Monday, January 30, 2012

Carrot Cake

This post is by special request...  I was asked for a carrot cake recipe and realized that I had never made a carrot cake before!  I mentioned it to Alex who said he Loved carrot cake, so of course I had to make one right away.  Just to make sure I pass on a good recipe.  ;)

Carrot cake is not a universal favorite, I know.  It seems kind of weird to put a bunch of veggies in a cake.  On top of that I'm not usually a fan of cream cheese icing, which is typical for a carrot cake.  It can be heavy and cloying, I think.  But after making this cake; I'm a carrot cake convert.  It was so moist and delicious, and I even thought the icing was awesome.  It has a cream cheese flavor but it is not overwhelming or too heavy tasting.

This carrot cake has a ton of texture in it from the grated carrots and coconut.  If too much texture in a cake freaks you out,  I think you can safely leave out the coconut....but we liked it in.  This cake also has crushed pineapple in it, which sounded different to me but really worked well.  In fact, I'm not sure you'd know it was in there if someone didn't tell you but it does lend a nice sweetness and some more moisture.  The original recipe also calls for walnuts which I didn't add, simply because I didn't have any.  I really liked this cake without them but feel free to add them if you think you'd like them.

This is a pretty two layer cake, a great birthday cake and certainly a cake to remember come Easter.  My little boys loved it too and I didn't feel so bad giving them some because it has vegetables in it you know!  I hope you love it.

Carrot Cake, adapted from Elise at Simply Recipes
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 cups canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrots
1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup drained crushed pineapple

Cream cheese icing
12 oz cream cheese (1 and a half packages), at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room tempterature
3 3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons lemon juice

The first thing to do with this recipe is to get those grated carrots out of the way.  Hopefully you have a food processor with a grating disk on it!  If so just peel about 5 large carrots and push them on through the machine.  If not, you're going to have to break out that hand grater. :(

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Butter two 9 inch cakes pans and line the bottoms of each with a circle cut from wax paper.  This is to ensure the cake comes out of the pan!  Butter the tops of the wax paper too.  If you don't want to go through the trouble, just make sure you use non-stick pans and that they are thoroughly greased with butter.

Once that is done mix the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together in a medium bowl.  In a large bowl or stand mixer, mix together the eggs, oil and vanilla.  Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet until combined.  Now you can stir in the the carrots, coconut, and pineapple.

Pour the batter into your two  pans and bake them for 45-50 minutes on the middle rack of the oven.   At about 25 minutes into the cooking time, rotate the pans so you know they are cooking evenly.

The cakes are done with a toothpick or knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool in their pans for a few minutes before turning them out and letting them cool the rest of the way on a wire rack.

To make the icing put the cream cheese and butter into your mixer and beat until fluffy and combined.  Slowly add in the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.  Lastly add in the vanilla and lemon juice.  If the icing seems too thin, add some more sugar until you get the desired consistency.

Wait until the cakes are completely cooled before frosting them.  Then try to wait patiently until after dinner before digging in....enjoy!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala

Oh Indian Food how I love you!  Love, love, love.  Be my Valentine?  Too much?  Ok, I'll stop.  But I do love Indian food.

For our last dinner with Grandpa Al, which was last night, we made Chicken Tikka Masala.  A favorite of myself and Mr. Pears.

We use Aarti Sequeria's recipe, it is super easy and very good.  The only changes I make are that I cook the marinated chicken on a pan on the stove, and I use two cans of drained diced tomatoes in place of the fresh....because I just hate peeling tomatoes.  

Though tonight we made the chicken, I often just make up the sauce to freeze for easy week night dinners.  And a lot of the time we eat our tikka masala with paneer (homemade cheese!) instead of chicken.  Paneer is really easy to make too...just follow my How To if you are feeling adventurous.

Also on the table last night was Naan.  You can't have Indian food without Naan! Yum.

For this I used a recipe from the blog Eat, Live, can find it here.  The naan was delicious but I really could have made like 6 pieces instead of 4.

For dessert?  The last of the Peanut Butter Pie of course!

Have you made it yet?  What are you waiting for?  That pie is so good it didn't matter that it wasn't Indian in the least.

Happy Wednesday! :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Peanut Butter Pie

Sorry I disappeared there for a minute.  The kids (and the parents, of course) got their first winter illness.  A lovely stomach flu.  Yeah.  Not a lot of eating going on around here for a few days.  Yuck.  But, luckily, we are all recovered now and enjoying a visit from Grandpa Al.  :)  And I have a great recipe to make up for my absence.

