On Beauty

Weekends are beautiful.

weekendMarket blooms are beautiful.

market bloomsAnd three layer cakes are beautiful.

three layer cakeNo matter how many crumbs get in the icing.

cakeLet’s hold these truths to be self-evident.

To make a three layer yellow cake with lemon curd and lemon frosting, which is a riff on Deb’s, you will need:

  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 C sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 C sifted self rising flour (make your own by removing two tsp. from each C, and replacing with 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder, and 1/2 tsp. salt)
  • 1 C milk (I used skim, but I’d go buttermilk if you have it)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:

For the frosting:

  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 T lemon zest
  • 3 T lemon juice
  • 3 C powdered sugar

To make the cakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour 3, 8-inch cake pans.

Cream butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, till light and fluffy.  Beat in sugar, until incorporated.  One at a time, add eggs, and mix till incorporated.  Beat in flour and milk in alternating increments, starting and ending with flour.

Divide cake batter among 3 pans, and bake 25-30 minutes, or till tester comes out clean.

*A note:  If you worry about lopsided layers, you can raise the prepared pans high above the counter, and drop them straight down, to release air bubbles and ensure a more even cake.  I don’t worry about lopsided layers.

Let cakes cool completely, and remove from pans.

Place one cake layer on cake stand, and spread thin layer of lemon curd on top.  Place the next layer on that, and spread another layer of lemon curd on top.  Place the final layer of cake on top.

To prepare the frosting, beat butter and lemon zest in bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment.  Add powdered sugar slowly.  When the mixture looks like it won’t hold any more powdered sugar, add the lemon zest.  Add remaining sugar and beat till smooth.  If it looks like you don’t have enough frosting, increase the speed of the mixer, to whip more frosting.

Spread frosting over cake, and serve as soon as possible.


Tough Cookies


  • Exhausted.  Which means, you guessed it, another list.  And a great recipe below, which you should feel free to scroll straight to if you’re not interested in my ramblings.
  • Watching Monday Night Football.  My goodness do I yell at the TV when football’s on.  I pray the neighbors don’t hear.
  • Starting to feel the stress that comes before a trip.  I’ve been waiting for it to hit.
  • Listening to Home Fries.  I’ve made it through all 4 episodes of “We’re About to be Friends,” and 3 more of “The Joy the Baker Podcast.”  My favorite is when I have the house to myself and I can listen as long as I want.
  • Remembering the fun and laughs that were Grandma Glass of Milk’s 90th birthday party last night.  More on that soon.
  • Addicted to Gossip Girl.  It’s so bad.  It’s so good.
  • Loving the holiday season.  Despite the complete and utter exhaustion from shopping, baking, addressing, wrapping, mailing, decorating, cleaning, packing, and otherwise preparing, December is just plain exciting.

Which brings us to cookies.  And the hundreds I’ve made in the past 48 hours.  I feel as though there are cookies coming out of my ears right now.  I’m posting the last batch I worked on first.  That’s very biblical of me.

These beauties are Paula Deen’s Loaded Oatmeal Cookies.

I’ve been known to *gasp* forget about Paula.  But as soon as I catch a snippet of that Southern drawl on Food Network, the wheels in my head start turning.  What can I make?  What meal needs more butter?

If you’re a fan of these cookies, you may not recognize them in this incarnation.  I swapped out a ton of Paula’s ingredients and nixed the brown butter icing.  I know.  It’s not like me.  But try to understand.  I had been baking for the past 48 hours.  When I pulled the second tray of these out of the oven, I realized that not only had I turned the timer off when the first tray was done, I had turned the oven off with it.  These took a couple more minutes to crisp up and I took that as a sign I was done baking for the year.

These are some seriously tough cookies, because they stood up to all my ingredient antics, my botched cooking, and they taste no worse for the wear.  In fact, they taste quite good.  They also use up whatever bags of mix-ins you happen to have in your baking cabinet.  And I, um, well….

