Thanksgiving 2014: The Day After

WOW. Last night was pretty awesome. SO MUCH FOOD! We shook up this year’s menu a bit from last year’s. Like I mentioned on Wednesday, we aimed for a little more of an American Thanksgiving. I feel bad saying it but I try really hard to Americanize our food and household. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t because my culture is important to me and it’s something I want to keep going but I can’t help it.

Anyway, the table was pretty much half our traditional menu and the other was American.

On the menu we had:

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Turkey, obviously! (regular green salad in the bottom right corner that literally no one ate. Thanksgiving is not the time for “healthy” things)

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Parker House Rolls from Bon Appetit. So fluffy and so good! Spotlight may be coming soon!

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Macaroni and cheese. SO AMAZING. We added bacon and made the full recipe. This is that one time I am SO happy we have leftovers!

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Pastelón de viveres. This is my mom’s ~thing~; I don’t eat this at all. It’s basically a starch heaven casserole made with two kinds of taro root, green bananas (not to be mistaken with plantains but those can be used too), and kabocha squash. In the middle, there’s a layer of cooked pork. If you’ve ever had Dominican (or Puerto Rican? I’m not sure) pasteles en hoja, this is similar to that minus the leaves and the boiling part. It’s a weird culmination of things but my mom likes it and has been making it for the holidays lately, so I guess it’s here to stay.

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Salads and rice. On the left is my mom’s yellow rice with peas, below that is our potato salad, and next to that is macaroni salad.

The potato salad contains boiled and diced potatoes (duh) and carrots, diced hard boiled eggs, mayo, white vinegar, chopped cubanelle peppers and onions. The macaroni salad is almost the same as the potato salad; instead of potatoes, carrots, and eggs, it’s just tri colored macaroni.

Thanksgiving2014_Mashed Potatoes

Behind the salads was my sister’s mashed potatoes. She made this on her own, without a recipe! Very proud of her efforts, and they were delicious.

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Pastelitos or empanadas! These were filled with ground beef and diced hard boiled eggs. Some were just cheddar cheese. Crowd favorite!

For dessert, we had this Apple Cranberry Torta from Cooking Channel TV. I made several changes to the recipe but it was a moist and delicious little cake. I feel like it was maybe a cross between a pie and a cake. I’m still trying to edge that in, obviously! Recipe will be posted below.

Overall, we had a tasty Thanksgiving. I can see mac and cheese in my future! I’m ready to get my tree up and move on to Christmas! Can’t wait to see what’s on the menu then 😉

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Full spread. And my mom’s arm.

 

Apple Cranberry Torta – adapted from Giada’s recipe on Cooking Channel TV

Makes one 8″ round cake

  • 1/2 cup Grand Marnier (or other orange liquer)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 orange, zested
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of diced apples

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the orange liqueur just until warm. Turn off the heat and submerge the dried cranberries and golden raisins. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and line the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat the four eggs and add the melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and orange zest. Mix in the dry ingredients and beat just until combined.
  5. Gently stir in the apples, cranberries and raisins. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for up to 30 minutes. Cool slightly in the pan before inverting to peel off the parchment. Serve slightly warm.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I took the walnuts out of this and replaced it with golden raisins because half my family is allergic to nuts. 
  • I used one large Granny Smith apple but use any kind you’d like. 
  • I also soaked my dried fruit for quite a while, which helped them sustain the orange liqueur flavor. 
  • Technically the recipe didn’t state to line the pan with parchment but I don’t trust recipes that rely on just buttering the pan. /skeptic
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Recipe Roundup: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is finally here! Well, tomorrow officially but the wait is basically over. Even so, I don’t have a very clear idea of what’s landing on my dinner table tomorrow. It’s a struggle every year but this year feels different.

We try our best to combine both Dominican and American cultures on the table but I think this year, we’re leaning more on the American side. I guess I’ll see just how much we’re leaning tomorrow! Just know that no matter how far into the American side of things this family will lean, pie will never be a part of it (for shame:()

Anyway, I don’t have a recipe for today. Instead, I decided to do a little link roundup of recipes I’ve made or I’ve seen on the internets that I like and are on theme for tomorrow’s dinner. I’m including a few Dominican recipes that we’ve had for the holidays for those that want an idea of how to make some of those dishes. They’re not my recipes but we’ll get there one day! There will also a recap post of my Thanksgiving on Friday, so be on the lookout for that.

