Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mini Carrot Cake Squares

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Easter is right around the corner and a quintessential dessert on most Easter Sunday tables is delicious Carrot Cake.  While Carrot Cake is a popular dessert, like many other dishes, there are thousands of recipes to choose from.   So finding the perfect recipe can be a bit of a challenge.

Well, look no further.  My mother-in-law's Carrot Cake recipe is by far the perfect Carrot Cake.  I even like it better than Ina's... I know- shocking!

It's absolutely delicious, with the addition of cinnamon, pineapple, and carrots it is full of wonderful flavor.  The cream cheese frosting is light, creamy, and perfectly sweet.

Although good flavor is not hard to find in other recipes, what sets this one apart from all of the others, is it's perfect consistency.  It is light and fluffy- so much so that it springs right up when you touch it.  It has great height- providing substantial squares for people to enjoy.  As well as m-o-i-s-t!  It is so perfectly moist every bite I take I say, "wow, this is the best Carrot Cake ever!"  No seriously, that's all I could say to my husband when I sampled a piece.

So if you're looking for a good Carrot Cake recipe or already have one, but are interested in trying something new, give this recipe a try and you won't be disappointed!


Begin with peeling your carrots, cutting the ends off, and shredding them until you've reached 2 cups worth:

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Then sift your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl:

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Then add your sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs into the flour mixture:

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Mix until combined:

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Then add your crushed pineapple and carrots:

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Mix until combined:

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Grease a 9x13 pan with butter:

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Then flour your pan by adding about two tablespoons of flour:

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And move your pan around until the flour sticks to the entire bottom and sides of the pan.  Shake out any excess flour:

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Then add your batter to the pan:

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Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of your pan comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let your cake cool for 30 minutes:

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Meanwhile, to prepare your cream cheese frosting, combine your cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer:

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Beat on medium for 30 seconds until smooth:

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Then add your confectioners sugar:

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Mix on high speed for 2 minutes:

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Until light and fluffy:

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Remove your cake from the pan to continue to cool.  To remove your cake, loosen the edges with a knife:

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Place a dish large enough to cover your pan over the cake:

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Flip it over and let the cake fall on top of your dish and out of the baking pan:

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Once your cake has cooled completely, spread your cream cheese topping over the surface:

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Cut into small squares by cutting vertically:

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Then horizontally:

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Sprinkle with chopped walnuts:

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And serve in decorative cupcake holders:

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Carrot Cake
Dianna's Family Recipe
Makes: 1, 9x13 cake
Prep Time: 30 minutes (plus cooling time)
Cook Time: 40-45 minutes
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 cups grated raw carrot
8 3/4 oz. crushed pineapple, drained

1/2 cup chopped nuts


Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1  8-ounce package cream cheese
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners sugar

Directions
Peel, cut off the ends of your carrots, and grate them until you've reached two cups work and set aside.  Then sift together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl.  Add your sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs to your mixing bowl and mix until combined.

Stir in the carrots and pineapple.  Butter and flour a 9x13 pan and pour your batter into the prepared pan. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then transfer to a dishe to cool completely.

To prepare your frosting, combine the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat until well blended.  Then add your sugar and beat on high.  If too thick, add small amount of milk to spreading consistency.  Spread your frosting over the surface of your cake.  Cut your cake into small squares and sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Serve each square in a decorative cupcake holder and enjoy!
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Red Bliss Potatoes, Carrots, and Onions

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I'm sure you've already noticed, or if you're new to my blog, will quickly realize, that I'm a big fan of Ina Garten's recipes.  She is the first person I look to for a good recipe because she is the most reliable resource, always providing an excellent recipe requiring little to no adjustments.  It is obvious that she has tested her recipes until she has found just the right balance, technique, and flavor pairings.

So when I was interested in finding the best roasted chicken recipe, it came to no surprise when I saw Ina Garten's, that it would be the best.  I continued my research wanting to extend myself away from Ina, but after much deliberation, I came back to her.  I just had to try this recipe she called, "Perfect Roast Chicken".

