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Homemade Carrot Cake

As you all know, I am spoiled rotten by having an amazing baker – Molly the Baker – in the family.  She happens to live 1300 miles away!  A special friend was having a birthday, and I know carrot cake is his fave!  I adapted a version of my Aunt Fran’s carrot cake, and had a friend help me!  Thank you Margie!

2 C. flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. allspice

4 eggs

2 C. sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/4 C. oil

2 c. finely shredded carrots

1 c. golden raisins (soaked in rum) – drained

1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained

1 C. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Line two 9 inch cake pans with parchment sprayed with baking spray.

Whisk together dry ingredients in a bowl.

In the mixer bowl, beat eggs for 2 minutes.   Add sugar and vanilla.  Reduce speed and add oil.  Blend in flour mixture a little at a time.

Fold in remaining ingredients and pour into prepared cake pans.

Bake 35-40 minutes until 160 F internal temperature.

Cool overnight in the fridge.

Cream Cheese Frosting – from Molly the Baker!

1 8 oz block cream cheese, room temperature

6 Tbsp. butter, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. powdered sugar, sifted.

Place cream cheese in mixer bowl and mix with paddle 3-4 minutes until fluffy.

Add in butter, and mix 3-4 minutes more.

Add in vanilla and mix until incorporated.

Add powdered sugar 1/2 c. at a time, until fluffy and smooth.

I confess that I forgot to sift the sugar, and it still came out amazing.

 

Gumbo

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 packages spicy chicken sausage

4 c. sliced fresh okra

1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 package broccoli slaw

4 Tbsp. flour

4 c. chicken broth

2 cans Rotel diced tomatoes with onions, peppers, and celery

2 tsp. Cajun seasoning

1 tsp. chopped jalapeno peppers

2 lb. peeled, deveined shrimp

Steamed white rice for serving

The night before:

Slice and brown sausage in olive oil.  Scoop out of oil and place in crock pot.

Top with veggies.

Add flour to oil in pan and cook for a few minutes until golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Add tomatoes and 3 c. of the broth.  When it comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and add in Cajun seasoning and jalapeno peppers.

Mix well.  Liquid should be visible, but not completely cover what’s on top.  Add a little more broth, if needed.  Reserve what broth you don’t use in the gumbo for cooking more flavorful rice.

Place in the fridge overnight.  Put on low for 8-9 hours.  Stir in raw shrimp 20 minutes before serving.  It’s ready when the shrimp is pink.

FUNNY STORY.  I was having friends over for a birthday celebration.  I had made the gumbo ahead and a carrot cake.  The day of the celebration, I wasn’t feeling well and nearly cancelled.  The only thing that kept me going, was the thought that the food was cooking itself while I was at work.  However, and this is the “funny” part, my daughter forgot to put the crock pot on and never received my reminder text message.  I came home to uncooked gumbo in the crock pot!    I’m not proud to say, I had a bit of a meltdown at her for forgetting.  Luckily, because I was not feeling tip top (understatement) I had come home early.  So, at 5:00, I was pouring the contents of my ready to go crock pot into a stock pot, to cook my gumbo on the stove top.  I brought it to a boil, and then lowered the heat and simmered I covered until the okra tasted done.  It took about 90 minutes all told.   I then added the shrimp in on the stovetop and simmered it for about a minute.  It all went back into the crock pot to keep warm for serving.  Meanwhile, I cooked jasmine rice in my rice cooker.

It was a huge hit!  I can’t honestly say how it would have turned out in the crock pot, but since the recipe of origin was from Williams-Sonoma, I’m guessing it would have also been good, and a lot less stressful!

Carrot Cake recipe to follow!

Pasta alla Norcina

Okay, so I am totally food obsessed and spent the last couple of days binge watching America’s Test Kitchen.  I already know it will totally be worth it, even if I just try the Pasta alla Norchina!  The picture above is from the America’s Test Kitchen website.  I haven’t actually tried the complete recipe, but I have tried the trick about cooking the ground eat as a burger and then chopping it up and finishing the cooking of the meat in the sauce.  I made a lasagna that had ground pork and turkey that were cooked according to the directions for the meat in this recipe and will never again suffer through chopping ground meat as it cooks with a spatula.

