Monday, April 30, 2012

The Ultimate Carrot Cake

I have had a favorite carrot cake recipe that is so moist and delicious for many years. I got it from my sister, Joan's church cookbook from back in the 1980's. Recently, I got this Taste of Home Grand Prize Winners Cookbook.

I think you gain weight just looking at this beautiful cookbook because the pictures are so gorgeous. It has a carrot layer cake in it that looks so yummy. I got out my old carrot cake recipe to compare, and found them to be almost identical! EXCEPT . . . and this is a big EXCEPT-this recipe bumps it up a big notch by adding a delicious filling between layers. The filling is absolutely delicious and adds so much to the cake. The filling is kind of like German Chocolate cake frosting without the coconut. The recipe recommends you bake the cake in three 9-inch pans. I only own two, so I just made two layers. It worked perfectly.( The cake will be lighter and rise more if you use three)  If you have been looking for the ultimate, perfect, over the top delicous carrot cake recipe- you've just found it! It looks a little complicated, but don't let that scare you. You just start the filling on the stove, and then just give it a stir every once in a while while you make the cake. I promise, it is worth it. I wish I was a better photographer, so you could see how delicious it is. Do I dare admit that I took 16 pictures of this cake, trying get it just right? The pictures may not be great, but the taste, well, just ask my husband! I guess you'll just have to make it and see for yourself!

Carrot Layer Cake
1 cup sugar
2 T. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsps. cinnamon
2 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup raisins (opt.)
1 cup chopped pecans

3/4 cup butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups (you may need a little more) powdered sugar

For the filling:
In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar flour and salt with a whisk. Stir in the cream. Cut the butter in chunks and add. On medium heat, cook and stir until the butter is melted and the mixture is boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, remove from the heat and add the nuts and vanilla. Stir well. Set aside and cool.

For the cake:
After you get the filling simmering, start on the cake. In your mixer, beat the oil and sugar together. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add an egg to the sugar mixture, then add 1/4 of the flour mixture, then add another egg, then another 1/4th of the flour mixture. Add another egg, then another 1/4th, then the last egg, then the rest of the flour. Beat well. Stir in the carrots, nuts, and raisins(if you're using them.)
Pour the batter into two well greased 9 inch round cake pans. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test. Cook in pans on a wire rack about 10 minutes. Then carefully remove the cake from the pans and cool on the rack until completely cool.

For the frosting:
Beat together all the ingredients, adding more powdered sugar if needed to make a nice spreading consistency
Put one cake layer on a cake plate and put all of the filling on top. Put on the other layer and frost the top and sides with the cream cheese frosting.

Note: I have always wanted a cake stand. There's something about a layer cake under a dome that is just so beautiful and inviting. My beautiful daughters and their husbands remembered me saying that some time (I don't even remember saying it to them) and bought me one for my birthday last year. It has had a lot of use since then. Isn't it beautiful?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Garden Vegetable Soup - Literally

I know this doesn't look glorious or amazing, but looks can be deceiving. 
This little jar of veggies is my lifesaver. I love this stuff...and so does my family. Each fall we take the potatoes, carrots and onions from our garden and spend a day cleaning, preparing and canning as much of this veggie soup as we can.

Then I have 3 different soup recipes that my family loves where I use this as the base (No peeling, chopping or dicing. Just open and pour). One of them is: (I just saute everything from the jar and then add 3 or 4 diced medium potatoes when it calls for potatoes). It makes for a simple, quick and NUTRITIOUS meal. The other two I like to use it for are Cheeseburger Soup and our family's traditional Halloween Soup (Hamburger/Veggie soup...a requirement before trick or treating and all those sweets!).
I know winter is over and summer is on it's why a soup recipe? So you can plan ahead as you plant those gardens. Put in plenty of potatoes, carrots and onions. You will be glad you did!

Canned Vegetable Soup

Wash, prepare (we peel carrots and potatoes) and dice/slice the following vegetables and add to a 1 quart Mason jar in the following order and quantities:
1 T Barley
1 Boullion Cube
1 Handful of:
1/2 Handful of Onions
1 t. salt

If there is more room in the jar fill the space with carrots and/or potatoes. Fill to the rim with water.

