Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

My lab mate Tatiana's birthday was today, so I decided to make her a cake. She doesn't love chocolate cake, and yellow cake is a little boring, so I thought it would be fun to make her a carrot cake. My mom always used to make my dad carrot cake for his birthday when I was growing up, so I knew exactly where to go for the recipe. The cake turned out great and got rave reviews from everyone at work!

Carrot Cake
4 eggs
1 C vegetable oil
2 C sugar
2 C flour
1/2 C finely chopped walnuts
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
3 C (10 oz bag) grated carrots

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Beat eggs, add oil and sugar and beat on medium speed.
3. Combine all dry ingredients and add slowly.
4. Fold in carrots and nuts.
5. Grease 2-8 or 9 inch round baking pans and cover bottom with wax paper.
6. Pour equal amounts of batter into each pan.

7. Bake for 35 minutes.
8. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack before icing.

Cream Cheese Icing
2 1/2 C powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 C butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz cream cheese

1. Cream butter and cream cheese.
2. Add vanilla.
3. Add powdered sugar, slowly, beating after each addition.
4. Beat on high speed to whip.
5. Ice cake and decorate with Wilton Decorator icing (see recipe below).
*For tips on layer cake construction, see Hirsh's Birthday Cake Post.

My roses seem to be getting better!

Wilton Decorator Icing
1/4 C solid vegetable shortening (Crisco with no trans fat)
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 C powdered sugar, sifted
1 tbsp milk

1. Cream butter and shortening with electric mixer.
2. Add vanilla.
3. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating on medium speed.
4. Add milk and beat on high speed until light and fluffy.
5. Separate into individual containers and add food coloring as desired. The best food coloring to use is solid food color (add dabs with a toothpick and then mix with an icing knife or spoon) since this will not dilute the icing like liquid food coloring.

Difficulty: Hard
Debbie's Rating: 9.5-- there was less cream cheese icing than I would have liked, so I had to be kind of stingy on the cake. I would probably 1.5x the recipe next time to make sure I had enough.
Tatiana and coworker's rating: They loved it! Both taste and presentation. :-)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spinach Fettuccine with Artichokes and Sun-dried Tomatoes

We love pasta, and I am always looking for new, healthy, fast pasta dishes. I found this recipe on the whole foods website while looking for a way to use the leftover sun-dried tomatoes that I had in the fridge. It turned out to be a very good, light and healthy dish and had a certain "spa cuisine" quality to it. I think it would be great with whole grain noodles as well.

Spinach Fettuccine with Artichokes and Sun-dried Tomatoes
8 oz spinach fettuccine, cooked until tender, drained (1/4 cup pasta water reserved)
6 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil (from sun-dried tomatoes)
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/2 can artichokes, drained and cut into small chunks
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C dry white wine
Grated Parmesan cheese

1. Start boiling water for pasta.
2. In a medium skillet, heat oil and cook onions until tender.
3. Add artichokes, garlic, juice of half of lemon, salt and pepper and cook about 7 minutes.
4. In the meantime, boil the fettuccine until al dente.
4. Add wine to skillet and simmer until just thickened.
5. Stir in 1/4 C pasta water and tomatoes and cook for a few minutes.
6. Toss pasta with vegetables (I also added some steamed broccoli).
7. Serve topped with grated parmesan and a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice.

Difficulty: Easy
Debbie's Rating: 9
Hirsh's Rating: 8.5

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Creamy Orzo

As I was perusing my cooking magazine, I saw that they had an entire section on the art of crusting chicken. Parmesan crusted chicken is one of Hirsh's favorite things to order in a restaurant, so I decided to give it a try. I paired it with another recipe from the magazine for creamy orzo with feta and sun-dried tomatoes. We really liked the orzo and the chicken was good, but it seemed like a lot of work for a relatively simple tasting dish.

I will probably try the chicken again with some modifications. The bread crumb mixture did not want to stick to the chicken, probably becuase the bread crumbs were too big. I would probably use store-bought crumbs instead next time since I know they stick well and it would cut out having to make the homemade ones! Also, it didn't seem to have enough flavor, so I definitely would add some additional spices. Finally, I would saute the first side a little longer to get a better crust.

Parmesan Crusted Chicken
2 deboned chicken breasts
2 egg whites
2 tsp corn starch
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 C coarse, dried homemade bread crumbs
1/2 tbsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/3 C grated parmesan
Zest of 1 lemon
Olive oil

1. Prepare homemade bread crumbs by putting chunks of bread (ideally, semi-soft with a chewy crust) in the food processor until fine.
2. Spread bread crumbs on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 200 degrees for 15 minutes to dry crumbs.
3. Combine 1 C crumbs with parsley, salt, pepper, parmesan and lemon zest in a shallow dish.
4. Combine egg whites, corn starch and lemon juice in a bowl.
5. Cut each chicken breast into two halves and pound to 1/2 in thickness.
6. Dip chicken in egg mixture and then in crumb mixture, coating both sides.
7. Place on a rack and put in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to help crumbs adhere to chicken.
8. Preheat oven to 450.
9. Heat olive oil in oven proof skillet (enough to cover the bottom of the pan).
10. Saute chicken on one side about 3-4 minutes.
11. Flip chicken over, put skillet in the oven and bake for about 8-9 more minutes until cooked through.
12. Remove from oven (use an oven mitt!) and serve.

