Women’s Day Tips

If you were at Women’s Day, then click here for all the tips (and yummy recipe). 

Cooking full circle…

I didn’t start cooking until about five years ago (goodness, it seems like yesterday we were eating Cambell’s Cream of Tomato soup every day!), and I have learned a lot! I love to cook, love to learn new things, and especially love to eat. About two weeks ago, I hit a new level, though. I realized that I have come full-circle in cooking! By no means have I accomplished an “elite status” or anything remotely close, I just realized that I have made my way from Campbell’s soup, to fancy-pancy, and now at quick and easy.

In learning to cook, I could spend [easily] up to three or four hours cooking one dish—and I mean hovering in the kitchen for that long, hands-on time. That’s really how I learned, and perfected. Along all this, I learned how much oil to use to sear meat, how to know when it’s done, etc. It’s been a world of experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

However, I’ve found myself in the recent position of not wanting to spend as much time in the kitchen (at least not every day), but still be able to turn out flavorful meals. Seemingly, a rather contradictory hope. As I’ve flipped through new magazines and books in hopes of finding this, I’ve realized I couldn’t buy the best of both worlds, but I could certainly combine them. So, for the past few week I’ve been making recipes from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Magazine. Arguably, the recipes, as written, aren’t really flavorful, nor are they the least bit difficult. Which is great—I don’t need a challenge every night, when I’m just hungry! But, what I have discovered, is that they are great guidelines and an opportunity to apply all that I’ve learned. Ironically, this is against my number one rule for beginning cooks: always follow the directions!

Though I am breaking my own rules, I’m also applying so many more. It’s been fun to see what I’ve learned from all my OCD, and how it naturally jumps forward when I’m working on new recipes. So, if you’re finding yourself in a slump of needing new recipes, check out the magazine. It’s good, most of the recipes are 30 minutes or less. Unless you are a seasoned cook, I highly suggest you start out following the directions as written (or refer here for some easy tips to spice them up a bit).

Happy cooking!

My favorite cooking magazines:

TWD :: Carrot Cake and Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting…

If I didn’t need to write this post, that title alone would send me running back to the kitchen to delve into my freshly-made cake. Alas, I’m also fighting temptation trying to remind myself how cruel it would be to hubby, that while he is at work, I get to sit at home today and make cake—but, to eat it, too? Well, maybe just a bite…

I don’t remember ever making carrot cake before, but I do know that I love it! I’ve always had one gripe with it, though. I don’t like biting into a perfectly balanced piece of cake and frosting, only to end up with a string of carrot hanging out of my mouth. It seems like the carrots are always grated too large! So, I pulled out my handy KitchenAid attachment and grinded the pieces nice and tiny. Turned out lovely!

This cake is called Bill’s Carrot Cake and is part of the TWD Challenge, hosted by slow like honey. And I say, good choice! :D It was fairly easy. Though, as I said before, I’ve never made a carrot cake, I have a hunch that some things could be changed, to utilize alternate mixing methods. Of course, me and my OCD-self will work on that and be back later… In the meantime, I present you with Bill’s Big Carrot Cake from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan.

Tools Used

Small-Batch Bill’s Big Carrot Cake

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1.9 oz AP unbleached flour
  • > 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • > 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • > 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3.2 oz carrot(s)
  • 3 Tablespoons sweetened, shredded coconut
  • 1 Tablespoon dried grapes or dried cranberries (uh, I skipped these, actually)
  • 2.8 oz. granulated sugar
  • 3.5 Tablespoons oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 large egg
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 1.75 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1.75 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • pinch salt
  • 4 ounces confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or drop of lemon extract
Cake How-To:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 325º F; prepare 5 x 3 baking pan with butter and flour
  2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon together. Whisk to make sure they are all well-distributed.
  3. Grate carrots finely; combine with coconut and dried fruits (optional, in my opinion)
  4. Beat oil and sugar in small mixing bowl until well-blended.
  5. Beat egg well in small bowl; add 1/5 of egg at a time, mixing one-full minute after each addition
  6. With mixer on low, add flour and mix until almost completely integrated.
  7. Add carrot/coconut/fruit mix and mix until just integrated.
  8. Pour into prepared baking pan and bake until done (top springs back), about 40 minutes, rotating pan half-way.
  9. Allow to cool five minutes in pan; remove and place on cooling rack.
  10. Split into three layers once completely cooled.
Frosting How-To:
  1. Beat butter and cream cheese until well-blended.
  2. Add sugar and beat on low until well-blended. Increase speed and beat until smooth and velvety.
  3. Add lemon juice (or oil) and beat until incorporated fully.
  4. Adjust texture as desired (more sugar for thicker, a little milk for thinner). Add one teaspoon at a time.

