Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Frosted Carrot Bread

Now I know all of you (even those that say you can't cook) know at least one recipe.  This is my dear friend Kate's "one" recipe, or so she claims, I've seen her cook she just doesn't like it.  However when she gave me this recipe she said it was carrot cake.  Now I haven't told her but I have to disagree.  It was much heavier than regular carrot cake, and it got firm on the outside and would not come out of the pan which to me says sweet bread.

I tried to make it in two pans to make a layered cake.  Do not do that.  It was not a good idea... unless you want to have nice little wedges like above or you want to share half your booty.  Kate however has never tried to remove it from the pan so could not warn me.  She makes it in a 9X13 rectangular pan, frosts it in the pan and serves it from there.  Which is pretty much how we ended up.  It really doesn't matter what you call it, it was awesome.  The first pan didn't even make it to the frosting stage. 

The only thing I changed for this recipe was to make a maple cream cheese frosting instead of Kate's frosting because her recipe said... a box of confectionary sugar.  She didn't know how much was in a box, and we don't have boxes at our grocery stores (none of them) it's all bags, so I threw the maple one on, which was also not a good idea as it was a delicate frosting for a serious cake/bread (cread?)  So....either serve this as is, or top with your own favorite cream cheese frosting,unless you know how much sugar is in a box then let us know. 

PS... this was awesome for breakfast with coffee, but that doesn't really put it into a category either because cake is good with coffee too, unless you don't like sweet things for breakfast.  However the only thing sweeter than the cake was my minature helper.  Notice the tiny hands dumping in ingredients and the proud little chef waiting to put his cake in the oven.

Kate’s Carrot Cake



2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 cups coconut shredded
2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 ½ cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
8-9 ounces crushed pineapple with juice
2 cups shredded carrots
2 cups chopped walnuts (I left these out since the baby was going to be eating it)
1 cup raisins

2 sticks butter
6 ounces cream cheese
1 box powdered sugar


Preheat oven at 375 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl mix eggs, oil, vanilla, pineapple with juice, and carrots. Combine two bowls, mix well. Mix in walnuts and raisins. Pour batter into greased 9 X 13 pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Take cake out of oven and cool on rack. Frost with frosting (or not).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Parmesan Oven Fries

Simple is good.  In fact simple can be great.  There are nights while cooking when I look at the little man and think... he is going to have a melt down before this dish is done cooking.  And if we happen to make it until the food actually gets on the plate he probably won't eat it anyway.  He is not a big fan of meat.

So while I was roasting a chicken tonight, and realized it was going to take much longer than planned, I quickly improvised with some scrambled eggs, veggies and fruit for his dinner.  He then proceeded to ask for yogurt and black olives.  And yes while I served them separately he combined them.  How are kids picky eaters when they will eat a combo like that I'll never know.

Not being a fan of the yogurt/olive combo.  I finished the chicken and made these potatoes as a side.  However, I was rushing to get dinner on the table and forgot to season the chicken.  Not one speck of salt, not one flake of pepper.  It was not very tasty and is not scheduled to be turned into chicken salad.

Since everyone one else was accounted for I was tired I just ate the potatoes as a meal.  Not very nutritious I know but there are those days when fed equals good enough.  And trust me these are good enough.  They were terrific.  The only change I would make in the future is less parsley, I think I will dial it down to only 1 tablespoon next time.  I also threw them back in the oven for a minute or two to melt the parmesan.

Oven Fries
slightly adapted from Tyler Florence 

4 small russet potatoes, cut into 8 wedges each
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


Preheat the oven to 425.  Preheat a baking sheet in the oven for at least 5 minutes (I did about 20).  While the baking sheet is heating, toss the potatoes iwth the olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.  Then dump the potatoes out onto the hot baking sheet.  Spread into a single layer.  Roast for 30 to 35 minutes, shaking the pan every now and then (I admit I didn't and with a little force they still came off the pan fine) until the potatoes are cooked through, brown and crispy.  Toss the fries in a big bowl with the parsley and cheese.  Return to oven for 2 minutes to melt cheese.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This and That

Things have been crazy busy around here.  I know what's new?  Well Easter is around the corner and because it is, our schedule has been smooshed together to squeeze classes in.  Which means I have barely had time to cook, nevermind take photos of the things I am cooking and post about them, but this one was too good not to share.  This was a quick, easy, seriously savory dish that was just as perfect for dinner as it was for breakfast.  Yes it was that good that I had it twice in two days.  It is from Shutterbean, which is one of my new favorite food blogs.

