Monday, March 25, 2013

Carrot Cake

Is it too cliché to post a carrot cake recipe for Easter?  If so, then turn away but I warn you, you will be disappointed because this cake is that good.  Just ask Benjamin, the kid who doesn’t eat anything and had 2 slices.  This recipe compiles very similar recipes from Paula, Emeril and Ina.  There is a reason why they are so similar, it works.

Carrot Cake
1.      Butter or Pam, for pans
2.      2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
3.      Parchment paper rounds for 9 in round pans
4.      2 cups sugar
5.      2 teaspoons baking soda
6.      2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
7.      1 teaspoon salt
8.      4 eggs
9.      1 1/3 cups vegetable oil (Emeril uses 3 sticks unsalted butter instead)
10.  1 t vanilla
11.  3 cups grated carrots
12.  1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, optional

1.      2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, room temperature
2.      1 stick salted butter, room temperature
3.      1 (16-ounce) box powdered sugar
4.      1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5.      1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) round pans.  Line bottom of the pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add eggs and vegetable oil. Using a hand or stand mixer, blend until combined. Add carrots and pecans, if using. (To grate carrots, I used a Cuisinart and grated first.  Then I returned the grated carrots to the bowl and cut them again with the regular blade.  This made a very fine grated carrot.  I used almost an entire bag of carrots to make 3 cups.)

Pour batter evenly into the 3 pans. Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes, check for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pans, place on waxed paper and allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
Add all ingredients, except nuts, into a medium bowl and beat until fluffy using a hand or stand mixer.  Stir in the nuts, if using.  Spread frosting on top of each cake layer.  Stack the cakes on a serving plate, frost the sides and serve. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013


‘tis the season.  I am referring to the season of Passover and Easter, of course. 

One of the symbolic foods on the Seder plate is charoset (haroset or charoses) which resemble the color and texture of mortar (or mud used to make bricks) which the Israelites used when they were enslaved in Ancient Egypt to build the pyramid for the pharaohs.  After eating too much matzo, that sits like a brick in your stomach too.

Just like the various ways to spell charoset, there are various ways to make it too.  This recipe came from Emeril Lagasse.  Other recipes that I found included variations such as adding in golden raisins, honey and brown sugar.

1.      5 large apples (red delicious, gala or fuji), peeled, cored and finely chopped to approximately 8 cups
2.      1 c chopped walnuts
3.      3 T kosher sweet wine, such as Manishevitz Concord Grape
4.      5 T sugar
5.      1 T cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir to combine well.  Refrigerate and serve chilled.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Top o’ the morning to you!  I had “green” on the brain yesterday – did you?  The heightened awareness of green and my Sunday ritual of “oh heavens, what is for dinner this week” and I decided to branch out in the vegetable section of the plate.  Broccoli is a safe choice as a no-complaint vegetable.  But what is broccolini and how would I prepare it?  It’s easy and now there is a new option for the green on the plate.

1.      Broccolini (1 bunch, 6 oz container or 1 1/2 pounds)
2.      Kosher salt
3.      2 T unsalted butter or 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
4.      1 t minced garlic
5.      1 T lemon juice

Wash and trim the ends of the broccolini.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the broccolini for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and immerse in a bowl of ice water.

Melt the butter or heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the garlic and stir. Drain the broccolini and add it to the garlic mixture and heat for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the pepper, and toss well before serving.

Notes: I purchased a 6 oz. container of broccolini and next time will purchase 2 boxes for our family of 5.  I also prepared it with butter but found some recipes with olive oil so provided that as an alternative.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Good Pie

The number π is a mathematical constant that is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter and is approximately equal to 3.14159. Today is also 3.14 so let’s eat pie in honor of pi.

This recipe came from, whom else, but my Uncle Willy.  The story goes that Vernon's Kuntry Katfish in Conroe, TX originated this pie and it was so named because after Vernon first made it (from a recipe supplied by a canned-milk salesperson), he overheard a customer exclaim, "this is GOOD!"  You gotta love the simplicity of the pie, the highly researched naming convention, and the catchy spelling.  Andrew watched me make this pie and he called it “fruit salad pie.” 

Good Pie
1.      2 (9”) pie shells
2.      2 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened
3.      1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk (preferably Eagle Brand)
4.      4 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
5.      1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple, drained
6.      Your choice of other fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and kiwi.
7.      2 cups well-chilled heavy cream
8.      Sugar
9.      1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
10.  6 tablespoons chocolate syrup

Pre-bake pie shells according to package instructions and cool completely.

Beat cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth, then beat in condensed milk.  Spread mixture into pie shells and freeze until filling is firm (2 to 3 hours).

