Broccoli Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

I love a good broccoli salad and I am not afraid of mayo.

But I know many people who aren’t as in love with the condiment as I am. And that’s okay.

I settled on bringing broccoli salad to Easter dinner as my contribution. I was going to use my go-to recipe, which involves pasta, but then I found a non-mayo recipe on Pinterest. Those stalkers knew just what I would like!

My favorite thing about this broccoli salad is that there’s lots of fruit involved – apples, blueberries, and cranberries! The poppy seed dressing is sweet and tangy and a perfect compliment to both veggie and fruit. It gets bonus points for sunflower seeds.

I’m sharing the recipe today with some other Festive Foodie bloggers in honor of National Picnic Day, which is today April 23rd. I think this salad would be great for any picnic or potluck!

Broccoli Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 2 small heads broccoli, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 large apple, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 C blueberries
  • 1/2 C dried cranberries
  • 1/4 C sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 C diced red onion
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice, divided use
  • 1 C plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 C honey
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar

Steps:

  1. In a large bowl, toss together the broccoli, apple, blueberries, cranberries, sunflower seeds, and red onion with 1 tbsp lemon juice.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, honey, remaining lemon juice, poppy seeds, and vinegar.
  3. Pour dressing over salad to taste (I had a little dressing leftover) and serve.

*This recipe is adapted from Kristine at https://kristineskitchenblog.com/no-mayo-broccoli-salad-blueberries-apple/ *

Broccoli Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing for National Picnic Day from Sew You Think You Can Cook

Be sure to check out these other great picnic worthy recipes:

Asian Slaw by A Day in the Life on the Farm

Bánh Mì + A Wine Suggestion by Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Broccoli Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing by Sew You Think You Can Cook

Chicken BLT Shaker Salad by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings

Deviled Eggs with Horseradish and Dill by Palatable Pastime

Florida Stone Crab Claws with Key Lime Mustard Dipping Sauce by Family Around the Table

Italian Antipasto Pasta Salad by Books n’ Cooks

Marinated Three Bean Salad by Jolene’s Recipe Journal

Roasted Corn Salad with Chile Vinaigrette by Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accomplice

Southern Crispy Oven Fried Chicken by Everyday Eileen

 Thank you, Ellen of Family Around the Table, for hosting this National Picnic Day event.

#EasterWeek: Peeps Cookie Bars

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Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Earlier this year Firecracker wanted to make some cookies. My husband grabbed one of my cookie cookbooks (Cookies: Over 300 Step-By-Step Recipes For Home Made Baking). They selected more of a bar than a cookie, but we ran with it. Little tip for ya: Don’t try cutting out train shaped cookies from this bar, just let it be and cut it into rectangles.

The cookie bars were an almond cookie base, topped with jam, and marshmallows.

Now, my kids LOVE marshmallows. I’m talking bribery-status treat level here!

The cookies were quite fun and incredibly sweet. I had used a huckleberry jam from Knott’s Berry Farm.

I knew I had to try them again for Easter using Peeps!

I can’t recall having Peeps since making my famous (hey, the recipe was published in the Chicago Tribune last year!) Peeps Lemon Drop Martini FOUR years ago.

Peeps seem to get a bad rap (wrap?) these days. They’re one of those “love ’em or hate ’em” types of foods. Whatever. They’re delicious, and my kids, no surprise, quite enjoyed them. I’ll be sure to grab a small pack for their Easter baskets this year.

I used the bunny shaped Peeps because once cut in half, they’re thin enough to layer on the cookie bars. And to avoid any gruesome looking cookies, I used a pineapple and apricot jam instead of strawberry.

To make the cookies you first make the cookie base and let it cool. Then you top it with your jam before layering on sliced marshmallows. You need to cut them in half and place the cut side down to ensure they’ll stick. You then pop them back in the oven under the broiler.

Now, our oven has been busted pretty much since we moved into this home two years ago. The oven is older and runs into an “overheating” error that fails at a mere 350 degrees F. To work around the error we have to have the fan on the microwave running and the kitchen window open. Additionally, anything over 375 degrees F requires that nothing be on top of the stove, too. That means, I don’t get to use my broiler, so my marshmallows don’t get the toasty golden look to them (the Peep bunny faces did melt creating the allusion of toasted marshmallows). Ah well.