Pressure can 55 minutes at 13 lbs pressure.
Happy planting!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Lemony Vegetables and Pasta

Lemony Vegetables and Pasta Recipe
This is a delicious springtime meal. As I paged through the Taste of Home cookbook Mom sent us, this one caught my eye and got tagged with a special post-it. Yesterday I was craving a veggie pasta dish, so I pulled out the recipe book and miraculously I had all of the ingredients (except my pepper was green instead of red). Man, did I rejoice. I threw in some mushrooms too and enjoyed every bite. Mmm. It was really quite quick though more entailed than I have been doing for dinners recently. It was worth it. (Coincidentally, this recipe was submitted to Taste of Home by someone from Santa Clara, Utah...our old stomping grounds.)
Lemony Vegetables and Pasta
Prep: 25 min. Cook: 15 min. Serves: 7


  • 1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium sweet red pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (my addition)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4-1/2 cups uncooked bow tie pasta
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios (Didn't have these. Sad.)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced (I just used dried and it was great)
  • Additional shredded Parmesan cheese


  • In a large bowl, combine the asparagus, red pepper, onion, mushrooms, oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 450° for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour, garlic and pepper flakes until blended. Whisk in broth until blended. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly.
  • Reduce heat. Stir in the cheese, sour cream, lemon juice and peel; heat through. Drain pasta and place in a large bowl. Add cheese sauce and asparagus mixture; toss to coat. Sprinkle with pistachios, basil and additional cheese. Yield: 7 servings.

  • Prep: 25 min. Cook: 15 min. Yield: 7 Servings

I think I like Lemon Linguine from Mom's cookbook a little better than this if it had all these yummy grilled veggies. I'm going to try that next.

Chocolate Custard Ice Cream

Here, at least, it's getting to be "ice cream season" again. We had our first barbecue of the season this week. Tradition in our family says homemade ice cream is for dessert when we barbecue. I tried out a chocolate custard ice cream recipe from this book.
I don't think it's an accident that it is the recipe pictured on the front of David Lebowitz's ice cream cookbook. It was creamy and delicious and just like Nielsen's Frozen Custard. Well, except better because it's homemade. If you like dark chocolatey creamy ice cream- this is the recipe for you!
Chocolate Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
3 T. unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I couldn't find this, so used a Dutch blend)
5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Start by preparing an ice bath.  You can do this in a very large bowl or in the sink.  Just fill the sink partway with ice and water.

Thoroughly whisk together 1 cup of the cream with the cocoa powder in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.  Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate.  Stir until smooth.  Stir in the remaining cup of cream.  Pour the mixture into a laurge bowl, scraping the saucepan as clean as possible.  Set the bowl aside, putting a mesh strainer over it.

Using the same saucepan, stir together the milk, sugar and salt.  In another bowl, beat the egg yolks.  Very slowly, pour the warmed milk mixture into the yolks, whisking all the while.  Then scrape the yolk mixture back into the saucepan.
Over medium heat, cook the mixture, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula.  Scrape the bottoms and sides constantly.  The mixture will eventually thicken and coat the spatula or a metal spoon.  When it does, pour it through the strainer into the bowl with the cream mixture.  Stir until smooth.  Add the vanilla.

Carefully put the bowl into the ice bath.  Stir until mixture is cool.  Put in the fridge to cool for several hours or overnight.  When ready to freeze, pour it into your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Peachy Shrimp Tacos

My confession: I was standing in line, waiting to check out at the grocery store, perusing the magazines on the rack, when "Taste of Home" caught my eye. I love "Taste of Home" magazine. This was a special issue of "Taste of Home Grand Prize Winners" The best recipes from 106 contests. I looked at some of the recipes and pictures, and on impulse, stuck it in my cart.

After really looking at it when I got home, I went back and bought three more copies and sent them to my daughters. I'm sure you'll be seeing many recipes from this book from us. It's a winner and full of beautiful pictures and delicious recipes. The first one I tried was this one. I had the few needed ingredients (except the cabbage- I had to go buy that) and it looked yummy . . .and it was. These tacos took just a few minutes to make, and they were really tasty.
Peachy Shrimp Tacos
1 cup salsa
1 cup frozen peaches, thawed and diced (I really think canned or fresh would work, too)
1 pound shrimp (the recipe called for cooked, but I had a bag of uncooked in the freezer. They worked just great)
1 T. (or more) minced fresh cilantro (I just headed out to the garden and snipped some!)
1 1/2 cups shredded Chinese or napa Cabbage (I had never used this. It was really yummy. I'm sure regular cabbage would work- but this is darker and softer. I shredded it in the food processor)
6 corn tortillas (or flour tortillas or I had some hard tostada shells, so that's what I used. Taco shells would be great, too.)

