As I started to write this post I realized that not everyone would be familiar with polenta, or realize that you could actually use it in a cake. Polenta, a ground cornmeal which can be white or yellow in color, has its origins in Italy. This humble “peasant” food has been a staple of Italian cooking for hundreds, and hundreds of years. And need I remind you that the best food comes from Italy.
This “Mama” is a lover of comfort food and rustic desserts, and that’s exactly what this Polenta Cake is…rustic. It’s simple and straight forward. It’s not overly sweet, and almost gritty in texture, and that’s what I love about it. Imagine if you will that you’re sitting in the hills of Tuscany under an olive tree having a picnic lunch of bread, cheese, olives and wine. This Polenta Cake would be the perfect ending to that meal. I like to top mine with a huge dollop of freshly made whipped cream and my homemade strawberry sauce. As we head into the summer months, I find myself serving this dish quite often at my backyard barbeques’.
Polenta Cake with Citrus
From Women’s Health Magazine
- 4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup applesauce
- 2 cups almond flour
- 3/4 cup fine polenta
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- zest of one whole lemon
- zest of one whole orange
- strawberry sauce and whipped cream garnish
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place the oven rack in the center position. Melt some butter, and using a pastry brush, brush the bottom and sides of the pan and then dust the pan with some almond flour. Tap out the excess.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy for about two minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and then the applesauce, and beat just until ingredients are incorporated.
- In another bowl, combine the flour, polenta and baking powder. Add the flour mixture along with the orange and lemon zest to the bowl on the electric mixer and beat on medium-low speed just until ingredients are incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. I used a small off-set spatula to spread it evenly in the pan. Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes until the edges are golden and when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- I topped this cake (as you can see) with freshly whipped cream and a fresh strawberry sauce once the cake was completely cooled.
Fresh Strawberry Sauce
- 4 cups strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- Place the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice into a medium saucepan.
- Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar.
- Cook for about 5-8 minutes until the sugar is completely dissolved and the berries have softened. Transfer to a bowl and chill. If there’s too much liquid in the mixture, then just spoon some off.
Sometimes I think you all get tired of me saying it, but I really do think Los Angeles is a city with so much to offer. Since plopping myself down here 32 years ago, I feel as though I’ve been on a constant vacation. It’s not just Kardashians and Justin Bieber here in the City of Angels, but a wide array of spectacular cultural activities. The one place at the top of my list for anyone to visit, whether you live locally or are visiting from out-of-town is the Getty Museum.
Guys, go visit just for the architecture alone. Flawlessly designed by Richard Meier, it boasts 16,000 tons of stunning travertine stone imported from Italy, gardens, fountains and an outstanding collection of art from the Middle Ages to present time. My personal favorite is the Renaissance Art…just sayin’. The campus is so expansive, you never at any time feel as though it’s crowded. Admission to the museum is free, but parking is $15.00. Guests are shuttled from the parking lot up to the museum by a nifty little train, so they make it very easy for you to get around.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, you guessed it…there’s a restaurant there. The Restaurant at the Getty melds perfectly with the museum itself. It’s walls of glass expose the view of the surrounding Santa Monica Mountains. The food is fresh, modern and artistically prepared. It’s really very civilized. White tablecloths, shimmering glassware and a very attentive staff make it an extremely enjoyable experience. As soon as we were seated a plate of fresh breads and olive tapenade were placed on the table, and between the four of us, it was gone in 3 minutes. So they brought more.
We all tried to order something different, and passed the dishes around the table so everyone could have a taste. We started off with the Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Toasted Croutons. It was fresh and flavorful, and so we gave it a thumbs up.
A group favorite was the English Pea Risotto. It was the perfect springtime dish as it was light in flavor and not overly rich like a risotto can tend to be.
We followed up with two salads. As I order Cobb salads everywhere I go I consider myself a bit of an expert on the Cobb and this one was great. The other salad was a Roasted Beet Salad with Toasted Pistachios, which I have to say had so many really tasty elements in it.
Since the four of us are major sweets eaters, we had to end the lunch with a bit of dessert. We didn’t feel guilty since you definitely will walk off your meal at the museum, so we ordered the Citrus Tart with Edible Flowers. I can’t say that I ever had edible flowers before, but it made for a lovely presentation. Appetizers at The Restaurant range from $9 to $16 and entrees were $17 to $28. I have spent more on meals at other Los Angeles restaurants that were not as good as this. Between the museum and the restaurant, it’s really a very special day. I hope you’ll get a chance to check it out some time.
