Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

When life (or Misfits Markets) gives you too many carrots, there is only one option in my house: carrot cake. Plus we were visiting family at their camp last weekend and, when made in two loaf pans, it was the perfect thank you with one pan waiting happily waiting for our return home! And I’ll confess, it may have even made a guest appearance at breakfast.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice*
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 eggs
3 cups grated carrots (about 4)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray (I did this in two loaf pans)

Mix the all the dry ingredients to combine. Add in the yogurt and the eggs. Stir in the grated carrots.

Pour into the prepared baking dish (or dishes). Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan. While the cake is cooling, prepare the frosting by beating 4 tbsp unsalted butter (softened) with 4 ounces of softened cream cheese until smooth (confession: I usually use 6 ounces). Add 1/2 tsp of vanilla and 1 3/4 cups of powdered sugar and beat until fluffy. Spread over the cooled cake. Store in the refrigerator. Most importantly, enjoy!

* if you don’t have pumpkin pie spice handy, use 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Peach Upside-Down Cake

Is there something you make for your spouse/significant other/dear friend that is such a part of their memories, you are terrified to screw up their expectations of making it yourself? For me, it was peach upside-down cake from the recipe my mother-in-law shared with me at my bridal shower a few years ago. She lovingly explained how it was my soon-to-be husband’s favorite and she made it each year for his birthday. When she passed away, I got the recipe out and decided to tackle it myself. No pressure.

3 eggs (separate whites from yolks)
1 cup sugar
5 tbsp juice from peaches*
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 can sliced peaches
1/2 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat the yolks of the eggs with the sugar and fruit juice. In a separate bowl, sift the flour. Mix in the baking powder to incorporate well. Add to the egg yolk mixture and stir well. In another bowl (this is the last one – it does generate a lot of cleanup), whip the egg whites until stiffly beaten. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the rest of the ingredients. In a 9 inch cake pan, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Remove from oven, give it a quick stir, and place the peach slices into the butter and brown sugar mixture. Pour the batter over the fruit/butter/brown sugar.

Bake for 45-50 minutes. Here’s the terrifying part (at least in my mind). After removing cake from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes. Then invert on a cake plate and leave undisturbed upside-down for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, the cake should have come out of the pan. (She must watch over me for this step because I haven’t screwed it up yet). It’s wonderful as-is, but a dollop of whipped cream doesn’t hurt!

The best thing about enjoying the cake is that when I make it now each year, we spend time re-living all the memories of what an amazing person she was. In my mind, there’s nothing better than that!

*Don’t be put off, it seems like a lot, but it’s perfect

Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

If there’s anything better than brownies with a decadent cream cheese filling, topped with chocolate chips, I don’t think I want to know! The best part of this recipe is the base is your favorite brownie mix. Put that together and be prepared to take it to the next level (and be prepared that no one will believe you as they’re enjoying the brownies!)

Filling

4 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Brownie Base

1 box of your favorite brownie mix (I tend to use Ghirardelli Chocolate Supreme Brownie mix)
Water, oil, eggs per the mix instructions

Topping

3/4 cup chocolate chips (whatever is your favorite: milk chocolate, semi-sweet, or even dark all work)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13×9 pan.

Beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well blended. Set it aside.

Prepare the brownies as directed. Spread 3/4 of the mix into the pan. Using a tablespoon, spoon cream cheese filling evenly onto the batter. Spoon remaining brownie mix over the filling. Cut through mixture with a butter knife to make a marble design. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips.

Bake 33-37 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean that’s been inserted a couple inches from the edge.

If you have any left (you may not), store covered in the refrigerator.

Mini Cheesecakes

I always like Memorial Day weekend. Not only is it the unofficial kickoff to summer, but it’s a time to celebrate outside with family and friends. This often means having impromptu gatherings or having to make something quickly to bring to a barbecue and these mini cheesecakes are the perfect dessert. They are quick and easy, portable, and you can top them with any of your favorite fruits.

8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 egg
1 package graham cracker mini pie crusts (package of 6)*
Pie filling or fresh fruit

(This recipe can easily be doubled)

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla & almond and egg until smooth. Pour into mini crusts (just about to the top). Bake for 20 minutes until set, then chill for 3 hours. Top with your favorite fruits and enjoy!

*If you need something even more bite size, substitute mini Phyllo pastry shells for the graham cracker crusts and cut the baking time to about 10-12 minutes.

Crustless Quiche

This is one of my favorite breakfast (or brunch or lunch…) recipes using ingredients you have on hand. Looking for easy? It literally comes together in minutes. It’s also a really nice way to use up stray veggies in your fridge. Plus, the combination of fillings is endless. Now I’m getting hungry, so let’s get cooking.

Basic Mix:
2 cups of milk (for some extra punch, it’s a great way to use up buttermilk too)
4 eggs
1/2 cup baking mix (I used Bisquick Heart Smart)
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
Dash of black pepper, oregano and garlic

Filling ideas:
Cooked sausage (either breakfast or Italian)
Cooked, crumbled bacon
Shredded cheese (cheddar, jack, swiss or mozzarella…)
Diced vegetables (pepper, onion, broccoli, spinach, tomato…)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a pie plate or 2.5 quart casserole dish.

