Sweets

Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream

I adore my sister in law. She is the sister that I never had growing up, and always wanted. When she entered our little family, I was a little nervous – you never know how new relationships are going to go, you know? Her first holiday with out family was Easter, and my mother made carrot cake. The plates were passed, and she grew quiet. She ate a few bites and paused. I never knew why people would eat carrot cake, she said. A cake, made of vegetables, not entirely appealing. But, sometimes you have to just put your head down, she said, and power through. But she liked this carrot cake, and the head down and powering through technique worked.

And now, I can’t eat carrot cake without smiling. I don’t know if this would pass the sister in law test, but it is pretty good.

Oh – and my sister in law blogs! They are presently engaged in a four-month world tour. Check it out here.

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Carrot cake with cinnamon buttercream

for the cake:

2/3 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 1/4 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup raisins

2 eggs

1 cup gluten free flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup walnuts

for the buttercream:

1/3 cup butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoon cinnamon

Make the cake. Cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until well incorporated. Slowly added the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Fold in the carrot, raisins, and nuts. Pout into a loaf pan and bake at 350 for one hour and five minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.

For the buttercream, whip the butter until fluffy, then add in the sugar and spice a little at a time until thick. Frost the cake roughly when cool.

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American-Style Cassoulet

This is a cleaning out the freezer dish. I have a husband who frequently brings home animals: rabbits, pheasants, quail, venison. This is a perfect way to clean out the odd bits of things that have found their way into your home, and a great way to address some of the issues that lean wild meats have (low fat content). Hours of cooking in the liquid tenderize the meat, and make it fork-tender. This does take a while to get going – but be patient – this one is is worth it.

Why “American-Style” this French dish would never involve whiskey or slab bacon. This is Mid-west America’s answer to the classic.

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American-Style Cassoulet

1 lbs dried great northern beans

1 lbs nitrite-free bacon

4 lbs meat (this is largely up to you – you want a mix of fatty meats and lean meats in here. We regularly use about 1 1/2 lbs of game bird like quail and pheasant, 1 1/2 lbs of venison sausage, and 1 lbs of pork. You want a neutral sausage, don’t use a maple sausage.)

1 lbs carrot, peeled and diced

2 large onions, diced

16 cloves garlic, large dice

1 tablespoon tomato paste

14.5 oz can diced tomato

1/3 cup whiskey

1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

4 bay leaves

4 cups broth (chicken)

Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with water. You want to use about six cups of water, and for the beans to be well under the surface of the water. Soak at least 8 hours, or overnight. Drain and set aside.

Fry the bacon and set aside. Leave the bacon fat in the pan, and saute the carrots in the bacon fat for five minutes on medium heat. After five minutes, add the onions. Cook the onions for about five minutes for another five minutes, then add the garlic. Let the vegetables sit in the pan for a few minutes, then add the salt, pepper, thyme, sage, and oregano. When the spices are well-incorporated, add in the tomato paste and cook for five minutes. Add the whiskey and cook until the whiskey is evaporated. Finally add the can of tomatoes. Mix this vegetable mixture into the beans. Chop the bacon into small chunks and add to the beans. Mix to combine well.

Brown whatever meat you are using in a pan with a little olive oil. You do not need to cook this all the way through, you just need to establish a crust on the outside. When I use a loose sausage, I form the meat into small meatballs and fry them on all sides.

Arrange your browned meats into three plates or bowls – one of the leaner meat, one of the fattier pork, and one of the sausage.

Arrange one-fourth of the bean mixture in the bottom of a casserole dish. Arrange the leanest meat on top of the beans. Arrange another one-fourth of the bean mixture on top of the meat. Arrange the fattier pork on top of the beans. Arrange the leanest meat on top of the beans. Arrange another one-fourth of the bean mixture on top of the meat. Place the sausage on top of the beans, and pour the remaining beans on top of the sausage. Press the mixture lightly with your hands to even the whole beast that you’ve created. Stick the four bay leaves into the beans. Pour the stock over the beans. You should just barely see the liquid through the beans.

Cook, covered, for two hours at 350.

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Thai Carrot Soup

The rains have come to Oklahoma, and Autumn is almost here. I can’t wait to step outside, and feel the crispness in the air. After oh so many days of one hundred plus weather, I’m ready for sweaters. I’m ready for orange. I’m ready for earlier sunsets. I’m ready for dark beers.

So is Starbucks, which is probably why their Pumpkin Spice flavor has returned to stores everywhere. 

Too soon in my estimation. I like pumpkin flavors, but Oklahoma still feels very much like Summer. Every year stores roll out their holiday and seasonally-themed merchandise earlier and earlier. In protestation of the Christmas wreaths that showed up in our local craft store next week, I’m avoiding fall flavors until it cools down significantly.

For your own education, a haiku on the glory of Thai Carrot Soup:

aromatic spice

cardamom, nutmeg, chili

cool, sweet carrot soup

This soup is lovely served warm in later months, but now in the last dog days of summer it is suburb served right out of the fridge. Another lovely benefit? This soup is vegan and vegetarian friendly! As it seems that everyone knows someone who ascribes to vegetarianism and veganism, it is nice to have some vegetable dishes in your back pocket. This recipe is dedicated to my vegetarian friend Penni who blogs at Banjelope!

Thai carrot soup

Thai Carrot Soup

2 Tbsp. coconut oil

4 cloves garlic

1 small white onion, chopped

2 thumb-sized pieces ginger, minced

2 fresh red chilis, minced

1.5 lbs carrot, peeled and chopped

1 Tbsp. cumin

2 tsp. cardamom

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

4 cups vegetable stock

1 can coconut milk

1 Tbsp. vegetarian fish sauce

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 lime

Thai basil, chiffonade

Cilantro

1. Saute onion, garlic, ginger, and chili until fragrant in the coconut oil.

2. Add cumin, cardamom, and nutmeg and saute for one minute.

3. Add carrots and broth. Simmer on medium for fifteen minutes, or until the carrots are soft.

4. Add coconut milk.

5. Blend the soup, then return to the soup pot.

6. Season with soy sauce, fish sauce and lime juice to taste. Taste as you go here! It is easy to go overboard with salt seasonings, and the amount of both soy and fish sauces will depend on the saltiness of the broth you use.

7. Garnish with herbs.

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