The Getty Museum 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles CA 90049 310-440-6810
What could be more fun for a girl obsessed with strawberries, than the opportunity to spend the day frolicking in the fields of a strawberry farm in Oxnard, California! Yes, it’s true. I was invited by the California Strawberry Commission to tour a working strawberry farm along with a group of fellow foodbloggers. The farm is run by Bill Reiman who took us out into his fields and showed us how this gorgeous fruit is picked, processed and packed. As our group stood there in the warm California sun, Bill explained how environmentally conscious California strawberry farmers are, and how they have invested millions into research and sustainable farming practices. He went on to explain how 88% of the nation’s strawberries are grown in California, and that California has a 12 month growing season. So guess what, you can enjoy your strawberries 24/7!
The final highlight of the day was a strawberry-themed dinner prepared by Executive Chef Tim Kilcoyne. Our hosts had set up a white canopied tent that was surrounded by strawberries as far as the eye could see, and our backdrop was the Santa Monica Mountains. A Hollywood set designer couldn’t have done a better job. As if this wasn’t enough, each guest was sent home with a flat of sweet, California Strawberries. Yes, it was a most excellent adventure, and one I’ll never forget.
So what did I do with all those berries you ask…well, I turned them into ice cream of course.
Strawberry Ice Cream
Williams Sonoma “Ice Cream”
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup (185g) sugar
- pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups (250g) fresh California strawberries, stemmed and coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish
- In a large bowl, combine the cream and milk. Add the sugar and a pinch of salt and whisk the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the vanilla. Let the mixture sit for 20 minutes so that the flavors begin to blend together. Cover and refrigerate the mixture until chilled, from 3-8 hours.
- In a medium bowl, using a fork, mash half of the chopped strawberries until they break down into small chunks, then add the remaining coarsely chopped strawberries to the bowl. Cover and refrigerate these strawberries for an hour.
- After an hour, pour the milk/cream mixture into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When nearly frozen and the mixture looks like thick whipped cream, add the strawberries. Churn just until blended. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container. Freeze until firm, about three hours, or up to 3 days before serving.
Makes 1 1/2 quarts
Fun Strawberry Facts:
8 strawberries contain more vitamin C than an orange. They’re low in sugar, with only about 50 calories, and strawberries are a great source of fiber, folate and potassium. Yeah, so who else can make that claim!
Strawberries are good for your heart folks. Potassium found in strawberries can help control blood pressure and fight strokes. The antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals in strawberries has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels.
California strawberry farmers use less than one percent of California’s cropland, but create nearly 10 percent of all California’s farm-related jobs. You go California farmers!
* Disclosure: This post is sponsored by The California Strawberry Commission. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.
I bet you’ve been thinking all this time, all this lady ever seems to post about is chocolate. And that would be a pretty accurate assumption. I really do have some kind of a sick obsession with it, but every now and then I love to mix it up a bit and do something crazy like add vegetables to my baked goods. I know, it sounds nuts. Oh, and speaking of nuts, this Carrot Zucchini Cake is not only chock full of vegetables, but bursting with chopped nuts and raisins. I would almost go so far as too call this health food if it were not for the cream cheese frosting that is slathered all over the top of the cake.
Today I’m packing this cake and other necessary rations for a little picnic at a location I call my “happy place”. It’s where I like to go when I need to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It’s a one hour hike into the Santa Monica mountains to an area they call The Rock Pool. Once there you become acutely aware of how quiet it is. No cell phones ringing, no traffic sounds, just the chirping of birds and the rustling of the wind through the trees, and sometimes the splashing of a few ducks that have taken up residence there.
Right at the edge of this tranquil pool is a battered, old picnic table where my group and I will enjoy our lunch. I figure I will have worked off at least 125 calories making this trek so I won’t feel guilty enjoying a generous portion of the cake. I’m glad I found my happy place. I would love to hear where your is. Let me know.
Carrot and Zucchini Cake
From Better Homes & Gardens
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 cups finely shredded carrots (3 medium)
- 1 cup shredded zucchini
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
- 1/2 cup raisins (I mixed regular & golden together)
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 recipe Citrus-Cream Cheese Frosting
- This cake is made in a 13 x 9 pan, ungreased. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, you will sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger and baking soda. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, place the carrots, zucchini, brown sugar, eggs, raisins, walnuts, oil, honey and vanilla. Using a spatula, gently mix the ingredients together. Add the carrot mixture to the flour mixture and combine until all the ingredients are incorporated. Spread the batter into your baking pan.
- Bake for 24-26 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack before you frost it.
Citrus Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 – 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- the zest of one orange
Place these ingredients in a medium sized bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
It’s so embarrassing to admit, but if I were on a desert island and I could only have one meal it would definitely be a cheeseburger and fries, and chocolate cake, of course. I really only said the cheeseburger and fries for health purposes because I would want to eat a protein and vegetable before I indulged in chocolate cake.
