Sunday, August 14, 2011

Carrot Cake

Husband loves carrot cake, but it's gotta be just so. It has to have raisins and crushed pineapple, be very moist and have lots of great cream cheese frosting. He is a carrot cake connoisseur.

I have made a few different recipes in the past; and they were all pretty good. It has been a while and I decided again for that perfect recipe.

Several things got my attention:

1. This recipe calls for a lot of shredded carrots. Three cups of carrots for 9x9 pan is a lot of carrots compared to my other recipes.
2. The instructions to shred the carrots, mix in the brown sugar and let it sit for an hour. Love that! The carrots juiced up and took on the flavor of the brown sugar.
3. Mixing in the raisins with the carrot mixture seem to plump up the raisins and I am thinking that contributed to them not sinking to the bottom of the cake. I have had that problem in the past and no issues this time.
4. Lots of cinnamon; which made it taste great and smell amazing while it baked.

Adapted from


3 cups Grated Carrots
½ cup Brown Sugar
½ cup Raisins
2 Eggs
¾ cup White Sugar
½ cup Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
½ cup Crushed Pineapple, drained
1 ½ cups All-Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Salt
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon


1. In a medium bowl, combine grated carrots and brown sugar. Set aside for 60 minutes, then stir in raisins.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour 9 x 9 inch baking pan.

3. In a large bowl, beat eggs until light and fluffy. Beat in the white sugar, oil and vanilla until creamy. Stir in the pineapple. (Make sure the pineapple is well drained.)  Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, stir into the wet mixture until absorbed. Stir in the carrot mixture. Pour evenly into the prepared pan.

4. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes in the preheated oven, until cake tests done with a toothpick.  When completely cooled, frost with cream cheese frosting.

The cake is only part of it; carrot cake HAS to have cream cheese frosting.


½ cup Butter, softened to room temp
8 ounces Cream Cheese, softened to room temp
4 cups Confectioners' Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 cup Chopped Pecans If Desired


To Make Frosting: In a stand mixer or bowl using a electric mixer, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Sprinkle with chopped pecans if desired. Frost the cooled cake.

*Both the cake and the frosting can contain nuts if desired; either walnuts or pecans. I didn't opt for either.

I think husband liked it. :-)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Crumb Topped Pecan Strawberry bars

I love eating breakfast and I have been on a personal crusade to eat healthier cereal. I know many people think "healthy cereal" is an oxymoron, but I do think you can, at least, make better choices. Whole grain with minimal sugar beats overly processed sugar bombs any day. Your digestive tract will thank you. ;-)

Enter these cereal bars made with whole grain cereal. They are more indulgent than a bowl of cereal; but we have been enjoying them for breakfast the last several morning. The original recipe called for cherry; but I am not big fan of cherry. As far as I am concerned any jar of all fruit should work just fine.

Adapted from


1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Quick-Cooking Oats
1 cup Puffed Rice Cereal  ( I used Kashi 7 whole grain cereal puffs )
1 cup Chopped Pecans
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Salt
¼ cup (½ stick) Butter, softened
¼ cup Vegetable Oil
⅓ cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 (10-ounce) Jar Strawberry All-Fruit Spread ( I used Smucker's Simply Fruit. )


Preheat oven to 350F. Butter or spray a 9-inch-square baking pan.

Combine flour, oats, puffed rice, pecans, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat butter, oil, sugar and vanilla in a stand mixer or in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well-blended and creamy. Add dry ingredients and mix until moistened and a crumbly dough forms. It is less dough and more crumbly.

Reserve 1 1/4 cups of the dough for the topping. Press remaining dough evenly into bottom of pan.

Spread fruit spread evenly over dough in pan. Sprinkle reserved dough mixture over top, leaving some areas uncovered. Gently press down to adhere topping to fruit layer. Bake 30-35 minutes or until deep golden. Cool 15 minutes. Slice into 12 (2 ¼ x 3-inch) bars.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chili Rubbed Pork chops

I have experimented with this recipe a couple times now. I love the concept of a spicy rub on a pork chop. The first time I made it; I didn't use a lot of spice rub and it tasted like a pan fried pork chop. Which isn't a bad thing, of course, but we couldn't taste much chili rub. This time I doubled the rub. My plan was also to allow the rub to sit on the pork for a couple hours to hopefully incorporate more flavor; but my work schedule prevented me from getting home in time to make that happen.
There was certainly more flavor this time, but we agree we want to try grilling them next time as opposed to frying in the cast iron.
I served them with the Black Bean and Corn Salad that I blogged about recently and it made a good combination. I added a jalapeƱo pepper from the Farmer's Market stash to the salad so it was a bit spicier than before.

Adapted from Food Network


2 large Onions
⅓ cup hot Chili Powder
Kosher Salt
½ tsp Dried Oregano
½ tsp Ground Cumin
¼ tsp Ground Cloves
2 cloves Garlic, smashed
8 Thin-Cut Boneless Pork Chops (About 2 Pounds Total), trimmed
Vegetable Oil, for the cast iron pan


Roughly chop ½ onion and garlic and place in a blender or chopper with the chili powder, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, the oregano, cumin and cloves. Puree, adding about ⅓ cup water to make a thick paste.

Slice the remaining 1 ½ onions into thin rings and place in a bowl with the chili puree and pork; toss to coat.

Place vegetable oil a large cast-iron skillet or grill pan  and place over high heat. Place 4 pork chops in the skillet and surround with half of the onions. Cook until the pork starts to blacken on the outside and is cooked through. Repeat with the remaining pork chops and onions.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Cilantro Lime Chicken Tacos

It's getting to be harvest season around here so the local Farmer's Market has a lot of offer. I have been in a meal planning slump so I was looking for ideas.

This is our haul yesterday.

Suddenly the meal plan for the week was coming together. Chicken chimichangas tomorrow night to make use of one of those Jalapeno peppers, black bean and corn salad with pork chops later in the week, sweet corn with hamburgers on the grill tonight with a slice of fresh tomato on the burger and I couldn't wait to try the Raspberry jam on toast this morning. I couldn't decide between Rhubarb or Red Raspberry jam so I asked the vendor; he said why decide?  Good point, but I decided on the raspberry and it is delicious.

I already had Cilantro Lime chicken tacos on the menu for last night. I hadn't intended to use Jalapeno but with six peppers to use it seemed like a good idea. I only used half of one in the marinade as I didn't want it to over power the lime and cilantro flavor.  I thought it turned out perfect.  I minced the rest of the pepper and we sprinkled it over the finished taco mixture.

Adapted from


1 small Lime, juice and zest
1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Garlic Cloves, minced
½ small Jalapeno Pepper
¼ tsp Cumin
¼ tsp Onion Powder
¼ tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
¼ tsp Chili Powder
Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
⅛ cup Fresh Cilantro, chopped
1 large Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast, trimmed of any fat
Flour Tortillas , warmed
Sour Cream
Green Onions, sliced
Salsa or fresh tomato
Mexican cheese, shredded


1 Place all ingredients up to cilantro into a bowl and mix. Place the chicken breast in a large Ziploc bag and pour in the marinade mixture. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for 2-4 hours.

2 Grill chicken breasts until thoroughly cooked. Let the meat rest for a few minutes  before slicing into thin slices. Layer the warmed tortilla with sour cream, guacamole, sliced chicken, green onions, diced Jalapeno pepper and tomato or salsa and shredded cheese.