Assemble cake to look as you want. I am NOT a cake decorator. I have entirely too many things to be OC about, why add one more thing right now??

Enjoy! Sharing Optional.

——————————————–
Bill’s Big Carrot Cake
Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots (about 9 carrots, you can grate them in food processor fitted w/ a shredding a blade or use a box grater)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • ½ cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden) or dried cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 large eggs

For the frosting:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 stick ( 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound or 3 and ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or ½ teaspoon pure lemon extract
  • ½ cup shredded coconut (optional)
  • Finely chopped toasted nuts and/or toasted shredded coconut (optional)

Getting ready:

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter three 9-x-2-inch round cake pans, flour the insides, and tap out the excess. Put the two pans on one baking sheet and one on another.

To make the cake:

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, stir together the carrots, chopped nuts, coconut, and raisins.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil together on a medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear. Gently mix the chunky ingredients. Divide the batter among the baking pans.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until a thin knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. The cakes will have just started to come away from the sides of the pans. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes and unmold them. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

The cakes can be wrapped airtight and kept at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.

To make the frosting:

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is velvety smooth. Beat in the lemon juice or extract.

If you’d like coconut in the filling, scoop about half of the frosting and stir the coconut into this position.

To assemble the cake:

Put one layer top side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. If you added the coconut to the frosting, use half of the coconut frosting to generously cover the first layer (or generously cover with plain frosting). Use an offset spatula or a spoon to smooth the frosting all the way to the edges of the layer. Top with the second layer, this time placing the cake stop side down, and frost with the remainder of the coconut frosting or plain frosting. Top with the last layer, right side up, and frost the top- and the sides- of the cake. Finish the top with swirls of frosting. If you want to top the cake with toasted nuts or coconut, sprinkle them on now while the frosting is soft.

Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, just to set the frosting before serving.

Serving:

This cake can be served as soon as the frosting is set. It can also wait, at room temperature and covered with a cake keeper overnight. The cake is best served in thick slices at room temperature and while it’s good plain, it’s even better with vanilla ice cream or some lemon curd.

Storing:

The cake will keep at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. It can also be frozen. Freeze it uncovered, then when it’s firm, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

Hard-cooked eggs…doing it right!

I never ate a deviled egg, that I can remember…at least not that left a memorable impression. See, in my house, we snarfed the eggies down long before they made it to the deviled-stage. In my memory though, the eggs had that nice green tint around the outside and smelled slightly of sulfur. Of course, now that I understand how to really hard-cook an egg, I realize that that odor should have been a slight turn-off. Not bad for you, just not as tasty as it could be.

I remember thinking how funny it was that recipes for hard-cooked (some say “hard-boiled) eggs, but after having some bad ones, I can see why no recipe book should leave it out! When, in reality, it really is the easiest recipe. It requires no fancy cookware, any hot-plate or commercial stove top that can reach a boiling water point will work, and then some raw eggs. Oh, and most importantly, a timer!

Hard-Cooked Eggies

  • any quantity of eggs desired
  1. Place eggs in pan, in single layer, with room to jiggle (don’t overcrowd).
  2. Fill pan with water to one-inch water above the eggs; there should be at least two inches between the top of the water and the lip of the pan or you will lose a great deal of water at the boiling point.
  3. Place pan, uncovered, on a burner and crank to high. Don’t wander.
  4. As soon as your water hits a full, rolling boil (which means that the top of the water is one mass of breaking bubbles), clamp a well-fitted lid on top and remove the pan from the burner. Set timer as instructed (see below)
  5. Immediately remove eggs from hot water and place in large bowl full of ice and water. This will immediately cool down the eggs and prevent over-cooking. Allow to stay in bath for five minutes
  6. Store in fridge for up to three days, or peel and snarf immediately.
  • Soft-cooked egg, slightly runny middle, 6 minutes
  • Mostly hard-cooked with slightly soft middle, 10 minutes
  • Hard-cooked throughout, 12 minutes
  • Nice green tinge with sulfur odor, 12:01 minutes +

Personally, I like to use my nearly-expired (okay, okay—sometimes already-expired, too) eggs for hard-cooking. When they’re that old, eating fresh seems pointless, but I can always enjoy a hard-cooked egg. Mmmm. Especially with sea salt and fresh-ground pepper. How do you eat your hard-cooked egg?

The Marshmallow Story…

(EDIT: Due to technical problems, photos will appear later…)

Have you ever heard of “the marshmallow story?” It’s great. If you clickety here, you can watch a quick study about it (click on the video on the right). Totally describes hubby—the part of snarfing it right away. :) Not because he doesn’t have patience, but because he loves marshmallows. Of course, the big puffy, corn-syrup laden pillows must be imported to his country, so they were considered a really big treat. Well, hooray for Dorie Greenspan! No more corn-syrup air puffs and we can all move on to the good stuff!

