June 30, 2012

Don't leave me!

Well, my few and much-loved readers, I am back in the hospital. Fortunately, we were pretty prepared for this and are looking ahead to an improved quality of life. This does mean my baking activities will be kinda limited for a week or two, but my fantastic hubby is more than willing to help with back-up! He's going to make some of our favorite recipes for the boys while I'm in here, take pictures, and I will write about it! It's a good thing for him too, forces him to make real food instead of fried eggs and ordered pizza. So don't desert me, this is just a blip, I promise!! Thanks for reading!!

June 27, 2012

Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

Allrighty folks, this one's a doozy!! Its kinda complicated, but also one of the most amazing things I have ever baked in my life. It's worth every step. I highly recommend reading through it a few times, so you kinda have the system down, AND I suggest measuring things out ahead of time, like the sour cream. It'll make things easier, trust me. It's from Cooks Illustrated, ALMOST word for word, but I accidentally stumbled on an adjustment. Keep an eye out for the italics! 
*By the way, if a classic streusel topping sounds better, skip the lemon sugar almond topping, and use the streusel recipe at the end of the post*

Printable Recipe
Cream Cheese Coffee Cake (original recipe)
Published January 1, 2010.   From Cook's Illustrated.


Leftovers should be stored in the refrigerator, covered tightly with plastic wrap. For optimal texture, allow the cake to return to room temperature before serving.


  • Lemon Sugar-Almond Topping  
  • 1/4cup sugar
  • 1 1/2teaspoons finely grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/2cup sliced almonds
  • Cake  
  • 2 1/4cups (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/8teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/8teaspoons baking soda
  • 1teaspoon table salt
  • 10tablespoons (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
  • 1cup plus 7 tablespoons sugar
  • 1tablespoon finely grated zest plus 4 teaspoons juice from 1 to 2 lemons
  • 4large eggs
  • 5teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4cups sour cream
  • 8ounces cream cheese, softened


  1. 1. FOR THE TOPPING: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together sugar and lemon zest in small bowl until combined and sugar is moistened. Stir in almonds; set aside.
    2. FOR THE CAKE: Spray 10-inch tube pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside. In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter, 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, and lemon zest at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, about 20 seconds, and scraping down beater and sides of bowl as necessary. Add 4 teaspoons vanilla and mix to combine. Reduce speed to low and add one-third flour mixture, followed by half of sour cream, mixing until incorporated after each addition, 5 to 10 seconds. 
    Repeat, using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining sour cream. Scrape bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at low speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour.
  2. 3. Reserve 1 & 1/4 cups batter and set aside. **STOP!! I tried it this way, the cheese filling sank straight to the bottom. Save 2 & 1/4 cups of batter!** Spoon remaining batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Return now-empty bowl to mixer and beat cream cheese, remaining 5 tablespoons sugar, lemon juice, and remaining teaspoon vanilla on medium speed until smooth and slightly lightened, about 1 minute. Add 1 & ¼ **I change it here from 1/4 to 1 & 1/4 cups. It will make the perfect swirl of filling!** cup reserved batter and mix until incorporated. Spoon cheese filling mixture evenly over batter, keeping filling about 1 inch from edges of pan; smooth top. 
    Spread remaining cup reserved batter over filling and smooth top. With butter knife or offset spatula, gently swirl filling into batter using figure-8 motion, being careful to not drag filling to bottom or edges of pan.
    Firmly tap pan on counter 2 or 3 times to dislodge any bubbles. Sprinkle lemon sugar-almond topping evenly over batter and gently press into batter to adhere.
    4. Bake until top is golden and just firm, and long skewer inserted into cake comes out clean (skewer will be wet if inserted into cheese filling), 45 to 50 minutes. Remove pan from oven and firmly tap on counter 2 or 3 times (top of cake may sink slightly). Cool cake in pan on wire rack 1 hour. Gently invert cake onto rimmed baking sheet (cake will be topping-side down); remove tube pan, place wire rack on top of cake, and invert cake sugar-side up. Cool to room temperature, about 1½ hours. Cut into slices and serve. (don't skimp on the cooling time or the cake will fall!!)
    Oh my. No really, just look at it! It's GORGEOUS!! And it better be worth it, for all that fiddling around, right??
    I promise...It is, it really is. This is the cake you want to pull out to impress ANYONE. Boss, mother-in-law, new friend, old friend, parent, spouse, random person off the street... they will sing your praises for years to come.
    It's light, and creamy, and buttery, and the filling just floats there through the middle, all soft and fluffy... wow.
    I think I need another slice... :) 
    *Streusel Topping*
    tablespoons granulated sugar
    tablespoons brown sugar
    pinch of salt
    1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (3 1/2 ounces)
    tablespoons butter, melted and warm

