Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Kane Sisters' Carrot Cake

This post should actually be called the Mueller sisters' carrot cake for its true original source. During summers between college semesters, my sister and I worked as life guards at a country club. (My brother actually was employed there too, but I was off in the real world by then.) We worked with the Mueller girls who were blonde, blue eyed, very pretty, and obsessed with dieting.  In fact, that was pretty much the topic of conversation around the pool. Except - at some point this recipe surfaced. I can't remember how, but I know it's from them. For years my sister and I brought it to pitch-ins and parties. The directions on it are very strange for a cake recipe since the first thing is to combine eggs and oil, but the result is honestly the best carrot cake I've ever had. It is the gold standard to which I compare all other carrot cakes. The cream cheese frosting is just a bit different as well; definitely not as much powdered sugar than other recipes I've seen. The result is a bit more tangy and less sweet. For a pitch-in I bake this in a 9 x 13 pan, but it also makes a great eight inch layer cake.

Ingredients for the Carrot Cake:

3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded carrots
1 cup raisins
1 cup undrained crushed pineapple
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts

 Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Frosting:

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions for the Carrot Cake:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour either a 9 x 13 baking pan or two eight inch cake pans.  Beat the eggs and oil together until they are combined.

Add the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and mix well.

Stir in the carrots, raisins, coconut, pineapple, and chopped nuts. Pour into the 9 x 13 pan or evenly divide the batter between the two cake pans. Bake the 9 x 13 pan for about 50 minutes and the cake pans for about 40 minutes. When done, the edges will be coming away from the side of the pan, the cake will spring back when touched in the middle, and an inserted toothpick will come out clean. Let the pan(s) sit for 5 minutes after they are taken out of the oven. Then, run a knife along the edges between the cake and the pan. Turn the pan upside down on a wire rack and gently tap the edges and top of the pan to loosen it. Lift the pan up to release the cake. Allow the cake to completely cool before proceeding to frost it.

Directions for Making the Cream Cheese Frosting:

Beat the cream cheese and butter together with an electric mixture. Add the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract and continue to beat until all the ingredients are combined together. Ice the top of the 9 x 13 pan or divide the icing between the two eight inch layers. Place the first layer on the plate and put about a third of the icing on top, spreading it from edge to edge. Top with the second layer and heap the rest of the frosting on top, extending it to cover the sides as well as the top. If you start to get crumbs in the frosting, get a clean knife to continue. Go back if possible and gently cover any of the crumbs with excess icing. Store in refrigerator.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Allison's Fake Paella

When Allison was in high school there were two things that were absolutely true about her: she loved, loved, loved learning the Spanish language and she was very social. It was the perfect storm for me to try to reproduce cultural recipes when she brought home large groups of kids that happened to be hungry. I sort of cringe when I call this recipe "Paella" because, although it really is tasty, it's not the real deal. When we visited Allison in Spain this spring, we ate at a wonderful restaurant right on the beach in Barcelona. The paella we had there was served in huge shallow dish and was made the traditional way with arborio rice that is diligently watched and stirred. The recipe posted here is yummy also - just different! It feeds a large crowd with little effort!


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper or a combination of green, yellow or red to equal a pepper, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
2 (15 oz.) cans broth - beef, chicken, or vegetable
1 (15 ox.) can chopped tomatoes, juice and all
1 (15 oz.) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 1/2 cups uncooked rice - brown or white
2 heaping tablespoons sliced green olives
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon red cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon saffron or substitute ground turmeric


1 cup frozen peas & carrots

Some protein: I usually add in cooked chicken. Traditionally it is shrimp, clams, chicken.


Over medium setting, heat oil in a large skillet. Add the diced onions and peppers and saute until tender. Add the garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Then, add the broth, chopped tomatoes, artichokes, rice, green olives, paprika, salt, black pepper, red cayenne pepper, and the saffron or turmeric. Cover and turn the heat down to simmer. Allow to cook until the rice is cooked, using the directions on the rice package as a guide. All the liquid will be absorbed by the rice. 

