Nut-Free Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake


I can’t believe I haven’t already made carrot cake a million times, since I love to make Zucchini Bread, and of course, am always making Pumpkin Bread, but this is the fist time I’ve done a post about Carrot Cake. I like my carrot cake without raisins or nuts, so some will say that this is a stripped down version of carrot cake, but the flavor was great and it was moist too, so I’m sticking with this version.

I took a shortcut with the carrots and used a bag of shredded carrots I bought at the grocery store. I did pop the shredded carrots into my Cuisinart Mini Prep to make them even smaller, but it was super easy to start with the carrots already shredded.

To make the carrot with icing, I set a side two different reserves. One I added red and yellow food coloring to make orange and the other one, I added green. I put these into two sandwich bags and cut a little corner off. I squeezed the orange icing out back and forth to make a snaky carrot shape and then repeated for the green part.

Nut-free Carrot Cake
 
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No nuts. No raisins. This is a cakey carroty carrot cake.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 20
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups vegetable oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp Pumpkin Pie spice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 3 cups finely grated carrots
  • For the icing:
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • (1) 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Additional milk as necessary
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9″ x 13″ pan with cooking spray (or two 9-inch round layer pans) .
  2. Beat the eggs into the oil and then beat in the sugar, salt, and spices. Mix the flour with the baking soda, and stir in. Add the carrots and mix until just blended. Pour into the prepared pan(s).
  3. Bake the cake(s) for 35 to 40 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  4. For the frosting:
  5. Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth.
  6. Add the salt and vanilla and beat in with the sugar.
  7. Add a teaspoon of milk if the frosting is too stiff to spread; add additional sugar if it’s too thin.

 

McDonald’s is Back on my Radar Screen with Fish McBites

Fish McBites for a limited time only

I’ve been off McDonald’s for awhile, trying to erase the sins of the holiday season by following the plan put forth in Tim Ferris’ book, The 4-Hour Body. It’s all about rapid fat loss and it’s been working pretty well, so I’m not eager to mess with it, but the beauty of the program is that once each week, you are required, that’s right, required, to binge. One must do so carefully, but still.

So this Saturday, I’m planning to head over to a Bay Area McDonald’s and try a new, limited-time product they launched this week called Fish McBites. I’m a sucker for restaurant history, so I thought it was cool when I learned that this year, McDonald’s celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Filet-O-Fish sandwich. That makes it a perfect time to launch a new fish product, but in 2013, we must be careful about sustainability and McDonald’s is on it with this one. Fish McBites contain wild-caught Alaska Pollock that is responsibly sourced from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable fisheries. That makes McDonald’s the first fast food chain in the U.S. to offer MSC certified sustainable fish on its menu all year long (the same MSC certified Pollock is in the File O’ Fish sandwich too).

Fish McBites are only available until the end of March. They timed the launch to coincide with Lent, a period of time in the Christian calendar when people often decide to give up things, like red meat.

And Fish McBite’s aren’t only available in grown-up portions. For the first time ever, the limited-time Fish McBites Happy Meal brings a fish entrée option to the iconic Happy Meal.

Fish McBites Happy Meals with 1 percent low-fat white milk, 100 percent apple juice or fat-free chocolate milk, meet new nutrition criteria in the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative.

This isn’t the first time I’ve gone out on a limb to promote McDonald’s. See my post from last year called, 10 Reasons I Take My Kids to McDonald’s (Seriously).

For more information about Fish McBites, nutrition information, or Greater Bay Area McDonald’s commitment to the community and sustainability, visit https://twitter.com/McD_BayArea or http://bit.ly/McDonaldsBayArea.


Chocolate Madeleines

Chocolate Madeleines

I’ve had a cookie pan similar to the one pictured below for a couple of years and used it only a few times. You can purchase it from Amazon by clicking on it. Today, I thought, what if I try to make madeleines in these molds? They’re about the same size as a madeleine pan. Since it’s Christmas, I’m in the mood for chocolate, so how about chocolate madeleines? I have combined several madeleine recipe sources to create this version. These are relatively simple and quick and make a great holiday gift.

Chocolate Madeleines
 
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Chocolate madeleines made in a holiday baking mold.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅓ cup superfine sugar
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ stick butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray molds thoroughl with cooking spray
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a bowl.
  3. Add flour, baking powder, cocoa and melted butter and mix gently to combine.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the molds until ⅔ full.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes or until Madeleines are set.

