Monthly Archives: January 2015

Getting Your Vegetables with Carrot Cake Cookies

grated carrotsDoctors say it. Health enthusiasts say it. Even your mother says…and probably has been saying it since you were little. “You need to eat your vegetables!” Well, I’ve got the perfect way to do just that…in a dessert! There is just no better way to eat your vegetables. From zucchini bread to pumpkin pie, veggies can make excellent desserts. And the one vegetable that probably makes the best dessert is the carrot. It’s sweet and delicious and makes the most delicious cakes. But, take it one step further, make it portables, and keep that wonderful cream cheese frosting, and you’ve got carrot cake cookies!

butterI am a huge fan of the whoopie pie, and this cookie recipe essentially creates a whoopie pie made out of carrot cake. The cookies stay moist and richly spiced, and the cream cheese frosting is amazing sandwiched between! This recipe is from Martha Stewart’s Cookies book, and from the first time I saw it, let alone the first time I tasted it, I knew it was a keeper.

butter and sugarTo start, make the cookies. Cream 1 cup (2 sticks) butter at room temperature with 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup granulated sugar. Let this cream for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Then add 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and beat until combined.

Next, combine the dry ingredients. Add 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon ginger to a bowl. Mix together with a whisk. Gradually add this flour mixture to the butter mixture. Make sure your mixer is on low, otherwise you’ll be covered in flour (and so will your kitchen).flour mixtureNext, grate the carrots. You want 1 1/2 cups grated carrots, which for me took 4 pretty large carrots. Add the grated carrots, 2 cups rolled oats, and 1 cup raisins to the batter, and stir to combine. Chill the mixture for 1 hour, until firm.adding carrotsdoughAfter an hour, scoop out tablespoon size balls of dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until browned. And make sure you give them some space, they will spread (as you can see). If they do, just cut through with the spatula right away. If they cool, they’ll break when you try to cut them. Allow them to cool while you make the frosting.ready for the ovendonespatulaCombine 8 ounces cream cheese with 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, both at room temperature. Add 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. I use the mixer for this, but feel free to just use some elbow grease and a spatula.butter and cream cheeseadding sugarTo frost, I first pair up similar sized cookies and lay them out next to each other. I then add frosting to one side. This helps me make sure I’ve evenly distributed the frosting and also use it all up. After your frosting bowl is empty, spread out the frosting, press the cookies together, take a bite, and enjoy!matcheddropspreadThese really are an excellent treat. And, while I’m sure it’s not what your mother had in mind when she said to eat your vegetables, I’m sure she’d approve of this delicious dessert!enjoy

A Simple Appetizer…Savory Dates

datesThe best appetizer for me is an easy one. Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook and play around with complicated recipes. However, when I’m having people over, which is usually when I am whipping up an appetizer, I want something simple but impressive so I can be sure the rest of the meal is as equally impressive.

For an appetizer, I want something with different textures and flavors. Maybe sweet and savory, or creamy and crunchy, and this recipe definitely accomplishes just that. The sweet, soft dates are the perfect accompaniment to the creamy, savory blue cheese. To round out the textures, salty, crunchy pistachios are added on top. It’s simple, delicious, and perfect for any occasion!

pistachioFor the dates, you want whole and pitted dates for ease of eating. I just grabbed the generic brand from Wegmans. However, for the cheese, this needs some extra attention. I wanted a blue cheese that had a lot of flavor, but was also creamy so it could be spread on the dates. The perfect choice is Gorgonzola dulce. It’s a creamy blue cheese from Italy, and I prefer the sweeter version, dulce. However, you could substitute if you don’t like blue with maybe a goat cheese or even soft brie.

finished productThe final ingredient you need is pistachios. I used whole, lightly salted Wonderful pistachios. And, my frugal nature, I bought the ones in the shell. Just be sure to remove the shells before assembly.

