Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Orange Bow Knots and 24 years of Wedded Bliss

Our Engagement pictures were done by a friend of the family.  Our pictures were not a priority for us and it makes me sad when I see the quality and such.  This is something I always counsel brides and grooms about, in the future the cake is all eaten, the flowers are dead, the dress is too small…BUT…your pictures are what you will have your whole life.  Spend your money wisely and hire the BEST photographer you can afford.

24 years ago today on a beautiful Thursday morning in Seattle, Washington, I married my best friend.  It was a beautiful day and we were so lucky to have blue skies and not your typical North West weather of rain, rain and more rain.

Our story is unique because it was a short and a whirlwind courtship.  I met Cory in person on January 19th,  we had our first date January 26th, we were engaged on February 14th and married on April 28th…ALL OF THE SAME YEAR!   YEP, about 3 months total.

Now, I look back and think, "how in the world did we know at such a young age what we wanted?"

I had just turned 20 and Cory was barely home from Japan.  We had nothing.  We did not know what our future would hold.  We just took that leap of faith and it worked.

With our future ahead of us we made plans.  Cory joined the Air Force, went to school and we moved to Austin, TX.  That would be the first of many, many moves for us.  I won't scare you with the double digit number of how often we have moved…LOL

Through out our time together we have remained the best of friends. People ask us what our secret is.  Is there a secret? I don't know other than I know what has worked for us.

Honesty-we are extremely honest with each other. No secrets or lies.
Lots of communication-we are open to each other, we listen, we share, we agree and learn to disagree
Friendship-we laugh, play, learn and find challenges together.
Date Nights-we still date after all these years.
Forgiveness-we have learned that nobody is perfect.  We have good days and bad.  We forgive often.
Acceptance-we never tried to change the other person.  We loved each other as they were.
Love-it was conditional in the beginning because we were young, and we have learned as time passes that to truely love, it must be unconditional and freely given….no strings attached.

This list could be much longer, but those are the basics to what make our relationship work.  I look forward to many more years together.  I still look at him, and get butterflies in my tummy.  His love is so pure and perfect, that at times, I can't believe how blessed I am to have a person that loves me so much.  It took me a long time to feel worthy of this great man in my life.  He saved me.  My life was not easy and I had a lot of issues to deal with when we first met.  He took all of it and patiently cared, loved and endured my time of healing.

I wanted to share a special recipe with you today that would signify a union.  Cory's Mom introduced me to the original recipe many years ago. I have updated it a bit. It is a special treat in our family and they get made once a year.  I usually share them with our neighbors and friends.

A knot has several meanings and is symbolic of love, eternity and togetherness.  I found a few definitions of various knots that I liked.

1. Symmetrical knots that tie into themselves; without beginning or end; are a universalsymbol of the eternity of life, the eternity of nature, and the eternity of love. Original quote here.

2. The knot is an ancient heraldic symbol of longevity, commitment, and permanence.

3. The marriage-knot or knot of Hercules, a strong knotcreated by two intertwined ropes, originated as a healing charm in ancient Egypt, but is best known for it’s use in ancient Greece and Rome as a protective amulet, most notably as a wedding symbol, incorporated into the protective girdles worn by brides, which were ceremonially untied by the new groom. This custom is the likely origin of the phrase “tying the knot.” Original quote found here.

We did tie the knot and for that I am so grateful ever day to have this very special man in my life. 

I love you more than ever Cory!

Recipe:  Orange Bow Knots, makes about 50

1 T. dry yeast
1/2 cup of sugar
2 cups of warm water
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup of orange juice
2 eggs, beaten
3 T. grated orange peel
1/4 cup whole milk
1 cup of melted butter (not hot)
9-11 cups of flour

1 stick of butter for later usage

In a small bowl, add 1 T. of sugar, yeast and warm water.  Let sit until foam is visible on top. (5 minutes)

Add the yeast/sugar/water liquid to the Kitchenaid.  