    PS- I figured out my lighting problem!!!! Aren't these pictures fantastic?! YAY!!! Sorry...I'm excited... :)


It's Bollywood night!! For those of you who have never heard of such a thing, Bollywood movies are made in India. They're usually about 3 hours long, have subtitles, musical numbers, are REALLY corny, and are just about the happiest things around. I LOVE them! A few friends and I used to get together as often as we could and watch them together, but those friends have all moved. These movies are much more fun to watch with company, so you can make fun of them, discuss them, try to figure out what will happen next... After multiple failed attempts, my plans to start a NEW Bollywood group have finally come to pass, and the first one is tonight!! I'm so excited!! I'll post the ridiculously yummy Cream Cheese Coffee Cake I'm making for the girls in a bit, but for now I leave you with a taste of Bollywood. It's from arguably my favorite, Rab Ni Bana Di Jodi, a movie about an arranged marriage (they kinda all are...) where the husband is madly in love with his wife, but shy, and she is getting over the death of her former fiancée and is convinced she can never be her old self again. He disguises himself as young and "hip" to join her dance class and be around the "old self" that he fell in love with at first sight. I love the meaning of the words in this song, I think the idea is so beautiful. "I see my god in you". Doesn't mean you have to actually worship the one you love, but who doesn't make the love of their life the center of their world?? And why shouldn't we?? I don't deserve Stephen, and I don't think I ever will, but I'll try every minute of the rest of my life to show him how much I love him. All right, enough sappiness, click the little "CC" button to turn on the subtitles, and enjoy! I'll be back in a bit with yumminess :)


June 26, 2012

Summer Cake

What to bake, what to bake... It's so HOT outside, the only things that sound good are light and tart and lemony!! But have I overdone it already with the lemon recipes? This Lemon Yogurt Loaf from The English Kitchen sounds just about perfect, but I posted one of her recipes yesterday... wait a minute. What if I took the lemon loaf...and added raspberries! But I can't just chuck them in the batter, they're still pretty tart. I learned that lesson last time I made raspberry scones... There IS that cooked blueberry method from my Lemon Blueberry Muffins... I think I might be on to something...
Summer Cake
Printable Recipe

1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs (room temp)
grated zest from 3 lemons
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable oil

For the sugar glaze:
the juice of 1 lemon
5 TBS sugar

For the Drizzle Icing:
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 TBS fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a large loaf tin. Line with parchment paper and butter the paper. Set aside.

Heat raspberries and 1 1/2 tsp sugar in small pot or saucepan. Simmer for a few minutes, till berries are softened and juices have thickened to a glaze. Set aside to cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Whisk together the yogurt and sugar in another larger bowl. Beat in the eggs, lemon zest and the vanilla. Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Fold in the oil, using a rubber spatula, making sure to get it all in smoothly. Pour into the loaf tin. Pour berry mixture over the top of the batter. Using a chopstick or the end of a spoon, swirl the berry mixture through the batter a few times, do not touch the side of the pan (shortcut: you could just use preserves/jam and skip cooking the berries, I just like the tartness of the fresh berries) Do not clean the pan, save it! Place cake on a centre rack in the heated oven.
Bake for about 50 minutes, or until well risen and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. While it is baking, heat the lemon juice and sugar in the same pot/pan you cooked the berries in, to get that raspberry juice into the glaze. Heat till sugar dissolves completely. 