 Cover and turn the heat down to simmer. Allow to cook until the rice is cooked, using the directions on the rice package as a guide. All the liquid will be absorbed by the rice. Before serving, add the peas & carrots along with what ever meat desired. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Fun (But) Faux Pho

In past posts, I've written about my fun, fun friend Kim and my efforts to come close to duplicating her wonderful Vietnamese food. Although she now lives in another part of the country we keep in touch through an occasional text or email. I had the chance to contact her a few days ago with a question about some photos she had taken for the organization we both had volunteered for. While I was looking over old files, I found this picture of Kim and the honorable mayor of our city, taken at a charity golf outing. Before that day, I didn't know her very well, but by the end of it I realized that she was a ball of fire with energy that never ran out. When I got to the event, I noticed Kim had added her own sense of style to the frumpy t-shirts all the other volunteers were wearing. She had turned hers into a v-neck, added a wide belt, and brought the ensemble to a whole new level with the addition of boots. She had commandeered a golf cart and said, "Are you here to help take photos? Well, hop in!" Then she took me all over the golf course. At one point we almost flipped the cart when we drove into a sand trap. She got us out safely however -  while she was roaring with laughter!  Kim introduced me to the deliciousness of Pho, the soup that is traditionally served as breakfast in Vietnam. Done right, the secret is the fabulous broth that is cooked for hours. I can't even begin to know how to truly make authentic broth for pho, but the recipe for my fake version posted here satisfies my craving. It's quick, easy, and light. Everyone can garnish it individually to fit their own tastes, so it's a fun and different kind of family meal. I've also included a sauce recipe from Saveur magazine that is great to dip the chicken in as you are enjoying the soup.

Ingredients and Directions for Four Large Bowls of Pho

For Soup:
2 to 4 pieces of chicken (boneless breasts are easiest)
8 cups unsalted or homemade chicken broth
1 tablespoon fish sauce (I used Thai Kitchen brand)
2 thumb sized pieces of ginger, peeled
1 package of thin rice noodles
8 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

For Garnish:
2 cups bean sprouts
1 bunch fresh basil, washed
1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce
1 lime, sliced 

For Dipping Sauce:
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
pinch black pepper

Put the chicken pieces in a soup pot along with  the chicken broth, 1 tablespoon fish sauce and 2 thumb sized pieces of fresh peeled ginger. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to medium low and allow the soup to simmer for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, prepare dipping sauce, rice noodles, and garnish platter. To make the sauce whisk the 1/4 cup fish sauce, lime juice, and pinch pepper together in a small bowl. Float the jalapeno pepper slices on top of the sauce mixture. For the noodles, rinse them under running water and then drop them into a pot of boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes. When done the noodles should be tender but still have a bite to them. Drain the noodles and set aside.

On a platter arrange the basil, bean sprouts, slices of lime, and the tablespoon of  sriracha hot sauce.

When the broth mixture is done cooking, remove the chicken. Slice  the chicken into bite sized pieces, and set aside.  Remove the ginger pieces from the broth and discard.

Now follow this order to build a yummy bowl of quick faux pho:

First, put 1/2 cup of cooked rice noodle in each bowl.

Divide the chicken pieces up evenly between the four bowls and lay it on top of the noodles.

Sprinkle two of the sliced green onions and 1 tablespoon of the chopped cilantro in each bowl.

Evenly pour the broth over the contents of each bowl.

Add the garnishes (add more garnishes to the bowl as needed - a bit at a time to keep them crunchy) and dip chicken in the fish/lime sauce as the soup is eaten.

Monday, May 25, 2015

California Carnitas Style Tacos

Light and Fresh  - Inspired by the Street Tacos in SoCal

View from Our Neighbor's Beach House

Chilling in the Courtyard

A couple weeks ago we visited Jenn in Southern California and were thrilled that Caroline could join us as well. Of course we had a wonderful time - What's not to love! There are tons of farmers' markets', beautiful beaches, hiking beaches, bike paths, and great weather! Our neighbor back home owns a vacation home and she graciously offered to let us stay there for a few days. It was just yards from the beach, and there were tons of taco joints within walking distance.