Arrange sliced bananas over filling and spread pineapple over them.  Add whatever other cut up fruit you choose, like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and kiwi.  Beat cream on medium (optional: add sugar to sweeten – start with 2 T for every 1 c cream and then add more to taste) until stiff peaks form and spread over fruit.

Sprinkle pies with pecans and drizzle chocolate syrup on top.  Chill one hour before serving.  (You can try other nuts like walnuts or caramel syrup).

Notes:  You can freeze pie shells with cream-cheese filling, covered well with plastic wrap, up to 1 week.  Assembled pies can be chilled 3 hours.  Many combinations of fruit (both fresh, canned or previously frozen) can be used.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kids Iron Chef Competition benefitting St. Jude

Have an aspiring young chef in your house?  Let them test their recipe and their skills at the Kids Iron Chef Competition at the St. Jude Notes of Hope event on Sunday, April 14.  Kids age 8-12 years can submit a family recipe that is healthy, easy to prepare, uses standard kitchen equipment, and a maximum of 8 ingredients (with the exception of seasonings).  Four recipes will be prepared on stage with Chef Kent Rathbun, one of Dallas’ most generous chefs of his time and talent for noteworthy causes. 

There is a minimum $25 ticket fee and recipes must be sent by April 1 to:
St. Jude Notes of Hope – Iron Chef
5800 Campus Circle Drive East, Suite 108-A
Irving, TX  75063
Or fax to 972-594-1026 
Or email to

For more information, visit the St. Jude's website

Monday, March 11, 2013

Sauteed Baby Artichokes

The trick question on a first grade progress check written assessment read “how many letters do the fewest number of children have in their names?”  And then you refer to the chart on the right and answer “2” because the column with 2 letters in the first name had 2 X’s (vs “1” which had 0 X’s (for 1 letter in the first name)).  As Mrs. Anderson tried to make Elizabeth feel better about her incorrect choice, she stated “I don’t know of any names with just 1 letter.”  For some reason, David and I felt the need to sound smarter than a first grader so we piped in “my dad’s first name is R but he goes by his middle name” and “I work with a guy named J”.  That’s smart – contradict the person who is in charge of your child’s education.  

Jolie sent this recipe the other day.  She teased me with “I’m making this tonight and it’s going fast,” as if I could get to her house before her family devoured it.  We had an artichoke-apalooza – cooking it using the recipe’s method, Jolie’s method and grilled artichoke bottoms from a can (the cheater, short-cut method).  The winner was Jolie’s method, however they looked prettier using the recipe’s method.

Sauteed Baby Artichokes
1.      2 pounds baby artichokes 
2.      Bowl of water with 3 cups of water and juice from 2 fresh lemons (about 3 T) or equivalent amount of vinegar
3.      1 cup of water
1.      1/2 cup olive oil
2.      1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3.      3 cloves garlic, minced
4.      1 T lemon juice
5.      1/2 teaspoon salt
6.      Dash pepper
7.      Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (1/4 to 1/2 cup to taste)

Jolie’s cooking method
Rinse the baby artichokes. Place the artichokes in a steamer and cook for 15-20 to soften.  Remove from steamer basket and allow to cool.  Working on the artichokes one by one, cut off the stem to 1/4-inch from the base; peel back and remove the petals until only the top third of the cone tip is pale green green (I felt like I was wasting a lot of the artichoke but you are removing the tough, non-chewable outer leaves). Cut off the pale green tips. Trim off any remaining green from base of artichoke. Halve or quarter the artichokes, depending on their size and drop in the bowl of acidified water (to prevent discoloration).

In a skillet, heat to medium high and add the olive oil. Add the artichokes, onions, and garlic. Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle on 1 T lemon juice, salt and pepper. Put in serving bowl, sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Recipe’s cooking method
Rinse the baby artichokes. Set out a bowl with 3 cups of ice-cold water; add the fresh squeezed juice from 2 lemons (about 3 T of lemon juice) or vinegar. Working on the artichokes one by one, cut off the stem to 1/4-inch from the base; peel back and remove the petals until only the top third of the cone tip is pale green green.  Cut off the pale green tips. Trim off any remaining green from base of artichoke. Halve or quarter the artichokes, depending on their size and drop in the bowl of acidified water (to prevent discoloration).

Drain artichokes. In a large skillet, heat the artichokes and 1 cup of water to boiling. Cover and simmer 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of the artichokes. Drain well.
Using the same skillet, heat to medium high and add the olive oil.  Add the artichokes, onions, and garlic.  Cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle on 1 T lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Put in serving bowl, sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Chicken Enchiladas

The other night at Pei Wei, the kids and I are eating “Chinese chicken,” (aka, honey seared chicken).  Travis asks if he can use the packet of soy sauce on his food. Elizabeth asks "how do you spell that – s-o-i?" "No, s-o-y", I reply.

