Carrot Cake

This is my husband’s official birthday cake, every year.  It makes a really large, dense cake that weighs about 6 lbs when it’s frosted.

Carrot Cake

6 cups shredded carrots (32 oz.)

1 cup brown sugar (8 oz)

1 cup golden raisins (8 0z)

1/2 cup dried currents (4 0z)

4 eggs

1 1/4 cup sugar (8 3/4 oz)

1 cup canola oil (8 oz)

2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

1 cup of drained, crushed pineapple (8 oz)

3 cups of all-purpose flour (12 3/4 oz)

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda

1 teaspoon of salt

4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ground ginger

1 teaspoon of nutmeg

1 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans – optional (4 oz)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and lightly flour 2 9-in cake pans.

Mix the 6 cups shredded carrots, the 1 cup raisins and the 1/2 cup of currents with the 1 cup of brown sugar in a med. bowl and let sit for an hour. You can leave out the raisins and currents and add them into the batter with the nuts, but I like how soft they get when you re-hydrate them by putting them in with the carrots and brown sugar.

In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.

In a large bowl beat the 4 eggs until they are light, add in the 1 cup of canola oil and 1 1/4 cups of sugar and the vanilla extract and mix until combined.  Stir in the 1 cup of pineapple

Stir the flour, baking soda and spices into the eggs and sugar until well mixed and all the flour is absorbed.  Stir in the pineapple and the carrots, raisins and brown sugar and stir until everything is incorporated. If you are tempted to pour out the extra liquid in the carrots, don’t give into it.  The batter will be very wet, but the extra liquid assures a moist cake.  Stir in your nuts if you’re adding them.

Pour batter evenly into prepped pans and bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes until cake tester comes out clean.

Cool pans on a rack for at least 15 minutes then turn out the cakes and finish cooling.

I frost with cream cheese frosting.

Birthday Dinner Teaser

Well, I served a birthday dinner for my husband and his twin brother tonight, altogether there were 14 of us.  I started cooking at 9:00 o’clock this morning and I’m a bit footsore, so I’m just going to tease and post the menu and tomorrow I will post the relevant recipes and pics.

Birthday Dinner

Applebutter pork loin w/baked apples

Twice-baked potatoes

Caesar salad


Carrot Cake

Not a terribly coherent menu, a lot of flavors going on, but I asked my husband what he wanted to go with the pork loin and he picked his favorite potatoes, salad and veggie – so there ya go.

I have to say that the pork loin turned out realllllly good.  It was a autumn dish all the way.  The apples, cinnamon, cloves with the pork was delicious, if I do say so myself.

Pumpkin Bread

I had never made pumpkin bread because I didn’t think I’d like it.  I’m not fond of pumpkin pie (OK, to be truthful I hate it) –  I think it’s a combination of really disliking the flavor of jarred nutmeg, which  to me is overwhelming in anything I taste it in and the texture which to me is just- yuck.  But I decided to try it a few weeks ago, and with a light hand on the spices and using real nutmeg, I was surprised to find that I wound up with a really tasty quickbread.  I made another batch today.  Last time I used canned pumpkin, but this time around I decided to make my own pumpkin puree from 2 sugar pumpkins that cost me the whole sum of $2.

Pumpkin Puree

Cut a sugar or pie pumpkin in half, scrape out the gooey stuff and the seeds.  Put the pumpkin halves cut-side down in a baking dish and roast at 350 degrees until they are really soft. Mine took about 1 1/2 hours.  Scrape the softened pumpkin out of the skin with a spoon and puree it in a blender or food processor until it’s smooth.  More time consuming than opening a can, but certainly not difficult.

Roasted pumpkin and pumpkin puree

Pumpkin Bread

1 cup of canola oil  (5 1/2 oz )  You can substitute 2/3 cup  butter or shortening, I use oil in this recipe because I like the texture that it produces – a really tender middle and a crispyish crust.

2 1/2 cup sugar (18 1/2 oz)

4 large eggs

2 cups (30 oz) pumpkin puree or 2 cans of pumpkin

2/3 cup (5 1/4 oz.) water

3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons of baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (for the sake of all goddesses of baking please use fresh nutmeg, not that awful stuff from the jar)

1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon of allspice

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

Add-ins –  I have kids who are not fond of nuts, so I don’t add them to much of anything that they will be eating, but don’t hesitate to add 1 cup (4 oz) of nuts (walnuts, peacans, almonds) if you like your bread nutty.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl cream your oil  and the sugar then beat in the eggs, pumpkin puree and water.  Stir in your flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and vanilla.  Stir until nicely blended and then mix in your nuts if you are using them.

