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

Fresh Blueberry Sauce

I just returned from an amazing weekend reconnecting with my dearest college friends to discover that, as one of the people who drove, I was gifted an amazing amount of fresh fruit (we somewhat over planned the amount of food that could reasonably be consumed in one weekend. But hey, who was complaining?) So I decided to make a quick blueberry sauce!

2 cups fresh blueberries (I’m thinking you could use frozen, but I’ve never tried)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tbsp. water
dash of vanilla extract
zest of one lemon

Mix the water, sugar, and lemon juice in a saucepan and bring to just a boil till blended (if you’re worried about the amount of sugar, you can always use a bit less, personally we don’t find it super-sweet). Gently toss the blueberries in a bowl with the water & cornstarch mixture. Add to the saucepan with the vanilla and gently boil until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add in the lemon zest and you’re done!

I’ll confess sometimes I get a little distracted and forget to check it, so if it becomes more like a jam, no worries – just add a bit more water until it’s the consistency you like!

Trust me when I tell you this is absolute perfection on waffles, ice cream and cheesecake if you have it (and seriously, now I’m really leaning toward making one this weekend!)

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.

Happy Fourth of July

It’s a bit challenging celebrating our independence this year but as I watched Hamilton this weekend, I was struck by these lyrics: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…we fought for these ideals, we shouldn’t settle for less.” Personally, that gave me a bit of a reset.

So hopefully you all had a happy and safe weekend. And on the blog posts coming up, I’ll be sharing a few of my holiday favorites. Like the best baked beans, appetizers, and desserts. And they all work no matter the reason you’re celebrating!

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.

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

Streuselkuchen

My mom, God bless her soul, was known for her epic sweet tooth and her complete lack of skills in the baking department. And no, I’m not telling tales out of school because she was always the first to admit it. It did not, however, stop her from always finding suggestions for what I should bake to satisfy said sweet tooth! Especially if it was any German dessert she spoke so fondly of my grandmother making. So I was thinking of her yesterday when I had a couple apples left over from our weekly Misfits order and I decided to make one of her favorite cakes. Streuselkuchen is the fun German name for crumb cake, but this one takes it up a notch by adding of apples between the cake batter and the streusel topping.

1/2 unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Almond extract
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
1/2 cup milk
2 cups of flour

2-3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced

Streusel:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter (chilled)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13×9 pan with cooking spray.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, baking powder, almond extract, lemon peel and milk. Mix well. Add flour into the batter one cup at a time, mixing well after each cup.

Spread batter in greased pan. Add apples over the top of the batter to completely cover.

To make the streusel topping: use a pastry cutter to combine the flour, brown sugar and butter until the mixture looks like course crumbs. Sprinkle (liberally!) over the apples.

Bake for 40 – 45 minutes. Enjoy warm or cooled. Pro tip: a dash of whipped cream is the perfect topping!