September 28, 2011

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Fall is upon us and all I want to do is be in my kitchen baking something.  Carrot Cake is a fall food to me; I think it's because it has cinnamon and spices that remind me of fall. I was really happy to make these for a friend of mine who is temporarily leaving town.  She'll be back in a year, but I miss her already. 

I made these for her going away party we had last weekend in our neighborhood and I was really happy with them.  The addition of crushed pineapple in the recipe is unexpected but so delicious. This recipe was for a cake and I made cupcakes out of it.  I'm not sure if there is a conversion necessary when doing this because they didn't release easily from the papers. The taste far outweighed any issues we had with unwrapping them..

Tender, flavorful, and sort of healthy....I mean they have carrots and pineapple so basically health food right? With the addition of raisins and nuts you have a pretty well rounded food.

Topped with Cream Cheese frosting, so good! Cream Cheese frosting recipe below.

Recipe found here

3 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 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 cups shredded carrots (I used 3 cups because I didn't add the coconut, walnuts or raisins).
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple with juice
1 cup raisins

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  If you're making a cake - grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.  For cupcakes this recipe made 12 regular sized cupcakes and 24 minis.

In a bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

In another bowl add the shredded carrots and pineapple.  If you're using coconut, walnuts and raisins add them as well.

In the mixing bowl of your stand mixer add the eggs, buttermilk, oil, sugar and vanilla extract.  Mix well.  Add the flour mixture and incorporate well. Using a large wooden spoon or heavy spoon incorporate the carrot mixture by hand. 

Pour into the cake pan or muffin papers and bake for 1 hour if using a cake pan, if using cupcake papers it only took me about 25-30 minutes for the regular and about 20-25 minutes for the minis.  Check them often with a toothpick, once it comes out clean they are done.

Let them cool before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting - recipe found here
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all the ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer until smooth.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

September 26, 2011

Tres Leche Cake

Now here is a cake that I really wasn't sure about and to be honest I'm still not sure about it.  The idea of milk soaked cake just doesn't do it for me.  I mean I'm totally the girl who pours a glass of milk to accompany regular desserts but soaking it doesn't appeal to me.  I'd like to tell you that this cake totally won me over, but I'd be lying.  I'm just not a huge fan.  It's a texture thing. However; having said that the people who were at the dinner party that I was at all had some and loved it.  They said it tastes exactly like what they've had in restaurants.  Apparently this texture thing is just me, so if you're into milk soaked cake then this one is for you.  The cake is super sweet too, so you may just want to use unsweetened whipped cream on top, and a dash of cinnamon on top of that would probably take this to a whole different level.

Here is some background on the Tres Leche Cake.  In Spanish it means "three milk cake". Popular in Latin America it's exact origin is under dispute. Nestle claims to have helped develope the cake during World War II.  Europeans have a history of soaking cakes so some believe that it's origins are from that area.

The cake was pretty straight forward to make.  This is a rather firm cake, necessary of course since you're about to soak it in milk.

You are going to combine the three milks you see above. See? Three? Tres? It's making sense to you now right?

I used a wooded skewer to pierce holes in the cake before adding the milk. 

You need a lot of holes to absorb the milk.  Take out some of your aggressions, now is the time.

After you pour all this milk on here, cover it and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so.  I ended up pouring off the excess milk after it came out.

Make a quick whipped cream (or buy some) and frost.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Recipe found here

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
5 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups whole milk
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 fluid ounce) can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 inch pan.

Sift the flour and baking soda together and then set aside.

Cream the butter and 1 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and the vanilla extract and mix well.
Add the flour mixture 2 Tbsp at a time until it's well incorporated.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.

Pierce the cake with a fork or a skewer.

In a separate bowl mix together all three milks.  Pour over the cake, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  I poured off the excess milk at this point.

Make a quick whipped cream by using the heavy cream, 1 cup of sugar and the vanilla extract.  You might want to skip the added sugar here since the cake is very sweet. Spread the whipped cream over the cake and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

September 23, 2011

Broccoli Salad

I was at my friend Kristi's house not long ago and she was having a party where everyone was bringing a dish of some kind.  One of her neighbors brought a broccoli salad and it was a huge hit!  Seems so easy now that I know the recipe!  Nice healthy broccoli in a creamy sauce made from mayo, sugar and vinegar and sprinkled with BACON! Bacon makes eating a nice healthy broccoli salad seem less healthy and more delicious.  The addition of sunflower seeds right before serving really pushes this salad over the top. Every so often you get a bite of the dried cranberry and some red onion.  Whoever thought of this is a genius!

