Get Off The Couch and Cook

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Carrot Cake

Carrot Cake

I love carrot cake and, with Easter so recently behind us, it’s that time of year when I most crave it.  So when I saw Ally’s version over on sweetandsavoryfood.com, I knew I had to try it!  The hardest part about this recipe, I think, is grating the carrots which isn’t that bad, just slightly time consuming but totally worth it.  It definitely made me miss my food processor that broke after only a year of heavy use and I just haven’t replaced it.

Instead of using my big box grater, though, I actually used my cheap mandolin from Kroger (a whopping $7.99 at regular retail but I still got it for 50% off 🙂 ).  It was a breeze and took about 15 minutes from start to finish, including peeling the carrots first.

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If you compare mine to Ally’s, it looks a lot different for some reason.  Mine is thicker and darker but still amazingly sweet and moist.  I did substitute about 1/2 cup of the flour for white wheat flour and added a touch of nutmeg but that shouldn’t have changed how it looks.  I wouldn’t think so, anyway.  But even with the differences, I would gladly make this again.  And again.  And again.

I was concerned at first about how thinly spread the cream cheese frosting was but it’s so sweet that just the tiny little layer on the top adds the perfect amount of sweetness to complement the spicy cake.

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If this wasn’t called carrot cake, I don’t think anyone would even know that there’s a pound of carrots in that pan.  I like sneaky “healthy” foods like that.  Shh… just ignore the fact that there’s a cubic ton of sugar in the cake and frosting and you’ll be fine.  Especially since cakes are a sometimes food.

While I am an advocate for “real” foods without artificial ingredients my nephew can’t pronounce, I do have one recommendation for the cream cheese in the frosting if you can or care to: use Philadelphia.  I can’t use it because it makes my stomach hurt so I use an organic brand.  And even though it is very tasty, it just doesn’t cream as smoothly or get as fluffy as the Philadelphia brand.

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Even with the minute flecks of cream cheese in this frosting, though, this is a very yummy cake.

Carrot Cake
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Makes: 12 large slices
 
Ingredients
For the cake
  • 1½ c all-purpose flour
  • ½ c white wheat flour (use all AP flour if you don't have white wheat)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 c granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • ½ c canola oil
  • 1 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and grated (about 3 cups)
For the frosting
  • 8oz cream cheese, at room temp
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350° and lightly grease a 9"x13" pan. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. In either the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream together the granulated sugar, eggs, oil, and applesauce on medium speed. Slowly incorporate in the flour mixture until just mixed and smooth.
  4. Fold in the carrots with a large spoon.
  5. Pour the batter into your prepared baking pan and place in the oven.
  6. Bake 50-60 minutes, checking for doneness after 40 by inserting a toothpick in the center. Once it comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven.
  7. Let cool on a rack until completely cool.
  8. Once cool, in a med bowl using your hand mixer, blend the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla, starting out on low speed and moving to medium, until smooth and fluffy. Spread gently on top of the cake with a spatula or butter knife.
Notes

 

BBQ Country Ribs with Green Apple Slaw

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As I mentioned a little over a week ago, April 26 was my Gramma’s birthday and, like I’ve done ever since she passed away 13 years ago, I made something special for dinner.  This year, I made boneless BBQ ribs, something she would make occasionally as well.

I remember when I was about 10 years old, she came to our house with a big pan of them and had even made a smaller pan for our dog, Gypsy.  Gramma was always bringing and saving leftovers for Gypsy who was a canine garbage disposal.  That skinny dog would eat everything except ketchup and peas.

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I don’t remember the exact sauce she made for the ribs since that about 30 years but I do remember how sweet and tangy it was and how the ribs just melted in your mouth.  I also remember thinking how cool it was to have rib with no bones.  As a kid, I didn’t think something like that could exist since ribs=bones.  As an adult, I love that country-style ribs exist, especially for the bearded members of my household since you can quite easily use a knife and fork to eat these.

I personally love the whole experience of eating bone-in ribs, all the way from sticky fingers to a sticky face. 🙂

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I decided to use my sweet & spicy chipotle BBQ sauce to make these which I think was a good choice.  Sweet, sticky, spicy but with clean fingers and faces.  Since the pork is cooked in the sauce, the leftover sauce has an even better flavor.

When I was planning this meal, it took me a couple of days to decide what to serve with these ribs.  I was originally thinking about making my mac & cheese but we just had that last week and I wanted to do something a little lighter.  As I was flipping though my recipe book, I spotted my recipe for Green Apple Slaw which I haven’t made since last summer.  This is something I knew Gramma would like as well.

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This slaw is really easy to make, too.  I use my mandolin to finely cut the apples.  You could cut these with your knife but I like the mandolin because it goes a lot more quickly than cutting it by hand.  It took me about 5 minutes to cut up 3 large apples in this manner.  Nice and quick!  I would not recommend shredding or grating the apples, though, because you’ll end up with applesauce.

