Thursday, December 26, 2013

Grapefruit Pound Cake

Ever since I started cooking a few years ago, I always try to bake something special for the holidays. I always bake my snowball cookies and dark chocolate cookies, due to the demands of various family members, but I like to try something new for the big dessert after dinner. This year I found one that everyone loved! Well, all the grownups loved it but the kids found the icing too sweetly tart. The icing is a love it or hate it kind of thing because that's where the cake gets a lot of its grapefruit flavor and some might think it's either too tart or too sweet. Personally I think the icing and the cake have to go together and so did all the grownup members of my family! Some of us don't even love grapefruit, but we all thoroughly enjoyed the cake. So if grapefruit isn't your thing normally, still give this cake a try! I mean who doesn't love a nice, dense pound cake? A great alternative from the usual pies this season or a heavy chocolatey dessert!

Servings: Hm hard to say. I cooked mine in a 9-inch pan and 7 of us had slices and we ate a little more than half the cake so maybe 12-16 servings depending on the size of the slices.

2 cups all-purpose flour (lightly spooned into measuring cups and leveled with knife)
1 teaspoon baking powder
5/8 teaspoon salt, divided
1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons grapefruit rind, grated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup 2% reduced fat milk
1/2 cup grapefruit juice
1 cup powdered sugar
Baking spray or butter/oil for pan and dusting of flour



  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Coat pan with baking spray, butter, or oil and lightly dust with flour.
    • Pound cake should normally be cooked in a tube pan (the original recipe called for a 10-inch tube pan) as that type of pan helps to ensure the cake is evenly cooked, but since I didn't have one and didn't want to buy one for this cake I used my regular 9x2 cake pan and that worked pretty well. I lined the bottom with parchment paper to help ease removal from pan later. You can also use two loaf pans for this instead. Pound cake rises a lot so make sure you pick a big enough pan with enough height so you don't risk overflow.
  • Mix together 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  • In a large bowl add 1 2/3 cup granulated sugar, 6 tbsps butter, and 8 oz cream cheese. Using a mixer beat at high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Add 2 large eggs to the mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Beat in 1/4 cup canola oil, 2 tbsps grapefruit rind, and 1/2 tsp vanilla.
  • Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk to the batter, starting and ending with the flour mixture. The batter should be smooth and thick at the end.
  • Pour or spoon the batter into the pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. If you insert a toothpick in the center it should come out mostly clean with moist crumbs on it. 
  • Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes then remove cake from pan and cool completely on rack.
  • Bring 1/2 cup grapefruit juice to boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Continue cooking for a few minutes until the grapefruit juice is reduced to about 3-4 tablespoons.
  • Stir in 1 cup powdered sugar, and 1/8 tsp salt until the icing is thick and smooth. 
  • Either drizzle over cake or you can do what I did was to use a knife to evenly spread the icing on top of the cake.
Now enjoy! And here are some photos! 

Beginning of course, with some begging pugs.
I made the cake the night before so that on Christmas I had everything ready to go. I love my cake carrier. I can bring a cake with icing without having to worry about pug hairs flying into them when driving!
Come on lil pugs, off to grandma's we go!
Excuse the paper plates, we were trying to minimize clean-up afterwards and the dishwasher was already full and running!
Mmmmm. I may just have to make this again next year instead of searching around for a new recipe!

Adapted from My Recipes.

Cranberry Cake

When I was in kindergarten or first grade one of my classmate's mothers shared a cranberry bread recipe with the whole class. I took that little piece of paper with the recipe on it home and from that point on every year we made that cranberry bread at Thanksgiving and Christmas! That recipe has long since been lost so when I saw a recipe pop up for cranberry cake on one of my favorite food sites The Kitchn I was itching to try it out for my family on Christmas! This cranberry cake was soooo good, everyone agreed it was way better than the old cranberry bread recipe we used to make. One of my sisters even went so far as to say that she thinks this is the best thing I've ever baked, surpassing her old favorite of the Dark Chocolate Cookies. (She later amended this after trying my Grapefruit Pound Cake to say that this cranberry cake and the grapefruit pound cake are tied as her favorites). So now I'm officially entering this cranberry cake recipe to my "recipe box" here at Grubbin Pugs where I'll be sure to never lose it or forget it. And so a new tradition has begun and I foresee lots of this cranberry cake in future Thanksgivings and Christmases!