Here is the America’s Test Kitchen recipe for Pasta alla Norchina.  If you get a chance to watch the video, it is worth watching!

4 tsp water

1 ½  tsp. salt

¼ tsp. baking soda

Incorporate water, salt and baking soda into 1 lb. ground pork.

Let rest for 10 minutes

Add the following to the pork:

1 tsp garlic

¾ tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

¾ tsp. black pepper

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Smear the meat up against side of the bowl  for approx 15 seconds to blend all the seasonings all the way through.

Form into large patty – place on greased dinner plate and set aside.

Place  oz. cremini mushrooms in food processor and chop finely about 10 pulses.

Heat 2 tsp oil in skillet

Brown both sides of the pork patty, but leave raw in middle – about 2 minutes per side

Meanwhile cook pasta.

Transfer patty to cutting board and chop into fine pieces.  Place in bowl and add ¾ c. heavy cream.

Add oil to skillet and cook mushrooms w/ 1/8 tsp salt about 8 minutes till nicely browned.

Add 2 tsp oil, 2 tsp garlic, ½ tsp. rosemary, ½ tsp. black pepper.  Cook 30 seconds.

Add ½ c. dry white wine.  Cook until wine completely evaporates.

Meanwhile drain pasta and reserve ¾ c. pasta water.

Once wine is evaporated, add sausage cream mixture and ¾ c. pasta water.  Simmer approx 3 minutes until pork is fully cooked.

Turn off heat and add in ¾ c. pecorino until melted and smooth.

Pour over pasta.

Add 3 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Add more pasta water if it looks too thick.

Serve immediately.

 

White Claw

I’ve found my new favorite drink!  Our local grocery store had a BOGO sale on White Claw Hard Seltzer, so I thought, why not?  Described as spiked sparkling water with a hint of fruit.  5% alcohol.  It comes in natural lime, black cherry, and ruby grapefruit.  I tried the grapefruit, and it is soooooo good.  A 12 oz. can has 110 calories, 4 g sugar, 4 g carbohydrate, and 20 mg sodium.  It’s not sweet and really refreshing!  I can’t wait to try the other flavors.

grouper

I was invited to dinner at the house of some friends.  I knew I was in for some good company, but I had no idea what a great grillmaster would be preparing some amazing fish!  I’ll confess that I didn’t get his recipe, but I looked around on the internet and mycookocracy.com had a yummy sounding recipe.  Not only was the grouper grilled, but so was the mangrove snapper (with a greek seasoning rub) and the asparagus (with olive oil, salt and pepper and a little garlic powder).   Our grillmaster also cooked over charcoal, so the flavors were amped up!

My Cookocracy’s recipe:

Grilled Blackened Grouper
photo from mycookocracy.com

Author: My Cookocracy
Recipe type: Grilling
Cuisine: Cajun
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds grouper filets (or any white fish)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • Blackening seasoning
  • Lemon wedges
Instructions
  1. Combine the olive oil and butter in a small bowl or measuring cup.
  2. Pat dry the grouper filets.
  3. Brush the filets liberally with the olive oil and butter on both sides.
  4. Liberally rub seasoning into both sides of filets.
  5. Generously oil the grates of your grill and preheat.
  6. Grill the filets over medium heat, 5 minutes a side.
  7. Serve with lemon wedges.

SAM_2642

1 package Pastamore Thai Citrus Ginger Linguini

2 packages al fresco Roasted Pepper & Asiago Chicken Sausage

2 packages Eat Smart Vegetable Stir Fry

1 large sweet onion, chopped

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. butter

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper blend

Heat water for pasta.

Slice sauce and chop onion and set aside.

Heat olive oil in large skillet and cook onions and sausage until onions are translucent and sausage is golden.

Meanwhile cook vegetable stir fry in the microwave and cook pasta in heated water.  It cooks very quickly, so put it in only when the sausage and onions are close to done.

Toss sausage with cooked vegetables, adding in butter and salt and pepper.

Toss with pasta and serve immediately.

We all loved this!  Some of the kids added some heat with red pepper flakes or sweet thai chili sauce.

