Monday, November 24, 2014

The Absolute Best Carrot Cake - I Kid You Not

I've been known to exaggerate a bit.  I've been labelled as a bit of a drama queen at times.  It's ok, I own it.  But let me tell you, when I say this is the BEST carrot cake recipe EVER I'm telling the truth.

This cake came about over a challenge.  My hubby mentioned that no one bakes a better carrot cake than his aunt.  This statement set the wheels in motion...and on the weekend I participated in a  "carrot cake-off".  Of course, I was the only physical contender, but the man of the house judged my cake based on what he was used to eating from his dear aunt.

I don't think I have to say it, but I will anyways.  I won!  And I did it with this recipe.  Honestly - the best. cake. ever.  Like EVER!!!!


The BEST Carrot Cake EVER
1 1/3 c veg oil
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
6 eggs
1 T vanilla extract
3 1/4 c flour
1 T cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 lb grated carrots
Cream Cheese Frosting:
3 (8 oz.) bricks cream cheese, room temperature
1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 T vanilla extract
6 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 9" round pans with Pam.  Mix the first 3 ingredients in a large bowl until smooth. Add in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, and mix until smooth.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining dry ingredients until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. Fold in the carrots. Pour the batter into prepared pans and bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Once the cakes are cool, level them off with a large knife or cake leveler.  To make the frosting, beat together the first three ingredients until smooth.  Slowly add in the powdered sugar and beat until combined.  Than, frost your cake, eat it, and love it!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Jam Muffins

I had a container of yogurt in the fridge that was only going to good for a couple of days, so I needed to use it asap.  I made an adaptation of a classic yogurt cake, and turned them into jam muffins.  I always prefer making muffins over a cake because they are so much more portable and easy for the kids to grab.

These muffins are not overly sweet, they have the added punch of protein, and they are so moist.  They are quick to come together, and a favorite of the family's, so I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Yogurt Jam Muffins
1 c butter
1 1/2 c white sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 c plain yogurt (or more as needed if batter is too dry)
jam - whatever flavor you would like!

Preheat oven to 350.  Cream together the first 3 ingredients.  Add eggs and combine.  In a separate bowl mix together the dry ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients and yogurt alternately to the butter mixture, mixing after each addition.  To assemble, line a muffin container with muffin cups.  Put about a tablespoon of batter in the bottom of each cup.  Add a teaspoon of jam on top, than top with another tablespoon of batter.  This recipe makes about 20 muffins.  Bake for 30 minutes, and eat!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Make Ahead Chicken Parm Meatball Casserole

I love make ahead meals!  On nights when I actually have some time to cook, I usually make what we are eating that evening, as well as an extra meal to freeze for another night.  Alternatively, I make a meal and double the recipe so that I can freeze the extra portion for later.  There is nothing better than coming home from work on a busy evening, and pulling a fully cooked (yet home made) meal out of your freezer.  Ah, the sweet things in life...

This recipe was an adaptation of Betty Crocker's, but as always, either one will work.  It has all the flavors and goodness of chicken parmesan, without the hassle.  It uses very few ingredients, and comes together quickly, and even better - freezes beautifully!  It's kid & budget friendly, so it's a keeper in my books, enjoy!

Chicken Parm Meatball Casserole
2lb ground chicken
1 c bread crumbs
1 c panko
2 eggs
any other seasonings you enjoy - I added garlic powder, seasoning salt, black pepper, pinch of cayenne
1 box uncooked penne
1 can tomato sauce
4 c shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 450.  In a large pot of salted water, cook pasta as per directions on box, ending the cooking time early by one minute.  Drain & set aside.  Meanwhile combine the first 4 ingredients plus your preferred seasonings in a large bowl and mix by hand.  Form 1" meatballs and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment (for easy clean up).  Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. If you are eating this the same day, lower your oven temp to 350 at this point, otherwise turn the oven off. Once pasta is cooked, mix with tomato sauce in a large bowl.  Add in cooked meatballs and toss to combine.  In a 9x13 baking dish, spread half of the pasta/meatball mixture.  Spread half of the cheese on top.  Add the remaining mixture, and then remaining cheese.  If you are eating the same day, place in the 350 oven for about 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.  If you are freezing for another day, allow the casserole to cool down completely before wrapping in plastic and then foil.  On the day you would like to eat it, take it out of the freezer and allow it to defrost to room temp.  Put in a 350 oven uncovered for 20 minutes.

Serve this with a quick salad - either a garden or caesar, and voila!  Dinner in a pinch!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Greek Lamb Chops With Kale

I had a major craving for lamb last night.  And kale was on sale at Loblaws (.97 cents for a huge bushel!!) so it seemed like the perfect fit for dinner.  Up until this evening, I hadn't found a way to prepare kale that I actually enjoyed.  I know that it's a nutritional powerhouse yadi yadi ya and I know we should be eating more of it, but there was something about the gritty consistency that I just couldn't handle.

Well clearly I was doing something wrong because tonight's dinner was fantastic.  I don't have an exact recipe for the lamb since I just eyeball the seasonings but I'll do my best to explain.  The kale is an adaptation of Bobby Flay's sauteed kale.  Enjoy!

Greek Lamb Chops with Kale
8 lamb chops
1/4 c EVOO
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp dijon mustard
2 T chopped fresh parsley & thyme (or 2 tsp dried of each)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt & pepper
1 bunch of kale, stems removed & coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic sliced
1 red onion chopped
1/2 c chicken stock (or veg)
2 T vinegar - the original recipe calls for red wine vinegar, but I used a spicy vinegar from the Dominican.  To replicate this, you can use red wine vinegar and a pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes.

 For the lamb, throw the chops in a resealable bag and add the next 6 ingredients.  Ensure the lamb is fully coated, and allow to marinate for 2 hours - overnight.  When ready to cook, remove from the fridge and bring to room temp.  Broil them for about 8 minutes in your oven (at 450).  For the kale, add EVOO to a pan over medium heat.  Add garlic & red onion and saute for a couple of minutes, until fragrant.  Add stock and then kale.  Toss to coat.  Cover and cook for about 5 minutes, then uncover and add vinegar, salt & pepper to taste.  Toss and continue to steam until kale is cooked, about another 2-3 minutes.

Serve your lamb alongside the kale and lick your lips when done, yum!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Salmon With Spicy Coconut Sauce

If you have been reading my blog for a while, or if you know me, you know that I'm not a fan of salmon.  For some reason it's the only fish I just can't stand.

When I saw this recipe in Oprah's magazine, I thought I would give it a try.  I like coconut, and I like spicy, and I thought that maybe the sauce would mask the salmon enough for me to love it.  Unfortunately I was wrong, but my family loved it so I thought I would still post the recipe for you (weird) salmon-lovers out there.

Salmon With Spicy Coconut Sauce
1 T veg oil
4 6oz salmon fillets
salt & pepper 
1 red onion thinly sliced
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 can coconut milk
1 T lemon juice
1 roasted red pepper, sliced
1 head bok choy, chopped
fresh basil

In skillet over medium-high, heat oil.  Season salmon with salt & pepper and cook 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate.  Cook onion with a pinch of salt & cayenne, stirring, until golden, 6 minutes.  Add milk & lemon juice and simmer, stirring, 10 minutes.  Add next 2 ingredients and simmer 1 minute.  Return salmon to pan and simmer 2 minutes.  Season to taste and garnish with basil.