 

Chocolate Madeleines

Nestle® Toll House® Chocolate Chip Cookies for Christmas

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nestle Toll House Cookies

I’ve been making Nestle® Toll House® Cookies for Christmas for 35 years. I’m almost 42, so you do the math. We always sprinkled colored sugar on top. There is no way I know how to improve on the Toll House recipe, except perhaps to add an extra dash of the vanilla extract. And of course, the quality of the chips matters. You can step up to Ghirardelli, or dare I say, Sharffen Berger, but when it comes down to it, Nestlé Semi Sweet Baking Chips really do the trick, and I bought a HUGE bag of them at Costco at the beginning of December, so we’re sticking to the old favorite.

What’s your favorite Christmas Cookie?

Nestlé Toll House Cookies

Nestlé Toll House Cookies

Nestle® Toll House® Chocolate Chip Cookies for Christmas
 
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I always make mine without nuts, but you could add 1 cup chopped nuts to this recipe.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 25
Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
Instructions
  1. PREHEAT oven to 375° F.
  2. COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
  3. BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

 

Chocolate Chip Cookies Ready for Bake Sale

Classic Christmas Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies

I baked these for the church bake sale and they were tender and rich. At first, I thought the dough was difficult to handle, but once I got it chilled enough, it was much easier to cut the shapes and transfer them to the baking sheet.

If you don’t have cream of tartar on hand, you can substitute baking powder. Baking powder is simply two parts cream of tartar with one part baking soda. It won’t be perfect, but you could use 1 tsp of baking powder instead of the baking soda and cream of tartar requirement.

Classic Christmas Sugar Cookies
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ tsp pure vanilla extra
  • 2½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Sprinkles or caster sugar
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a standup mixer, beat the butter, oil, and two sugars until well blended and fluffy. Mix in the egg and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt and mix it in. Form the dough into a large ball. It will be quite soft. You may need to add additional flour, but don’t overdo it. Just chill it for an hour first and then check it.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Divide the dough into 2 large balls. On a floured board, roll out the dough until it is about ⅛” thick. Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into shapes and transfer them, using a spatula to help, to a non-stick cookie sheet. Scatter sprinkles on top. Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until starting to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before carefully transferring them to rack for further cooling.
Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies

Roy’s Classic Melting Hot Chocolate Soufflé

Roy's Molten Chocolate Cake

Roy's Molten Chocolate Cake


I have a soft spot for Roy’s. I celebrated my first wedding anniversary there (in San Francisco) as a way to commemorate our wedding in Hawaii. I went again recently because my office was across the street for a couple of years. I don’t particularly associate chocolate with Roy’s because it’s a Hawaiian fusion restaurant. It’s their Ahi Poke I crave most. But I’m a sucker for molten chocolate cake, so I was thrilled to find that they make their recipe available publicly and that I could make it at home. Rather than making them in rings, I used ramekins. That way I didn’t have to worry about lifting off the ring at the end. If you don’t have the patience to let it refrigerate overnight, refrigerate it for a few hours and let me know how it turns out!

Roy’s Classic Melting Hot Chocolate Soufflé
 
Roy’s famous molten chocolate cake has only 5 ingredients.
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Classic
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. cornstarch
  • 4 eggs plus 4 egg yolks
  • 12 tbsp. butter
  • 8 oz. semisweet dark chocolate (make sure to use a good quality)
Instructions
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. In a separate bowl, mix eggs and yolks together. In a saucepan, bring butter to a simmer, then add the chocolate. Mix until the chocolate is smooth and begins to simmer along the edges. Combine this chocolate mixture with the sugar and cornstarch and mix thoroughly. Add eggs and mix at low speed until sugar is dissolved and mixture is smooth. Refrigerate overnight in a bowl.
  2. Preheat oven to 375º. Line 4 metal soufflé rings with parchment paper and coat with non-stick spray. On a baking sheet, place each ring on a square of parchment paper. Fill ⅔ of each ring with the filling. Bake for 28-30 minutes. Remove the baking sheet. While holding each mold with tongs, slide a metal spatula underneath and transfer to a plate. Gently lift the mold off, remove the paper and serve with ice cream.

Ghirardelli Classic Brownies

 

Ghirardelli Classic Brownie

Ghirardelli Classic Brownie

Sometimes you just want the brownie you grew up with – but made with really good chocolate. December 8 is National Brownie Day, so why not celebrate by going out and purchasing a Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Bar and turning it into an 8×8″ pan of awesomeness? These classic brownies have Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips in them too.