In your kitchenaid with the dough hook attached, add remaining sugar, salt, butter, milk and 6 cups of flour.  Mix on medium speed until well combined.  

Add the orange juice, orange peel, eggs and butter.  Start adding more flour.  Add one cup at a time.  You want the dough to not stick to the bottom of the bowl.  Depending on the humidity in your area you could easily end up adding 3-5 more cups of flour. 

Set your timer for 10 minutes and let your kitchenaid knead the dough on medium with the attached bread hook.  The dough should not stick to the bottom of the bowl.   If this is happening keep adding a little bit more flour until the 10 minutes is up.

The dough will be heavy yet pliable when you remove it from the bowl.  Transfer it to a large glass bowl that has been oiled with butter. Cover with plastic wrap.

Let the dough double.  Mine took 1 1/2 hours but it was a cool day in MD.  

Lightly dust your work area and dump the dough onto the table.  I use a metal scrapper to cut chunks of the dough so that I can work with smaller pieces.  Melt a stick of butter in a bowl. Roll each piece out into the shape of a rectangle.  I like the measurements to be in the area of 6X12 with the thickness being about 1/2 inch.

I use my pizza cutter to make strips of the rectangle.  With the bowl of melted butter close.  I dip the middle of the strip in the butter and proceed to tie a knot.  You can dip the whole strip into the butter but it's a lot of butter and I find that if I dip a portion of the strip, that by tying the knot the butter spreads to the whole strip anyways.

This will make about 50 knots.  It took 4 cookie sheets for my last batch.  Let the rolls double in size.  Mine took about 1 1/2 hours.

Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes.  You want the rolls to be golden brown on top.  Remove rolls to a wire rack to cool.

Drizzle each roll with an orange icing.

Recipe:  Orange Icing

2 cups of powdered sugar
1 T. orange rind, grated finely
1/3 cup of orange juice

Mix all three ingredients together and drizzle atop the orange bow knots.  Let icing set.

April 28, 2012

Friday, April 20, 2012

Gluten Free Waffles

Eating waffles for breakfast is a fond childhood memory of mine.  Pancakes are easier to make. Getting the waffle iron out was a bit more work and reserved for special occasions.  This gluten free version takes me back to being a kid in my home in California.

I expect my waffles to be:  crispy on the outside, soft in the middle and thick.  I feel that this recipe has all three attributes.  In fact my daughter came home from school and had a couple and loved them. I asked her if she would eat them again and she said YES, I said "GOOD, they were gluten free".

There are a few things to remember though.  You can't eat them right out of the waffle iron.  For some reason the mix (and this is normal with a lot of gluten free items) needs to sit and cool slightly. If you don't do this, then it is gummy and not good.  In fact, for me, I prefer to make them and have them cool completely then microwave them for a few minutes.  That is just me though.

Working with gluten free flours and starches takes a bit to understand which flours work well and how much to use.  I did make a batch of waffles with some buckwheat and oat flour that I loved.  The kids thought the flavor was too strong.  I LOVE buckwheat.  When substituting these flours think in terms of percentages.  I try to only replace about 25% of the rice flour with the grain flours (teff, quinoa, oat, etc).

Baking breads, muffins and other goods requires the use of xanthum gum at times.    When you decide to venture into this area of baking I would recommend buying a cook book or searching out recipes on the web.  There are lots of gluten free sites that have wonderful recipes.

Bake to the waffles…..they are good and I hope that you enjoy them too!

I purposely left off the syrup so that you could see how fluffy the waffles were.

Recipe:  Gluten-Free Waffles
Makes 8 waffles

(170 g)1 cup of white rice flour
(81g) 1/2 cup of potato starch
(30g) 1/4 cup of tapioca flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup of canola oil
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk

1.  In a small bowl combine dry ingredients and whisk to blend flour/starch.  In a second bowl combine remaining ingredients and beat well.

