Sunday, May 19, 2013

carrot (cup)cakes with honey-cream cheese frosting

As I flounder around trying to find the self that I had a few years back, I realize that one thing that helped me keep it all together was to write. Whether it be a heartpour blogpost, a journal entry to my God, or a cooking experience, writing centers me.  Somehow, I've let that get away from me, and I just don't understand why.

Time to center. :)

Back at Easter, I had my mom and dad and whatever brothers+families could make it over for dinner that Sunday. I didn't go too crazy with the menu - as much as I like to experiment, I kept it calm this year.

One thing I did try was a fabulous recipe for carrot cake with a few twists - as a cupcake, and with a wonderfully tasty frosting. I found it on one of my absolute favorite cooking blogs, Honey & Jam, and am linking you there (see below recipe title) so check her out! Great food photography and fantastic recipes to try.

Normally I change a thing here or there, but this time, I stuck to the recipe 100%. After tasting, I wouldn't change a thing.

So - is carrot cake counted as a vegetable serving?

Carrot Cake with Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

makes 1 layer cake or 24 cupcakes

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated carrots (6 large)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted and cooled (single layer in a pan, toast for 6 minutes - save a few for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. I found some cute pleated ones at Walmart.

In a medium sized bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and ginger.  In an electric mixer bowl, add sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs; beat at medium speed until well blended. Add flour mixture in 2 or 3 batches, mixing just until all the flour disappears and is incorporated (do not overmix). Gently stir in carrots and pecans. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Place cupcakes on a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

For the frosting:
2 - 8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup honey (local, if you have it!)
1/2 cup powdered sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, and honey until light and fluffy. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until spreading consistency.

Frost the cooled cupcakes with a spreader or pipe it on with a decorating bag/tip. Sprinkle with reserved pecans.  Try not to gorge yourself.

Thank you, Hannah, for a perfect Easter dinner finale.

Note: my dad doesn't care for nuts in his food, so I mixed and filled half the cupcake liners before adding nuts to the remaining batter, and didn't garnish those with nuts.  They were only slightly less awesome.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

grilled cheese with smoked gouda, fig preserves, and fresh basil

Being in the midst of packing for camp, Sunday School teacher meeting at 3, and church/fellowship shortly thereafter, I am in a bit of a rush today, so I'm foregoing the pics of the food this time. :) But I had to share this wonderful grilled cheese recipe that I absolutely loved, and considered myself very chic to make. hehe!

Smoked Gouda with Fig Preserves and Fresh Basil, on Buttered Whole Wheat Bread! Woohoo! (yes, that's pretty much the recipe. lol)

I like the smoky flavor of the cheese against the mild sweetness of the figs, and of course the occasional peppery bite from the basil just keeps things spicy. And, as Dillon said after tasting a bite, "I like the aftertaste." Aftertaste is always important. :)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

roasted cauliflower

You must forgive me for the poor quality of these pictures. I have to say, the blog is lucky to have any pictures at all! 

It was only after getting this sparkly citrusy heavenly cauliflower out of the oven that I realized I had only eaten a meager lunch of 2 steak fingers and a small chicken finger, leftover from yesterday and reheated in the oven. Plus I got carried away making cookies for tomorrow's cookie fellowship at church, and wasn't watching the time - it was 7:45 before I started eating.

The unsurprising result was that I unattractively wolfed down my food. I even apologized to my son and husband, who were both eating in different rooms (yes, it was a TV night for them) for the unladylike behavior - they hadn't noticed.

I was so HUNGRY. And it was so GOOD.

So, before I turned lupine and did the unattractive wolfing thing, I managed to snap 2 pictures for the blog.  Not pretty, and not professional, but maybe they will cause you to stop and take notice of a very underrated vegetable.

You gotta give it a try. You might be howling at the moon too.

Roasted Cauliflower

1 medium head cauliflower, washed and cut into florets of approximately equal size, and not too big
1/4 cup olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4-1/3 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Place prepared cauliflower in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon juice until well blended; pour immediately over cauliflower and, using your hands or a large spoon, toss until the cauliflower is well coated with the olive oil mixture. Scoop cauliflower into a baking dish that is large enough to accommodate all the vegetable in a single layer, yet doesn't spread them out too far from each other. Pour and scoop all the remaining 'sauce' over the cauliflower. Roast in the oven for 8 minutes, then remove and, using a wooden spoon, stir thoroughly. Roast for 10 more minutes and then mix with the wooden spoon again. Roast a final 5 minutes and remove from oven. (You can now put it in a serving bowl, if you wish, but you don't have to - we just helped ourselves from the stovetop). Finally, sprinkle the cauliflower with grated cheese and parsley, and serve immediately.

Monday, July 2, 2012

jammin' with tomato jam

One of the greatest, if not THE greatest, things about summer is the supply of fresh tomatoes from the gardens of my mom and my brothers.  During the practically flavorless tomato based meals of winter, it's what I think of with longing in my heart.

The standby recipes are fresh salsa, roasted tomatoes, incredible spaghetti sauce, and best of all, just plain old room temp thick slices dusted with salt & pepper - nothing better.

But I do like to experiment, so when I saw this recipe from Food Loves Writing, I had to give it a try. I ended up cooking it for about 2 hours, 15 minutes before I got the consistency I wanted, but hey, that's okay - it's summer and I have all the time in the world. Well, not really, but I was home that day anyway...

