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Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Very Puppy Christmas


As many of you know we decided to stay in Daphne this year for Christmas. I missed seeing everyone in Indiana but it was nice to come home. It has been over a year since I had make it home, which is way too long. The holiday itself self was really relaxed, some friends came over for dinner and we all just kind of hung out. One of the best parts was all the puppies. My parents have three: Payton the Great Dane, Boo the black lab, Hali the min-pin; my sister just inherited their newest boxer mix rescue Layla and I brought hope. So in total we have five dogs ranging from about 5lbs-135lbs. So needless to say it was a very puppy Christmas. I had to post a few pics because they are all just so cute.


Other than laying around and eating amazing food all day I have been able to spend some time with good friends and see some long lost high school classmates. All in all, a pretty great and relaxing vacation. Tomorrow is New Years Eve, then Saturday I start my trek back to VA. But until then, I’ll enjoy a few more hours on the being lazy with the pups, and maybe another amazing sunset before I head home.







Christmas gifts 2010

This year I decided to make presents. It started because of my tight budget but also because I enjoy doing it. This year I made a couple things. For my dad’s side of the family I made ornaments and garlands out of an old book my dad’s grandmother had given me years ago. The binding was broken and I thought it would be fun to share. I started by buying a circle cutter (about $15 and can be found in the scrap booking isle of your local Wal-Mart) and cutting 3” circles. I also mutilated one of my antrhopologie catalogs to give it a bit of color. I love their ads and use of color and patterns so I thought it was a good choice. After you have a stack of circles cut group them into stacks of about 4-6 circles each. Then begin to sew a strip together skipping about 2” in-between each. To make ornaments just sew one stack together. I think these came out well and slipped nicely into a card.

With the cards I included a stack of my homemade photo cards showcasing my trip to the UK this September… post to follow soon. I hope to start selling these on Etsy.

Also inside the cards was a cd with a .pdf of a book I put together of all the recipes I tried this year, with lessons learned for each. I will start posting them one at a time after the New Year, so keep checking back for updates.

On the baking front I made the white chocolate macadamia tart from thanksgiving, the spiced cake balls and homemade peppermint patties, see below



Peppermint Patties:

Ingredients

3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract

4 cups confectioners' sugar

3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

2 teaspoons shortening

Directions

-In a large mixing bowl, combine condensed milk and peppermint extract.

-Beat in enough confectioners' sugar, a little at a time, to form a stiff dough that is no longer sticky.

-Form into 1 inch balls, then place on waxed paper and flatten with fingers to form patties. Let patties dry at room temperature two hours, turning once. Or put in freezer for about 15 min

-In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate with shortening, stirring often. (This also works in the microwave stirring every 30 sec.)

-Remove from heat. Dip patties, one at a time, into chocolate by laying them on the tines of a fork and lowering the fork into the liquid. Let cool on waxed paper until set. (Make sure to use fresh wax paper so you don’t get the excess sugar mixture stuck to the outside of the chocolates)

original recipe:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Peppermint-Patties/Detail.aspx

Monday, December 20, 2010

Amazing weekend...the fun part!

Good things that happened this weekend:

-got to see M2, who i miss terribly
-got to eat creme brule donuts
-got to see Betsy for a few min and hear about all the wedding plans
-got to see our thesis project featured at MOMA
-bought the book for the exhibit
-saw my favorite painting in the entire world first hand
-ate an amazing 3 course greek meal with my favorite greek
-saw a really big christmas tree and amazing window displays
-hung out in a really cool loft with nice people and danced in a beauty shop
-nice french boys to dance with
-brunch with old friends, 2 years is too long, but it was like we all never left
-wondering aimlessly through central park and finding Madonna's bench
-peppermint hot chocolate

Pictures are up on fb
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2549633&id=7001589&l=f9b8a85caa