Servings: Made two low loaves in my 9x5 loaf pans. The Kitchn said that this could make one 10-inch springformm cake or four 4-cup loaves or 24-30 cupcakes.

3 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange rind, grated
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups cranberries (one 12-ounce bag)


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease pan(s) and dust with flour.
  • In a large bowl, use a stand or hand mixer to beat 3 large eggs and 2 cups sugar until the batter is very smooth and pale yellow, and has increased in volume. Since there is no leavening agent in this recipe, this is where the cake will get it's height from. By the end, the batter should have doubled in volume and should leave ribbons on top of the batter when you lift the beaters up.
  • Beat in 3/4 cup butter and 1 tsp vanilla for a couple minutes until butter is well incorporated into the batter.
  • Using a spatula or spoon, fold in 2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 2 1/2 cups cranberries, and 1 tsp grated orange rind. By the end the batter will be thick and the cranberries should be evenly distributed throughout. 
  • Spoon the batter into the pan(s) and even it out. 
  • Bake for 60-80 minutes for the springform. For smaller pans start checking at about 40 minutes. My two 9x5 loaves took a little over an hour to bake. Toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean. 
  • Let cake(s) in pan(s) cool for 20 minutes on a rack. Then run a knife along the inside edge of the pan(s) and remove the cake(s). Cool completely for an hour before serving. This cake also keeps and freezes well!

And now the photos!
My cakes did crumble and slightly break apart underneath during removal from the pan, but nothing too serious. Just be careful when removing from the pan!
Do you like my four loaves? Two cranberry loaves and two pug loaves!
Look at how sad Sunny looks here!
Oh oops this slice just came right off! Guess I'll have to eat it!
I made this on Christmas Eve to eat on Christmas, and when I first tried it I thought it was pretty good but when I ate it again the next day it tasted sooooo much better! I think having the night for all the flavors to meld together helped or something.
I insisted that everyone try a little piece of the cranberry cake when I first arrived, and that quickly turned into one of the loaves being devoured in just minutes by everyone. (Excuse the paper plates as we were trying to minimize the amount of clean-up that day!)
Sorry Rosy, none for you! But don't worry, she got a lot of delicious treats during Christmas dinner!
Adapted from The Kitchn.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sun-dried Tomatoes, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Pasta

Sometimes my best dishes are the random ones I throw together based on my current favorite ingredients.  And you can be sure that that list always includes cheese and bacon! It makes me sad that I only started eating goat cheese as an adult. Think of all those wasted childhood years of not knowing the joy that is delicious goat cheese. Goats may freak me out with their scary eyes, but man they make some good cheese.

This pasta is a great cheesy dish with an added kick of the sundried tomatoes and bacon. I like to make this during the colder months because there's nothing more comforting (other than my beloved soups) than a nice creamy pasta bowl!

[Note: For most of my bacon dishes I use a thick cut turkey bacon from Trader Joe's. The texture is not so much the traditional crispiness you would get with regular turkey and instead is more like ham. I love regular bacon but will often use turkey bacon to cut back on the calories and fat. If you want to use traditional bacon, then cook it first, and let it drain on paper towels afterwards, and then once cooled crumble into the pasta at the end when you're mixing everything together. Or if you're feeling lazy like I always am, especially after coming home from work, then just cook it with the onions. And if you're looking for a vegetarian dish, just omit the bacon! I've done it before and it's still super yummy.]

