Friday, February 25, 2011

Update, Carrot Cake, and few birthdays

Wow. Who would have thought the first few months of pregnancy would be so exhausting? Just a hint of what's to come I guess, considering I'm carrying twins (!). I haven't been slacking off entirely though. I've been cooking a little, earlier this month my little brother celebrated his 19th birthday and as is customary, I made the cake of his choice. This year he asked for carrot cake. I devised my own recipe with fresh grated carrot, chopped pineapple, walnuts and flaked coconut all topped off with my favorite cream cheese frosting. It was a real treat, and absolutely the best carrot cake I've ever had. So good that we didn't wait to take a photo (sorry!) but here's the recipe:

Carrot Cake
(printable recipe)

2 c sugar
1 1/3 c canola oil
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c coconut
1/2 c chopped pineapple
1 lb. grated carrots

Combine the sugar, oil, and eggs. Beat well and add vanilla. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet. Combine the walnuts, coconut, pineapple, and carrots and fold into the cake batter.
Evenly divide the batter between 2 9"round cake pans lined with parchment. Bake at 350 degrees, 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes back clean.
Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
(printable recipe)

16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c powdered sugar
pinch salt

Beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt and mix well. Gradually add the powdered sugar until thoroughly combined.
*for a little variety add a dash of cinnamon or a bit of maple syrup for a slightly different flavor

My mom's 50th birthday was just a week later. We planned a big party complete with live music (thanks Saddle Tramp!), awesome food, and too much beer. I made a little spread with appetizers and sweets.

This really is one of my favorite ways to spend time in the kitchen- cook ALL DAY, umpteen different things and celebrate with a party that night. Feet aching, compliments, and all. Its wonderful.
I made goat cheese-pesto pastry swirls, roasted red pepper tapenade, herb-olive oil dip, marinated tomatoes, and spinach-artichoke dip served with lots of crusty bread. We also had two huge sandwich trays from Jimmy's, stuffed jalapenos, chicken wings and a cheese log! For the sweet treats we indulged in 2 kinds of popcorn- fudge drizzled kettle corn, and mom's favorite- homemade cracker jack. I also made lemon cake pops, pistachio truffles, meringues, and yellow cupcakes with fudge frosting.

All the food went over really well, the band was awesome (a 6-piece in the living room? Now THAT's a party!), and a great time was had by all. I was so glad to have the occasion to cook for after the last few months of avoiding the kitchen- sometimes I just need some sort of motivation and once I get started I usually go overboard. My goal for the blog moving forward is just to post as often as I can manage, it may be weekly or every 2 weeks, but I plan to keep on cookin'! Look for a new recipe next week!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Candied Grapefruit Peel

Have you ever had candied citrus peel? Its a bit chewy, a little tart, and a little sweet. My kind of candy really, and I adore citrus- so there's that.

As a kid I remember my grandpa telling me about the citrus orchards in the valley. I was amazed that just a few hours drive away (Texas is a big place!) were orchards bursting with delicious grapefruits and oranges. I have yet to venture out to any Texas citrus orchards but I always enjoy their bounty each year. One of my favorites is the Rio Star grapefruit- its deliciously sweet and just a little tart, and the aroma of slicing into one is mouthwatering. This year after slicing and slurping my way through a giant, juicy Rio Star I wanted to do something more with this fruit, and before I knew it I was making Candied Grapefruit Peel. Read on for the recipe.

Candied Grapefruit Peel
(printable recipe)

1 large Rio Star Grapefruit
2 c sugar, plus 1/2 c
2 c water

Cut the ends off the grapefruit to make a flat cutting surface. Put one side down on the cutting board and proceed to cut the grapefruit in 8 wedges. Remove the fruit (eat it!) and slice the rind lengthwise into 1/2" slices. Place each slice rind side up on the cutting board, use a sharp knife to carefully cut away as much of the white as possible, this will keep the candy from being bitter. The peel should be almost transparent.

Place the peels in boiling water for 20 minutes. Drain and combine 2 c sugar and 2 c water over low heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Add the peels and boil for 20 minutes. Use a fork or tongs to remove each peel from the syrup and dredge in sugar, coating all sides. Place on parchment to dry, about 20-30 minutes. If you'd like dip in dark chocolate!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Home Fries

At the Goldrush Cafe where I grew up you can special order these fries. They are thick cut by hand with the skins left on and deep fried to perfection. Home fries are the perfect accompaniment to a juicy burger or a club sandwich, and they pack a real punch when you're craving fries. It doesn't get much better than these...well unless they're crinkle cut, or waffle, or shoestring... I have a thing for french fries I guess. Make these for now, and don't forget the jalapeno ranch for dipping.

Home Fries
(printable recipe)

russet potatoes
canola oil for frying
salt & pepper or french fry seasoning to taste

Now, there's a method for making these just right (assuming you don't have a deep fryer). It's a 3-part process:
First microwave your potatoes for 4-5 minutes each. We found that one potato at a time for about 4 minutes was just the right amount of time to precook. You want them to be easy to slice but will still hold their shape.
Then as each one is ready, cut into thick fries. You can cut these however you like but I prefer the fry to be the length of the potato and about 1/2" thick. Fry batches in hot oil until golden brown and drain on paper towels.
Once these are done bake in a single layer at 400 degrees until crisp, about 5-10 minutes. While they are still warm season with salt & pepper or fry seasoning (recipe below) to taste.

Serve with jalapeno ranch or your favorite dipping sauce. These also go great with steak!

French Fry Seasoning
(printable recipe)

2 tsp. seasoned salt (like Lawry's)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne

Combine and sprinkle over hot fries.