Amazing weekend of Food and Fun…First the food





I arrived in NYC at 6:30 am Saturday morning. After a long bus ride the only thing on my mind was the promises of Donuts that had been made to me by M2. He had taken me to this place a few months before and I had been dreaming of it ever since. If you want your mind blown by sugary amazingness then make your way to China town. Get off at the Grand street stop and walk about 4 blocks east. It will be on your right after Norfolk St. (how ironic). This hole in the wall donut shop is becoming one of my favorite little secrets (well I guess it’s not a real secret if I’m sharing it with you, but I’ve never been very good at keeping secrets). Anyway, I would highly recommend it. I also recommend the Crème Brule donuts. They are small, but amazing. If trying an assortment make sure to at least get one of these little guys.
So that night was an amazing night of Gluttony. M2’s roommate is a manager at a small Greek restaurant called Kefi. http://www.kefirestaurant.com/
I felt this was exactly the dining experience I was looking for on my one night in the city. Make sure to make reservations, but the staff was super nice and understanding when we were unable to get a taxi and were about 15 min late. We had heard about their dinner special of 3 courses for $16.95. With Christmas coming up and trying to stay true to my meager budget, this immediately sparked my attention. For this meal I chose the:
Kefi Salad: Shredded Lettuce & Fennel, Tomato, Cucumber, Olives, Peppers, Onions, Feta†
Pork Medallions, Spicy Peppers, Capers, Lemon
Walnut Cake, Walnut Ice Cream
M2 decided on the
Meatballs, Roasted Garlic, Olives, Tomato
Tubular Pasta, Greek Sausage, Peppers, Onions, Tomato, Feta
Walnut Cake, Walnut Ice Cream
And we were lucky enough to get to try the Sheep’s Milk Dumplings, Tomato, Pine Nuts, and Spicy Lamb Sausage
To start off with, my salad was a spot on Greek salad with small cut lettuce an appropriate house dressing, just the right amount of Feta cheese and the amazingly flavorful olives you would expect. I also enjoyed how the olives were pitted. I always hate spitting out the seeds while sitting at a nice dinner.
I also got to reach over and try one of M2s meat balls. They were great and a perfect choice after wondering the city in the cold. They just gave you the warm and cozy feeling we were looking for.
Next we were surprised by a complementary order of the sheep’s milk dumplings, perks of knowing the manager I guessJ. The sauce was thick and amazing. Big chunks of tomatoes, spinach, small pieces of spicy sausage, and of amazingly tender dumplings. This is a dish I would definitely get again.
So on the main course. This pork dish was much different than anything I had expected. The dish was much lighter than I had envisioned but that is one thing I love about it. There is a very interesting combination of flavors: capers, lintels, lemon, mandarin oranges, and leaks. They came together very well and is a dish I just had to make myself finish.
After indulging ourselves in the amazing amount of food before us we were treated to dessert. This walnut cake was barely a cake, but more of a mound of walnuts held together by pure goodness. The best part was a walnut ice cream that paired perfectly with the cake. Who doesn’t love ice cream with their cake?
So all in all an amazing experience in a quaint little Greek restaurant that I will definitely be visiting again! If you find yourself in the city and looking for a moderately priced but full meal experience make your way to Kefi, I don’ t think you will regret it.

Chocolate Hazelnut Pinwheels.



These cookies are super easy and fun to make and eat. I’m not sure I would recommend making them in large quantities though. I made these as my contribution to the office cookie exchange and it took almost 6 hours to finish all 6 dozen (including two trips to the store and a few lost batches to our temperamental oven). But for 2 or so dozen these are great!
Because of the large quantities and time restraints I did kind of cheat and use the Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix. I think they still came out just fine, but keep in mind that even though it says you will get 3 dozen out of one bag of mix you will only get about half that because of the size of these cookies. If you are using mix follow the directions on the bag then skip down to the 3rd step. Also feel free to substitute another sugar cookie recipe if you have a favorite.


Chocolate Hazelnut Pinwheels
1 3/4 cup(s) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon(s) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
1/2 cup(s) sugar
6 tablespoon(s) butter or margarine, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
1/4 cup(s) prepared chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella)
Directions:
-On a sheet of waxed paper, stir flour, baking powder, and salt. In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat sugar with butter until creamy. At low speed, beat in egg and vanilla until mixed. -Gradually beat in flour mixture just until combined.
-Divide dough in half; shape each half into a disk. Wrap each disk with plastic wrap and refrigerate about 1 hour or until firm enough to roll. (Or, place dough in freezer 30 minutes.)
-Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. On floured surface with floured rolling pin, roll 1 disk of dough into 10-inch by 7 1/2-inch rectangle. With pastry wheel or knife, cut rectangle lengthwise into 4 strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 3 squares. (I just rolled out the dough on my fondant matt and cut it into 3” x 3” squares) Place squares, 1 inch apart, on ungreased large cookie sheet. With knife, make 1 1/2-inch cut from each corner toward center (do not cut all the way to center). Spoon 1/2 teaspoon (or a little more if you would like) chocolate-hazelnut spread in center of each square. Fold every other tip in to center to form pinwheel. Repeat with remaining squares.
-Bake cookies 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. WATCH CAREFULLY THE ENDS WILL BURN EASILY! Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool.
-Repeat with remaining dough. Store cookies in tightly covered container up to 2 weeks.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas happenings to come