Peeps Cookie Bars for #EasterWeek from Sew You Think You Can Cook (1)

Peeps Cookie Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 C superfine sugar
  • zest 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 C ground almonds
  • 1 egg
  • 1 C flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • approx. 1/2 C jam
  • 1 pkg (3 oz) bunny Peeps

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9″x9″ cake pan (option to also line with parchment paper/foil).
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, and lemon zest with an electric hand mixer. Add in the vanilla, almonds, and egg until combined. Mix in the flour, baking powder, and salt until a dough is formed. Spread dough evenly in prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Spread jam over the baked cookie base.
  4. Cut Peeps in half horizontally and place, cut side down, on top of the jam. Return to oven and broil until marshmallows are golden.

Peeps Cookie Bars for #EasterWeek from Sew You Think You Can Cook

Be sure to check out these other Easter recipes:

Brussels Sprout Potato Cakes by Cindy’s Recipes and Writings

Candied Lemon Zest Jalapeño Deviled Eggs by Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accomplice

Carrot Cake Cookies by Daily Dish Recipes

Curried Deviled Eggs by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures

Dried Cherry and Almond Scones by Family Around the Table

Easter Egg Sugar Cookies by The Redhead Baker

Eggs Benedict Breakfast Bake by Cookaholic Wife

Greek Lamb Keftiko by Caroline’s Cooking

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole by Karen’s Kitchen Stories

Roasted Pork Loin with White Wine Sauce by A Day in the Life on the Farm

Maple Apple Baked Oatmeal by Jolene’s Recipe Journal

Peeps Cookie Bars by Sew You Think You Can Cook

Easter Bread Cheesecake – Pasca by All that’s Jas

Spring Veggie Crudités with Fresh Pea Hummus by Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Vanilla Bean Mocha Biscotti by Amy’s Cooking Adventures

Vegetable Breakfast Casserole by Simple and Savory

#EasterWeek: Whipped Ricotta Salad

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Wait a minute.

Wasn’t it just Christmas?

Am I allowed to admit I feel like I haven’t reached a level of organization for 2018 yet?

And we’re talking Easter!?

Well, since we’re talking about it, might as well cook about it!

This year’s #EasterWeek, hosted by Christie of A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures, convenes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and providing you plenty of time to come up with your perfect Easter menu. (Easter is April 1st – that’s 13 days from now!)

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

To start your menu, I propose a light and bright, spring-timey salad.

This salad comes from the cookbook Happy Cooking: Make Every Meal Count … Without Stressing Out by Giada De Laurentiis and is featured in her Las Vegas restaurant.

I quite like ricotta cheese, but when I have leftovers I never know what to do with it besides make some lasagna, ravioli, or pasta sauce. I have done muffins before, which is quite delicious.

With an almost full container of ricotta in my refrigerator, I selected one of Giada’s cookbooks hoping she’d know what to do.

Guess what.

She does!

This salad is both refreshing and satisfying.

The basil vinaigrette paired with the fresh tomatoes and the creamy ricotta reminded me of a caprese salad.

Whipped Ricotta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 C packed fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp + 2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided use
  • 1 C whole milk ricotta cheese, chilled
  • 3 C baby greens salad mix (I used a blend of kale and spinach)
  • 1 C cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 lb sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved

Steps:

  1. Make dressing: Place basil, toasted pine nuts, vinegar, salt, and red pepper flakes into a food processor and blend. Add in 3 tbsp of the olive oil until the dressing comes together. Set aside.
  2. Using an electric hand mixer, whip the ricotta with the remaining olive oil and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, gently toss the salad green, peas, and tomatoes with the dressing.
  4. Plate: Spoon whipped ricotta onto a plate and top with the salad. Serves 4-6 people.

