Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Best Carrot Cake

     Carrots are good for you, right? And pineapple, coconut and walnuts? The stuff dreams are made of. This cake is full of 'em. Topped right out of the oven with a dreamy hot buttermilk glaze (that's really more of a butterscotch caramel glaze) and then with a layer of cream cheese frosting, this is a cake I look forward to making again.

     I made this for Easter dinner at my Mom's house. It was good the first day, and even better the next. I recommend making this when there are people to help you eat it. Trust me, no one will complain.  Next time I'll make layers- I needed this one to travel so I opted for a sheet cake. More layers = more frosting per bite. That can't be a bad thing, can it? I followed the recipe as written, and wouldn't change a thing. You can find the recipe- from Southern Living here.
Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Manhattan Clam Chowder

     A snowy day deserves some soup, don't you think? Even though this snow was considerably less than what was originally expected it tacked an extra day onto my three day weekend, giving me some extra time to get some things done that I've been meaning to do for ages. (Like catch up on paperwork and update this poor neglected space.) The 4WD truck is broken too so I may be here a while.

     This bowl is full of colorful vegetables that are so good for you. It's loaded with clams, and has just a tiny bit of bacon in it that you could leave out if you want to, but please don't. The depth of flavor it adds is phenomenal. A big bonus? It comes together quickly and doesn't take hours to cook. That gives you plenty of time to go out and build that snowman, just in case you're so inclined. 

Manhattan Clam Chowder
adapted from this Better Homes and Gardens recipe
3 cans (6.5 oz) minced clams
8 oz. bottled clam juice (1 cup chicken broth will do in a pinch)
2 slices of bacon -I used 4 slices of pre-cooked bacon (the kind you can buy already cooked) and some avocado oil- see note*
1 cup diced celery
1 medium carrot, diced (about 1/4 cup)
1 med. onion, diced
1 sweet red pepper, diced
2 cups cubed potatoes (I used Yukon Gold)
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper (I just gave it a couple of healthy grinds)
1 dried hot red pepper (optional)
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz) undrained

  • Drain canned clams, reserving juice; set clams aside. Add enough water to reserved clam juice to equal 2 cups. Set juice aside.
  • Dice bacon. Saute over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon pieces and drain. Reserve 2 Tablespoons drippings in pan. *Note: I diced 4 slices of pre-cooked bacon and then gently sauteed it in a couple of Tablespoons of avocado oil (olive would be good too). I may be disillusioned, but I think it might be just a little bit better for me than straight bacon grease.
  • In the reserved bacon grease or oil, saute celery, carrot, onion and red pepper until tender.
  • Add the reserved 2 cups of clam juice and the 8 oz. clam juice or broth. Stir in potatoes, thyme, cayenne and black pepper. Add the whole dried pepper if desired. (It gives a little zing.)
  • Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for about ten minutes until vegetables are tender. 
  • Stir in reserved clams, bacon and undrained tomatoes. Return to a boil, reduce heat and cook 2 to 3 minutes more until heated through. Remove the hot pepper before serving. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gingered Carrot Soup

     Pumpkins, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash- it's hard to even see them without thinking of crisp chilly nights, crunchy leaves, flaming bonfires and steaming apple cider. Orange food just seems right for fall, doesn't it?
     A big bag of carrots in my vegetable bin inspired this colorful bowl of comfort for supper the other night. Carrots, sweet nuggets of goodness packed with beta-carotene and vitamin A, make this soup a fabulous choice for those chilly fall nights. (And it's not so shabby for lunch either!)

Carrot Ginger Soup
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
2 lbs. carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped (the smaller you chop them, the quicker they cook)
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon curry powder
a few sprigs of thyme
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (or to taste)
2 tablespoons minced or grated ginger (If you freeze your ginger root, then it's really easy to grate with a microplane grater.)
1 quart chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Gently saute onion and garlic in the butter and oil. Add carrots, thyme, ginger, curry powder, salt and chicken broth.
Simmer (covered) until carrots are tender. The length of time this takes varies, depending on your carrots and how large your carrot chunks are.
Remove sprigs of thyme and blend with an immersion or regular blender. (My immersion blender leaves the soup with a little more texture, and the regular blender makes it silky smooth. Be very careful with hot soup in a regular blender. Leave the vent lid open!)
Season to taste with freshly ground pepper.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Pudding Cookies with Pecans and Chocolate Chips

     Happy Fall! The days are getting shorter and it's about time I dusted off my computer and got back into the kitchen. It was a lovely summer though, with visits from all of my children (and an especially long one with my grandson.) A lightning strike left me without internet for a month, and after about a week of withdrawal I actually enjoyed being unplugged! School has been taking up most of my time this past month, but we're settling into routines now and I'm feeling a little bit less frazzled at the end of each day. 

