Monday, December 31, 2007

Carrot Cake

I made this for Bernardo's birthday a couple years back. There is a lot of oil in it, but I don't make cake to be healthy. I found the recipe on epicurious.


2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups finely grated peeled carrots (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (about 1/2 ounce)
1/2 cup raisins
4 cups powdered sugar
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

For cake:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with waxed paper. Lightly grease waxed paper. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and vegetable oil in bowl until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into sugar and oil mixture. Stir in carrots, chopped pecans and raisins.

Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 45 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in plastic and store at room temperature.)

For frosting:
Using electric mixer, beat all ingredients in medium bowl until smooth and creamy.

Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with another cake layer. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Using icing spatula, spread remaining frosting in decorative swirls over sides and top of cake. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.) Serve cake cold or at room temperature.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage and Apples

I like this stuffing recipe a bit better than the roasted veggie recipe. I think it provides better balanced flavors, but it obvioulsy is not vegetarian. I'm going to make this for Christmas this year. This is from the Food Network.

1/2 cup butter,
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 tablespoon rubbed sage, crumbled
1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped
4 cups cornbread croutons
4 cups white bread croutons
2 1/2 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Brown sausage in an ovenproof saucepot that has a lid. With a slotted spoon, remove sausage from the pot and pour out the drippings. Add the butter to the pot and melt over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook, until softened. Add apple and cook, until softened. Add herbs and stir. Return sausage to pot. Add croutons and chicken broth and bake stuffing in the oven at 375 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes.

Corn Bread Dressing with Roasted Fall Vegetables

I made this stuffing for Thanksgiving. We had some vegetarians coming over, so I wanted to pick on that could be made vegetarian. I also love roasted vegetables, so thought this would be good for two dishes in one. It was delicious, but maybe a little sweet. Don't let that deter you in trying this. Nothing beats roasted vegetables. I use Jiffy Cornbread mix for the corn bread, but you could make from scratch or buy pre-made. To make vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

1 10-ounce bag pearl onions
2 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices peeled carrots (about 3/4 pound)
2 1/2 cups 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices peeled parsnips (about 3/4 pound)
2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled rutabagas (about 3/4 pound)
2/3 cup olive oil, divided
1 pound crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, stemmed, caps halved
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
6 cups 1/2-inch cubes Cornbread for Dressing
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth

osition 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 425°F. Cook onions in small saucepan of boiling water 2 minutes; drain. Cool slightly; trim and peel. Place onions, carrots, parsnips, and rutabagas in single layer on large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle 1/3 cup oil over and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Place mushrooms and garlic on another rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with remaining 1/3 cup oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast root vegetables until tender and brown around edges, stirring every 15 minutes, about 1 hour. Roast mushrooms and garlic until tender, stirring once, about 30 minutes. Place root vegetables and mushrooms in large bowl. Place garlic in small bowl; mash with fork until pureed. Add pureed garlic, thyme, rosemary, and sage to vegetables; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Vegetable mixture can be made 1 day ahead. Cool vegetables, cover, and chill. Bring mixture to room temperature before continuing.

Place cornbread cubes on large rimmed baking sheet. Let bread cubes stand at room temperature to dry slightly, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2- inch oval baking dish. Add cornbread cubes to vegetables; toss to distribute evenly. Add eggs; toss to coat. Drizzle with melted butter; toss to coat. Add broth and stir to combine (mixture will be very moist). Transfer mixture to prepared dish.

Bake dressing uncovered until lightly browned and crisp around edges, about 45 minutes.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Chicken Caesar Salad

Technically speaking, this is not a traditional caesar salad. There is no raw egg or anchovies in the recipe, but the vinagrette works really well. It's a much healthier version of the salad as it gets its creaminess from emulsifying the mustard with lemon, worcestershire, and olive oil and then mixing it with some parmesan. The saltiness of the anchovies is substituted by worcesteshire, which has anchovies in it (Sorry to the vegetarians who had been eating wocesteshire under the belief that it is vegetarian. It is not.)

You won't believe how yummy this is. Everytime we make it, Bernardo and I say "Holly Cow. How can a salad be so delicious?".

FYI, Bernardo is credited with finding this recipe in Cooking Light.

1 (2-pound) whole roasted chicken, skinned
11 cups torn romaine lettuce (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 cup red bell pepper strips

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 cups plain croutons
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

To prepare salad, remove chicken from bones; shred with 2 forks to measure 3 cups meat. Combine chicken, lettuce, and bell pepper in a large bowl.

To prepare vinaigrette, combine oil and next 7 ingredients (oil through garlic) in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Pour over salad; toss well. Sprinkle with croutons and cheese; toss gently to combine.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Technically speaking, I do not use a recipe to make mashed potatoes. However, this recipe from Gourmet resembles what I usually improvise as the most delicious mashed potatoes on the face of the planet (providing you use enough butter and salt). Most importantly, it's got a description of the proper mashed potato method.

2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes (preferably large)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup whole milk
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Special equipment: a food mill fitted with medium disk, or a potato ricer

Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes. Transfer to a 3-quart heavy saucepan and add 5 cups cold water and 1 teaspoon salt, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Drain potatoes in a colander, then return to pan and cook over moderate heat, shaking pan occasionally, until dry, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a bowl and keep hot, covered. Heat milk, butter, white pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in saucepan over moderate heat until butter is melted.