Servings: 6 (which means it's a 3 mealer for me)

16 oz dried pasta (I used a whole wheat penne here)
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 oz sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
3-4 ounces goat cheese
2-4 slices bacon
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup reserved pasta water (optional)
Chives, chopped (optional topping)


  • Cook pasta according to instructions. (Optional: reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water before draining for future use.)
  • Cook 1 chopped onion, 1 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp garlic, 3 oz sundried tomatoes, and 2-4 chopped slices of bacon for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are starting to brown and bacon is starting to crisp. 
  • Add 1 can diced tomatoes to the onion mixture and let simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Drain pasta and put the pasta back into the pot along with 3-4 ounces of goat cheese. Stir until the goat cheese covers all the pasta.
  • Add the onion mixture to the pasta as well as the crumbled bacon and stir all together until well mixed. If you like a saucier sauce, add about 1/4 cup pasta water (which is what I did in the photos below).
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Optional: Top each bowl with some chopped chives.

Aaaaand cue the sad begging pugs. Sunny's taught Rosy the technique of uncurling the tail to look extra sad and pathetic.
I love using fresh herbs for toppings on my dishes. Normally it's parsley but today I decided to go with chives!
The girls want some bacon and cheese! 
Sniff sniff.
Closing in...
Getting closer!
And no the girls did not get any taste - there are onions and garlic in this dish! But I did give them a little topping of cheese with their carrot snack afterwards.

Adapted from SOS! The Six O'Clock Scramble to the Rescue.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Minestrone Soup with Bacon

I don't know why it's taken me so long to try a minestrone soup, because I made one today and it was awesome! Since this month has been so cold, I've been loving my soups. And while I have the tried and true, I am always searching for new recipes because I get bored easily. My taste buds demand new and yummy flavors and my tummy demands a hearty and satisfying meal. Well this soup meets all those requirements!

Lots of minestrone soups are made with pasta, but I omitted that to keep it lighter...and then I added in bacon! I am a bacon addict. This can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the bacon, and can be personalized with various vegetables. I've seen other recipes with celery, carrots, green beans, etc., but keep in mind that since this is a relatively quick cooking soup things don't break down as much as in longer cooking recipes (which is why I didn't add any celery or carrots).

This is definitely going into my permanent soup rotation! Sigh, why can't I just stay at home with my pugs during these cold winter days, making yummy soup and bread, instead of going to work? At least this is quick and easy enough that I can make it on any weekday once I get home.

Servings: 5-6 (though for me this is a 2-3 mealer)

Cooking spray or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-4 slices bacon, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
12-16 ounces kale, swiss chard, or collard greens, stalks removed and leaves chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 (15 ounce) cans of white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth
1-2 cups water
Grated Parmesan and chopped parsley for topping (optional)


  • Heat Dutch oven over medium heat and either spray with cooking spray or heat 1 tsp of olive oil.
  • Add 1 chopped onion, 2-4 chopped slices of bacon, 2 tsp garlic, and a light sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook for 6-7 minutes until onion softens and bacon browns.
  • Add 2 tbsp tomato paste and stir into onion mixture until everything is well coated. 
  • Add 12-16 oz of hearty greens, 1/2 tsp thyme, and 1 tsp of red pepper flakes.
  • Stir everything together for 4-5 minutes as the greens should start to wilt.
  • Add 2 cans of white kidney beans. If you like a thicker soup, either mash some of the beans before adding, or once in the Dutch oven use a spoon to mash some of the beans.
  • Add 1 can of diced tomatoes, with juice, 4 cups of vegetable broth, and 1-2 cups of water (depending on how many greens you added and how hearty or brothy you like your soup).
  • Bring the soup to a boil and then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the greens are tender.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • For serving, sprinkle a little bit of chopped parsley and grated Parmesan on each bowl. This goes great with some nice crusty bread!
Now for the pics!  

Look at Rosy. She looks like she's thinking, "Mmmm that smells so good! I can smell the bacon!"
Rosy tries different begging tactics but Sunny always does the pathetic sit by the fridge.
Love the sprinkling of Parmesan and parsley! I hate chopping herbs but I find that chopped parsley is a fantastic topping on most soups and pastas.
Begging eyes and tails down!
I like negating any healthy benefits of my soups by adding bacon and cheese. Bacon and cheese on everything!!!
Now mix it all together. One of my favorite things about cheese in soup is how it gets stuck on the spoon and so when you scrape it with your teeth you get a nice saucy, hot concentrated jolt of cheese!
And there goes Rosy's tongue.
Ack and there goes Sunny's tongue! She was too quick for me this time! Luckily she didn't get any soup, just bowl. She was super disappointed afterwards that the smell of the soup didn't match with the taste of bowl.
Ok time for me to eat!
Hey leave it alone! This is for me!
I had dropped a little bit of the Parmesan on the floor and Rosy quickly licked it all up. Then as I ate, she would periodically return to the kitchen and lick the same spot over and over again, trying to get every last crumb and hoping that some more cheese would magically appear. She's a cheese monster!
Can't blame her. Cheese is gooooood.