2.  Combine the wet into the dry and stir until smooth.

3.  Heat your waffle iron, spray with your favorite cooking spray and add mix.

4.  Cook each waffle until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.

5.  Let cool on a cookie rack until ready to eat.  Store in baggies and refrigerate.  Microwave for a few seconds and serve with syrup.  I have been told they also work well warmed up in the toaster.

Written by Sherron Watson

Sweet Potato Chips with Blue Cheese

Last week my hubby and I went out for dinner and we ended up trying a new restaurant.  One of the things on the menu was an appetizer made of homemade chips, drizzled with a cream sauce, topped with chunks of blue cheese and green onion.  The grand finale was a reduction of balsamic vinegar drizzled across the top.

Now you would think it would have been heavenly.  For me, it was just okay.

I felt that the sauce was bland and they served way more chips than the sauce, so towards the end, you ended up eating just that…chips.  I was a bit disappointed because I felt that they could have taken this dish from a 5 to a 10 with just a few adjustments to the recipe.

Today, I saw my two lonely sweet potatoes and thought I will take their dish from a 5 to a 10.  LOL  and I did.  It was really good and I could have done way more damage, but I was trying to eat a small portion and eat more of the grilled veggies.

Honestly, it was hard…really hard.

Along with these tasty chips, I served grilled veggies and an oven-baked side of cipollini onions drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Veggies tossed with olive oil and added to the grill for 10 minutes on medium heat. If you cook with the lid down, they cook a bit faster and the steam from the veggies helps the cooking process.

I peeled the Cipollini onions and placed them into a glass dish.  Set my oven to 350.  Sprinkled salt and pepper on top of the onions.  I then added olive oil and balsamic vinegar and baked for 30 minutes.  These onions are sweet and bite-size.

I am pretty sure this sauce and the goodies would work great on a big dish of sweet potato fries.  These could be baked or fried depending on how you like to make them for your family.

Recipe:  Sweet Potato Chips (or fries)

1 large sweet potato ( I usually get enough chips for my family of 5)
Canola or Peanut Oil

I use a mandolin to cut my slices very thin.  A little less than a 1/8th of an inch.  If they are too thin, like you can see through them, then they will burn.  If they get too thick it may be hard to get them crispy.

I heat my oil to 350 degrees.  You can use a thermometer to make sure your temp is right.  Just keep in mind that the pot needs to be large enough to handle the chips boiling and bubbling up.

I don't do a lot at the same time.  Maybe 10 slices.  I use a pair of tongs to constantly push the chips into the oil.  If they sit on top then you only cook one side.

I have some paper towels set out on a cookie tray.  Let the chips cool slightly and sprinkle with salt.

NOTE: Sweet potato chips are harder to make than a regular potato chip, or maybe it is just me.  Your sweet potato chips will be soft in the middle and crispy on the edges. There is a fine line between too down and under done.  Just be patient and try a few single chips so that you can see how you like yours cooked.

Recipe:  Blue Cheese Sauce

2 T. butter
2.5 tsp. of flour
1 cup of cream
1/4 cup of milk
1/3 cup of crumbled blue cheese
salt to taste
dash of pepper
1/4 tsp. of garlic powder ( use more if you want a stronger flavor)

In a small pan, melt butter and add flour.   Cook for 1 minute.  Add cream and milk.  Continue cooking on medium, stirring often, until the sauce is creamy and bubbly.

Season sauce with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Add blue cheese and stir.  Turn heat off and let sit for 10 minutes.  This gives the blue cheese a chance to melt slightly into the sauce.

Drizzle on top of chips.  Serve chips with green onions and balsamic vinegar.

OPTION:  Add crisp bacon!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pretzels and Cooking with Kids

I have mentioned before that some of my fondest memories with my grandmother and Mom have been cooking together in the kitchen, for holidays and at the restaurant.