Force potatoes through food mill or ricer into hot milk mixture in pan and gently stir with a large heatproof rubber spatula just until combined.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cajun Jambalya

I'm not normally a huge Emeril fan, but he is the king of cajun so I use his recipe for Jambalaya. I purchase the spice mix. Most grocery stores carry his line of spices. Serve with a side of cornbread.

12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
4 ounces chicken, diced
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning, recipe follows
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
3/4 cup rice
3 cups chicken stock
5 ounces Andouille sausage, sliced
Salt and pepper

In a bowl combine shrimp, chicken and Creole seasoning, and work in seasoning well. In a large saucepan heat oil over high heat with onion, pepper and celery, 3 minutes. Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, Worcestershire and hot sauces. Stir in rice and slowly add broth. Reduce heat to medium and cook until rice absorbs liquid and becomes tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. When rice is just tender add shrimp and chicken mixture and sausage. Cook until meat is done, about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning.

Creole Seasoning
Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes

I love sweet potatoes. Bernardo does not. This is a recipe that we feel equally enthusiastic about. These were also a favorite of many at my last job as I would bring them to potlucks. Serve with just about any meat. Sweet, spicey, and smokey make for a delicious flavor combination. This comes courtesy of Alton Brown. TAKE NOTE: the instructions call for 1 individual chipotle pepper, NOT a whole can of peppers. Using an entire can would make these almost ineddible. If you are very adventurous, you can use two peppers MAX.

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 whole canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped
1 teaspoon adobo sauce from can of peppers
1/2 teaspoon salt

Put cubed potatoes into steamer basket and place steamer into a large pot of simmering water that is no closer than 2 inches from the bottom of basket. Allow to steam for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Add butter to potatoes and mash with potato masher. Add peppers, sauce, and salt and continue mashing to combine. Serve immediately.

Feta Spinach Bites

I got the idea for this recipe from a cooking light recipe, but simplified it significantly. I love spanikopita, but HATE dealing with phyllo sheets. I found nifty little pre-formed phyllo cups in the freezer section of my grocery store and began making these. This is another one of my standard recipes when I want to take an appetizer to a party.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 generous pinch salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 10 oz. packaged frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 large egg, beaten
1 box (15) Athenos phyllo cups
1 container crumbled feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Heat oil over medium-high heat
3. Saute onions until translucent
4. Add garlic, cook 1 minute
5. Add thawed, dried spinach and salt, saute 3 or 4 minutes until heated through
6. Transfer spinach mixture to bowl allow to cool for 10-15 minutes
7. Add egg to spinach mixture, mix
8. Spoon spinach mixture into phyllo cups, top with crumbled feta
9. Bake until feta begins to brown (15-20 minutes I THINK, but don't really remember, so check them from time to time).

Stuffed Mushrooms

This is one of my go-to recipes when I want to take an appetizer to a party. Goodness knows holiday parties are plentiful this time of year, and I find myself needing an arsenal of recipes. These are extremely simple. They would also make a nice side-dish. I found this recipe on Everyday Italian on the food network.

1/2 cup Italian-style dried bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
28 large (2 1/2-inch-diameter) white mushrooms, stemmed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Stir the bread crumbs, Pecorino Romano, garlic, parsley, mint, salt and pepper, to taste, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl to blend.

Drizzle a heavy large baking sheet with about 1 tablespoon olive oil, to coat. Spoon the filling into the mushroom cavities and arrange on the baking sheet, cavity side up. Drizzle remaining oil over the filling in each mushroom. Bake until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is heated through and golden on top, about 25 minutes. Serve.

Mexican Wedding Cakes

These were common at Christmas time growing up in Pittsburgh. They are simple, buttery treat and aren't extremely sweet. I got this particular recipe from Bon Apetite.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup pecans, toasted, coarsely ground

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until well blended. Beat in flour, then pecans. Divide dough in half; form each half into ball. Wrap separately in plastic; chill until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and cinnamon in pie dish to blend. Set cinnamon sugar aside.

Working with half of chilled dough, roll dough by 2 teaspoonfuls between palms into balls. Arrange balls on heavy large baking sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, about 18 minutes. Cool cookies 5 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon sugar to coat completely. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough. (Cookies can be prepared 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature; reserve remaining cinnamon sugar.)

Sift remaining cinnamon sugar over cookies and serve.

Coffee Cookies

Brandi brought these home from a cookie exchange once. They have quickly become one of my standards.

0.5 cup butter, softened
0.75 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 Tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tsp hot water
1 tsp vanilla extract
0.25 tsp salt
2 cup flour

1. Grate chocolate fine, set aside
2. Cream butter and sugar.
3. Mix in egg, blending well.
4. Stir in dissolved coffee, vanilla, and grated chocolate.
5. Mix salt into flour.
6. Stir flour into wet ingredients, knead briefly.
7. Form unchilled dough into 2 inch balls.
8. Place 4 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
9. Bake at 350 in to 1/3 of oven 10-12 minutes, until edges are slightly dark.
10. Smoosh down warm cookies with spatula and then cool.

Butterscotch Treats

These are a yummy no-bake cookie that I usually make during the holidays. They're a big hit with the nephews. I got the recipe from Brandi.

12 oz. butterscotch morsels
7 oz. dry roasted peanuts
4 TBSP peanut butter
5 oz. can chow mein noodles

Heat morsels and peanut butter until smooth.
Add noodles and peanuts to mixture.
Spoon onto wax paper.
Let cool.