Not only is the name itself enticing, but so are the ingredients.  Chicken stuffed with lemon, garlic, and thyme- no question this chicken is full of flavor.  In my opinion, flavor is one of the most important criteria in a perfect roasted chicken.

In addition to flavor, finding the perfect juicy center and crisp exterior is just as critcal.  The technique of covering the chicken with butter, ensured me that the exterior would be perfect and the technique of covering the chicken with foil before serving, made me think the meat would be perfectly juicy and tender.

All of these assumptions I made based on reviewing the recipe were true- this is indeed a fantastic dish!  It is delicious and convenient, a perfect weekend meal to enjoy with your family.  A one pot dish that requires minimal prep work and lots of substantial ingredients with wonderful flavor.  Hope you enjoy it!


Begin with preparing your ingredients by cutting your red bliss potatoes:

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Remove the ends of your onion, cut it in half, remove the skin and slice into 1 inch thick slivers:

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Add your potatoes, onions, and peeled carrots to a roasting pan or 9x13 pan.  Season with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon chopped thyme.  Then add 1/2 cup white wine and mix until seasonings are incorporated:

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Then cut your lemon and garlic in half and wash your thyme:

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To prepare your chicken, remove the bag of giblets from the inside of your chicken:

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Wash your chicken with water, inside and out: 

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 Then pat dry your chicken with a paper towel until completely dry:

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Generously season the inside of your chicken with salt and pepper. Season the outside with salt and pepper as well:

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Then place your two lemon halves, two garlic halves, and bunch of thyme in the cavity of your chicken:

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Spread your softened butter over the entire surface.  It is important that your chicken is dry, otherwise it will not spread easily:

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Then, using cooking string, tie your chicken legs together to secure the fillings inside of your chicken.  Place your chicken on top of your potatoes and vegetables and tuck the wing tips under the body of your chicken:

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Bake at 425 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until the chicken thermometer pops up:

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Then cover your chicken with aluminum foil and let it sit for 20 minutes.  Once ready, plate your chicken and scatter your potatoes and vegetables around the chicken.  Make sure to spoon the natural gravy on the bottom of the roasting pan over the chicken.  Garnish with a few sticks of thyme:

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Roasted Chicken with Red Bliss Potatoes, Carrots, and Onions
Adapted From Ina Garten 
Serves: 8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 1/2 hours
(Printable Recipe)

Ingredients
1 (5-6 pound) roasting chicken
8 red bliss potatoes, washed and halved or quartered depending on their size
1 large onion, cut into 1 inch slices
4 carrots, peeled and halved
1 lemon, halved
1 head of garlic, cut in half crosswise
1 large bunch of thyme, plus 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
salt
fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup butter, softened

Directions
Begin with preparing your ingredients by cutting your red bliss potatoes in half or into quarters.  Peel and slice your onion into 1 inch thick slices.  Peel your carrots and cut them in half.  Then cut your lemon and garlic in half and wash your thyme and set aside. Add your potatoes, onions, and peeled carrots to a roasting pan or 9x13 pan.  Season with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon chopped thyme.  Then add 1/2 cup white wine and mix until seasonings are incorporated.   

To prepare your chicken, remove the bag of giblets from the inside of your chicken.  Thoroughly wash your chicken with water, inside and out.  Then pat dry your chicken with a paper towel until completely dry.  Generously season the inside of your chicken with salt and pepper. Season the outside with salt and pepper as well.  

Then place your two lemon halves, two garlic halves, and bunch of thyme in the cavity of your chicken. Spread your softened butter over the entire body of your chicken.  It is important that your chicken is dry, otherwise it will not spread easily.  Then, using cooking string, tie your chicken legs together to secure the fillings inside of your chicken.  

Place your chicken on top of your potatoes and vegetables and tuck the wing tips under the body of your chicken.  Bake at 425 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or until the chicken thermometer pops up.  Then remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil.  Let your chicken sit for 20 minutes.  