Treat House Salted Caramel Turkey

Salted Caramel Crispy Treat from Treat House NYC

 

Mains/Sides:

Bread:

Dessert:

Missed last year’s Thanksgiving recap? Check out what I had for dinner last year here.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Hot Cross Buns

My family isn’t really into holidays. If I’m not at the helm of the celebrations, nothing actually gets celebrated. I’m usually the one in charge of Christmas and Thanksgiving, along with birthdays and any other festivities. That’s because I love traditions, and even though our Easter traditions died with my youth, I’m tempted to resurrect them now as an adult (see what I did there?). When my sister and I were younger, we’d do the fancy dress, church, candy deal. All the kids in the building would get together and share candy while wearing our Sunday best, while the adults did their own thing.

These days, we don’t really do much for Easter. The only thing kept alive during these times is the making of a huge pot of habichuelas con dulce for Good Friday; a sweet dessert type thing from the homeland made of  blended, cooked red beans with tons of milk, sugar, spices, and patience. Inside of this slurry there are raisins, sometimes yellow yams (sweet potatoes?), and these mini milk cookies that I dubbed ‘Jesus crackers.’ This is the only highlight of Holy Week for me, and while we still get a taste of this traditional drink/dessert every year, I wanted to do more.

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In an effort to inject a little bit of some American traditions into my house, I tried making some hot cross buns. We were already used to buying those hot cross buns from the supermarket around this time of year. You know the ones; in a certain white and blue box boasting a mass of perforated shiny slabs that held barely any dried fruit, draped with a thick, white and slippery cross of icing draped over the top. Well, not this year.

The last time we had these in the house, I realized that I could do better. My family could do better. Sure, these buns were alright by their standards, but why stick to the packaged stuff when it’s this easy to make your own? After getting really accustomed to working with yeast and getting real deep in dough, I knew this wasn’t much of a challenge. Except, I needed a recipe.

I had an idea of what I wanted for these buns. My parental units like their carbs on the sweet side, so that was a no brainer. They’re also pretty into dried fruit. Besides taking part in hot cross buns during Easter, they are also big fans of fruitcake for Christmas. Yes, the stuff most people throw out, my parents purchase willingly. What can I say? They dig the fruit. Anyway, I knew I wanted to throw in as much dried fruit as I could into these babies. I opted for The Pioneer Woman’s super easy recipe but adjusted the amounts of fruit, among other things. Besides the recommended raisins, I also threw in some dried cranberries and chopped, dried apricots into the dough. All the dried fruit was about a cup’s worth, meaning these were packed with fruity goodness. I was tempted to soak them in some booze first but this is a holy holiday; I’m not about to get struck by lightning or spontaneously combust into flames over some boozy fruit.

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Not only was I tempted to booze these buns up, I almost didn’t add the cross. Before y’all smite me, let me explain. I’ve mentioned it several times here already but in case you didn’t know, my folks are not fond of any type of icing or frosting. Shameful, I know but that’s just how they roll. I’m quite the opposite (thank goodness) but I didn’t want my parents to skip out on these, considering I made these with them in mind. I even contemplated just doing some of them but that’s just not right. The whole point of these things is the cross; hence the name “hot cross buns.” What are they without that strip of frosting? A roll. It’s just a roll. I threw caution to the wind and crossed them all, hoping I didn’t just make a huge mistake.

While these buns are traditionally supposed to be eaten on Good Friday, we had these for Easter Sunday. And despite the presence of icing, these were actually a big hit! Not surprising, considering the circumstances. Even though the dough was a little tricky to work with, the buns came out super soft, chewy, and studded with fruit. The icing cross actually made these buns, adding an extra hint of sweetness to these lightly sweetened buns. Crazy what a little icing can do!  No one missed the tasteless, slimy, and sticky mess from the box this year.

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While this wasn’t what we used to do for Easter back in the day, it may be the beginning of a new tradition. Something tells me this won’t be the last time I make these, either.