This particular Chocolate Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Filling is one of my all time favorites. Chocolate cake all by itself is pretty great, add a creamy, cheesy filling and a sweet white and semi-sweet chocolate glaze and there you have it, perfection. Okay, so it’s just my idea perfection. It’s a little early, but I’m giving you a heads up for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day brunches. I always make this cake for those holiday’s and have not had an unhappy customer yet. I store this cake loosely covered in the fridge, and it actually taste better after being refrigerated.
Chocolate Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Filling
From “Land O Lakes”
Cream Cheese Filling
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 8 ounce package of cream cheese, softened
- 1 large egg, room temp
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Cake Batter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temp
- 1 cup water
- 3 large eggs, room temp
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 ounces white chocolate
- 3 teaspoons shortening
- 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and using a pastry brush and melted butter, generously grease and flour your 12-cup bundt pan. I purchased a silicone bundt pan which I just lightly coat with cooking spray. I love the silicone pans because the cake literally falls out of the pan without leaving those pesky bits of cake behind.
- To make your filling: place all the filling ingredients in a small bowl and beat on low speed until very smooth. Scrape down the bowl periodically to incorporate all the ingredients. Set aside.
- To make the cake batter: place all the cake ingredients in a large bowl, and begin mixing on low speed to incorporate all the ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2-3 minutes until batter is smooth.
- Pour a little over half the batter into your prepared bundt pan. With a large spoon place dollops of the cream cheese filling on top of the batter being careful not to touch the sides of the pan. Then gently pour the remaining batter over.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool your cake in the pan for about 30 minutes. Before you glaze the cake, let it cool completely.
- To make the glaze: take 2 ounces of white chocolate plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of shortening and melt in microwave. Then take 2 ounces of chocolate chips plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of shortening and melt in microwave. Stir melted chocolate until very smooth and drizzling consistency.
- Store cake refrigerated.
You can always melt your chocolate by the double boiler method, but for myself, I prefer to melt it in the microwave. Start with 25 seconds, take it out and stir, putting it back in the microwave and decreasing the amount of seconds each time and stirring after each increment. Remember, chocolate burns very easily, and burnt chocolate makes me very sad.
If you don’t already have one, you might want to invest in a silicone bundt pan. I have metal and teflon coated bundt pans, however no matter how well I greased and floured those pans somehow there was always bits of cake that stuck to the pan. I don’t know about you, but I want a gorgeous cake.
Spring break, what an American classic. Oh, I remember it well. That time of year when college students from all over the U.S. head to warmer climates to blow off a little steam. I suppose blowing off a little steam is actually putting it very mildly. As I remember, it’s Girls Gone Wild and doing everything your mother told you never to do. When I was in college on the east coast, we would head to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break and I still shudder at the thought of the madness and mayhem that would ensue. Ah, good times!
I knew spring break was fast approaching for son #2. I wondered with great apprehension how he planned on spending HIS time off. He called yesterday to tell me he was on his way home for the week, and he planned on using that time to look for a summer job. YES I thought, we just dodged a bullet, a mayhem-free vacation. Before he got off the phone he asked, “oh, and mom could you bake me something, there’s not much real food up here at school”. So here it is, Pineapple Upside Down Cake, another American Classic!
Pineapple Upside Down Cake
From King Arthur Flour
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 20-ounce can pineapple rings in juice, drained
- candied red cherries or maraschino cherries
- 3 tablespoons, chopped pecans
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon coconut extract, optional
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup milk
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Melt about 1 tablespoon of butter and using a pastry brush, lightly grease a 9″ round cake pan. You want to use a 9” pan because the pineapple rings will fit perfectly in this size pan.
- To make the topping: Melt the butter, and whisk it together with the brown sugar, cinnamon, and ginger. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and evenly smooth it out using a small offset spatula.
- Space the pineapple rings atop the brown sugar mixture. Place a cherry in the center of each ring. If you’re using nuts, press them into the empty spaces.
- To make the cake: I used a hand mixer and a medium-large bowl to make this batter. Beat the butter and sugar until fairly smooth.
- Beat in the egg, then the salt, baking powder, vanilla, and coconut flavor. Be careful not to over-mix the batter or it will result in a tough cake.
- Add the flour alternately with the milk, mixing at medium-low speed and beginning and ending with the flour. Once the last of the flour is added, mix briefly, just until smooth.
- Spoon the thick batter into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges of the pan with the offset spatula. It may not cover the pineapple entirely; that’s OK.
- Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven, wait 3 minutes, then turn the pan over onto a serving plate. Wait 30 seconds, then lift the pan off. If anything sticks to the pan, just lift it out and place it back on the cake.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
8 to 10 servings.