Lasagna, Chicken, and Lemon Cake

Hubby and I were adventurous last weekend and tried out two Cooking Light recipes – Basil and Zucchini Lasagna and Asian Barbecue Chicken.

BasilLasagna.jpg

This was our first time making lasagna from scratch. The food processor came in handy, and Hubby liked pouring the various layers into the baking pan. He even said that making the lasagna together was “fun” (and he’s never said before that about cooking)! The best part? We loved how it tasted! In the past, we used to buy frozen lasagna, but we thought they were very salty and had too much sauce. So after a number of disappointing experiences, we quit buying lasagna altogether. This recipe had exactly what we liked. I made a couple of mods — I threw in mushrooms because I thought zucchini by itself was a little boring, and I also used tomato sauce instead of pasta sauce simply because I didn’t read the directions carefully enough. But all in all – a success!

I selected the Asian Barbecue Chicken recipe because I wanted to test our Foreman grill. As you can see from the photo, the chicken breasts are way overcooked and are on the verge of becoming chicken jerky…but they still had a yummy flavor. The crushed red pepper flakes added a nice kick. The only downside? Cleaning the grill. The grill plates are not removable, and the entire thing isn’t supposed to be immersed in water. We scrubbed it with wet paper towels and then Hubby held it over the sink while I soaped it. Talk about a pain. But I would definitely use this marinade recipe again.

This week, I baked a Lemon Cake (a Barefoot Contessa recipe).

LemonCake.jpg

Instead of describing what happened, I think I’ll just list what I learned in the process.

1. My arm is totally weak. After grating the zest of two lemons and then juicing four lemons, my arm wasn’t up for holding the hand mixer for five minutes to cream the butter and sugar. I need a stand mixer.
2. If a recipe calls for grating zest, juicing lemons, using three mixing bowls plus a saucepan, pouring syrup on the cake after it comes out of the oven, and then letting the cake cool down completely before adding icing, then the recipe wasn’t meant for a slowpoke like me to make after dinner on a work night. Because by the time I finished washing the dishes and took the cake out of the oven, it was bedtime. I left the syrup and the icing for the following evening.
3. I am terrible at reading directions. If the ingredients list shows 2.5 cups of sugar, and the instructions tell you to mix 2 cups of sugar with something else, I shouldn’t assume that the author just forgot to mention the remaining ½ cup. Because she didn’t. The half cup was supposed to be saved for the lemon syrup. Whoops…did I just add 25% more sugar than instructed? Sigh.
4. When my husband suggests that perhaps I should skip the lemon syrup and go directly to the icing, it might be a good idea to listen to him. After doing both steps, I decided that the lemon syrup was unnecessary. The icing has lemon juice in it and is plenty sweet.

Overall, the lemon cake turned out so-so. It didn’t taste too bad even with the sugar overload – it was a just a bit dry. I’m thinking that maybe I’m not clicking with the BC dessert recipes. Anybody want to recommend a good cookbook for sweets? I’m considering Williams-Sonoma Desserts. But first, I want to try a low-fat banana bread recipe and make butterscotch cookies for Hubby.

Hope you have a great day with some yummy food!

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33 Comments on “Lasagna, Chicken, and Lemon Cake”

  1. Angela says:

    Let me wipe the drool off my keyboard now..

  2. Mintyfresh says:

    Wow, everything looks so yummy! We always had the same problem with our George Foreman, and one day instead of cleaning it we threw the whole darn thing out. I’ve heard that newer ones have removable plates, but grill plates are always impossible to clean without industrial-strength toxins and fluorocarbons.

    As for your lemon cake, I think the syrup being applied liberally while the cake is hot would have helped with the drynesss–the cake would have soaked up all the goodness while it was warm and ready to do so. My experience with lemon cake is that you can’t have enough syrup, and that really you probably want to put on more than it calls for, because the bites that were soaked in the syrup are always the best tasting.

  3. gleek says:

    mmmmmm, my mouth is watering.

  4. yahaira says:

    omg im hungry!!!

    try nigella lawson’s books, they never disappoint. the first one is all about baking, how to be a domestic goddess, but she has a ton of desserts in all of them.

