Lemon Yogurt Cake

6-17 Lemon Yogurt Cake

Everyone brace yourself for a somewhat sappy post.  I am feeling nostalgic and missing home a little since it’s my first summer being officially and permanently off on my own.  Even though I am a mostly functional adult, I still miss home a little, especially at times like this around little holidays when I can’t make it back home.

It seems to be a common experience to have some family tension in our younger years, particularly during those wonderful years of our lives known as junior high and high school.  But as you get older, you get some clarity and insight with regards to your parents. My nonstalgic mood has led to a lot of contemplation recently (mixed in with watching Freaks and Geeks on Netflix so I am not a self enlightened guru yet, I can still learn from a 90’s high school TV drama), and I can now appreciate all the work my parents put into me.

And I turned out just wonderfully, no?

I use my parent’s life lessons often now- whether it’s during a night when I am having problems sleeping when I remember when dad would rub my back and tell me that even just laying in bed was okay if I couldn’t sleep or if I see a questionable dress at the store, I remember that mom taught me to both keep an open mind and to always try on clothes in the store. And I appreciate both of my parent’s support on my life path, which has been tumultuous slightly in the past but is finally straightening out.

So you have probably scrolled past all this personal rambling and want to know about this wonderful lemon cake.  I made this treat last year for father’s day since my dad loves lemon and I love Ina Garten.  And then my mom made this again unknowingly for my dad’s birthday this year- because great minds think alike.

This cake is tender and full of lemon flavor. Tri-fold lemon flavor in fact.  The cake is filled with lemon zest, soaked in a lemon syrup, and then topped with a lemon glaze. If you like but don’t love lemon, I would recommend just a plain powdered sugar glaze without lemon.  But if you are a lemon lover as I am, you will love the extra lemon kick.  And if your dad, mom, sister, or brother love lemon flavored treats, make them this cake and chow down together.

Also mom and dad, if you ever give me advice in the future that I am reluctant to hearing,  I will deny saying any of this ever.  What lemon cake? Hm?

Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten


For the Cake:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking power
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil

For the Lemon Syrup:
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup granulate sugar

For the Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons half and half, if needed


For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a loaf pan (8 to 9 inch long). Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest. Rub the zest into the sugar and set aside.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk yogurt, eggs, and vanilla together with lemon zest an sugar. Once incorporated, whisk in dry ingredients until just combined. Slowly fold in vegetable oil with a rubber spatula. Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake for 48-52 minutes, or-until toothpick in center comes out clean.

For the Lemon Syrup:
While the cake bakes, combine lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until sugar is dissolved. When cake is done, cool on wire wrack for 10 minutes. Invert cake on a baking sheet and remove from loaf pan. Using a small wooden skewer, poke holes throughout the cake. Spoon a small amount of the lemon syrup over top, allowing to soak. Cool the cake completely.

For the Glaze:
In a small bowl whisk powdered sugar and lemon juice together. Whisk in half and half to thin out, if desired. Pour on top of cake. Slice and serve.

Red Meat Trout with Lentils

I often eat vegetarian meals, mostly out of frugality and laziness (and a fear of germs and dislike of washing my hands).  I still love a good piece of meat every now and then, and I am an avid seafood lover.  However, fish is not something I crave often.  Yet one day last week I wanted fish and I wanted it right then.
I used to be quite an expert fisherman (at least in my 10 year old mind I was).  We kept a list of the types of fish we caught at our beach house, and of course, my sister and I got a little competitive.  One fish that always eluded my fishing line was sand trout.  Whenever we would fish, it always seemed that my sister would catch a sand trout but never me (she never caught any speckled trout though, ha!).  And thus ended my fishing career almost as soon as it began.  And ever since, I have always enjoyed eating trout as my fish of choice.
This recipe comes from the incomparable Ina Garten.  I used red meat trout in this dish, partly out of curiously and partly because it was cheap since it was on the discounted seafood shelf.  Feel free to use any type of fish you like, but I recommend red meat trout for people who enjoy a firmer fish. The same goes for the lentils: substitute with any grain you love.  This meal creates a light but filling dinner, perfect for those still trying to keep up with any new years resolutions.
And who else is excited for the new Barefoot Contessa episodes every weekend?  Although I am missing the Hamptons.
Adapted from Ina Garten

1/2 cup dried lentils*
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 leek, thinly sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar.
2 4-6 ounce red meat trout fillets*
Olive oil, for brushing
Lemon pepper
Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a saucepan combine wheat berries and chicken stock.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes (do not let all the chicken stock be absorbed yet).

