Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Carrot Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

We have been eating zucchini like crazy lately, a friend has a garden and she is so generous. Last Friday she brought in a mixed bag of produce from her garden to share and I grabbed a zucchini so I could make a zucchini cake. My grandma used to bake it all the time when I was a kid and I love how it's a green vegetable but it's also a yummy dessert! Anyway, to tattle on my dumb self, I grabbed a cucumber instead of a zucchini...so this cake morphed from a zucchini cake to a carrot cake. And now, as I'm reading through the recipe list again, I realize how many errors I made while baking it! So many that I'm amazed mine even turned out good, in fact. But it was. Brent and I have been eating bites out of the cake pan in the refrigerator for almost a week. Tonight what's remaining is going to have to go...I'm trying to loose this baby weight after all.

Carrot Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Source: Tasty Kitchen lindainmo

1 cup All-purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour (can Use All White Flour If You Don't Have This)
1-¼ cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Sweetened Flaked Coconut
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
Freshly Grated Nutmeg, To Taste (1/4 To 1/2 Tsp?), Optional
1 Pinch Ginger (about 1/16 Tsp Or So), Optional
3 tablespoons Canola Oil
2 whole Large Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
2 Cups Grated (unpeeled) Zucchini or carrots
1 (20 Oz.) Can Crushed Pineapple In Juice, Drained (reserve In Case You Need It For The Cake Batter Or The Frosting)


2 Tablespoons Butter, Softened
8 Ounces Low-fat Cream Cheese, Softened (can Use Full-fat Cream Cheese)
2 Cups Powdered Sugar, Approx.
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
Splash Of Milk Or Pineapple Juice, If Necessary
Chopped Walnuts Or Pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine flour, sugar, coconut, baking soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Combine oil, eggs, and vanilla; stir well. Stir egg mixture, grated carrots, and pineapple into flour mixture. Batter will be stiff , keep folding until it comestogether. Add a little splash of the pineapple juice if it needs any more liquid.
Pour batter into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for about 33-35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs and cake is pulling away from sides of pan. Cool completely on a wire rack. (Mine only took about 31 minutes, so keep an eye on it)
Combine butter and cream cheese in the bowl of your mixer. Beat at medium speed until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla just until smooth. Add a splash of milk or pineapple juice if necessary. Spread frosting over top of cake. Garnish with chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Brent and I have talked about trying Indian food but had never gotten around to it. I've cooked with curry a few times and we both enjoyed it, so I know we are definitely open to the new flavor combinations Indian food has to offer. Last week I was scrolling through my saved recipe posts and saw Pastor Ryan's version of this dish, Chicken Tikki Masala. Instead of waiting to find an Indian restaurant to try, I'd try to make something exotically Indian at home! One quick trip to the store later and we were set! When I opened the bottle of Garam Masala spice I was instantly smitten. Interestingly enough, the only non perishable ingredients I had to buy were the Garam Masala and the ground coriander which shocked the h3ll out of me, I thought I was making an exotic dish, by gosh! But I already had nearly everything!
This dish was so amazingly flavorful, I know I'll broil chicken like this again soon, even if I don't go to the effort to make the sauce. I loved the cumin and coriander. Of course, the sauce was amazing, but what sauce that includes a cup and a half of heavy whipping cream isn't wonderful? This is a huge recipe, so if you're feeding more than two you might consider cutting it in half. I wasn't really impressed with the way it reheated, so don't count on leftovers. Of course, it might have been the fact that at 7:30 in the morning this country girl does not need to be eating Indian food, but whatev.

Chicken Tikki Masala
Source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

3-4 chicken breasts
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
2 inch chunk fresh ginger
Garam Masala
Ground coriander
Kosher salt
2 cups Basmati rice (I used regular long grain rice)

Season the chicken with salt, then sprinkle both sides with coriander and cumin. Coat entirely with yogurt. Place on a metal cooling rack on a baking sheet lined with tin foil and broil, 10-12 inches below the coils, for 5-7 minutes per side. Do not overcook or it will be tough and dry.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the diced onion. Saute until lightly browned. Meanwhile, mince the garlic and grate or mince the ginger. Add both to the onions along with a tablespoon salt.

Add about 3 tablespoons Garam Masala spice. For a spicier dish, you can add chili peppers at this time (Pastor Ryan suggests serranos). Add the tomatoes and deglaze the pan by scraping the pan bottom with your spatula. Add 1 tablespoon sugar and allow the sauce to simmer for about 5 minutes.

(Meanwhile, cook your rice as usual so that it is finished at the same time as the sauce. I added frozen peas to my rice (the heat from the finished rice cooks them perfectly) for a great color contrast.

