Classic Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is another family favorite, particularly for Alan.

He rarely misses an opportunity to try a slice wherever it’s served,

whether at home, or abroad,

or anywhere at sea!

Carrot cake was made especially famous after our grandson, Samuel, started requesting his mother’s amazing carrot cakes (along with bowling parties) for his birthdays!

You know a cake is extra special when a youngster asks for it starting at age two (decorated like a ball, of course) and keeps wanting it again and again!

Absolutely everybody looks forward to Brianna’s carrot cakes (and Samuel’s birthday parties). However, with the corona virus crushing cruises and vacations, I’ve developed such a hankering for a carrot cake lately that I decided to learn how to bake my own!

I consulted with Brianna but made up my own rendition, which passed muster with Sammy (and his grandpa) last weekend, so I’ll pass it along to you today, just in case you—too—have a penchant for this rich, moist, vegetable . . . I mean cake! 🙂

Classic Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Grate 2-3 large carrots (enough to make 4 cups)
Pulverize 2 cup walnuts or pecans (depending on which you like better)

In a mixing bowl, combine:
2 cups white sugar
1 cup softened butter, and whip until airy and smooth, then add:
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla and beat until well blended.

Next, add:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice and whip in mixer until completely smooth.

Then add:
4 cups fresh, grated carrots
1 cup crushed nuts (I used pecans, but walnuts are also classic; use 1 cup in the batter, and the other cup goes on top of the frosting later)

Divide evenly into two 10-inch well greased and floured cake pans.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350°F. or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Set on the counter and allow them to cool, loosening the edges with a knife after about 10 minutes to help keep the sides from sticking.

Cream Cheese Frosting for Carrot Cake

While the cakes are cooling (or while they’re baking), make the frosting:
In your mixer, add:
8 oz softened cream cheese
1/2 cup (4 oz) softened butter
6 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons light cream (or milk)
Whip until completely smooth and a bit airy.

Turn the first cake upside down on a platter and frost.

Add the second cake upside down on top of the first and frost.

Next, completely cover the tops and sides.

Press the last cup of crushed nuts around the edges, and whatever falls off, sprinkle on top at the end.

Voilà! A rich, super moist carrot cake fit for a king or a prince and versatile enough to be popular on cruise ships and bowling parties!

Out of Asher his bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties” (Genesis 49:20, spoken by Jacob while blessing his children before he died. Oh, that everyone in our world were able to enjoy “royal dainties”! I believe that someday, when the Messiah returns to rule the earth in righteousness and peace, there will be no more corona virus or other plagues, and there will be plenty for all. I wish He would come today! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!)

Hearty New England Clam Chowder

New England clam chowder has been a favorite for Alan and me . . . probably from 47 years ago, when we first tasted the creamy, buttery sensational creation of Paul Bernette, who was the chef at Weber’s Inn.

That’s where we spent the first two nights of our honeymoon, and ever since then, we’ve tasted and admired clam chowders from sea to shining sea! The classic look is white, but I think clam chowder tastes even better if you saute the bacon and veggies until they’re golden brown and crispy, although the trade off is a slightly browner chowder. If you prefer to keep it white, don’t saute the potatoes; rather, add water and let the potatoes boil as soon as the onions are tender.

Rich and Creamy New England Clam Chowder
(Serves 6)

In a frying pan, saute:
4 strips of bite-sized, chopped bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium potatoes, chopped
1 large stalk of celery, chopped (optional, but I like celery)
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1 teaspoon Montreal steak seasoning

Saute in until browned and tender, and then add:
2 tablespoons of flour until mixed
1 bay leaf
3 cups of water and simmer until all vegetables are completely tender, about 10-15 minutes

Five minutes before serving, add:
2 more tablespoons butter
1 cup half n’ half (light cream)
Heat until almost simmering, then add:
1 15-oz. minced clams (add both meat and juice)
Bring to a simmer but DO NOT BOIL! (Boiling makes the clams tough.)

Serve immediately with fresh bread and butter, or crackers, and possibly a tossed salad. This makes a very hearty meal, perfect for a cold night!