I live near San Francisco, so I learned, shortly after moving here 13 years ago, that it’s pronounced with a gggg as in good. Not a g is in geez. It’s Good Ghirardelli. Now you can be in the know too!

I’m going to be selling them at the Church Christmas Bakesale tomorrow! Nothing like a little chocolate for Christmas. Happy Holidays!

 

Ghirardelli Classic Brownies
 
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The classic brownie
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 4 oz. Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Baking Bar (1 bar)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square baking pan.
  2. Chop the 4 ounces of semi sweet chocolate bars into 1″ pieces. In the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over barely simmering water, melt the 4 chopped chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Stir the brown sugar and vanilla into the chocolate mixture. Add the eggs and mix well. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture, mixing well until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
  4. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting into 2-inch squares.

 

Make Michelle Obama’s Award Winning Cookies for Your Next Holiday Cookie Party

3-Chip Cookie

Michelle Obama's 3-Chip Cookie

In October 2012, Family Circle Magazine conducted its 6th cookie bakeoff between candidates for first lady. As in most years, the winner of the cookie contest also won the White House. It was close. Michelle only won by 287 votes. Luckily, her husband’s margin was wider.

For the contest, Michelle Obama submitted a recipe authored by Eleanor ‘Mama Kaye’ Wilson,  the godmother of her two children. Interestingly, this recipe has an extra stick of crisco as compared to the traditional Nestle Tollhouse recipe. An extra stick! Michelle has set aside her usual approach to food with this indulgent cookie. But hey, that’s fine once in a while, right?

The best part about these cookies, is the subtle hint of mint chocolate brought in by the crushed Andes Creme De Menthe Thins. Since I couldn’t include the nuts in this recipe (I work at a nut-free school), I increased the overall chip content leaning in favor of the semi-sweet chips and playing down the other two slightly. It was great.

Make these for your next Holiday Cookie Party. Just sprinkle some red and green sprinkles on top and you’ll be in business.

 

Mama Kaye’s White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 5 dozen cookies
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake at 375° for 12 minutes per batch

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsaltedbutter, softened
1 stick Crisco butter-flavored solid vegetable shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup each white chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips and mint chocolate chips (or Andes mint pieces)
2 cups chopped walnuts

Method

1. Heat oven to 375°.

2. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter, vegetable shortening, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract.

3. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. On low speed, beat in flour mixture. By hand, stir in white and milk chocolate chips, mint chips and walnuts.

5. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto un-greased baking sheets.

6. Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Michelle Obama's Cookie Recipe

Michelle Obama's Cookie Recipe

Roasted, Stuffed Acorn Squash: Barley-Bulgur Pilaf with Caramelized Apple

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Here is a dish elegant enough for Thanksgiving or an autumn dinner party, and hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian (vegan) main dish. Favorite fall flavors of apple, squash, and nuts come together in this healthy, whole grain pilaf. Feel free to substitute your favorite grains. Try it with millet, farro, wheatberries or wild rice. Even lentils would be a lovely addition. Substitute fresh sage or thyme for the parsley, if you prefer. Substitute pear for the apple. Try it in a pumpkin. The possibilities are endless.

Roasted, Stuffed Acorn Squash: Barley-Bulgur Pilaf with Caramelized Apple and Almonds
 
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Fall flavors come together in this hearty (vegan) side dish – elegant enough for a dinner party, yummy enough for any night.
Author:
Recipe type: Hearty Vegetarian Main Dish or Side Dish
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 Medium Acorn Squash (I chose a variety that was a lovely orange color, with smooth skin but any variety will do)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup pearled barley
  • ¼ cup brown rice
  • ¼ cup bulgur
  • 1 apple (on the sweeter side, like Honeycrisp or Braeburn), sliced thinly
  • 2 Tbsp chopped almonds, toasted
  • ¼ cup dried apricots, sliced thinly
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Cut each acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and add water to the pan so that the squash skins don’t get scorched. Add a little dab of butter to each acorn squash. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour until the squash are cooked through, but not collapsing.
  2. While the acorn squash are baking, prepare the pilaf. In a medium saucepan, heat the 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sautée until onions have softened and started to brown, about 8 minutes. Pour in 2 cups of vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the pearl barley, reduce heat and cover. The pearl barley will simmer for a total of 45-55 minutes. After 10 minutes of cooking, add the brown rice. Continue to simmer, covered on low. When 15 minutes remain, add the bulgur.
  3. In a separate frying pan, over medium heat, heat a bit of olive oil. Then add the apple slices, chopped almonds, and apricots. Toss to coat and sautée for a 3 minutes or until apples start to soften and brown. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 375˚F.
  4. Once the grains are cooked through, drain any remaining liquid and toss in the apple mixture. Toss in the chopped parsley, reserving some for garnishing later. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Divide the mixture evenly between the acorn squashes. Place the stuffed squashes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and garnish with the remaining fresh parsley and serve immediately.