I'm not even typing it out for you... just follow the link.

Shutterbean's Herb Baked Eggs

And while your there check her post on Kale Chips.  I made those too.  Even the baby liked them, and they are all the rage these days in the foodblog world.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Split Pea Soup

Yes I know soooo  many of you have an early Spring, with lots of sunshine and budding plants, and all the promise of things to come.  We however are not so I stick my tongue out at you in your general direction!

This soup is great if it's cold and dreary like it is here, or if it's Spring like it seems to be everywhere else.  Warm and sunny with early peas availabe, use the fresh peas (cooked) as a garnish.  Cold and gray like it is here?  Keep warm, and earthy like we did and curl up in your house leaving the cold outside and dream of warmer, brighter days.

Split Pea Soup
Adapted from Thomas Keller


3 tablespoons canola oil (I used vegetable oil)
2 cups thinly sliced carrots
2 cups coarsely chopped leeks
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
Kosher salt
1 smoked ham hock (I used ham shank)
3 quarts homemade chicken stock
1 pound split peas, small stones removed, rinsed
1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup Crème Fraîche
Mint leaves (optional)


Heat canola oil in an 8-to 10-quart stockpot over medium heat. Add carrots, leeks, onions, and a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to low, cover with a parchment lid (I used a bacon splatter screen), and cook very slowly, stirring occasionally, for 35 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Remove and discard the parchment lid.

Add the ham hock and chicken stock, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 45 minutes. Prepare an ice bath (I used a sink of cold water). Strain the stock into a bowl, discard the vegetables, and reserve the ham hock. Place the bowl of stock over the ice bath to cool. (The split peas will cook more evenly when started in a cold liquid, mine was room temp ands fine.)

Return the cold stock and ham hock to the pot, add the split peas, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the split peas are completely soft (do not worry if they start to fall apart you will puree them later).

Remove the soup from the heat, and remove and reserve the ham hock. Season the soup with 1 tablespoon vinegar and salt to taste. Transfer some of the split peas and liquid to a blender. Blend on very low speed until pureed. Transfer to a bowl, repeat with batched until half the peas and liquid have been pureed. Add in the un-pureed portion and stir until thoroughly mixed. Taste for seasoning, adding additional vinegar, salt and or pepper to taste if necessary.

Pull away and discard skin and fat from ham. Trim the meat, and dice into ½-inch cubes (I cut mine into teeny tiny pieces). It will not be a lot of meat, which is perfect. I think I only had 1/8 of a cup or less.

To serve, reheat the soup adding a little water or stock as needed to thing. Place a dollop of crème Fraîche in the bottom of a bowl, top with hot soup. Garnish with mint leaves if desired.

Leftovers served with some spinach, red pepper swiss cheese bread, the remains of the batch of pickled eggs, and some AMAZING cheese.  It may not look pretty (my camera is about a big of fan of gray skies as I am) but it was the best lunch I've had all week!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Easy Chicken Stock

If you spend enough time looking through recipes and trying to re-create something you had, eventually you will break down and make your own stock instead of using canned stock.  All you hear is the difference it makes in your finished product.  I believed that it would make a better soup, but never bothered because well lets face it... I'm busy, and I spend enough time in the kitchen even if I do love it (most of the time).

However, my mother's birthday is tomorrow, she came this weekend to visit and celebrate with us.  Being the mother of a teenage daughter I learn to appreciate my mother more on a daily basis.  Especially for putting up with me during  my teen years and not banishing me to an attic somewhere.

I decided to make one of her favorite soups, split pea, so there would be something to eat when she arrived after a long day of driving.  I also decided that if I was going to make it for the first time I was going to do it right.  And let me now jump on the band wagon and tell you.... yes it made a huge difference in the final product. Being able to control the amount of salt and preservatives was also a HUGE bonus.

