Friday, October 17, 2014

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting



It's finally time for...

The hubby's birthday cake!

This cake was a smashing success. It was gone in 3 days, and the only reason it lasted 3 days was because I asked the hubby to leave a piece for me to take pictures of. You know, when it was sunny and I had all this wonderful, natural light. Luckily, I was blessed with light on the 3rd day and by bedtime that night, the cake was a distant memory. Probably the fastest a birthday cake has ever gone in this house. I guess we really know what the hubby's favorite cake is now. 

This cake worked for everyone. I had bought mini-vanilla cupcakes at the grocery store for the kids, as I wasn't sure if they would eat the cake after they learned it was called carrot cake. We are talking, like, extremely picky eaters here. To my pleasant surprise, only 1 of them put up a fight over the carrot cake and by the end of the day, even he had tried it and liked it. You know it's good when the kids devour it. My niece said she wanted this cake for her birthday. Minus the walnuts, of course. Psssh, kids.


I'm not the world's best baker. I get really nervous every time I have to serve cake to a large crowd of people. Will it be dry? Will it taste good? Is it too sugary? Too dense? I get worked up every time, imagining all the ways the cake could go wrong. Does this feeling go away with time and experience? I don't know yet, because I was beyond nervous as we cut into this cake. Turns out I had nothing to worry about, because I was immediately met with rave reviews. The cake is super moist and flavorful. Not too dense. Not too sweet. Just flat-out mmm, mmm good. 

My other worry? It wasn't big enough to feed a crowd. This concern turned out to be a non-issue. The cake feeds plenty.


Everyone loved the frosting in the middle. The hubby's aunt exclaimed her excitement as soon as the first piece was cut (she's a frosting nut!). The maple-y, creamy frosting works amazingly with the cake. 

The hubby's family just loves to celebrate birthdays...


Putting candles on the cake.


My MIL and I lighting the candles.


Birthday boy blowing out his candles.


Instead of a crazy picture of the whole family, I thought I'd share one where we all look quite normal. You know, because we are normal :)

I'm afraid I have some bad news, and you all probably saw this coming. I'm taking next week off from the blog. Boooo. Yes, I realize I took 2 weeks off in September. The audacity. However, this is technically, technically, my honeymoon. Plus, after calling AT&T yesterday, we realized we have no international plan on our phones. Sooooo, the internet is not something I'm going to be using a whole lot of down in Mexico. I'm sorry to take so much time off this fall, but that's just the way the cookie crumbles. 

Ha ha. What a perfect foodie metaphor!

See y'all in a week!


Ingredients:

Cake-
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup canola oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup pineapple puree (I took 8 ounces sliced, canned pineapple and pureed until smooth)
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, room temp
3 cups grated, peeled carrot
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Frosting-
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Butter and flour 2 (9 inch) springform pans. 
2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour through nutmeg. Whisk to combine. Set aside.
3. Combine oil through pineapple puree. Whisk until well blended. Mix in the vanilla. Mix in the eggs, one by one. Add the flour mixture, mix until well blended. Using a spatula, fold in the carrot and ginger.
4. Divide batter evenly among pans. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting. 
5. To make the frosting, combine cream cheese through maple syrup in a large mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer (you could make this in a stand mixer as well), beat until fluffy. Let chill for 20 minutes in fridge before using, to hold its shape.
6. To assemble the cake, frost one entire cake. Then place the second cake on top, and continue frosting the whole cake. Sprinkle the walnuts on top, if using. Slice, and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container for 2-3 days. 
Recipe by Rasa Malaysia.
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Linked to: Weekend Potluck, Foodie Friday, Foodie Friends Friday Linky Party

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Eggplant and Orzo Casserole Soup


I've got another leftover recipe for you!

When my parents were visiting last month, I made my Cheesy Eggplant and Orzo Casserole for them. Even though there were 4 of us chowing down on it, I still had significant leftovers. I've said this before, and I'll say it again, it's hard to make proportionate casseroles. With 2 in my household, I always wind up with proliferous amounts of leftover casserole. Heck, even with 4 munching on this casserole, I still had a lot of leftover food. I had an idea with this casserole however...

Why not turn this?


Into this!


It was super easy to make this jump. While the casserole was still cold, I removed the melted cheese layer from the top. It just came right up, although it did take some orzo up with it. Sacrifices, right? Anyhoo, I heated up some chicken broth and when it came to a simmer, I dumped the entire casserole into the pot. Then I added a 10 oz bag of spinach. A dusting of parmesan cheese,  and some crusty french bread were all we needed to round out the meal.

I have to admit when I told the hubby about this idea of mine, the look on his face wasn't exactly encouraging. I think he thought I was crazy. Dumping a casserole into soup? Unheard of. For a moment, I hesitated. Maybe it was just my crazy mind, thinking this combination might work. But in the end, what was I going to do with all this casserole? Throw it away, probably. So I decided to foray ahead. Might as well give it a try. 

