Monday, April 21, 2014

Classic Carrot Cake


Well, another Easter has came and went. I love that my boys are getting older and they enjoy these Holidays more. Easter egg hunting with them was a blast. I love their pure excitement and genuine intrigue.
It teaches me to be a different adult, that's for sure.

While the joys of Easter baskets and eggs are no longer my main focus at Easter, I still love all things food related. For any Holiday really.

So, I asked on my Facebook page what everyone was planning to make for Easter dessert and carrot cake was definitely a favorite.

And the surprising part? As much as I love carrot cake, I don't think I've ever made one at home! What have I been waiting for!?

Spicy moist cake studded with pecans and carrots. Thick layers of velvet cream cheese frosting that is studded with toasted pecans. Heaven. On a plate.

The best part? It is relatively easy! Long gone are the days of the feelings of overwhelming layer cakes. I will definitely be keeping this cake in my Holiday rotation!


For the Cake:
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for coating the pans
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped pecans

For the Frosting:
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar (I used slightly less than a whole box)
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 3- 9" baking pans with cooking spray and flour. Cover the bottom with parchment paper and spray lightly again with cooking spray, set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the 2 cups of flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
Beat in the eggs and vegetable oil with a hand mixer until incorporated.
Stir in grated carrots and pecans.
Evenly distribute between the three pans (about 1 1/2 cups of batter each).
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely before inverting on to cooling rack.

In the bowl of you stand mixer, combine the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Add in the powdered sugar, start with half of a box and go from there, until desired consistency is reached. Add in the vanilla and beat until combined. Set aside.

In a small skillet, lightly toast your chopped pecans until fragrant and slightly darker. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

On your cake stand or serving platter, place one cake upside down, so the smooth side is facing up. Spread about 1/3 cup of frosting over the top. Place another layer of cake, smooth part facing up as well, on top of the frosted cake. Top with another 1/3 cup of frosting. Top with the remaining layer of cake, slightly rounded side facing up

.
Frost tops and sides evenly with frosting. Use lightly more on the top as the sides with be covered with nuts.
Turn your cake stand or serving platter as you go and slightly press toasted pecans on to the sides.



Pipe decorations on the top if you choose, slice, and serve!

This cake is amazing!



*recipe adapted from Paula Deen

Saturday, April 19, 2014

NY Style Cheese Pizza



My Dad grew up in the New York and New Jersey areas.

He definitely instilled in me a love for a good thin crust pizza smothered in bubbly cheese and fold-able.... Totally fold-able (please don't eat your pizza with a knife and fork.... ever).

I know there are debates about pizza all over the world; stuffed crust, thin crust, covered in meat, deep dish. It's all about personal preference, really. And mine is a classic, thin crust pizza, oozing with 3 cheeses, fresh basil, and a homemade sweet tomato sauce.

If you're a fan of thin crust pizza, this one is definitely for you.

And Dad? This post is for you :)



For the Crust:
(makes enough for 2 pizzas)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

For the Sauce:
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
dash of red pepper flakes
salt
2 basil leaves, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
1 teaspoon sugar

For the Topping:
(topping is enough for 1 pizza, double if using both crusts)
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
2 basil leaves

Start by making your crust:
Place water in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the kneading attachment.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, dry yeast, salt, and sugar. Slowly add into the water and turn mixer on to medium speed. When the dough begins to come together add in the olive oil. The dough will be sticky, if the dough is too sticky, add more flour. DO NOT OVER MIX.
Remove dough and divide in half. Place dough pieces into a large zip lock bag and place in your refrigerator for 8 hours to overnight (which is best).

Now it's time to make your sauce. In your blender add the whole tomatoes (with juice),basil, and quartered onion. Blend for 30 seconds or just until the tomatoes are mashed and the basil and onion have been incorporated. Set aside.
In a sauce pan, melt the butter and olive oil together until small bubbles form. Add in the garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and pinch of salt and cook until fragrant but not browned, around 2-3 minutes.
Add tomato puree and sugar and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once boiling, reduce to low and cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour. Sauce should be reduced by about half.
Remove thickened sauce and set aside to cool.

Remove dough pieces from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temp slightly, this makes the dough easier to work with.


On a lightly floured surface roll out pizza to about 12 inches in diameter or large enough to fit your pizza circle. Do not beat the dough, gently roll or stretch with hands.


Place pizza circle on center rack in oven and preheat to 500 degrees.

Spread a thin layer of sauce on top of the pizza leaving about an inch around the edges for crust.


Sprinkle with 3 cheeses evenly and sprinkle the top of the cheese with chopped basil. 


Carefully remove pizza circle from oven and lightly grease with olive oil and a sprinkle of corn meal. Transfer pizza with a large spatula to dough circle and place back in the middle rack of the oven. The hot circle ensures a crispy bottom.

Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is melted, the crust is crisp, and the bottom has browned.
Remove, slice, and serve!

I just love the hints of fresh basil, the gooey cheese, crispy thin crust, and sweet sauce.

This is the pizza of my dreams, y'all!


