Tuesday, April 19, 2016

This Is The Best Carrot Cake I Have Ever Eaten

I have baked all my life, and while I usually do not create the recipes, I am pretty good at following them. That is the difference with cooking and baking. Cooking can be totally inspired. A bit of this, a little of that. Creativity is encouraged. Baking is such a science. Tweaking the ingredients can lead to disaster.

That was a major source of frustration when I moved to Taos, New Mexico. We are at 7000 feet, and the altitude change from sea level has caused my baking successes turn to failures. Cakes and cookies do not bake evenly, collapse, and taste different. I have not been able to find the appropriate adjustments to make my favorite recipes work.  So I cannot explain the joy I felt when I discovered the Mountain Mama Cooks blog. The author has perfected the art of high altitude baking. Now, if you live at or near sea level, this may not mean much to you...but to me? Desserts are back!

I was scrolling through the site and stumbled upon this recipe for carrot cake. It looked so good that I made it that very day. Not only was it delicious, but it was also the best carrot cake I have ever eaten. (and I have eaten a LOT of carrot cake in my life. I made the cake again for a potluck dinner, and it was a hit. Many people came up to me and exclaimed: "This is the best carrot cake I have ever eaten!" The cake was so successful that I made it again for another potluck (I am invited to many potlucks!) and received the same reaction. So I have been making carrot cakes, (and cupcakes from the same recipe) for every function where I am asked to bring dessert, and I have received rave reviews every time.

This is carrot week at Food Network. I could not think of a more perfect recipe to share. And it is a bundt cake which is so much easier than a layer cake. How cool is that? I made very slight tweaks to the original. I replaced the called-for vegetable oil with olive oil because I like it better and ensured alum-free baking powder was used. Otherwise, totally the delicious original recipe. Thank you, Mountain Mama!

The Best Carrot Cake I Have Ever Eaten
from Mountain Mama Cooks
(cake serves 12 or makes 20 cupcakes)

Note, the Mountain Mama blog suggested adding nuts to only half the cake top. That way you satisfy the nut lovers and the nut haters. Feel free to add nuts to the top of the entire cake if desired.

2 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon alum-free baking powder
scant 1 teaspoon baking soda*
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
4 cups shredded carrots
3/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 batch Cream Cheese Frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-cup bundt cake pan with cooking spray. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together on medium speed the eggs and sugar until pale yellow, light and fluffy. (about 3 minutes). Add the olive oil, vanilla extract, and orange zest. Beat until well mixed. Add the flour mixture in 3 parts until just incorporated. Stir in the creme fraiche, carrots and coconut.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared bundt pan. Bake in preheated oven for 50-55 minutes until cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of cake comes out cleanly with no raw batter. Remove from oven and let cool on a baking sheet for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cake plate and let cool completely.  When completely cooled, frost with the cream cheese frosting and top with nuts if desired.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 tablespoons best quality unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
pinch sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional

Add the softened butter and cream cheese to the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat at medium-high speed until combined and light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Beat for another minute or until incorporated.

This recipe has been creating for baking at altitudes around 7000 feet. The Mountain Mama site suggests increasing the sugar to 1 1/2 cups and increasing he baking soda to 1/2 teaspoon if baking at sea level.

*Scant means lacking a small part of the whole; not quite up to full measure. In other words, 1 scant teaspoon means not quite a whole teaspoon but a little less (from Whats Cooking America)


I have started sharing my newest blog "California Girl in Taos."  Please visit and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Asparagus, Onion & Pesto Pizza

Asparagus season. That signals spring to me. I can eat it almost every day. Raw, steamed, blanched, sauteed, stirfried...all delicious. But my favorite way to prepare is to roast. Roasting brings out a sweet, smoky flavor that is intoxicating. Perfect as is, even better when paired with cheese. So, pizza? Yes, pizza.

The beauty of pizza (aside from the taste) is the versatility. This recipe is a great example. Today's version includes red onion and two kinds of cheese, but you could add roasted garlic, red pepper, greens, spring onions, sundried tomatoes packed in oil; whatever you like. You could create a party menu by putting out all of these options, the dough, and pesto and letting your guests create their own masterpieces.

Now, about the chili oil. To me, this is an essential ingredient. The smoky/hot oil adds the perfect bit of heat which complements the asparagus and cheese. Set out a bottle next to the pizza. I bet it will get lots of use.  Happy spring.