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall
never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Savory Pot Pies

Ever have trouble figuring out what to do with leftover roasted meat from your Sunday dinner? I tend to buy fairly large roasts (less money per ounce usually) but sometimes struggle to serve all the leftovers creatively. One trick I’ve learned is to save the broth in 1-2 jars (which can be frozen after they cool) and package the meat in one or more freezer bags for future use. In winter, a good meat pot pie for dinner makes the “leftovers” seem new again!

Pork Pot Pie
(although beef, chicken, or lamb work just as well as pork)
Serves about 8±

Gather your ingredients and preheat oven to 425°F.

Trim off the fat and cube the meat into bite-sized chunks.

Heat in medium-large cooking pot:
2 cups broth from previously roasted pork (fat removed)
2 cups cooked, trimmed, cubed pork (or beef or chicken)
2 large carrots, sliced thin
1 medium-large onion, chopped or chunked
1 cup frozen peas

1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoning salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup flour

Stir while heating until the filling is well mixed and the gravy is thick. Remove from heat and cover until you’re ready to use it as pie filling.

Make enough pastry for a 12″ pie (top and bottom; if you need a recipe, here’s mine:

Fill with steaming pie filling
Top with 1/2 cup fresh, chopped chives (optional)

Place top crust over filling.

Crimp edges to seal, make designs or cuts in crust, and bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake another 30 minutes or until turning golden brown around the edges.

Let it rest at least 10 minutes before serving.

Meat pot pies can be a meal-in-one, although I tend to serve them with additional fruits and veggies. The other night, we also had a wonderful loaf of fresh bakery bread someone had given Joel, so we felt especially full after dinner and ready to finish off our puzzle (before working out!).

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103: 1-5). Thank you, Father, for daily sustenance and refreshment!

S’mores in a Pan (So Easy Even Grandpa Can Make This One!)

This is such a simple treat that you might wonder why I’ve bothered to “write it up,” but it never occurred to me spontaneously, so maybe you haven’t thought of it either! It’s a great way to enjoy s’mores in the winter, passed along to me by my daughter.

Toasting marshmallows over coals on a warm, sunny day

Traditionally, (at least in our home) making s’mores has been a summer treat reserved for camping trips or backyard picnics after the fires have burned low. Outdoors! Where the kids can run around accidentally dropping burned marshmallows off the ends of their roasting sticks and smearing gooey fingerprints everywhere without making too much of a mess. It’s just too risky trying to make s’mores inside, even if you do have a fireplace. However, somebody thought of this:

S’mores in a Pan

Preheat oven to 400°F.
In the bottom of a cast iron griddle, spread:
2-4 oz. of chocolate chips per person
Cover with miniature marshmallows
Heat on top rack of oven for 3-5 minutes, or until chocolate is melted and marshmallows are starting to turn golden. (If the marshmallows haven’t browned, you can turn on the broiler, but then you really have to watch it carefully; I almost burned this batch, as you can see!) **Obviously, your cast iron pan will be burning hot, so make sure everyone knows NOT to touch the sides of the pan!

Serve immediately with graham crackers. Each person can dip in his own crackers and make his own s’more as he pleases. If kids stay at the table, it’s possible to eat the s’mores in a semi-reputable fashion, although the crackers will break apart (as always), so plates are good!

For chocolate lovers, chocolate graham crackers are a bonus, but they’re really yummy either way!

If you have little ones at home, or your grands come over unexpectedly, this is the perfect way to make a guaranteed-to-please treat in about 5 minutes!

Maybe not quite as thrilling as burning your own marshmallows over an open fire, but definitely great fun in winter! 🙂

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:24-27).

Avocado Toast

Ever looking for something fairly light, healthy, and low(er) in calories for breakfast? OR, ever trying to save money at an expensive restaurant? The first time I had “avocado toast” was at a ritzy ocean-view hotel in coastal Florida, where everything on the menu was at least twice as pricey as I was used to, and avocado toast ranked with oatmeal at the bottom of the price barrel. Since I love avocados and had never seen this item on a menu, I tried it. The taste was much more palatable than the price! 🙂

Sooner or later, all these “new” ideas creep from the coasts inland and find their way onto Michigan menus, and recently when I was having breakfast out with a friend, trying the new Morning Belle Restaurant, I noticed avocado toast on their menu. Amidst the potpourri of extravagant (and certainly highly fattening) delectable dishes, this seemed like a very humble, relatively healthy option, and so I ordered it. It is tasty, pretty, and light, but paying $9 for one slice of toast with an egg and some veggies somehow hurts my Scottish heart, and so I decided to make up my own version. For any of you who wish to be avant-garde in your hospitality without costing an arm and a leg, try this!