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and leek.  Cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes.  Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil if needed and the celery and carrots. Cook for 4-5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  Add wheat berries and remaining chicken stock.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in thyme and tomato paste.  Cook until liquid is absorbed.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Keep warm.

Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place fish fillets skin side down.  Brush with olive oil.  Season with lemon pepper and salt.  Bake for 13-17 minutes (depending of the thickness of your fillets).  Serve fish on top of wheat berries.

Serves 2.

*Feel free to substitute your favorite grain (like rice, wheat berries, couscous, pasta) and your favorite fish (rainbow trout, salmon, tilapia).

Brownie Pudding

I know it’s the start of the new year and everyone is starting their diet and resolutions, but I am not there yet.   I am at the tail end of my winter vacation, and while I am at home, I am in a “treat yo self” mode. And as I mentioned before, right now treating myself means chocolate.  A lot of chocolate.  I am still here to tempt you all away from your stalks of celery to this molten chocolate dessert.  If you are still practicing self restraint, good for you!  Feel free to check out my recipe page for some healthy dishes.  Just to remember to bookmark this recipe for a later special occasion.

This brownie pudding calls for an OMG!!! (I don’t OMG lightly either).  You mix up a thick decadent brownie batter then bake it until it just barely baked through. The result is a crisp outer crust and a thick, molten brownie batter underneath.  Serve it with melted vanilla ice cream, and you will be in heaven.

This decadent, delicious recipe comes from none other than Ina Garten, who has never let me down with a recipe.  I like to think of Ina as a close personal friend (she just doesn’t know this yet), and I am now even more connected for her.  For my birthday, my mom got me a signed copy of Ina’s newest cookbook.  She got to meet her in a person when she came to Houston for her book tour, which is officially cooler than when we saw Lyle Lovett in Austin.  Since I have had contact with my mom, I count this as being one step closer to being Ina’s BFF.  Next time Ina just needs to come to town when I am not in school!  Or perhaps she could consider adding Lubbock to her book tour stops.

Slightly Adapted from Ina Garten

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons water
1/2 cup all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup coca powder
1/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder


Preheat oven to 325°F.  Grease 7 inch by 12 inch baking pan.

Melt butter and set aside to cool.  In a large bowl, beat sugar and eggs together for 5-10 minutes, until thick and light yellow.  Beat in the seeds from one vanilla bean, vanilla extract, and water.  Beat in flour, salt, and cocoa powder until just combined.  Beat in cooled melted butter until just combined.

Pour brownie mixture into greased pan.  Place pan in a 9 inch by 13 inch pan.  Fill the larger pan with the hottest tap water halfway.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.  Be careful not to over bake.  The cake is done when a cake tester comes out 3/4 of the way done when placed 2 inches from the border.  Let cool slightly for 3-5 minutes.  Serve immediately with vanilla ice cream.

Roasted Potato Leek Soup

Today we are making roasted potato leek soup.  Potatoes and leeks- how bad can that be? My husband Jeffery just loves this- somehow I get the feeling he may never eat any other type of soup again.  Meanwhile, all I eat is homemade chicken stock, arugula, and fennel all day long.  I just walk in my garden and hit Hampton bakeries and farmer’s markets in my free time.

That is my Ina Garten impression- I promise it’s much funnier in person. Now, I tease Ina with love. Her and all her cronies (TR anyone, am I right?) on Barefoot Contessa make me laugh quite a bit. While she may be unintentionally hilarious, Ina Garten also provides some delicious recipes, and I love her for it.

