Category Archives: Oldies and Goodies

I Will Have My (Birthday) Cake and Eat It Too!

Today is my second favorite day of the year, a very close second behind Christmas. I am one of those obnoxious people who makes a huge deal out of their birthday. I guess because there are 4 birthdays in my family in one week (no that’s not a typo, there is one on the 21st, the 22nd, the 24th and the 28th) and my birthday has always fallen on Memorial Day weekend, it just kind of became one big weekend of combined celebration. While I can’t always celebrate with my family on my b-day, I still maintain the weekend approach. I apologize to everyone, I know that’s annoying. This year, I have a wonderful weekend planned, with theater, dinner out with my wonderful bf, brunch with friends and even a massage. But of course, no birthday is complete without a wonderful cake. While I really appreciated my bf’s offer to make the cake, I also wanted it to taste yummy, so I politely declined and insisted that I enjoyed the baking process as well as the eating (which isn’t a lie, I really do).

Here are some highlights of my day before I get to the main attraction. In addition to some wonderful presents, my parents sent me these gorgeous flowers. I also had delicious pancakes and bacon this morning. Probably my favorite breakfast ever.

This picture does a better job of showcasing the incredible lilies. Seriously, these things are gigantic and make the entire apartment smell beyond fantastic. Anyway, I will get to the point…This cake is definitely one of my favorites. It’s an amazing combination of sweet and tart. Even bf who doesn’t like lemon loves it, and I mean loves it. I am the first to admit it’s not the prettiest thing. It won’t be gracing any magazine covers or anything, but when it comes to taste, this little guy hits a home run.

Lemonade Layer Cake

from Cooking Light 

Cake:

  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 3 tablespoons thawed lemonade concentrate
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups fat-free buttermilk
  • Cooking spray

Frosting:

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • 2 teaspoons thawed lemonade concentrate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

I started by putting the softened butter, lemonade concentrate, lemon peel, sugar and vanilla in a big bowl. Using my hand mixer (while day dreaming about a standing mixer), I combined these ingredients.

Then I added the two whole eggs and the additional two egg whites and mixed together again. A quick tip about separating eggs: you can buy a little do-hickey thing to do it for you, but I find that it doesn’t work very well. Nothing compares to the old tried and true method of pouring the egg into your palm, letting the whites run through your fingers, and GENTLY tossing the yolk back and forth between your hands until all of the whites have fallen into the bowl below.

Next, I put the dry ingredients (baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour) in a separate bowl and whisked together. The whisking is an important step in this cake for two reasons. 1) It makes sure the baking powder and soda are dispersed evenly and thus the cake rises evenly. 2) It brings air into the dry ingredients resulting in a fluffier, lighter cake.

Then, I added 1/3 of the dry mixture to the big bowl and mixed it together. After it was mixed in, I added 1/2 of the buttermilk and mixed again. I added another 1/3 of the flour, mixed, then the rest of the buttermilk, mixed, and finally the last 1/2 of the flour and mixed again. The resulting batter is on the left. It’s incredibly light and fluffy, which is exactly as it should be!

I poured half of the batter into each greased 9 inch pan. Another tip: after spraying the pan, gift it a sharp smack against the counter. This step will reduce the bubbles in the spray.

I baked both cakes at 350 for 20 minutes, or until you can insert a toothpick and remove it cleanly. Then, I let the cakes cool in the pan on wire racks for 10 minutes.

After ten minutes, I cut around the sides of the pan with a knife and laid a piece of parchment paper over the top of the pan. Then, I put the rack over the parchment paper (upside down) and flipped all three pieces together so that the pan is upside down on the parchment paper and the rack. With a few taps to the back of the pan with a knife or your palm, the cake should come right out. The parchment paper is helpful when you go to plate the cake. The top is always a little sticky because the cake is so light, so the parchment paper keeps the cake from sticking or sinking into the rack.

The frosting has to be in the fridge for an hour before you spread it on the cake, so I always start while the cakes are baking. First, I combine the cream cheese, lemon peel, vanilla and butter until it is smooth.

Then I added the powdered sugar slowly (about a cup at a time), mix and then add more. This way you don’t end up with powdered sugar all over the kitchen and your clothes. Once the frosting is done, cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for an hour.

After the frosting is cooled, place one of the cakes on whatever plate you want. (Keep in mind the cake should stay in the fridge when you are done serving so you want a plate or dish that will fit). Then cover the top of the first layer with frosting. I know it seems like there isn’t enough frosting, but I swear you’ll have extra, so don’t be stingy with this layer.

Then place the second cake on top.

Next, frost the sides of both and the top of the second layer.

Finally, cut in and enjoy!