Hot Cross Buns – adapted from The Pioneer Woman 

Makes 18 buns

Buns:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsps Active Dry Yeast (1 packet)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (additional) all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1/2 heaping tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 scant tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsps salt

Filling:

  • 1/4 sugar
  • 2 tsps cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1 cup mixed, dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, currants, apricots, etc.)

Glaze:

  • 1 egg white
  • Splash of milk

Icing:

  • 1 egg white
  • Powdered sugar
  • Splash of milk

Directions:

  1. For the buns: combine 2 cups of milk, stick of butter and 1/2 cup of sugar in a sauce pan. Heat until butter is just melted. Mix should be warm but not boiling. Take off heat and allow the mixture to cool slightly.
  2. Pour the mix into a bigger bowl. Sprinkle the yeast onto the liquid mix and add the 2 cups of whole wheat flour, and the 2 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir to combine; the mixture should be sticky. Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
  3. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
  4. In a smaller bowl, combine the 1/4 cup of sugar with the cinnamon and other spices. Set aside for now.
  5. Lightly flour your surface. Turn dough out and slightly flatten. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of the spiced sugar, and about a third of the dried fruits. Fold the dough over onto itself, flattening slightly. You should have a “plain” surface of dough. Sprinkle some more spiced sugar, dried fruit, and fold the dough over again. Repeat this process once more. No worries if you have left over spiced sugar.
  6. Portion and form the dough into dough balls. Place on a lined baking sheet and cover. Proof for 30 minutes to an hour.
  7. Preheat your oven to 400F.
  8. For the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white with a splash of milk. Brush the risen balls of dough with the beaten white.
  9. Bake rolls for about 20 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Remove from the pan and transfer to wire racks to COOL COMPLETELY.
  10. For the icing: beat the egg white with enough sifted powdered sugar to make a thick icing. Add in small amounts of milk, if needed, to reach your desired consistency.
  11. Place icing in a ziplock bag. Snip the corner off and pipe icing crosses onto each roll.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used a combo of soy, 2% and rice milk without any issues
  • I also used the remaining egg white/milk from the glaze for the icing  
  • Sift the powdered sugar for the icing; trust me

 

Apple Cake

My dad is a huge fan of apple desserts, which is an odd thing in itself because he doesn’t like many things. You give him anything with apples and he’ll be a happy camper; apple pie, strudel, danishes, muffins, donuts, oatmeal, etc. This week, I decided to make something that I knew he would just love and devour.

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I go to the local farmer’s market every Thursday, and get a bag of apples each time. A small bag of apples, with about a dozen for $1.50 is not a bad deal! I ended up accidentally stocking up on apples over the past few weeks and since no one was eating them, this cake happened.

This beautiful cake is from the brilliantly awesome Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, one of my very favorite blogs. When I am in search for any kind of recipe, I usually check her site first. I’m convinced everything she makes, even the things I haven’t tried, are just absolutely delicious. I made her S’more cake (from her cookbook) for my birthday this year, with amazing success. This apple cake is originally her mother’s, which makes it even more special and a higher guarantee for deliciousness.

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The process is pretty straight forward. The most difficult part of the recipe, if any, was probably peeling, coring, and chopping the apples. Everything else is a cinch, and doesn’t even require a mixer. The only piece of equipment necessary is a tube pan.  These things can be finicky, and can literally make or break a cake. This dense but delicate cake can definitely crumble under mishandling from the pan. I may or may not know this from experience 😉

The result is a lusciously thick cake, full of cinnamon-y apple craters. The edges of the cake caramelize in the oven, forming a sugary sweet crust that goes deliciously against the soft and tangy apple pockets. It reminded me a lot of an apple pie, which is a yummy change.  My dad, and everyone else in my family, thoroughly enjoyed this cake. I would definitely make it again, and strongly suggest you do too.

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Apple Cake – Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes one 9 or 10-inch tube cake

  • 6 apples, (Deb’s mom and I both used McIntosh apples)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.
  2. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla.
  3. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. A hand mixer makes mixing a breeze but is not necessary, just make sure you have a sturdy whisk! Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top.
  5. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before running knife between cake and pan, and carefully unmold onto a platter. 