Whipped Ricotta Salad for #EasterWeek from Sew You Think You Can Cook

Be sure to check out these other great Easter recipes:

Broccoli and Blue Cheese Gratin by A Day in the Life on the Farm

Bunny Cinnamon Rolls by Family Around the Table

Bunny Mary by Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Carrot Roll Cake by Cookaholic Wife

Chocolate Dipped Robin’s Egg Cookies by Amy’s Cooking Adventures

Crunchy Easter Bird Nest Granola Bites by Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accomplice

Deviled eggs with creme Fraiche and herbs by Simple and Savory

Easter M&M Blondies by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks

Easter Mini Chocolate Rum Cupcakes by Daily Dish Recipes

Egg Benedict Quiche by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures

Orange Ricotta Pancakes by Jolene’s Recipe Journal

Puff Pastry Eggs with Ham and Cheese by All that’s Jas

Sausage and Spinach Pie by Karen’s Kitchen Stories

Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread by Caroline’s Cooking

Whipped Ricotta Salad by Sew You Think You Can Cook

#FantasticalFoodFight: BLT

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I took a bit of a break from blogging over the Easter holiday. But I’m back and ready for a food fight!

Blog-oshper-ically speaking of course. Don’t you dare throw food around my house. You’ll get a glaring look, scolding, and slap on the hand. Just ask my 17 month old. Not that any of those punishments seem to work. Who wants to give us advice on how to get the child to STOP THROWING HIS FOOD ON THE FLOOR!?

This month’s Food Fight is BLT. Recipe requirements were to share a sandwich that contains bacon, a green leafy veggie, and tomato.

With it being the Easter season, I immediately thought of trying to make egg salad with our colored eggs. My mini me loved helping peel the eggs.

 

This year was the first we colored eggs with our children and I am so incredibly, words cannot express how happy I am that they loved it! My husband had the genius idea to color eggs outside and it’s a good thing we did! Treat just kept wanting to drop eggs into the mugs of dyed water. The concept of being gentle is completely lost on him. The result of the splash the eggs into the water method was a dark puddle of water on the tray holding the mugs of dye.

I’m on the trend of starting to like eggs and I’m happy to report that I quite liked this egg salad. I’m confident it’s the yellow mustard that makes me enjoy it so. Putting egg salad on a BLT is probably the best way to eat it, too! The crunch from the bacon and the freshness from the tomato create the perfect bite.

This recipe makes 4-6 sandwiches.

Egg Salad BLT Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 9 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1 lb center cut bacon, cooked
  • 8 slices sourdough bread, toasted
  • 2 vine ripened tomatoes
  • 4 leaves romaine hearts

Steps:

  1. Make egg salad: In a bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard, paparika, and onion powder. Season to tastes with S+P. Fold in the chopped eggs.
  2. Assemble sandwiches: Spoon egg salad onto a slice of bread. Top with 2-3 slices tomato, 3-4 slices bacon, and one lettuce leaf. Add a second slice of toasted bread. Cut in half and serve.

*The egg salad recipe is adapted from Heather at http://missfrugalmommy.com/easy-egg-salad-recipe/*

Egg Salad BLT for #FantasticalFoodFight from Sew You Think You Can Cook

To check out the other Fantastical BLT sandwiches click here:

If you would like to join our Fantastical Food Fight, you can learn more on our informational page.

Carrot Cake Energy Balls #EasterRecipes

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Today is my last post as part of the Easter Week with “Holiday Fun with our Blogging Friends.” This week, 13 bloggers are sharing 46 recipes and tips to help you serve up deliciousness this Easter. Follow #EasterRecipes on social media to see what we’re serving up! I’ll be taking the Holy Weekend off from my computer and spending it with my family and friends.

Our brunch menu consists of those Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls I shared with you yesterday, eggs, and bacon. Our dinner menu will be my Parmesan Pork Tenderloin, a corn and green bean casserole from one of my cookbooks, and some crescent rolls on the side. For dessert, as is tradition, I’ll be making my grandmother’s Easter Pound Cake in her lamb mold.

To round out my carrot cake related offerings this week I provide you with a healthy option. These energy balls even qualify as raw vegan (assuming you leave off the drizzle of cream cheese icing)!

If you love carrot cake, you absolutely must stop everything you’re doing and make these energy balls. You won’t feel guilty in the slightest indulging in a couple.

Firecracker helped me make them – aka he dumped ingredients into and pushed the buttons on the food processor – so he knew there were a bunch of carrots in these treats. Even if I called it a cookie he wouldn’t actually try a bite.