  5. JessaLu says:

    Everything looks wonderful :o)

    In my experience, everything the Barefoot Contessa makes has too many steps – I usually watch her show and just laugh because how the hell does she expect any of us two-income folks to have the time to grate lemon zest? ;o)

  6. I love recipes from America’s Test Kitchen. They put out Cook’s Illustrated magazine and lots of books under the “The Best Recipe” line (e.g., The Best Recipe, The Best Light Recipe, The Best Quick Recipe, etc.). Although the books span all foods (veggies, meat, breads, desserts), they have very clear instructions and explain fully why you bake something, for example, at 325 degrees instead of 350 or 375, or why you use all-purpose flour in one recipe and cake flour in another. Their dessert-ish sections are more limited, of course, than an entire dessert book would be, but I think the instructions are terrific. You can always use the other recipes for dinner, lunch, whatever!

  7. erin says:

    The food looks so yummy, especially the cake. Baking requires more precision than cooking so I try to follow the recipes closely 🙂

  8. Suzie says:

    My favorite cookbooks (and most consistent) are Baking Illustrated from the Cook’s Illustrated folks, More from Magnolia by Alisa Torey (yummm includes the recipe for the famous Magnolia cupcakes) and Joy of Cooking! I agree with Erin, there’s so much science involved in baking, it’s nice to have recipes that work!

  9. Jennifer says:

    So… So… Hungry…

  10. Christina says:

    I’d say the cake was dry because you were supposed to have the syrup soak into the cake to moisten it. On the whole I like the Contessa’s recipes, but they are complicated. For example, I love her coconut cupcake receipt, but it takes two days to make and the result is over 50 cupcakes.

  11. Beth says:

    Your food looks delicious! Which month of Cooking Light was the lasagna recipe in? I’d really love to try it.

  12. Joanne says:

    Cooking, like knitting, requires proper equipment.

    You will enjoy using a lemon zester like Martha Stewart’s many times during the coming decades, and you should have an orange/lemon juicer that works well.

    You don’t skip portions of the instructions when knitting, and you shouldn’t skip part of the recipe. The syrup would have made the cake moist and very flavorful.

    Perhaps you and your husband would enjoy a cooking class together! You seem to be enjoying cooking — it’s a wonderful skill to have. Just think how much food you’ll need during the next fifty years or so!

  13. Marie says:

    I’m hurting for a piece of that lemon cake right now. :9

  14. Lolly says:

    Oh my! it looks SO good, Caitlyn!! That basil and zucchini lasagne sounds right up my alley.

    Thank you SO much for the tissue holder! I received it and just adore it. Sorry about my delay in emailing you. You were so kind to send it to me 😉

  15. Jan says:

    Everything looks delicious!
    Regarding the Foreman grill, I found some special gridded sponges for the grills that work great. (I got mine at Bed,Bath&Beyond.) Usually I squeeze some soapy water onto the surfaces right after I remove the food. Then after dinner, wipe it down with the sponges a few times (using the drip dish to catch the soapy runoff.) Wipe down a final time with clear water and dry. Very easy!

  16. stacey says:

    That lasagna looks so good! We had the same problem with our foreman grill – you have to cook stuff about 1/2 the time so it’s isn’t jerky! (we made our share of burger jerky, chicken jerky and pork chop jerky) – we put it next to the sink and use the sprayer attachement to the faucet and clean it. A true pain, and we are thinking of getting the ones with the removable grill plates – much more worth it!

  17. Jes says:

    I dunno about books, I don’t have much luck with recipes from a book because I’m so picky about what ingredients I use, but don’t know how to sub things very well, but I love allrecipes.com. The recipes are rated by users and you can type in an ingredient or finished product and come up with loads of options. I’ve tried a lot of recipes from there (in fact, most of my Thanksgiving dinner last year and Christmas cookies came from there) and everything has been really good. They also have a book, but I’ve never seen it. I’m sure it’s really good.

  18. Beth C says:

    Hi Caitlyn —

    Here’s my secret for cleaning Foreman grills with non-removable plates:

    Fold 3-6 paper towels into a pad approximately the size of the grill, and wet them thoroughly. As soon as your food is off the grill, turn it off and put the wet paper towels in the grill. Close it down. The towels will steam, but they shouldn’t burn if they are wet enough.

    Go eat your dinner. When you return, the grill will be cooled, and most of the mess will be on the paper towels. The rest is soft and easily wiped away. This little tip has saved many Foreman grills from being dumped in the trash! 🙂

  19. Heather says:

    I love the baking edition of the cooks illustrated series. That’s probably my all time favorite baking book. My second favorite goes to, hmmm – probably the martha stewart baking book, but cooks illustrated is by far the best.