Although I am spending every day after work, working on homemade gifts. I won't be able to post anything until after I have given them out. More to come I promise!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holly Garland





So when I got home last night I was faced with the same internal confrontation I face every night. To go to the gym, or not to go to the gym. In my usual manner I change my mind about 3 to 4 times and finally decide that the best excuse I have is that if I don’t go to the gym I will at least do something productive. And being that I feel like I’m not quite in the Christmas spirit, I decided that we needed a Christmas garland for the mantel. So I lit my apple cider candle, put on my slippers, and went outside to proceed to rape our holly bush. I was careful not to take too much from one spot but simply gave it the “trimming“ it needed. I got a bunch of little branches and just started twisting thread around them, adding new branches as I went. So after about 20 min and another trip outside I was done. My hands were pretty cut up and sore but I thought it was worth it.
I began to tape it up to the mantel but felt it needed a little something extra. I remembered that I had some purple feathers I hadn’t used for my Halloween costume so I added them for effect. And Because I did not have any red ribbon for the center bow, I took off the necklace I had been wearing that day and placed it in the middle. All in all, I think it came out nicely, and now are house is just a little more festive.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Recipes 2010


Thanksgiving 2010.

This is the first time I have tried to crate a full thanksgiving dinner by myself. I have watched my mother and grandmother for many years and glad to say I think it turned out well. This year’s menu included

Turkey

Gravy

Mashed potatoes

Stuffing / dressing

Green bean casserole

Sweet potato casserole

Cranberry sauce

Pumpkin pie

White Chocolate Macadamia Cranberry Tart

Some of these recipes are tried and true while others I tried for the first time.

THE TURKEY

Starting with the Turkey. I was a bit skeptical about this recipe because it does have a unique blend of flavors. But after following it I will be using it for many years to come. The turkey came out so juicy!

First off a big thank you to a friend for suggesting the following! And who doesn’t love Alton Brown!

Here is a link to the original

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/good-eats-roast-turkey-recipe/index.html

Ingredients

1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey (we decided to go smaller with a 10lb bird)

For the brine:

1 cup kosher salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 gallon vegetable stock

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries (I was unable to find allspice berries so I opted for ground allspice)

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger (I was super excited that this recipe called for candied ginger because a friend had given me some a few months before and I finally had a chance to use it… of course when you actually need something is when you cant find it so I substituted the rest of the ginger preserves I had from the carrot cake cupcakes)

1 gallon heavily iced water (because the bird was frozen we skipped the ice and stored it in the cold garage overnight)

For the aromatics:

1 red apple, sliced

1/2 onion, sliced

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup water

4 sprigs rosemary

6 leaves sage

Canola oil

Directions

2 to 3 days before roasting:

Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F. (this of course was not long enough so we ended up giving our bird a cold bath. Not to say I recommend this but desperate times call for desperate measures!)

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat:

Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. (Or any suitable storage container) Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining. We ended up adding about another gallon of water for the bird to be completely covered.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. I also covered the breast with foil to avoid over browning and cooked to 65 because I was nervous to serve undercooked meat to the new mom. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

SWEET POTATOE CASSEROLE

First off, a link to the original recipe, but I will say that I did change it up a good bit

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Yummy-Sweet-Potato-Casserole/Detail.aspx

Ingredients

4 cups sweet potato, cubed

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or

3 tbls cinnamon

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup chopped pecans- roasted, buttered, salted

Directions

-Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Put sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan with water to cover. Cook over medium high heat until tender; drain and mash.

-In a large bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, salt, butter, cinnamon, milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Transfer to a 9x13 inch baking dish.

-In a large saucepan over med-high heat. Roast pecans until they become fragrant but be careful not to burn. After pecans are fully roasted add 2 tbls butter and mix until well coated. Salt well and set aside to cool completely.

-In medium bowl, mix the sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potato mixture.

-Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until the topping is lightly brown.

STUFFING / DRESSING

This was purely and experiment but I feel it came out pretty well.