I find that as my older kids prepare to leave the nest in the next few years I am more focused on making sure they have recipes available that they can easily find (the blog), they have the basics down (rice, steamed veggies, smoothies, etc) for healthy eating in college and that they have memories to cherish.

I hope that they understand and know that homemade food taste better and it's often times, better for you.  I do realize that life happens and they will have to figure out busy schedules, budgets and roommates and at times food may not be that big of a priority as it is to me.

We have tried to teach them to read labels, shop as local as they can (Farmers Markets, CSA's), choose lean meat, eat plenty of fish, drink lots of water and exercise every day.

Isabella, our 5 year old, loves to cook and be in the kitchen.  As we planned out her homeschooling weeks, I felt it was important that she have some class time in the kitchen.  I needed a recipe that could be done in about an hour, one that she could help with her hands and that would teach her a few things (measuring, portions, time management).

I was thrilled when Melissa from Chindeep shared on her blog that she and her daughter, Gracie had made pretzels.

I would be able to teach Isabella how to measure flour, to read all of the instructions of a recipe FIRST ( I helped her with most of the reading) and how to use a timer.  It was a great first recipe for us.

 I am here to promise you that these pretzels are the best!  There is that taboo word, but, they quite simply are the best that I have ever made.  In my past attempts at making pretzels, they always lacked something….the chewy tender texture.

Well, this is what I love about this recipe.  It taste just like any pretzel you buy at the mall and even better!

The batch makes 12 and Isabella and I were surprised when they quickly disappeared in about 30 minutes. The family wanted more!

Today, we decided to make them again.  This time I was hoping to switch out some of the plain white flour for spelt (a type of whole wheat flour that some people can eat easier than regular whole wheat).  It's always a bit nerve wracking when you take a perfect recipe and try to change things a bit.  You just never know what you will get.

My house soon smelled like fresh wheat bread was baking in the oven.  This was a good sign.  They baked up great.  The taste was just like a wheat pretzel.


Recipe:  Homemade Pretzels
Adapted from Chindeeps recipe

for the dough:

5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon of yeast

2 cups warm water

Soda wash:

1/4 cup of baking soda

1 cup of warm water

Add yeast and sugar to warm water. Let rise for about 4 minutes.

In Kitchenaid, add flour and salt.  When yeast has activated, add to the flour.

Mix until combined and then knead for 6 minutes. Turn your oven to 500 degrees.

 I had Isabella measure everything into its own bowl and then I went back and double checked as I added the ingredients to the Kitchen Aid mixer.  She did really well measuring everything.

Let dough rise for 30 minutes.  When a few minutes are left on the rise time, prepare your warm water and baking soda mixture.

 For some reason, my kitchen cupboards are ice cold.  I microwaved my glass bowl for 45 seconds so that the dough went into a warm bowl.

Have two cookie sheets ready to go.  Dump your dough onto your table and cut it into 12 sections.  I usually cut the dough in half, then those halves are split in half again. From the four quarters on the table, you should be able to get three smaller sections which will total 12 small mounds of dough.

Spray your table with Pam and start rolling your dough into long "snakes, about 20 inches. 

Dip each pretzel in the soda wash, and place 6 on each baking sheet.

Have your oven trays so that one is in the middle and one below that.  Add your sheets together.  Let them cook for 4 minutes and then switch the trays.  If you want your pretzels to be darker then just add an extra minute or two.  Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack.

 I brushed with butter when they got out of the oven and then sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar or salt.

Enjoy your day!


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rice and Beans

Recently I have been caught in that gap between being a MOM and being a professional.  Sometimes the two worlds work really well together and sometimes they don't.

I recently read an article about a blogger who was sued for her opinion.  Granted it was a pretty strong opinion(s) and it went too far. $2.3 million has gotta hit you pretty hard in the pocketbook.

I then read an article about the "forbidden word list".  Really?  I had no idea a list even existed.

