Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Carrot Cake Hawaiian Style

Printable Recipe

Carrot Cake from Hawaii? Nah, not really. I just dubbed it that because it is loaded with pineapple and coconut which is just the way I imagine Carrot Cake on Kauai might be. Lots of people who love this cake and think they don't like coconut don't even realize there's coconut in it since its texture mimics the shredded carrot. The pineapple sweetens this cake without making it sugary and makes it extremely moist. Best of all, it comes together almost as fast as a cake mix except it doesn't taste like Play-doh. Yes, that's the flavor I always think of when I taste carrot cakes not-made-from-scratch. And, no, I haven't eaten Play-doh (that I remember), I'm just guessing at flavor based on scent.

Before we start to make cake, get a stick of butter and a block of cream cheese out and set them aside for later. They need to come up to room temp. But, for the cake: Let's start with the dry ingredients and we're going to whisk them together by hand right in the mixer bowl. We'll move it over to the stand mixer to add the wet ingredients in a few minutes. Here's the list of dry:
2 teaspoons vanilla 2-1/4 cups flour,  2 cups sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt.   Whisking everything together breaks up any lumps and incorporates the spices, soda, and salt smoothly into the flour so nobody gets a bitter bite of any of that in their cake later.

Now move the mixing bowl to the stand mixer and line up the wet ingredients to add in alternating bunches to the dry mix. Here's that list:  1-1/2 cups oil, 3 eggs, 1 Tbs Vanilla, 2 cups shredded carrot, 2 cups coconut, 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained.  I know this picture just shows 2 carrots, but it will take probably 4 carrots at least to equal two cups finely shredded. I do them with the fine shredder of the food processor and they're ready in about 30 seconds. Drain pineapple well.

Drain pineapple well in a colander.
Start by adding the eggs and oil and vanilla to dry ingredients, then follow with pineapple, carrots, coconut, and lastly the nuts. Just mix those in briefly so they don't start getting ground up by the beater. And ready to pour into a Pam-sprayed 9x13 for the oven! Bake at 350 for around 30 minutes and check it. As soon as a pick comes out clean and it's no longer liquidy in the middle, remove from oven. This is a very moist cake if not over cooked and you can't judge by the color when done. Test with a toothpick and remove at first sign of a crumb even if the crumb is damp.                                               
Ready for the oven.

Ok, before you clean up that wretched kitchen mess let's get the icing done while the cake bakes and. Um. Walk away and think about it later.  If the 1 stick butter and 8 oz cream cheese is at all cold then give each just A FEW SECONDS in the microwave and check till you have nice soft, but not melted, ingredients. Beat them together in the mixer with 1 tsp vanilla and a pinch of salt until nice and smooth. Reduce to lowest speed and add the first cup of confectioners sugar until it blends in, then another cup, and finally a third cup, mixing slowly each time. When it has blended in enough for the powdery mess to die down, then kick the speed up and really let it go. It should be nice and smooth and thick, not runny. I think it really tastes best if you can avoid adding the 4th cup of sugar.
Here' a little hint - toss a kitchen towel over the mixer when something powdery is in there and you'll cut the risk of flour coating your kitchen like a frying chicken.

So, E ʻai kākou, ya'll! (That's Hawaiian for, Let's Eat! which is about as close as we can get to Bon Appetit! island style.)
2-1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups oil
3 eggs
1 Tbs Vanilla
2 cups shredded carrot
2 cups coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 Tbs Vanilla Extract
Pinch salt
3-4 cups confectioners' sugar

FallFest is continuing at the Food Network website through December! Every week we'll be sharing great recipes for fall and early winter vegetables. For now, check out all kinds of other recipes for Carrots: 

Thursday Night Dinner: Pickled Carrots
Virtually Homemade: Roasted Red Onions and Carrots With Pomegranate Gremolata
Haute Apple Pie: Carrot, Apple and Radicchio Slaw
What's Gaby Cooking: Thyme and Honey Roasted Carrots
Glory Foods: Honey-Carrot Bread
FN Dish: Quick Carrot Sides for Thanksgiving
Cooking With Elise: Spiced Carrot Marmalade
Dishin and Dishes: Roasted Honey Balsamic Glazed Carrots
Daydreamer Desserts: Carrot Cheesecake
Mooshu Jenne: Apple and Carrot Hearts Salad
The Sensitive Epicure: Maple Bourbon Glazed and Braised Carrots
Daydreamer Desserts: Carrot Martini

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes Supreme

Printable Recipe
Whether your house is the gathering place or you're traveling with food to join the gathering table, this dish is your solution to great mashed potatoes that can be made well ahead of time and they travel well. And this is what I'm bringing to the table this year, joining my huge clan in Tennessee for some so-good southern cooking. Now, get ready, these are not just your average mashed potatoes, but if you've read my blog at least once you already know what to expect from me. That means get out some butter, for one thing.