I buy my cabbage preshredded but you could very easily shred your own if you wanted.  Since my large food processor broke a while ago, I just can’t get it as finely shredded as I like.

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The nice thing about slaws and salads is that they often don’t require cooking which is nice in the summer.  Just a little chopping and mixing so you can make them ahead of time.  Then, just pull them out of the fridge when you are ready to eat.  My laziness likes this. 🙂

I love the combination of flavors and textures in this slaw.  And the celery adds a satisfying crunch but you could also top this with chopped nuts just before serving to add another level if you wanted.

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I was going to serve this with crash hot potatoes but I didn’t let the potatoes boil long enough.  Even though I tested them, I must have been daydreaming about the ribs because I wasn’t able to crush them.  After cursing a bit thinking about it for a couple minutes, I decided to just cut the potatoes up and fry them.  They were still tasty and, as a plus, I was able to cook them while the ribs were still cooking so from a timing standpoint, they actually worked out for the better.

All in all, I think this is a meal Gramma would have approved of.

BBQ Country Ribs
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Makes: 8 country-style ribs
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp jarred, mince garlic
  • 1½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp chipotle pepper powder
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ c water
  • ½ c apple cider vinegar
  • ½ c brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ c tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 2 lb country-style pork ribs
Instructions
  1. In med saucepan, melt butter over med-low heat. Add garlic and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add paprika, chipotle powder, black pepper, water, vinegar, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil and whisk in tomato paste and molasses.
  2. Simmer, uncovered, about 15-20 minutes or until sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool. You can also make this a few days in advance and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  3. Preheat oven to 300°.
  4. Pour the sauce in a 9"x13" pan. Arrange the ribs along the bottom so they are not touching. Roll the ribs to coat in sauce and make sure the fatty side is up. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour.
  5. Remove the ribs from the pan and cover to keep warm. Skim any fat from the sauce and pour the sauce into a saucepan. Heat over med-high and let simmer for 5-10 minutes to reduce slightly. Roll each rib in sauce again right before serving and serve with more sauce on the side.

 
Green Apple Slaw
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Ingredients
  • ½ c mayonnaise
  • ¼ c plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • ½ tsp poppy seeds
  • 1 c halved green grapes (seedless)
  • 3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  • 2 c finely shredded cabbage
  • 3 large or 4 small-to-medium green apples
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, yogurt, honey, and poppy seeds. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, add the grapes, celery, and cabbage. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, use the thinnest julienne blade on your mandoline to cut the apples. Toss with the lemon juice and add to the cabbage mixture. Stir in the dressing and cover. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Can also be made a day ahead.
Notes

 

 

 

 

Iced Dark “Hot Chocolate”

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Yes, that’s right.  Iced hot chocolate.  Whaaaaa? I know!  It’s totally a thing!  Why hadn’t I been told sooner?  That’s why I had to make sure I passed this on to you.  Because I am nice like that.

There are many pluses to this dessert beverage:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Quick to make
  3. You probably have everything on hand to make it already
  4. Chocolate
  5. It’s not bad for you!  Only 135 calories and less than 1 gram of fat per 10oz serving

I know, right?

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Just look at the delicious froth!

When I first read about the concept, my first thought was that it’d be more like a milk shake but with the consistency of a smoothie.  I was wrong.  It really does taste like hot chocolate but more suitable for the hot weather that Atlanta will be getting very shortly.

If you are not a fan of dark chocolate or have regular cocoa powder on hand instead of the dark like I do, I bet this will taste just good.    I’m even thinking a touch of peppermint extract instead of vanilla would be really good!  Or frozen cherries instead of ice cubes.   Ooooh!  Or a tiny dash of cayenne!

So many ideas!

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I’m not 100% sure why mine separated after I poured it but it was like having the marshmallowy foam on your hot hot chocolate so it was a happy surprise. 🙂  I think it’s because I just didn’t blend it long enough in the blender because I was so excited to drink it.

I foresee a large number of these in my future.

 

Iced Dark "Hot Chocolate"
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Makes: 3 10oz servings
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c skim milk
  • ¼ c dark unsweetened cocoa powder (or regular)
  • ¼ c granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 12 ice cubes
Instructions
  1. Add the milk, cocoa powder, sugar, and vanilla extract to the blender.
  2. Pulse a few times then blend for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the ice cubes and pulse a few more times to break up the ice. Continue to pulse until the ice is crushed then run the blender for about 30 seconds.
  4. Pour into 3 glasses and serve immediately.
Notes
Recipe inspired by Healthy-Delicious.com.
Nutritional information calculated at SparkPeople
Nutrition Information
Servings: 10 oz Calories: 134.2 Fat: 0.8 g Saturated fat: 0.1 g Unsaturated fat: 0.1 g Carbohydrates: 28.9 g Sugar: 25 g Sodium: 155 mg Fiber: 2.7 g Protein: 6.9 g

 

Cheesy Baked Broccoli and Cauliflower

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Guess what.  Oh, all right… I’ll just tell you: cheesy vegetables aren’t unhealthy.  Seriously!  At least, these ones aren’t.  Not only are they secretly good for you but they taste AMAZING!  I felt so guilty and decadent eating these but I’m not going to lie.  I also felt a little smug because I love cheese.  We almost always have cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack, and jalapeno cheddar in the house and now that Sargento also has tasting cheeses*, we usually have 1-3 triangles of that as well.