This makes eight or more tacos:

Ingredients and Directions for the Pork:

2 pound pork shoulder roast
1 onion, diced
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
2 cloves garlic, put through press

Trim the excess fat off of the roast. Place in oven safe dish with high sides. In a bowl put the diced onion, lime juice, orange juice, vinegar, pressed garlic, ancho chili powder, and oregano.and whisk it all together. Pour over the pork. Cover with foil and bake in a 325 degree oven for 4 hours or cook in a crock pot for 4-5 hours on high or all day on low.  At the end of the cooking time, remove from the cooking liquid with a slotted spoon, and place on a platter. Shred the meat using two forks.

Ingredients and Directions for Salad in Taco

1/2 head of lettuce, shredded
1/4 head of green cabbage, shredded
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 radishes, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup cotija cheese

In a large bowl place the lettuce, onion, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, and radishes. Whisk together the vinegar and olive oil, pour the mixture over the ingredients in the bowl, and gently toss. Sprinkle the cotija cheese on top.
*Note - if you have a few extra minutes before assembling the salad, place the red onion slices in a shallow bowl and pour white vinegar over them. Allow them to sit for 10 minutes, then drain them and add them to the salad mixture. 

To Assemble:

Warm 16 corn tortillas between paper towels in microwave on high for 30 seconds.
Place two tortillas together and spoon 1/4 cup of salad mixture on each one.
Place 1/4 cup of shredded pork on top of the salad.
Garnish with radish slices, red onion slices, and crumbled cheese from the salad

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Terminate Leftover Meat with Arroz de matanzas (Rice Killings) from Spain

Beautiful Ibiza, Spain

A few days ago Roy, Jennifer, and I returned from visiting Allison in Spain.  We traveled all over, but ended out trip on the Island of Ibiza, where Allison teaches English. She also has a job as an au pair for an eight year old girl and lives with the family, Apparently, Ibiza is a wild party place, but since Allison has only been there during the off season, she hasn't seen the hedonistic side to it yet. What I saw was its gorgeous raw beauty. It's very rocky and cactus and palms grow right beside pine trees.  We took a few hikes on paths that led to breathtaking views of the ocean. The color of the water was amazing!  On one of our hiking days, the weather was cold and overcast. When we returned to the house, the mother was making a traditional Spanish dish called Arroz de matanzas. It translates as "rice killings" and was served after a pig was slaughtered to those who had helped throughout the process. Originally it was made with fresh pork, but the recipes I found on the internet included sausage and chicken. Basically, it's rice, mushrooms, and meat surrounded by a savory broth seasoned with saffron and a hint of Jamaican like spices such as allspice and nutmeg. As I watched it being made, it struck me that it would be a great way to use up meat such as a left over pork chop, a lonely chicken leg, or a bit of sausage. I translated a couple recipes and even found one in English. What I have posted here, is a combination of the three of them. In this "Americanized" version, dinner could be made fairly quickly and either leftovers or fresh meat could be used. Crusty bread and a green salad is great with this.

Above is how my version looks...

This is the "real deal" which the lady of the house, was kind enough to share with us after a morning of hiking on a chilly spring day in Ibiza.

Ingredients for Four to Six Servings:

*Chicken, pork, and/or sausage to yield 3 cups of meat
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large tomato, diced
1 medium bell pepper, red or green, chopped
1 small package of mushrooms, wild is nice, sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 garlic cloves, put through a press or minced
1 clove garlic,  put through a press or minced
8 cups of chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon saffron
**pinch nutmeg
**pinch cinnamon
**pinch clove
**pinch allspice
2 cups uncooked rice - I used arborio

*The meat could be left overs such as a pork chop/chicken/sausage or fresh and still on the bone. 

** Roy calls these "dark spices" and he doesn't really care for them. Leave them out for a more Americanized palate.  I think if  the "dark spices" were left out and 3/4 cup of white wine was put in with the broth, this would be scrumptious!


1.  (Skip this step if using left over meat that is already cooked.) If fresh meat is being used, put the olive oil in a skillet and turn the heat to medium/low. Brown both sides of the meat. Take the meat out of the skillet and set it aside for a moment.

2. (This is first step if using left over meat that has already been cooked.) In the same pan that the meat was browned, add the tomato, pepper,and mushrooms (and olive oil if this is step one). Saute for about 5 to 7 minutes until tender. Then add 2 cloves of minced garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Add the meat, broth, and pepper, thyme, saffron (and dark spices if using) to the pan and bring to a boil. Allow it to boil for 15 minutes.