 About half a stick for every 3-5 lbs of potatoes and 8 oz of cream cheese, that is. Go ahead and get these out now to soften. I often make this recipe with 10 lbs of potatoes for a crowd and that means at least a full stick of butter and a full lb of cream cheese. My Nanny Hall used to say, "Let your conscience be your guide," where butter was concerned, and then she would go ahead and drop in a whole stick. Try to keep your conscience from interfering at this moment and go ahead and follow the ratios prescribed above. This is holiday cooking, after all.

Now put on some potatoes. Let's just give them a rinse and toss them in there whole and unpeeled to make our lives a little easier. I love to use Yukon golds because they're so buttery yellow to begin with and are not dry and crumbly like the Idaho white. Bring to a boil and start checking at about  10 minutes because we want them out of the bath when they are just done and not verging toward that dangerous moment when the starches will turn to sticky goo in the mixer. To figure out about that perfect moment to cut the heat, here's the test.

Impale one or two potatoes with a paring knife and if it slips in fairly easily then lift one of the potatoes out. It should hang on for just a second and then slide back into the water. Not done enough if it doesn't slide off. Probably need to get them out quicker next time if they're so soft you can't lift one out on the knife. If you've ever left potatoes boiling for too long and then tried to mash them, you know why this step matters. You could hang wall paper with the paste that results from overdone potatoes which will turn even stickier when beaten.
I like to go off and leave these cooling in a colander until they're just cool enough to hold for peeling, though don't let them get cold or again there's the risk of sticky end product. Today I was in too much of a hurry to wait for the heat to subside a bit and couldn't find the industrial strength rubber gloves so I'm using a clean dishcloth to keep from screaming. But this step goes fast with Yukon golds since they have such thin skin it will all pull off in a single piece of two with a little scrape of the knife. Forget the vegetable peeler; it's useless here.

Give these a good sprinkle of salt, say a tablespoon or so and nearly as much pepper. Set the beater to medium and let it turn just enough to break everything up. Don't walk away! We're not beating the living daylights out of these.

You can see these are still plenty lumpy when we throw in the butter and cream cheese. If the potatoes are stil hot they will melt everything  down easily. If you've let them completely cool, then give both butter and cr cheese about 30 seconds or so in the microwave to be sure they're softened and then mix all together at medium speed until just incorporated. Doesn't take long.

I only beat these until all is mixed together and than stop because I like some some pieces of potatoes still intact. Of course it's fine to beat them smooth, too. Next we're going to bake them at 350 for 30-45 mintues. OK to do ahead of time so they're completely done when you arrive at your destination. If your table is the gathering place and you want to bake them at the last minute, they will hold in the fridge just like this for several days.

Butter one large dish (9x13 or bigger) and layer in the potatoes; keeping them 3" deep or less is best. Then rub a little soft butter over the top. I've used two dishes small enough to fit into the microwave for last minute reheating so that I can bake ahead and store in the fridge overnight to take to the feast.

3-5 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 stick butter
8 oz cream cheese

In honor of Thanksgiving, the Food Network is getting the entire food community together to celebrate a huge Virtual Thanksgiving called The Communal Table. Want to join us? Check out these fantastic ideas for a memorable Thanksgiving table from our other great bloggers!