    Also, if you decide you like your foreman grill enough to invest in another one – get this one – http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-GR-4-Griddler/dp/B0001XASWQ/sr=8-7/qid=1154023719/ref=pd_bbs_7/102-6286581-6485715?ie=UTF8

    yes it’s super pricey, but it rocks! The plates are removeable, you can cook at different temperatures, and you can use it flat like a griddle for pancakes and such. And it makes awesome paninis! 🙂

  20. Carolyn says:

    Wow, Caitlyn, I’m impressed! Just a few posts back you were talking about not knowing much about cooking, and here you are whipping up delicious meals. Congrats! I’m glad you and your husband are enjoying cooking together, and hopefully you’ll have better luck with the desserts next time. : )

  21. Stephanie says:

    Yum. Double yum. I think there are some great sweet recipes in How To Bake – and lots of information on little tricks to make things come out right. I know that author also has a cake book.

  22. joyce says:

    Mmmm.I love anything with basil. I have yet to try and make lasgana myself. I always make my sister make it b/c she knows how.
    Try the Martha Stewart Baking book…I have yet to tackle the goodies in there but her recipes are always good… I’ve made her cupcakes and a few of her cookies and they always turn out good.

  23. jessie says:

    de-lurking to hopefully help… I think we have the smallest foreman grill but it’s still incredibly handy. I wipe it down right after cooking when it’s still really hot with a few wet paper towels. All the chunks come off and any grease that’s left I clean off with 409 when it’s cooled. I wouldn’t give it away for anything! love it!

  24. quenna says:

    That looks so yummy — looks like you and hubby are having lots of fun! As for a dessert/baking book, I like books that explain why I need to do something (sifting, level measurements…) like Baking with Julia (child). It’s intense, but it includes bread baking too… Personally I like Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (but no color photographs) for basic recipes with a twist, lots of substitution options, and good explanations of the science and why’s of cooking. Happy cooking/knitting/and sewing — you’re into everything these days!

  25. Charmaine says:

    My mouth is watering! I can’t wait to get back into our kitchen and start cooking REAL food again. Tonight I had cereal for the second time today!

  26. Shir says:

    I haven’t read your blog for a while. So it’s fun to read about your experiences in cooking. There is a better way to clean the Foreman Grill. I’ll tell you later.

  27. kaitlyn says:

    i Loooove lemon cake. The best one I’ve ever tried was a Trader Joe’s mix! Just follow the recipe and sift a little powdered sugar on top and it’s HEAVEN.

  28. FunkyDiver says:

    I thoroughly recommend “How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking” – I’m a recent Nigella convert! Available on amazon.com in the US.

  29. dcfb says:

    SO funny- I just made the lemon cake and added that extra 1/2 cup of sugar as well. My partner has made this many times to smash reviews, I hope mine works. Anyway, just wanted you to know you were not alone.

    And for all those burgeoning recipe writers, saying 2 cups “of the sugar” vs. “of sugar” would have helped me here.

    The rest of the meal looks fantastic too!
    -J

  30. ruth says:

    hey girl! just got back from china and am currently fighting jetlag (slept 14 hours last night!). =) as for the lemon cake from BC, i’ve actually done that exact recipe! i’ve made it several times, and you have to be VERY EXACT on her instructions (i watched her do it on TV and matched it with the recipe online). so far, i’ve gotten pretty good results, but it’s an awful lot of work. i only make it if i have a ton of lemons and don’t know what to do with them. =P

  31. Rebekah says:

    My stomach is growling it’s so hungry, and everyone is showing food on their blogs. It’s a conspiracy. I just know it.

  32. Gracie says:

    Yum!! Everything looks so good!

    I’m not a huge fan of BC, but I can recommend Paula Deen’s dessert book but it isn’t exactly what you call low fat! She has a lot of variety in there. I think Martha has a good dessert one too.

  33. trek says:

    Low fat banana bread recipe:

    3-4 medium overripe bananas
    1/2 c unsweetened applesauce
    1/2 c sugar
    2 eggs (or egg subst)
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tsp baking soda
    2 c flour
    1/2 – 1 c chopped nuts optional

    Preheat oven at 350°F. Grease and flour loaf pan.
    Mash bananas. Add applesauce, sugar. Mix. Add eggs. Mix. Add flour, salt, soda. Mix. Add nuts. Mix. Don’t over mix. Spoon into loaf pan. Bake 40 or so minutes – until GB&D.
    If you use a coated pan, drop temp to 325°F.
    Enjoy.