Tag Archives: dessert

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

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

A Delicious Breakfast or Dessert…Bananas Foster Bread Pudding!

20140615_103347I hope everyone had a great Father’s Day on Sunday.  The weather was absolutely perfect here, and it was a great day.  I invited my mom and dad over for brunch, and like I did for Mother’s Day, I tried to incorporate foods that my dad really likes.  Probably close to the top of his favorite list are bananas.  Normally, if we were having dinner together, I would make a banana cream pie, however, it was brunch, so I decided pie would be a little too decadent.  Instead, I experimented with Bananas Foster Bread Pudding.

I’ll admit, this started out as a french toast20140615_091701 recipe, but I really didn’t feel like standing over the stove grilling all of those pieces of french toast.  Instead, I wanted to make it a casserole that I could simply throw in the oven.  So…what started out as a baked french toast quickly became a bread pudding.  I guess we could have just had pie at brunch…oh well!

First and foremost, the bread.  My favorite bread to use for bread pudding, and french toast for that matter, is challah bread.  It’s dense 20140615_092103and eggy and just delicious.  My local Wegman’s carries a great one, which I find to be really good.  For this recipe, I used about 1/2 a 15 oz loaf of challah bread, so about 7 or 8 oz.  Cut the bread into about 1 inch cubes, and set them aside.

Next, make the custard.  Whisk 3 eggs with 1 cup heavy cream and 1/2 cup brown sugar until well combined.  Add a pinch of salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  Stir in the bread cubes and 1/4 cup chopped pecans.  Let this mixture sit for about a half hour so the 20140615_092854bread can absorb the custard.  After that time, 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.

Meanwhile, make the topping.  Melt 1/2 cup butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and stir until well combined, then add 1/2 cup dark rum.  Be careful when you add the rum, as the sauce will boil up as the alcohol cooks out.  Once the sauce is smooth, add 3 ripe bananas, sliced, 20140615_104828and 1/4 cup chopped pecans.  Cook for a few minutes to warm the bananas.

Once the bread pudding is cooked, remove from the oven and spoon the bananas all over the top.  Pour about half of the sauce over the bread pudding also.  You can serve the leftover sauce on the side.

This definitely made a rich brunch entry, but it worked well with the crab quiche and arugula salad with peaches and blueberries.  It was almost like a dessert, well, ok, it totally WAS dessert, and would be perfect after dinner too!20140615_110139

A Great Mother’s Day Dessert…Lemon Bars!

Ingredients ReadyFor most Mother’s Days, I cook dinner for the family.  The number of siblings varies from year to year as commitments may be with in-laws, but at least my mom is always there…actually, my mom and my sister, who is also a mom, of 3 boys.  And, the good son and brother that I am, I try to incorporate some of their favorite foods into dinner.  The menu always varies drastically, but one pretty common ingredient, at least with dessert, is lemon.  My mom loves lemon desserts, so I’ve made lemon meringue pies, lemon curd tarts, even lemon ricotta cookies (FYI, Giada has an amazing recipe for these…you have to try them!), but one of my favorites, and the easiest, is lemon bars.

Lemons JuicedOver the years, I’ve tried a number of different lemon bar recipes, and was about to give up.  There have been ones that are too runny, and others that have been too sweet or too tart.  Then I found this one.  This recipe is absolutely perfect.  It’s easy to make, and the lemon bars come out perfectly sweet and tart, with a buttery crust, and custardy filling.  I found this recipe on allrecipes.com, where it is appropriately named “The Best Lemon Bars.”

CrustTo start, beat 1 cup softened butter with 1/2 cup sugar until light and creamy.  Add 2 cups flour.  Mix until combined.  Pour into a greased 9×13 inch pan and press it down into an even layer.  Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, or until firm and golden.Crust Ready for Oven

Filling IngredientsWhile the crust bakes, whisk together 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup flour.  Add 4 eggs and the juice of 2 lemons.  Whisk until well combined.  When the crust is finished baking, as soon as it comes out of the oven, pour the egg mixture over the crust.Pouring

Powdered SugarBake for an additional 20 minutes in the same oven.  They may look too soft, but they will firm up when they cool.  Once cooled, sprinkle the top with powdered sugar, and cut into bars.

One tip about the powdered sugar, I sprinkle the powdered sugar on the top, cut them, then sprinkle again.  I find that it makes my messy cuts look perfect…and a little extra powdered sugar never hurt anyone!

These really are a great dessert for Mother’s Day.  And speaking of Mother’s Day, hopefully you’re all taking care of the mothers in your life on Sunday.  For all of you moms, I hope you have a wonderful and relaxing day.  Happy Mother’s Day!  Tray of Lemon Bars


A Great Spring-Summer Dessert…Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

It’s so nice to have the warm weather back.  The sun stays out longer, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and I love it.  After such a long winter, it’s so refreshing to finally be in the heart of spring, with summer right around the corner.

