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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

High Altitude Carrot Cake

And here's another (more traditional) carrot cake!

A few years ago, when my bigs were not quite as big, and my littles weren't around yet, the boys wanted to do some baking. We looked through Pie in the Sky, and they wanted to make this carrot cake. I found it a bit too oily the first time through, so when carrot cake was requested as a birthday cake, I reduced the oil slightly. This time, it was perfect; dense and moist, but not too much of either. Since then, it has been this boy's standard birthday cake request, whether he eats it or not. Granted, his birthday starts a treat-filled week at our house, with Halloween and two birthdays, but I have to say that uneaten birthday cake makes me want to just serve ice cream.

2015, he requested the cake but didn't eat any

2017, he ate a big slice and so did the rest of us


Sometimes we post sea level and high altitude variations. I'm just going with high altitude here, since I modified the oil amount and I don't know how that will affect the sea level recipe.

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High Altitude Carrot Cake (~5,000 feet)


Adapted from Pie in the Sky: Successful Baking at High Altitudes by Susan G. Purdy
Yields one tube pan cake

(The recipe says it can be baked in a Bundt pan, too, but also instructs bakers at 5,000 feet and above to line the tube pan with greased parchment paper. So to prevent sticking, I'd recommend a tube pan.)

For the cake:
3 c peeled, grated carrots (6-10, depending on size)
1 c walnuts, chopped
1/4 c sunflower seeds, optional
1 1/4 c canola oil
2 c sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2 T vanilla extract
1/4 c wheat germ or bran
2 c flour
1 1/2 teas baking soda
1 teas salt
2 teas cinnamon
3/4 teas nutmeg
1/2 teas ginger
1/2 teas allspice

For the frosting:

4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
4 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch of salt
3/4 teas vanilla extract
2 c sifted powdered sugar, or as needed

Place the rack in the lower third of your oven, then preheat to 375F. Grease your tube pan with butter. Line the bottom of the greased pan with a ring of parchment paper, wax paper, or foil, then butter the liner. Flour the entire surface inside the pan and then tap out the extra flour.

In a large bowl, blend together the oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and wheat germ/bran with a whisk. Set a strainer over the bowl and measure the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices into it. Sift the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, and whisk gently until combined. Then stir in the carrots, nuts, and sunflower seeds.

Place the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the top is springy and a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Leave the cake in the pan and set it on a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes. Then move a knife around the edge of the cake to help loosen it. Turn the cake out onto a plate or foil -covered cardboard disk. Peel off the paper, and let the cake cool completely.

As the cake cools, mix the frosting. Blend together the cream cheese and butter until very smooth and creamy; I used a hand mixer, but the original recipe recommends a food processor or electric mixer. Beat in the salt and vanilla, then gradually add the sugar, beating until smooth. Frost the cake and enjoy!

Note on frosting: A dusting of confectioner's sugar can be used instead. Also, I halved the original frosting recipe; double it if you are a big frosting fan.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Brazilian Carrot Bundt Cake

If your family needs more sweets in the coming week, here's a cake for Halloween. Although the cake isn't truly black and orange, it may be as close as one can come naturally. It nearly goes without saying that this can be baked any time of year.

As it stands, though, this cake will probably garner more adult fans since it isn't terribly sweet. Because it is another way to sneak a veggie into a treat, this recipe may be attractive to parents who bake. If you like something sweeter, consider adding chocolate chips to the batter or make the ganache with milk chocolate.


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Brazilian Carrot Bundt Cake

Source:  Food52
Yield: one bundt cake


I'm including changes for my altitude (4000-6000 feet) in parentheses. 

I haven't tested this, but if you choose to add chocolate chips for kids or adults who like more sweetness, I'd add about a cup of chips shaken with a tablespoon of flour to help them remain afloat in the batter. 

For the cake:

2 c (270 g) 1/2 inch carrot slices from 3-4 carrots, scrubbed but not necessarily peeled 
3/4 c plus 1 T neutral oil, vegetable or grapeseed
3 large eggs
1 3/4 c sugar (high altitude--334 g or remove 2 T sugar)
1 3/4 c flour (high altitude--260 g or add 2 T flour)
1 1/2 teas baking powder (high altitude--1 1/4 teas)
1 teas salt, table or fine sea salt

For the ganache:

6 oz (1 c) bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
1 teas honey
7 T unsalted butter, in half-inch slices

Heat the oven to 425F and place the rack in the center. Butter and flour a bundt cake pan.

Place the carrots, oil, eggs, and sugar into a blender. Blend until smooth (if you think your blender will need some help getting the mixture smooth, consider chopping the carrots smaller than half inch slices). Mix the flour and baking powder in a large bowl and stir well. Pour the carrot mixture into the bowl and stir with a spatula, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl, until no streaks of flour remain. If you want chocolate chips, add them now.