Once the sauce has simmered, add the cream. Chop the chicken breasts into bite sized chunks and stir into the sauce. Serve over the rice along with naan. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Caleb update

Caleb and I have been living in the real world now for just shy of two weeks, meaning that I am back at work and he is at daycare. The daycare we found for him is wonderful. The owner is currently working on her master's degree in early childhood development and she is so knowledgeable about infants! Before Caleb was born I had zero interest in child development. Now, of course, that's all I think about. His babysitter gives me daily updates on what he's done that day, from playtime to naps to the quality of his poopy diapers (her and I are probably the only people in the world that care about his diaper contents, but after the difficult ten day adjustment period from breastmilk to formula, his happy digestion is a high priority for me).

Going back to work is easier than I imagined. Probably because both Caleb and I are happy with his daycare, it's easier for me to concentrate on work when I'm there. My coworkers were great while I was gone, leaving no giant timebombs on my desk. And it really does feel good to be back in the swing of things in my normal non-mom life from 8-5.

I realize, dear internets, that since I started a Facebook account to share pictures of Caleb with my friends and family (yes, even my mom was on Facebook before I was), I have been remiss in sharing Caleb pictures and information since many of you who read my blog have also friended me on FB. Caleb has been smiling for weeks now and nothing makes my day more than seeing those smiles. Having smile pictures for my background at work seems to just make me miss him more, instead of tiding me over until I pick him up at night.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Caprese Salad

To accompany our Sunday evening dinner, I prepared a simple Caprese salad. Beautiful sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and plenty of basil from my herb garden dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsalmic vinegar, salt and pepper. Magnifique!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad

For our Sunday dinner with my in-laws, I made PW's sundried tomato pasta salad. It was a snap to prepare. I actually put together the dressing the day before and let it yummy-inate in the refrigerator as PW herself suggests. I realize as I'm writing this post that I committed the ultimate sacrilage...I forgot the parmesan cheese. No one complained and it still got rave reviews, but tomorrow you can be sure I'll be putting some grated parm on my lunch leftovers.

Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad
Source: The Pioneer Woman Cooks!

1 7 oz. jar sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

16 oz. corkscrew pasta
1 jar Kalamata olives
1 pint ripe cherry tomatoes, halved (I omitted)
Several fresh basil leaves to taste, julienned
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

To prepare the dressing, put the garlic, tomatoes, vinegar, salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the tomatoes are chopped. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and blend until mixed.

Cook the pasta as directed, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Pour 2/3 of the dressing over the pasta (I used it all), add the olive and toss to combine. Add the tomatoes, basil and cheese and toss. Add the more dressing to taste. Garnish with more parmesan cheese and basil.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Pioneer Woman's Hot Olive and Artichoke Dip

Our friends Amy and Shawn are very serious UFC fans. They've been to Vegas several times to attend fights and always get the PPV at their house when a fight is on. In fact, Shawn recently inquired into what it would take to become a judge for Mixed Martial Arts fighting, that's how into MMA he is! Brent was a wrestler in high school, so he loves watching UFC also and knows all the holds and strategies. Amy and Shawn invited us over to their house last night to watch the big UFC 100 with them and their daughter Lanie. Caleb came with us and he was so good! He showed off his new smiling skills and hung out in the pack 'n play with the safari mobile while we watched one man attempt to break every bone in another man's face. It was a fun night!

I was excited for the chance to make PW's Hot Olive and Artichoke Dip. It turned out wonderful, even though my picture is kinda sketchy (seriously, check out PW's photo of her dip, it's much more appetizing than mine looks). I was out of Worchestershire Sauce, so I just increased the amount of cayenne and black pepper I used to compensate. I can't wait to make it again with all the ingredients because it was good the way I made it, I'm sure it'll be great the way PW makes it.

The Pioneer Woman's Hot Olive and Artichoke Dip


1 14 oz can artichoke hearts
10 black olives (I used a small can of sliced black olives)
1 8 oz package cream cheese
1 cup real mayo
1 egg
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup grated parmesan
3 dashes Worchestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
cayenne to taste
Drain the olives and artichoke hearts (PW didn't say but I drained mine, it would have been way to liquidy if not). Add all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 5-8 times until combined but not liquified. Pour into a medium sized casserole dish and bake in a 350 degree oven 20-25 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Basil Pesto and Basil Pesto Chicken Rolls

My basil plants are growing so well this summer, I've been waiting on them to get really thick and dense so I could harvest enough at once to make basil pesto. Of course, I love using my food processor, and I love pasta, chicken, etc. so making my own pesto is only logical :) Next year I hope to plant four times as many basil plants so I can make pesto whenever I want and hopefully have enough to freeze for later uses.

I started this recipe for chicken parmigiana rolls that I posted about last fall. Instead of marinara and basil leaves, I spread my homemade pesto over the inside of the flattened chicken breasts, then included a slice of fresh mozzarella. I rolled them up, secured them with toothpicks, then floured, egged, rolled in breadcrumbs and baked. This is a really great recipe for preparing chicken in a special way. Substituting different fillings makes it even more fun!