I am a lover of potato soups all around- give me any place that has potato soup, and I will try it. I have my favorites out at restaurants, but Ina’s roasted potato leek soup is my favorite to make at home.  Now the color may be a little offputting, but the soup itself is creamy, warm, and delicious. The leeks add another dimension of flavor to the soup, and the crème fraiche adds a delcious sour tang and richness. And it has cheese, need I say more?

Soup is perfect winter food that warms your belly up, so make this before winter is over Or, if you live in Texas like me, look up your weather forecast and make sure to make it on a day a cold front comes in.

Adapted from Ina Garten


2 pounds gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
4 leeks, chopped
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/2 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup white wine
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half
8 ounces crème fraiche
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
For topping: chopped green onions, crumbled bacon, Parmesan cheese


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place leeks in a large bowl and cover with water. Agitate the leeks, making sure to clean out all sand. With a slotted spoon, take leeks out of water and dry. On a baking sheet, combine leeks, potatoes, and olive oil. Toss and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Add arugula and toss. Roast for an additonal 5 minutes, until arugula is wilted.

Remove baking sheet from oven. Add 1/2 cup chicken stock and white wine to deglaze the pan. Transfer the potatoes mixture to a food processor or blender in batches. Puree until smooth, adding the chicken stock as needed. . Transfer to a large pot over low heat. Add any remaining chicken stock.  Use an immersion blender to continue to puree if needed. Stir in the half and half and crème fraiche.  Stir in Parmesan cheese.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve topped with green onions, crumbled bacon, and Parmesan cheese.  Serves 4-6.

Scallops Provencal

Oh, Ina, Ina, Ina.  What happened to us?

We used to be so in sync, and you always knew exactly what I wanted.  But this dish was not the same religious, life changing experience that I had with all of your other recipes.

Now, now, let’s not fight.  It’s not you, it’s me.  I know the sea scallops didn’t cook like you said they would, but the real problem is that I don’t like sea scallops.  Something about sea scallops’ texture is just off for me. I much prefer the bay scallops.

But Ina’s (we are on a first name basis) butter, shallot, parsley sauce is, as always, divine.  Just the sauce on pasta is fantastic by itself if anyone else out there besides me doesn’t like sea scallops.

Now I am off to make Ina’s Bay Scallop Gratin post haste to redeem scallops.

Adapted from Ina Garten

6 ounces linguine
3/4 pound sea scallops
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
All-purpose flour, for dredging scallops
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
2 -3 shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2-3 tablespoons dried parsley
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, cut in ½


Boil a large pot of water and cook pasta according to instructions.

Sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper. Dredge through flour. Shake off excess flour.

In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over high heat. Place scallops in one layer in skillet. Lower to medium heat. The scallops with brown lightly- do not move them for about 5-6 minutes. Turn scallops over and cook for 5 additional minutes. Remove the scallops and set aside.

Melt the rest of the butter in the pan. Add shallots, garlic, and parsley. Cook for 2 more minutes. Add wine and cook for an additional minute. Add scallops back in and toss.

Serve over pasta with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Serves 3.

Bay Scallops Gratin

I have said it before, and I will say it again: Ina Garten is a culinary genius.

I made this dish for the first time with friends, and I had never even heard of a scallop before.  In fact, I confused a scallop with scallion, thinking it was a green onion-centric dish.  I was a lost cooking soul back then.  (And it took me several weeks after that to be able to remember scallop, scallion, and green onion differences).

But this dish was DELICIOUS.  This is my mom’s favorite dish.  It’s butter filled, lemony, crunchy yet tender- basically it’s Ina at her best.

