Carrot Cake Cookies

One recent weekend Neil and I were invited to a small gathering where the theme of the night was soup.  The basic idea being that the hostess makes two or three varieties of soup to choose from, someone brings bread, someone else brings handheld nibbles, and we eat, drink, and are merry, then run outside into the cold New England evening to watch the annual Torchlight Parade (several towns trim their fire trucks out in Christmas lights and parade down the main thoroughfare).

Since bread had been accounted for, as had corn muffins, southern style red beans & rice, and three varieties of soup, I decided to bring cookies.  While at lunch that afternoon Neil commented “I wish that there were such a thing as carrot cake cookies.” and it was decided that was what we’d make.  What I did to create this recipe was look at existing carrot cake cookie recipes, then cross some of my favorite elements with our family recipe for carrot cake which includes the likes of shredded coconut and fresh pineapple.  The result was a chewy cookie with a creamy and not-too-sweet filling that was very well received by party-goers.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup coarsely grated carrots (2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (I like to use a variety: Thompson, red flame, and golden)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup fresh pineapple, diced (see note if using canned pineapple)
  • 1/8 cup coconut flour
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon

Directions

  • Preheat your oven to 375°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
  • Whisk together flour, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, baking soda, and salt in a bowl
  • Beat together butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla until pale and fluffy
  • Mix in carrots, and raisins, shredded coconut and pineapple at a low speed, then add the flour mixture and beat until just combined
  • At this point the dough will be a little too wet to scoop, so add in the 1/8 cup of coconut flour a little at a time until the dough just tightens up
  • Drop walnut-sized balls of dough for each cookie cookie 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, about 12 minutes
  • Pull the baking sheets out and flatten each cookie with a fork in a manner similar to that performed on a peanut butter cookie, then pop them back in the oven for 1 minute to finish
  • Cool cookie sheets on racks for a  minute, then transfer the cookies to racks to cool completely
  • While the cookies are baking, blend the cream cheese, honey and lemon zest until smooth
  • Sandwich the flat sides of the cookies together with a generous helping of cream cheese filling

*Note: if using canned pineapple, your dough will be more wet.  To offset this, add up to 1/4 cup coconut flour at the end to tighten it up to the appropriate consistency.

You could also add walnuts to the cookie dough for depth of flavor.  A great alternative to cream cheese would be a soft goat cheese.  Feel free to omit the lemon zest if it’s not to your liking.

 

Carrot Cake Cookie

Carrot Cake Cookie

Peach tart

The tart is somewhat of an archnemesis to me.  It’s the dough, you see, it hates me.  It has such simple ingredients: a little butter, a little sugar, some flour, salt, and egg- how could one screw this up, right?  Well I could, and have, several times.  This is where Smitten comes in.  She took Dorie‘s recipe and she worked it and she published it and she explained that we need not be afraid of it because she had conquered it- and she was right!

I tried this tart shell recipe once last fall and loved the flavor, but the texture did not come together right for me.  I was impatient, you see.  This time I took the time and had the patience, and it paid off.  The dough is like shortbread in flavor and consistency.  In this particular instance, I used local peaches from the Open Square Farmer’s Market in Holyoke.  I baked them into the pillowy love of a goat cheese custard.  It was a marriage made in heaven.

Tart shell

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon frozen, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg

  • In a food processor pulse the flour, sugar and salt together
  • Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in
  • Stir the egg, just enough to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition
  • When the egg has all been added, process in long pulses until the dough forms clumps, and eventually turns into a ball
  • Chill the dough, wrapped in plastic, for about an hour before rolling
  • To roll the dough: Roll out chilled dough on a floured sheet of parchment paper to a 12-inch round
  • Peel off paper. Seal any cracks in the dough.  Fold any overhang in, making double-thick sides
  • Pierce the crust all over with fork
  • Freeze the crust for at least 30 minutes before baking
  • To par-bake the crust: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F
  • Put the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake the crust for 15 minutes
  • Let the crust cool on a trivet while you prepare the filling

Filling:

  • 6 medium peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 6-8 slices per peach
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup soft goat cheese
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • zest of one lemon

To make the filling:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F
  • Arrange the peach slices in overlapping circles on top of the crust, until it’s completely covered (don’t be afraid to overfill the crust, as peaches will shrink during cooking)
  • Combine the egg yolks, goat cheese, sugar, flour, and lemon zest and beat until smooth. Pour the mixture over the peaches
  • Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour, until the custard sets and is pale golden in color
  • Transfer the tart pan to a wire rack to cool. When cool, remove the side wall of the pan

Fantastic accompaniments to this dessert would be vanilla ice cream, freshly whipped cream, and/or a brandy reduction.  Enjoy!