I found this recipe here

10 slices bacon
1 head fresh broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup raisins
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sunflower seeds

In a large frying pan cook the bacon until crisp, move to a plate covered with a paper towel to absorb any grease and let cool.  You can either cook the bacon in full slices and then crumble when cool enough, or you can cut the bacon into pieces before frying it (which is what I did).

In a small bowl combine the mayo, sugar and vinegar and mix until smooth.  In a larger bowl cut the broccoli into bit size pieces.  Chop the red onion into small pieces.  Add the onion and the raisins to the broccoli and coat in the dressing.  Reserve the bacon pieces and sunflower seeds until just before you serve it.

September 21, 2011

Dinner Club - Theme Cajun/Creole

Welcome to the fanciest dinner club we've had thus far! The theme was Cajun/Creole and the host (Anjanette) wanted us to wear high heels and lipstick!  So we did.  And I was in pain. In fact I didn't even wear them past the front door. As you can see from the picture above; some of our neighbors wear heels REALLY well! Lookin good ladies!

This months host was Anjanette T. She's the one in the fancy black shoes on the far left.  Her house is beautiful and pristine even though she's got two girls, the youngest of which is just over a year old!

Look at how beautiful her table setting was.

Anjanette made two delicious dishes.  She made the main dish which was a seafood gumbo, and dessert which was pound cake with a lemon glaze drizzled on top.  Can you believe she'd never made a pound cake before and it turned out so good?  The gumbo was FULL of crab, andioulle sausage, chicken and veggies served over rice.  The pound cake was so moist and the glaze gave it a slight hint of lemon which was perfect after such a big meal.  Recipes below.  Thank you for hosting Anjanette!!

1 cup olive oil
2 cups flour
4 tsp butter
1 ½ onion, chopped
½ green bell pepper, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic
3-4 whole bay leaves
½ tsp ground mustard seed
½ tsp celery salt
2 tsp hot sauce
3 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
2 – 16oz cans of chicken and/or fish stock
1 – 8-10 oz bottle of clam juice
2 chicken bouillon cubes
4-6 cups water
6-8 oz smoked turkey, diced (or a small smoked turkey wing flat section)
1 lb Cajun andouille sausage, sliced or diced
½ lb skinless boneless chicken thighs, diced into large chunks
1 lb peeled and deveined raw shrimp
1 lb of crab legs, section at joints
1 cup cut okra
Filé powder (optional)

Make a roux (gravy) using oil and flour over a medium low heat. Stir constantly for about 30-45 minutes until roux is a rich toffee brown color. Watch heat carefully and do not let roux burn. Add butter, onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic to roux. Add veggies one at a time and sauté until veggies are softened. In a large stock pot add fish/chicken stock, seasonings and smoked turkey and bring to a boil. Brown sausage and add to roux, cook for a couple minutes. Then add roux to stock mixture. This will become your gumbo base. Simmer gumbo base on medium heat for about 30–45 minutes. Add seafood and enough water to cover up to about 2 inches above seafood/meat. Simmer on low for another 2 hours. Add okra after about an hour or so.

Serve over rice and sprinkle each individual serving with a dash of filé powder. Do not add filé to the pot. For the best flavor, make gumbo a day ahead so flavors have time to really meld into each other. Then reheat for about 30-60 minutes on low prior to serving.

Note: You can also add 1 cup shelled oysters, 1 cup clams and/or 1 pound of diced fish fillet. Just increase your stock or add additional water to cover appropriately. If you don’t like seafood, you can use the gumbo base, minus the claim juice and fish stock, and make a turkey or chicken gumbo. Just use chicken stock, add 2 pounds of diced turkey/chicken and reduce water accordingly.

Buttery (almost) Pound Cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, softened and room temperature
5 eggs, room temperature
¼ cup sour cream
¼ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
2 ¼ cups flour
½ tsp salt

Lemon Glaze
1 stick butter
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
1 cup sugar
Zest of ½ lemon
¼ tsp of lemon extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar and butter in large mixing bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Continue beating and add eggs one at a time, until well mixed. Add sour cream, milk, and flavorings. Continue beating and scraping bowl often until well mixed. Reduce speed to low and add flower and salt, until just moistened.