Lucy’s Tips:

  • I used a 10-inch tube pan for this recipe, with great results. Deb originally used a 9-inch, and recommends this one
  • Grease that tube pan really, really well. I didn’t have any sticking problems but it can happen.
  • I used half brown sugar and half white sugar for the apples, which is not necessary. Deb’s original recipe asks for all white sugar, which is absolutely fine.
  • Make sure that when you insert a cake tester into the cake, that you do so towards the center for higher accuracy. Do not fret if the tester comes out slightly wet towards the end of baking; it’ll continue to cook while cooling. Do not overbake!
  • Seriously, completely cool the cake before taking out of the pan. I bolded it for extra importance. I cannot emphasize it enough! This cake is dense but fragile, because of the apples, and can cause breakage if unmolded while warm. Trust me, the wait is worth it.

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

August is coming to an end, and it’s already feeling like fall. Besides associating the fall with anything and everything pumpkin, fall to me means quality carbs. I’m talking bread, cookies, pies, muffins, scones and anything in between. I mean, how can you not associate fall with carbs? It is the beginning of the baking season; starting with Halloween. Besides it marking the beginning of the holidays, the fall also brings a welcome chill into the air that can be easily remedied with a warm, baked treat. Naturally, humans tend to bulk up a bit for the coming cold season and anything carby and baked is obviously the right answer.

Bread!

I started baking bread two years ago. At the request of my mom, I baked dinner rolls for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I looked for recipes that seemed easy enough for me to do in an afternoon and that did not require a mixer. I did find recipe gems that required a mixer but I attempted them anyway, even without the luxury and ease of one. While I am still pining for a 5-quart tilt head KitchenAid (in either Cobalt Blue or  Silver Metallic) with all the accoutrements, I brave these recipes and complete them by hand.

Bread dough is a finicky thing; more so if you’re a beginner, are sans mixer, and still don’t know what you’re doing. The most difficult step for me is the kneading. Besides not having any counter space (at all) to actually roll out and knead dough, my dough always comes out stickier than required. I know that with a little more kneading, the dough will stop feeling tacky but I find it hard to do so with a hand covered in dough whilst kneading in the bowl. I have to say, despite the challenge, I have learned how to knead dough in a bowl and figure out when it’s ready to rest and rise.

Even though dealing with dough can be problematic, I love making bread. My favorite part is blooming (proofing?) the yeast. It’s amazing to see this little envelope of powder come to life in a dramatically foamy and aromatic way. I love how these little foamy bubbles become bread. This is one of the things that keeps me going back to making bread every time, despite many failed attempts (most recently, two). The other is obviously the delicious results 😉

Risen and buttered rolls ready for the oven

Risen and buttered rolls ready for the oven

This recipe is usually my go to. It’s easy for beginners with or without a mixer and is easily adaptable. I have tweaked it many times, each with deliciously fluffy and sweet results. It’s great with a little softened butter, or by itself, straight out of the oven. There’s nothing like the warmth of freshly baked bread to welcome the incoming fall (and baking!) season.

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Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls – adapted from Allrecipes.com

Makes 16 dinner rolls

  • 1/2 cup warm water (110F/45C)
  • 1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  1. Dissolve yeast in the 1/2 cup of warm water with 1 tbsp of the measured sugar. Proof for 10 minutes
  2. Place milk, 1/3 cup of butter, the rest of the sugar and the salt in a medium saucepan. Cook on low heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the whole wheat and all-purpose flour. Set aside
  4. In a large bowl, beat the egg. Then, add the warm milk mixture and the proofed yeast
  5. Add in the flour mixture to the wet mix a little bit at a time, until fully incorporated.
  6. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface, adding more flour if needed, until the dough is no longer sticky.
  7. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let rest for 1 hour.
  8. Punch dough down and portion into 16 rolls. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment. Cover and let rise for 1 more hour.
  9. Preheat your oven to 375F. Brush dough balls with melted butter and bake your rolls for 10-12 minutes.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • The original recipe calls for only all-purpose flour and only 1/4 cup of sugar. Feel free to use either amounts of sugar, or types of flour. 
  • I weighed my dough prior to portioning, to ensure even rolls. You don’t have to but if you’re a stickler for accuracy like I am, you totally can. 
  • Make sure your water is not too hot! Water above 110F/45C can kill the yeast. Test the water by touching it, making sure it’s only a little warmer than body temperature. Or use your thermometer, if you have one. 
  • These rolls can easily be frozen. Flash freeze your rolls on the baking sheet after forming them. Thaw and let rise an hour before baking. 
  • The original recipe also calls for heating up your oven to 400F. I advise against this because it has led me to burnt bottoms and pale tops. Check the temperature of your oven to make sure it doesn’t run as hot, and keep an eye on your rolls!
  • If they still have pale tops, put them under the broiler for 2-3 minutes. 

