Easter Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

2014-04-20 16.27.22Hello from the other side of Easter (and Passover) weekend! I hope it was fantastic for all of you. I, personally, just about died of happiness when it actually reached 75 DEGREES yesterday here in the windy city; what an absolutely beautiful day to spend with friends, and with food, of course.

This year being my first in Chicago, some of my newest acquaintences invited me over for an early Easter dinner, complete with fresh ham straight from a farm in Ohio and an incredible array of side dishes, everything from spinach and cheese quiche to potatoes au gratin to kale and farro salad. We were all stuffed to the brim, but of course everyone saved just a bit of room for dessert!

My contribution to the feast was (you guessed it!) a classic Easter treat: carrot cake! This awesome recipe is made a bit on the lighter side than the traditional carrot cake, using applesauce to replace some of the oil as well as egg whites. Yet it still turned out wonderfully moist and delicious! And while definitely not low-calorie, the cream cheese frosting is a mandatory addition, in my opinion. Sometimes you just have to indulge for a special occasion 😉 Enjoy this elegant confection at your own Spring Fling event, or any old time of the year, for that matter!

2014-04-21 08.23.34Nutty Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg plus 4 egg whites
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups shredded carrots (5 medium)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts
  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

2014-04-19 22.39.30Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottom and sides of 13×9-inch pan with shortening or cooking spray.

In large bowl, beat granulated sugar, applesauce, vegetable oil and eggs with electric mixer on low speed about 30 seconds or until blended. Add flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, 1 teaspoon vanilla and the salt. Beat on low speed 1 minute. Stir in carrots and nuts. Pour into prepared pan.

2014-04-19 22.44.50Bake cake for 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

For frosting, beat cream cheese, butter, milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a medium bowl with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, on low speed until smooth and spreadable. Frost cake. Top with mini Easter eggs or other festive treats. Store covered in refrigerator.

Namas-tasty!

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Cinnamon-Vanilla Spiced Almonds

2013-12-23 14.29.39I realize, of course, that this is embarrassingly after-the-fact (for which I am very sorry and hope you forgive me, readers), but I wanted to share with you the recipe for some awesome Cinnamon-Vanilla Spiced Almonds that I made as gifts for friends and family over the holiday season. Because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good spiced almond any ol’ time of year??

I, for one, think that “fancied up” nuts should be enjoyed year-round. Not only are they a great healthy snack that, when consumed wisely, help prevent obesity; additionally, nuts including almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts and pistachios have been proven to help protect your body against the damaging physical effects of stress, maintain cholesterol levels, and improve heart and brain health. Now that is one powerful fruit!

For these reasons (and also because they simply are delicious!), I usually keep some sort of nuts around for snacking, and I decided to use these crunchy little buddies when it came time to make my holiday gifts. Because they contain a lot of (heart-healthy) monosaturated fats and natural flavor, raw nuts are really easy to dress up with some simple spices and seasonings (besides the counterproductive yucky salt) to make extra delicious. Plus, I got to use my crock pot!! Talk about a win-win situation 🙂

2013-12-23 08.43.23(Crock Pot) Cinnamon-Vanilla Spiced Almonds

adapted from Polka Dotted Elephants

  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp vanilla
  • 2 egg white
  • 6 cups raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup water
In a large bowl mix together sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon. In another large bowl beat egg white and vanilla by hand or with an electric  mixer until mixture is frothy. Add the almonds and coat thoroughly. Once your almonds are thoroughly coated with the egg mixture, pour the sugar mixture over the almonds and stir to coat.
Prepare crock pot by spaying it with cooking spray. Turn the crock pot on to low and add almonds to pot. Cook for 4-5 hours, stirring every 20 minutes to prevent burning.
2013-12-23 14.28.59In the last hour, add 1/4 cup water to the almonds and stir. Continue to stir every 20 minutes until done. Spread the almonds out onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Once they begin to cool the cinnamon sugar glaze will harden. Wait several hours before packaging.
Namas-tasty!

Goat Cheese Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates

2013-11-27 20.15.22When I am entertaining guests, I like to go all out — appetizers are a must. These are a classic crowd-pleaser that, while relatively simple to make, are so wonderfully complex and rich in flavor. The saltyness of the bacon wrapped around the sweet, chewy date and creamy goat cheese – c’est magnifique! These are also some of my mom’s favorites, so you know they must be good 😉

Goat Cheese Stuffed Bacon-Wrapped Dates

  • 16 Medjool Dates (you can get them pre-pitted or whole; I love the ones from Trader Joe’s with the pits still in)
  •  Goats Cheese (simple and plain works well)
  •  8 slices of thick-cut bacon
  •  Toothpicks

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Pit dates by cutting halfway down one side and separating the flaps; simply grab the pit and pull it out with your fingers. Stuff the now-empty center of the date with goat cheese. I find that using my fingers works fine for this step if the goat cheese is still cool and relatively solid. If your cheese is softer, you can also choose to pipe the goat cheese into the date by cutting the corner off the cheese package or putting it in a ziploc baggie, trimming off the corner of the baggie.

After you’ve added the cheese, close up the date (don’t worry if there is some cheese spilling out; in my opinion, the more cheese the better!) Cut bacon slices in half. Wrap each date in half a slice of bacon and secure by skewering all the way through with a toothpick.

Place the dates on a foil lined pan or a broiler pan (the foil makes cleanup a breeze; I can’t stand trying to scrub off baked-on grease). Also, make sure your dates are evenly spaced to ensure even cooking and even browning. Bake for 15 minutes, flipping half-way though. At the 15 minute mark, watch the dates carefully. The exact cooking time depend on the size of your dates and the thickness of your bacon; you will want to cook them until the bacon is slightly crispy on the edges.

2013-11-27 20.14.40Remove from oven and immediately place the dates on a paper towel-lined plate or basket. This will soak up any extra grease and allow the dates to cool. Wait a few minutes before eating, if you can resist! The insides will be quite hot. Feel free to share with friends — or not, the choice is yours. 🙂

Namas-tasty!

So Good Apple Pie

I don’t like to brag (OK that’s not true, but who doesn’t like to brag occasionally?!), but I make THE BEST apple pie. Trust me, I have the feedback to prove it. So, now that I’m in my seasonal apple frenzy, I would like to share my tried and true apple pie recipe with you, readers. I hope you try it out for an upcoming holiday dinner or celebration! Don’t be afraid to leave comments of gratitude when your guests’ compliments start flowing 😉

2013-10-12 12.07.34So Good Apple Pie

  • Pastry for 9-in double pie crust (store-bought or homemade, if you need directions click here)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 cups tart apples (about 8 medium, or 6 large), peeled and thinly sliced (I like to use Cortland if picked fresh from an orchard; Granny Smith also work just fine)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place one pie crust in the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. In large bowl, mix sugar, 1/4 cup flour, the cinnamon, nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Stir in apples until well mixed. Spoon into pastry-lined pie plate. Cut butter into small pieces; sprinkle over filling.

Roll out the other pastry onto a counter and cut into 8 strips, approximately 1-1.5 inches thick. Assemble the strips into a lattice- alternating over and under. Press the two edges together and onto rim of pie plate to seal; flute as desired. Cover edge with 2- to 3-inch strip of foil to prevent excessive browning. Sprinkle crust with granulated sugar crystals, if desired, for a fancy touch.

Bake 50 to 55 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through the crust, removing foil for last 8-10 minutes of baking. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm, if desired, with fresh vanilla ice cream!

Namas-tasty!