Cocktails, Appetizers, Soups and Salads:
Sweet Life Bake: Pumpkin Margarita
Easy Peasy Organic: Thanksgiving Ginger Cocktail
Dishin and Dishes: Butternut Squash Bruschetta With Sage Pesto
Mooshu Jenne: Green Salad
Two Peas and Their Pod: Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash Apple Salad
Jones is Hungry: Roasted Vegetable Salad
Purple Cook: Pasta and Bean Stew With Tomatoes and Broccoli Rabe
From My Corner of Saratoga: Curried Pumpkin Soup
CIA Dropout: Turkey and Stuffles Roulades With Squash Mash
FN Dish: Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey
My Angel's Allergies: Cranberry-Glazed Cornish Hens
Cafe Terra Blog: Cranberry Pumpkin Stuffing
Virtually Homemade: Twice-Baked Cheddar and Chive Potatoes
Easy Eats Magazine: Sausage and Dried Cranberry-Walnut Stuffing
The Sensitive Epicure: Oyster Dressing and Gravy
What's Gaby Cooking: Rustic Herb Skillet Stuffing
Family Fresh Cooking: Coconut Brown-Butter Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Silvana's Kitchen: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Mushroom-Rye Stuffing
The Cultural Dish: Cranberry Sauce
I Am Baker: Pumpkin Cake
Heather Christo: Pumpkin Vanilla Ice Cream Pie
And Love It Too: Pumpkin Custard (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
Haute Apple Pie Girls: Double Pumpkin Mini Pies With Candied Pecans
Ladles and Jelly Spoons: Not Your Same Old Pumpkin Pie
Daydreamer Desserts: Cuban Diplomatic Pudding
Thursday Night Dinner: Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Caramel Apple Pie

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tender Roasted Cauliflower

Printable Recipe
Roast a cauliflower and it becomes something completely new and actually tastes good. The little florettes brown and sweeten up with a bit of caramelization and the sliced stem pieces soften into a rich translucence that just melts in your mouth. Honestly, I don't even like cauliflower in any other form, but by the time I was finished shooting this roasty goodness I had nibbled up at least as much as this whole plateful. There may or may not have been half a head of cauliflower missing by the end of the evening. Can't say. This experience actually has me thinking about roasting all sorts of vegetables I usually shun just to see what they might become. High heat seems to intensify the natural sugars and stave off the rather objectionable flavors.

Grab a long skinny knife. We're about to take down a head of cauliflower. I broke away the first layer of leaves on this one. The idea is to slip the knife into the middle at an angle and give the cauliflower a complete turn so all the remaining leaf bits are cut away with the core.   Try to do a little better job than I did with this one....

Now you can just grab the whole thing and easily break it into a bunch of individual florettes. Don't waste any of the stems, slice them up and see how they roast up very differently than the rest, almost like a sweet sauteed onion.
Break the bigger florettes down until you have a lot of pieces about the size of a marble, well, a big marble. Maybe a grape.   OK, finally we have a big pile of cauliflower. And if I had remembered to tell you in the beginning to set the oven to 450 we'd be almost home free.   Use a big sheet pan drizzled with olive oil and transfer everything to be seasoned and tossed.

Just a tablespoon or so of onion pulp.
And by seasoning I mean plain old salt and pepper and one little secret. Planed onion. If you don't have a microplane, get one. But until then you can grate the onion on the finest teeth of the box grater. You just need a tablespoon or so of juicy pulp to really add a nice little something extra to this dish.  OR, even better - if you happen to have a shallot, use that and the sweet mild flavor will pay off in a big way.

OR use 1/2 Shallot instead of onion.

 Next a sprinkling of salt. Some grinds of pepper from my one handed, fully automatic (meaning battery driven) Graviti  which happens to operate by gravity. Yeah. All you do is turn it over and it does its grindy thing while our other hand is busy stirring or, maybe, taking a picture.

And finally another drizzle of olive oil and you can dig in with sparkling clean hands to scoop and toss everything over and over till it is all coated completely. If you scrimp on the oil these little nuggets just dry out and get ugly. Besides, olive oil is good for you - have some.

OK, ready to go! Pop it in the oven, give it a stir at 15 minutes and check again 10 minutes later and taste test. Bring it out just after the florettes soften and the last hint of crunch is gone, probably 30 mintues total. I like vegetables raw or with a bit of crunch in the right recipe, but the flavor change is worth waiting for with this one. It does make a difference to leave it in the oven until the pieces are browning up and softened.  Eat and Be Surprised! Feed to picky children! and Husbands!

1 Head of Cauliflower
Onion or Shallot
Olive Oil, Salt, and Pepper

It's FallFest at the Food Network website and you'll find me there from now till December! Every week we'll be sharing great recipes for fall and early winter vegetables. For now, check out these other mouth-watering recipes for Cauliflower, including lots of other ideas for roasting it:

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