Split the batter evenly between 2 lightly greased 9 x 5 in. loaf pans.  Bake for 60-65 minutes until a tester comes out clean from the center of the loaf.  Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

I dare you to manage to cool these for more than 30 minutes before the smell makes you cut off an end and try it.  The smell really is wonderous.

Home at Last

We finally got home last night.  Our drive from Boston to Gary, Indiana, was pleasant, very pretty and pretty stress free.  From western Indiana to home in southern Wisconsin was a nightmare of road construction and a nasty storm that hit Chicagoland right as we were going through.

Boston was a lot of fun, though the weather was cold and windy.  We walked two-thirds of The Freedom Trail – Boston Common to the Old North Church.  I would have loved to finish the trail, but we had limited time.  We did take time for lunch – I had some really, really good Boston Clam Chowda and Plymouth Corn Chowder from Boston Chowda Co. at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. My favorite part was walking through Boston’s North End to get to the Paul Revere House and Old North Church.  Passing all of the ristorantes and trattoria and Italian bakeries in the area made me wish we had waited to eat – the smells were incredible.  I loved walking through the Haymarket – the prices were incredible.  A quart of strawberries were $1, a ripe pineapple was $.89, the tomatoes were $.50/lb.  I wanted to load up on produce and fresh fish, but it wouldn’t have worked very well while hoofing it through Boston and then trying to get anything home.

We left Boston late Saturday evening and spent the night in  Worcester.  We drove from Worcester to  Niagra Falls, NY,  the next day and I have to say that it was an absolutely beautiful drive.  The fall colors were gorgeous, one type of  tree in the Catskills changes to this deep burgundy color that I’ve never seen anywhere else.  We ate breakfast for lunch at a really good diner in Albany.   We ate at a casino that night in Niagra Falls and had a really nice meal.  My husband had a reuban that was as big as the plate and I had a great cheeseburger with bbq sauce, onion fritters and cheddar cheese.

The only other food event of any significance was seeing Catawba grapes for sale at a farmers stand outside of a rest stop in western New York and missing a chance to get some because I didn’t buy them on the way in  and by the time we came out they were sold out.

I should be able to  get some pics up tomorrow.


Seafood Central

I finally got internet access back after being without for the last couple of days.   So I thought I would send in a note about my culinary experiences so far in Rhode Island – I’ve eaten crab for every meal except breakfast and I love it.  I had soft shell crab last night at a place in Newport called The Black Pearl Tavern and I had a crab cake sandwich for lunch which was quite tasty.

We’re headed to Boston tomorrow and I’ll see what I can find there.  Does anyone have any recommendations for good seafood in Boston?

Dairy Goodness Pancakes

Pancakes.  Not my favorite breakfast food.  Except for these -they rock.

This recipe is based on the Zephyr Pancake recipe from  The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

Warning: the King Arthur site may be hazardous to your wallet if you like to bake.

Dairy Goodness Pancakes

2 cups of all purpose flour (8 1/2 oz)

2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar (1 1/4 oz)

1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1 teaspoons of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of cinnamon (optional)

3 large egg yolks

1 1/4 cup heavy cream (10 oz)

1 1/4 cup buttermilk (10 oz)

2 tablespoons of melted butter (1 oz)

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla   (try different extracts if you want to change up the flavor – 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract or 1/2 teaspoon of lemon or orange extract with  an added tablespoon of lemon or orange zest is really good.)

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon together.  In another bowl whisk together your wet ingredients – cream, buttermilk, egg yolks, melted butter and vanilla.  Pour your wet ingredients into the dry and whisk them together, gently.  Don’t worry if there are a few lumps in the batter. It’s a really good idea to let your pancake batter rest for 10-15 minutes after you mix it up to let the flour absorb the liquid, but I usually go one step further – I make mine the night before, cover it with plastic wrap and leave it in the refrigerator overnight.  Just take the batter out and let it warm up at room temperature for 5 minutes and you’re ready to go.