Place batter in the bundt pan. Pound the pan on a counter top a couple of times to remove any air bubbles. Put cake in the oven and bake for 5 minutes at preheated temperature and then lower the oven to 400F and continue baking for about 30 minutes. Test with a toothpick or cake tester and remove cake from the oven when the tester comes out clean or with a few crumbs.

Place on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes and then remove cake from the pan and allow to cool completely.

Place the chocolate, honey, and butter in a glass bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds and stir. Repeat until you have a smooth mixture. It took about 3 repeats in my microwave. You may have to stir a few extra minutes after the last burst in the microwave to get remaining bits of chocolate to melt but it is better to spend time stirring than it is to overcook the chocolate. 

With the cake still on the cooling rack and over a baking sheet, spoon the ganache over the cake and let it sit until it has cooled before slicing and serving. I found the glaze was quite runny right after being microwaved so I repeatedly spooned over spots and attempted to cover all the cake. While it was still warm, I gathered glaze from the baking sheet and poured it on the cake. (There was still plenty of glaze left for a baker's treat.) If you prefer, you can just drizzle some glaze and leave some cake showing but in that case I recommend reducing the amounts in the ganache--possibly even halving the ingredients. 

The cake can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container--a large bowl can be inverted over a platter if you don't have a cake dome or carrier.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Baked Rice Pudding with Plum Compote

Albuquerque and surrounding areas had fewer late freezes last spring so fruit trees have provided a season of plenty. We have been eating our fill of stone fruits, canning jams and jellies, and giving fruit away to friends and co-workers. My plum harvest had finished several weeks ago but a week ago I was given a bucket of plums. At the same time this recipe showed up in my email. David Lebovitz, one of my favorite food writers, posted this just in time.



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Baked Rice Pudding with Plum Compote


Serves: 6-8

The surface of the pudding may begin to caramelize. Lebovitz simply stirs it into the pudding.  

Lebovitz uses "Italian prune plums" which are cling-free and easy to work with. I'm not sure what kind of plum I had but they didn't want to easily release their pits. In addition, they were juicy but worked fine even though the compote was rather runny.

Lebovitz points out that this recipe can be varied to accommodate your flavor preferences. I used cinnamon sticks and allspice rather than using a vanilla bean (I'm running low). I think you could use a teaspoon or so of vanilla extract if you want. He also mentions nutmeg, orange zest, orange flower water or cardamom seeds. If you like, you can add raisins, dried cherries, or dried cranberries before you place the mix in the oven. 

The recipe calls for white wine in the compote. Lebovitz indicates that you may substitute water or apple juice.

For the pudding:

1/2 c short-grain rice (I used Arborio)
1/2 c sugar (if you plan on a sweet topping you may want to reduce this amount)
1/4 teas salt
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped, or a cinnamon stick or another of possibilities listed above
4 c whole milk
2 T butter, salted or unsalted, cubed

The oven should be preheated to 325F.

In a 2-quart (or larger) baking dish that has sides 2-3 inches high, mix the rice, sugar, salt, and flavorings. Add the milk and stir it into the other ingredients. Drop the cubes of butter on top. 

Place in the oven (if you have any fear of a boil over, put a rimmed baking sheet underneath the pudding). Stir the rice every 10-15 minutes, scraping the bottom of the dish to ensure that nothing sticks and scorches. If the top begins to brown, just stir it in. 

Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. The pudding will be finished while it still is quite runny looking, rather like a very lumpy pancake batter. You can taste the rice to be sure or go to the original website and watch a video Lebovitz posted. Remove from the oven and let sit at least 15 minutes. It will thicken up as it cools. 

While the rice cooks, begin the compote:

1 1/2 pounds of plums
1/3 c white wine, or water, or apple juice
3 T sugar 
1/2  vanilla bean, or other flavoring, see above

Pit the plums and place them cut side down in a baking dish large enough to fit them in a single layer but also small enough to fit in the oven with the baking rice pudding. I used a skillet. Drizzle the wine over the top of the plums and sprinkle them with the sugar. Place the spice or flavoring in between some of the plums. Cover with foil and bake until the fruit has softened and is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes depending on the plums and your altitude. If you have left-over compote, as I did, use it over vanilla ice cream or freeze it for later use.

Cooking this a day ahead is ideal since both the pudding and the compote will thicken as they cool. However, it can be eaten after it cools somewhat.