Adapted from Ina Garten

3 tablespoons butter, softened
4 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 shallots, minced
4-5 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons panko
3 tablespoons white wine
1 pound bay scallops


Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a medium bowl, combine butter, garlic, shallot, bacon, parsley, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. (Using a fork or whisk is easier than a spoon).  While whisking, slowly add olive oil.  Fold in panko.  Set aside.
Wash and dry scallops.  Add the wine to the bottom of a 9×9 baking pan.  Arrange scallops on top.  Spread the butter mixture evenly over scallops.  Bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve immediately.
Serves 3-4.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Here is an important life lesson.  You paying attention? Listen carefully.

Always trust Ina Garten.

Never has a recipe of hers not been delicious.  My secret dream is that she divorces Jeffrey, and the two of us become best friends who live together like Laverne and Shirley.  Then all she does is cook for me, and all I do is eat.  How bad can that be? (If anyone watches her show daily like me, you get that right?!)

Mac and cheese- good.  Lobster- good.  Together? Excellent,

Adapted from Ina Garten

1 pound penne pasta
Kosher salt
2 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
8 ounces extra sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
Celery salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pound cooked lobster/imitation lobster

Preheat the oven
to 375° F.
Boil a large pot of salted water.  Cook pasta according to directions.  Drain and set aside.
Heat milk in a medium saucepan.  Do not bring to a boil.
In a large pot, melt the butter.  Add the flour, whisking constantly.  Cook over low heat and whisk for 2
minutes.  Whisk in milk and cook for 1-2
additional minutes stirring occasionally, until thickened and smooth. 
Remove from heat.  Add the
Gruyere, Cheddar, celery salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Mix in the cooked pasta and lobster. 
Divide the mixture between 6-8 dishes that are able to be
put in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool for at least 5 minutes and enjoy.

Serves 4-6


Polish food is one of my favorite types of cuisine to cook. When I do, I feel connected to my Polish roots. Plus, I love learning the names of the dishes and picking up a little Polish. Last New Year’s Day (pre-food blogging) I cooked up a Polish dinner with pierogies, kielbasa, and chlopski posilek (peasant’s bacon and cabbage) for a family dinner. It all turned out great, and I plan to make it again sometime.

Another reason I love to cook Polish food is that I love bringing back foods from my mom and dad’s childhoods. My mom has always talked about galumpkis, or stuffed cabbage. Both she and my dad love galumpkis, but unfortunately, my sister and I weren’t a huge fan of cabbage when I was younger, so it was never on the menu for dinner. Now I have learned to love cabbage. One day I was watching the Barefoot Contessa, and she made galumpkis. I knew I had to make these!

This recipe is a little time consuming, but it is worth it! These galumpkis are perfect comfort food, especially great for the fall and winter months.

Adapted from Ina Garten


For the Tomato Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
28 ounces crushed tomatoes in juice (recommended: Cento)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup and 1 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the Meat Filling:
2 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 large head green cabbage


For the Tomato Sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add the onions, and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the onions are tender and translucent. Add the tomatoes and their juice, red wine vinegar, light brown sugar, kosher salt, and pepper.

Bring the sauce to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer/warm, simmer the sauce uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, the sauce should be thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the Meat Filling:
In a large bowl, combine the ground sirloin, eggs, onion, white rice, breadcrumbs, thyme, salt, and pepper. Add 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Mix well.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place a steamer basket on top.

Remove the core of the cabbage with a pairing knife. Pull off individual leaves. Be careful to keep leaves as in tact as possible. Place leaves in steamer basket in small batches. Steam for about 3-5 minutes, until soft and tender. Remove the hard triangular rib from each cabbage leave with a pairing knife.

In a large baking dish/Dutch oven, place 1 cup of sauce in the bottom. Place 1/3-1/2 cup of meat filling at the edge of each leaf. Roll the leave tightly around the filling, tucking in the sides. Place the galumpkis seam side down on top of the sauce. Repeat with other leaves. Once one layer of galumpkis is in the dish, add additional tomato sauce. Continue to do so until all filling and cabbage leaves are wrapped.

Cover the dish with a lid/aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour, until the meat is cooked and rice is tender.

Serve galumpkis hot with tomato sauce and mashed potatoes. Serves 4.