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before removing. Place on a wire rack over a baking pan (or parchment paper) and spoon the glaze over top, allowing it to soak in a little at a time. Allow to cool completely.
Whisk the powdered sugar together with the lemon juice and drizzle over the top of the loaf. Allow to set. Cut into slices to serve.
Oh man oh man, I think I just might be brilliant!! This cake is tart and tangy and refreshing and summery. I need an ice cold glass of lemonade to go with it! I haven't had so much fun creating a recipe in years, I hope you like it as much as I do! And how perfect, it looks so pretty on my chickadee plate. :)
Note: the texture on this wasn't quite right the first time, I did some fiddling (baked 3 more lemon yogurt loaves!) re-read the original recipe, and discovered it needed GREEK yogurt! So mine looks kinda dense, but I changed the recipe and yours will be perfect, still moist and delicious but lighter :)

June 25, 2012

I have seen the light...

I have to confess, I'm just the tiniest bit obsessed with this blog at the moment. I've been studying other blogs I love, reading tips for success, etc. Katrina from Splash of Something gave me a great tip for finding cute linens and plates to help my sad, sad pictures, so I headed out to DI (Desert Industries) and TJ Maxx today, hoping to discover a few cute plates and napkins to dress up my treats...

 Not sure if I found enough... :)
It was so fun! Most of these are from DI, cost between 50 cents and a dollar. I tried not to get too much Christmas stuff (I'm kind of a Christmas nut...as you will see in a few months) but just had to have these beautiful little dessert plates!
AND I found the cutest stoppered jar, exactly what I need for homemade lemon curd!

I was thrilled with my finds, especially their price tag (20$!) but decided to go by TJ Maxx anyway, hopefully for linens. I walked in... And this little guy chirped, "Hi April, where've you been??"


 *ahem* Sorry. I love chickadees. Actually, I love birds. Instead of a crazy cat lady, I plan on being a crazy bird lady with a dozen bird feeders and a garden designed to attract as many birds as possible. :) But chickadees are my favorite. They're just so cute, and round, and have the happiest little song... This plate will be a treasure forever. Yay!

 But back on topic. I don't think I've actually looked around a TJ Maxx since I was about 14, and I remembered it being old, shabby, and outdated. But I have been converted!! Especially by the kitchen section! They really have some fantastic stuff. I had to remind myself that my kitchen was already full... And I literally have no where else to put new things. So I put the 10$ set of three apothecary jars back...passed the beautiful mini casserole dishes longingly...and told myself, "just a few more months. A few more months and you will have a house, and a REAL kitchen and INCOME. We can wait till then." But I tell you what, as soon as we move in, unpack, and get that first paycheck? I have a date. With TJ Maxx.

Strawberry Jam Swirls

When I decided to start this food blog thing, and make something yummy every day, (if possible!)I thought that of COURSE all my boys would be thrilled! Well... you can't please everybody. Big Stephen was concerned about having that much sugar around, Little Stephen didn't like the chocolate chips in the Lemon Chocolate Chip Cake, Joe didn't like the blueberries in the muffins (crazy child)... so today, by golly, I was determined to make something those kids would LOVE! Joe's favorite food is strawberries, and these scrumptious-looking biscuits from The English Kitchen looked just right. And they ARE!!

Strawberry Jam Swirls (original recipe)
Printable Recipe

Makes 12

3 ounces of butter, diced (6 TBS)
16 ounces of plain flour (4 1/2 cups)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 ounces of caster (or granulated) sugar (a scant 1/2 cup)
2 medium free range eggs
300ml of milk (1 1/4 cups)
2 generous dessertspoons of strawberry preserves
1 small free range egg, beaten for glazing
2 TBS granulated sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 220*C/425*F/ gas mark 7. Butter a baking sheet really well (or line with parchment). Set aside.