 

Pumpkin Coffee Cake Wreath with Pumpkin-Spiced Cream Cheese Filling

Pumpkin Coffee Cake Wreath

Pumpkin Coffee Cake Wreath

I have been having so much fun baking with yeast this month. Today is no exception. I decided I wanted to make a coffee cake type pastry with icing and filling that would feature fall pumpkin flavors. I grew up with Entenmann’s pastries from the grocery store, and I was looking to emulate their various Danish rings with this recipe.

I ended up constructing this wreath in two ways. One way was a traditional circle. For the other, I cut little slits all the way around before baking it, and the wring came out a little more decorative – though less tidy. Totally up to you for how to make yours, but the recipe does make 2 loaves, so play with it!

Pumpkin Wreath without Slits

Pumpkin WreathWithout Slits

Pumpkin Wreath

Pumpkin Wreath Sliced Open

The recipe calls for 2 rises. One for the dough and then another one once the dough is stuffed. If you want to refrigerate your dough after stuffing it, you can refrigerate it overnight, then pull it out, let it come to room temperature, rise and then bake it so it comes out of the oven warm just in time for brunch.

I kept this dish nut free because of allergy concerns, but sliced almonds or pecans are a great addition to the topping.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling

5.0 from 2 reviews

Pumpkin Coffee Cake Wreath with Pumpkin-Spiced Cream Cheese Filling
 
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Fall pumpkin flavors infuse this danish ring with yumminess
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert, Brunch Pastry
Serves: 20
Ingredients
  • 1 package dry yeast (2¼ tsp)
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cups canned pure pumpkin
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 2 8oz packages cream cheese
  • ½ cup canned pure pumpkin
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter softened
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp butter, melted
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • ¼ tsp vanilla
Instructions
  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water in a mug and cover with a plate. Set aside for 5 minutes. When you lift the plate, it should be foamy. If it’s not foamy, it means that the yeast is no longer active and you’ll have to start over with new yeast.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the dough hook, combine 3 cups of the flour, the pumpkin, milk, melted butter, sugar, salt, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Once it has taken on a crumbly texture, add the water and yeast mixture and continue mixing with the dough hook until a ball forms. Scrape the sides as necessary to ensure complete mixing. If the dough is sticky and not well-formed, add a Tbsp or so of flour and continue kneading with the dough hook. Knead for 3 minutes on medium speed, adding flour to ensure a springy, well-formed ball.
  3. Add a tsp of oil to the bowl and knead for 30 seconds. Remove bowl and cover with towel. Set in a warm place and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour until doubled.
  4. After the dough has risen, punch it down and turn it out onto a floured cutting board. Let rest for 5 minutes, then cut in half.
  5. To prepare the filling, go back to your stand mixer (wash that bowl), but this time you will use the wire whisk to beat at high speed, the cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Beat for 2 minutes until fluffy.
  6. Now roll out one ball of dough into a flat rectangle that is about 10×12 inches in size. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the dough leaving space around the edges. The cream cheese will be about ¼ inch thick. Now roll the long side of the dough up to make a tube. Bend the tube into a circle and press the ends together firmly. If you’d like to try cutting slits in the wreath, go ahead and do so. Repeat with the other ball of dough. You will have left over cream cheese mixture. It can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and used as icing on cupcakes.
  7. Transfer the rings to a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan sprayed lightly with cooking spray. Cover with a cloth and set in a warm place. Allow them to rise for 45 minutes. (Alternatively, you could cover them in plastic and refrigerate them over night before allowing them to come to room temperature and to rise the next morning)
  8. Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
  9. Using a spoon, spread melted butter over the tops of both rings. Use the back of the spoon to coat them evenly. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of each ring. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet before transferring them to platters.
  10. Once the rings are cooled, make the icing by stirring together the sugar, milk and vanilla in a bowl with a fork or a wire whisk. If the icing is not going to hold the shape of its drizzle, add more sugar to thicken. Drizzle onto the rings and allow the icing to set for 5-10 minutes before serving.

 

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Pumpkin Coffee Cake

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