 

 

Burgers Cooked in the Oven!

burger meal.jpg

We had a crowd over for Tuesday Night Girls’ Wine Club!  I didn’t want to stand over the stove to cook the burgers or corn, so I wrapped the corn in foil with butter and salt, and placed the burgers on a baking sheet.  350 F for 30 minutes and both were perfect!  So so easy and I will cook burgers that way the next time I’m feeding a crowd!

Lasse Hallstrom

I’ve been spending more time watching television of late, due to an injured knee that requires rest.   I usually limit my television time to cooking programs (shocking, I know) or home improvement shows.  I keep thinking of the old Springsteen song 57 Channels and Nothin’ On!   So many things on that I’m on the least bit interested in watching.   I’ve pulled a few books off the shelves and found myself reading again.  I’ve also revisited some of my favorite movies.

I watched the Hundred-Foot Journey again tonight.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it!  Helen Mirren stars as Madame Mallory, the owner of a French restaurant with two Michelin stars.  An Indian family opens a restaurant directly across the street.  The Indian son has an amazing talent as a chef.  You get the idea.  The story is well written.

With one of my favorite directors, Lasse Hallstrom,  at the helm, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.  As with all of his movies, I find myself being drawn into the story as if I were there.  He is such a talented director.  He is also responsible for  What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (early Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio), Something to Talk About (Julia Roberts), Chocolat (also Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche), Hachi, a Dog’s Tale (Richard Gere), Casanova (Heath Ledger), Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt), and on and on.  I love movies that entertain with subtle humor,  make me think, and evoke emotions.

 

Boo Hoo

This is how I feel about not getting a picture of tonight’s dinner because it was such a success and I still wanted to share the recipe.  The sweetie in the picture is my youngest grandson who has just been told by his mom that he can’t put the bathroom rug in his mouth!  Calling it a fusion dish is a stretch.  The only non traditional ingredient is the pad thai noodles.

2 packs Kame pad thai rice noodles – the soft wide kind

2-3 cups shredded leftover chicken

1 jar Fresh Market alfredo sauce

1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly

Salt

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. pesto sauce

2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese

2 Tbsp. tuscan seasoning – with red pepper flakes if you like a little heat!

When I put chicken alfredo on the menu plan for tonight, I originally planned to use some spaghetti my cousin had given me recently.  (She’s dieting and avoiding pasta).  When I looked more closely, though, the pasta was ginger, citrus!  Not exactly what I would want in alfredo.  The only other noodles I had on hand were the pad thai rice noodles.

The pad thai rice noodles are best cooked in oil in a skillet.

Cook onions in olive oil with a little salt and some of the tuscan seasoning until they were softened and translucent.  Add butter and pesto, and continue to cook until nicely browned.  Add in chicken and noodles, stirring until well blended.  Pour alfredo sauce over it all and heat through.

Before serving, sprinkle with remaining tuscan seasoning and parmesan.

My son, Austin, said this was the best alfredo ever!  Easy add ins:  peppers, mushrooms, spinach.  YUM!

 

 

SAM_2634

1/2 sweet onion, sliced

1/2 green bell pepper, sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, sliced

1/2 lb. honey ham, chopped

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. butter

1 tsp. smoked paprika

2 boxes large shells

2 jars cheese sauce (or 3 c. homemade)

2 c. shredded sharp cheddar

1/2 c. panko bread crumbs, seasoned to taste (I used 1 Tbsp. Tuscan seasoning)

2 Tbsp. butter

Put water on to boil to cook shells.  I add salt and minced garlic in the water for extra flavor.

Saute ham, peppers and onions in olive oil until soft and translucent.  Add butter and sprinkle with smoked paprika or barbecue seasoning.

SAM_2633

Drain cooked shells, reserving a little pasta cooking water to swish around in jars to get the remains of the cheese sauce.

Place half of the shells in a prepared 13 x 9 baking dish.

Layer ham, pepper and onions evenly over shells.

Top with remaining shells.

Sprinkle with cheese.

Place butter in pan used to cook ham and veggies and melt over medium high.

Add panko crumbs and seasoning.  Stir regularly until toasty and brown.

Sprinkle over cheese.

Bake at 350F for 25 minutes.

 

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