Cheese, dates, and crackers is a pretty typical after-school work snack for me.

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Of course, I also try to eat on the healthy side most of the time so when I found this idea over on Diabetic Living Online, I knew I had to give it a try.  With my own little tweaks, of course.  I mean, how could I pass up a healthified cheesy side dish?  I couldn’t. That’s how.

I couldn’t find a sauceless broccoli, cauliflower, carrot mix in my grocer’s freezer so I just used a lot of frozen broccoli and cauliflower.  Even though I increased the vegetables by a third, I kept the sauce ratio about the same and it seemed to work just fine.

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About the only thing I will change when I make this again.. and I will.  Oh, yes. I will… is I want to mix a a couple teaspoons of melted butter into the panko to give it a crunchier and more brown topping.

When making the sauce for this, though, don’t walk away from it or it’ll burn to the bottom of the pan pretty quickly.  Or, um, so I’ve heard?

 

Cheesy Baked Broccoli and Cauliflower
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Makes: 10 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 24oz frozen broccoli pieces, thawed but not cooked
  • 24oz frozen cauliflower pieces, thawed but not cooked
  • 12oz can fat-free evaporated milk
  • 2 Tbsp white wheat flour (or all-purpose)
  • 1 Tbsp jarred minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 4oz (1 c) shredded sharp cheddar
  • 4oz cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
  • ½ c panko breadcrumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 9x13 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Rinse and drain the vegetables and place in a large bowl.
  3. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the evaporated milk, flour garlic, pepper and paprika. Heat over medium, whisking frequently, until thick and starting to bubble, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the cheddar and cream cheese until smooth.
  4. Pour the sauce over the vegetables and stir to coat well. Spread into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the panko.
  5. Bake 40-45 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Diabetic Living Online. Nutritional information calculated at SparkPeople
Nutrition Information
Servings: 1 cup Calories: 125 Fat: 4.3 g Saturated fat: 2.5 g Unsaturated fat: 1.4 g Carbohydrates: 14 g Sugar: 6.3 g Sodium: 142 mg Fiber: 4 g Protein: 9.4 g Cholesterol: 13.5 mg

 

*I was in no way paid to endorse Sargento.  I doubt they even know I exist, but I do like their tasting cheeses. 🙂

 

 

Bacon-wrapped Blackberry-marinated Pork Loin

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Whew!  Another mouthful!  I suppose I could have just called it Bacon Blackberry Pork but it’s really a bit more than that.  In my opinion, anyway.   And it tastes like a lot more than that, too!

When I first saw this in the The Bacon Issue of the Food Network Magazine, I was a little scared that it would turn out being too sweet but the blackberry preserves in the marinade added just enough sweetness to go with the salty bacon and juicy pork.

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I know the time in the recipe may make this seem daunting but the hands-on time is very short.  It took me less than 10 minutes to mix up the marinade and get the pork roast in the fridge which was good because I was already in bed when I remembered I wanted to let this marinade for as along as possible so I got it ready at midnight the night before I wanted to cook it.

The next evening, all I had to do was wrap it with bacon, using toothpicks to hold the pieces in place since I don’t have kitchen twine, and put it in the oven for 1.5 hours.

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Because of the longer cooking time, I personally consider this a weekend recipe but if you have time on a weeknight, you could easily get it marinating the night before and wrap/cook it the next evening.

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The pork turned out so incredibly juicy with just a hint of sweetness.  It was still moist even cold as leftovers which I think is a good sign.  I didn’t make a gravy to go with this like the instructions said because I didn’t really have much in the way of pan juices because my pork loin was pretty lean.  I would have ended up with just a chicken broth gravy and that, to me, doesn’t really go with pork.

Check back on Wednesday for the cheesy veggie side I made to go with this!

