Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Most Amazing Carrot Cake

What’s up, doc?


Carrot cake is probably my most favorite cake.  It’s delicious and it’s got carrots in it, so it’s totally healthy and fat free, right? :)  My dad loves carrot cake, so for his birthday last month I baked him one!

This is by far, the best carrot cake  that I’ve ever had!  It’s flavored with the perfect amount of spice and it is filled with carrots (of course), pineapple, coconut and pecans.  Plus, when paired with a cream cheese frosting…oh my…it’s pure heaven! 

I’ve made this recipe a few times and surprisingly, I don’t make any changes to it.  Something weird happened when I made it for my dad though.  I’m pretty sure that I was paying attention and using all the right measurements, but for some reason my batter was very dry and tough to stir.  I added a few tablespoons of skim milk to smooth it out, and the cake turned out fine and delicious…but it was just weird.  I still don’t know what happened.  Oh well.  If you have a carrot cake lover in the family or if you just want to try the most delicious carrot cake on the planet, I recommend this recipe.





Just call me “Sara Lee.”


After I “fixed” the batter.


Frosting ingredients.


Cooling cakes.





Carrot Cake, by Recipezaar

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

Wilton Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan or 2 round 9 inch pans.
    2. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; make a well in the center and add sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla. Mix with wooden spoon until smooth.
    3. Stir in carrots, coconut, walnuts and pineapple. Pour into 9x13 inch pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or in round pans for 35 – 40 minutes.  Don't panic, the centre will sink a little.
    4. Allow to cool; when cool, frost the cake.
    5. To make the frosting: Cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth; add the icing sugar and beat until creamy.

    Sunday, May 16, 2010

    Chicken Marengo and Spinach Citrus Salad

    Yum, I have such a delicious meal to share with you all today!  One of my favorite shows on Food Network is The Next Food Network Star.  (Whoo, the new season starts on June 6th!  Who’s excited??)  Last season, Melissa d’Arabian won the competition and got her own show, which I rather enjoy.  Melissa’s signature cooking technique that helped her win was her 4-step chicken. 

    Last Sunday, I was watching Food Network re-runs last and saw her make this chicken Marengo and spinach citrus salad.  I’d never heard of Chicken Marengo before, but her easy cooking technique and the deliciousness of the food convinced me that I needed to try this recipe…and I’m sure glad I did.

    The chicken Marengo reminded me of a lot of chicken cacciatore.  It’s filled with tomatoes, mushrooms, onions and yellow bell pepper, and it is yummy!  Plus, with Melissa’s easy 4-step cooking method, I was surprised to see that it came together in about 30 minutes and all I had to do was spend about 10 minutes on the salad.  Speaking of the salad, let’s talk about it because it too was fabulous!  I wouldn’t think that spinach and citrus would be a good combination…but what-da-ya-know, it is!  The spinach is mild, the orange segments are tart, the dressing is light and refreshing, and the pecans…oh my, the pecans…they are seasoned with rosemary and cayenne, and they MAKE the salad!

    I’m so glad that I made this recipe and I plan to make it again.  Jeremy and I just ate the chicken Marengo and the salad (trying to stay low carb for P90X), but this could easily be paired with some white or brown rice for a complete meal.  A few modifications, per my style, I skipped the flouring of the chicken and I used 1 cup of chicken broth as a substitute for the white wine and beef broth.  With the salad, I used baby spinach and next time I’d probably use 4 cups instead of 3 because there was a lot of dressing for only 3 cups.  As for the dressing, I only had olive oil so I used that and only used 3 tablespoons.

    Mmmm, just thinking about this recipe makes me want it again.  We had extra veggies/sauce and I ate that later in the week for lunch over a turkey burger patty.  SO good!  I’m going to have to look into some more recipes from Melissa d’Arabian because she’s totally won me over with this recipe.  It has my highest recommendation! 



    Ingredients, minus the chicken.


    Prepped veggies.


    Spinach salad ingredients.


    What a great dinner!

    4 Step Chicken Marengo by Food Network


    • 3 large chicken cutlets, sliced into thin paillards (slice while partially frozen)
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (skipped this)
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil (used olive oil)
    • 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
    • 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
    • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and julienned
    • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 1/2 cup white wine (used chicken broth)
    • 1/2 cup beef broth (used chicken broth)
    • 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
    • 1/2 tablespoon butter


    1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, to taste, and lightly dredge in flour.
    2. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the chicken. Brown on both sides, until nicely golden, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from the pan and set aside on a plate.
    3. In the same pan, add more oil, if needed, along with the onion, mushrooms and peppers and sauté until softened and fragrant, but not limp, about 5 minutes.
    4. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
    5. Stir in the tomato paste and cook a few minutes to cook out the raw flavor.
    6. Turn up the heat, and add the wine/wine to deglaze the pan and let it reduce for 2 or 3 minutes.
    7. Add the beef broth and tomatoes.
    8. Once the mixture begins to bubble, add the browned paillards and any juices from the chicken and reduce the heat to a simmer.
    9. Cook until the chicken is warmed through, about 3 minutes.
    10. Turn the heat off and stir in the butter.
    11. Transfer to a serving platter and serve immediately.

