Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Favorite Carrot Cake "Chatham Carrot Cake"

A number of you have expressed interest in my favorite carrot cake recipe and have emailed me for the recipe in response to an offer I made to a commenter on my NY Cheesecake post.  So, because I love sharing my favorite recipes, I'm going to post the recipe, but without any photos.  To provide you all with photos of this wonderful cake, I'd have to make it, and then there would only be the two of us who would eat it as our family is scattered all over New England, and I work from home so I can't take it to work to share.  Ultimately, the cake would only be eaten by me because Ole Sweetie-Pi can't eat nuts, and I wouldn't consider this cake without the nuts.  While I could, probably, over time eat the entire cake by myself and love every morsel of it, I just don't think it's a good idea.  I'm trying to learn to set limits for myself.

Anyway, I discovered this gem of a recipe in a little community type cookbook while I lived in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in a booklet called Cape Cod Recipes (Chatham is part of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, for those of you who may not be familiar with our New England geography, a well-to-do community of fine dining and sandy beaches).  Anyway, I've made this recipe for years, and it is consistently well received with many compliments.  I've been told it's better than carrot cakes from our local bakeries, and I've even wowed potential suitors for Old Sweetie-Pi's daughters. That's high praise indeed, in my opinion. 

Just let me pass along one caveat.  As I said, I've made this cake numerous times and for me it's the only carrot cake recipe I'll use.  I've tried others "just to see" and in the end declare this one to be my favorite.  The caveat:  for whatever reason the cake fell during baking. It's only happened a couple of times;  don't ask me why because I don't know.  Too much liquid from the carrots, too much stirring, not enough stirring.  I'm baffled.  But when I see that disappointing result, I go right back and remake the cake, same day, same everything, and the cake works.  Go figure.

Anyway, enough about me.  Here's the recipe.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family, friends, and I do.  It's nicely spiced and so moist!

2 cups flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups sugar (I use 1 1/2  cup white  and 1/2 cup brown)
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup vegetable oil
1 eight-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350*F.  Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.  Set aside.
Combine first 7 ingredients and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs 1 minute.  Add sugar and continue beating until eggs are lemon-colored.  Add oil, dry ingredients, carrots, pineapple, and nuts.  Divide batter evenly between the pans and bake about 30 minutes or until tested done with a toothpick.  Let sit in the pans for about 10 minutes before turning out to finish cooling on a baking rack.
Once cooled, torte the cake, that is, divide each of the cake layers in  half across the middle, for a total of four layers. I found this to be a very important step to fully realize the flavor of this wonderful cake.  There's something magical about all that gorgeous cream cheese frosting between the layers.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING :  Combine  until smooth, 4 ounces cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 cup butter, 2 cups confectioners' sugar.  (If  I recall correctly, I double the amount of frosting, but use your best judgment).  I use a generous amount of frosting between the layers as well as frosting for the top.  I leave the sides without frosting because it's pretty to see the layers of cake and frosting and it is possible to have too much of a good thing, smiles.
If you want, add some finely chopped walnuts to the top layer for decoration.
The original recipe called for making this cake in a 13x9 inch pan and baking for 60 minutes.  I've done that, and to tell you the truth, and the cake just isn't anywhere near as good. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

"Shepherd's Pie With an Attitude" Casserole

Ole Sweetie-Pi is the one the one who dubbed this casserole "Shepard's Pie with an Attitude."  Truth be told it is very much like a shepherd's pie. And like shepherd's pie, we loved this recipe.  Ole Sweetie-Pi, who ordinarily doesn't like leftovers, had an early lunch the next day to ensure that he could have this again.

It is satisfying, filling, inexpensive, made with everyday pantry ingredients, and one of those family-style meals that adults seem to wistfully recall their moms making.
This doesn't look fancy; there are no big assertive flavors, just good, simple home cooking that keeps you coming back for more.  Original recipe is found here at Food.Com

Hamburger, Green Bean, Tomato Soup, Mashed Potato Hot Dish

1 pound ground beef (hamburg)
1/4 cup white onion, diced
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced (I omitted it)
1 can (10.75 oz) tomato soup, undiluted
1 can (14.5 oz) cut green beans, drained
2 cups mashed potatoes, made in advance with milk and butter
salt and pepper to taste
Other spices as desired
Maybe a little cheese on top would be a nice addition??

Preheat over to 350* Fahrenheit.

Brown the hamburg in a fry pan, adding salt and pepper to taste.  Drain the fat and place the hamburg in a  casserole dish. 