Leave a comment

Filed under Dessert, Oldies and Goodies

Pho

On nights when I don’t cook, we have a few go-to take-out places. There is the obligatory pizza and Chinese take-out, but bf and I are also obsessed with Pho (pronounced like football without the “tball”. It’s actually sort of a mix of foo and “ooo” but it’s a sound that most English speakers can’t pronounce because they didn’t learn it from a young age. It is, under no circumstances, pronounced “faux”) Sorry for that rant, it’s a major pet peeve of mine. Pho is a Vietnamese soup with beef, noodles and a beef broth. We originally learned about it thanks to our wonderful friend Dan. We are actually fortunate enoughto have two great Vietnamese restaurants nearby, but I prefer the one with stronger broth. It’s super filling and a great meal for a cold night, a sick night or anything in between :). If you haven’t tried it, you definitely should! I did for the first time in June and I’ve never looked back!

The broth comes in a container like this.

Then you get a container of noodles, beef, and some veggies. I keep in the parsley and some of the green onions, but I take out the white onions because they are too crunchy for my taste. I like my soup without a whole lot of crunch.

You also get a bag of bean sprouts, basil and some sriracha and hoisin sauce mixed together. I leave out all of these things (yes I know you will be outraged Dan). The sriracha and hoisin mix is way to spicey for me. One drop and my mouth burns for hours. But I’m a total wuss and bf won’t have pho without it. The basil is totally a preference thing and the sprouts are too crunchy for me. Yeah, I’m weird, I know.

I start by putting the meat and noodles in a big bowl and then pouring the broth into the bowl over the top. Using the chopsticks, I break up the noodles and then I enjoy. There is no graceful or right way to eat Pho, you just have to figure out how it works best for you!

Leave a comment

Filed under Oldies and Goodies

Repeats

I do have a few new recipe to share with you, which I’m really excited about, but they will have to wait until tomorrow. I want to do the dish justice and tonight my creative juices simply aren’t flowing. More importantly, if I don’t discuss my repeats, I will forget that I made them!

At bf’s request, I made linguine with asparagus, peas, pancetta and a light cream sauce. To see the original post, go here.

Also, at bf’s request, I made bread pudding with chocolate. To see that recipe, go here. I added a little more chocolate this time and used chocolate chips rather than just chopped baking chocolate. It was (actually is, since we are still enjoying it) delicious!

Finally, I made Chicken Divan (but forgot to take a picture, oops!).

What are you favorite repeats?

Leave a comment

Filed under Oldies and Goodies

Recent Repeats

While the primary purpose of this blog is to share and discuss recipes, I certainly don’t make new things every night. Who am I kidding, I don’t cook every night. There are nights when I am just too tired, or it’s too late, or I plainly don’t feel like going into the kitchen. On those nights, I’m quick to turn to Chinese, Vietnamese, or Thai takeout, order pizza, or make Ramen noodle soup. I know I really shouldn’t be eating the stuff because I’m not longer in college, but I actually really like it!

Then there are nights when I don’t want to worry about whether the final product is going to be tasty or whether or not I’m going to mess something up. On those evenings, I turn to favorites like the ones below.

Spanish Spaghetti

Fresh tortellinis with marinara sauce and Parmesan.

Chicken with quinoa and veggies. Although, I tried something new this time….

Red quinoa!!!

Molasses cookies

Pasta with fresh tomatoes, sausage, basil and Parmesan.

Leave a comment

Filed under Oldies and Goodies

This week’s repeats

I love trying new recipes. In fact, it’s sort of crucial to keep this blog going. However, I have some old favorites that are simply too delicious to not make again. Plus, by nature, they are much easier and less stressful to make. I know what step comes next, there are no surprises and there is no anxiety about whether the final product will disappoint. Here are a couple of the repeats I’ve made over the last week or so…

Noodles and chicken with peanut sauce. Recipe and original post here. I like peanut sauce, but my bf loves it. For me, it’s one of those dishes where you can have a serving, but can’t stomach leftovers. I can’t even smell the sauce after I eat one bowl. It’s not that it’s gross, in fact it’s delicious. I just have a very small quota each time I make it and once I fill the quota, I’m done. But bf doesn’t mind because that leaves plenty of leftovers for him. You can use any kind of noodle with this dish, but I think rotini works the best.

 

Chinese chicken salad. Recipe and original post here. This dish is such a great dinner for spring and summer. It tastes amazing any time of the year, but it’s so light and refreshing that it really works well during the hotter months. It’s also super healthy so it coincides nicely with any efforts to get bathing suit ready.

 

 

 

And tomorrow, I’m planning on making Chicken Divan (recipe and original post here) as a way to use up all of that extra brown rice in my fridge. (To better understand brown rice reference, go here).

Do you guys have any go-to repeat dinners? Please share! I am always trying to add to my repertoire!

Leave a comment

Filed under Oldies and Goodies

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Every cook and baker should have one dish that they can make successfully any time, any where, regardless of tools, environment and altitude. For me, my go-to dessert is this recipe. It is by far the best chocolate chip cookie I’ve ever had. Almost anyone I’ve given them to would agree. The other day I tried to post it on another blog and realized, to my horror, I hadn’t written about it here. I was shocked. These cookies are such an integral part of who I am as a cook, I guess I just assumed I had discussed them in the very beginning of my blog experience. But, oh well, I am remedying the situation now.

