Monday, May 30, 2011

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

I love carrot cake!  It is one of my favorite cake flavors.  My husband requested a carrot cake for his birthday celebration, so I was very happy and eager to make it for him and his family.  As I was making this cake for Bill {with a huge smile on my face}, I was thinking back in my baking memories.  This is the first carrot cake I have ever made.  I have helped my mother and sister make one in the past, but I had never made my own. 

P.S. This cake went so fast I was lucky to get these two photos.  I apologize for the poor photos, but don't judge a book by its cover.  This cake is delicious! 

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
Preheat oven 350o

Carrot Cake
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
 2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded carrots (5 medium)
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)
8 ounce can crushed pineapple, drained (optional)

Grease bottom and sides of 2 round cake pans, with shortening & flour.  I also cut out parchment paper to put at the bottom of my cake pans for easy cake removal. 

Beat sugar, oil and eggs in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed about 30 seconds or until blended.  Add remaining ingredients except carrots, nuts, and pineapple; beat on low speed for 1 minute.  Next, stir in carrots, nuts, and pineapple.  Pour batter equally into the two cake pans.

Bake cake rounds for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, remove cakes from pans to wire racks.  Cool completely before frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter or stick margarine
2 to 3 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla in medium bowl with electric mixer on low speed until smooth

Gradually beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, on low speed until smooth and spreadable.  Frost first round, then layer the second cake on top and finish frosting.  Store frosted cake or any remaining frosting in the refrigerator. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mini Egg Omelet Recipe

I love easy, on-the-go treats.  These mini egg omelets make running out the door to work, school or any errands a little less hectic.  I like to make these mini omelets with various veggies and meats I have on hand. 

Once the omelets are baked off and cooled, I store them in an airtight container and place them in the refrigerator.  When a fast breakfast or snack is all there is time for, just pop them in the microwave for about a minute to heat them up.  In no time you have a very healthy and filling meal. 

Mini Egg Omelet Recipe
Makes 12
Preheat 350o

6 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1/3 cup green pepper, chopped
1/3 cup steak, cooked and chopped
1/3 cup asiago cheese
Oil spray

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper together.  Once mixed, add in the veggies, meat and cheese.  Mix until everything is incorporated and coated by the egg mixture.

Grease all 12 muffin tins.  Pour the egg mixture into the muffin tins filling them 3/4 full. 

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes and remove mini omelets from tins. 


1)      Make these mini omelets your own!  Add any mixture of veggies, meats and cheese that you prefer. 
2)      If you want to make these with just egg whites or egg substitute that would work perfectly. 
3)      You could take this recipe a step further and add a mini crust to each tin

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shrimp Bisque Recipe

The flavors in this shrimp bisque are defined and bold.  The leeks have a soft onion flavor, the shrimp stands out as the center of attention and the undertones of the sherry complements each spoonful.  This bisque is a favorite in my house and for all of our guests who have it with us. 

The best part about this bisque is that it is simple to make and your guests will think you spent hours layering all of the flavors.  I love to serve this bisque with a flat bread with melted cheese on top.  I made a simple flat bread with my dough recipe and sprinkled some asiago cheese on top before baking. 

Shrimp Bisque Recipe
Inspired by Ina Garden
Serves 6

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
4 cups vegetable stock
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (3 cloves)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup dry sherry
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the shrimp shells and vegetable stock in a saucepan and simmer for 15 minutes.  Strain and reserve the stock.  Add enough water to make 3 3/4 cups.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the leeks and cook them for 10 minutes over medium-low heat, or until the leeks are tender but not browned. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add the cayenne pepper and shrimp and cook over medium to low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then the sherry and cook for 3 minutes longer. Transfer the shrimp and leeks to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until coarsely pureed.

In the same pot, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook over medium-low heat for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the half-and-half and cook, stirring with a whisk, until thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pureed shrimp, the stock, tomato paste, salt, and pepper and heat gently until hot but not boiling.

Season, to taste, and serve hot.

      1) The original recipe calls for seafood stock.  I don't typically make my own stocks, so I start with vegetable stock for this recipe.  If you have seafood stock on hand, feel free to use that.
      2)  This soup freezes well. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Strawberry & Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast Recipe

I love when birthdays fall on the weekends.  That means that a fun breakfast can be included into the festivities!  My husband celebrated his birthday on the 14th, and that meant a special breakfast for him to wake up to.  I love to add new twists on the traditional breakfast foods.  For Bill's birthday, I decided to add a smooth cream cheese and sweet strawberry 'stuffing' to french toast. 

The stuffed french toast was assembled like a sandwich, spreading cream cheese on both sides of the bread to hold everything together.  If you don't have strawberries on hand any other fruit would work well; blueberries, raspberries, banana, apple, pears, etc. 

Strawberry & Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast Recipe
Serves 2

3 eggs
1 teaspoon of milk
2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon vanilla
4 slices of bread
4 ounces of cream cheese
5 large strawberries, sliced
1 teaspoon powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting

Grease and heat a griddle pan. 

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, 1 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine with a fork the cream cheese, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. powdered sugar.  Spread mixture onto all 4 slices of bread.  On two slices, place the strawberries in a single layer on top of the cream cheese mixture.  Place the extra slice of bread, cream cheese side down, on top of the strawberries and gently push them together. 

Dip the stuffed bread into the egg mixture, coating both sides, and place on the hot griddle.  Cook each side until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Serve immediately sprinkled with powdered sugar. 