Spoon batter into a well greased floured bundt or tube pan. Bake for approximately 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Melt glaze ingredients together in a saucepan. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool 15 minutes, then pour ¾ of glaze over warm cake. Allow to continue cooling and remove from pan. Then pour remaining glaze over cake.

Teresa made this Cajun Creole Scallops with Rice on the run.  She found and made this recipe only about 25 minutes before dinner club began - so if that's not a testament to how quick and easy it is then I don't know what to tell you. It was so good I'll be making this for my husband sometime soon for sure!

P.S. Teresa is the one wearing the black shoes with the chain around the heel. Second from the right.

Cajun Creole Scallops with Rice
1 can (approximately 15 ounces) stewed tomatoes
12 to 16 ounces sea scallops, fresh or frozen and thawed
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup water
salt and pepper
hot cooked rice

In a medium saucepan combine stewed tomatoes, scallops, onion, and green pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 5 minutes. Blend flour with water; stir until smooth. Add flour mixture to the hot tomato mixture and continue cooking until thickened, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on hot cooked rice.

Melissa made this yummy shrimp scampi.  Melissa (like me) is not accustomed to wearing high heels but she certainly knew how to rock them.  She's second from the left in the picture above. Her shrimp scampi is another one I plan to make often.  I knew it would be a hit when my daughter (who came with me to dinner club) asked to try a noodle and then she asked for more!  Yay!  She wouldn't eat the shrimp but I still consider it a win.

Shrimp Scampi
1 1/2 Shrimp
1/2 C butter - divided
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C chopped parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
1 C. dry white wine
1Tbsp. flour
1 1lb pound box of spaghetti or linguine

In a large pot, heat water to boiling and add the pasta.  Cook for about 7-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Shell and devein the shrimp.
Heat 1/4 C. butter in large skillet.  Saute the shrimp over medium heat for 5 minutes or until pink.  Remove the shrimp and set aside.
Melt the remaining 1/4 C. butter in the skillet.  Add salt, pepper, garlic and parsley and cook for 1 minute.  Add the lemon juice and wine.  cook until the mix has reduced by 1/4. Whisk in the flour until dissolved.  Return the shrimp to the pan with the cooked noodles and mix well. Serve immediately.

Lynn T. made this yummy bread pudding with a whiskey cream sauce - I'll try to get the recipe for this.  It was so good; the cream sauce almost knocked my socks off. That's not saying much, I'm quite the lightweight.

Lynn is also a newcomer to our dinner club - welcome Lynn, we loved having you there and can't wait to see you again soon!

Cajun cornbread made by another newcomer to our dinner club, Emily!  Welcome Emily we're so glad you could make it.  Emily is actually going to be gone for about a year :( so her first dinner club is also her last until next year. We can't wait to get you back Emily. Emily is wearing the super cute shoes on the far right side in the picture above. Super cute! I'll try to get her recipe for the cornbread.

See that delicious looking concoction to the left?  I was just about in a coma after drinking it.  It tasted like juice, you couldn't even tell there was alcohol in it.  Shannon is responsible for this one! She's also responsible for the sugar high I was in all night from these awesome pralines.  So good! She's pictured in the middle of the very first picture wearing the wedges because she hurt her ankle; but I've seen her high heels and they would me in a cast if I tried to wear them. Hopefully recipes to be posted for both soon!  Thanks as always Shannon!

Lisa W. made the yummy dish above.  I'm wracking my brain trying to remember what she called it but as usual I can't remember.  I will update this as soon as she hits me over the head and sends me the recipe. :) Love you Lisa!  Thanks for coming!

I also wanted to throw a shout out to Tineill who is another newbie to our dinner club.  She wasn't able to make it for the whole night because she had her kids with her but we're looking forward to seeing her next time!