You know Valentine's Day is coming up.  I'm not a big one for going all out for the Hallmark holiday but I don't think it is such an awful thing to have a holiday that reminds us to do something nice/special for the ones we love, either.  My kids are too young for sweets yet so I'm going to get them some cute and sappy board books and write an equally cute and sappy note inside for them.  My husband will probably get sweets....sorry to ruin the surprise honey!

This weekend I was looking to get rid of some peanut butter without making peanut butter cookies.  I turned to my new favorite obsession, Pinterest of course, and quickly found a peanut butter pie that looked pretty darn good.   This classic combination of chocolate and peanut butter is a sure to be a great way to say "I love you" to your honey....I hope you try it!

Peanut Butter Pie, adapted from Danielle at Let's Dish
24 Oreo cookies
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

To make a classic chocolate pie crust just put 24 oreo cookies into your food processor and pulse until you have fine crumbs.  Pour the crumbs into  a medium bowl and mix them together with the melted butter.  Once they are nice and crumbly, dump it all into a buttered pie dish.

Press the crumbs evenly across the bottom and up the sides.  Viola!  Chocolate crust with leftover cookies to boot, yeah!

Now to begin the filling you'll want to first make your whipped cream.  Once that is done, scoop it out and put it into separate bowl.  Put the cream cheese and sugar into your mixer (you don't need to clean the bowl) and mix until smooth.  Add the peanut butter and vanilla and mix it up again.  Now fold in your whipped topping (or mix it in the mixer on a low setting).  Scoop the filling into the pie crust and smooth it out evenly.  Refrigerate at least four hours!
When you are ready to serve whip up another batch of whipped cream and spoon it over each slice.  I also topped my pie slices with a little bit of chopped chocolate bar to make it extra pretty. :)  Enjoy!

P.S. You can follow my pins at

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Minestrone Soup

Now that the holidays are over and things have settled down, I feel like we are back to our normal eating/cooking routine.  We are back to cooking a lot on the weekends and making/freezing foods for the kids.  Even though I'm at home all day, I like having simple dinners during the week.  Not only is it less stressful but it also seems to be healthier for us.  Our quick meals during the week are often lighter than the food we indulge in on the weekends.

This weekend I made a minestrone soup.  Mr Pears didn't seem all that thrilled with the prospect of what we called, "a bland soup", but he...umm...ate his words, lol!  This soup is super healthy and packed with a ton of great veggies and beans and a ton of flavor.  It does use a few slices of bacon so it is not a typical vegetarian minestrone, but it could be...and I think it would be just as good.  I just served it with some garlic french bread, and it was a great meal.

This is definitely a weekend recipe, though, in my opinion.  There is lots of chopping to do. But the work does pay off and the recipe made enough soup for us to freeze two batches for later.

So if cutting calories was on your list of resolutions...or if you just want a nice light dinner next week, give this one a try. :)
photo from, my darn phone isn't uploading!

Minestrone Soup, adapted from Bobby Flay
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
2-3 large carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 head of cabbage, sliced thin, and steamed for 2-3 minutes
1/2 bunch kale, destemmed and chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 bouquet garni (1 sprig rosemary, 4 sprigs thyme, 1 bay leaf, tied with kitchen string)
2 cans cannellini beans
salt, pepper, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat and then add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and bacon and cook for about 5 minutes while stirring.  Add in 4 cups of water along with the stock, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, and bouquet garni.  Bring the soup to a boil then turn down the heat and let it simmer together for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, puree one can of beans in  your food processor or blender.  After 30 minutes of simmering add the puree and the other can of beans (drained) to the soup, stir it together and let it all cook 10 minutes longer.  Taste the soup and season it with salt and pepper.

When you serve the soup sprinkle each portion with some Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Moroccan Eggplant

Yesterday I did something wild and crazy....I made myself lunch.  Might not seem that crazy to you but it is a rare occurrence around here.  Most days I don't eat lunch.  I've discussed this can read about it on the only other lunch post I've done, back in August, which was probably the last time I made myself lunch.

Anyway, I know I should eat lunch more often and since we had an extra eggplant left over from the yummy eggplant parm we made the other night, I decided to revive an old favorite of  mine, Moroccan Eggplant.  It is super easy to make but it does take about an hour since the eggplant has to roast for 40 minutes.  It's not a labor intensive dish though, and I actually did something else wild and crazy while it was roasting.  I cleaned out my spice cabinet.  Woo Hoo.

For anyone who is interested in some house organizing/decluttering motivation, check out this calendar from My Simpler Life.  The calendar is free to download and each day you have just one item to declutter.  I'm loving it so far!  And Jan 5, 2012 was the day to clean out the garlic salt that expired in 2004.  No lie.  Plus I didn't even live in this house in 2004!  (Mr Pears owned the house before we met).