I have a lot of mix-ins in my baking cabinet.

I can’t walk by chocolate chips on sale without amassing bags.  It’s like a magnetic attraction or something.

Yeah, I know.

It’s a problem.

The other best feature of this recipe is that it makes 5 dozen cookies.  That’s enough for your friends, neighbors, and the mailman.

To make a zillion loaded oatmeal cookies, you will need:

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 C packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C buttermilk
  • 1 3/4 C flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 2 1/2 C quick-cooking oats
  • 1 C chocolate chips (I used M&Ms)
  • 7 oz. shredded coconut

The last two ingredients can be swapped out for 2 C of whatever mix-ins you like.  Really.  Go crazy.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugar in mixer till fluffy.  Add eggs and beat until mixture is light in color.  Add buttermilk.  Sift flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and spices together in bowl.  Add to wet ingredients and mix just till combined.  Stir in oatmeal, then mix-ins.

Drop by the teaspoonful on baking sheets and bake 12-15 minutes.


Scenes From Another Kitchen

More specifically, Grandma Glass of Milk’s.  Where I spent my Easter, whipping up what Paula and Carla did.  And where I tried cooking a new protein.

Lamb.  Because that’s what people eat on Easter.

Well, that and ham, but I’ve made that before.  Where’s the adventure in that?

This particular lamb was pan fried until it was golden, crispy, crunchy and, if I do say so myself, cooked perfectly.  I’m not sure I’ve ever nailed something on the first try like this.

But the highlight of the entire dish was the white wine pan gravy.  It was completely and totally drool-inducing, and was everything gravy should be–creamy and rich.  Ooh, was it rich.

I used Grandma Glass of Milk’s flat whisk to stir it.  If you’re someone who appreciates a good, homemade gravy in your life, invest in one of these.  It gets into nooks and crannies like you wouldn’t believe.

And if you don’t have a gravy boat, by all means, walk, don’t run, to get one.  Because gravy gets even more decadent when it’s in a boat.  Try it, I promise I’m not kidding.  The great news about this dish however, is that it doubles as a go-to meal.  Aside from the protein, it’s made up entirely of ingredients that you probably have on hand.  Pour some dressing on a plate of greens, and you have a complete meal.

To make 4 servings of lamb, you will need:

  • 2 pounds boneless leg of lamb (or shoulder), trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 whole egg, plus more if needed, for dredging (I used almost every single drop of the one)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, for cooking
and for the gravy:
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (3 to 4 sprigs)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

Cut the meat with the grain into 1/2-thick slices. My lamb was all kinds of crazy sizes because I wasn’t smart enough to have my butcher do this for me.  And I’ve never met a Whole Foods butcher who wasn’t the nicest man on earth.  Season each piece on both sides with the salt and pepper. Place the flour in a pie pan and mix in the garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Place the eggs in a separate pie pan and beat. Dredge the meat on both sides in the egg, and then the flour. Repeat with all the meat pieces. (Reserve the remaining flour for the pan gravy.) Place the meat on a plate and allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.  Or not.  I didn’t want to wait for this.

Place enough of the vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a 12-inch skillet and set over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the meat in batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Cook each piece on both sides until golden brown, approximately 4 minutes on each side. Remove the lamb to a wire rack set in a half sheet pan and place in the oven to stay warm while the other pieces are being prepared (I skipped the rack). Repeat until all the meat is browned.

For the gravy: Add the vegetable oil to the pan. Add the white wine to deglaze the pan and reduce by half. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of the reserved flour. (Alternatively, put the flour in a small bowl, and add several Tablespoons of liquid and whisk until incorporated.  That’s called a slurry and it will help make sure the gravy isn’t lumpy.  Add it into the pan.)  Then whisk in the Dijon mustard and the vegetable stock. Continue to whisk until the gravy comes to a boil and begins to thicken. Add the milk and thyme and whisk until the gravy coats the back of a wooden spoon, 5 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve over the lamb steaks, and while you’re at it, anything else on the plate.

