Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fall Carrot Cake

I'm not much of a dessert person, but occasionally I find myself craving a sweet treat. This week I decided to challenge myself and make one of my favorites - carrot cake. But how make it healthier? Yes, it already has carrots, which is great, but I also added my secret weapon (that is about to be seen a lot this time of year) - canned pumpkin! This ingredient is not only one of the most nutritious foods, but it also adds great moisture to baked goods. In addition, I added crushed pineapple for flavor and texture.

And what's a carrot cake without cream cheese frosting? Instead of overloading it with extra butter and full-fat cream cheese, I simply reduced the butter and sugar amount and used 1/3-less fat cream cheese. I also finished the frosting with fresh lemon juice to brighten it up.

The end result? I think the picture says it all...I'm ready for another piece.


Fall Carrot Cake
Serves 15

All you need:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrot
1 cup crushed pineapple
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup flaked coconut (optional)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2 (8 oz.) packages 1/3-less fat cream cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup flaked coconut (optional)

All you do:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Coat 2 square (8-inch) cake pans with cooking spray and lightly flour.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, sugars, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.

3. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, oil and vanilla until smooth.

4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture.

5. Fold in the pineapple and pumpkin until well combined.

6. Fold in the carrots and then the nuts and coconut.

7. Pour batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

8. Meanwhile, beat the butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and coconut for 1 minute. Finish with fresh lemon juice.

9. When the cake is completely cooled, transfer the bottom layer to a platter and frost. Top with second layer and frost again until cake is completely coated and smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Cut and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

French Onion Soup

Nothing beats a warm bowl of soup on a gray, rainy day. From a young age, I remember by dad always loving French onion soup and we would always order it when we went out to eat. However, I never made it from scratch until I went to culinary school. It's rich, flavorful broth becomes even more decadent when the gruyere cheese melts into it. It's comfort food at it's finest.


French Onion Soup  
Serves 4

All you need:
5 large yellow onions
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 quart beef stock
1/2 cup white or red wine
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
4 slices baguette bread

All you do:
1. Peel onions and slice thin.

2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft and slightly golden, about 20 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add garlic, beef stock, wine and thyme. Cover and simmer soup for an additional 30 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, shred cheese and slice baguette for topping.

5. Ladle soup into 4 soup crocks and top with bread and cheese. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and golden.


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fresh Marinara Sauce

After a slight break from the kitchen (for my marriage/honeymoon), I'm back! While the Dominican Republic had amazing food, by the 5th day of our vacation Josh and I were both saying how we wanted a home cooked meal.

The dietitian pick of the month at work are canned tomatoes. While they might not seem like a healthy option when compared to fresh, they actually have more lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Canned tomatoes also have a more concentrated flavor, making them a good addition to soups, dips and sauces. I decided to make a homemade marinara sauce and the end result was so rich and hearty! I'll definitely be making this one again soon.


Sausage Pasta with Chunky Marinara Sauce

Serves 4

All you need:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 cup red wine
2 (28 oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 chicken sausage links, any flavor, sliced
1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti noodles, cooked and drained

All you do:
1. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add diced celery and carrot and cook an additional 5-10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add red wine and simmer until wine has reduced by half.

4. Stir in crushed tomatoes, cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

5. Stir in fresh herbs and adjust seasonings as needed. Remove sauce from heat and keep covered.

6. In a large skillet, head 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add sliced sausage and cook 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crispy. Transfer to a bowl.

7. In the same skillet, add sliced onion and cook until slightly caramelized. Add sausage back to the skillet and remove from heat. 

8. To serve, place spaghetti noodles on a serving platter. Top with fresh marinara sauce, caramelized onion and sausage. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.

*Note: any extra marinara can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 6 months.