In the same fry pay with a bit of butter or oil, cook the onions until translucent and combine with the hamburg. 

Add the garlic, tomato soup, and green beans.  Stir to combine.  Add the mashed potatoes and spread over the hamburg-tomato soup-green bean mixture.

You might want to put a baking sheet under this as it can bubble over.   Bake, uncovered,  for 30 minutes. 

Will serve 6 to 8, depending on how you "fluff" out the meal with another vegetable,  salad, dessert, etc.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Banana Coconut Upside Down Cake

Banana Coconut Upside Down Cake
Lawsy mercy it has been a while since I've sat down and chatted with you.-- just about three months from the looks of it.  I've missed you all, but I have anonymously stopped by your blogs and oogled and ahhed over your recipes.

I hadn't been feeling tip top for about a year, mostly exhausted, and I thought it was just work-related stress.  Then I developed some unpleasant symptoms which could not be ignored, and to make a long story short, I had a totally unsuspected, potentially life-threatening diagnosis, followed up with some surgery.  I was out of work for six weeks, and have only been back four weeks.  I'm slowly getting my vim and vigor back,  and ever so grateful to be alive.  Time will tell the final prognosis but so far I've been given the green light.

I have to smile. Per doctor's orders, Ole Sweetie-Pi was in charge of the kitchen, grocery shopping, cat boxes, laundry, and just about everything else. I wasn't even supposed to go for car rides in the first stages of healing. Talk about cabin fever. I don't think I've eaten as many submarine sandwiches or frozen dinners as I did during those six weeks.  It's a time I'll look back with fondness.  Ole Sweetie-Pi really came through. 

Anyway, as I make my way back into the kitchen, I'm starting on light (as in weight and time involved, not so much in calories, smiles) cooking.  I used to be quite a snob when it came to boxed cake mixes, but not any more.  They are yummy good!  I found this recipe in one my daily food-related emails, probably Mr. Foods or Recipe Lion, but whatever the source, the recipe was linked to  The minute I saw it, I knew I had to have it. 

This recipe, which makes two single-layer cakes,  is easy to prepare and the result far outweighs the effort.  I made it for dessert for a Saturday night dinner, but promptly ate it as a brunch cake the following Sunday morning.  It was perfect with a steaming cup of hot coffee. 

Banana Coconut Upside Down Cake

1 yellow cake mix
3 whole eggs
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water

6 bananas, sliced, divided between two pans
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut, divided between two pans

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350* Fahrenheit.  Spray or   grease and flour  two deep 8-inch round cake pans. (I think my cake pans are 8 inches round by 2 inches deep, and I had just barely enough space for the risen cake.)

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the cake mix, eggs, oil, water and sour cream on low until combined.  Increase speed to high and beat for 2 minutes.

Slice bananas evenly over the bottom of the two cake pans.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter.  Add the brown sugar and lemon juice and heat until dissolved.  Pour half of the brown sugar mixture into each of the two cake pans, over the bananas.  Sprinkle coconut over the brown sugar sauce.

Pour the cake batter on top of the coconut, dividing equally between the two pans.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.  Invert onto serving platter.  Slice to serve.
Cake is probably best the day it is served, but leftovers can be stored overnight in the refrigerator. Much beyond that and the bananas might not be as appealing as you would wish.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pepper Steak

The mother of a former sweetheart of mine used to boil her steak, regardless of the cut, until it was grey, slice it and serve it. It was chewy and unappealing.  I grew up in a household where steak was fried.  The first time I ever had a roast beef, I was 18.  I can still remember my husband and I taking my mother and two younger brothers out to dinner in a nice middle class restaurant.  My oldest brother saw roast beef on the menu and his eyes lit up; roast beef sounded so fancy.  He proudly placed his order and when the waitress asked him how he'd like it done, he stumbled, looking confused and abashed,  and said, "Fried, I guess." 

I needed a recipe for beef tips and when I found this recipe I was prepared not to like this, mostly because of the way the beef is prepared ...simmered  until tender, even if it was with other delicious flavors.   However, I needed something quick and easy, something a little different than I normally serve, with items I had on hand.  Gosh, this was good.  Ole Sweetie-Pi, the beef lover, gave it two hearty thumbs up.

This is a good recipe if you're trying to cut back on meat.  With one pound of beef, you can serve four people. You're going to have to like the flavor of green peppers, though.  It's a predominate flavor along with the stewed tomatoes.  The recipe calls for cutting the peppers into rings, which makes for a nice presentation, but not so easy to eat. I'd be inclined to save a couple of rings for decorative purposes and cut the peppers into large chunks.  Same with the stewed tomatoes.  I threw the can in whole, but next time will cut the tomatoes into at least halves if not fourths.

