Monday, March 22, 2010

A Weekend of Baking

Success! I managed to bake two types of desserts this weekend so I can update the blog and have some savory treats before I embark on another trip across the US. My awesome friend Fabianne and I made lemon poppy seed pound cake with wild blueberries on Saturday. If you like the texture of banana bread, this would be a great recipe for you. I've never made anything with poppy seeds before so I was even more excited! I'm a big follower of and have been browsing her site for months now and finally put her recipes to good use. If you ever need an idea for dessert, browse her website. There are more than 100 to choose from. :)

Recipe from Joy the Baker with some edits by me.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (available at World Market)
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/3 cup frozen wild blueberries

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9-x-5-inch loaf pan. Put the pan on an insulated backing sheet, or on two regular baking sheets stacked on top of the other.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds.

Rub the lemon zest into the granulated sugar until sugar is slightly tinted yellow and is fragrant. (If you want a more lemony flavor, add some lemon juice or zest more lemon. I would recommend this as there is a very subtle lemon flavor and I love the flavor of lemon pound cake).

Working with a stand mixer (if you want to do it by hand, you can do that too. I did it and it came out just fine), preferably fit with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar mixture on high speed until pale and fluffy, a full 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and beater and reduce the mixer speed to medium. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 to 2 minutes after each addition. As you’re working, scrape down the bowl and beater often. Mix in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour and poppyseeds, mixing only until incorporated. Take the bowl off the stand mixer, and use a spoon to fold in the frozen blueberries. Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and smooth the top.

Put the cake in the oven to bake, and check on it after about 45 minutes. It it’s browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Bake the cake for about 70 to 75 minutes. The cake is properly baked when a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean

Remove cake from the oven, transfer the pan to a rack and let it rest for 30 minutes.

Run a blunt knife between the cake and the sides of the pan and turn the cake out, then turn it right side up on the rack and cool to room temperature. (I just left the cake in because I was lazy)

Wrapped well, the cake cake keep for 5-7 days at room temperature.


If you check out her website, you'll notice that she put some lemon curd on the slices. I think this would add some more lemon flavor to the pound cake as it has a very subtle lemon flavor (add more zest!). I didn't have any lemon curd and thought that the pound cake was good enough as is with some tea ;). I love tea and this was the perfect combination with black tea.

The second dish I made was for my office colleagues. Peanut Butter Blondies. Yeah.. drool. I'm not really into super sweet dishes but I knew my office mates would like it. I would have this dish with a cup of coffee (without sugar) because it will balance out. I would also recommend using dark chocolate to top off the blondies instead of milk chocolate. I think this is only because my taste buds have become a little biased and they enjoy the dark taste of dark chocolate. I can handle about 60% of cacao now (but don't do 75% because that's NO LONGER chocolate!).

*Excuse my photo. I took it with my camera phone.

Peanut Butter Blondies with Milk Chocolate Frosting by Joy the Baker

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 5 cubes
2 cups dark brown sugar (I did half dark brown and light brown - still tastes the same :))
1 cup smooth and natural peanut butter (Henry's and Trader Joe's has great natural PB)
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 9×13-inch pan, line with parchment paper if you have it on hand, then grease the parchment paper. If you don’t have parchment paper, these blondies will be just fine.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and sugar together until the butter is just melted. Remove from the burner and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then add the peanut butter. Stir until incorporated. Allow to cool for 5 minutes more, then whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. You want the sugar, butter and peanut butter mixture to be cool enough that the eggs won’t begin to cook when they’re added in.

Whisk together salt, flour and baking powder. Add dry ingredients all at once to the wet ingredients. Stir until just incorporated. Pour the thick batter into the prepared pan and smooth out. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the blondies comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before frosting.

Milk Chocolate Frosting

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 – 2 cups powdered sugar
3 Tablespoons milk
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips, melted

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, cocoa powder and salt. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar followed by 1 tablespoon milk. Beat well. Add another cup of powdered sugar, followed by 2 tablespoons of milk. Melt milk chocolate chips in the microwave or in a double boiler. Add melted and slightly cooked milk chocolate the frosting and beat to incorporate. *It will be very watery and not thick but I left it as it was without the additional half cup of powdered sugar to cut down on sugar. Also, the blondies are quite sweet already so I would suggest just pouring the mixture as-is onto the blondies and refrigerate to harden*. Spread evenly over peanut butter blondies.

If you want more sugar and thickness: Add the final 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.