3.  Add the rice to the pot and boil for 15 minutes. It doesn't look like a lot of rice in the beginning, but it will absorb quite a large amount of the liquid as it cooks. During the last 5 minutes, add parsley and the extra clove of minced garlic. (The traditional recipe calls for a cooked chicken liver to be made into a paste and added at this point - perhaps to thicken it up? I skipped this step since I felt the soup was thick enough and I'm not a chicken liver fan!)

4.  Ladle into bowls and dig in!

By the way, this Ibizan house was amazing!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pat's "Irish" Stew

On St. Patrick's Day everyone wants to be Irish. My Dad was named Edward Patrick, and everyone called him "Pat". His father's name was Clarence Edward but everyone called him "Patrick". Both of them had twinkling eyes that were full of fun, and all my growing up years, I figured it was because they were Irish. At weddings and such, my grandpa would go around saying things like, "Oh the luck of the Irish!".  I assumed that his parents had recently arrived to this country. His wife, my grandmother Ivy, really had just "gotten off the boat" not too much before she married Clarence. However, it was England that she hailed from and her family actually immigrated here twice. I guess the first time they were so homesick they went back, but there were no opportunities for them in Britain, so they returned a few years later. Recently, I got on Ancestry.com to see where in Ireland my great grandparents were from. After poking around a bit, I realized that my grandpa was not quite as pure Irish as I was led to believe.  I went back six generations, and the direct line all resided in the United States. I did find out that my great great great grandmother Mariah married at 13 and had five kids in nine years of marriage. After my multi-great grandfather died, she then married his brother and had six more children! She lived be 80 years old - what a woman! She probably knew how to make a stew or two as well as feed a lot of hungry mouths. Here is my dad's version of Irish stew. He always loved the good things in life and I think it's funny that instead of ale, his version calls for a wee bit of red wine. He served this with some crusty bread and a nice little green salad.


2 pounds beef stew meat
2 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes
3 carrots, peeled and cut into hunks
1 onion, chopped
1 cup sliced celery
1 clove garlic, diced
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 potatoes, enough to make 2 cups peeled and cut up
1 cup frozen peas


Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Put everything except for the potatoes and peas in a dutch oven or oven-safe dish. Cover the pot with foil or an oven safe lid. Bake for 4 hours. Add the potatoes and turn the oven up to 350 degrees. Bake for 45 more minutes and then add the peas. Bake 15 minutes more. Ladle into soup bowls and serve with some good crusty bread.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Roasted Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Crouton

There are hints of spring in the air; lots of the snow is melting off and it's getting just a little bit warmer. But it's still pretty cold in the morning and evening and I'm still in the mood for comfort food. I was talking to Caroline on the phone the other day and we were laughing over the fact that I am on a major tomato soup and grilled cheese kick. Lately, whenever I eat out, I order tomato soup. If I'm home, nothing beats having a grilled cheese sandwich with it. The recipe posted here is super easy and great on a weekend day when the tomatoes can be popped in the oven for an hour while other things are going on. 

Ingredients for four cups:

3 or 4 good sized tomatoes
2 shallots
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 fresh cracked pepper
1/4 dried oregano

1 (15oz.) can broth: beef, chicken, or vegetable

8 baguette slices
4 small pieces cheese such as cheddar or colby jack
1 tablespoons butter

Take a bit of the butter and rub it on the bottom and sides of a baking dish. Core and slice the tomatoes and arrange them in the baking dish. Peel and slice the shallots and garlic and tuck them among the tomatoes. Drizzle the olive oil over the top and sprinkle with the salt, pepper and oregano.

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

Pour broth into pan and add the baked tomato mixture. 

Puree the mixture with an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor. Place the pan over medium high heat and warm to preferred serving temperature.  

Spread the remaining butter on one side of each baguette slice. Put a piece of cheese between two pieces with the buttered sides facing out. Gently brown each side of the mini grilled cheeses over medium low heat.

Gently brown each side of the mini grilled cheeses over medium low heat

Ladle the soup into bowls and drop a mini grilled cheese into each serving.