Adapted from Martha Stewart.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Ginormous Pancake aka Dutch Baby Pancake

I love special and fun traditions, especially those that revolve around cold weather and/or holidays. One of my favorites was one my first grade teacher had for every first rainy day of the month. I grew up in southern California so it only really rained in the fall and winter months (I was shocked to discover when I got older that most areas of the U.S. have rain year round). And every first rainy morning of the month my teacher would bring in a huge urn of hot chocolate and bags of marshmallows. You had the option of bringing in your own mug and I always brought in my beloved mug with my name on it (I have an unusual name so this mug I found in Solvang, CA was a treasured possession!). This simple and yet awesome tradition made a dreary and rainy school day seem so special.

Now that I live on the east coast where it rains so much, I don't really make a big deal out of a rainy day other than to chase around my wet pugs with paper towels as I try to dry them off. But now my CA rainy day equivalent is a snow day! There's nothing better than the first few snowy days in a winter, especially if it means cancelled work or a late arrival! Sadly, today's wintry mix is on a Sunday but I still wanted to do something special for it. Usually I make a fun breakfast for a snow day, like a breakfast sandwich or pancakes. And now I'm adding this ginormous pancake aka Dutch baby pancake to my snow day routine!  This is best served right away but it's super easy to put together and quick to bake. What could possibly be better than eating this delicious pancake on a cold, snowy day, except for maybe sipping a steaming cup of hot chocolate with melting marshmallows on top in a special mug with your name on it?

Servings: 2-4 (or if you're feeling really glutinous 1 - shhh, I won't tell!)

2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Powdered sugar and lemon wedges for topping
(Can top instead with maple syrup or fruit)


  • Place oven-safe skillet in the oven and preheat oven to 425 degrees 
  • In a large bowl whisk 2 large eggs and 1/2 cup milk until light and frothy.
  • Add 1/2 cup flour, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and whisk together until well mixed and smooth (a feat I still am never able to fully achieve). Let the mixture sit at room temperature while you wait for the oven to reach temperature.
  • Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and add 1-2 tablespoons of butter to the skillet. Swirl the butter around to coat the entire pan.
  • Pour batter into the skillet and place back in the oven to bake for 12-18 minutes until pancake has puffed and is golden brown.
  • Sprinkle with powdered sugar, squirt a bit of lemon juice on top, and serve immediately (you can slice it up into wedges for serving).
  • [Alternatively: you can top instead with maple syrup or fruit.]
As soon as I go into the kitchen to cook, Sunny assumes her usual pathetic begging pug position. She alternated between looking sadly at the ground, resting her chin on the drawer handle, and staring up at me with her sad lil eyes.
Ahhh fresh out of the oven!
I like topping my pancake with powdered sugar and some squirts of a lemon wedge, but you can top it with lots of other things like maple syrup or your favorite fruit.
Ah nothing like a fun and delicious breakfast/brunch on a cold snowy day!
The begging pugs are back.
Rosy really really wanted to try some of this. She was begging more for this than a lot of my other savory dishes!
Trying to sneak a lick!
Sunny's eyes here crack me up!
Maybe I should rename these Pug Baby pancakes?

For those wondering, a quick internet search informed me that Dutch Baby pancakes are actually of German-American origin and the name is the result of a misinterpretation of the word "deutsch" for "Dutch" (like the Pennsylvania Dutch).