I don't know if I'll make a dish like this again just because of the amount of sweetness and butter it has. I would much rather prefer something cake like. I don't really like dense sweet treats because it just doesn't settle well with me and it's way too much SUGAR. I like fluffy things like cakey brownies. I think that will be my next mission :).

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pride of Erin Soup - Celebrating St. Patty's Day

Hope everyone had a fun-filled St. Patty's Day. I had a wonderful night catching up with some of my awesome friends who came over to help me "celebrate" with making Pride of Erin soup. Although the soup wasn't green, it brought some Irish culture to my tiny kitchen :). It's interesting when you type in "Irish Soup" into a search engine. To be honest, I didn't know what to expect - Are their soups usually pureed or chunky? What's the staple ingredient? These were the few questions that I had when I went scouring the internet for a recipe to use. I went to Epicurious (if you don't have an account, I highly recommend one) and found the winner - Pride of Erin. My friends and I decided on Pride of Erin because it was simple and the name made it sound festive. In case you were wondering, the staple ingredients I found were cabbage, potatoes, leeks and sometimes bacon.

Here's the recipe from Bon Appetit magazine on Epicurious:

1 1-pound cabbage, cored, quartered (which means to get rid of the middle and cut into fours)
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup grated peeled russet potato (about half a large potato)
1/2 teaspoon ground mace (fancy word for nutmeg)
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (we didn't add this but I bet it adds more flavor)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (same comment)
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese (This is gave the soup a lot of flavor so I suggest more than 2 tbsp).

Directions (with some changes from me)
Place cabbage in large bowl. Pour enough boiling water over to cover. Let stand 5 minutes. Drain well. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut cabbage into thin shreds.
Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add onion; sauté until tender but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add cabbage and potato, stir 5 minutes. Stir in mace (aka nutmet). Add flour, stir 2 minutes. Gradually mix in milk and broth. Bring mixture to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.
Puree soup in batches in blender until smooth. Return soup to same saucepan. Season with salt and pepper.
Optional: Bring soup back to a simmer (but mine stayed hot so I skipped this part).
Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle generously with parsley, chives and Parmesan and enjoy.

Read More

How we felt about the soup:
Bland. It lacked flavor! The only flavor it got came from the salt and pepper, cheese and other add-ons at the end. I would change this recipe up by adding something like bacon in the skillet with the onions before adding the soup. Another suggestion I read online was to use more chicken broth than milk. I really think the milk takes away all the flavors of the soup. Also, cabbage is not that flavorful. In fact, it has a bad stench (open your windows when you make this soup) and the only benefit that comes from eating more cabbage is your fiber :). I would recommend adding more flavorful ingredients such as corn pieces or meat to spice things up in this soup. If you go with the recipe as it is, you might leave your taste buds disappointed.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Back from Chicago with a tummy full of goodness

I just came back from the windy city and have been too busy with all the wonderful sight seeing and food devouring to blog. I'm behind! Thank goodness I'm not attempting what Julie Powell did and try to cook four meals a day to get through the Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Anyway, I went to Chicago with this mindset: I here to EAT and of course have fun with my friend. I wasn't a total glutton but I was on the verge of becoming one. What other way to get to know a city than taste what kind of food they have there?!

My first day in, I went to Subway. Yeah yeah, I know. Subway? What?! Why? I was new to the city, I didn't know the streets of She-CAH-go (seriously that's how they say it there), so I went for what was convenient. That night, on the other hand, I went to Giordano's. This is the place to be. Vibrant atmosphere, beers in hand and large pies (pizza!) on every table. It's not your average Californian pizza with the half inch crust. Oh no, Chicago-ians like their deep dish pizzas. These deep dish pizzas are about 1-2 inches in height! My friend and I ordered the antipasto salad (you know the every day Italiano style salad) and the smallest pizza we could get. We decided on spinach and sausage with cheese. My oh my was this pizza heartily stuffed with cheese. Take a look see:

We were stuffed after one slice! The rest became my lunch for the rest of the week ;) . After enjoying that over the top pizza, we ventured down Miracle Mile on Michigan Ave. where you get to see all the swanky stores. If you love shopping, this is the avenue to be on. We ended that evening at a bar at our hotel called Rebar. I had the Emerald Drink which was inspired by Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka. That drink definitely was top shelf! What a great way to end the evening :).