The hubby's opinion quickly changed upon first bite of soup. He was genuinely surprised the soup was good. I was satisfied by his quick change in attitude. Everything in the casserole makes for excellent soup bedfellows. Orzo, mushrooms, eggplant, red bell pepper- all perfectly seasoned. What leftover casserole I had made a big batch of soup, so I was also able to freeze a bag of it. Another meal in the pipeline! Another economically and nutritionally sound dinner choice. We all win.

So, the hubby and I are currently getting everything ready to go on vacation. We headed to Huntington, WV yesterday to stock up on anything we still needed for the trip. Which was basically stuff for the hubby. He came home with swimming trunks, 2 pairs of jeans, 3 polos, and a pair of shoes. Oh, and a Beats Pill wireless speaker. His birthday present. Let me just say, he's more excited about his birthday present than anything we bought for Mexico :) I didn't need as much, but still managed to find excellent clearance at Old Navy. I ended up with 3 tanks, 2 pairs of shorts, and a sundress for $20. That's my kind of shopping. 

I'm getting really, really excited for Cancun. I've got beach brain. All I can think about is sun. And more sun. Oh, and then some more sun :) I'm pretty sure this dreary fall is bumming me out...

And with that, I'll leave you with the recipe. Happy Wednesday everyone!


Ingredients (serves 4):

6-8 cups chicken broth (depending on how much leftover casserole you have)
Leftover Cheesy Eggplant and Orzo Casserole (I used ~4 cups)
1 (10 oz) bag of baby spinach
salt and pepper
garnish- parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

1. In a large stockpot, bring chicken broth to a simmer. When hot, add leftover casserole and bag of spinach. Heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
2. Divide soup into bowls and garnish with parmesan cheese, if using. Serve immediately.


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Homemade Taco Seasoning


All right y'all, this recipe is just for me.

You see, I don't like to buy taco seasoning. I don't see the point when I keep all the ingredients on hand. I have a go-to recipe I use for taco seasoning, but I've adapted it. Between scouring the internet for the recipe I use and trying to remember the measurements I like, I finally decided I needed to write down my adaptation in one place, so I don't have to do all this work every time I need taco seasoning. So here we are.

I was reading this article on The Prairie Homestead, and it really got me thinking about what I buy vs. what I make homemade. It's amazing to me what kind of convenience items we buy at the store. It amazes me what convenience items I buy at the store. I make a lot of stuff homemade, but there are certain products that I buy and keep on hand. Almond milk. Tortillas. Dried pasta. You know the drill. All items I could make, but are just so easy to pick up. Seasoning mixes don't happen to be one of those convenience items I purchase. I make my own steak rub, my own pumpkin pie spice, and my own taco seasoning. Making your own seasoning is awesome. What if you hate how much chili powder they put in those packets, and you want more cumin flavor? Alter the recipe. Want it less spicy? Skip the crushed red pepper. Does garlic make your world go round? Throw more in there! I personally like the flavor of cumin to really punch through, and I like my seasoning spicy. Caliente! That's the beauty of creating your own- the power to tinker. Plus, what's in those little taco seasoning packets? You know, besides the spices. What chemicals and preservatives are in there?


There's so much information out there these days when it comes to food choices. I find a lot of it educational and useful, but at the same time, there seem to be a lot of articles trying to shame people for their food choices. In a perfect world, we'd all eat more fruits and veggies than steaks, we'd throw those TV dinners in the trash, and we'd all eat organic. It's just not plausible. As I stumble my way through the sheer volume of information out there involving food, it's hard to keep straight what's good and what's not. You can find articles out there denouncing genetically modified produce and at the same time, you can find articles extolling their benefits. Articles praising veganism, and on the other hand, articles claiming it's not a balanced diet. Why you should eat meat. Why you shouldn't eat meat. Wheat causes all kinds of health problems. Wheat sensitivity is all in our heads. I think I'd go crazy if I tried to literally live by all these opinions. What I do know is that I take it all with a grain of salt. I've come to realize I'll never be perfect, and neither will my diet. I do try to eat clean the majority of the time, I allow myself as much fruit and vegetables every day as my heart desires. I try to limit the processed stuff, but it's just not feasible for me to make fresh mayonnaise everyday. Or to completely steer clear of Cheetos Puffs. However, taco seasoning is easy to make and keeps for a looooong time. I made a small mason jar that will probably last me for years

Ok friends, I'll admit taco seasoning might not make for the most fascinating blogging. I do suggest putting this recipe back though, you never know when it might come in handy. Perhaps on taco night when you were 100% certain you had taco mix, only to discover -uh oh- you don't! This could definitely come in handy :)



Ingredients:

3 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp cumin
3 tsp sea salt
3 tsp black pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp Mexican oregano (you can use regular)
1 tsp crushed red pepper

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in a small mason jar. Shake to combine. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.


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