Measure the flour into a large bowl. Whisk in the baking powder, salt and caster sugar. Drop in the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Beat the eggs and milk together. Make a well in the dry ingredients and then pour in about 2/3 of the egg/milk mixture. Mix it in with a fork, until you get a soft dough, adding more milk/egg if necessary. You will havea fairly sticky dough and may not need more.

Lightly flour your work surface. Dump the dough onto it and dust with flour. Roll or pat out into a rectangle about 12 inches in length, 7 inches wide and 1/2 inch tall. Spread with the strawberry preserves covering completely. With the long side facing you, roll into a roll, rolling the pastry away from you. Cut into 12 slices and place each slice onto the buttered baking sheet, leaving some space in between.

Brush with some beaten egg and then sprinkle with the granulated sugar. 

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown and firm to the touch. Allow to cool on the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling.

This is absolutely a keeper. They're just barely sweet, so I don't feel like I'm giving the boys junkfood (yay!) soft and fluffy and the jam swirl is just plain yummy. And hey, they both liked them! Too bad the jam looks like pizza sauce... my natural light is awful in this one-window apartment. I am hoping my pictures drastically improve when we move to DENVER in September!!

These will be making many repeat appearances in our kitchen!

June 24, 2012

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don't like chocolate. I believe I've mentioned that. Unfortunately, my husband LOVES chocolate. He loves chocolate more than most women I know, honestly. So when he begged for chocolate chip cookies today, I  thought, "Chocolate chip cookies? How boring!! I have to post something INTERESTING!" 
But then I realized... Everyone likes chocolate chip cookies... (except me) And our recipe is pretty perfect... so why NOT chocolate chip cookies?? So Stephen gets his wish. 

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Printable Recipe


2 & 1/8 cups bleached all-purpose flour (about 10 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
12 tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled (very important!)
1 cup brown sugar (light or dark), 7 ounces
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 - 2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (semi or bittersweet)
  1. 1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Mix flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
    2. Mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients; mix until just combined. Stir in chips.
    3. Form into large, rough balls and place on greased or parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake, reversing cookie sheets’ positions halfway through baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 18 minutes.
  2. *This is another recipe I adapted a bit from Cooks Illustrated. I added cinnamon to make them a little more special and simplified the cookie-forming. Again, sometimes they're just silly :)*
    I like to make them pretty big. They're nice and thick, perfectly chewy, with crisp edges and stuffed full of chocolate chips... with the hint of cinnamon to somehow make them taste even warmer and more decadent. 

    I may not like chocolate much, but I can still appreciate these. Why HAS it been so long since I made them??

Madame Libraaaa....rian.

Because I got married at 19, barely a year out of high school, I didn't bring much to my marriage in the way of... assets, I suppose you could say. No furniture, just a hope chest. Very little savings, since I hadn't been working very long. But I did bring something I considered (and still do!!) my greatest treasure. My books.
The ones that fit in the bookcase...
And the ones that don't...All MINE.
I have been an avid bookworm basically since I could talk. The biggest trouble I ever got into in school was for reading in class. My teachers would check my backpack and take my books away. I can speed-read like you would not believe. Growing up, my mind was always half in another world. Breathless in delight with Anne of Green Gables under the White Way of Delight... horrified with Jane Eyre discovering Mr. Rochester's secret...roaming the forests with Big Red... freezing in a cow shed with James Herriot... mourning the loss of Ender's childhood... books have always been my greatest comfort and escape. What could be more comfortable than being curled up in a comfy chair with a muffin and a book? Other than being a mom, I wanted to be a librarian. I wanted to recommend books to young people that would change their lives. Stop by sometime, I'll lend you one!! OLD books give me the greatest thrill. As Anne would say, a "queer ache". Something about the way they feel... and smell... and look... I can never get used to reading on Kindles or iPads. Must turn pages. A few years ago my mom just started asking me what I wanted for my birthday, instead of trying to surprise me. I asked for this 1937 copy of  Wilkie Collins's "The Woman in White".