I made Red Beans and Rice for the event and I will post the recipe separately for it. Isn't that a great picture of my dinner plate?  I ate it all.  Yes I sure did!  Then I had dessert.  I must be stopped. Oh, and don't forget the bowl of gumbo I ate that isn't pictured.  Geesh. The Red Beans and Rice are at the top - you know, with the red beans. :)

September 19, 2011

Redneck Rigatoni

Dad, this one's for you.  My dad told me about an "appetizer" he'd created on the fly for some hungry kids at the house one day.  You think I'm kidding?  I'm not.  This appetizer is seriously easy.  I can't believe I'm even writing a post about it; I'm totally giggling right now.  Here's what you do.  Pay close attention because this is REALLY complicated.  Take a box of rigatoni (I used the smaller rigatoni size) and boil it to al dente. Let it cool slightly so you can handle it. Open a can of Easy Cheese (you choose the flavor), hold your finger over one end of the rigatoni and put the spout of the Easy Cheese can in the other end.  Fill. Now you're done.  Eat it.

Fancy I know.  Aren't you jealous that you didn't think of it?  Or maybe you did.  My co-worker has given me some good ideas on how to take this one step further; when that happens you'll be the first to know.  Well, second to know since I'll tell my co-worker first since he thought of it.


September 16, 2011

Sweet Cornbread

I realize that living in the South means I should be making cornbread about once a week; but I always forget about cornbread as an option.  It's so weird too because I love it! Now, I'm not the traditional "no sugar" cornbread fan but I'm not really from the South either so I guess I'm excused.

I've tried a lot of different recipes for cornbread but I'm really liking this one.  It comes together quickly and bakes up perfectly.  Just sweet enough without being too sweet.  Even my picky eater likes this.  Perfect along side a big bowl of chili or your favorite fried chicken!

Sweet Cornbread
Recipe from AllRecipes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400
  2. Spray a 9 inch round cake pan with non-stick spray
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients first, then add the wet and stir until incorporated.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

September 13, 2011

Black Magic Cake

This recipe claims to be the "Best Chocolate Cake Ever"!  I'm not even sure if I'd be able to identify the best chocolate cake ever because my tastes change depending on my mood.  However, I will say that this is an amazing cake. I think the frosting was good but more middle of the road, but the cake was moist and chocolaty and delicious!  Definitely a keeper in my recipe book.

Easy to put together.  I was happy that the addition of coffee didn't come through in the taste of the cake since I'm not a coffee drinker. There was also buttermilk added which is a different ingredient than most of other chocolate cake recipes but I think it was yummy.

The frosting was good also, I think I can find a different frosting for the next time I make this as the recipe provided was just enough for the cake.  I wished I had more for the middle. :) I likey frosting.

I found the recipe on the "Just a Pinch" site here

1 3/4 c all purpose flour
2 c sugar
3/4 c cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 c strong black coffee, cooled
1 c buttermilk
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 tsp real vanilla extract

1/2 c margarine, softened
2 oz melted unsweetened chocolate, cooled
3 c powdered sugar
3 Tbsp milk
2 tsp real vanilla extract

In the bowl of your stand mixer; combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a medium sized bowl combine the eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil and vanilla.  Mix well and then incorporate into the dry ingredients.  Mix for two minutes.  Mixture will be thin.
Grease and flour a 9x13 in pan OR two 9 inch round pans.  Pour the batter in the desired pan and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes for a 9x13, or 30-35 minutes for layer pans.

Cool the cakes completely before frosting them. I think this would be plenty of frosting for the 9x13 inch pan but if you're doing two 9 inch pans you might want to double it knowing you'd have some extra.

September 9, 2011

Bacon Wrapped Smokies with Brown Sugar

Have you ever had appetizers for dinner? I love doing that, it's my favorite type of dinner although I don't get to do it very often. Well I invited a friend of mine over recently to do just that.  She made a couple, I made a couple and then we sat around and stuffed ourselves.  It was great fun. I'll be posting the rest of them on here in the next week or so. When trying to find the perfect appetizers for our little get-together I decided one should be meat.  This one was super easy and super yummy.  You only need three ingredients!

Get a package of little smokies, a package of bacon and some brown sugar.  Cut the bacon in thirds and wrap around each wiener and put them onto a kabob stick.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is cooked and the brown sugar has melted.

Recipe found here

1 - 16 oz package of little smokies
1 package bacon - not the thick cut bacon
1/2 to 1 cup of brown sugar - depending on your taste

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the bacon into thirds and wrap each smokie link with the bacon.  Pierce several of the bacon wrapped smokies onto a skewer and place onto a cookie sheet.  After all smokies have been wrapped and skewered, sprinkle the tops with brown sugar.

Cook for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is cooked and the brown sugar has melted.