I loved the article about home bloggers not being Chefs.  (rolling eyes)  Don't get me wrong, I understand the difference between the two but do we have to always elevate ourselves above another human.  Not to mention I have many blogging friends who are indeed chefs too.

Then there are the countless articles about balancing career and motherhood.  My opinion is that some of us do it very well and some don't.  Then there are those of us in the middle that could easily qualify as a circus act.  You know the one, she spins all of these plates on long wooden dowels hoping that they don't fall.  She has perfected the art of keeping them all spinning, maybe not all fast, but they keep moving.

I felt a little overwhelmed this week with so much information being thrown my way. I actually started to doubt myself on so many levels.  

The simple truth is this.  I blog about food.  I take pictures.  I create recipes.  I make other bloggers recipes.  I am a Mom first.  A wife.  I write.  I share.  I am happy.

I don't need validation from another journalist, because quite simply I don't have a journaling degree. I just love to tell the stories that are surrounded around the food that I make and eat.  I have to remind myself that I started this blog for my kids, my nieces, and nephews…my family.  I write for them and for my readers. 

 Do I make mistakes?  Absolutely. 

 Do I use stupid words like…yummy, EVOO (technically not a word..but it was on the list), foodie, etc

It's who I am.  

I don't need to compete with chefs.   I have cooked for 30+ years.  I am by all respects a home cook and proud of this fact.  I learned from my grandmother and Mom. Believe me, if I had to do a few things over in my life, I would have gone to school to become a chef.  Back then, my passion for food was different and I chose to focus on different things, like photography.   I think what got me the most was last night I watched Chopped.  They had a very experienced chef up against one young girl in particular who was still "learning" to be a chef.  She was humble and grateful.  I loved watching her.  The other was pompous and rude.  He was shocked when he lost to someone of her "abilities".

To the chefs of the world: I am not trying to take your job.  I value your cookbooks and buy them frequently.  I love your cooking shows.  Many of you are my heroes in the kitchen.  With this said though,  am I not allowed to attempt making a few of the things that you make without being looked down upon for "copying" a recipe?  It's challenging to make croissants, the perfect hollandaise sauce, and curd.  It's actually inspiring to those of us kitchen cooks when something turns out that once appeared to be daunting.   Our readers like to see that something fabulous can easily be made by someone who hasn't had the professional training that a chef has had.  

I am not going to deny the fact that doing a blog is a lot of work.  It's a lot of pressure that I put on myself.  I could easily walk away from it all but I love what I do.   I remember once when I went to a photography group in UT and the discussion turned to the market being flooded by photographers.  They felt that every Tom, Dick, and Harry had a camera and they were paranoid about their businesses being taken away or dropping.   I was surprised when they admonished the photographers in the group to stop mentoring their friends and families about taking pictures because "we don't need any more photographers".   Suffice it to say, I did not go back.  

I don't live by that fear and "lack of " mentality.  If there is anything this blogging world and my fan page has taught me is this.

1.  There is plenty to go around.

2.  As cooks and bloggers we come in all shapes and sizes.  

3.  Every day there are new people being introduced to the love and passion of cooking.

4.  Staying positive is the kind of motivation I want in my life.

5.  There is a balance that only you/I can make and determine.

6.  Becoming the next Rachel Ray/Martha Stewart never crossed my mind.  I admire those that seek after this type of spot light but it is not something I want.  I like being little ol' me.

This is my passion, my joy and my journey.  I have my families support and best wishes.  At the end of the day I am happy.

I am happy to cook, to do the dishes, to print off new recipes, to talk with my fan page friends, to take a few pictures (ok, a lot of pictures), to inspire others.  Bottom line is that I am happy being a food blogger and a food photographer.  I am always trying to better myself and I will continue to read these articles that are shared on line.  I believe we are all  teachers, but mostly students, and I enjoy learning.  I just wish  sometimes that it was not an us and them mentality but one of unity and support.