Diffulty: Medium-hard
Debbie's Rating: 7.5
Hirsh's Rating: 8.5

Creamy Orzo with Feta and Sun-dried Tomatoes
1 1/2 C low sodium chicken broth
1/2 C orzo
2 tbsp minced oil-packed sun dried tomatoes
2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese

1. Bring broth to a boil in a small sauce pan.
2. Add orzo and boil uncovered about 9 minutes until liquid is absorbed.
3. Remove saucepan from heat and add feta and tomatoes. Serves 2.

Difficulty: Easy
Debbie's Rating: 9
Hirsh's Rating: 9

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Veggie Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries

With Hirsh out of town this week, I took the opportunity to make a dinner that I knew he wouldn't like but I would love. I thought it would be fun to make homemade veggie burgers. I looked around for recipes for veggie burgers and picked one that was oatmeal based instead of bean based, since I'm not a huge fan of beans. I figured that sweet potato fries would be a great accompaniment to veggie burgers, so I found a recipe for oven baked fries. The dinner was very good, and I was able to freeze some burgers for future nights when I'm having dinner on my own!

Veggie Burgers
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots
1 small yellow squash
1 small zucchini
1 1/2 C oatmeal
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 C italian bread crumbs
1/2 C flour

1. Mince onion in food processor and saute with garlic in olive oil for about five minutes, adding a few shakes of salt and pepper.
2. Shred carrots, zucchini and squash in food processor and add to skillet, cooking for a few minutes.
3. Transfer vegetables to a bowl and add oatmeal, beaten egg, soy sauce and bread crumbs.
4. Refrigerate mixture for at least one hour.
5. Wet hands and form into 8 patties (it will be sticky). Dip each side in flour. You can grill now or store the patties in the fridge for a day.
6. Grill patties for about 5 minutes on each side. (I used our George Forman grill and grilled them for 10 minutes total on medium high).
7. Serve on a kaiser role with a piece of cheese.

Difficulty: Medium
Debbie's Rating: 8- definitely a success although they did get flattened a lot by the Foreman grill-- might be better to cook them on a real grill!

Sweet Potato Fries
1 small sweet potato per person
Olive oil
Kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into thick strips.
3. Toss strips with olive oil, a few grinds of pepper and a bit of kosher salt.
4. Spread evenly on a foil-lined baking sheet.
5. Bake for 15 minutes, flip and bake for another 15 minutes.
6. Serve with an additional sprinkle of kosher salt, if desired.

Difficulty: Easy
Debbie's Rating: 9- very tasty with crisp outside and soft inside. To get crispier fries, I would cut them thinner and bake for longer at a lower temperature.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Jalapeno Corn Bread

Pharmaceutical Sciences had a potluck lunch for cinco de mayo and I decided to make Jalapeno Corn bread. I have made regular corn bread from scratch before, but this was my first time for jalapeno corn bread. Actually it was my first time buying jalapeno peppers! I found the recipe on and doubled it to 9x13 size (originally 9x9) to make it for a crowd. The corn bread turned out very well and definitely had a kick every time you got one of the little pepper pieces- very Mexican!

Jalapeno Corn Bread
3 C cornmeal
1 C flour
3/4 C sugar
1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
2 C buttermilk
1/2 C olive oil
4 jalapeno peppers, ribbed, seeded and finely chopped
*Note: Wear gloves when you are chopping jalapeno's and don't touch your eyes since it will burn!

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Whisk eggs, buttermilk and olive oil.
4. Add chopped jalapeno peppers to dry ingredients and mix to combine.
5. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, stirring until just combined.
6. Pour into greased 9x13 glass baking dish.
7. Bake for 22 minutes and check with a toothpick.
8. Cool and slice. Serves a lot!

Difficulty: Easy
Debbie's Rating: 8.5- the peppers were a little spicy for me! Maybe I will chop them finer next time.
Potluck reception: Everybody really liked it!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

White Pizza with Spinach and Mushrooms

Since we often make homemade pizza as a quick weeknight meal, I thought it would be fun to try making white pizza as an alternative. I was originally inspired by a recipe I found on and then also looked at a Rachel Ray recipe and came up with my own from there. It turned out really well-- just like pizza you would get at Bertucci's. It was pretty quick too!

White Pizza with Spinach and Mushrooms
1 thin crust pizza (I used Boboli)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Italian seasoning
1 C shredded mozzarella (I used part-skim)
1/2 bag baby spinach
1/2 container baby bella mushrooms
Feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven as it preheats. If not, that's okay too.
2. Saute garlic in olive oil for a few minutes until fragrant.
3. Brush olive oil/ garlic mixture on pizza crust and sprinkle with italian seasoning.
4. Cover with shredded mozzarella cheese.
5. Saute spinach, then sliced mushrooms (or veggies of choice) and then blot with paper towel before adding to pizza.
6. Sprinkle with feta.
7. Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees on pizza stone or on cookie sheet until cheese is melted.
8. Slice into 8 pieces and enjoy!

Difficulty: Easy
Debbie's Rating: 10
Hirsh's Rating: 8.5