I found this pesto recipe on the internet and it turned out great. I had to half it because even with all my great basil production, I didn't have enough for a full batch.

Fresh Basil Pesto

Source: Simply Recipes

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put the basil and the pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.
Add the olive oil in a slow, constant stream while running the food processor. Stop periodically to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Makes 1 cup

Friday, July 10, 2009

Tomato Tart with Garlic Basil Crust

When I'm looking at recipes that are being prepared by the food bloggers I follow, sometimes I see trends. It seems like a lot of them have been making tarts lately, and I've never even considered doing one of my own. I'd always thought they sounded hard to do, I guess. But thanks to my favorite kitchen appliance, the food processor, the dough is a cinch to make! So I went to the awesome restaurant supply store here in town, Smalley Equipment Company, and bought a 9.5 inch tart pan 'cause I knew I had to make this tomato and basil tart right away! It turned out so delicious, Brent declared it the best thing I've ever made! I can't wait for my basil plants to recover from the harvesting I did for this recipe and the fresh pesto I made so I can make it again (this time I can guarantee Brent and I won't be sharing it with anyone!).

Fresh Tomato Tart with Basil Garlic Crust
Source: Ezra Pound Cake


1 recipe Basil Garlic Tart Dough (see below)
8 ounces fresh sliced mozzarella
2 large, ripe tomatoes, sliced thinly
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 375°

Prepare the dough, and press it into the bottom of a ten inch tart pan, trimming the edges to fit.

Line the bottom of the tart shell with the mozzarella slices. Arrange the tomato slices over the cheese. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until crust is golden brown and the cheese is beginning to brown. Allow to cool on a rack for at least five minutes before slicing. (I baked mine a little too long, I had a baby that needing caring for about the time the timer went off)

Basil Garlic Tart Dough

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1 medium garlic clove
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
8 T unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ten pieces
4-5 T ice water

Put the basil and garlic into the bowl of a food processor. Process, scraping down the sides if necessary, until finely chopped. Add the salt and flour, pulse to combine.

Add the butter pieces. Pulse about ten times, or until the mixture resembles pea-sized crumbs. (thank goodness I'd seen Ina Garten doing this on the Food Channel so I knew what they are talking about)

One tablespoon at a time, add the water, pulsing several times after each addition. After 4 tablespoons have been added, process the dough for several seconds to see if a ball forms. If not, add the last tablespoon of water. Process until a ball forms and remove the dough from the food processor.

Form the ball into a five inch disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least an hour.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12 inch circle. Lay the dough over the tart pan and press it into the bottom. Trim to fit edges.

As you can see below, the humans weren't the only ones intrigued by the delicious smelling tart. My sous chef Sadi thought it smelled pretty good too!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fajita Seasoning

The other day I found myself with extra red and green bell peppers, and I always have onions on hand. I rummaged around my refrigerator until I found a turkey link sausage and decided to make a fajita style dish. I didn't have any fajita seasoning packets so I had to make my own. I googled it and found several different recipes and put them all together to create one of my own using spices I had in my cabinet.

Fajita Seasoning

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder

Combine all in a small bowl. This was enough fajita mix for my batch of 2 bell peppers, 2 onions and 1 pound of turkey sausage.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Fourth of July

We traveled to Missouri over the fourth of July weekend to visit family, including my grandparents. The ride there was a little stressful since Caleb insisted on voicing his displeasure with the carseat laws, but he must have gotten over his issues with the U.S. Congress before the ride home, because he slept literally the entire four hour drive. I had to wake him up to change his diaper and feed him, and once back on the highway he fell back asleep. It was great!

Sacked out after the long drive thereAt the BBQ with his great grandparents, already in his PJs

Like Great Grandpa, like Great Grandson. Shoot, who doesn't enjoy an afternoon nap?

Laying on a blanket outside, enjoying the cooler (compared to Oklahoma) weather. He's been smiling so much lately, but I haven't been able to really catch it on film. I've gotten close though!

Caprese Puff Pastry

I loved the balsalmic vinegar with the tomatoes, and the presentation was so pretty in the little puff pastry tart. I think puff pastry tart shells are a little expensive for what you get though, so when I make this again, I will probably serve it with toasted French bread. The flavors were so wonderful, I could even eat it alone as a salad.

Caprese Puff Pastry
Source: adapted from Joelen's Culinary Adventures

6 puff pastry tart shells
2 lovely medium-sized tomatoes, diced
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, cut into dice (don't go cheap on this ingredient like I did, the good stuff makes such a difference)
Basil leaves to taste, chiffonaded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Basil leaves, for garnish

Prepare the puff pastry tarts as directed; remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Mix the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Season with salt and pepper; toss with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Stuff this mixture inside the puff pastry tarts. Right before serving, garnish top with fresh basil. Serve warm or at room temperature.