Despite all of the supposed rules, formats and opinions I still have to be me and true to who I am at the end of the day.

I am sharing a recipe with you that I printed off, started to make and then added my own twist to it.  I quilt the same way.  I start off with a pattern and then make changes.  

I printed this recipe for Cuban Black Beans and I honestly had every intention of following it to a tee.  After tasting the final result, it lacked a little something and so I added an extra spice and some chicken broth to deepen the flavor a bit.  So I am just going to call it rice and beans.  

Recipe: Rice and Beans

1 T. olive oil
1 cup of diced bell peppers
1/2 cup of red onion
1 tsp. of minced garlic
1 can of black beans, drained
1 cup of chicken broth
1-2 tsp. of cumin
1/2 tsp of chili powder
1 tsp of oregano
1 bay leaf, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups of left over rice, I used Minnesota Wild Rice

diced avocados
blanco queso cheese, crumbled

In a large sauce pan, saute onion, bell pepper and garlic in the olive oil.  Add the can of drained black beans and cook for 3 minutes.

Add the rice, chicken broth, spices and herbs.  Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally.  The chicken broth with reduce and you will have a thick batch of rice and beans.

I served the rice and beans with a large basket of corn tortilla chips.  I also topped the rice and beans with fresh avocado and blanco queso cheese.  This cheese can be found at most grocery stores in the cheese section.  I learned that the cheese that is "squishy" is the one to use for cheese dips and the firmer variety is easier to use in these types of dishes.

I served this dish with grilled veggies and jalapeno poppers made on my grill.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Salmon Taco's

Our weather in Maryland has been fantastic!  I mean how can you argue with 70-degree temperatures in March?  You can't!  

When the time changed and our days became longer,  we yearn for the smell of BBQ and grilled meats and vegetables.

At least my family does.  The first time we light the grill we know summer nights and days at the beach are right around the corner.

I try to cook fish for my family once or twice a week.  One of our favorites is salmon.  I usually marinate it or steam it in foil.

On this day, I decided to openly grill the whole filet right on the rach.  I have to admit it was a bit scary.  It was a lot of money to waste if, for some reason, it did not turn out, burned or fell through the cracks.

I was pleasantly surprised that the salmon cooked just fine!  It tasted wonderful too.  I seasoned it very simply…OLD BAY SEASONING.  If you live in Maryland you know that this is our "salt", "secret spice" and "little piece of heaven".  

Marylanders love this seasoning.  It's true.

Our dinner that night was wonderful!  I served it with grilled zucchini, parmesan couscous and garlic shrimp. 

So what do you do with leftovers?  Make tacos.

I have to say,  the tacos were pretty dang good.  I used the sweet chili sauce and this blew them out of the ball park.  


Recipe:  Salmon Taco's

Grilled Salmon, I used our leftovers from the night before
1 mango, sliced into strips
grilled zucchini
taco shells
sweet chili sauce

To grill the salmon:  Take a filet and season with Old Bay Seasoning or a combination of spices that your family enjoys.  Lay the salmon on an oiled grill and cook 4-6 minutes on each side.  This, of course, will depend on how hot your grill gets.  You know it's done when it starts to flake or is firm to the touch.

To grill the zucchini:  I used a mandolin and sliced the zucchini lengthwise 1/4 inch.  I added salt, pepper and olive oil.  I laid them across the grill and cooked them on each side for about 2-3 minutes.

Assembly:  Cook your corn shells, slice your mango, pull apart the salmon, prepare the cilantro and warm the zucchini strips.  You can add just about anything to make these taco's fit into your family's taste sphere.

I served them with a store-bought sweet chili sauce because I liked the sweet and spicy sauce paired with the salmon and corn tortilla.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Carrot Cake

I did not grow up eating carrot cake.  I don't even remember my grandma making a carrot cake, EVER.  So I was caught off guard when I had the urge to make one myself.