*sauce recipe from Serious Eats

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Pot Pie Soup


Even though the weather is warming up there are still random days of cold and rain.

"April showers bring May flowers." Am I right?

So for those cold days, where you are craving a warm pot pie with flaky crust, but are too lazy to wait an hour for it to bake, this soup is for you.

It has all of the flavors of a pot pie and is amazing dunked with these pie crust "crackers".

For the Soup:
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
dash of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups 2 % milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons chicken bullion
2 cups cooked chicken (I used 2 breasts), diced
2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
1/4 cup frozen peas

For the Pie Crust:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon shortening
3-4 Tablespoons cold water

Start by making the pie crust:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening until the size of peas. Slowly add in water, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge until ready to use.

In a stock pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and cook until softened. Add the seasonings to the onions and cook for 1 minute.
Add in the flour and whisk until bubbly, usually 2 minutes.
Gradually whisk in milk, heavy cream, and water until the lumps are smoothed and incorporated.
Add in the chicken bullion and continue to whisk until liquid comes to a simmer. Turn heat to low and add in the chicken and veggies. Continue to simmer, over low heat, for about 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and soup is thickened.

While the soup is simmering, remove pie crust from the fridge and preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pie crust to 1/4" thickness.
Cut out circles of the crust with cookie cutters, fun little shapes, or simply slice into squares with a pizza cutter.
Lightly grease a large cookie sheet and place cut pie dough on top.
Bake in preheated oven for 10-13 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Remove and allow to cool slightly.

Scoop bowl fulls of soup and top or serve with pie crust "crackers".

Enjoy this warm and filling soup... An ode to pot pie!



Sunday, April 13, 2014

Apple Fritter Bread


You know the Cookie Monster right? That cute little blue monster who demolishes cookies in an almost violent manner? Well yeah, that's my family with donuts.

First: My boys bite off the tops of the chocolate donuts and put them back (totally sacrilege)
Second: If they're glazed, they will polish off 2 in a sitting
And Third: If its cream filled anything I will eat two before the box is even set on the table.

I have no shame.

When I was pregnant with my first son though, and still working, I would stop every afternoon before work and pick up an apple fritter. Have you tried them from 7-11? Best apple fritters you will ever have... trust.

I've fallen away from my everyday love affair of them (my thighs say AMEN) but when I stumbled across this recipe (I even posted it on my Facebook) I knew I wanted to make it. ASAP.

It comes out more cake-like than bread-like but the cinnamon/sugar mixture paired with apples mimics an apple fritter perfectly. It just isn't fried.... So there's probably like only 20 calories a slice, am I right or am I right!?


For the Cake:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 apple, peeled and diced then coated with 1 Tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup milk

For the Frosting:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon milk

In a small bowl mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon, set aside.
In another small bowl, mix together the diced apple with 1 Tablespoon sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon, also set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9x5" loaf pan with parchment paper, spray with cooking oil, and set aside. You should now have bowls and loaf pans piling into a shunned corner of your kitchen.
In a large bowl, beat the sugar with softened butter with your hand mixer just until smooth and creamy. Add in the vanilla and mix to combine. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. 
Add in the flour and baking powder and beat just until the flour is mixed in. Stir in milk.

Take half of the batter and pour it into your prepared loaf pan. Top with half of the apple mixture and half of the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture. Top with remaining batter, smoothing the top. Press the remaining apples lightly into the batter and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar mixture. Swirl gently with a skewer.
Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack. 


In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and milk until combined. Adding more powdered sugar or milk to achieve desired consistency.
Drizzle over the top of the cooled bread.
Slice and serve. 


The flavors mimic an apple fritter and the cake is soft and moist. Enjoy with a cup of hot coffee!

*recipe adapted from Rumbly In My Tumbly 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Homemade Cookie Crisp Cereal


Little cookies that can be counted as breakfast? Yes please.

After I tried my hands at homemade Cinnamon Toast Crunch, I knew there were other cereals I wanted to give a go at home. I found both recipes, and adapted them, from Half Baked Harvest.

And instead of just miniature sizing regular cookie dough, these feature Oats, so they are healthy... I promise.

They bake up crisp and hold up well throughout the week when sealed in an airtight container. The last sip of chocolate-y milk with little leftover cookie crumbs is so, so delicious.


You will need:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used regular sized, although mini might be better for this recipe)

In a large bowl, whisk together the wheat flour, oatmeal, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine and set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, sugars, and vanilla until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add in the egg and mix until combined. Slowly beat in the flour mixture until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Divide the dough in half and on a large surface of wax paper, roll the dough into a 2 foot log, about 1 inch thick. Continue with other half of dough.
Seal both logs up in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes, or just until the butter has solidified.


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove from the fridge and unwrap. Slice log into 1/4" pieces. If you like thinner cookies, place the sliced rounds on a parchment lined cookie sheet (this is what I did) or roll into balls and press lightly on to the cookie sheet for rounder-puffier cookies.


Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes or until cooked through and lightly golden.
Cool completely before transferring to an airtight container.



