jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life


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Carrot cake recipe

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Well, it’s just crazy out there. It has been snowing all day, and the wind has been blowing snow everywhere so that shoveling is futile. It was pretty clear from the time I got up that it would be a good day to do some baking.

I took a visiting speaker out for brunch yesterday, and saw a gorgeous carrot cake in the bakery case of the restaurant. I didn’t get to have a slice then, but have been having visions of carrot cake ever since.

I thought I would do carrot cupcakes and share some with friends (well, whenever we dig out). I realized I didn’t have all of the ingredients for my favorite carrot cake recipe, so would have to brave the elements.

I stepped outside into snow up to my knees! Luckily, it was the soft and fluffy stuff, easy to kick through (and sort of fun to kick around). I walked over to the grocery store and picked up a few items, including a can of crushed pineapple and some cream cheese.

The cupcakes baked up nicely, though I think I had the top rack ones in just a few minutes too long. I brushed the tops with simple syrup just to get a little extra moisture in those (dry cupcakes are the worst).

We had tickets to go see a dance/music performance this evening. I kept waiting for the notification that the performance would be cancelled, but as of 6 p.m. I still hadn’t gotten any notification. My husband wisely suggested that we take the bus instead of trying to drive. After waiting for the bus a while, I checked email and was relieved that the event had indeed been cancelled–about time!

So after trudging home from the bus stop, I made some frosting for a few of the cupcakes. The rest will wait until we dig out. It may take a while, but at least if we are snowed in there are plenty of carrot cupcakes to eat!

Carrot cake

Makes a three-layer cake or around 30 cupcakes.

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3/4 cups grated carrot
  • 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 1/2-cups shredded coconut
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 (9-inch) round cakepans with parchment paper; lightly grease and flour. Alternatively, prepare cupcake pans.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Beat together sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add flour mixture. When this is beginning to come together, fold in carrots, pineapple, coconut, and nuts if desired. Blend until just combined–do not overmix. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool and remove from pans.

Frost with cream cheese frosting or whipped cream/cream cheese frosting.

Cream cheese frosting

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 – 2 cups confectioner’s sugar (I usually use just over 1 cup)

Blend butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in a food processor; add sugar until desired level of sweetness.

Whipped cream/cream cheese frosting

  • 1-1/2 cups whipping cream
  • 1 cup sugar (or less)
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Whip cream separately until stiff peaks form. Beat together cream cheese, vanilla, and desired amount of sugar until smooth. Fold the cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream.

 


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Chocolate shortbread

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This chocolate shortbread recipe is easy and deliciously chocolatey. The only tip is to make sure the shortbread mold (if you are using one) is well-oiled (I use cooking spray). The last few times I’ve made this chocolate shortbread recipe, it was a miserable fail getting it out of the pan.

But today I made sure the sides as well as the bottom were generously oiled, and it came out great!

Crisp Chocolate Shortbread (adapted from Mrs. Witty’s Monster Cookies)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened (but not melted)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon (or big pinch or a few shakes of) salt

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F with rack in middle.
  2. Cream butter with sugar and cocoa, then add vanilla.
  3. Sift together flour, cornstarch, and salt. Combine all ingredients until dough comes together (it will be crumbly but should stick to together when squeezed).
  4. With plastic wrap or bare hands, press into well-oiled shortbread mold. You can also use an ungreased 9-inch pie plate, smoothing it into a round that stops just short of the sides. If you are using a pan, you should cut it into 12 wedges, cutting only halfway through the dough, and use a fork to make decorative sides and put several holes into each wedge.
  5. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, checking about 20 minutes (dough should be “delicately springy” in the center). If using a pie plate, cool the entire pan on wire rack; cut before it has cooled completely. If using a mold, cool partially before unmolding (I run a sharp knife around the edges first); cut while it is still warm.
  6. Alternatively, you can make wafers. Roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick between two sheets of plastic wrap, then cut with a pastry cutter or sharp  into 1-1/2 x 2 inch oblongs and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Use a fork to put 2 – 3 sets of holes in each, pricking all the way through.
  7. If making wafers, bake at 325 for fifteen minutes or until just firm. Cool on wire rack. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.

Store in plastic wrap or foil at room temperature for up to several days, or refrigerate for several weeks, or freeze for longer. If it has been refrigerated or frozen, you can warm it up in a 300 degree oven for 10 minutes before serving at room temperature.


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Peach pie

Instant gratification? Almost (especially with a food processor) but not quite. But however long the wait, the result is worth the waiting for!

Crust (one 9-inch crust; I make two of these unless I want an open-faced pie)

1 cup flour
1/3 cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 T sugar
pinch salt
3-4 T ice water

Put flour, butter cubes, sugar and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Add ice water a tablespoon at a time, and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball. Place in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or more.

Filling

5-6 large ripe peaches
2 T cornstarch
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 T lemon juice
pinch salt
sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)

Blanch peaches to remove skin (make an “x” in the skin, 40-120 seconds in boiling water, depending on ripeness, then put into ice water) or peel with a peeler. Slice and mix with cornstarch, sugar, lemon juice, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Pie assembly

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Roll out bottom crust and place in 9-inch pie pan. (I usually use the “quadrant” technique, folding the rolled-out dough gently twice, then transferring and unfolding.) Fill with peach mixture and top with second crust. Make appropriate slits and seal around rim.

Bake for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower temperature to 375 and bake for about 20 minutes more until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. (I use an adjustable silicone pie crust shield that I just put on at the start of baking, which works well to protect the rim. If you don’t have one, you should check it about halfway through and cover the rim or crust as needed with foil if it is getting too brown.)