I could not stand eating cooked carrots as a kid.  Just the smell would send me running to the bathroom in horror.  Raw carrots were okay once in a while, just not the cooked ones.

I can remember being at a church event about 20 years ago and being presented with the opportunity to test someone's "famous" dish.  Not wanting to say no or be unkind, I agreed.  We walked back to the kitchen and there before me was a HUGE bowl of cooked carrots that had been prepared with a ginger flavored sauce.

I found myself in an uncomfortable position….what to do, what to do.

Mentally I was freaking out, and outwardly I had the appearance of a refined lady.  I smiled, took the plate and took the first bite.  I waited.  I expected the carrots to remind me that they were not accepted by my body and to take off running to the nearest bathroom.  

I waited some more…and nothing!  I had been cured of my aversion to cooked carrots.  YEAH! 

To this day, I don't go out of my way to make them often, but I did get the recipe for the carrots I tasted above and have served them several times through out the last few years.  I will search for that recipe and share them this summer when I get some fresh carrots from the farmers market.

My feelings for this vegetable might explain why my family never made carrot cake…LOL  

I chose this recipe to make because it had so many fun ingredients: coconut, pineapple, pecans and carrots.  I felt like it would be a tropical paradise in every bite…and it was!    The title for this recipe has the word "best" included in it.  I can tell you for a fact that every recipe with this word does not make it the best every time.  I have been disappointed and so went into this with an understanding that it may or may not be the BEST.

I can tell you, after the fact, that it is pretty close to being the perfect carrot cake recipe.  I delivered half of this cake to my neighbor and he LOVED it, my husband ate the other half (just about) and the kids thought it was good too.

The cake is beautiful when cut, holds it's shape, stays moist and as it sits for a few days in the fridge, becomes a little bit better.

My daughter who is 5 is always telling me, "Mommy, when I am older, I will like that food".  She is much wiser then I ever was at her age.  She is right.  Our taste buds change and develop as we age and it's always a good idea to try new things throughout your life time.  I am glad that I did and the carrot lesson taught me to revisit some food items from my past that were not my favorites.  Since then I have discovered that I enjoy: beets, grits, beans, blue cheese and of course, carrots.

Enjoy your day!

Recipe:  Carrot Cake 

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrot
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
1 (3 1/2-ounce) can flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Line 2 round cakepans with wax paper; lightly grease and flour wax paper. Set pans aside.

Stir together first 4 ingredients.
Beat eggs and next 4 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Fold in carrot and next 3 ingredients. Pour batter into prepared cakepans.
Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Cut the cakes in half so that you have four layers.  Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.  See below to frost your cake with out having a ton of crumbs to deal with.

Recipe:  Cream Cheese Frosting

12 oz cream cheese, softened
1 stick of butter, softened
5-6 cups of powdered sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
3-4 T. milk,  I used coconut milk

Pictures below of instructions:

I shredded my own carrots.  One cup was about 2 medium size carrots.

I filled the cake pans this full and they baked wonderfully.  I was able to cut the cakes in half and this gave my my four layers.

Having the parchment in the bottom of the pans is amazing!  Your cakes will never stick.  Use a pencil to trace the bottom of your pan onto the parchment paper and cut out the circles.  Place them in the bottom and spray with oil and flour.  When your cake is done, turn them over onto a rack and peal off the paper.

Stack your slices and add the frosting to each layer.  Take a basting brush and dust off any crumbs on the plate and on the sides of the cake.  When frosting a cake you do not want lots of crumbs in your final layer of frosting.  By brushing off the crumbs you will eliminate some of this.

The next step is the under layer of frosting.  This is important because this the layer that traps those final crumbs.  I usually do a thin layer to fill in any holes and gaps, level the cake, and insure that the crumbs are all under control.  I take this cake and place it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  When I add the final layer of frosting it is amazing out simple and easy the process is.  

Donut Breakfast Casserole

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