Carrot Cake and Mistakes

I actually wasn’t going to make this post. I messed up a part of the recipe and it didn’t exactly come out ‘picture perfect.’ I thought about it and realized that there was probably a lesson in this failure, which reminded me of how I even started baking in the first place.

In my senior year of high school, I decided I wanted to go to art school. Of all places I could possibly end up, I thought that was where I belonged. Despite not having a single artistic bone in my body, I wanted to go to art school to explore one of my favorite hobbies: filmmaking. I had never even made a film in the first place; the only thing I had really done with a camera was record kids’ birthday parties and graduations. Honestly, I wasn’t even really good at it. I still wanted to pursue it because it was something I liked and people always said; “do something you love and it’ll never feel like work.” I had always loved taking pictures but video was new to me. I fell in love with it in middle school, where I had a film class as an elective. That Christmas, I asked my dad for a video camera and was basically on cloud nine. I loved taping everything and felt that this could have been my future.

Carrot shreddies

I applied for the film program at the School of Visual Arts and actually got in. Surprised as I was, I really thought this felt right. I went to orientation and got this weird feeling in my chest. I ignored it. “I’m just nervous,” I said to myself. Then came the first day of school. I really was nervous but as I introduced myself in an exercise for my first class, and was laughed at by everyone there, the feeling came back. I wanted to die of embarrassment. The kids in my class already knew each other because they lived in the dorms. I commuted to school so I didn’t have that luxury. I was visibly an outcast. I didn’t look like these kids or share their hobbies. They were really into filmmaking and I was really just a dabbler (by definition, these kids were actually hipsters but apparently, I was too “mainstream” to fit in with them). After spending my years in high school trying to blend in, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was uncomfortable and cried every chance I had. In class, I sat by myself. No one even wanted to sit next to me. I had never felt so unwanted in my life.

I lasted two days at SVA before I told my parents I wanted to leave. They all wanted me to stick it out but I couldn’t do it. I was unhappy. I cried all day, save for those times I was in class. I took bathroom breaks so I could cry and took advantage of those long breaks between classes to cry more. I lost my appetite and couldn’t even sleep. I only slept at night because my eyes were tired from all the crying. I stayed home from school and wrote my official withdrawal notice and sent it. I felt like a failure. My dad was disappointed in me. I felt ashamed and the ‘I told you so’ look from my dad just added insult to injury. I spent a couple of weeks sitting with this feeling and continued crying.

My parents tried to get me to take my mind off things by asking me to make something. I had always liked being in the kitchen but I had never made anything.  My dad was talking about carrot cakes one day and I took it upon myself to make one. I went to allrecipes.com, chose a recipe, and got started. I made several cakes in the four months I stayed home. I started making other things too, but this carrot cake was now my signature recipe. It felt good making something and having everything come out right.

Cake batter

Save for this weekend, where I messed up the recipe. Everything was going great until I was ready to pour the batter into the pan. I overfilled my poor 9″ round cake pan because I did not have a 9×13″ available. The cake’s edges were overbaked, sinking in towards the middle which was underbaked. I was disappointed because I knew better than to do that.

Cooling cake; obviously overfilled and overdone

Cooling cake; obviously overfilled and overdone

Thinking back to how I even got started and my baker’s mistake from this weekend made me realize that even though things may be going wrong, it’ll be alright in the end. I did fail at art school but it led me to a path where I did find something I genuinely have interest and success in. I ended up at the City College of New York; where I studied advertising and graduated this past May with honors. And while I did overfill and overbake this cake, it was still a delicious mistake.

