Carrot-Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

carrot cake slice on a plate
Carrot-Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 c. crushed pineapple, drained
2 c. carrots, shredded
4 eggs
1 c. cane sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. canola oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
¾ c. walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13-inch pan. For a more festive presentation, use a well-greased, large tube pan with wax paper or parchment in the bottom. Another option: two 9-inch round pans ( also lined with parchment). Stack and frost to make a 2-layer cake.

This recipe makes 6 cups batter. In our house, with only 2 people, we freeze 3 cups batter (up to 2 months) and bake only 1, 9-inch round cake at a time. The same goes for the frosting: we use half, and refrigerate the rest until we thaw batter and bake the 2nd cake.

To make the cake, drain a can of crushed pineapple, keeping 1 cup for this cake. (Reserve the juice and any remaining pineapple for another use.)

In a mixing bowl, beat the pineapple, carrots, eggs, sugars and oil. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the wet mixture. Mix in walnuts, and bake for 30-35 minutes. Done when toothpick comes out clean. Cool before frosting.

FROSTING:
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup butter, room temperature
2 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Drizzle of milk or water

To make the frosting, cream together the cream cheese and butter. Add the vanilla. Mix in confectioner’s sugar gradually. Use drizzle of milk or water only if needed for consistency. Makes about 2 ¾ cups frosting.

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Chicken and Dressing Country-Style

Chicken and Dressing
Unabashed comfort food

This is ideal if you have only 4 or 5 people for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and aren’t up for all the rigmarole that goes with roasting a whole turkey, especially the cleanup. Roast and serve this in one dish.

1 large chicken, cut up
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. ground sage
½ c. onion, chopped, lightly saute’d in butter
½ c. chopped celery (optional)
1 loaf plain white fresh bread, torn into small pieces
2 cans cream of chicken soup
½ c. chicken broth
1 c. water

Lightly brown chicken and set aside (don’t cook through). Saute’ the onion (and celery if you’re using it). Tear loaf of bread into pieces. Add a sprinkling of salt and pepper, sage, onion, chicken broth, and 1 can of cream of chicken soup (reserve 2nd can). Mix to form a dressing and mound in the center of a large baking dish, leaving room around the edges to surround it with chicken pieces. Place chicken pieces in the dish.

Mix reserved can of cream of chicken soup with 1 c. water and pour over chicken and dressing. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or more.

Note: cream of mushroom soup can be substituted in this recipe. We have also used cream of celery soup in the dressing. This recipe came from my ex-mother-in-law, Grace Reynolds and she didn’t use celery. (When I make this for my husband, I  add the celery and also sometimes mushrooms.)

Here’s a thought: Why not arrange this in a slow-cooker and cook it that way? I will update this post once I do that. If you try it, let me know how it turns out.

Bread Stuffing for the Holidays

bread stuffing
Do you call it stuffing or dressing?

Whether you call it dressing or stuffing, this is the basic recipe you can start with.

9 cups bread cubes (use a combination of white and wheat)
1½ cups chopped celery
¾ cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
¾ cup butter
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground sage
½ teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1 egg, beaten

In a medium skillet, sauté celery, onion and mushrooms in butter. Add salt, sage, thyme, poultry seasoning and pepper.

In a large bowl Toss bread cubes with sautéed vegetables/seasonings until bread is well coated. Mix the egg with the chicken broth to moisten and stir into bread cube mixture. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

What I like about this recipe, is the bread cubes stay light and fluffy. This recipe works well baked on the side and also made ahead and microwave-warmed when you get to grandma’s house. Oh wait, I AM Grandma 😀

VEGETARIAN Version: substitute about 2/3 cup olive oil for the butter and vegetable broth for chicken broth. When I do this I usually use rosemary as the herb, but sage is okay too.

English Muffin Toasting Bread

loaf of white bread
Quick and easy, no kneading.

5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 T. dry yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 1/4 cups warm milk
Cornmeal for dusting

Grease two glass loaf pans and line bottoms with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Mix together the yeast, sugar and warm water in a large mixing bowl

In another bowl, sift together 5 cups of the flour with the salt and baking powder, reserving ½ cup flour (you may or may not need it later).

Mix 1 cup of the flour mixture into the yeast mixture in the large bowl and stir. Finish by adding the rest of the flour mixture and stir well with large spoon. This should be a wet, sticky dough. If it is too wet, add the reserved flour. Your dough will be thick, wet, and too soft to knead. It’s nothing like regular bread dough.

Spoon dough mixture into the prepared loaf pans and sprinkle the tops with cornmeal. Let rise in a warm place until double, or at or a little above the loaf pan top (30-40 minutes).

Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the tops are golden brown and the loaves sound hollow when thumped.

When done, remove from oven and cool in the pans on racks before removing. Slice and toast to serve.

Cranberry Rhubarb Pie

double crust pie
Put a cookie sheet or foil under this while baking.

2 (store-bought or homemade) 9-inch pastry pie crusts
1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tbsp. minute tapioca
1-1/2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 cups rhubarb cut into 1-inch pieces (fresh or frozen)
2 cups cranberry-orange sauce (see note below)
1-1/2 tbsp. butter or margarine, cut into pieces

Have you ever had a big bowl of cranberry orange sauce in the refrigerator after Thanksgiving? Not the kind from a can, but the fresh, uncooked kind you can make yourself or buy at a deli. No idea what to do with it? This recipe will solve that problem—and it will likely become the new, favorite pie in your house.

Combine sugar, cinnamon tapioca, flour and salt. Add chopped rhubarb and toss to coat. Add cranberry sauce and stir.

Pre-heat oven to 450° F. Allow pie crusts to come to room temperature and insert one into a 9.5-inch deep-dish pie pan and pre-bake for about 5 minutes until it is about half done. This will make for a flakier bottom crust (I do this with homemade crust because it is usually thicker). Do NOT prick the crust, as juice might later run underneath, but it is a good idea to weight it when you bake it as you would with any pre-baked crust. Mound filling high in the pie pan and dot with butter. Note: If you pre-bake the bottom crust, you will not be able to seal the edges of the top crust to it. That’s okay, just cut top into wedges and arrange them over the top.

Sprinkle top crust with a teaspoon of sugar and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Bake at 450° F for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350° F and bake for another 50 minutes or until done. Use a pie crust shield or tent with foil for about 25-30 minutes of baking time to help prevent the edges from burning. Pie is done when the pastry crust has become golden brown, and the pie juices have been bubbling out of the top crust vents.

Note: if using frozen rhubarb, prepare the same as for fresh and put pie together while the rhubarb is still frozen. Don’t pre-bake crust. Bake about 20 minutes longer to adjust for the frozen filling.

Serve warm or cooled, plain, or with a dollop of whipped cream.

Note: If you don’t have leftover cranberry sauce, you can make some quickly: Remove the zest of 1 orange (place in food processor) then remove the white, pith part and discard it. Break apart the orange and put in processor. Add 1 bag (10 or 12 oz.) of fresh or frozen cranberries and ¼ c sugar. Pulse until roughly chopped. Measure 2 cups for use in the above pie.

Kale and Potato Soup

Kale and Potato Soup

Serves 4
1 or 2 slices bacon, fried, chopped
1/4 c. finely chopped celery
¼ c. grated carrot
½ c. chopped mushrooms
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups chicken stock
1 ½ c. finely chopped kale
½ tsp dried onions
1 medium (8 ounce) yellow or russet potato, scrubbed clean and chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
1 sprig rosemary or ½ tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese (opt.)

Cook bacon in medium saucepot, remove, chop and return to pan. Add celery, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, then add chicken stock, kale, dried onions, potatoes, rosemary (or oregano). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. If you like, you can use a potato masher in the soup to break up the potatoes a little.

Cook 15-20 minutes. Soup is ready when potatoes are tender, but this soup is good/better made a day ahead and reheated. Serve with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Vegetarian? Omit bacon, use olive oil, and vegetable broth.

Health-ier Monster Cookies

cookies with M&Ms on top
Health-ier Monster Cookies

1 c. creamy peanut butter
½ c. brown sugar
¾ c. rolled oats (the kind that cooks in 5-minutes, not instant)
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. vanilla
1 egg, large
1/3 c. chocolate chips
1/3 c. M&Ms

Makes 9 monster cookies. Recipe can be doubled.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease one large cookie sheet.

Using a mixer, blend the peanut butter and brown sugar until creamed. Mix in salt, baking soda, vanilla, oats, and egg. Stir in chocolate chips.

Using your hands, scoop up dough, squeeze, and shape into balls about the size of golf balls and place on cookie sheet. Press down with your palm to flatten slightly. Cookies can be about 2-inches apart. They don’t spread out much when baked. Gently press about 6-8 M&Ms into the top of each cookie.

Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until bottoms just start to turn brown ever so slightly. Remove from oven even if cookies don’t look done. Let cool completely. I like to wrap them individually in plastic wrap.

Options: replace a tablespoon or two of the rolled oats with ground flax seeds. Dried cherries, cranberries and golden raisins can replace the chocolate chips and you will still have a great cookie. Nuts? Sure!