On Lunch Boxes

I’ve been thinking a lot about lunch lately.  First of all, how much do you wish you still carried a lunch box everyday?  I know there are lots of chic, green, reusable options these days, but I’m talking old school, cartoon character lunch boxes.  Like this one, which I rocked in Kindergarten.  I would love to pull my sandwich out of a Teddy Ruxpin lunch box everyday at work.

*image from this site.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the lunchtime trading circuit that I hope to heaven still exists during every elementary school lunch period to this day.  The thrill of finding out that a fruit roll-up was worth two of someone’s double-stuff Oreos was almost too much excitement for a thirty minute break in the day.  Personally, I was excited to see Passover roll around every year in the school cafeteria.  That’s when I would hit up Sous Chef Lauren for macaroons.  WASP that I am, I never knew the joys of macaroons until we started trading in second grade.  During the last legs of her week of flourless eating, SCL would get so sick of macaroons, and would offer them up for the taking.  I was always eager to indulge.

Fast-forward twenty years to the latest episode of Paula’s Best Dishes (with special guest Carla Hall to boot) and I found out just how easy it is to make macaroons.  It’s a dump and stir and no waiting for butter to soften kind of cookie, which was right up my alley yesterday.

I was so happy to crunch my way through one of these right out of the oven.  Took me right back to second grade.  Except these weren’t dense like the macaroons I remember trading for.  They were almost fluffy; the heaps of coconut tasting that much fresher with the addition of lemon zest and juice.  And while The Lady’s recipe says it yields about a dozen, I got 32 macaroons!  Are you shocked to learn that Paula’s scoops are twice as a big as mine?

You will need:

  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract (I didn’t have lemon extract, so I squeezed half a lemon into the mix).
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (14-ounce) bag shredded sweetened coconut, finely chopped
The process (and a play-by-play of Paula and Carla during the show) is as follows:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Crack the egg white in a large mixing bowl and add the salt.  Stir vigorously with a whisk for about two minutes, until the mixture is frothy.  When Carla did this on the episode, she whisked so fast, it was clear the girl has some brawn.  I kept an image of her in the back of my mind for inspiration while I whisked as fast as I could.
Once that’s done, whisk in the condensed milk.  During this part of the episode, Paula and Carla bragged about snow ice cream (condensed milk poured over shaved ice), which I had already heard was a must-do in New Orleans.  I decided snow ice cream could be the perfect answer for the question, “What can I do with the leftover condensed milk since I am too cheap to throw anything out?”  I digress.  Also add the lemon zest, and extracts here, and keep whisking.
Fold in the coconut until the mixture comes together in a goopy mess.
Now all it takes is a cookie scoop, two spoons, or some clean hands.  Drop little mounds of this mixture onto the parchment paper.  Bake for 20 minutes, until things start to turn golden brown.
I let these cool for approximately two minutes before eating my first one.


Towards the end of last summer, I got Tivo.  It changed my life.  I am a better person for it.  Gone are the days where I would stress about going out on Thursdays because I would miss the latest Office episode.  No longer do I worry about missing something that happened in a flash, I can just hit rewind.  And because Verizon messed up and gave us 3 free months of HBO as an “I’m sorry,” I even have 4 or 5 movies sitting on Tivo all ready for me to watch as I lounge away the rest of my time off from work.

I Tivo a LOT of television.  And I’ve been known to get stressed when Tivo gets backlogged.

So I try and only Tivo what I love.  This means about half of the Food Network’s regularly scheduled programming.  But I don’t Tivo Paula.  And now that I only watch Tivo-ed FN, I never see her.  So when I saw this recipe on the  website, I realized how much I miss her.  I haven’t “seen” Paula since this summer.

I miss the orange cheese.  I miss the decadent sweets.  I MISS THE BUTTER!  She is now on my season pass list.

Welcome back, Paula.

Recipes to follow, I’m sure.