My son and husband just got back from an exciting youth orchestra tour to Cuba, so the palm trees are in honor of their trip!

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Pannekoeken!

Clearly I am behind the times! I was telling skating friends about the Dutch pancake I made the other day for the first time, and I was immediately told that this is called a pannekoeken.

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Pannekoeken!

Not only that, but there is an actual restaurant chain called Pannekoeken Huis where they serve these. Kari tells me that they cry out “Pannekoeken!” when they bring out your order, but I have yet to believe this. She identified one of these restaurants that is in a shopping center nearby. I drive by there all the time and have never noticed it.

Anyway, mine was delicious.  Here’s the recipe, from Florence Fabricant for the N.Y. Times: 

Pannekoeken

INGREDIENTS

3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of nutmeg
4 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine eggs, flour, milk, sugar and nutmeg in a blender jar and blend until smooth. Batter may also be mixed by hand.

Place butter in a heavy 10-inch skillet or baking dish and place in the oven. As soon as the butter has melted (watch it so it does not burn) add the batter to the pan, return pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the pancake is puffed and golden. Lower oven temperature to 300 degrees and bake five minutes longer.

Remove pancake from oven, cut into wedges and serve at once topped with syrup, preserves, confectioners’ sugar or cinnamon sugar.

Yelling “Pannenkoeken!” is optional.


4 Comments

Almond flour shortbread

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Gluten-free, practically sugar-free, and quite tasty!

2-1/2 c blanched almond flour (not almond meal)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
10 Tablespoons melted and cooled butter (I prefer unsalted.)
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1-2 Tablespoons maple syrup or honey (you can leave this out entirely if you prefer a more savory treat.)
1 c chocolate chunks (I use bittersweet)

Stir dry ingredients together. Add butter, vanilla and syrup if desired. Add chocolate chunks. Form into balls and press onto a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for around 10-12 minutes or until very slightly crisp (these will not rise). Allow to cool before removing from sheet.


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Homemade granola

I know that when times are tough, it is not enough to offer a granola recipe. I know that making or eating granola won’t really help.

But honestly, I don’t know what else to do. And maybe having a little something will help fortify and sustain those of us who need it right now. A little protein, a little sweetness, a little comfort until we can make it through the initial pain and figure out what to do next.

This granola isn’t the clumpy kind, and it has a high proportion of nuts and fruit to oats. You could certainly modify it by adding more oats, or fewer nuts, or egg whites to make it clumpy. There is very little sweetener, and you could leave this out entirely since the dates make this granola fairly sweet to begin with.

This is an easy recipe if you have a food processor. With my weak left hand, I think a food processor is a necessity, but I imagine there are some brave folks out there who would chop everything by hand. If you are one of them, I think it would be a matter of chopping everything first and then adding in wet ingredients and then oats.

Nutty Granola

1 cup dates
1 cup almonds (you can use different nuts, or fewer nuts)
1 cup pecans
1 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup oil (I used avocado; coconut oil would work too)
a splash of honey or maple syrup
3 cups oats
dried fruit

In a food processor, chop up the dates loosely and then add the almonds and other nuts and chop some more (chopping them all at once will prevent having the dates clump up too much). Add coconut, oil, and sweetener if desired, and mix some more. In a large bowl, blend oats with nut mix. Place on rimmed cookie sheet or in large baking pan.

Bake in oven at 350 degrees for around 15-20 minutes, stirring thoroughly every 5-10 minutes, depending on how anxious you are. Watch the final stages carefully so that the granola doesn’t burn, and take out when it is about 3/4 golden brown. Add dried fruit if desired (I use craisins).

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So here’s the granola. And because that’s not enough, here’s a meditation.

May you be safe.
May you be peaceful.
May you be healthy and strong.
May you be free from suffering.

If you skate, may you skate long. And prosper.


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Lovely guacamole

Happy Halloween! So I was waiting at a local bakery/coffeeshop to pick up my son after school and decided to get me one of these cupcakes. It looked delicious, but I actually was quite disappointed as soon as I took a bite of it. The cake part was dry, and the frosting was too cold and just too sugary.

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I did manage to choke the cake part down, though. Funny how late-afternoon chocolate does that to you. But I was sorry afterwards, since I am trying to keep my sugar intake low for a reason.

Lesson learned: better stick to guacamole. Years ago at our local co-op was passing out samples of their “tropical” guacamole recipe, which I have since made many times. This particular recipe makes a lot of guacamole, which is perfect for parties. But I have made much smaller batches of both this and my much more pared-down basic version (pictured here).

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Your Basic Guacamole

1-2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/8 – 1/4 red onion (chopped fine)
1/4 red bell pepper (chopped fine)
2 ripe avocados (chunks)
1-3 teaspoons lime juice (to taste)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon cumin (to taste)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)

Mash up avocados and mix with other ingredients.

Wedge Tropical Guacamole

6 ripe avocados, chunks
4 tomatoes, chunks
2 ripe mangos, chunks and juice
1 honeybell tangelo, juice
6 cloves garlic, pressed or diced
1/4 red onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, diced (more if you want it hotter)
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons cumin
2 Tablespoons salt
black pepper to taste

Put avocado chunks, garlic, red onion, cilantro, tangelo juices and spices in a large bowl. With a fork, stir until creamy. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until thoroughly blended. Be careful not to break up the mangoes and tomatoes too much.

It’s disturbing how quickly five people can devour this guacamole.