In addition to making the jam, Dillon and I had grilled cheese for supper that night (see below).  It was so good, we had it again for Sunday lunch after church, when Dalton was home, and it was a hit with him too.

If you have an abundance of tomatoes that you are tired of canning or putting in the freezer, give this a try. I think you'll be glad you did. The small amount of honey adds sweetness, but the real sweetness comes from the long slow cookdown of the onions and tomatoes. Heaven in a pot.

Tomato Jam (adapted from recipe found in the cookbook Herbivarious by Michael Natkin; I originally found the recipe in the blog linked above)
Makes about one cup

1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled and diced
1/2 cup yellow onion, diced small
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Combine the tomatoes, onion, lemon juice, basil, honey and salt in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Stir in cayenne pepper and black pepper. Bring to a simmer, then adjust the heat to keep the tomatoes simmering until the mixture becomes thick and syrupy. This will likely take a couple of hours. Taste and adjust seasonings as you like. Serve at room temperature. 

Grilled Cheese our way:

Butter one side each of two slices of good whole wheat bread. On the opposite side of one slice, layer slices of sharp cheddar cheese and fresh mozzarella. Top with chopped basil leaves. On the other slice, spread tomato jam on unbuttered side, and place on top of cheese/basil, tomato jam side down. (In other words, just make a grilled cheese sandwich, butter on the outside, haha). Grill until toasty golden brown on each side, and the cheese is all melty and gooey and perfect. Cut in half for easy access, and enjoy. Resist temptation to make and devour a 2nd sandwich. Or don't resist. :D

Friday, March 30, 2012

Best Pound Cake Ever

This is easily my most favoritest cake in the entire world. When someone says "pound cake", this is the one I dream of. None of those lightweight, fluffy, airy tube pan cakes for me, those aren't REAL pound cakes. Instead, density, weight, hold-together-in-milk texture, crisp crust and soft gooey bottom after it sits on the cake plate - that says pound cake.

Frosting need not apply. :)
(of course, if you want a little glaze or a dusting of powdered sugar, feel free!)

Mom's Easy Pound Cake

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

In a mixer, blend shortening, butter, and sugar together until creamy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each. Stir dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and add half to creamed mixture; blend well.  Add the buttermilk and vanilla and mix well. Add the remaining dry mixture and mix well. Scrape down sides of the mixer bowl. Raise mixer speed to medium and beat for about a minute.  Pour into greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes (check it at 50 minutes). Cake is done with a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean and the edges are slightly pulling away from the sides of the pan. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, on a wire rack, then turn cake out onto rack and cool completely. Or eat it warm!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Michael Symon's Roasted Garlic Schmear

Last night, I grilled some burgers and tried this sauce over the top of mine.I had youngest kiddo and hubby try it on a bite too and while they didn't eat it on theirs, they both liked the bite they had.  Didn't take pictures so please click on the link to see the recipe.

The only change I made was to swap out the oregano for more parsley. :)  Try it soon, if you love parsley and lemon and garlic, you'll adore it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

the crust I've been seeking?

It certainly seems to be!

For several years now, I've been trying to perfect homemade pizza crust. While I love my usual, it lacks the crispy crunchy char that I greatly desire, that I see on cooking shows and got at Broadway Pizza when I visited New York City. It's tender, great tasting, and easy, and not much wrong with it except - no char. I've cooked it so many different ways, I can't keep count. Increased temperature, preheating stones for half an hour, pre-cook before topping, and so on and so on.  Still never completely satisfied.

Tonight, thanks to the March 2012 issue of Martha Stewart Living and the 'cooking skillet pizza' article, I have found char.  Crispy-sweet, crunchy perfection.  

Now if this technique will just work on my homemade crust, I'll be ecstatic. 

Skillet Pizza
(adapted from recipe in Martha Stewart Living magazine, March 2012)

One store-bought crust (from the refrigerated section)
Olive oil
Your choice of sauce (tomato, pizza, pesto, whatever you like)
Your choice of toppings
Your choice of cheeses

Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  Brush a teaspoon of olive oil on the bottom of a 12-inch cast-iron skillet.  Unroll the pizza dough and spread it around the bottom of the skillet evenly. Brush the edge (about an inch or so) with a little more olive oil. Top with sauce, toppings (personally, I believe less is more), and cheeses. 

Over a medium high heat, on your stove (yes, you heard right), cook the pizza until the bottom is turning golden, approximately 4 minutes. Put in the 500 degree oven and bake until the edges are golden brown and the cheeses are bubbling, about 10 minutes. Remove the very hot skillet carefully from oven, loosen the edges if needed with a knife, and run a spatula underneath - then lift or slide out onto a wooden cutting board or other serving/cutting platter or board. Let cool for a minute or so and then slice and serve and pretend you're on a NYC sidewalk...

This one is Dillon's - he put tomato sauce, pepperoni, and a combination of cheddar and mozzarella cheeses on it.

Trust me - although the bottom looks burnt, it did not taste that way. It had a wonderful charred flavor and although next time I might cut back a half a minute or so on the stove top, it was delicious.

This one is mine - tiny bit of tomato sauce, roasted broccoli, and goat cheese. Mmm. I cooked it in a cast-iron skillet that was smaller and deeper than the 12 inch skillet that we used for the pepperoni - definitely use the 12 inch size, the crust was thinner and crispier for sure.