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sweet Potato Biscuits with Rosemary

Some days I don't feel like cooking at all and eat shin ramen or frozen food. And then other days I go into a internet-researching-and-cooking frenzy. Well, I think we're entering one of those phases. It started off so simply, with a brief conversation with my sister about our Thanksgiving duties. She asked if I could bring a dessert and do mashed potatoes. I did a vanilla cranberry crumb cake last year which was good but a little dry and so I decided to do some research for something new. And then the internet researching part of the frenzy began. So now I've decided to make four things for Thanksgiving - pumpkin pie cake, onion-mustard monkey bread, mashed potatoes, and these sweet potato biscuits with rosemary.

My first time making biscuits! The quality of my biscuits vary wildly based on how careful I am with evening out the dough and my carelessness, but regardless of how they look, they taste delicious! I made two batches and froze them for easy reheating before Thanksgiving dinner. I like the savory aspects of sweet potato things, but you can easily tweak this recipe to make it sweeter.

Now that I know that making biscuits is relatively easy, I'm very concerned about my waistline in the coming cold months. I ate two right as they came out of the oven. But so worth it. Nothing better than slightly burning your fingertips as you tear apart at a warm biscuit! Man I wish I had some bacon so that I could make a super yummy breakfast sandwich!

Servings: 12-16 2-inch biscuits

1 pound sweet potatoes, scrubbed
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for cutting the biscuits)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (use 3 if you want your biscuits sweeter)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks
1/2 cup reduced fat milk (plus 1-4 more tablespoons as needed)
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Handful of rosemary sprigs
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional - adds a nice kick but I omit it for the ones my niece and nephew might eat)


  • Pierce the sweet potatoes in several places with a fork and microwave for 10 minutes (alternatively, you can bake them for about 1 hour in the oven at 400 degrees, but microwave is easier!). Let cool a bit and then peel the skin off and mash the sweet potatoes in a bowl with a fork. Place 1 1/2 cups of mashed sweet potatoes in the fridge until it's chilled (if you have any extra you can save for another batch or do what I did and give your dogs a treat).
  • In a large bowl add 2 1/2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper and stir until all ingredients are well mixed together.
  • In a small bowl mix together 1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potato with 1/2 cup milk until well blended together. 
  • Cut 8 tablespoons of butter into the dry mixture using a pastry blender, two knives (slicing like crossed swords), or your hands. Cut in the butter until there are pea-sized pieces of butter incorporated in the mixture. You want to have small pea-sized amounts of butter left intact as these lil pockets of cold butter help create air pockets in the biscuits when they bake and help the biscuit rise and keep it fluffy.
  • Add the sweet potato-milk mixture to the dry mixture and stir until just mixed. If ingredients are too dry and not sticking, add some extra milk, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed. Don't overmix or this will lead to tough biscuits.
  • Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees and either line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or grease it.
  • Mix together one egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream and set aside.
  • On a floured surface dump the dough and pat it out until it's about 1/2 inch thick throughout. 
  • Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter (or upside down glass/jar/can) cut out as many biscuits as you can. Push the cutter down sharply but do not twist! That'll seal off the edges and seal in the steam so the biscuits won't rise. Place biscuits on the cookie sheet.
  • Once you've cut out as many biscuits as you can the first go around, gather up the leftover scraps and pat it together and then out again. Stamp out more biscuits and add them to the cookie sheet. Supposedly each round you do this the biscuit will be less fluffy and potentially tougher so some recipes I saw said to only do this one extra time, but I hate waste and so I keep doing this until almost all the dough is used.
  • Brush the egg-cream mixture on top of the biscuits and then lightly press a few pieces of rosemary on top. 
  • Bake the biscuits for 20 minutes or until they are golden.
  • Serve warm (or in my case, eat it while burning your tongue and fingertips over the kitchen sink) or you can freeze them and then reheat in the oven.
Now the fun part, more photos! 

You can see how inconsistent I was with the height of my biscuits. Meh - I'm no perfectionist.
Moved some over to the cooling rack.
Back to eating more biscuits!
If you cook it, they will come.
Nom nom nom!
Sigh, my view every time I eat.
So of course I felt bad and had to give the girls a teeny bit of sweet potato! Sweet potatoes for my sweet pugtatoes!
Adapted from Food and Wine.