Avocado Toast at the Morning Belle Restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan

Avocado Toast
Makes one

Prepare your veggies:
2 sliced grape tomatoes (or chop up a Roma tomato)
Wash and chop a few spinach leaves
Peel and slice an avocado in half, and then slice in thin pieces to make a fan

Fry one egg in butter ((or poach in water). I happened to fry up a little ham too . . .

While your egg is poaching, toast your toast (whatever kind you like) and butter it well. I spread mine with a thin layer of mayonnaise for added zest, but that would be unnecessary.

Toast (the more classic is white or wheat, but raisin adds an extra touch of interest)

Avocado, spread out like a fan to cover most of the toast: drizzle with lemon juice and salt lightly
Add spinach and cherry tomatoes
Top with egg
Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste
Drizzle with balsamic vinegar

P.S.—This is a pretty mild dish, so if you want the flavors to pop a little more, add a touch of tabasco sauce! Also, it’s a very light dish, so if you want a little more substance, you can add some breakfast meat and fresh fruit (such as I did).

Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counselors” (Psalm 119:24).

Chicken Curry Lettuce Wraps

Alan and I have an annual “high tea” with two other couples to break up our winter, and because one of the gals is “gluten free,” we’re always trying to find a few alternatives to the traditional tea sandwiches. Cindi got this recipe for lettuce wraps from her mother, who says she got it 40 years ago from a missionary in Taiwan. We all loved it, and I think it might be a bit lower in calories (for those of us who are always counting . . . or thinking we should 🙂 )! If you try it, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I think it would also be great on a hot summer day when you want something light and cold for lunch.

P.S.—Cindi served hers with a little garnish of pea shoots from their farm share, but I’m sure they would be excellent just as written up above, or with chopped chives or green onions.

But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.”
(Psalm 13:5)

Death on a Plate

My oldest brother mentioned that his favorite “go to” when it’s his turn to bring a dessert for their bridge club is called “Death on a Plate,” and since anything that sounds so good it’s deadly appeals to me, I asked for the recipe. Rob got it from a buddy from back in the days when they were both working at Lockheed as rocket scientists, but the cake is simple—not rocket science—and pretty much fool-proof, bomb-proof, and a constant crowd pleaser!

It’s also very flexible, because my first run through, I totally missed the “salad oil” and left out the pudding mix, since I didn’t have one on hand. I used sparkling grape juice instead of Kahlua and English walnuts instead of black walnuts (which I couldn’t find in the store) . . . and it still turned out great. (However, I did double the amount of chocolate chips: from 6 oz. to 12 oz.)

Also, I served it with copious amounts of whipped cream to make sure the gooey factor was high enough.

On my second run through, I used a triple-chocolate fudge cake mix with 12-oz. of special dark chocolate chips and espresso instead of Kahlua. I remembered to add 3/4 cup canola oil but somehow managed to forget the vanilla pudding mix, (which I’d bought special for the occasion, since I normally just make it from scratch)— even though it was sitting on the counter right beside the mixes! Duh!! 🙂

Believe it or not, this cake is very forgiving, because it still tasted delicious!

Because this cake was made for a potluck with children present, I left out the nuts entirely (which put off lots of small children) and decided to make the cake more eye-catching by dripping some white chocolate ganache around the edges.

The final touch was spooning some hot chocolate over the top. I think of most cakes as serving 12, but I was able to slice this one into 24 pieces, which worked great for the potluck and gave more people a chance to try it. I can now vouch for my brother’s good taste and understand why it’s his go-to for special events! 🙂

(P.S.—if you need recipes for ganache and hot fudge, they can be found below. For a white ganache, just substitute white-chocolate chips for chocolate. For decorating a cake, you really only need about a quarter as much as the ganache tart calls for and about half the amount in my hot fudge recipe.)

He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen” (Deuteronomy 10:21).