Pizza, Onion & Pesto Pizza
(makes1 pizza)

8 oz. asparagus
extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons best quality balsamic vinegar
purchased pizza dough for 1 pizza (or homemade if you have the time)
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup basil pesto (purchased or homemade)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded
sea salt
black pepper
Calabrian chili oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and peel if stringy. (You probably will only need to peel very thick stalks. Thin stalks are usually fine as is). Place asparagus in single layer on prepared sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Using your hands, roll the asparagus in oil until coated on all sides. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over asparagus. Generously season with salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven for 15-30 minutes or until the asparagus are beginning to brown and caramelize. Cooking time depends on the thickness of the stalks. Remove from oven and set aside. Do not turn off oven.

Prepare raw dough according to package directions. Turn a baking sheet upside down and sprinkle bottom of the pan with flour. Place pizza dough circle on top of floured baking sheet  Spread pesto evenly on raw dough leaving a 1-inch border of dough uncovered. Top pesto with mozzarella cheese. Arrange roasted asparagus and onion over cheese. Slide dough off pan directly onto rack in oven (place the pan on the rack below pizza to catch drips) and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over pizza. Add back to oven and bake an additional 5-7 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese bubbling.

Remove from oven, cut into slices, and serve drizzling the chili oil over pizza if desired (Highly recommended)

Other Asparagus Recipes You May Enjoy:

It is Asparagus week at Food Network's Sensational Sides roundup. Do you have a favorite asparagus recipe to share? Please list (or link) in the comments below. And be sure to check out the other delicious sounding recipes from my blogger friends and Food Network. 

Creative Culinary: Bacon Wrapped Asparagus with Garlic and Parsley
Homemade Delish: 
Asparagus Crostini
25 Ways to Use Asparagus
Feed Me Phoebe: 
Spring Quinoa Mujadara with Asparagus
In Jennie's Kitchen: 
Asparagus & Arugula Panzanella
Healthy Eats: 
5 Fresher Ways to Prepare Asparagus
Napa Farmhouse 1885: 
Asparagus, Onion & Pesto Pizza
Red or Green: 
Roasted Asparagus with Spicy Thousand Island Dressing
The Mom 100: 
Millet Greens Salad
Taste with the Eyes: 
Modern Asparagus Spring Rolls - Red Chili, Black Sesame, Almond
FN Dish: 
6 Ways to Bundle Up Asparagus This Spring


I have started sharing my newest blog "California Girl in Taos."  Please visit and let me know what you think.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Green Salad With Emerald Green Vinaigrette

I love this vinaigrette. The fresh and clean taste is perfect on all kinds of green salad. It also is wonderful drizzled over roast beef or chicken, stirred into hot pasta and topped with cheese, spooned over deviled eggs, or used as a dip for fresh vegetables.

The recipe calls for Italian parsley, green onion, garlic, good olive oil, vinegar, and seasonings blended in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Looks like pesto, but no cheese, nuts or basil are included. The deep green color is gorgeous and, more importantly, the vinaigrette is delicious. I suggest you make a batch tonight. You will be enjoying salad all week!

Emerald Green Vinaigrette
(makes approximately 3 cups)

2 bunches Italian Parsley, tough ends removed
6 green onions, white and green parts, cut into thirds
6 cloves garlic peeled
1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard (I used a spicy garlic version)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (I use Amy's brand, organic & vegan, but you can use the regular kind)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
black pepper

Combine first eight ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth paste forms. With machine running, slowly add olive oil until emulsified. Stop machine, add a large pinch each salt and pepper and process until mixed. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.

Drizzle over salad greens. My favorite for this vinaigrette is a mixture of crisp romaine lettuce, sliced red onion, spicy sping radish, and sweet red bell pepper. When summer tomatoes are in season, throw in a handful.

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It is Salad Greens week at Food Network's Sensational Sides roundup. Do you have a favorite salad recipe to share? Please list (or link) in the comments below. And be sure to check out the other delicious sounding recipes from my blogger friends and Food Network.

Devour: 6 Protein-Heavy Salads to Make Your Desk Lunch Less Sad
Homemade Delish: 
Napa Cabbage, Mango and Bacon Salad
Dishin & Dishes: 
Buddha Power Bowl
Creative Culinary: 
Iceberg Wedge Salad with Bacon, Croutons and Buttermilk Herb Dressing
Napa Farmhouse 1885: 
Green Salad With Emerald Green Vinaigrette
Red or Green: 
Southwest Salad With Ranch Salsa Dressing
Healthy Eats: 
Balance Spring Meals with These Leafy Green Side Salads
The Ultimate Green Salad
Taste with the Eyes: 
Blackened Barramundi Salad, Blackberry Vinaigrette
The Mom 100: 
Pea Shoot Salad with Shrimp, Goat Cheese and Citrus Vinaigrette
FN Dish: 
How to Eat Salad for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner (and Not Be Mad About It)


I have started sharing my newest blog "California Girl in Taos."  Please visit and let me know what you think.