Plate your chicken and scatter your potatoes and vegetables around it.  Make sure to spoon the natural gravy on the bottom of the roasting pan over the chicken for added flavor.  Garnish with a few sticks of thyme.
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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Patch Column: Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin





This week on my Patch Column, "Cooking with Chelsea", I'm featuring an Herb Marinated Pork Tenderloin.  A light springtime dish full of wonderful flavor.  Made with fresh herbs, spicy mustard, and lemon, this dish is delicious!

It's also quick and easy to prepare.  Just mix your marinade, let it marinate, sear your pork, and bake!  Only a few quick and easy steps and you have a great weeknight or entertaining dish to serve to guests.

This dish has great presentation, sliced on a serving platter served with fresh vegetables and roasted potatoes.  It's a convenient recipe to have on hand for any occasion. 

Click here to find this recipe on Patch.



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Friday, March 25, 2011

Grapefruit Crème Brûlée

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Now that Spring is here and the weather is going to be warming up (fingers crossed!), my cooking and cravings always change with the season.  With warmer weather and tulips beginning to sprout, it's time to get away from the heavy dishes we've eaten all winter and embrace fresh fruits, vegetables, and lighter meal options.

This Grapefruit Crème Brûlée is a great casual after dinner dessert when you're looking for something light and sweet.  The concept of turning fruit into a dessert is always a great nutritious way to satisfy your sweet tooth.

This dessert in particular, is a fun way of preparing and eating your typical grapefruit.  Sprinkle with some sugar and brown it under the broiler or with a blowtorch, and you have a warm sweetened grapefruit to enjoy!  My broiler doesn't work as well as others, so it was difficult to get the traditional hard candy like consistency Crème Brûlée is known for, but I hope you have better luck with it than I did!

Regardless, the flavor alone is worth making this quick and easy snack.  The warmth of the fruit with the light vanilla homemade whipped cream topping and subtle cinnamon seasoning is an excellent flavor combination. 
While grapefruit is always messy to eat, the juices and flavors blended together so well, creating a great after dinner treat!


Recipe Tips
  • Watch your grapefruit while broiling- it may darken quickly and you don't want it to burn
  • I sliced the individual segments of the grapefruit with one half and not the other to compare and see if it made a difference.  Slicing made it easier to eat, but is not a totally necessary step if you want to skip it.  Grapefruit is generally messy to eat, and this is no different no matter how it's prepared.


Begin with preparing your whipped cream topping by measuring 1 cup of whipping cream:

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Add your cream and vanilla extract into the bowl of an electric mixer:

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Add your sugar:

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And mix on high until stiff peaks form, about 2-3 minutes:

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Your mixture is ready when it reaches a thick whipped cream consistency:

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Meanwhile, slice your grapefruit in half, remove the seeds, and with a pairing knife cut the individual segments of the grapefruit:

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Sprinkle the top with sugar:


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Then broil your grapefruit, watching it carefully, until the top browns.  If you have a blowtorch, you can use that as well:

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Let your grapefruit cool for 5 minutes, then spoon a dollop of whipped cream in the center and add a dash of cinnamon:

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Grapefruit Crème Brûlée 
Serves: 4 
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Bake Time: 5 minutes (time will vary based on your oven)
(Printable Recipe)


Ingredients
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 grapefruits
4 tablespoons sugar (1 tablespoon for each grapefruit half or more as desired)

Cinnamon


Directions
Begin with preparing your whipped cream topping by combining your cream, vanilla extract, and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on high until stiff peaks form, about 2-3 minutes.  Your mixture is ready when it reaches a thick whipped cream consistency. 

Meanwhile, slice your grapefruit in half, remove the seeds, and with a pairing knife cut the individual segments of the grapefruit.  Sprinkle the top of each grapefruit half with one tablespoon of sugar.  Then broil your grapefruit, watching it carefully, until the top browns.  If you have a blowtorch, you can use that as well.

Let your grapefruit cool for 5 minutes, then spoon a dollop of whipped cream in the center and add a dash of cinnamon.

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