The recipe was originally called “Jane’s Chocolate Chip Cookies” out of an ancient California Fresh cookbook which looks like it was first printed in the Dark Ages. In actuality, it has just been loved like no other cookbook in my mom’s house. Although it pains me a little to give away all of my secrets, I’ve decided to give out my recipe:

1 1/3 cup softened butter

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 eggs

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

24 ounces chocolate chips

1 cup finely chopping walnuts

Here’s how it’s done: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

 

 

Then, cream together the sugars and the butter.

 

 

 

 

 

Next, add eggs and mix. Add vanilla and mix again.

 

 

 

 

Then, add flour, salt, baking powder and mix. At this point, clean off the beaters (enjoy the dough if you’d like, it’s amazing!). Then, add the chocolate chips and the walnuts and mix with a spoon or spatula rather than the hand mixer. The dough gets seriously thick! I didn’t add walnuts this time because I ran out, and they are delicious either way, although they hold their shape better with walnuts.

 

 

As you can see, this dough is not for someone who likes only one or two chocolate chips in their cookies. But let’s be honest, who chooses a chocolate chip cookie if you don’t like chocolate?

 

 

 

 

 

Then I put little balls of dough on a parchment-lined pan. One of the keys to having thick and round cookies is to take the extra second and round the dough into little balls with your hands. Yes, it’s messy, but sooooo worth it. Make sure you leave lots of space in between the balls because they really spread out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then cook the cookies for 8-10 minutes depending on how big the dough balls are. Make sure you take the cookies out before you think they are done. You want the edges to be a little golden brown but the tops to still be shiny.

I let the cookies cool on the pan for about two minutes, then I move them to a cooling rack. As you can see, these flattened out a lot because there weren’t any walnuts, but they were amazing anyway. Eat them hot, cold, or my personal favorite: with milk! Yummy yummy yummy!

Leave a comment

Filed under Dessert, Oldies and Goodies

Grilled Cheese and Cars

When my bf and I graduated in May, we moved out of downtown DC and into the suburbs. We love DC and all that it has to offer, but after four years of being surrounded by noisy college students, we quickly fell in love with our quiet little neighborhood. We both grew up in a suburb that was close to a big city, but still a nice size, so it was sort of like coming home.

 

Winston loves the suburbs too. He has much more room to run around the apartment and this tree outside the family room. Usually it’s inhabited by a variety of squirrels and birds for him to stalk. There has even been a bunny siting underneath the tree.

 

 

 

Anyway, as most of you know, I’m going back to graduate school next year. At that point I always planned to get a car. I didn’t need one in DC and it didn’t make any financial sense. I was stubborn when we moved (nothing new there) and I was convinced I didn’t need a car out here either. I should have known better.

Technically, I can get along without one. The metro is about 1/2 mile away from our apartment. Then my work is about a 1/2 mile from the metro stop. That’s doable. The drug store is right next to the metro. Also fine. One of my favorite parts about the suburbs is that there are real grocery stores. DC has no good grocery stores. There are some nice options but they are either in the ghetto or on the very outskirts of DC. It’s infuriating. Here comes the catch. The grocery store is a good walk from home. I can use the exercise, but the walk home is uphill. Carrying heavy bags of groceries uphill in the snow makes for one very grumpy girl.

I swear I am not writing this blog to complain, so here comes the good news. My adventurous, fearless, sometimes gypsy-like sister is going abroad to Africa in January. She didn’t want to store her car in Boston and I have free parking at my apartment, so she is bringing me her car on Monday. YAY! Can you feel my excitement? It’s literally pouring off me.

I am so looking forward to being able to pop down to the store whenever I feel like it. Lately, my bf have taken to renting a zip car for an hour and a half about once of week. I make a huge list of groceries, plan the meals for the week, and we get everything we need. This plan has worked out ok, except for weeks like this one. My bf had finals and I was sick. Like can’t walk sick. He didn’t have time at night to go with me and I couldn’t go at all. So we ordered some food, ate leftovers, and rediscovered some childhood favorites.

Since this is a food blog after all, here is the food part….When I was little I loved eating breakfast for dinner. It only happened on special occasions, which is why I think I liked it so much. I also loved grilled cheese. I don’t think I had it after 8th grade and then all of a sudden last year I rediscovered them. Well this week I’ve had pancakes for dinner, grilled cheese for lunch, etc.

Doesn’t it just look delicious? So crunchy on the outside, but nice and melty on the inside. Plus it takes all of five minutes. So this winter, if you find yourself stuck in a snow storm, being lazy, or just feeling like it, I encourage you to rediscover the wonder of a grilled cheese!

Leave a comment

Filed under Oldies and Goodies