Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hippity Hop Over for This Carrot Cake!

I have made a carrot cake every Easter for as long as I can remember, I think since I was in middle school. I have used a variety of recipes over the years, but this one has to be my favorite. I have used this recipe for 4 years now, and it has yet to disappoint. Even my sister in law, who hates carrot cake, loves this one! I believe I found the original recipe on, but I have made some changes and altered it slightly. I do remember the original recipe calling for raisins and nuts, but I omit those. If you wanted to add, I would suggest maybe ¾ to 1 cup of walnuts or pecans, and maybe a cup of raisins.

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups four
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 and ¼ cups vegetable oil
2 cups grated carrots
1 can (20 oz.) crushed pineapple – drained
½ cup flaked coconut

Cake Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease/coat two 9” round baking pans.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice – set aside.

In a separate, larger bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla by hand. Next, add the vegetable oil and stir until combined. (The mixture should be the consistency of pudding.)

Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, then fold in the carrots, pineapple, and coconut.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Transfer cakes from pan to cooling racks. Let cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 packages of cream cheese
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound confectioners sugar
Milk, as needed

Frosting Directions:

Combine the butter, cream cheese and vanilla in a stand mixer, or with an electric hand mixture. Gradually add sugar. Add milk to thin if necessary.

I frost the top of the bottom layer, and then place the top layer on and frost the sides and top. I frost on wax paper, so it is easy to move to a plate or cake platter. I also shave the top of the cakes to make it flat.

I garnish the cake with some grated carrots and sometimes with some of the flaked coconut as well. YUM!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Turkey Tenderloin with a Raspberry Thyme Glaze

I had a turkey tenderloin in the freezer, so I decided to make use of it tonight. I seasoned the turkey with salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme and roasted for an hour and 30 minutes at 325 degrees (followed direction from butcher).

I decided to “whip up” a sauce to accompany the tenderloin using some raspberry preserves and white wine. I say “whip up” only because I truly stood in front of my pantry and the fridge until I had concocted a sauce in my mind. I heated a pan and added 3(ish) tablespoons of raspberry preserves, about ¼ cup chicken stock, and a few splashes of white wine. I finely diced some shallots and minced some garlic to add to the sauce, as well as tossing in some dried thyme, salt, and pepper. I simmered for a few minutes until it reduced a bit, and then added a mixture of 1 tsp. flour with 1 tsp. cold water. I stirred until thickened and kept warm until ready to serve.

I served the meal with green beans, coated lightly in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, pepper, and Jane’s Crazy Salt (a mixture of a variety of salts…my dad ALWAYS had this in the house, and when I saw it in the store the other day, I had to buy it!) and brown rice, which I cooked with chicken stock and a bay leaf for added flavor.

MEME - I've been Tagged!

Cara, of Cara's Cravings, has tagged me for MEME, which means I need to share five interesting things about myself.

1. I lost my father when I was 19 years old (7 years ago). He passed away on April 9, 2001 and I always start to get sad when that date is approaching. He had pancreatic cancer, which is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. The survival rate is so low, it is really astonishing. I am a member of the Pancreatic Cancer Alliance, where we work to inform and spread the word about this terrible disease. We also raise money to fund research and doctors to work on better treatments and maybe someday, a cure.

2. Speaking of losing my father...when I was a senior in college, and the year after I graduated, I used to speak at local colleges and high schools about dealing with the loss of a parent. Most of the time, my audiences were small groups of students who have lost a parent, and it was usually in a lounge-type setting (not that type of lounge, think college dorm lounge). A few times, though, I spoke in front of entire freshman classes as a part of orientation, or in front of an entire senior class as a part of senior week activities. I don't know that I am a great public speaker, but I do know I enjoy it. I get a thrill from being in front of a crowd and having to come up with something intelligent to say! I also loved sharing my story. It was very therapeutic for me.

3. Oh, and the fact that I enjoy talking in front of crowds might explain why I am a teacher. I teach 7th grade English and absolutely LOVE my job!!! I love to talk, love to read, and love to write. Add those things to my need for attention, and I think I have the perfect job! Really though, I love to TEACH. The feeling I get when students "get" what I am teaching is amazing - one I will never sick of. Grading an essay and seeing all the hard work both myself and my students have put into it is so satisfying and inspiring.