Ok back to the's good.  It is easy to reheat throughout the week and it is healthy.  I hope you like it.

Moroccan Eggplant, adapted from....I don't know!  I've been making this awhile and I've no idea where I found the recipe....sorry!  If it's yours let me know and I'll give credit where credit is due.

(makes three lunches, double the recipe to serve four for dinner)

1 medium sized eggplant
1 can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons smoke paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
a pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
Serve over couscous

Start by spraying a large pot or dutch oven with vegetable oil cooking spray and heating it on medium for about 5 minutes.  Prick your eggplant all over with a fork and then put it into your hot pan and cover it.

Let it roast for 20 minutes, turn it over, then let it roast another 20 minutes.  When it is cool enough to handle, slice off the top stem, slice the eggplant lengthwise and then put it face down in a colander to drain for about 10 minutes.

Once drained and cool, scoop out the flesh and put it into a saucepan.  Mash it up with a wooden spoon.

Turn the heat on to medium low and add the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine.  Heat all the way through, about 10 minutes.

While the eggplant is heating, make your couscous.  I make mine by heating 1 cup of water in the microwave until boiling (about 1min30sec) then pouring it over 1/2 cup couscous in my serving bowl.  I just stir it together and put a small plate on top for 5 minutes.  Fluff, drizzle some olive oil and voila!

Top the couscous with the eggplant and enjoy!  This is easy to reheat and keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days.  You can make the couscous fresh each day (only takes 6 minutes!) or make a bigger batch and reheat that too. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

French Baguettes

Happy New Year!  Did you make a resolution this year?  I actually don't think I've ever made a resolution before but this year I did.  A couple of them.

This year I'd like to:
   1. Be a better family member (Mom, Wife, Sister, Daughter)
   2. Finish my thesis....this one might hurt a little

It is hard for me, now, as a Stay-at-Home Wife/Mother to even think about item #2 when item #1 is so important to me.  I want to work on my relationships with my family now that I have come to see how important family is; I guess having kids does that to a person.  And I also want to make the most out of my stay-at-home career.  I want my husband to be proud and find me to be an asset in the home and not just in the traditional workplace.

But.  Eventually I will go back to work and I am soooo clooose to my Master's degree.  It would be such a shame to waste all that time, money and effort.  So I'm going to start slow.  I'm dedicating a few hours a week, every week at the same time, to my thesis.  The rest of the week I'll be working here at home.  Working at being a better Mom, Wife, Sister and Daughter.

So all the best wives make homemade bread right? ;)  I've been making this french bread just about every week for a month or two now.  It is perfect for slicing up with soup, making sub sandwiches or crostinis, and my personal favorite use...toddler sandwiches.  Sliced at a slight bias (diagonal) you have the perfect sized bread slices for little hands to convey peanut butter, cheese, or hummus.  My boys love them.

Alex and Aaron eating one slice with red pepper hummus, one slice with peanut butter and some goldfish for good measure

This recipe makes two smallish baguettes (about a foot long each) which I like because you can freeze one loaf and thaw it when you need it so you always have some nice fresh bread.  This is seriously easy bread to make and fast too.  It only takes 2 hours start to finish which is super quick in homemade bread land.  I hope you love it!

French Baguettes, adapted from Judy Taubert at
1 cup lukewarm water (slightly warm to the touch)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups bread flour (see substitution here)
1 egg, slightly beaten

The original recipe is written for a bread machine, which I don't use for this.  If you want to use one, click on the recipe link for the easy instructions.  This bread is so simple to do without the machine, especially if you have a stand mixer.

To start, put the lukewarm water into a small glass bowl and add the yeast and sugar.  Stir it a little to dissolve the yeast and then let it set for a few minutes (5-15) until it is foamy.

Put the flour and salt into the mixer and pour in the yeast once it is ready.  Slowly turn on the mixer (fitted with the dough hook) and mix until combined.  Once it is, turn the speed up to #2 and let the machine knead the dough for about 7 minutes.  Add more flour if needed, the dough should be nice and smooth and not very sticky when done.

Now oil a large glass bowl with vegetable oil and put the dough in, turning it to coat the dough in oil too.  Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it rest until it has doubled in size, only about 30 minutes.

When it has doubled, punch the dough down and then split the dough in half.  Form two 12 inch baguettes.  You can use a rolling pin or just your hands like I do.  Place the loaves on a greased sheet pan or baguette pan and then slice diagonal slashes across the tops of each loaf every few inches.  Cover the loaves and allow them to rise again for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Brush the loaves with the beaten egg and then bake them for 20 to 25 minutes.  Delicious!

My baguettes on the super cool pan I got for Christmas!