Treat on the other hand, inhaled two of them with his lunch! He had two more of the bunch later in the week, too.

I brought them to Bible study, as I knew one of the moms follows a raw vegan diet. I brought that Caramel Apple Dip as planned, but as we’d made these carrot cake bites the day before, the lightbulb went off and I knew I had to leave cream cheese icing off half of them. They were greatly approved and appreciated.

You can customize these balls to suit your tastes, too. Use any nut you like and any nut or seed butter in your pantry. I actually used a honey sunflower butter!

Carrot Cake Energy  Balls

Ingredients:

  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 6 Medjool dates, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 C pecans
  • 1 tbsp sunflower butter
  • 1 C quick oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • cream cheese icing (optional)

Steps:

  1. Pulse carrots in a food processor until finely shredded. Remove and set aside.
  2. Place the dates and pecans in the food processor and pulse until combined. Return the carrots to the food processor along with the remaining ingredients. Pulse until the mixture starts to come together.
  3. Form into balls. If the mixture is too thin, add a little more oats; if it’s too dry, add a little extra sunflower butter.
  4. Optional: Thin out the icing with milk. Drizzle over the energy balls.
  5. Store in refrigerator up to a week.

*This recipe is adapted from http://www.superhealthykids.com/no-bake-carrot-cake-bites/*

Carrot Cake Energy Balls | Sew You Think You Can Cook | #EasterRecipes

Be sure to check out these other Easter recipes:

Baked Eggs with Tomatoes by A Day in the Life on the Farm

Hot Cross Buns by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures

Classic Peanut Butter Confetti Bars by Making the Most of Naptime

Easter Muddy Buddies by Family Around The Table

Honey Cinnamon Quick Bread by Amy’s Cooking Adventures

Linda’s Famous Carrot Cake by Cooking With Carlee

Mini Easter Cheesecake Bites by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks

In case you missed them, here are the #EasterRecipes from the first half of the week:

Monday

Deviled Ham Bites by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures

30 Minute Dinner Rolls by Amy’s Cooking Adventures

Easy Pecan Sticky Buns by Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids

Easy Citrus Ham by Jolene’s Recipe Journal

Sausage and Vegetable Strata by A Day in the Life on the Farm

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus With Lemon Herb Sauce by Tip Garden

Strawberry “Carrots” by Family Around The Table

Easter Malted Milk Dip by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks

Sharadan’s Lemon Blueberry Parfaits by Cooking With Carlee

Easter Egg Cooking and Dyeing Tips and Tricks by Palatable Pastime

Tuesday

Italian Easter Bread by Palatable Pastime

Carrot Cake Pancakes by Sew You Think You Can Cook

Torta Salata Pasquale by A Day in the Life on the Farm

Dill Roasted Radishes by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures

Roasted Parmesan Asparagus by Family Around The Table

Praying Arm Pretzels by Amy’s Cooking Adventures

Creamy Coconut Mini Tarts by Making the Most of Naptime

Wednesday

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls by Sew You Think You Can Cook

Cinnamon Crescent Rolls by Tip Garden

Individual Easter Breads by Cooking With Carlee

Tomato Asparagus Quiche by Caroline’s Cooking

Peeps Whoopie Pies by Palatable Pastime

Rosemary Garlic Herb Rib Roast by Family Around The Table

Honey butter Peas and Carrots by Jolene’s Recipe Journal

Pea and Pasta Salad by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures

Roasted Eggplant Salad by A Day in the Life on the Farm

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls #EasterRecipes

What do you do when you can’t sleep?

Do you just toss and turn, stare at the dark ceiling and hope for rest to return?

Well, today (yesterday) I decided to do something productive with my restlessness. Maybe I’ll be regretting that later, but I was tired of feeling like I was keeping the hubs awake. (Pun unintended.)

So what did I do?

Wash dishes.

Everyone washes dishes at 2am, right?!

I don’t know why I couldn’t sleep. I have a slight head cold, but it’s nothing to write home about. (Hopefully this “just wake up” decision doesn’t come back to bite me with that cold. I’m off to get some Nyquil tomorrow!) I keep having these parenting dreams that seem all too real, involving unplanned pregnancy and horrible mothering.