I wouldn't allow myself to have Subway again or grab a donut across the street from Dunkin Donuts (whoever thinks their coffee is the best is wrong - ok not wrong but I really dislike the flavor) so instead I went out on my own to explore downtown. I was on a mission to find the large silver jelly bean structure and a coffee shop (for my friend Janet :)). While crossing the bridge, I caught a glimpse of the beautiful river and the tall skyscraper buildings. San Diego just doesn't have buildings like the ones in Chicago. The old architecture really takes your breath away. The first place I was heading to was Cafe Rom which got really great ratings on Yelp. I ordered my staple coffee drink - a mocha- to which I was quite pleased with. The people were really friendly and welcomed to me their great city. After grabbing my drink, I sat like a tourist and took pictures of the drink. Haha. I had to capture everything I ate!

Then I continued on my way across the street to Millennium Park and saw this beautiful sight:

How can one not enjoy drinking their favorite drink while observing this great piece of art. Here's some info on the structure: The sculpture is the work of world-renowned artist Anish Kapoor and is the first of his public art in the United States. The piece was privately funded and the total cost was $23 million, which was considerably more than the original estimate of $6 million.

I'll continue with the rest of my adventures soon!
- Cupcakes
- More coffee
- More sights

Happy St. Patty's Day to everyone! Have a safe night and enjoy that green beer! Tonight I will be making an Irish inspired soup and will post about that soon.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Chilly Willy's Avocado Soup - A lemony delight

I have made this soup twice with some great friends of mine. It has such a nice lemony taste which really makes it a great spring/summer time soup. I highly suggest this one if you need a soup that is a bit more refreshing.

Ingredients (for 4 servings) - from
7 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup dried orzo pasta
2 boned, skinned chicken breast halves (about 1/2 lb. total)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (this is not really necessary)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 firm-ripe avocado (about 6 oz.) (this is also not really necessary as it is used as a garnish)

1. In a 4- to 5-quart pan over high heat, bring broth, onion, celery, garlic, and pepper to a boil. Add pasta and chicken; return to a boil.

2. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, and simmer until chicken is white in thickest part (cut to test), about 5 minutes. With tongs, lift out breasts and let stand. Continue simmering soup until pasta is tender to bite, about 2 minutes more. Reduce heat to very low and keep soup warm.

3. When chicken is just cool enough to handle, in about 5 minutes, tear into coarse shreds and return to pan.

4. Stir lemon juice, parsley, and cilantro into soup. Ladle into wide bowls.

5. Peel, pit, and thinly slice avocado; add to bowls.

Enjoy :)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Almost Famous Broccoli Cheddar Soup

A pureed broccoli cheddar soup has been on my list of "must do" recipes over the last two years. I never found a good recipe to use. Good recipe meaning I don't have to buy ingredients I've never heard of before or that I have to go to a specialty store. I like simple recipes - basically, can I pick up everything in one prime location (my local Henry's?). Anyway, I started subscribing to the Food Network magazine about two months ago and I came across a very easy-to-do broccoli cheddar soup recipe (a copy cat of Panera breads famous soup) and decided to try my hand at it. Here is the recipe courtesy of Food Network:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves (I didn't use this and it tasted just fine)
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I have the already grated nutmeg but I heard fresh is better)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 7-inch sourdough bread boules (round loaves)
4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
1 large carrot, diced
2 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated sharp white and yellow cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves and nutmeg, then season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the bread bowls: Using a sharp knife, cut a circle into the top of each loaf, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Remove the bread top, then hollow out the middle with a fork or your fingers, leaving a thick bread shell.

Add the broccoli and carrot to the broth mixture and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth; you'll still have flecks of carrot and broccoli. Return to the pot. (Or puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender.)

Add the cheese to the soup and whisk over medium heat until melted. Add up to 3/4 cup water if the soup is too thick. Ladle into the bread bowls and garnish with cheese.


This soup is a must have when the weather is cold outside and you are in the mood for great bread. The bread really made the soup so much better - I chose sourdough, my fave! Without the bread bowl, I think the soup is a little too hearty to have. Let me know what you think of it :)

By the way, this soup is not very salty. I added a little more cheese and salt to kick up the flavor a little more (my taste buds are a little picky).


I was inspired about a year ago to start a blog about me in the kitchen. I want to share recipes that I've read about and disastrous recipes that just did not work out for me. This all started because I read the book "Julie and Julia". I was not the biggest fan of the author because she was quite the "frustrated cook"; she was always angry and upset about the difficulty of Julia Child's recipes. For this reason, I've decided that I'm not going to try to Master the Art of French Cooking. Rather, I'm going to find recipes that make my mouth water and really tickle my fancy. I have a passion for soup and I plan on sharing many of the soup recipes my friends and I have tried in the kitchen. Enjoy!