And my collecting began!! Last April she found me an absolute treasure trove, including this beautiful little book...(my sister Sarah actually gets credit for it)

And this beast...my oldest book... British Poets from 1831. That's 16 years before Jane Eyre, my favorite book of all time was published!! Charlotte Bronte could have READ this book!! The thought makes me all tingly!!

Just like food, books are always better when shared!! So I have a few recommendations. First up: "Crocodile on the Sandbank" by Elizabeth Peters. Imagine Indiana Jones. Now imagine he's a woman. Married to an Egyptologist. With a knack for attracting unsavory characters, which of course cause trouble that just MUST be investigated, reinforced parasol in hand!! Even my husband loves Elizabeth Peters. She's clever, and funny, and her characters are so lovable. Give it a try, you'll have a blast. Second: "Winter Solstice" by Rosamund Pilcher. A warm, homey story of strangers drawn together by coincidence, helping each other through sticky patches in life. Every time I read this book, I cry at the last page. Even though I know what's coming, I cry anyway. A good cry :) Go see what I mean. Grab a muffin, tune out the world, and enjoy a book. I just might join you...
PS- Extra points if you know where the post title is from!!

June 23, 2012

Fish Fillets with Lemon, Butter, Caper Sauce

This is one of Stephen's all-time favorite recipes. When we first got married, he had a list a mile long of food he HATED. Onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, fish... He was the pickiest member of his family. Although his brother Joe might give him a run for his money, out of sheer randomness. Who on earth doesn't like BEANS?? Anyway. Most of the foods on his list he has since grown to appreciate, and the first time he took a risk and had Parmesan-Crusted Tilapia with a Lemon Butter sauce at a fancy restaurant, he was hooked! (hee hee) We were determined to find a recipe to match it, and although our fish isn't parmesan crusted, our sauce is pretty killer, we think. We made it once while visiting my Grandma (we're the kind of guests who come visit and cook for YOU the whole time!) and she still talks about it every time food comes up, period. You could make this with any light fish fillets, we used tilapia for years, tried Mahi Mahi tonight and it was delicious! We've never been brave enough to risk "fresh" supermarket fish, we just use frozen fillets. It's quick, easy, and as long as you go easy on the sauce, not bad health-wise, I would think!

Fish Fillets with Lemon, Butter, Caper Sauce
Printable Recipe

1 Tb olive oil
1 Tb capers (drained)
1/2 cup chicken broth
juice from one lemon
pinch of salt
3 Tb cold butter, cut in chunks

Thawed fish fillets (makes enough sauce for 4-6 fillets)
olive oil
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper

Pat fish dry, season both sides with salt and pepper. Put flour in medium bowl, add fish, toss or sprinkle or whatever till they're lightly coated. Heat enough oil to just cover the bottom of a large frying pan. Add fish when oil starts to shimmer, BEFORE it smokes or crackles! Cook on medium heat, flip when the edges turn opaque.Cook fish till golden brown on each side.

While fish is cooking (or before) heat 1 Tb oil in small saucepan on high heat. Add capers, crush a few, fry till they start to brown a bit. Add chicken broth and lemon juice, bring to boil, boil 5 minutes till it reduces a little. Remove from heat, stir in pinch of salt and cold butter until melted. Cover and set aside.

Top fish with sauce and enjoy!! The fish may look heavily battered, but it isn't, its very light and crisp. The sauce is so simple, but somehow the capers, instead of just tasting like pickles, add a vinegary bite that Stephen says makes him think of fish and chips. I must also acknowledge that he is the fish-cooking afficionado. :) We always have it with wild rice pilaf. (Be patient with my pictures, I'm still learning!!)