I think the real culprit has something to do with the first of three preschool tours lined up this month in the morning. All yesterday, while he was playing with his trains and talking up a storm, I just looked at him and thought, “When did you get so big?”

We aren’t looking to start Firecracker in school until the Fall – he’ll be 3 and {hopefully} potty trained by then. He is definitely interested in going to school. My boy is such a social butterfly, it’s just something we need to do for him. He’ll be attending VBS at our church this summer, so it’ll be a great test! (Yep, typing that reminded me to go register him now. Look at all of the productive things one can get done in the 2 o’clock hour!)

Who knew picking a preschool would be such a big decision!? I have a spreadsheet on my computer with our top choices, breaking down stats, including the insane cost that is preschool. We’re only considering 2 or 3 times a week, and half days. Yikes!

Maybe typing out these thoughts will help calm my mind and I’ll be able to go back to sleep soon. Odds are I’m going to end up asleep on the couch, computer in lap!

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Absolutely none of that intro story has to do with the Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls I’m sharing with today’s Holiday Fun with our Blogging Friends group. Except that I have to write this post and might as well do it at 2:45 in the morning, right? That way I don’t have to pull out my computer during playtime with my growing boys!

This week, 13 bloggers are sharing 46 recipes and tips to help you serve up deliciousness this Easter. Follow #EasterRecipes on social media to see what we’re serving up!

Yesterday, I shared Carrot Cake Pancakes that came with a confused maple cream cheese topping. All of that leftover maple mixture didn’t go to waste. I simply made cinnamon rolls the next day! Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls, of course.

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls

Ingredients for the dough:

  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 C warm water
  • 3 tbsp room temperature butter
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 3 – 4 C flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tbsp salt

Ingredients for filling:

  • 4 tbsp. butter, softened
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1/2 C raisins
  • 1/2 C chopped walnuts

Ingredients for frosting:

  • 1 block (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 C real maple syrup

Steps:

  1. Stir yeast into the warm water. Let bloom for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat butter, sugar, and salt. Add eggs one at a time, beating until combined. Slowly pour in the yeast and water. Beat until combined. Add the flour about one cup at a time, beating until combined after each addition. Once the dough starts to form switch to the dough hook attachment. After all the flour has been added knead the dough for 3 minutes.
  3. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead by hand until smooth.
  4. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise to double in size (about 30 minutes) in a warm place. (In the microwave or turned off oven)
  5. Roll out dough onto a floured surface.
  6. Roll into a rectangle. Spread the dough evenly with the softened butter. In a small bowl whisk together the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Sprinkle the mixture over the dough. Add the grated carrot, raisins, and walnuts, pressing into the dough slightly. Roll the dough into a log, lengthwise. Cut the dough into 2″ cinnamon rolls. Place cut side down in a 9×13 casserole dish.
  7. Cover dough with a towel and let rise for 30 minutes before baking. The rolls should have doubled in size again. (Or you can freeze the rolls and after thawing let rise until doubled in size.)
  8. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake another 7 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool, slightly.
  9. Meanwhile, make frosting. Using a hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese and syrup. Frost the cinnamon rolls!

Carrot Cake Cinnamon Rolls Sew You Think You Can Cook #EasterRecipes

Be sure to check out these other Easter Recipes:

Cinnamon Crescent Rolls by Tip Garden

Individual Easter Breads by Cooking With Carlee

Tomato Asparagus Quiche by Caroline’s Cooking

Peeps Whoopie Pies by Palatable Pastime

Rosemary Garlic Herb Rib Roast by Family Around The Table

Honey butter Peas and Carrots by Jolene’s Recipe Journal

Pea and Pasta Salad by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures

Roasted Eggplant Salad by A Day in the Life on the Farm

In case you missed them, here are the recipes from Monday and Tuesday:

Monday

Deviled Ham Bites by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures

30 Minute Dinner Rolls by Amy’s Cooking Adventures

Easy Pecan Sticky Buns by Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids

Easy Citrus Ham by Jolene’s Recipe Journal

Sausage and Vegetable Strata by A Day in the Life on the Farm

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus With Lemon Herb Sauce by Tip Garden