Leftovers were very good.  The noddles had a chance to absorb some of the broth and I think I liked this even more the second day.

Pepper Steak with Stewed Tomatoes

1 pound sirloin tips cut in serving-sized pieces
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, diced finely
1 teaspoon salt
dash pepper
1 cup beef broth
1 14.5 ounce can stewed tomatoes, tomatoes broken up
1 large green bell pepper, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
pinch sugar

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium low heat.  Add the beef and brown, about 15 minutes.  Add the onion and garlic and season with the salt and pepper.  Add beef broth to the meat and cover and simmer over low heat, about 25 minutes, or until meat is tender.  Add the tomatoes and green pepper; cook 10 minutes longer. 

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the cornstarch, water, and soy sauce.  Stir well to make a slurry.  Add to the meat mixture, stirring constantly, about five minutes to thicken the sauce.  Add a pinch of sugar if desired.  Adjust seasoning.

If sauce is too thick for your liking, add a small splash of water and stir.  If it's not thick enough, make another batch of slurry (just water and cornstarch) and add in small amounts, allowing it to cook in between before adding more  to determine how thick the sauce is going to be. 


Monday, April 16, 2012

Strawberry-Banana Trifle

 I wasn't going to post this, but Ole Sweetie-Pi kept yammering at me until I agreed to put this on the blog, smiles.  This is a dessert I've made for 30 years or more, and don't even have a handwritten recipe for it.  It's one of those easy, delicious, beautiful, make-ahead desserts that you can make without a lick of baking, or if you have the time and inclination, to make as much from-scratch as you wish.  I can't tell you how many times I've made this over the years, and it's still a favorite.  No trifle bowl?  No problem!  Fits nicely into a large pie plate.

Sweetie-Pi ate almost the entire pie-panful by himself!! recipe...just a how to. 

Strawberry-Banana Trifle

One loaf pound cake, cut into an even number of slices
Strawberry jam
A bit of sherry (the kind you drink, not cooking sherry!)
3-4 bananas sliced
Vanilla pudding (two boxes prepared according to directions on box)
A pint of strawberries, rinsed, dried, sliced
Whipped topping

Make "sandwiches" wth the sliced pound cake and strawberry jam and line the bottom and sides of your pie plate with the sandwiches, cutting to fit as needed.  Doesn't have to be beautiful or perfect.

Sprinkle with the sherry.  Go careful or you can add too much and the sherry will overpower all other flavors.  Probably 3-4 tablespoons in total is more than enough.  I would urge you not to forgo the sherry.  It imparts a wonderful flavor and really is one of the ingredients that really makes this trifle.

Spread half of the vanilla pudding over the jam-pound cake sandwiches.

Scatter the sliced bananas over the pudding.

Spread the remaining half of the vanilla pudding over the bananas.

Add sliced strawberries.

If you have it, any extra vanilla can  be spead it over the strawberries, helps to keep the strawberries encased for longer freshness, otherwise it's not necessary.

Cover with plastic wrap and allow flavors to develop for several hours.  Serve with whipped topping of choice.

UMMM-ummm good! 

Monday, April 2, 2012

(Not Key) Lime Pie

Oh boy, if you love the tang of lime, this pie is for you.  Gosh this is good.  Neither Ole Sweetie-Pi nor I could stop taking slivers of this luscious pie even after we had a whole piece to ourselves.  The first thing to hit the taste buds was the tang of the lime and then the sweet of the sweetened condensed milk and then the tang of the lime again.  My mouth waters at the thought of this.  And yes, I ate a piece of it for breakfast the next morning, grins.

Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? As you can see, this makes a thin pie; I suppose it's to allow plenty of room for mountains of optional meringue (which I don't eat) or whipped cream.  When I saw how thin the pie was I was a tad disappointed but when I tasted it, the big lime flavor and aroma more than compensated.  I would not be tempted to double the filling as I think it would be overwhelming, but use your best judgment.  The recipe calls for a 9-inch pie plate; perhaps you'd prefer to use an 8-inch to make a pie with a thicker filling.

The ingredients are so simple and so few.  This is one pie we'll be enjoying often!

(Not Key) Lime Pie

4 eggs, separated
1 rounded tablespoon grated lime zest (about 2 limes)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk, which is a different product entirely)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

one recipe graham cracker crust, premade or your favorite recipe or try the one below

Preheat oven to 325*F.