The chicken's I used to make the stock were the leftovers from our family meals of things like Thomas Keller's  Simple Roast Chicken as seen above.  I just put the bones and left over meat in a freezer bag until I had three.  I also based my recipe on a Thomas Keller recipe since he's my new boyfriend if you've been paying attention.  Well my new kitchen obsession is more like it as I am happily married, and believe he probably is too, although to be honest I'm solely interested in his food so I really know very little else about him.:)  Well this broth and the pea soup recipe that I will post next are both mostly based on his recipes, but I made a few minor changes based on what was in my kitchen and how detailed I was willing to get... which wasn't very.

Chicken Stock

Adapted loosely from Thomas Keller


5 pounds chicken bones (I used the leftover carcass of three roaster chickens)
4 quarts of cold water (I didn’t measure just covered the birds with enough water to submerge
1 ½ cups carrots cut into 1-inch cubes
2 heaping cups leeks cut into 1-inch pieces (white and light green parts only)
1 ½ cups Spanish onions cut into 1-inch pieces
1 bay leaf


Place bones in the bottom of a large stock pot. Add enough water to cover the bones. Slowly bring the liquid to a simmer, beginning to skim as soon as any impurities rise to the top, continue to do this throughout the cooking process. Add the remaining ingredients; simmer for 40 minutes continuing to skim. Strain the broth into a secondary container (I used a second stock pot). Discard vegetables, and bones. Place in fridge overnight. The next day skim the fat that has risen the top and discard. Ladle through fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth into another container large enough to hold entire batch of broth. I however was out of cheesecloth and decided a wet bounty paper towel would work nicely, and it did. I have no idea how much lint may have been transferred by this method but it worked in a pinch.

Voila… see what did that take you…. Like an hour? Not bad.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chicken with Artichoke and Mushrooms

It's no secret that too many people eat their dinners while driving through an intersection in between picking the kids up from school and dropping them off at the practice of the day.  Never before have children had more appointments then their parents, or been more stressed, or been more malnutritioned, as in obesity not starving. 

In today's soceity we generally spend more on food than ever before and we have more food in our house than generations past, and yet we don't eat it, and that which we do it comes in plastic wrappers and tubes and all sorts of odd things that really doesn't resemble food at all.  Everyone is too tired and too burnt out to eat.  So they scarf something down in front of their computers after the kids have eaten their frozen meals and gone to bed exhausted from their crazy schedule.

I am no different.  Yesterday while driving home from the airport after a day of travel, that is so bad I hope to never think of it again let alone write about it, as I handed my not-yet-two-year old french fries from the the front seat I thought.... this is a far cry from the day when I was pregnant and my husband and I vowed that McDonald's would never pass this child's lips.  However the thought of going home and cooking made me want to burst into tears.  We too are just too busy and too exhausted to put in the time and energy that making dinner every night requires. 

The upside of this is at least some of us are more than aware of the short coming of these dinners and want to do better.  My friend Jenn has started a recipe swap on facebook that I am really loving and hoping people will add their input so we can all share in our quick cooking tricks.

This recipe comes from our dear friends Andrew and Nadia in Canada.  Every year when we go home to visit at Christmas time, they always cook up a meal (for a large crowd), that is a) delicious, and b) tends to be smart in time management as they know that being good host and hostess means being relaxed and actually being able to oh I don't know... visit with your guest maybe?  And every year without fail I am asking for the recipe and it usually goes into our general rotation for go to dinners for family and guests alike.

You want healthy, quick, and tasty... here you  go.  Say thank you Andrew and Nadia.

Chicken with Artichoke and Mushrooms


3 pounds chicken breast (I halved the meat but not the sauce as my daughter who "hates mushrooms and
                                       artichokes" loved the sauce)
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
14oz. canned artichoke hearts, without oil (I think I will halve the artichokes next time too)
2 cups mushrooms, sliced (I used pre-sliced to save time but found them a little thick cut)
2 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons white wine
1/3 teaspoon rosemary
1/3 cup butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper and paprka. Melt butter in large frying pan over medium heat. Saute chicken until lightly brown; remove with a slotted spoon to a casserole dish. Arrange artichokes between pieces of chicken.