    Spinach and Citrus Salad with Sweet and Spicy Pecans


    • 3 cups fresh spinach, washed and dried, cut into chiffonade
    • 2 green onions, chopped
    • 1 orange, supremed and halved
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/2 cup pecan halves
    • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • Citrus Dressing, recipe follows


    1. Put the spinach and green onions in large salad bowl and sprinkle with the halved citrus supremes.
    2. In a small saute pan over medium heat, add the butter and sugar and stir until the butter is melted.
    3. Add the pecans and toss until the pecans begin to brown.
    4. Stir in the rosemary and cayenne and stir just a few seconds to release the aroma.
    5. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
    6. Sprinkle the pecans on the salad while still warm.
    7. Drizzle the dressing over salad and serve.

    Citrus Dressing

    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 2 tablespoons orange or grapefruit juice (or a combination)
    • 3 tablespoons canola oil (used olive oil)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil (omitted this tbs)
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    In a small bowl, add all the ingredients and whisk until emulsified.

    Sunday, May 9, 2010

    Protein Shake

    If any of you check in on my “other blog,” you’ll know that last week Jeremy and I started the P90X workout and nutrition plan.  The nutrition plan is broken down into a few different phases, which vary depending on what part of the workout your in or your desired results.  We are currently in Phase I, which is a high protein/low carb eating plan.  Sadly…low carb means no cookies, cakes, candies or Sara’s Sweets!  Bummer, right? 

    I know you’re probably thinking, “Sara, what are you going to blog about if you can’t eat delicious treats?!”  No need to worry, my friends.  I’ve got a few “sweet” recipes saved up to blog about and I thoroughly plan on continuing to bake treats for my friends/co-workers, so I’ll have plenty to blog about!  Plus, I’ll have some delicious new P90X recipes to share.

    The first recipe has become a favorite breakfast of ours and it is the protein shake.  It’s such an easy and quick breakfast, plus it’s surprisingly very filling (hello, protein)!  We bought chocolate flavor protein powder and we used strawberries as the “berry,” which resulted in a delicious, strawberry, bananay, chocolate shake.  Yum!

    I highly recommend this delicious shake if you’re looking for a filling, quick and easy breakfast.  And of course, it’s nutritious!





    All the protein shake, just for me?



    P90X Protein Shake


    • 1 cup skim milk
    • 1 scoop protein powder
    • 1/2 cup berries
    • 1/2 banana
    • 1/2 cup ice


    1. Combine all ingredients in a blender.
    2. Blend until smooth.
    3. Drink up!

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010

    Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

    I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again…I love cookies.  I especially love these cookies because they contain my most favorite food: peanut butter.  But not only do they contain peanut butter, they also have Reese’s Pieces in them AND chocolate chips!  I know, right?  AMAZING!

    I bought a good sized bag of Reese’s Pieces to snack on, but after having them in the house for about a week, I realized how dangerous they were and I needed to devise a plan to get rid of them (without throwing them away, of course).  Cookies immediately came to mind.  Phew!  Crisis averted.

    So, where did this recipe come from??  Whenever I find a new recipe on a blog or website, I usually print it out and throw it on my computer desk in our office.  As you can imagine, with all the wonderful blogs that I read, I have quite a stack of delicious recipes, especially cookie recipes, sitting there, just waiting for me to make them.  However, this recipe came from…the back of my peanut butter jar!  I look at that jar almost everyday, so no wonder the recipe was in my head! :)

    In my usual baking-fashion, I made a few adjustments to the recipe.  First of all, I used butter instead of shortening because 1) shortening kinda creeps me out and 2) butter makes a softer cookie.  While gathering ingredients out of the pantry, I came across half a bag of chocolate chips and thought, “Hey, why not!”  Then, of course, I added the Reese’s pieces.  Also, as a side note, in between batches I’d put the dough in the fridge, so the texture/butter consistency would not change.

    I’m not gonna lie…these cookies are good.  They are soft, peanut buttery and chocolaty.  Could it get any better?  I took them to work the next day and one of my co-workers (who’s eaten a lot of my cookies) said, “Oh my gosh, these are the best cookies you’ve made in my entire life!”  Ha!  So, there’s the proof.  They are good.







    Up close and personal.

    Irresistible Jif Peanut Butter Cookies


    • 3/4 cup Jif Creamy Peanut Butter
    • 1/2 cup Crisco® All-Vegetable Shortening (1/2 cup butter)
    • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
    • 3 Tablespoons milk
    • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
    • 1 egg
    • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 cup chocolate chips
    • 1 cup Reese’s Pieces


    1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
    2. Place sheets of foil on countertop for cooling cookies.
    3. Combine Jif peanut butter, Crisco® Shortening (butter), light brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl.
    4. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended.
    5. Add egg. Beat just until blended.
    6. Combine flour, salt and baking soda.
    7. Add to creamed mixture at low speed. Mix just until blended.
    8. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.
    9. Flatten slightly in crisscross pattern with tines of fork. (skip if using chip and pieces)
    10. Bake at 375ºF for 7 to 8 minutes or until set and just beginning to brown.  Makes 3 dozen cookies.