      1)  Feel free to double this recipe if you want to make it for more people.  The measurements are flexible and you can make it to your taste.
      2)  We used whole wheat bread, but this would be just as good with white, brioche, challah, or your favorite type of bread
     3) As mentioned above, feel free to mix and match any of your favorite fruits to this recipe. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Basil Pesto with Whole Wheat Pasta Recipe

Bring on the fresh herbs!! They are one of my favorite things about summertime gardens.  Fresh herbs add amazing flavor to a standard dish, and bring it to a whole new level!

I used to think that pesto was difficult to make, but after my first try, my fear dissolved.  With my handy food processor and short list of fresh ingredients, in just a few minutes, you too can have a delicious pesto bursting with sweet basil flavor. 

Basil Pesto with Whole Wheat Pasta Recipe
Serves 6

1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
1/3 cup walnut pieces (a generous handful)
2 1/2 cups packed basil leaves
1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
Salt & Pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a ladleful of the pasta cooking water.

In a small skillet, toast the nuts over medium-low heat, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, about 4 minutes; let cool.

Using a food processor, puree the nuts, basil, and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper. With the machine on, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream and mix until a thick paste forms. Transfer the pesto to a large pasta bowl.   Stir in the parmesan and reserved pasta cooking water.

Add the pasta to the pesto, toss and let stand for 1 minute.

      1)  Usually people use pine nuts for pesto.  If you want to substitute those for the walnuts, that is fine.  I like to use the walnuts because they are cheaper and prove the same nutty flavor.
      2)  Pesto is very versatile.  You don't have to add this onto pasta.  You can use this pesto sauce on pizza, in a soup, over grilled chicken, or as a dip for bread.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Chocolate Butterscotch Cookie Recipe

Chewy, chocolate, butterscotch heaven!! These cookies far exceeded my expectations!  I have had a bag of butterscotch chips in my pantry for a while now, just screaming at me to bake with them.  I had thought long and hard about what I wanted to create with them, and chocolate cookies came to mind. 

Chocolate Butterscotch Cookie Recipe
Inspired by All Recipes
Makes approximately 4 dozen

1 1/4 cups butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups butterschotch chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in the chocolate chips. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8 to 9 minutes in the preheated oven. Cookies will be soft. Cool slightly on cookie sheet; remove from sheet onto wire rack to cool completely.

      1)  These cookies freeze well.  So, if you don't want all 4 dozen + cookies tempting you on your counter, you can freeze some away for later.
      2)  If you don't have butterscotch chips in your pantry, no worries.  You can juse chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, walnuts, etc.  Anything you have around.  You can just make the plain chocolate cookies. 
These cookies are so soft and chewy with just the right amount of chocolate flavor baked in, accompanied by the creamy butterscotch chips. 

Warning: You can not eat just one of these! I couldn't even control myself while taking the photos. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Gazpacho Recipe

Gazpacho is a delicious tomato based soup.  It is a "liquid salad" from the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, made of ripe tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers and garlic served cold.  I have had this soup at some wonderful restaurants and this weekend I decided it was time to learn how to make it.  It was worth all of the chopping!

When I am in the kitchen, I love to learn cooking new techniques.  I have never peeled a tomato before, so this was a fun recipe for me to follow.  It was so easy (directions below).  Above are my beautiful, red, ripe tomatoes ready to begin the peeling process cut with X's. 

Gazpacho Recipe
Recipe by Alton Brown
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
Tomato juice
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon toasted, ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

Fill a 6-quart pot halfway full of water, set over high heat and bring to a boil.

Make an X with a paring knife on the bottom of the tomatoes. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for 15 seconds, remove and transfer to an ice bath and allow to cool until able to handle, approximately 1 minute. Remove and pat dry. Peel, core and seed the tomatoes. When seeding the tomatoes, place the seeds and pulp into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl in order to catch the juice. Press as much of the juice through as possible and then add enough bottled tomato juice to bring the total to 1 cup.

Place the tomatoes and juice into a large mixing bowl. Add the cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, jalapeno, garlic clove, olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, cumin, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the mixture to a blender and puree for 15 to 20 seconds on high speed. Return the pureed mixture to the bowl and stir to combine. Cover and chill for 2 hours and up to overnight. Serve with chiffonade of basil.

      1)  Instead of using a blender, I was able to use my immersion blender and it worked out perfectly.
      2)  Definitely make this soup ahead of time and allow all the flavors to meld together. 
      3)  I served my gazpacho with some french bread on the side.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cherry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies Recipe

I love oatmeal cookies.  They are so soft and chewy.  It is also fun to add different fill-ins to make an ordinary cookie extraordinary!  Today I was inspired by the dried cherries that I had in my cabinet.  I decided to add them into the cookies to add a tart flavor, along with some chocolate chips. 

Cherry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Inspired by Quaker Oats
Makes about 3 Dozen

1 1/4  cups (2-1/2 sticks) margarine or butter, softened
3/4  cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2  cup granulated sugar
1  egg
1  teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
1  teaspoon baking soda
1  teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2  teaspoon salt
3  cups old fashioned oats (uncooked)
1 cup dried cherries, chopped
1 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375°F.

In large bowl, beat margarine and sugars until creamy. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt; mix well. Add oats, cherries and chocolate chips; mix well.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8 to 9 minutes for a chewy cookie or 10 to 11 minutes for a crisp cookie. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.
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