In same frying pan, lightly saute mushrooms until all liquid evaporates. Sprinkle flour over mushroom; stir in broth, wine and rosemary. Cook, stirring, until slightly thickened. Pour over chicken and artichokes. Cover and bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Marinated Skirt Steak

Hey look at me making two posts in one week.  I feel all productive and stuff.  However you will notice that the picture is focused only on the meat.  That is because in the background you will see some sad grocery store mashed potatoes and a bagged salad.  I would like to feel guilty about that but I can't.  It's Monday to start with, my meeting went over by about 20 minutes (I had to leave early to pick up the baby) and I had to pick up the husband, and I had to stop at the store.  I am happy that I made dinner at all after the crazy months day I had.  So I would like to feel guilty, but  I don't.  Not even a little.  It's still potatoes and veggies... even if I didn't make the lovely parmesan potato wedges, and grilled asparagus as planned.  If I had it, it would have looked more like this.  Pretty... something that looks appetizing, photo-worthy.  Oh well maybe tomorrow.

Anyway, back to tonight's dinner.  Today I made my maiden voyage from the dream boat that is ad hoc. 

If you have never heard of the cookbook (then I know you don't read my blog because I was just talking about it 3 days ago).  I highly suggest you look into it.  It is a huge book of home style recipes, and has various techniques from how to truss a chicken to how to prepare a roast using a blow torch.  Aside from the blow torch recipe, and who knows maybe you have a blow torch you want to put to good use, most of them are perfect for people who always say "I don't cook."  Which normally translates into... "I am afraid to try to cook for fear it will end up a charred mess and my family will never let me live it down."  Don't you just love family?  I do, which is why I cook for them.  Otherwise I would just throw some chicken nuggets at them and call it a day (not that that little scenario doesn't happen around here as well). 

I am in love with this cook book and have mapped out about 30 recipes in this book that I am dying to make.  Take that 5 recipes per cookbook statistic!

Marinated Skirt Steak
adapted from ad hoc (I only made about 1.5 pounds so I could have halved everything)

6 thyme sprigs, (they store didn't have fresh time so I used 1 tsp of dried)
2 long sprigs rosemary
4 small bay leaves
1 tablespoons whole peppercorns
4 large garlic cloves, smashed, skin left on
2 cups extra-virgin olive oil (I used vegetable oil because... that is a whole lot of oil)  If you're making a smaller amount of meat like I did you could probably halve all the ingredients

Six 8-ounce trimmed outer skirt steaks (or flank steaks)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Canola oil (here I used olive oil)
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 thyme sprigs (I skipped this entirely during this step)
2 garlic cloves, smashed skin left on (I removed the skin and cut them up into slivers)


Combine the thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic, and oil in a medium suacepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat (I left it simmering until I could smell the herbs releasing their scent).  Remove from the heat and let the marinade cool to room temperature.

Pull away any excess fat from the skirt steak and discard.  Trim the steak of any silverskin.  Cut rosswise into 6 equal portions.  Put in a dish or a resealable plastic bag, add the marinade, and cover the dish or seal the bag, squeezing out excess air.  Marinate for at least 4 hours, or up to a day, in the refrigerator.

Remove teh meat from the marinade and let sit at roo temperature for about 30 minutes before cooking; discard the marinade.  Dry the meat with paper towels.  Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Set a roasting rack in a roasting pan (I still do not have one that fits our micro oven.  I used a baking rack over a cookie sheet... hey it worked). 

Heat some canola oil in a large frying pan over hih heat.  When it shimmers, add half the meat and quickly brown the first side.  Turn the meat and, working quickly, add 1 tablespoon of the butter, 2 thyme sprigs, and 1 garlic clove and brown the meat on the seasoned side, basting constantly (this may look easy as professional chefs brown one side of their meat while throwing hot oil over the top side with a spoon but I found it a little more challenging, maybe my pan was too hot... or more likely I just haven't done that before and it's not as easy as it looks).

The entire cooking process should take about 90 seconds (that's how hot that pan should be).  Transfer your meat to the baking (er hum) roasting rack.  Spoon the butter, arlic and thyme over the top (oops missed this step until just this second).  Wipe the pan clean and repeat with the remaining steaks

Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and cook for 8 to 10 minutes (I did 10 minutes and it was perfect) or until the centers register 125 degrees F.  Remove from the oven and let the meat rest on the rack in a warm place for about 10 minutes for medium-rare (my piece was medium-rare, but Gregg's was rare).

Arrange the steaks on a serving platter, or slice each piece against th egrain, cutting straight down, and arrrange on the platter.  Garnish with the garlic and thyme.