Serve in a bowl with ice cold milk or crumbled on top of yogurt or ice cream.

The little cookies are packed with flavor and taste amazing as cereal! Enjoy!



Friday, April 4, 2014

Easter and Spring Link Party

It's time for another link party and we thought it would be fun to have an Easter ~ Spring themed one so we not only get holiday ideas but ideas for the season too.
Crafts, Cakes, and Cakes                                   Michelle's Tasty Creations
Facebook                                                          Facebook
Pinterest                                                            Pinterest
                                                                         Twitter
    Hot Eats and Cool Reads                                  MorningNooNight
    Facebook                                                         Facebook
    Pinterest                                                           Pinterst
    Twitter

  
Here's what your hostesses have been up to lately
starting with the top left we have ~ 

Lemon & Asparagus Orzo Salad from: Hot Eats and Cool Reads
Springtime Spritz Cookies from: Crafts, Cakes, and Cats
Easter Cupcakes from: Michelle's Tasty Creations
Lemon Brownies from: MorningNooNight
Easter Basket Cookie Bars from: Michelle's Tasty Creations
Simple Lemony Asparagus from: Hot Eats and Cool Reads
M & M Sugar Cookie Bars from: Michelle's Tasty Creations
Fresh Strawberry Bread with Strawberry Cream Cheese Glaze from: MorningNooNight
Strawberry Cream Puffs from: Crafts, Cakes, and Cats
Meyer Lemon Crumb Muffins from: MorningNooNight
Trying to Fly with the Butterflies Cupcakes from: Crafts, Cakes, and Cats
Bacon & Asparagus Breakfast Pizza from: Hot Eats and Cool Reads

~A few things to remember~

Please only link up Easter/Spring  recipes, crafts, DIY, tutorials, printables, etc. that YOU have created.
Please don't link up any Etsy shops, giveaways, or other link parties.
By linking to this party you give us permission to share your post on our blogs and other social media.
Please share this party by linking back to us in your post or by adding this party to your party page.


Be sure to stop by and visit a few of the other blogs that have posted; we all love to see sweet comments.



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Peanut-ty Pig Burger




Let's flash back to 2008 for a minute... Life sans children....

Cue Wayne's World flashback noise *doodleedoo doodledoo doodleedoo*

It was myself and my husband and we had just moved to Reno, into a cute little apartment, both had jobs and... No responsibilities. (Can we raise the roof on that!?)

He used to work for Enterprise, which was right down the street from a little dive bar and restaurant. Not only did they have a great Happy Hour, Scooby Snacks for $3 and a pitcher of beer for $5, they have some of the BEST burgers I've eaten.

Delicious soak-up-all-the-alcohol burgers.

Classic cheese burgers are a must, but one day I stumbled upon their Skippy Burger.
Peanut butter on a burger? Totes disgusting, right?

But I was adventurous, and hungry, so I ordered it.

Are you kidding me? Are YOU KIDDING me!?

A perfectly cooked burger, sandwiched between a soft grilled bun, and topped with crisp bacon and drip-down-your-arm peanut butter. It was rich. It was nutty. And it was so damn good.

How easy are they to make at home? Too easy. Let's get cooking shall we? I paired mine with homemade crispy french fries and an ice cold beer... (Like there was any other option?)


You will need:
1 1/3 pounds 80/20 ground beef
seasoned salt and pepper
8 strips bacon, cooked crisp
4 Tablespoons Creamy Peanut Butter
Burger Buns

In a large bowl, combine the ground beef with seasonings.
Heat up a large skillet or flat top grill over medium-high heat (never EVER grill burgers on a grate. Wanna know where the moisture goes? Drippy-drip bye-bye on to your coals or through the grates. Then your coals are taking a delicious grease bath while your chomping down on some desert-taste bud inducing burgers). OK!?
While the pan is warming, shape the seasoned beef into 1/3 lb patties.
Cook burgers for 4 minutes on each side (to achieve medium done-ness).
Remove from heat and rest on a platter.



Place peanut butter in a microwave safe dish and heat on high, in your microwave, for 30 seconds.
Time to assemble.
*By the way, I lurve toasting my buns on the grease left over from the burgers until toasty and golden brown.

Burger assemblage, go:

  • Bottom Bun
  • Burger Patty
  • Spoon peanut butter on top, pushing over the edge (while your taste buds go with it)
  • 2-3 slices of bacon (or 5)
  • Top Bun

Squish ever so slightly and shove into your mouth.



She will be mine... Oh yes, she will be mine...

"Recipe" tips: 
1. Do not use cold, straight-outta-the-fridge ground beef
2. No grill, no grates. Flat top, always.
3. Don't press the life out of the burger while cooking, or flatten it with your spatula like a mad (wo)man. That sizzling sound? It's the life screaming out of your burger.
4. If making homemade fries, soak peeled and cut fries in cold/salted water for 15 minutes prior to frying (and always dry off before placing in oil... No one likes a grease volcano. Especially your toes.)
5. Enjoy yo'self. Burgers are little presents of deliciousness.

Which flavor of burger is your favorite?