Ingredients:

2 boxes Stove Top Stuffing mix

2 Boxes Jiffy Corn muffin mix

4 cups chicken broth

½ onion chopped

½ c. chopped celery

½ c. chopped baby carrots

3 tbls your favorite poultry seasoning

-Bring broth to a boil.

-Add veggies and seasoning and simmer for about 5 min

-In a large bowl mix dry ingredients and add in broth

-Mix well and transfer to baking dish

-Bake at 350 for 30min or until top is golden

-Bring chicken broth to a boil.

GRANDMAS PUMPKIN PIE

This recipe is one that I have been making for years. It is the only pumpkin pie I will eat, and use almost any excuse to make it.

Although you can use can pumpkin fresh really does make a difference

Cut pumpkin into pieces bake at 350 for 1 hr or about 1 cup canned pumpkin (plus a little)

1-cup sugar (some brown)

1-cup evaporated milk (Minot)

1/8 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp nutmeg

+ Some pumpkin spice if you want

1 tsp Cinnamon

2 eggs

-Mix all spices with sugar, add to pumpkin, add milk, beat in eggs, and pour in crust (I like to use the refrigerated roll out crust by Pillsbury. You will find it in a box near the cookie dough in the store)

450 for 10 min then 325 for 20-30 min, done when knife comes out clean

And last but not least, this came out very well and was super easy to make

WHITE CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY TART

http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/white-chocolate-cranberry-tart-recipe.htm

INGREDIENTS

1

Refrigerated pie crust

1

Cup sugar

2

Eggs

1/4

Cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted

2

Teaspoons vanilla

1/2

Cup all-purpose flour

6

Squares (1 ounce each) white chocolate, chopped

1/2

Cup chopped macadamia nuts, lightly toasted*

1/2

Cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped

*Toast chopped macadamia nuts in hot skillet over medium heat about 3 minutes or until fragrant.

PREPARATION:

-Preheat oven to 350°F. Place pie crust in 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom or pie pan. (Refrigerate or freeze other crust for another use.)

-Combine sugar, eggs, butter and vanilla in large bowl; mix well. Stir in flour until well blended. Add white chocolate, nuts and cranberries.

-Pour filling into unbaked crust. Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until top of tart is crusty and deep golden brown, and knife inserted into center comes out clean.

-Cool completely on wire rack.


Enjoy!

A Thanksgiving to Remember



N arrived late Tuesday night. So I picked her up from the airport and we decided to go to Cogans for dinner. With N being a pizza connoisseur I was a bit nervous about taking her to my favorite pizza place. So after an hour wait we ordered the Mediterranean plus mushrooms and pepperoni. It is very rare that I get a pizza there that I don’t like but unfortunate this was one of those nights. So after we finally finished eating I was less than trilled to be driving her all the way to k’s house so she wouldn’t be alone while I was at work on Wed. So I borrowed N’s phone and proceeded to beg for the day off. After returning home and setting my alarm for 6am just in case I would need to go in the next day we headed to bed. Since I still had a cold I work up at 6 am anyway to check my email to find that I do truly have great project managers. They understood how overwhelmed I was and gave me the day off. We went back to sleep and a few hours later decided it was time to tackle my “to do” list of the day.


We headed out to the store and TJ maxx to look for the perfect tart pan. When we returned we finally began to bake. The Chocolate tart came out great (recipe to follow) and I had just peeled and started to boil the sweet potatoes when I got a call from K. Little J was on her way. So N and I packed up our entire kitchen and half-baked items, packed a quick overnight bag and headed to K’s house to watch little M so they could go to the hospital. We got to K’s at about 5:00 and by 9:15 little Jo was here. 7.8lb and healthy. The next morning Nancy and I got up got M ready and headed to the hospital to meet our new niece.

After letting M terrorize the hospital room for a while we headed back to K’s house to begin to cook thanksgiving dinner. N was officially on M duty so I started to plan the craziness. It was true I was actually going to have to cook the entire dinner by myself. I started with the Turkey. After a quick freak-out because of a slightly frozen turkey the night before, N and I successfully got it into the Brine. Now I just had to take it out fill with the aromatics and get it into the oven. So after the turkey was dressed and in I started on the pumpkin pie, started roasting the pecans for the sweet potatoes casserole and cooking down the cranberries. Needless to say about 5 hours later I was exhausted but the meal was finished. I am happy to say that I have successfully finished an entire thanksgiving dinner solo! (With a big thanks to N for watching the baby and cleaning the dishes)

We laid out all the food, took a picture of the gorgeous spread than proceeded to pack it up one Tupperware container at a time. We then packed up M and headed back to the hospital to deliver our thanksgiving feast. K was sore and J was tired but I think they were excited to be eating turkey on thanksgiving. So after a short visit we headed back home, put M to bed and began to feast. M2 even stopped by to hang out for a bit. We watched an episode of pumpkin chunkin, had a few beers and glasses of wine and headed to bed exhausted from a crazy thanksgiving.