In a large skillet, put in a small amount of oil and cook the shrimp (if they are uncooked) I added a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to the shrimp as I cooked it. When the shrimp are pink, Add the salsa and peaches and heat through. Add the cilantro and mix well. Put some of the chopped cabbage (about 1/4 cup) down the middle of the tortilla. Top with the shrimp mixture.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chocolate Eclair Dessert

Need to make a dessert lickety split? I'll bet you have the ingredients for Chocolate Eclair Dessert. It is so easy ( you don't bake it or even need to pull out the mixer) to make and is really delicious . . .and it lasts several days in your fridge.

Chocolate Eclair Dessert
Whole Graham Crackers
2 small packages french vanilla instant pudding
3 cups milk
8 oz. Cool Whip

Whip (with a whisk) the pudding the milk together until thickened. Fold in the Cool Whip. In the bottom of a 9x13 pan (I have a tupperware one with a lid, which is perfect for this since it doesn't need to be baked) put a layer of whole graham crackers. Break them as necessary, and like a puzzle, fit them in to cover the bottom. Pour on half of the pudding mixture. Then layer another layer of graham crackers. Then pour on other half of the pudding mixture and spread to smooth. Put on another layer of crackers.
If you're in a hurry, spread canned chocolate frosting on the top of the graham crackers. Or make a simple chocolate frosting:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cube butter
3 T. cocoa powder
3 T. hot milk (just heat for a few seconds in the microwave)
Mix until smooth and spread immediately on the top layer of crackers. Refrigerate the dessert for several hours, cut it squares and serve. Keep leftovers covered in the fridge.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Chicken Stir Fry

A dish I've made for my family for many, many years is Stir Fry. Most often I make Chicken Stir Fry, but I have tried Pork, Shrimp, and Beef before, too. I like chicken the best, mostly because the leftovers stay so good. What I make is probably not a true stir fry, but that's what we call it. It has evolved over the years, and really isn't a recipe- more of a cooking technique. But here's what I do:
Cut 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts into chunks
Cut up any or all of the following vegetables:
Carrots (a must!)
Mushrooms (another must for us!)
Onions (Yep, another must)
Garlic, minced
Yellow squash (love to add it when it's on in the garden)
bell peppers
Snap peas
Probably any vegetable you like would be good

First, start your rice. I use a rice cooker and make white sticky (short grain) rice. I make 2 cups rice with 3 1/2 cups water.

Heat oil in a very large skillet or electric fry pan. Add chicken chunks and cook until done. Add other veggies and cook together until carrots (they take the longest) are soft. I usually start the carrots and onions first, then add the veggies by what takes the longest to the shortest- mushrooms and spinach last. Just keep stirring and frying (hence, the name)

While the mixture is cooking, make the sauce:
1/2 cup (about) soy sauce (Kikoman brand) Honestly, I've never measured, but I'm guessing it's about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup water (more or less)
1-2 T. garlic salt
1/3 cup sugar (again, more or less)
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (a pinch to more if you like it hot)

Mix together and add to veggies when they're starting to get done. I usually add the sauce and stir and then cover for a few minutes to finish the cooking. Serve over the hot rice. A delicious and healthy meal!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lemon Custard Ice Cream

Since we got our ice cream freezer, we've tried several different homemade ice cream recipes. This lemon ice cream was delicious.

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 cups milk
4 eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup lemon juice

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. Using a whisk, gradually add the milk, whisking as you go. On medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat. Cool slightly.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Add a small amount of the milk mixture into the eggs and temper the eggs. Pour the eggs into the milk mixture, whisking constantly. Cook and stir until the mixture coats the back of a metal spoon.
Remove from heat and stir in the cream and the lemon juice. Fill your sink with ice and water (or you can use a large bowl.) Put the pan of ice cream in the ice water sink. Stir for a couple of minutes- cooling the mixture. Put some waxed paper or plastic wrap on the surface of the ice cream and put in the fridge for several hours.

Pour into your ice cream freezer and freeze according to your freezer's instructions. If you have too much to fit in your ice cream freezer, keep the extra in the fridge until you're ready to freeze it. It will keep several days. Of course, keep the ice cream in the freezer. Enjoy a cool and yummy dessert!