Thanks to Tuesdays with Dorie, I am trying to develop some self-discipline (I bet I would have been a marshmallow-snarfer in that study…) and try lots of different recipes from Dorie’s book, Baking from My Home to Yours. This weeks challenge is compliments of Judy’s Gross Eats, which is Marshmallows (from the book aforementioned). With this recipe, I’d think any kid would be simply nuts to not snarf it immediately, because it’s so easy, you can just make more!

Trader Joe’s Envy

I am so in love with this store. When the first one was announced to come to my state, oh, two years ago, I would drive by just to get a glimpse inside the heaven-to-come. Then, when I saw a sign for another one only a few, short miles from my home, I wept with tears of joy. And now, my oldest brother gets to share in my joy! A Trader Joe’s is heading to Nashville, Tennessee.

Now, I really don’t share this to rub y’all’s face in it if you haven’t yet been blessed with the greatest store (in my humble, OCD opinion, of course). To be fair, they don’t have all the groceries that I buy, but most of them. They’re an “ingredient” store, to me. I don’t buy ready-made stuff, so if that’s the kind of shopper you are, I’m not sure how much you’d like the store.

Anyway, I am writing this to encourage y’all to petition Trader Joe’s to come to your city, if you’ve been craving it. Not sure exactly how much influence the Bring TJ’s to Nashville petition blog had, but they’re getting a Trader Joe’s now! So, whip out your blogspot peition skills and see how soon you can get one. :D

I have to admit, I am terribly jealous of the size of the Nashville TJ’s. I wonder if I can start a petition for an increase in size…

If I had a million dollars…

I’d buy the world’s greatest kitchen with all my favorite goodies. And in that kitchen, I’d finally have my long-time coveted MagiMix Food Processor. I’ve been collecting gift cards for several months (received as gifts) from Williams-Sonoma in hopes that someday I’ll have enough to “buy” it. Oh, if only all dreams could come true…but, with the $50 give-away from Kate at the clean plate club, I just might have a chance!

I don’t really remember what started my obsession with this coveted food processor…but, it’s here and here to stay. :) So, I will keep dreaming and drooling—for a very long-time, I’m sure. I’m still trying to explain to hubby why I have two KitchenAid mixers (makes PERFECT sense to me—-I have a perfect Artisan, but I wanted to make more breads, so I got the upgraded, larger mixer. But, why would I get rid of a perfectly working Artisan??). Really, let’s all remember the name of this blog is KitchenNut for a very, very good reason. :)

It really is a dream-come-true food processor for me. It has three–count them—three bowls! It auto-adjusts itself for the best speed—better than I could do, since my only choices are “on” or “pulse.” Of course, who can argue with the ten-year warranty? That’s certainly better than anything else I could buy for my kitchen. Of course, I could always sell the Artisan and buy this. Nah. I’ll keep saving my gift cards and cross my fingers for the give-away

If you haven’t yet had a chance to check out Kate’s blog, do. I love her comments about life and how it manages to get in the way of cooking. :) And if you love to bake, definitely join the Cookie Carnival! Good times. :)

I am not a tree hugger…

well, not yet, anyway. :) I realize that I have been MIA for a little too long. Life seems to have passed me by, and I’m not sure where it went! I’ve been quite busy baking and cooking in my usual OCD manner, but along with it, I’ve been trying desperately to take KitchenNut to the next level. Of course, when you have OCD, taking anything to the next level seems to take an eternity–seeing as how perfectionism goes along with all of it. And really, since when is an OCD person actually satisfied with perfection?  As far as my next level, I’ll give you a hint: in three days, I made 31 cakes. My pants are tight.

Referring to the title (I am not a tree hugger), that’s really just a title for my hubby, seeing as he teases me mercilessly that we will be living in a tree with the lifestyle to which I’m moving.Despite my busyness and general absence from everything (but food), I have becoming infatuated with more and more ways to “go green.” I’ve been buying food with less packaging (or none at all—fresh fruits and veggies), using my Baggus at any store, as well as digging in the trash for anything recyclable that may have accidently been put in the trash. I even discovered the Living Green Expo to which I’d love to go! If you’re looking for ways to cut back on your packaging from the grocery store, I suggest you read the book, In Defense of Food, which will put the fear in you from ever eating processed food again. However, if you’d like to keep eating your processed foods, but simply avoid the plastic, check out the wonderful post at Bakin-n-Bacon. For other things which I am not, see I am not a foodie… Happy Cooking!

Baked From Scratch