(See "Thanksgiving Recipes 2010" post for this year's recipes)


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cooking day 1

So in a state of freaking out I emailed my project managers last night from Nancy's phone to beg for the day off today. Siting mostly the time it will actually take for me to make this dinner and Nancy being in town. So after a night of little sleep I woke up at 6am coughing and checked my email to show that they support me, and truly are great people to work for, and adding a quick note stating that the typos were due to emailing on a phone (and not in fact from drunk emailing my superiors)

So after getting the ok from work I hoped in the shower then back to bed. Now it is 11am and I have to get Nancy up and going to start our long list of errands and baking duties. First off we are in search of a tart pan for a new White chocolate macadamia and cranberry chocolate tart recipe I want to try. Then back for pie and tart making. I also must get the necessary ingredients for brine for the turkey. This is a technique I have never tried before but I think could really make this bird taste pretty great. Wish us luck on our adventures. Recipes and actually thanksgiving happenings coming soon!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Countdown to Turkey Day!... T-7 days and counting

During the holidays I can’t help but let my mind wonder a bit. I always have my sketchbook close at hand to sketch any last min ideas for homemade gifts and recipes. It wasn’t until last night when I was talking to k that I realized there is a pretty great chance that I will creating a full thanksgiving dinner solo. I have seen my mom and grandmother meticulously plan in the past. Starting days before and even putting little paper labels in each dish corresponding to what future contents it will house. This year however I’m on duty. N is coming in town and with K about to have this baby at any moment so I have to be ready for anything. If Little J decides that she isn’t ready to come early than, K will be there to assist, but if she does decide she wants to join us for thanksgiving than it will be up to N and I to prepare dinner and be on M duty. We are planning a grocery trip for this weekend to get the essentials. The menu is ever changing but the bones of it are pretty basic

Turkey
Gravy
Mashed potatoes
Rolls
Green bean casserole
Pumpkin pie

Then I am in the works of possibly a stuffed pumpkin of some sort, a variation of a traditional sweet potato dish and another pie. I love a traditional dinner, but where is the fun without a few crazy additions. Any ideas would be appreciated.

I think the hardest part is the waiting game…and I’m not even the one having the baby. The best I can to do is get the best prepared I can, buy a couple bottles of wine and let the rest take care of itself. The entire holiday should be pretty laid back and a kind of makeshift family affair. Friends will come and go and we will enjoy it with those who are here with a few phone calls in between.

Now to figure out how to cook a turkey…
Yesterday was a fight day. I actually got myself to the gym on a weeknight and stayed for almost 2 hours...now to only do the same tonight. weight is +1 with -31 by my 27th birthday (next christmas).

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cupcake Happenings






So after the crazy week of CANstruction I decided that I should say thank you to everyone at work who donated over $600 in a little under an hour so we could get the cans we needed to finish the Turkey.

Long story short our Wal-mart order didn’t go through so we found a food lion that was willing to put in a last min order to arrive the day of the build. However as much as I hate wal-mart sometimes their prices were much cheaper so the same order was going to cost aver $600 dollars more. So within one hour L was able to convince everyone to donate at least $10 to make it happen. I took the cash and headed back to Virginia Beach to pick up the remainingcans and set out in search of 349 more cans of Van Camps baked beans (they got the order in but it was not correct). So after 4 Wal-Mart trips and another team member hitting two more we were ready to build.

The build went wonderfully but I felt I needed to do something to thank all the generous people willing to make up for our mistakes... And in my mind that meant 6 dozen cupcakes decorated to look like turkeys.I knew I wanted to use two of my favorite cake recipes. One carrot cake and one double chocolate chocolate mouse.

I had a few ideas for the tails. Mostly leaning towards chocolate, but I forgot to get squeeze bottles while I was at Michaels and all of my improvising techniques didn’t seam t be working. I settled on the idea of cookies and headed back to the store for some pre-made cookie dough. Some may call it cheating but I think the using boxed cake mix every now and then and a few remade ingredients can be just fine. This time however I was determined to make these cupcakes the best I had ever done before.