This pudding would be good with other fruit compotes or fresh fruit in season. If you want, you can top with a dollop of jam. Or eat it just as it is. It's pretty tasty.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Black-eyed Pea Salad

I've mentioned before how much I love black-eyed peas. My crop of shell peas has been superior this summer so I love them even more. This recipe is based on two recipes but includes other garden fresh ingredients I had on hand.



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Black-eyed Pea Salad


Adapted from: Country Living and from Emeril Lagasse
Serves 4-6

I think you can tweak this in anyway you'd like. I didn't have spinach called for in one recipe so I used green beans and placed the salad on a bed of arugula from my garden. Leave the bacon out if you want this salad to be vegetarian. You could add a variety of fresh herbs. You won't see halved cherry tomatoes above because I was running out of good lighting for a photo. I added them later.  

You can use black-eyed peas in any form. I particularly like fresh shell beans since I grow them, but you can cook dry beans or you can use canned (just rinse them well and stir the mix gently). If you use frozen, you can treat them as fresh.

4 c. fresh or frozen black-eyed peas cooked until tender but not falling apart (mine took about 25 minutes). I like to add some carrot and celery chunks as well as a halved onion to add flavor to the peas. Remove those additions before cooling the peas and making the salad.

1/3 c olive oil
3 T red wine vinegar
3 strips bacon, cut into 3/4-inch chunks and cooked
1/3 c finely chopped red onion
1/3 c thinly sliced scallions
1 T very finely chopped jalapeno chile (or more if you'd like)
2 T chopped Italian parsley
1 red bell pepper, chopped in 3/4-inch pieces
1 c halved cherry tomatoes
1 c green beans, cooked to crisp tender, or 2 c cleaned baby spinach, or chopped kale (you might want to massage it before adding it to the salad)
salt and pepper to taste
salad greens or arugula, optional

Prepare black-eyed peas and cool to room temperature. Place the olive oil and the vinegar into a large bowl and stir. Place the black-eyed peas into the bowl and stir well to combine.

While cooking the bacon, chop the other salad ingredients and add to the bowl. Toss all together and top with the bacon and stir once more. Taste it to see if you need to add more salt or more vinegar.

You may want to let the salad rest in the fridge for several hours before serving to allow flavors to meld. (I did not--I wanted to eat before bedtime.) If you choose to do this, remove from fridge 30 minutes before serving and toss once more. 

If you don't use spinach or kale in the salad you may want to have some salad greens or arugula arranged on each serving plate. Top the greens with the salad.

Serve with crusty bread or cornbread.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cream of Zucchini Soup from a Slow-cooker

Lucky gardeners who don't have to worry about squash bugs or squash vine borers have a glut of zucchini every summer. This recipe will help deal with the abundance and it has the added advantage of using a slow-cooker which won't heat up the kitchen. Fortunately zucchini is available much of the year in supermarkets so the soup can be eaten anytime

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Cream of Zucchini Soup from a Slow-cooker


This title is misleading because there is no cream in the soup, just well cooked white rice. To attain the creamiest soup a counter top blender is needed but a stick blender will work, too, and create fewer dishes. 

Source:  The French Slow Cooker  by Michele Scicolone
Serves:  6-8

2 T olive or vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
1-2 garlic clove, chopped or sliced (adjust to your taste)
2 fresh large sage leaves
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, trimmed and thickly sliced
6 c water
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 c long-grain white rice
1/2 c freshly grated or slivered Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, optional
1/4 c chopped flat-leaf parsley or chives
croutons, optional

Mix the onions and oil in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until the onions have softened and are starting to become golden. Add the garlic and sage and cook for about 30 seconds. Move this mixture to a large slow-cooker.

Add the zucchini, water, salt (1/2 to 1 teas), and pepper. Stir to combine. Cook on high for 3 hours until zucchini is soft. Add the rice, cover and cook for an additional 30 minutes until the rice is very tender (overcooked, really). 

Transfer ingredients to a blender in batches and process until very smooth. Replace in cooker and reheat if necessary. Serve topped with cheese, parsley, and croutons.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Chicken, Chard, and Carrots, a One Pan Meal

I first tried this recipe in the spring when I had a bunch of chard in the garden and I was happy to find a way to use it. The dish turned out to taste richly garlicky and meaty. It is convenient, too, since the vegetables are included.



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Chicken, Chard, and Carrots, a One Pan Meal


Adapted from Cook It in Cast Iron: Kitchen-tested Recipes for the One Pan That Does It All from America's Test Kitchen's Cook's Country
Serves:  4-6

Note: Although I am enthusiastic about this recipe, I find it heavy on the meat and light on the vegetables, especially the chard. The book indicates it serves four, meaning that each diner will eat two thighs. If you'd like to increase the vegetables, do so, although more chard will be look like it won't fit into the skillet (give it time to cook down). For my tastes, I think I'll increase the vegetables but reduce the amount of chicken pieces by two.