Blend milk, eggs, baking mix, butter and spices. Pour into dish. Sprinkle in any extra meats, cheeses and vegetables. To keep the consistency of the quiche, don’t overload the dish with the fillings (about two cups will be more than enough). Bake for 35-40 minutes until set.

If you’re feeling fancy, serve with fruit salad on the side. Throw any leftovers in the fridge and just microwave a slice for a minute to enjoy the next day.

Easy Easter Treats

I was chatting with a friend the other day and I shared that I think of all the holidays, Easter is my favorite holiday to plan food for because it can be done pretty easily and relatively stress-free. Much as cherish them both, Christmas has so many moving parts and extra things going on and Thanksgiving just lends itself to an amazing feast of many dishes. I’ll share my Easter dinner menu, but let’s start with the important stuff: the sweet treats!

These mini-cini rolls are the perfect Easter morning bite (sorry, it’s a terrible name I came up with for them but what they lack in a proper title, they make up for in taste)

Roll Base
1 loaf Rhodes Bake-N-Serve Bread Dough (thawed)
1/2 butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
ground cinnamon

Frosting
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
2 oz softened cream cheese
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tbsp milk (see note below)

Roll the thawed dough out into a 24″ x 8″ rectangle, spread melted butter over the top (reserve a bit to drizzle on the top before rolling). Sprinkle enough cinnamon to generously cover the whole dough. Add the sugar over the butter & cinnamon. Sprinkle the remaining butter on top (I always add a touch more sugar and cinnamon too, since it’s a holiday after all). Starting with the long side, roll the dough tightly, pinching the seam together when all rolled up. Slice the dough into 1″ pieces and lay into a greased springform pan. Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown. While the rolls are baking, make the icing by beating the butter, sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Add the maple syrup and mix well. Cool the rolls slightly and top with the icing.*

Next up, I made Snickers brownie bites (better name I know). I am always so conflicted when it comes to holiday desserts. I want to serve something, but don’t want to something super rich or filling after a full meal. These fill the bill perfectly (especially with a bit of ice cream on the side)

One package of brownie mix (my go-to is Ghirardelli chocolate supreme**
1 bag of Snickers mini candy bars
1/4 cup M&M’s mini baking bits

Using the mix is a super-quick hack to speed things up. Mix according to directions, then line a mini muffin pan with 24 liners. Fill the cups with 1-2 tablespoons of the brownie base, press a Snickers bar into the cup, then top with a couple of the M&M’s (mine sunk in as the brownies baked, but it made for a fun surprise).

Bake at 350 for about 18 minutes.

*OK, this can be a debate. As you see, I like the frosting on the thicker side. Some people prefer a glaze. If that’s your jam, just add a bit of milk to the frosting to thin it out.

**If you want to make the brownies yourself, melt 1 stick of butter and 4 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate in a saucepan. Beat 1 1/3 cups of sugar, 3 large eggs, and 1 1/2 vanilla extract together with a hand mixer. Stir in 3/4 cup of flour, then add the chocolate & butter mixture

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Bread

Please tell me I’m not the only one that won’t eat a banana, but LOVES a good banana bread! No, it’s just me? OK. But seriously, I love how this so filling and rich (even without the cream cheese on top of it). Plus the whole wheat flour gives it that amazing dark color.

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 c sugar
3-4 bananas, mashed
2 eggs (room temperature)
1/2 chopped walnuts or pecans*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8 1/2 inch loaf pan.

Stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt, mixing them well to get everything blended. Set the bowl aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar using a hand mixer. Beat in the eggs until completely mixed, then add the bananas and stir to combine. (I’m not going to lie, the mixture is going to look a little like it curdled, but trust me, it’s fine). Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until blended with a spoon or spatula. Add the nuts and give everything one more stir.

Pour the mix into the prepared loaf pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (about 50-60 minutes). Cool completely before slicing.

If you’re baking for a crowd, this can be easily doubled to pour into two loaf pans.

*On baking day, I realized all I had was almonds in my pantry. I did, however stumble upon a bag of glazed pecans which I chopped and substituted. I was worried it was going to turn out too sweet, but it came out perfectly.

The Easiest Biscuits Ever

I have a confession: I don’t have a lot of patience or tolerance for baking bread. I seriously intend to change that, but for now, that’s who I am! But I DO enjoy a nice biscuit that I can make while dinner is in the oven and have a few minutes. This fits the bill. And as a bonus, it tastes like a lot like a version served at a popular seafood chain. It is pretty garlicky though so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Biscuit Dough:
2 1/2 cup baking mix (I use Bisquick Heart Smart)
4 tbsp butter, chilled
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk
2 tsp garlic powder

Topping:
4 tbsp butter
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut butter into making mix until the mix looks like course crumbs. Add milk, cheese and garlic. Mix to incorporate.

Shape dough into 12 biscuits (you can go bigger for less or smaller for more). Bake 15-17 minutes until golden brown.

Melt butter. Stir in garlic powder, parsley, and a pinch of salt if you want. Brush all over the top of the warm biscuits.