Dipped Strawberry Carrots by Family Around The Table

Easter Malted Milk Dip by Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks

Sharadan’s Lemon Blueberry Parfaits by Cooking With Carlee

Easter Egg Cooking and Dyeing Tips and Tricks by Palatable Pastime

Tuesday

Italian Easter Bread by Palatable Pastime

Carrot Cake Pancakes by Sew You Think You Can Cook

Torta Salata Pasquale by A Day in the Life on the Farm

Dill Roasted Radishes by A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures

Roasted Parmesan Asparagus by Family Around The Table

Praying Arm Pretzels by Amy’s Cooking Adventures

Creamy Coconut Mini Tarts by Making the Most of Naptime

Cocoa Carrot Cake from The Chef Next Door

Two months ago I reviewed  The Migraine Relief Plan by Stephanie Weaver and I loved the assignment of digging into a cookbook to really understand the author and explore more than one recipe at a time.

My friend, Tara of Tara’s Multicultural Table, does a lot of cookbook reviews in serious detail and so, I decided to give cookbook reviewing a trial session before jumping into it on an official scale.

I decided to take to my personal cookbook selection and review those I already own. To start off, I chose The Chef Next Door by Amanda Freitag.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

You probably know Amanda from her roles on Food Network as a judge on Chopped and a contestant in Next Iron Chef America. She is a highly talented chef and a successful restaurateur.

She opens her book with a very heartfelt introduction admitting her insecurities when it comes to cooking at home. For her, the kitchen comfort zone is her busy restaurant kitchen with a loud atmosphere, staff, and countless kitchen tools at her fingertips.

To help the reader learn to feel more comfortable in their own home kitchen, she provides tips and skills that any cook can learn to call on. Spoiler alert – none of them cost a dime.

The book is broken into 9 chapters and even has a section with menu suggestions for special occasions. Each recipe includes a miniature story including tips before the ingredient list. To really help out the home cook, Amanda has included the steps for prepping each recipe before the official list of steps on how to complete the dish. There are also photographs to accompany each recipe.

Because it’s Easter week, I’m featuring her Cocoa Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. The frosting is incredible – cream cheese icing is usually my go-to, but her version features far less sugar than my grandmother’s and I’m sorry, Busia, but I like this cheesier alternative better. As for the cake, it’s a rich, dark cake chocked full of carrots and walnuts.

Cocoa Carrot Cake | Sew You Think You Can Cook | http://sewyouthinkyoucancook.com

This recipe will make a 10″ round cake or a 9″ round cake and 10-12 cupcakes.

Cocoa Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients for cake:

  • 2 C packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 3/4 C flour
  • 1/4 C cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 lb carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 lb walnuts, chopped

Ingredients for icing:

  • 3 stick butter, at room temperature
  • 3 8 oz pkgs cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 C powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cake pan with parchment paper and then grease with nonstick spray.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine brown sugar and oil until combined. Add the eggs two at a time, mixing well.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. Slowly add it to the stand mixer, mixing until combined.
  4. Fold in the carrots and walnuts.
  5. Pour batter into prepare cake pan. Bake 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out cleanly. Allow cake to cool slightly before turning out of the pan onto your hand and flipping again onto a cake stand to cool completely.
  6. Make icing: In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter with an electric hand mixer. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract, mix on low to start. Mix until smooth.
  7. Frost the cooled cake. Decorate with extra chopped walnuts, if desired.
  8. Keep in refrigerator at least an hour. Allow cake to come to room temperature before serving.

Cocoa Carrot Cake | Sew You Think You Can Cook

One of Amanda’s tips is to not be afraid to veer from the recipe. If you’re missing an ingredient, figure out something else that would work. All it takes is practice in the kitchen to become comfortable understanding the purpose of each ingredient in the recipe.

Following that advice, I made her Puerto Rican Pernil using a boneless pork shoulder and my slow cooker instead of the oven. I made Salmon with Peas, Pearl Onions, and Mint taking advantage of frozen pearl onions instead of peeling fresh ones myself. I also made Cornmeal-Crusted Chicken Thighs with Jamaican Spice, reducing the cayenne to appeal more to the little ones in my home.

The Chef Next Door cookbook review | Sew You Think You Can Cook