8 5-7 oz bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed but not skinned
1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped finely
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 T minced fresh thyme or 1 teas dried
2 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced (don't skip this recipe if you don't have this)
2 T flour
1 c chicken broth
1 pd carrots, peeled and halved crosswise, or into thirds and quarter the thick ends
1 1/2 pds Swiss chard, (or more if your family likes veggies) stemmed and halved and cut into 1 inch strips
3 T whole-grain mustard
1 T butter, melted
1 teas grated lemon zest plus 2 teas lemon juice

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Place a 12-inch cast iron skillet (any oven-safe skillet will work) on stove top over medium-high heat and allow to heat for 5 minutes. Add the oil and let heat until it is beginning to smoke. Brown the chicken in batches, making sure the skin is dark brown. Transfer chicken to a plate or tray while you continue.

Preheat the oven to 335F.

Pour off most of the oil; leave about 1 T in the skillet. Add the onions and cook until softened. Add the garlic, thyme, and anchovies and cook briefly (half a minute will do). Add the flour and cook for a minute, stirring. Gradually add the broth, making sure to scrape up the fond on the bottom of the skillet. Make sure there are no lumps of flour. Add the carrots and bring to a simmer.

Place the chicken, skin side up, on top of the carrots. The skin should be above the level of the liquid. Pour over the chicken any juices that accumulated while set aside. Transfer to the oven and cook until about 165F or until the meat offers little resistance when poked with a tip of a knife but isn't falling off the bones. At this temperature it took about 45 minutes in my oven. (The original recipe calls for a 325F oven and says it will take 60-75 minutes). I advise checking the chicken with a thermometer at the 45 minute point. Keep cooking if it isn't at 165 degrees.

While the chicken is braising, clean and prepare the chard. Mix together the mustard, butter and lemon zest and juice in a small bowl.

Remove the skillet from the oven. Keep one pot-holder resting on the handle even when you aren't holding it so you don't forget and grab the hot handle. Remove the chicken to a platter and cover lightly with foil (tightly would make the skin steam and get flabby). Place the skillet back on the stove top and stir in the chard handful by handful. You'll think it won't fit but pile it on and stir after each addition. Place a lid over the skillet if you have one. This will cook down fairly quickly but I advise you remove it from heat as soon as the chard wilts; it will continue to cook while you add the final ingredients. Stir in the mustard mixture. Either place vegetables and chicken on a platter, or dish up into shallow bowls and serve. If you think you will have left overs, you may want to remove the food from the hot cast iron so the chard won't become over cooked.

I found this to provide quite a bit of "gravy" so recommend serving in a bowl. Serve with bread to sop up this delicious sauce.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Roasted Peach Drizzle

It is barely still peach season but before our minds turn to winter squash and pumpkins, here's one more peach recipe--not quite a syrup and not a fruit butter, but a "drizzle". Although it is a canning recipe, the peaches can be roasted, refrigerated, and used within the week. You could freeze the sauce, too, if you don't want to spend time canning. This is fantastic on Sweet Zucchini Waffles with fresh peach slices and whipped cream. If you don't have fresh peaches, you could use raspberries instead and fashion a peach-melba topping for waffles or for ice cream. This is a great recipe for someone who suffers from peach peeling fatigue--the skin remains on the fruit while roasting and is blended with the peaches.




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Roasted Peach Drizzle


Adapted from foodinjars.com
Yield: 3-3 1/2 pints

This can be halved or quartered. 

8 c peach pieces, skin included
2 c sugar
2 vanilla pods, scraped
juice of 1 lemon

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Roast in the oven for 2-2 1/2 hours. Let cool slightly and blend with blender or stick blender until smooth. Add lemon juice and stir. Return to burner and bring back to a simmer. When simmering, place sauce in hot half pint jars (or half cup) with 1/2-inch headspace, check for air bubbles, clean the jar rims. Place lids (that have been softened in boiling water) on top of clean jars and top with rings. Place in a water bath canner and process for 10 minutes at sea level (for added altitude timing, see below).

1,001-3,000 ft--5 additional minutes
3,001-6,000 ft--10 additional minutes
6,001-8,000 ft--15 additional minutes
8,001-10,000 ft--20 additional minutes

When the time has passed, turn off heat, remove lid and allow jars to rest in the water for 5-10 minutes. Remove jars from hot water and place on a towel in a spot where they can remain undisturbed for 24 hours. Store and use within a year. If the drizzle separates a bit give it a good stir before serving.