Friday, October 9, 2015

gooey butter cake

There is a time for kale, and a time for quinoa.  A time for lentils with herbed goat cheese, and a time for avocado on toasted sprouted wheat bread.  A time fill your body with fruits and vegetables, and fuel it with the nutritional goodness that only whole foods can provide.

Folks, this is not that time.

The timing of this post is apropos, since I am in the process of wrapping up several months of heavy travel, and heavy eating.  As I time this, I'm on a plane eating kale chips (and making a total mess of it, come to that- I'm pretty sure my seat mate thinks he's sat next to an overgrown 2 year old whose food ends up everywhere but IN HER MOUTH).  Breakfast was a protein bar, lunch was a veggie chili.  All this healthy-shmealthy food, but my mind is still reminiscing about the fresh pasta, gnocchi, rustic bread with homemade butter, and panna cotta from the night before.  Ah, memories.  **SNIFF**

I'm finally get a decent stretch of time at home, and I plan to embark on some healthy, clean eating to undo the sins from the last couple months.  But NOT before I post a recipe that flies in the face of clean eating: ooey gooey butter cake!

This recipe comes from a former beau who hailed from the south.  The recipe is the purest example of the single girl's golden rule: never break up with a guy before you get his recipes.  Roger that.

The cakes origins lie in St. Louis, Missouri.  There are fancier recipes for it that you could try, but the one below is so easy and so incredibly delicious, why go to the trouble?  You're busy enough!  This recipe is cut from the same cloth as my favorite Cheesy Corn Casserole.  Staple pantry ingredients + box mix = a creation that will make the entire after church crowd swoon.

The cake is made in two layers.  And the result is a buttery, decadent treat that I can almost guarantee you will make over and over again.  I've never had a dessert quite like it, and I can't wait for you to discover it, too!

Gooey Butter Cake

For the first layer:
2 eggs
1 box yellow cake mix
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick of melted butter

For the second layer:
3 3/4 cups (or 1 small box) powdered sugar (plus a little extra for sprinkling)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese at room temperature

(1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

(2) Mix 2 eggs, cake mix, vanilla, and the stick of melted butter.  The mixture will be thick.  Spread in an ungreased 9x13 inch pan.

(3) Next, mix the powdered sugar, 2 eggs, vanilla, and cream cheese.  Spread on top of the first mixture.

(4) Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until golden brown on top.  Don't overbake!

(5) When cool to the touch, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

xo h

Friday, September 25, 2015

spicy pickled carrots

The last couple of years, I've become rather enamored (obsessed? transfixed?) by all things pickled.  Pickling is the simple process of preserving food in a brine containing vinegar.  Once I discovered how easy it was to pickle things myself, I began pickling everything in sight.  I've pickled cauliflower, cukes, kohlrabi, chilies, devil's club buds (particularly proud of that foraged product- Bloody Mary, anyone?). But of all my pickled wonders, these spicy pickled carrots are my very favorite.

Why?  Because they are easy, colorful, and the perfect balance of tangy, sweet, and spicy.  My friend Lea introduced me to her recipe, and now I've made several batches of my own.  I eat them straight from the jar, or bring them on picnics and camping trips.  But my most common form of consumption?  I put a few in my styrofoam take-out Taco King container.  Because when I eat carrots along side my beloved lengua tacos, rice and beans, my Mexican comfort food is INSTANTLY transformed into health food!

BAM!  You're welcome.

Have no fear, folks.  These carrots are easy.  They were my first foray into pickling, and once I felt comfortable with the technique I began pickling things in jars with ease.  I'd stick to the brine recipe if I were you, but you can mix up what you put in the jars.  I've put mustard seeds, dill seed heads, peppercorns, fresh thyme sprigs, and bay leaves in mine.  In fact, my next batch might include a few of those.  But for your first time, stick to this recipe and you can't go wrong.

I dug up these pretty little carrots at Pyrah's Farm out in Palmer.  Right now is the PERFECT time to pick up a bag of Alaskan carrots at the farmers' market and knock your self out pickling up a frenzy.  I'm not an expert on preserving so if you'd feel more comfortable with a canning tutorial before you start, check out this link which has some basic information about canning and preserving.  I also love the blog Food in Jars, which has great information as well.  

Time to get pickling!!

Spicy Pickled Carrots
(Adapted from A Safe Kitchen)

4 cups distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons salt (pickling salt if you have it)
4-6 garlic cloves, halved
1-2 teaspoons red chili flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)
2 pounds carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut in half or quarters (if they're big), and cut in lengths about 1/2 to 1 inch shorter than the jars

(1) Take apart three new glass pint jars.  Set the screw tops and lids aside. 

(2) Fill a canning pot with water, or use a large pot with a metal sieve on the bottom (that's what I use).  Place 3 pint jars in the pot and bring to a boil- this will sanitize the jars.

(3) Wash the sealing lids with soap and water, then place in a small pot.  Fill the pot with some of the boiling water- this will soften edges of the lids for a better seal.

(4) Make the brine: In a medium sauce pan, bring the white vinegar to a boil.  Add the sugar and salt (I use pickling salt because table salt results in a cloudy brine) and dissolve completely.  Turn down to medium so it doesn't reduce too quickly while you ready the jars.

(5) Pull the jars out of the boiling water (I used to use tongs, but then I invested in a cheap pair of jar lifters which were totally worth the $10) and place hot jars on a towel on the counter.  Divide the garlic cloves and the chili flakes (as many or as few as you like) amongst the jars. Place the carrots in the jars, being careful not to pack them in too tightly.  Pour the brine over the jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of headroom.

(6) Place lids and screw tops on jars (using rubber kitchen gloves if you have them- these jars are going to be hot!!) and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes.  Let cool on the counter overnight, and check seals in the morning. 

They taste better after a week or more, so be patient!  


xo h