     I'm trying to stay away from sweets enjoy sweets in moderation, but when I saw these cookies from Sweet Treats and More, I had to put Jello Pumpkin Spice pudding on my grocery list. It's only available for a short time (I got it at WalMart) and gives these cookies a nice "pumpkiny" flavor without being too overpowering. In addition to the warm and spicy pumpkin flavor it adds, the pudding keeps the cookies soft and chewy- perfect for satisfying those after-school hunger pangs. :)

Pumpkin Spice Pudding Cookies with Pecans and Chocolate Chips
adapted from Sweet Treats and More

1 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 small box (3.4 oz) Pumpkin Spice Pudding (Jello)- I found this with the seasonal baking products at WalMart
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.
In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. 
In mixer bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light. 
Beat in dry pudding mix. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well.
Gradually incorporate flour into mixture. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips.
Use a large cookie scoop to drop cookie dough onto parchment covered baking sheets. (My large scoop is about 3 Tablespoons.)
Bake 8-10 minutes and cool on cookie sheet until cookies are sturdy enough to remove to a cooling rack. Once cooled, store in an airtight container.
Yield: 2 dozen large cookies. (Using a smaller scoop will yield more, and will probably require a shorter baking time.)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Jeweled Golden Rice with Cherries

     Cherry season is an anxiously awaited event in my household.  Even though the price is dear, I can't resist stocking my refrigerator with the luscious ruby-red orbs, and keep a bowl on the counter for popping in my mouth every time I pass by. In addition to being delicious, they're a nutrition powerhouse, fiber rich and full of antioxidants. Way better than bon-bons for you, but with the same "curb appeal."

     This summer rice salad showcases both sweet (fresh) and tart (dried) cherries. I don't even know where to start describing it. Saffron and curry scented rice, tangy and sweet cherries, crunchy pistachios and cashews, bursts of celery and chives, citrus and ginger dressing- it all comes together perfectly to make a mouthwatering bite. It pairs perfectly with grilled chicken or pork, but will easily stand alone as a delightful vegan (and gluten free!) main dish.

Jeweled Golden Rice with Cherries
from Eating Well, June/July 2006

1 cup brown basmati rice
1 can (14 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken (or vegetable)broth
1/3 cup water
1 Tablespoon curry powder (your favorite)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 generous pinch crumbled saffron threads
3 Tablespoons canola oil (I used walnut oil)
1/3 cup lemon juice
3 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon freshly grated orange zest (I used dried)
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger (I grated the ginger)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chopped celery
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped scallions or chives, divided
1 cup fresh dark sweet cherries, pitted and chopped
3/4 cup unsalted nuts, chopped -pistachios, almonds and cashews recommended- divided

1. Combine rice, broth, water, curry powder, turmeric and saffron in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil,stir once, cover with a lid. Reduce heat to low (simmer) and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 35 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.

2. Combine oil, lemon juice, honey, orange zest, ginger and salt in a large non-reactive bowl. Stir in the cooked rice, celery, dried cherries and 1/4 cup chives or scallions. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (up to 2 days)

3. To serve, fold fresh cherries and 1/2 cup nuts into the rice mixture. Serve at room temperature, garnished with the remaining 1/4 cup scallions/chives and nuts.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fresh Blueberry Sour Cream Pound Cake

     School is out, berries are in, and my cast is off! Does picking up plump blueberries one by one between my thumb and forefinger and purposefully dropping them into my mouth count as physical therapy? Whether it does or doesn't, that's what's been going on here in my kitchen. Blueberries are gorgeous and fresh at the market right now, and hard to resist. I'm glad they're a good snacking option, because I've eaten my share along with someone else's too I'm afraid. (Hope it wasn't yours!)

     Some of my berries were lucky enough to find their way into this buttery pound cake that is currently tempting me from the confines of its cake dome. Those beautiful bursts of blue make each slice of it just as hard to resist as the berries themselves. I'm taking it to my Mom's tomorrow for Sunday dinner- hope I can wait!

Fresh Blueberry Sour Cream Pound Cake
recipe from Taste of Home

6 eggs, separated (room temperature)
1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
3 cups all purpose flour
8 oz. (1 cup) sour cream
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (may use frozen- do not thaw!)

1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add extracts and butter flavoring.

2. Combine flour and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream, beating well after each addition.

3. In a separate bowl with clean beaters, beat egg whites on high until stiff peaks form. Fold egg whites into batter. Toss blueberries with about a tablespoon of flour. This keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the pan as the cake cooks. Fold blueberries into batter.

4. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 10 inch tube pan. Bake at 350F for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan to a rack to cool completely.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Spicy Grilled Shrimp

     Since my chopping hand has been on the fritz, Hubby has been making most of our meals. I'm down with that, especially since he's a really good cook and has become quite proficient with his newest obsession  preferred method of cooking. 

     He has made these shrimp several times, and they disappear as soon as they come off the grill. They're great for an appetizer, but they'd also be fabulous on a summer salad or with pasta. They have the perfect amount of heat for me just the way they are, but if you're a fan of hot and spicy you may want to "kick it up" with a little extra cayenne!

     I hope to share more of Hubby's grilling adventures with you soon! My cast comes off in three weeks, but I'm sure my hand will need at least a little more time to recover. I know when I've got it good. :)

Spicy Grilled Shrimp
Mark Bittman, from Fish, The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking

2 lbs. large shrimp (raw), peeled and de-veined, rinsed and dried
1 large clove garlic
1 Tablespoon coarse salt (I use only about a teaspoon and it's plenty for us)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 tsp. lemon juice

Finely mince garlic and mix with salt. Use the flat blade of your knife  or a mortar and pestle to make a paste with the garlic and salt. Mix in cayenne, paprika, olive oil and lemon juice. Combine with shrimp until  the shrimp is evenly covered with the spice mixture.
Grill or broil shrimp (hot fire) 2-3 minutes per side, or until done. Serve immediately or at room temperature, with lemon wedges if desired.

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