StrawberriesWith the warm weather, I get excited about summer clothes and outdoor activities, but I also get excited about summer food.  Just like swapping sweaters for t-shirts, I think most people also change their eating habits in the summer, even if they don’t realize it.  Instead of the heavy stews, we start eating dinner salads and lighter meals.  We start to replace the starchy vegetables for fresh summer produce.  And, we no longer crave the rich desserts like bread pudding, but start to focus on lighter desserts with fruit, like panna cotta with balsamic strawberries.

Cream and SugarI’m not sure if you’re familiar with panna cotta, but it’s a delicious, creamy dessert that’s surprisingly simple to make.  Panna cotta literally means cooked cream in Italian, and the cream is really the star of the dessert.  It’s delicious sweetened cream that takes on a creamy, semisolid texture.  And ok, ok, I’ll admit it, it does have cream, so I guess it’s not as light as I said.  But it’s cool and has a light, creamy texture that’s perfect for summer.

Cooked CreamTo start, you’ll need 1 quart heavy cream.  Pour about a cup of it in a bowl and sprinkle in 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin.  It ends up being a total of .5 oz of gelatin.  Let that begin to dissolve while you heat the rest of the cream in a saucepan over medium heat with 1 cup sugar.  You want to heat this mixture until the cream warms and the sugar dissolves.  It should only take a few minutes, but make sure you stir so the cream doesn’t burn.  Once the sugar is dissolved, add the gelatin mixture.  Continue to stir until the gelatin dissolves in the cream.

Ready for UnmoldingOnce the gelatin has dissolved, you can remove the cream mixture from the heat.  Add 1 teaspoon vanilla, and that’s it.  Your panna cotta is done.  You just need to pour the mixture into molds and allow it to chill.  You can pour the whole thing into a big bowl, so that you just scoop out the solidified mixture once it’s cooled, or you can pour the mixture into single serve molds that you can then unmold for a great presentation.  I just used small 1 7/8 cup rectangular Pyrex containers, but you can really use anything you like.  Once you pour the mixture into whatever container/containers you’re using, put them in the refrigerator for a few hours to cool and solidify.  I made mine the night before.  And don’t cover them when they are hot, or you’ll end up with water in your panna cotta.

Balsamic GlazeWhile that is chilling, you can make the strawberries.  Simmer 1 cup balsamic vinegar for 10-15 minutes until reduced and thickened.  Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons honey.  Allow the mixture to cool, then add 1 lb sliced strawberries.  That’s pretty much it.  Let the strawberries stay at room temperature for a while so the flavors meld.

After several hours or overnight, when the panna cotta has solidified, you can unmold (or scoop and serve if you’re not unmolding).  UnmoldedSimply run a knife around the edges to loosen, then set in warm water for a few seconds.  That should melt the edges just a bit and loosen the panna cotta.  Just put a plate on top of the mold and flip it.  You may have to tap a bit to get it out.  To serve, scoop some of the strawberries with the balsamic reduction around the plate, and that’s it.  Enjoy!

Oh, and this recipe is great, but really, the panna cotta is great with anything.  It’s delicious with some chocolate sauce, or just some fresh fruit or berries, or just plain, on it’s own.  It’s cool, creamy, and delicious.

A Perfect Dessert for Easter, Martha’s Coconut Crunch Cake

So, can you tell I’m getting ready for Easter?  Last week I wrote about making Easter bread, and this week I’m thinking about dessert for Easter.  For me, Easter screams coconut.  I’m a huge fan of coconut, in any form.  I love coconut eggs, coconut cream pie, coconut shrimp, anything coconut.  A woman who I used to work with made the most amazing coconut cake…I’ll have to write about that sometime!  Anyway, so, when I was flipping through the April edition of the Martha Stewart Living magazine, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I stopped at the Coconut Crunch Cake!

Flour MixtureThis coconut cake is different.  It has a coconut flavored cake-like layer on the bottom, but with a soft and chewy coconut topping.  Covered in chocolate sauce, it is an amazing dessert that reminds me of a reconfigured coconut cream egg.

To start, whisk together 1 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl.  In a liquid measuring cup, mix 1/2 Cream of Coconutcup cream of coconut (as a side note, this stuff is amazing and I can eat it straight out of the can with a spoon) and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  If you have trouble finding cream of coconut, it may be in the Hispanic section of your grocery store, if you have one.

Next, with a mixer, beat 1 stick softened butter and 1/4 cup coconut oil (in solid form, do not melt) on medium-high speed until smooth.  Add 1 cup sugar anBatterd beat until fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Add 3 eggs, 1 at a time, beating and scraping the sides after each addition.  Finally, with the mixer on low, add the flour and cream of coconut mixtures alternatively.  Starting with 1/3 of the flour, then add 1/2 of the cream of coconut, then flour, coconut, ending with flour.  Beat until just combined.  The cake batter is now ready.

Seperating EggsMake the topping by beating 2 egg whites with 1/8 teaspoon salt in a mixer until thick and frothy, about 1 minute.  Stir in a 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  Fold in 3 cups sweetened shredded coconut.

