Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

After several failed recipes, I finally made something I can blog about. Carrot cake.
I could probably eat anything with cream cheese frosting, but this cake is something I would consider eating all on its own.
It’s moist, sweet, and I can tell myself it’s healthy; it has carrots. I suggest you tell yourself the same.
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Ingredients:
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded carrots
  • 3/4 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
  • 2/3 cup raisins

for the frosting:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8- inch baking pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and buttermilk. Stir in carrots, coconut, vanilla, and pineapple. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; gently stir into carrot mixture. Spread batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and confectioners sugar. Blend until creamy. Frost cake as you would any two layer cake: begin with first layer. Place 1/4 of cream cheese frosting on top and spread across top of cake. Add second layer and place remaining frosting on top, working frosting down sides of cake and around. Smooth entire surface (or create waves if you want that look).

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Chocolate Cherry Almond Cookies

I’m not saying emotional eating is a good thing, but sometimes you just want need a cookie. It makes you feel better and it helps you realize you can face whatever issue you are working through…so maybe it is kind of a good thing (as long as you don’t eat your way into tomorrow).

I found a recipe for chocolate cherry cookies, and decided to add sliced almonds and some more almond flavor – a great addition when there are cherries involved. And what I really love about this recipe? It doesn’t involve a ton of butter. You can have a few cookies and not feel as though your emotional eating has left you with 5 pounds of regret.

Chocolate Cherry Almond Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup dried tart or sour cherries (if they are large, give them a rough chop)
  • 4 tablespoons semisweet or milk chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • fleur de sel, if desired

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and almond extract. With mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture. Beat until just combined. Fold in cherries, chocolate chips and sliced almonds. The almonds will break up.

Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on to baking sheets coated with cooking spray or lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Bake for 12 minutes or until set. Remove from oven; cool on pans 5 minutes. Sprinkle with fleur de sel if desired. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Chicken Corn Chowder

It’s been too long since I’ve posted, but it was the holidays after all. To make up for it, I’m posting a real gem (woah, I almost spelled that jem…like the 80s cartoon) of a recipe – Chicken Corn Chowder. Its a stick to your bones kind of soup that we ate every last bit of – the entire pot.  I can’t say that about every soup I’ve made.

In addition to the corn and chicken, it has roasted red peppers and potatoes and a little kick from a jalapeno. If you don’t finish the entire pot I’d be mighty surprised. Add in some biscuits and you have a great winter dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 medium potatoes, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups reduced-fat milk
  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken works great here (vegetarians can omit the chicken and its still a great chowder)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (about 3 ears, but you can use frozen)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 2 roasted red peppers from a jar, chopped
  • 1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn

How To:

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery, potato and jalapeño and cook for 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add flour; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook until thick (about 5 minutes). Reduce heat and serve (biscuits work great as a compliment).

Festive Garland Blondies

I do love blondies – a rich vanilla brownie – and I love them even more with white chocolate. I thought my recipe needed to stop there, but I was wrong (so, so wrong). There is so much more to add like dried cranberries, popcorn, and then some more dried cranberries, thanks to my enlightenment from the Whole Foods “Whole Deal” booklet.

I think back on my days of just plain blondies with white chocolate, and think how naive I was. To think that was all there is.

I changed up the recipe from the Whole Foods version because I like a thicker blondie base. There are also some keys in the recipe to helping make the added toppings stick that I’ve included below. Tis the time of year for Festive Garland Blondies. *teaser* next recipe will be a brownie version!

Festive Garland Brownies, adapted from the Whole Deal newsletter

Ingredients:

  • 1 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries, divided
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups white chocolate chips or chunks, divided
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup salted popcorn (from a microwave bag)

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 9 inch square baking pan with non-stick spray, set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add 3/4 cup cranberries and 1/2 cup of the white chocolate chips or chunks and toss to coat. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add egg and beat until incorporated. Add flour mixture and beat until just combined.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Bake until just cooked through and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Set aside for 5 minutes (but you want to work with it still warm so topping will stick). Melt remaining white chocolate. Spread 2/3 of the melted chocolate over bars and immediately scatter remaining cranberries and popcorn over the top, pressing down gently to help stick. Drizzle remaining chocolate over bars. Set aside until chocolate sets, about 15 minutes. Cut into squares and serve. Store in a sealed container for a few days.

Bavarian Apple Torte

Another mommy recipe (by which I mean a recipe from my mother) with a few of my touches. Not that it wasn’t perfect to start with.

I love this dessert/breakfast/snack. It’s perfect for fall, and a great “thing to have on hand” when you are going to be having many guests or if you are in need of a hostess gift.

The ingredients list is not long and you will find you have most in your pantry. The prep is a cinch and before you know it, your house will be smelling “perfectly wonderful appley baking like” (something that was actually said upon opening our front door).

I feel I am using the term perfect way too easily here, but Bavarian Apple Torte is just, well, kind of perfect.