J

Southwest Salmon & Black Beans

This dish was the best way that I have ever had salmon prepared.  It’s zesty and flavorful, has a great variety of textures, and is super-healthy.  Grilling the fish avoids stinking heating up the house on these days of 90+ degrees and ridiculous humidity, and it allows it to get a great crisp on.

I can honestly say that I was weary of using all of the herbs called for in the dressing.  I love mint, but I love it in desserts, and sometimes it weirds me out to have it in a savory dish.  Well not this time.  The cilantro, basil and mint meld together and you taste none of them individually, but the combination is smooth and wonderful.  Now if I can only figure out how to use of the remaining 4 lbs. of mint in my back yard, I’ll be all set….

I opted to take creative liberties with the recipe that I followed (of course) and served the beans on the side with some jasmine rice that had been cooked in chicken broth.  It was probably unnecessary as both Neil and I were so stuffed by the end of this meal that is was silly, but I was initially worried that a piece of fish on top of lettuce wasn’t going to cut it with our appetites.

Ingredients:

1 ½  lb salmon

1 small onion, minced

1 small red bell pepper, diced 1/4 inch

4 medium cloves garlic pressed

1 TBS +  ½  cup chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups or 15 oz can black beans, rinsed & drained

1 ½  TBS ancho chili powder

2 cups chopped lettuce (like butter or romaine)

Dressing:

4 TBS fresh chopped cilantro

2 TBS fresh chopped mint

2 TBS fresh chopped basil

5 TBS fresh lemon juice

4 TBS olive oil

1 TBS chopped pepitas

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Season salmon with salt and pepper and set aside
  • Heat 1 TBS broth in a skillet and when it begins to steam add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté over a  medium heat for about 5 minutes
  • Add 1/2 cup broth, black beans, and ancho chili powder. Cook for another 10 minutes and season with salt and pepper to taste
  • While the beans are cooking, preheat your grill
  • In a bowl mix together cilantro, mint, basil, lemon juice, olive oil, pepitas, salt and pepper
  • Grill the salmon for about 10 minutes (your grill should be between 400 and 500 degrees)
  • Serve the salmon on a bed of lettuce, topped with the dressing, with beans on the side

J

Wilted kale salad

This recipe could serve a few different purposes: it could give you a great way to use up an excess of kale, it could give you a great alternative to yet another mixed greens salad, or it could give kale a whole new flavor profile in your head that you just can’t get over because you love it so much.  Or, like Neil, you could really dislike it- which is fine.  Not everyone can share my love of all things green and funny looking that are meant to be ingested.  But, really, I did love this salad.

Ingredients:

1 pound kale

Mediterranean Dressing

2 tsp lemon juice

1 medium clove garlic, pressed

1 TBS extra virgin olive oil

salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Chop your kale leaves into 1/2-inch slices, and cut again crosswise (stems included)
  • Add the kale to a steamer basket and cover and let steam for 5 minutes
  • Transfer to a bowl and toss with Mediterranean Dressing ingredients  while still hot

This recipe was inspired by a post on World’s Healthiest Foods.

J

Chicken with White Beans

Buttery cannellini beans with earthy herbs, tart lemon juice and luscious chicken chunks.  This recipe is fab! but it takes a little while to make as there’s a do-ahead step for the marinade so that the chicken can soak up some flavors before being cooked.    It’s well worth the time, however, so go ahead and give it a try.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 sprigs fresh oregano leaves
4 sprigs fresh tarragon leaves
4 sprigs fresh basil leaves
4 sprigs fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups cooked white cannellini beans

Directions:

  • In the bowl of a food processor or blender, place olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, leaves of oregano, tarragon, basil, parsley, rosemary, and some ground black pepper
  • Blend all ingredients well until a smooth bright green paste is formed (you might need to add a few spoonfuls of water if the mixture looks too thick)
  • Marinate the cubed chicken in the refrigerator for 2 hours, or overnight
  • Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large pan over moderate heat until hot
  • Add cubed chicken, and allow to brown lightly without stirring
  • Begin turning chicken after 3 minutes, then add onion and Sauté for 2 minutes, until onion begins to soften
  • Add beans and continue to cook for 2 minutes longer, until chicken is cooked through and a light sauce forms around chicken pieces
  • Season with the salt and pepper

I opted to serve this over some orecchiette, sided by wilted collard greens.  The recipe was inspired by this post on Whole Foods Market.

J