She then says "Soy sauce - I am sauce".  (I will give you a minute and let that sink in…  If you do not speak Spanish, “soy” translates into “I am”).  Señoras Stromberg and Garcia would be so proud.   

With such great Mexican food restaurants in Dallas, it baffles me that I would even attempt to make enchiladas at home.  This chicken enchilada recipe is semi-healthy – there is no cream used.  The recipe has been adapted from Tyler Florence’s version because all good Texans know that you don’t put corn in your enchiladas!

Chicken Enchiladas
1.      Olive oil
2.      1 ½ pounds boneless, skin on or 2-2 ½ lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
3.      Salt and pepper
4.      2 t cumin powder
5.      2 t garlic powder
6.      1 white or yellow onion, chopped
7.      2 cloves garlic, minced
8.      1 – 4.5oz can chopped green chiles
9.      1 (28-ounce) can petite cut diced tomatoes however, only use 2 c of tomatoes
10.  ½ t all-purpose flour
11.  16 corn tortillas
12.  1 ½ cups enchilada sauce, canned
13.  2 cup shredded Cheddar and Jack cheeses
14.  Optional garnish: chopped cilantro leaves, chopped scallions, sour cream, chopped tomatoes

Place chicken in a pot and fill until covered with water.  Add 2-3 T olive oil and about 1 T salt.  Boil until chicken is cooked and reaches 170 degrees.  Remove from boiling water to cool.  Once cool, remove skin (and bone) and shred chicken with 2 forks or dice with a knife.  Sprinkle chicken with cumin and garlic powder.

Saute onion and garlic in 1-2 T olive oil tender. Add chiles. Stir well to combine. Add canned tomatoes (unless you like lots of tomato in your enchiladas, only add 2 cups (of 3-3 ½) from can.  Saute 1 minute.  Add chicken to mixture.  Dust the mixture with flour to help set.
Microwave tortillas on high for 30 seconds.  This softens them and makes them more pliable.  Coat the bottom of 2 (13 x 9-inch pans with a ladle of enchilada sauce.  Using a large shallow bowl, dip each tortillas in enchilada sauce to lightly coat.  Spoon 1/4 c chicken mixture in each tortilla.  Fold over filling, place 8 enchiladas in each pan with seam side down.  Top with remaining enchilada sauce and 1 cup of cheese for each pan of enchiladas.  Bake for 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree F oven until cheese melts.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Strawberry Cupcakes

Try to follow along: I place a call to Alyssa and it was going to voice mail. I start heading out of the alley, looking left for any oncoming cars as I begin to turn right. No cars from the left so I turn my view (and the car) to the right and encounter a small, blue convertible heading straight at me. The driver gets out of his car and decides to give me a piece of his mind about how I shouldn't be on the phone (ok, maybe so) and I should stay in my lane. My rationale disappears "Hey buddy, you are in MY lane." This is not the UK (or wherever your accent is from) and you do not drive on the left side. Once you move to our country, you get to follow our laws and the accent does not serve as an excuse. After a few back and forths, he closes his car door and I roll up my window and mutter "jacka** (there were no kids in the car.)

Then I remember my phone call.  I wonder if Alyssa liked the vmail that I left for her.

Spring says to me “pastels” and “fruit” so maybe that’s why strawberry cupcakes invaded my brain the other day.  I found this recipe on Oprah and Martha Stewart so it must be true!  I crave a powerful strawberry flavor to my cupcakes so am recommending (and will try myself) adding strawberry extract to the original recipe.

Strawberry Cupcakes
1.      2/3 cup fresh or frozen whole strawberries (thawed if frozen)
2.      1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3.      1 t baking powder
4.      1/4 t coarse salt
5.      1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
6.      1 t pure vanilla extract
7.      1 t strawberry extract*
8.      1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
9.      1 cup sugar
10.  1 large egg , room temperature
11.  2 large egg whites, room temperature

* this recipe has not been tested with the strawberry extract however I prefer a more strawberry flavor to the cupcake itself so will try this next time

1.      1/2 cup frozen whole strawberries , thawed
2.      1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter , firm and slightly cold
3.      Pinch coarse salt
4.      3 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar , sifted
5.      1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

To make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.

Place strawberries in a small food processor; process until pureed. You should have about 1/3 cup of puree. Add a few more strawberries if necessary, or save any extra puree for frosting; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla and strawberry puree; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.

With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

To make the icing:
Place strawberries in the bowl of a small food processor; process until pureed.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add confectioners' sugar, beat until well combined (I had to scrape down the sides and attachment often).  Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons strawberry puree; mix until just blended. Do not overmix, or frosting will incorporate too much air.  Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream.