Sunday, September 30, 2012

 The Perfect Carrot Cake

I have been on a quest for quite some time for the best carrot cake. Carrot cake has always been my favorite and this recipe does a great job highlighting all the great things about it. I may be exaggerating a bit by saying this is a perfect carrot cake, but it's pretty darn close to it.I adapted this from the Pioneer Woman's recipe and it is a real winner. It has a nice cinnamon flavor and very moist texture along with a great frosting on top. I tried this out on my family and they seemed to enjoy it quite a bit!
This cake recipe calls for:
2 cups of white sugar
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of coconut extract
4 eggs
2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 cups of grated carrots
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup raisins

 Combine the oil, sugar, eggs, and coconut extract in a large bowl.

In another bowl combine the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon.

Grate the carrots using a food processor or a hand grater. If you choose the hand grater option, make sure you are smarter than me and don't grate your hand. It delays the eating of the cake part a bit.

Take the carrots, raisins and chopped nuts ( I used almonds) and stir them up in the dry ingredients. This ensures they won't stick together in a lump or fall to the bottom of the batter. Nut and raisin equality for all!

Combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in about three batches. Just stir until it is combined. This is the part where you need to remind yourself of the four eggs in this mixture and the possibility of salmonella. Don't eat the batter.

Pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out cleanly.

 You could top this with any icing but cream cheese is traditional and most delicious.

8 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 cup of butter
1 teaspoon of coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
3 to 4 cups of powdered sugar.

I like my icing to not be too sweet, but if you like a firmer and sweeter icing add more powdered sugar. The coconut extract is not mandatory, but it is a nice addition.

Ice the cake when it has cooled with as much or as little of the icing as you like. I enjoy a thick layer on mine so that is what mine included. I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Creamy Green Chile Enchiladas

One of my favorite meals in the entire world is green enchiladas. As a kid growing up in Colorado, enchiladas were never my favorite. The sauces was kind of funky and it just wasn't my thing. It wasn't until I went to college in New Mexico that I fell in love with them. My first aha moment with enchiladas was at an infamous place called Andele's. The sauce was made with green chile and is was super creamy. I won't pretend this is as good as their's, but it's a good at home version. For this dish you will need:

1 1/2 pounds of chicken (breasts, thighs or even pieces of a whole chicken will do)
1 large can of green chile sauce
1 can of cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup. 
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3/4 cup sour cream
20 or so corn tortillas
2 cups grated cheese

 First, empty the cans of soup and green chile sauce into a large pot. Fill them about half way with water and add to the mixture.

Season the chicken and add to the mixture. I suppose you could just add the salt to the soup and chile mixture since it's all really going the same place.

 When the chicken is cooked, shred or cut the meat into small bite sized pieces.

Turn off the heat and wait for the sauce to stop bubbling. Then stir in the sour cream and mix until fully blended. If the sour cream is boiled, it will curdle and look unhappy. No taste difference, just not as appealing.

In the bottom of a 9 X 13 dish, spread the sauce mixture. 

Dip each of the tortillas in the sauce and directly place it into the pan. It's fine if it overlaps, but all the spaces should be covered. 

Add about a third of the chicken to the top of the tortillas. 

Sprinkle some of the cheese over the top of this part. Then, spoon about 1/2 cup of the sauce over top. 

Repeat this process two more times making sure to leave a little cheese for the top.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 30 to 40 minutes until the center bubbles and the edges are a bit crispy.

Serve with beans and rice on the side. I hope you enjoy!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Jalapeno Popper Dip

 Football season is upon us! I like football, but I really love football food. This is a perfect dish to bring to any game. Jalapeno poppers are very tasty, but I think they are a bit tedious to take all the seeds out and fill with cream cheese. Plus, they are very rich and only a few will exceed my cream cheese limits. This dip has all the great flavors and its much easier to make.

I added pasilla peppers to the dip because I wanted a bigger pepper flavor without so much spice. You could easily use more jalapenos, poblanos, or just canned green chiles. If you can't find pasilla peppers, poblanos may be easier to get. 

To make these you will need:
2 pasilla peppers
1 to 3 jalapenos
1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup of sour cream
1 teaspoon garlic salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper

 I sliced the pasilla peppers into strips and tossed them in oil and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt. I tossed the jalapenos in there as well, but left them whole.

Roast these in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes until the peppers are soft and the skin is blistered.

While the peppers are roasting, combine the softened cream cheese, sour cream, garlic salt, pepper.

Chop the peppers into a small dice. This can be done by hand, or with a food processor. With the jalapenos, you can adjust how spicy you would like the dip by taking out the seeds and membranes. I added two jalapenos and left the seeds in and it was pretty spicy.

Bake the dip in a 350 degree oven until it bubbles in the center. This is great served with tortilla chips, crackers or cut veggies.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Meat Pies

Meat is good. Pie is even better. When you combine them together they are really, really good. These meat pies are easy and they are just plain tasty. This is also a great way to use up leftover pot roast or any meat. Get the following ingredients and you can enjoy one too!

1 1/2 cups cooked beef ( I used chuck roast but anything will do)
1/2 cup cooking liquid
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon of season salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1 green onion (optional)
1 can of jumbo crescent rolls

Start by shredding the meat and adding the flour, seasonings, and green onion to it. Make sure the pieces are all about bite size.

Take the rolls out of the package and roll the dough to 1/4 inch thickness.

If the dough becomes too thin or sticky, you can always roll it out again or put it in the refrigerator.

  Once the dough is a good thickness, place about 1/4 cup of the filling at the end of the rolls.

Fold the dough around the meat and seal it shut by crimping the edges with a fork. Be sure to cut a few holes in the top to allow the steam to escape.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes or until golden brown on the top. 

Serve with vegetables on the side and prove pie isn't just for dessert!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Snickerdoodle Blondies

Is there anything better than a soft cookie? Sure, a million dollars and a yacht would be nice but soft cookies are a building block of everyday joy for the average joe. One of my best friends has a birthday this week and I wanted to send her an exciting version of her favorite cookie. I found this recipe on Pinterest but I have adapted it to make little squares of cinnamon smiles. 

For these tasty treats you will need:
1 1/3 cups of flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon, divivded
1 cup of brown sugar
1/ 2 cup of butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup of sugar

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. 

Mix the softened butter, brown sugar, egg, and vanilla very well until fluffy. 

Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture until well combined. Don't over mix or the blondies will be tough. 

Spread half of the dough into a greased 9 x 9 pan.

Combine the 1/4 cup of sugar and remaining teaspoon of cinnamon.

Sprinkle evenly over the batter mixture.

Pat the rest of the batter on top. Then sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar on the top of the blondies.

 Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out almost clean. The tops should be firm while the gooey inside hides below.

Cut these into squares and enjoy with a tall class of milk or coffee.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chicken and Mashed Potatoes

I've started a battle. It's a battle against summer temperatures during school. As a teacher I feel it is a bit unjust to have summer like weather while we all have to go back to school.If we have to go to school there should at least be a bit of crispness in the air. My weapon? Warm and cozy mashed potatoes and chicken gravy. No summer sun can resist all good flavors wrapped up in a bowl of deliciousness. Care to join me in this battle?

 Here's what you will need:

2-3 chicken thighs
1 1/2 tablespoons of chicken base ( I used the Better Than Bouillon brand)
3 - 4 tablespoons of cornstarch
4 medium sized potatoes
1/3 cup of milk
3 tablespoons of butter
salt and pepper to taste

Put the chicken thighs (or breasts) into a slow cooker with the chicken base and cover with water. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Take the chicken out and wait for it to cool.

While the chicken is cooling, combine the cornstarch in 1/4 or so of water. Then add this to the chicken broth and turn the slow cooker to high.

While the mixture comes to a boil, shred the cooked chicken into small edible pieces.
 Chop the cleaned potatoes, and place them into a pot and cover with water. Boil them until they are very tender.

At this point you can add the chicken back to the gravy mixture and return the slow cooker to low heat. Taste the gravy. If you want to add more chicken base or salt and pepper, do so now.

Once the potatoes have cooked, add the milk and butter. Mash them with either a masher or electric mixer. If you prefer a thinner or thicker mashed potato add more or less milk. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the mashed potatoes into a bowl and serve the gravy over top.

Take that summer!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cheesy Fruit Dip

Fruit is delicious all on its own, but sometimes its nice to add a little something extra to it. This week I was invited to a baby shower and I brought this delicious fruit dip along with me. The dip has a creamy consistency and adds something special to any fruit tray.
For this dip you will need to following:
4 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature
4 ounces or 1/2 cup of riccota cheese
4 ounces of vanilla yogurt ( any flavor is fine)
 1/4 strawberry jam (or another you like)
1/4 teaspoon coconut or vanilla extract
Assorted fruits for dipping

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Summer foods are not typically my favorite. While everyone else is enjoying ribs and corn on the cob, I  miss pumpkin flavored everything and casseroles. However, if I have to pick a perfect summer dish, it would be rice salad. This is a side dish created by my mom as we were on our way to a summer cook out. It has great flavor and sits well outside in summer temperatures. 

For this dish you will need:
1 box of chicken flavored Rice A Roni
1 1/2 cups diced celery (3 ribs)
1 1/2 cups of diced carrots (about 3)
4 green onions, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing  

 Cook the Rice A Roni according to the package directions.

Cut all the vegetables about the same size. The tomatoes break down a bit in the dressing, so cut them a little bigger.

Chop them so they look like this:
When the rice is tender, let it cool before adding it to the vegetable mixture.