A Mouth Full

"We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink..."
~Epicurus

Carrot Cake

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It has been forever since I have posted anything on here. But this carrot cake that I made for Easter was so good I had to share the recipe with everyone! I had been searching for weeks in advance for the perfect recipe. I wanted one with pineapple and coconut in it to make it non traditional. I personally don’t like nuts in the actual cake so I chopped them and placed them only on the outside but you could definitely put them in the batter. Each time I found the perfect recipe I would read reviews that completely discouraged me from even attempting to make a carrot cake. Most of the complaints were that the cake was soggy in the center or that it was too moist and difficult to cut for a layered cake. So I found a great recipe and made just a few small changes to insure that my cake would’t fail. Even though I had been planning to bake this cake for weeks I was not prepared at all. I ran to the store the day before Easter to grab all the ingredients and didn’t make it until Easter morning. I was able to whip this cake together in about 2 hours start to finish. 

Here are a few tips-

Prep everything before you begin, grate carrots, chop nuts and have all necessary bowls, spoons and measuring cups ready to go. There is a lot of stuff that goes in this cake so the better prepared you are the less mess you will make, unlike me. (In my defense I have a very small kitchen and Luca and Mathieu are in my way the entire time, so I get to make a mess.)

When you are cooking the cake be sure to rotate it to ensure even cooking. I have an electric stove (I hate it) so I rotate the pans every 15 minutes, turning them and switching sides. This cake only took about 40 minutes so I had to do this twice. 

Also it is very important that you have fresh baking powder and baking soda. If they are old they will not work properly and your cake will not rise. It is the worst when you bake something and it sinks all because you didn’t have these ingredients fresh! 

Carrot Cake 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift the following ingredients in a bowl

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

- In a mixing bowl combine the following ingredients using the paddle attachment 

3/4 cup canola oil

1 tsp kosher salt

1.5 cups sugar

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tbsp vanilla extract

4 eggs 

Add your dry ingredients to your wet until just combined, then add the following and mix gently until just combined:

2 cups finely grated carrots

1 can of crushed pineapple, drained well (regular size can ~15oz I believe)

1 cup sweetened coconut flakes

*You may add in addition, if you like, 1/2 cup of raisins and 1 cup walnuts.

Once you have your batter ready grease two pans 8 or 9 inch with butter and coat with flour. 

Evenly divide the batter and bake for about 40 minutes. Be sure to check cake every 15 minutes. 

*You can bake this is a large rectangular pan, bunt pan or make cupcakes. Obviously just check often for doneness and don’t overcook. 

Butter Cream Cheese Frosting

16 oz Philadelphia cream cheese softened (2 packages)

4 oz butter softened (1 stick) 

2 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

~ 2 cups confectioners sugar

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. Add 1 cup of sugar at a time until just combined, taste for sweetness. 

Allow cake to cool completely before icing! I assembled my cake in only two layers. I had originally wanted to slice each cake and have a four layer cake but I was afraid I would not have enough icing. Also the cake was very moist and I didn’t want to create crumbs by slicing my cake. Regardless it turned out great! I placed some flaked coconut on top (I wished I had toasted it for color, oh well) and used the walnuts to cover the side. 

Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies

                                   

So I take zero credit for this recipe. My co-worker and an incredibly talented chef shared this recipe with me. I could not be happier because they are awesome. I have been tweaking my  chocolate chip cookie recipe for some time and was beginning to hate them. I could not get the right consistance or sweetness that I wanted. These cookies however are exactly what I was looking for. This recipe is super quick and easy. You can mix all of the  ingredients in one bowl - no mixer necessary. Unless of course you aren’t feeling strong enough to whisk for a minute or two!

Pre heat oven to 325 degrees.

Ingredients:

1.5 sticks of unsalted butter*

1 C brown sugar

1/2 C white sugar

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

2 t vanilla

2 C plus 2 T flour

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt (* if using salted butter reduce salt to 1/4 t)

1 C chocolate chips 

Melt the butter and allow to cool slightly.

Place butter in mixing bowl and add brown and white sugars.

Whisk until incorporated.

Add egg, egg yolk and vanilla.

Vigorously whisk until batter becomes lighter in color and feel. 

Add on top of wet ingredients the flour, baking soda and salt.

Slowly whisk to incorporate the dry ingredients then using the whisk or a spatula gently mix all ingredients together.

Add your chocolate chips beginning with less than 1 cup to determine how much chips you like.

Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup portion out your cookies. 

This requires getting your hands messy and banging the measuring cup against your palm to release the dough. 

Once you have a cylindrical piece of cookie dough in your hand break this in half down the middle and fold against each other.

Place on cookie sheet with the halves slightly smushed together and broken sides facing up.  

I know this sounds confusing but this is what creates the cracked look on top, so that your cookie doesn’t become flat and unattractive. 

Be sure to space cookies about 2 inches apart I fit 6 cookies on the baking sheet. (This recipe makes about 12 large cookies.)

Bake for 18-20 minutes rotating halfway to ensure even cooking. 

Remember that cookies firm up once they are cool. So be sure to keep an eye on your cookies the last few minutes to make sure they are not overcooking. 