Butter and flour a 10-inch spring-form pan.  Spread the batter evenly in the pan.  Top with the coconut topping and carefully Ready for the Ovenspread to make it even.  Bake on a sheet pan at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs.  You may need to cover with foil if it is browning too quickly.

For the chocolate sauce, I doubled the recipe.  What can I say, I love chocolate.  For the original recipe, heat 1/3 cup heavy cream and 1/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar Chocolate Sauce Pre-Shotdissolves, and the mixture is close to boiling.  Pour the cream mixture over 4 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate and 2 tablespoons butter.  Make sure the mixture is in a heat-proof bowl.  Stir until smooth then add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.  This is a delicious chocolate sauce, so don’t worry if you have leftovers.  To serve, slice the cake and pour the chocolate sauce on top!

If you’re thinking of something sweet and different for Easter, and you love coconut as much as I do, this is a great pick!  Give it a try this year, and way to go Martha…it’s a great recipe!Chocolate Sauce

My First King Cake for Mardi Gras

Colored SugarI had the good fortune of being invited to a party last night to celebrate Mardi Gras.  The party was a blast, complete with beads, Cajun food, masks, and decorations of purple, green, and gold.  Of course, as the good guest that I am, this week I asked what I could bring.  The very simple response was “maybe something sweet” so, of course, I had to bring a traditional Mardi Gras dessert…king cake!

Sour Cream, Sugar, ButterKing cake is a sweet bread, baked in a ring, covered in a sugary icing, and usually decorated with colored sugar in the traditional colors of Mardi Gras, purple, green, and gold.  One special part of the king cake is that a little plastic baby is hidden in the cake after it’s baked, and, whoever gets the piece of cake with the baby, “wins”.  I say wins in quotes because it seems to vary what you win.  Some people say you’re the “king” for the day, others say you win the privilege of bringing the cake the next year.  Not really sure the official rules, as until yesterday, I had never made one or tasted one.

YeastBecause I’ve never made it before, I had to do some digging for a recipe.  I came across a traditional king cake recipe from Southern Living and then also a cream cheese-filled king cake recipe, also from Southern Living.  Since I can’t pass up anything cream cheese-filled, I opted for that one, and then ended up sort of melded the two together.  It was a big hit at the party, even though I didn’t add the baby.  I searched and searched for a plastic baby (and by searched and searched, I mean the night before the party, I went to the grocery store, a party store, and a craft store, then gave up…but still, I tried), and I wasn’t able to find one.  DoughSo I just skipped it, although I think it would have been fun to have it.  I hear you can substitute something else, you just need something someone’s not going to choke on that could be hidden inside after it’s baked but before it’s iced.

For the recipe I picked, it makes 2 cakes.  It was very easy to half, and there was plenty of cake for the party.  First, heat  8 oz of sour cream, 1/6 c sugar, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a small saucepan over a low flame until the butter Pre-Risemelts.  You’ll want to stir often just to be sure nothing burns.  Once everything is melted, you want to cool it to about 100-110 degrees.  Meanwhile, stir together 1/4 oz envelope of active dry yeast with 1/4 cup of warm water and 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar, and let stand 5 minutes.

Once the yeast has sat for 5 minutes and the sour cream mixture is the right temperature, beat these together with 1 egg and 1 cup of flour (the recipe called for bread flour, but I used all-purpose, and it turned out Post Risegreat) at medium speed until smooth.  Then reduce the speed to low and add 2 cups flour (1 cup at a time), and mix until a soft dough forms.  Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, for about 10 minutes or so.  Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled for about an hour.  My house was cold, so I turned the oven on to its lowest setting for a few minutes, then turned it off, and put the bowl in there.  Just be sure it’s not too hot.

RolledAfter an hour, punch down the dough, and roll it out to a 22×12 inch rectangle.  Beat 1/2 cup sugar, 8 oz softened block of cream cheese, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (this was my change from the original), and 1 egg yolk on medium speed until smooth. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the dough, leaving about a 1 inch border.  Then roll the whole thing up, starting at the 22 inch side.  Transfer to a parchment lined cookie sheet with the seam side down and bring the ends together to form a ring.  I had to moisten the ends with water and pinch Ready for the Ovento get them to stick together.  Then cover and let rise till doubled again, about 20-30 minutes.

Bake the dough at 375 degrees until golden.  The recipe says that will take 14-16 minutes, but it took mine more like 25 minutes.  Then cool the cake for about 10 minutes, and put it on your serving tray.  Cover it with the glaze (mix 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons butter melted, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of milk until spreadable…and you can add more milk or use less, depending on the consistency).  Then, while it’s still wet, cover it with colored sugar.  The traditional is purple, green, and gold.  Just sprinkle bands of color all the way around.

DoneIf you’re looking for a show stopper dessert for Mardi Gras, this is definitely a good pick.  It did take a while because you had to wait for the dough to rise on several occasions, but it was delicious and I thought it was worth it.  When you bring this to the table, you will definitely impress your guests!