 

Bacon-wrapped Blackberry-marinated Pork Loin
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Makes: 10-12 slices
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ c blackberry preserves
  • 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp jarred minced garlic (6-8 cloves)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3-4 lb lean boneless pork loin
  • 7-9 slices thin cut bacon
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the preserves, vinegar, mustard, garlic, thyme leaves, salt and pepper.
  2. Use a small paring knife to poke several holes in the pork, making sure to poke all the way through any fatty areas.
  3. Place the pork roast in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and move and rub the pork to make sure it is completely covered. Refrigerate overnight but at least for 2 hours.
  4. When ready to cook, take the roast out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature while preheating the oven to 325°.
  5. Remove the pork from the bag and place on a large plate or cutting board. Discard any leftover marinade. Place on strip of bacon over one end of the roast, letting the ends drape onto the plate or cutting board. Repeat with another slice of bacon, slightly overlapping the first. Do this until the roast is completely covered with bacon strips.
  6. Secure the bacon with toothpicks through each side of the roast. Use your hands to tuck the ends of the bacon under the roast. (See picture below as an example.)
  7. Place the roast on a rack in a roasting pan and cook for about 1.5 hours or until the roast is at least 140°-145° degrees in the center. Remove from the oven and let rest 10 minutes before removing the toothpicks and slicing.
Notes
Adapted from The Food Network magazine

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Meatball Sandwich

meatballsandwichtitle I am so excited and I just don’t know which to talk about first: this AMAZING sandwich that I have been saving just for this post or the fact that this is my 100th post!  I think I am equally excited about both.  So excited that I am even doing a giveaway to celebrate… but that part I will save until the end. 🙂 I can’t believe that in just over 6 months, I’ve been able find and make 100 recipes to share with you.  And those are just the ones I thought were good enough to share.  I’ve made many recipes that were meh at best over the past few months as well.  And there were several that I had to make more than once to get it just right. meatballsandwich3 I’ve also learned a bit about how to take better photographs.  Hopefully you’ve noticed. 🙂  I mean, go back and take a look at my first post and you’ll see what I mean.  It’s okay, I’ll wait.  I still have a long way to go but I think I am doing okay. Heh, it’s actually kind of funny that the recipe in the very first post is always an ingredient for the meatballs in this amazing meatball sandwich.  These are a simple 2-to-1 ratio of lean ground beef and sweet Italian sausage.  I am not a fan of filler when I make meatballs and the sausage flavor isn’t lessened in anyway when mixed with the ground beef. meatballsandwich1 For the sauce, I did a marriage of my pizza sauce and pasta sauce.  Slow cooking the meatballs in the sauce gave it a nice spice that lent itself well to the toasted, melted cheese.  For the buns, it’s a very good idea to toast them before adding the meatballs to help them hold up to the sauce.  When I brought these to work, though, I wasn’t able to and they still tasted just as good. This recipe makes a huge batch (about 40 meatballs) so this is good for a potluck or party.  In fact, I made these for a good friend’s birthday just last week and people really seemed to enjoy them.  Yummy sounds from people eating my foods always makes me happy. So, after the recipe, which I hope you LOVE, more about the giveaway!

5.0 from 3 reviews
Meatball Sandwich
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Makes: 10 sandwiches
 
Ingredients
MEATBALLS
  • 2 lb extra lean ground beef
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage
SAUCE
  • 2 28-30oz cans crushed tomatoes in juice
  • 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp jarred minced garlic
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
TO SERVE
  • 10 hoagie rolls, split
  • 8 oz (2 c) mozzarella, shredded
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and insert a baking raking if you have one.
  2. In a large bowl, blend together the ground beef and Italian sausage until blended well. Scoop up 2 Tbsp of the meat mixture and roll into a well packed ball. (I use a measuring spoon for the first couple.) Place the meatballs on the baking rack. When all are formed, place into the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  3. While the meatballs are baking, mix the sauce ingredients in a large saucepan and heat over med-high.
  4. Remove the meatballs from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes.
  5. Spoon about 1 cup of the sauce into the slow cooker. Layer the meatballs in the slow cooker and cover with the rest of the sauce. Cook on LOW for 8 hours or HIGH for 4 hours.
To serve
  1. Place the hoagie rolls cut side up on a baking sheet and place under the broiler for 2 minutes or until the buns are toasted.
  2. Add 3-4 meatballs to the bottom buns. Sprinkle the meatballs and cut side of the top bun with cheese and place back under the broiler for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Add top bun and serve.

To celebrate this being my 100th post, I have a little giveaway to celebrate: a framed copy of my “Sashi Pretends She’s on a Cooking Show” picture and – even better – a $25 Visa gift card.  I know it’s not a super lot but it’s my way of thanking you for following my little cooking corner.  And you can get up to 4 entries into the giveaway!  The contest ended at 11:59PM EDT on Friday, 4/25 and I will randomly choose the winner on 4/26 which is actually kind of funny because that’s my Gramma’s birthday and she was one of my cooking inspirations. The winner will be notified via e-mail or Facebook and will have 48 hours to get me their address.  If, for some reason, the chosen winner fails to respond, I will randomly choose again. Good luck and thank you!

The winner has been notified.  Thank you all so much for entering!

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