Apricot Glazed Pork Chops

We obviously love pork at my house! I find that I make it often. It’s just so simple to prepare and goes with almost everything. I created this meal off of all the odds and ends I had left in my fridge from the week. I used a half a head of cauliflower to make a puree, instead of mashed potatoes. They were a much lighter alternative to heavy mashed potatoes. A friend of mine had brought this to my attention recently and I think its a great substitute during the warmer months and if your worried about calories. I also had left over sauerkraut and a small wedge of cabbage. I wanted to try to prepare something using both.  At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to use them together, since essentially they are the same thing. Then I realized that I could create a sweet and sour type mixture, which would go great with pork. So by caramelizing the fresh cabbage I created sweet and by cooking down the sauerkraut I created sour. Combining the two actually turned out well and I was happy to get rid of all the odds and ends in my fridge. 

Apricot Glazed Pork Chops

2 thick cut boneless pork chops (or bone in if you prefer)

3 T apricot preserves

1 T dijon mustard

Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix apricot preserves and mustard in small bowl

Heat a cast iron skillet until hot.

Season pork chops generously with salt and pepper.

Drizzle a small amount of oil in pan and sear each side of the chop for 2-3 minutes until a nice crust has formed. 

Place a large spoonful of glaze on each chop and place cast iron pan directly in oven.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until an internal temperature of 145 degrees. 

Cauliflower Puree

1/2 a head of cauliflower 

3 garlic cloves

1 T cream cheese

Parmesan cheese, as needed

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.


Place garlic cloves and olive oil in a well sealed tin foil pouch and roast in oven for 15 minutes.

Steam a half a head of cauliflower. 

Place steamed cauliflower in a frying pan over med heat to cook off any extra moisture. 

Place cauliflower, roasted garlic cream cheese and a few dashes of parmesan cheese in food processer. Blend until incorporated. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and parmesan.  (Or mash by hand.)

Place in a small baking dish with cheese sprinkled on top and bake in oven for 15 minutes. (at the same time as your pork chops would be practical)

*The reason I used cream cheese is because I felt the cauliflower puree had a thinner consistency and I didn’t want to add any additional liquid.  Greek yogurt or sour cream would work as well. 


Sweet and Sour Cabbage and Sauerkraut 

1/2 a head of cabbage

1/2 a package of sauerkraut

1-2 T Butter

Place sauerkraut and liquids in a pan and heat over med-low heat until it becomes tender, about 20 minutes. (If there is little to no liquid you may and water to the pan) 

Chop cabbage and saute in butter until tender and caramelized. Season with salt and pepper. 

Drain or cook off any extra liquid in sauerkraut and combine with cabbage. Allow to cook together for an additional 15- 20 minutes. 






Cheesecake

I love cheesecake. It may even be one of my favorite desserts. At one of my first jobs in a restaurant I made this cheesecake and immediately fell in love with it. I had never really made cheesecake before and was nervous to make one. The idea of a water bath at the time intimidated me. The owner/chef Michael showed me how to make it and it was super easy. Since then I have made this cheesecake a million times and I have never messed it up. So trust me when I say its super easy! I have included alternate recipes to make peanut butter cheesecake and pumpkin cheesecake. I honestly believe that the mascarpone cheese is what makes this so damn good, but if you can not find mascarpone simply just use all cream cheese. I make the plain cheesecake with a graham cracker crust, peanut butter cheesecake with a chocolate crust and pumpkin cheesecake with a gingersnap and graham cracker crust. Please feel free to do whatever crust you like with which ever cake. I am not including recipes for the crusts, but you can easily look them up if you don’t know how to make them.

I bake the cheesecake in a water bath. So you will need a pan larger then your spring form pan, it also needs to be deep enough to allow for enough water to come half way up the side of your spring form pan. I wrap the base of the spring form pan with plastic wrap and then foil. I know plastic wrap in the oven…… trust me its fine. If you don’t trust me then only use foil.

This recipe seems difficult because I wrote a lot of helpful tips. Please read through the entire recipe and instructions before making.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cheesecake

2 lbs cream cheese

8 oz mascarpone cheese

1 1/4 C sugar

1 T real vanilla extract

2 eggs

Let cream cheese and mascarpone come to room temperature, they need to be soft, not sort of soft.

Place cheeses into a mixing bowl with sugar and vanilla and beat until combined and slightly fluffy.

Add one egg at a time incorporating each egg thoroughly before adding the next.

Prepare your crust in your pan and par bake if needed. Allow your crust and pan to completely cool before adding your cheesecake mixture.

*If par baking crust wrap your spring form pan after it has cooled.

When wrapping your spring form pan be sure to wrap almost to the top of your pan.

Once your crust and pan are completely cool add your cheesecake mixture.

*if you did not put crust up the sides of the pan be sure to spray sides with nonstick cooking spray after your pan is cool and before adding cheesecake mixture.

Try to pour it evenly. It will be thick so this can be difficult. You want to fuss with it as little as possible, as trying to smooth it out may pull your crust away from the edges.

I would recommend placing your water bath pan in the oven first then placing your cheesecake into the pan and then carefully adding enough water to come half way up the side of your spring form pan.

Bake for 55 minutes turning half way to ensure even cooking. Be careful not to spill water!

Cheesecake can be tricky to determine if it is finished. My rule of thumb is to be sure that the cheesecake is set 2 inches in from the edge and slight jiggle in the middle is okay.

Cool cheesecake completely, remove the foil and plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. I know its a long wait but its worth it.

Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan and open.

To make clean cuts of cheesecake use a clean knife each time you cut! Run your knife under hot water before each slice. You want it to look as good as its going taste!

ALTERNATE RECIPES

For peanut butter cheesecake: substitute 8oz of cream cheese with creamy peanut butter.

For pumpkin cheesecake: substitute 8 oz of cream cheese with canned pumpkin. Add pumpkin pie spice to taste.

pumpkin cheesecake