Ingredients:

crust:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 14 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
cream filling:
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened (can use Neufchatel cheese)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
topping:
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 4 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples (about 2 large apples – use a baking apple such as Mcintosh or Empire
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped almonds

How To:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. For crust, cream the butter and sugar. Beat in vanilla. Gradually blend in flour and salt. Mixture will be crumbly. Pat onto the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Bring crust up about 1 1/2 inches high around the sides.

For the cream cheese filling, beat together the cream cheese and sugar. Add egg and vanilla, blending well. Pour into pastry lined pan and spread filling to the edges.

For topping, combine the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Toss apples in the mixture. Place over cream layer in a domino pattern (or just spoon them on top – totally fine. Tastes the same). Sprinkle with nuts.

Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Continue baking for 25 minutes. Loosen torte from the rim of the pan. Cool before removing and serving. I prefer it chilled.

Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

Trick or Treat? Both please, thank you. It’s macaroni and cheese, but with a trick – the squash. You wouldn’t take a bite and say “ew, squash in my mac n’ cheese.” Instead you say “delicious, this is amazing and say what? It has whole wheat pasta and butternut squash? I think I will have two helpings and feel no guilt.” The treat is you can.
I am not here to convince, however, merely tell you the tale of the best fall macaroni and cheese. It starts with a simple onion saute, goes on to cozy up with butternut squash and is topped with a blanket of melty cheese. It takes no time to prepare and even less time to bake. And, it’s delicious – seriously delicious.
If you are still reading instead of gathering the ingredients, I have tricked you into thinking there was anything more to say.
Ingredients:
  • 1 pound macaroni noodles, can use whole wheat
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 10-ounce packages frozen diced butternut squash
  • 1 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano blend, divided
  • 1/2 cup shredded muenster cheese
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
How To:

Bring water to a boil, season with salt and cook macaroni to according to package directions, leaving the macaroni with a slight bite (al dente). Heat butternut squash in microwave according to package directions (or use stove top). Set aside. Squash should be very soft – turn into a puree with the back of a spoon.

Preheat broiler and place rack in middle of the oven.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, saute the onion and garlic until soft, about 6 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour, then add stock and milk. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add to onions and garlic. Stir to combine. Add butternut squash, mix and reduce heat. When sauce comes to a bubble, stir in 3/4 cup parmigiano and muenster cheeses. Combine the sauce and macaroni, transfer to a casserole dish and top with remaining parmigiano-reggiano, shredded cheddar and paprika. Brown the macaroni under broiler, about 5 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and deliciously brown.

Caramel Apple Bars

Since my experiments in making caramel apples with homemade caramel all backfired, I found a new method of delivery for caramel apples – in the form of bars. This recipe brings all those flavors into an oat filled, crunchy, gooey, yummy little (or big) square.
I find eating caramel apples to be a little difficult. The caramel gets all over, I have the tendency to bump the apple into my chin, and the stick in the middle is hard to navigate. At the end, the apple often falls off into pieces.
With bars, there is no mess, no fuss, no muss. They are very sweet and a little bit salty, something lacking in caramel apples unless they had a sprinkling of sea salt (which would be a great addition). And now that I have the ideas flowing, adding peanuts or peanut butter would be awesome in this recipe. Some crunchy chopped peanuts on the top or using peanut butter instead of butter in the crust…I might have to revise this recipe at some point, but for now the caramel and apples work mighty well.
Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 (14 ounce) package individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped (or 1 recipe homemade caramel)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups peeled, cored and diced apples (small dice)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • sea salt or fleur de sel for sprinkling (as much or as little as you want, I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
for caramel:
  • 1 stick unsalted butter butter
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or fleur de sel
How To:
If you are making the caramel, take out an 8″ X 8″ glass baking dish. Your caramel will cool here. Dice butter into even sized cubes. Add sugar to a medium sauce pan and add 3 tablespoons water. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add butter and stir slowly until combined. Add corn syrup and half and half; mix.

Cook and stir on medium for one minute, then to medium to high heat until boiling. Once boiling, clip on a candy thermometer. Reduce heat to medium and keep a steady boil, stirring occasionally. Watch the temperature – you want to reach 240 degrees. Remove from heat, add vanilla and salt and stir. Pour into baking dish and set aside.

For the bars, preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the brown sugar, butter and pumpkin until smooth. Combine flours, oats, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until well blended. Set aside 2 cups of this mixture. Press the rest of the mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9″ x 13″ baking pan.
In a medium bowl, toss diced apples with lemon juice. Add the 3 tablespoons flour and toss again. Spread apple mixture evenly over the crust. If caramel has set at all, microwave for 10 to 20 seconds, or until pourable. Spread over apple layer. Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture over the top of the caramel layer. Press down lightly. Sprinkle with sea salt or fleur de sel.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the apples are tender. refrigerate and cut when room temperature or cool. Refrigerate left over bars.