Heat your griddle or frying pan to bit under medium.  Grease your surface and scoop the batter (I use a 1/2 measuring cup, my kids like big pancakes) onto the griddle.  Cook until the bottom is golden brown and the edges are starting to look dry and most of the bubbles on the top have popped.  Flip the pancake and cook until the bottom side is cooked.

I usually double this recipe to get 24 large pancakes.  As is it will make 24 medium or 12 large pancakes.

My Mom’s Green Chile

I didn’t make it to the farmer’s market this morning, too many things going on in my house, so I missed the last of fresh non-grocery store produce I’m likely to see until next June.  Living in a place with real winter is a bummer sometimes.  Fresh produce year-round is one of the things I miss most about not living in California.

I did make a serious attempt to get some fruit and veggies at their peak this summer and find a way to store them.  I made strawberry puree from the huge batch of strawberries we brought home from the strawberry farm down the road, I froze Michigan blueberries, nectarines and peaches when we could get them fresh from the farmer’s market in July and August, I made a huge batch of apple butter when our local apples started popping up and I made fresh pesto with basil and spring garlic and froze it into pesto-cubes.  But the favorite thing I have in my stores has to be the chilies I roasted and froze.

I have some habaneros, some banana peppers, some type of little tiny Thai peppers, some mariachi, some jalapenos, some poblanos, and my all-time favorite – Hatch Green chilis.  I admit that I said “forget local” and I ordered a 25 lb. box of Hatch green chiles from Hatch, New Mexico. Hatch green chilis are similar to anaheims, but I think they taste spicier (not hotter, just more flavorful) and the smell when they are roasting is beyond description.

I grew up in southern Colorado and Mexican food was a normal part of what we ate all the time, not Taco Bell stuff, but the real deal – refried beans and tortillas made with lard, sopapillas, enchiladas, flautas, chili rellanos, carne adovada, menudo, and most of all green chile.  There’s a difference between chili and chile.  Chile, where I came from, is a sauce or stew/soup made with green chilies and pork.  And it is one of my favorite things on the planet.

This recipe is an approximation of the chile my Mom made nearly every Sunday in the fall and winter when I was growing up.  I say approximation because I never saw her measure anything for it.  She just put it together Saturday evening and let it cook on low all night long.

Green Chile

5 lb  pork shoulder or pork roast , fat removed, cut into 2 in. pieces

4 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil

3/4 cup all purpose flour (3 1/4 oz)

2 teaspoons of garlic powder

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 quarts of chicken stock, chicken broth (64 oz) – water will do in a pinch, just season it up a little extra

1-1 1/2 lbs. of frozen roasted green chilies, chopped or 2 8 oz cans of chopped green chilies

4 jalepenos or mariachi chilies, diced (more if you like it hotter)

2 teaspoons of Mexican oregano

1 teaspoon of Cumin

1-2 tablespoons of masa harina or corn flour

Salt and pepper to taste

I make this in my 6-qt cast-iron enamel  dutch oven, but you can make it in stock pot or something smaller if you’re not cooking for an army and want to cut the recipe down.

Salt and pepper your cubed pork. Heat up the oil  on med-high and brown your pork with for 6-7 minutes.  I do mine in batches because I like my meat really well-browned and if you overcrowd your pan with meat it ends up kind of boiling in the juice.  Add all of the meat back to the pan then add your flour and stir to coat the meat evenly.  The flour is going to serve to thicken the broth so that it ends up more like a stew than a soup.  Add the garlic powder and chopped garlic and continue to stir the until the flour coating soaks up the juice from the meat and is browned, about 5 minutes.

Pour in the stock or broth, add the green chilies, jalepenos and  spices.  You can add more oregano and cumin than the recipe calls for if you like, but I’m a purist when it comes to my chile and I prefer for that to be the main flavor.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.  Taste test for salt after you turn it down, depending on what kind of stock or broth you use the amount salt you need to add can vary.  You will definitely need more salt if you use water.

I make my chile in the evening and leave it cooking on low all night long, if this isn’t an option, it should  cook for at least 2 hours at a simmer until the pork is falling apart.  After an hour or so you can add in a tablespoon or so of masa harina or corn flour to thicken your broth up if you want it thicker.  You can thicken it with corn starch or a flour slurry if don’t have corn flour, but I like the tiny bit of corn flavor that comes with masa or corn flour.

You can serve this like  soup or stew , it’s excellent with just a tortilla on the side, or use it to “smother” burritos or enchiladas.