between the sides of the pan and the brownies, then invert them onto another rack, remove the paper and turn right side up onto a cutting board. Cut into bars about 2 inches x 1 inch.

Makes: 24 brownies

**The cookie top can be varied easily by swapping peanut butter, butterscotch or white chocolate chips for the chopped chocolate.

Pasta Perfecto

Filed under: pasta — Emily @ 4:33 am

This is one of the first dishes that Aaron and I ever made together. We sort of came up with the recipe on our own. And while it is definitely not the healthiest of recipes—it is soooo tasty! It is definitely our “go to” special occasion recipe.

Pasta Perfecto
1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into bite size pieces
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper, divided
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 lb. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound Rigatoni or penne pasta

Sprinkle each chicken breast with 1/4 tsp. each of salt and pepper. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook until all the chicken is cooked through. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until softened, 2-4 minutes. Stir in cream. Cook until mixture is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Stir in parmesan. Simmer, stirring for 1 minute more until cheese melts. Stir in remaining salt and pepper. Toss hot pasta with sauce and divide among 4 serving plates. Makes 4 servings.

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