I started with the Carrot Cake cupcakes with Cream cheese icing and roasted Pecans

Best Carrot Cake Ever (my version)

6 cups grated carrots

1 cup brown sugar

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup crushed pineapple, drained

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ginger (or 1/4 c. ginger preservers for a spicier cake)

1/4 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp nutmeg

Directions

In a medium bowl, combine grated carrots and brown sugar. Set aside for 60 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

-In a large bowl, beat eggs until light. Gradually beat in the white sugar, oil and vanilla. Stir in the pineapple and ginger preserves (optional). Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and spices, stir into the wet mixture until absorbed.

Finally stir in the carrot mixture. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes (for cakes about 15-18 min for cupcakes) in the preheated oven, until cake tests done with a toothpick. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. When completely cooled, frost with cream cheese frosting.

Link to original recipe:

http://allrecipes.com//Recipe/best-carrot-cake-ever/Detail.aspx

Cream cheese icing

-2 packages cream cheese

-1 stick butter (can use less)

-About 2 c. powdered sugar (I just add until it is the sweetness I am looking for

-2 tsp vanilla extract (I like to use crushed vanilla beans because I like the way the flecks look in the icing)

Mix and ice

Top with chopped roasted pecans. I always seem to burn the pecans but roasting them makes a huge difference. Put them on a cookie sheet in preheated oven for a little over 5 min WATCH CAREFULLY!

Now I know it is a pain but grating fresh carrots is what makes these cupcakes great. It is worth the effort. It also can help to dry the carrots for just a bit before you mix in the brown sugar.

Now that the carrots are marinating I can start the Chocolate cake

This is one of my favorite chocolate cake recipes and I rarely deviate from it. The cake is moist with a rich chocolate flavor. It is also great to stir in a cup of mini chocolate chips right at the end

http://www.cooks.com/rec/doc/0,176,157191-244200,00.html

Deep Dark Chocolate Cake with Mouse

2 c. sugar


1 3/4 c. all purpose flour


3/4 c. Hershey's cocoa


1 1/2 tsp. baking soda


1 1/2 tsp. baking powder


1 tsp. salt


2 eggs


1 c. milk


1/2 c. vegetable oil


2 tsp. vanilla extract


1 c. boiling water

-In large mixer bowl, combine dry ingredients.

-Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat in medium speed 2 minutes.

-Remove from mixer; stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).

-Pour into 3 round 8-inch pans, greased and floured.

-Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

-Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans. Cool completely. Prepare DOUBLE RECIPE of chocolate mousse (below).

…And the best part

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE: (single recipe)


1 tsp. unflavored gelatin


1 tbsp. cold water


2 tbsp. boiling water


1/2 c.sugar


1/4 c. Hershey's cocoa


1 c. chilled whipping cream


1 tsp. vanilla extract

To double recipe, use 1 envelope unflavored gelatin and double remaining ingredients. Use large COLD mixer bowl.

-In small mixer bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water; let stand 1 minute to soften. Add boiling water; stir until gelatin is completely dissolved and mixture is clear. Cool slightly.

-In small COLD mixer bowl, stir together sugar and cocoa; add whipping cream and vanilla. Beat at medium speed, scraping bottom of bowl occasionally, until stiff peaks form.

-Pour in gelatin mixture and beat until well blended

So after getting the first batch of chocolate cup cakes in the oven I started on the “Turkey Parts” so to say.

I rolled out the sugar cookie dough to about ¼” thick and used one of my fondant flower cutters to cut it into flower shapes. I cut each of these in half and placed them on the baking sheet. This made the feather shape pretty nicely and even the edges browned a bit to give some color variance.


Next were the turkey heads. I simply molded these out of the dough. Watch the oven closely though these cook very quickly.

Next I was ready to start decorating, I melted some white chocolate with some orange food coloring and used this to attach one chocolate melt to each tail.

The carrot cake cupcakes were topped with the roasted pecans and the chocolate cupcakes were topped with mini chocolate chips. All in all I think they turned out well. So after about 7 hours and three trips to the store I had 6 dozen cupcakes to sere with my fellow employees who helped raise the money for a good cause. Needless to say I ma not be baking again until thanksgiving…witch is only a few weeks away!