To assemble, spread some Gorgonzola on each date. Try to keep a flat side so they will stay upright, but that doesn’t always work out. Then just press 2 or 3 pistachios into the cheese. That’s it, easy and delicious. It almost seems like cheating to share that easy of a recipe! 🙂assortment

On a Cold Night…a Comforting Dessert-Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

On these chilly nights, you need to stay warm. Sure, you can crank up the heat, or add put on another layer of sweaters, or even be buried by a stack of blankets. However, there are more appealing options out there. You could sip a glass of wine (or two), cuddle with a warm certain someone, or maybe even cradle a warm dessert in your hands. You know the kind of dessert I’m thinking about…something sweet and gooey and delicious to warm your body, and your soul. I know, it may be rationalization, but I think it’s the perfect way to get through winter!

custardOne of my favorite rich, warm desserts is bread pudding. I know, I know, some people would disagree and say it’s plain or unappealing. I ran into the same issue last Christmas Eve when I had my family over for dinner. My brother and sister both anxiously asked what was for dessert. When I told them it was chocolate chip bread pudding…well…let’s just say the excitement was gone! However, one bite, and they were hooked.

breadBack in June, I wrote about a banana’s foster bread pudding I made for Father’s Day breakfast, that was delicious by the way. This is a similar recipe, just some minor tweaks to bring out the chocolate chip flavor.

For this recipe, I once again used my favorite bread for bread pudding, challah bread, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Just make sure it’s something substantial so it doesn’t all fall apart in the custard. You’ll need about 1/2 a 15 oz loaf of challah bread, so about 7 or 8 oz.  Cut the bread into 1 inch cubes, and set them aside.

absorbingNext, make the custard.  Whisk 3 eggs with 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup brown sugar until well combined. Add a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Stir in the bread cubes, and let this mixture sit for about a half hour so the bread can absorb the custard.  After that time, stir in 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Pour the mixture into a greased 8″x8″ baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes, until nicely browned and set.

with chipsNow, of course I can’t just leave it there. I have to add more deliciousness! To top off this wonderful bread pudding, I make a warm chocolate sauce and fresh whipped cream. The chocolate sauce is easy, and my go to recipe. You can find it on my post about Martha Stewart’s coconut crunch cake. And you can find my whipped cream recipe on my post about making strawberry shortcake.

I should also probably apologize, I know many of you are trying to watch what you eat in January, and I’m probably not helping. If you’re looking for something healthy, keep looking. But if you’re looking for something scrumptious, you’ve come to the right place!done

Indoor Gardening in the Winter Months

BegoniasI’m not sure if everyone is experiencing freezing temperatures, but here in the Philadelphia area, it’s been cold! This week, we’ve had temperatures in the single digits and wind chills in the negative numbers. Thankfully, today it’s a balmy 27 degrees F! 🙂

With the cold temperatures and the post-holiday slump, I can’t help but get excited for spring and playing in the garden. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still holding out for a big snowstorm, which I love, but with the countless plant catalogs filling my mailbox, my mind keeps wandering to the garden. Thankfully, I have some indoor plants to focus on during this time!

Peace Tree FarmYou may remember, this summer, I took a tour of several nurseries. The first one we went to was Peace Tree Farms in Kintnersville, PA. They had an amazing assortment of plants, but the one area that really caught my eye was their variety of begonias. I’ve wanted to start an indoor begonia collection for many years, and just couldn’t ever find the varieties I wanted. Well, on that beautiful day in June, I hit the jackpot. I excitedly purchased 6 varieties to add to my ever-growing houseplant collection!

Since June, I’ve been thrilled to see how the begonias have really established themselves and thrived inside. I have them all sitting on the windowsill of my picture window in my living room. They have continued to grow, ever pushing towards the sun, and have even started to send out delicate flowers. And, since we’re in the midst of winter, with snow on the ground outside, I thought it would be nice to share some recent pictures. It’s not quite a garden walk, but a little detour to remind us that spring is coming! begonia 1I love the color of this one and the big leaves. It certainly catches your eye.begonia 2The variegated purples leaves and long stems make this one a nice addition.begonia 3This one is covered in leaves.blooms 1And there was a little surprise of blooms hidden under the leaves.

begonia 4This one has great color also, with a hint of purple.blooms 2You can’t miss the blooms on this one, shooting out.begonia 5This purple and chartreuse isn’t such a hint. It’s a dramatic look.blooms 3Once again, the blooms are shooting out towards the sun, or at least until I turned the pot.begonia 6The last one, I love the purple edging on this one!

How are you getting through the cold winter months? Hopefully you’re finding some inspiration, and spring, somewhere! Stay warm!