Rinse your limes under cold water and dry before using. 

In a medium sized bowl, sseparate the four eggs, (the whites from the yolks and reserve the whites for another use). Whisk the egg yolks and lime zest together in a bowl for about 2 minutes or until the yolks turn a light greenish yellow color. There will be bits of lime zest in the whisked mixture.  Whisk in the sweetened condensed milk and then add the lime juice. Whisk to combine and set aside.  Allow to sit for about five minutes or until the filling thickens ~ the whisk will leave a trail in the filling when pulled through the filling.  Pour the filling into the prepared graham cracker crust and spread evenly.

Bake  in your preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until almost completely set.  The filling should still be a bit wobbly when the pan is jiggled.  Cool to room temperature on a wire rack and then completely chill in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before slicing and serving.

Graham Cracker Crust

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 1 1/2 packets of graham crackers)
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350*F

Put the crumbs in a small bowl and stir in the sugar.  Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and mix thoroughly.  With your impeccably clean hands, press and pat the mixture evenly into a 9-inch pie plate. 

Bake the empty crust for 8 to 10 minutes or until a dark golden brown.  The crust will continue to harden as it cools.  Cool the crust on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before filling.  You can make the crust up to a day ahead of time; just store it in the refrigerator.

MY NOTES:  I like whipped cream with my lime pie.  I had a little lime zest left over and just added a bit to the whipped cream.  YUM!  Lots of lime flavor.

I use the back of a teaspoon to smooth and thin the amount of graham cracker in the curve of the pie plate~you know where the bottom edge of the pie meets the "floor" of the pie.  Sometimes the crust can become pretty thick there. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Salad with Thousand Island Dressing

Ole Sweetie-Pi and I went out to dinner a while back and one of the salad offerings was a wedge of lettuce with bacon and tomato with a choice of dressing.  It was such a delicious and simple idea that I decided to recreate it at home.

My salad wedge was bathed in bleu cheese, but Ole Sweetie-Pi fell back on his favorite, thousand island.  I've only had the bottled stuff, and while it's okay, I'm pretty happy to pass it up for something more piquant.  However, there's no way on this planet he's going to even try bleu cheese dressing (he can't stand that gorgeous aroma that draws me in), so I begrudgingly went with the thousand island.

Man, there is absolutely no comparison!  This dressing is full bodied, tangy, and just plain delicious.  I didn't know what I was missing.  Every now and again I make a  cooking discovery that makes me sit up and take notice and this was one of those times.

The salad part is easy enough.  Just a head of lettuce, outer leaves discarded if they look iffy, and then the head cut into half (cut from top to bottom, not across the middle) and then at least into half again, depending on the size of the head.  I think I ended up cutting my head of lettuce into six wedges.  Rinse under cold running water, and set on paper towels to absorb the moisture. 

Fry up several pieces of bacon; if you like a lot of bacon, figure two slices each.  After thoroughly cooked,  set on a couple of paper towels to drain off the excess fat, and then crumble and set aside. 

Dice up some firm ripe tomatoes.  I removed the pulp and seeds from mine because I don't like my salad all mushy, but it's personal choice.  If it doesn't offend you, there's no harm in leaving it.

Put your salad wedge on a plate, pour a generous amount of dressing over the wedge.  Sprinkle with reserved bacon crumbles and diced tomatoes. 

Thousand Island Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chili sauce **
1/4 cup minced pimiento-stuffed green olives
1 tablespoon minced green bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 hard-cooked, boiled egg, peeled and then finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce (like Tabasco)

Mix all ingredients, cover, and chill several hours.

**Too late I discovered I did not have any chili sauce in the house (it's something we rarely use) so I had to stop and make my own.  I wrote down the ingredients on a scrap piece of a paper but now that I want to find the link to credit the recipe, I can't find it, so my apologies to the originator.  Let me give you what I have, and my assurances that this chili sauce is good!  Man, it would make a terrific base for shrimp cocktail sauce. 

No picture, alas, as it was just a red sauce in a pan.

Chili Sauce

1 32-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup diced green pepper
1 garlic clove, diced
1 small red pepper, seeds removed, diced**
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

Add all in a medium sized sauce pan.  Boil 30 minutes.  Best after its allowed to sit and ripen for a bit, I think.

**The recipe just said red pepper, and I'm assuming it was a sweet red bell pepper, which I used, not a red chili pepper.