September 7, 2011

Stuffed Shells

I'm always on the lookout to try something new.  I think I've made stuffed shells in the past but can't really remember...hence this blog!

Stuffed shells sort of remind me of handy little lasagnas, any I the only one who feels that way? I guess because the ingredients are often time the same.  Anyway, these were awesome.  I loved the creamy ricotta filling smothered in meat sauce. This recipe made plenty for my hubby and I and leftovers for several days afterwards; which is a good thing.  Luckily we both like leftovers but this would be great if you wanted to break it up into to 8x8 pans and freeze one of them for another time. 

First things first, you need to make the filling.  You can just whip this up while the shells are cooking.  Mix the eggs, ricotta, half the mozzarella, half the Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper together in a bowl.

Fill each of the cooked shells full of the mixture and place them in a 9x13 inch dish.  You want the shells to be al dente and slightly cool before stuffing. I leave my shells in some water so they don't stick together.

I sort of over crowded mine in a 9x13 inch dish, but they all turned out nicely so I guess you can just pack them in there.

In a bowl, mix together your pasta sauce and the reserved mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  Pour over the top of the shells.

Bake in a pre heated 350 degree oven for about 45 to 60 minutes. 

I served mine with a nice big salad - because that totally cancels out all the calories in the stuffed shells....right? Huh? Never mind.

Recipe found here

1 (12 ounce) package jumbo pasta shells
2 eggs, beaten
1 (32 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1 pound shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
8 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (28 ounce) jar pasta sauce (I used homemade pasta sauce)
8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms (our homemade sauce had mushrooms in it already)

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start a large pot of salted water to boil over medium heat.  Add the shells and stir to ensure they aren't sticking together. Cook until Al Dente. I add cold water to my shells so they cool off enough for me to handle but also stay wet so they don't stick together.

Mix together the ricotta cheese, eggs, half of the Mozzarella cheese, half of the Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. When the noodles are done and cool enough to handle, begin filling them with this mixture.  Place each shell in a 9x13 inch pan (or two 8x8 inch pans if you plan to freeze half).

In a separate bowl, mix the sauce and the leftover mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  Pour the sauce over the shells and then bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until the cheese is melted and it's beginning to get golden brown on top.

September 6, 2011

Old Fashioned Fig Bars

I have to be honest.  I'm a sucker for recipes that say they're "old fashioned", I just can't help myself.  I feel like I'm going to like it more if it tastes anything like my gramma used to make.  Most of the time it's true too.  I found some fresh figs at Trader Joes the other day and decided to give them a try.  I've never actually bought fresh figs before so this was a new one for me.  Turns out there are some mighty tasty options out there but the word "old fashioned" got me hooked on this one.

Look at all that beautiful color!

OK, take some of these beauties and dice them up.

Put them into a large pot with the lemon juice and sugar and cook over medium heat until they've reduced to about 2 cups.

Remove from the heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the sugar and butter and cream together. In another bowl add the other dry ingredients except the oats.

Add the dry ingredients to the sugar/butter mixture and mix to combine; now stir in the oats.
Take half the mixture and press it into a 9x13 inch pan.

Spread the fig mixture on top of the oat mixture.

Spread the other half of the oat mixture over the top and press down lightly.  Bake at 400 for about 20 - 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown. 

Let cool before cutting.  The top and bottom crust gives a wonderful texture to the sweet center.  I brought the rest of these to work with me and they were a big hit!

I found this recipe from JustaPinch

Fig Center
2 lb figs (3c) fully ripe - cut into pieces
2 Tbsp lemon juice concentrate
1/2 c sugar

Crust and top
3/4 c butter softened
1 c brown sugar, lightly packed
1 3/4 c flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c oats
1/4 c coconut (optional)

Combine the figs, lemon and sugar in a large pot and cook over medium heat until they've reduced to about 2 Cups. Take off the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Pre-heat the oven to 400.

Mix the butter and sugar together in the bowl of your stand mixer.  In a separate bowl add the flour, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl combine the oats and coconut (if you're using it).

Slowly add the flour mix into the butter/sugar mixture and mix until combined.  Stir in the oats (and coconut) by hand.  Take half of this oat mixture and press it into the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan.  Spread the fig mixture over the top and then top with the remaining oat mixture.  Press down slightly.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Cool completely before cutting.