4. I have never been to Disneyland. I am the only person I know who has never been. I feel deprived, in a way. My family went on a ton of vacations while I was growing up, but we never made the trek to Disneyland. Maybe someday my children (yet to be born children, that is) and I will visit the theme park together for the first time. Or maybe my husband and I will make that one of our next vacation stops?

5. I LOVE cheese. I love it more than a normal person, that is. I have been known to sit and eat an entire block in one sitting. I have never met a cheese I didn't like. I often have to practice constraint when cooking so I don't add too much cheese (and fat) to the dish. Oh, it is heavenly!

Now, I am not a "popular" blogger, so I worried about who I was going to tag, as many people don't really know of me. I highly doubt that 5 foodies have ever heard of me. But, I decided what the heck, I'll tag a few people whose blogs I check out often enough and just see what happens...

Here are the 5 bloggers I would like to learn 5 interesting things about:

1. Holly of The Pink Lady (not a foodie blog, but a friend of mine who blogs about life in general, or her life in general).
2. Dori of Foodie Fashionista
3. Lauren of Lauren's Culinary Creations
4. Michelle (Chelley) of Sugar and Spice
5. Ashleigh of Ashleigh's Edibles

Rules for the "5 Things" MEME:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their Blogs.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mango Chili Chicken

I was desperate for spring today! So, I created a meal with lots of “spring-y” influences. I had a bottle of mango-chili vinegar in my pantry, and that set off my inspiration.
Marinated Chicken Breasts:
4 tbsp. mango-chili vinegar (Trader Joe’s)
Pinch of red pepper flakes
¼ cup pineapple juice
4 tbsp. mango ginger chutney (Trader Joe’s)

I let the chicken marinate for about 45 minutes, and then broiled them. It would also be delicious grilled, but my neighbor was borrowing my grill pan, and it was still too chilly to get the Weber going outside! When I flipped the chicken, I basted with the marinade for a few minutes, making sure some of the mango, ginger, and chili “chunks” made it onto the chicken.

Salad Dressing:
Splash of pineapple juice
2 tbsp. mango-chili vinegar
Fresh ground ginger
1 tsp. honey
White wine vinegar
3(ish) tbsp. mango ginger chutney
Extra virgin olive oil

I combined all ingredients but the olive oil in my mini-prep food processor. I pulsed for a few seconds and once combined, I streamed in the olive oil. I don’t have exact amounts for some of the ingredients because I mostly just “eye-balled” it until it was the right consistency. I poured the dressing over a garden salad with red onions and fresh mango slices.

I served this meal with some oven roasted asparagus (I roasted with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little garlic).

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Trying to Replicate Mom's Chicken Wings

Today I tried to make my mom’s chicken wings. And failed!!!!! This was my second time making them…and it certainly was not the charm, I guess the saying is true, “third time’s the charm.” I am counting on that, because these wings are SO GOOD, I would hate to not be able to do them justice next time! The first time I made them they were great, not quite mom’s, but pretty close. I didn’t take pictures then, because my camera was lost. This weekend, I decided to try them again, and for whatever reason, they just didn’t work.

First off, I used drumsticks instead of wings, they are easier to handle and contain more meat. That step was OKed by my mom, and in fact, she sometimes uses drumsticks, too. So that couldn’t have been where I went wrong.

I placed the washed drumsticks in a large baking dish (think lasagna sized) and poured a whole bottle of teriyaki sauce over them. I let them sit for about 15 minutes, and then flipped them over. I added a ¼ cup of pineapple juice and a ½ cup of orange juice to the mixture. Next, I sprinkled with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Finally, I poured a half a container of pourable light brown sugar onto the chicken. I baked covered for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. Once the cover was off, I based all of the wings with the sauce mixture, and added nearly the rest of the brown sugar. I cooked uncovered, continuing to baste once in a whole, for about 20 minutes.

The chicken was OK. Just OK. The flavor was subtle, and the caramelization was not nearly as great as when my mom makes them. Hers are so tender, so flavorful, and so deliciously crispy on the outside. Oh well, here’s to next time!

(Oh, and I served this with a side of jasmine rice cooked in coconut milk with pineapples.)