YUM

Carrot Cake – adapted from allrecipes.com

Makes one 9×13″ cake or two 9″ round cakes

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch of ground cloves (optional)
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9×13 inch pan or two 9″ round pans. Grate your carrots.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the oil with the white and brown sugar. When light in color, incorporate one egg at a time. Add vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves. Toss raisins and nuts, if using, in a small amount of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
  4. Add the dry mix into the wet mixture slowly until incorporated. Fold in the raisins and nuts with the remaining bit of dry mix just until incorporated. Fold in the grated carrots.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s). Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • You can sub half of the flour with whole wheat flour
  • I have also used margarine, and unsalted butter in place of vegetable oil. Either one works great
  • If you don’t have light brown sugar, all white sugar also works. You can also make your own with some white sugar and molasses. 
  • I tend to add a little more cinnamon than prescribed 😉 use as much as you’d like
  • Remember to mix your raisins and/or nuts in a little of the dry mix; this prevents them from sinking to the bottom of the cake
  • If using two 9″ round cake pans, fill them halfway
  • Cream cheese frosting is amazing with this cake! My folks are frosting adverse so I don’t frost it. 

Zucchini Bread and a Trip to the Farmer’s Market

This summer has been a hot one! With so much sweat and stickiness, baking (and cooking) seems like an overwhelming feat. Since my last post, I’ve been mulling over what my first recipe post was going to be. I obviously wanted to start out with something sweet but this heat was discouraging me. Determined to share something with you guys, I finally decided on what I wanted to make.

My sister and I started our weekly pilgrimage to the greenmarket in our neighborhood every Thursday a couple of weeks ago. New York City hosts greenmarkets all over the city during the summer months that end right before Thanksgiving. I look forward to the arrival of our local greenmarket every summer; located about 10 city blocks from our apartment building. We trek out every Thursday, sometimes in the sweltering heat, and are instantly greeted with an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, and people. We usually stock up on fresh goodies like kale, cherries, corn and zucchini.

I didn’t really eat vegetables until a couple years ago. Now, I know what you’re thinking; how can you not have eaten vegetables?! Well, I grew up on a pretty limited diet that excluded anything green (unless it was ketchup). I was a very picky eater and mostly stuck to white rice, chicken breast, and bananas. This limited diet obviously wasn’t doing me any favors, and coupled with inactivity, lead to weight gain. It wasn’t until I committed to losing weight and eating healthy a few years ago, that I branched out to include vegetables as part of my daily diet.

One of the first vegetables I tried was zucchini. The varieties of summer squash intrigued me, leading me to choose the popular and green zucchini. Careful that I did not end up buying cucumbers, I set out to try to cook and eat them. I actually loved them! I’d bake them, saute them, make fries out of them, throw them in lasagna; the options were endless. Its mild taste and soft nature when cooked fascinated me. It wasn’t until recently that I welcomed the idea of baking it in a cake. Well, bread but you get the idea.

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed last night and stumbled across Food52’s post on zucchini bread. Food 52 is a great resource for recipes and if you haven’t checked them out, you should! I checked out the recipe and immediately got excited when I realized I had all of the ingredients. Normally, I’d be wary of testing a recipe like this but I can’t help but want to try it.

This was my first attempt at making a zucchini bread. I wasn’t wary because I have already had success with my signature carrot cake (a recipe I will share soon). It came out moist and ridiculously delicious. It was surprisingly popular with my picky father and is all gone already!

Please visit the Food52 website (and the original blogger’s page) for the beautiful story that accompanies this recipe!

Cooled bread.  Instagram: lalaluluj

Cooled bread.
Instagram: lalaluluj

Grandma’s Zucchini Bread – Good Things Grow via Food52

Makes 2 loafs

  • 3 cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cups canola or coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease two 5×9-inch loaf pans and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
  3. In a large bowl mix eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet and stir just until the flour is incorporated. Stir in the walnuts and dried fruit if using.
  5. Pour equal parts of the batter into each loaf pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack, then slice and serve.

Lucy’s Tips: 

  • I used my large loaf pan to make this recipe without any scaling. The original recipe is for two small loaves, which happily fit into my pan. 
  • I also used only raisins, instead of the dried cranberries and walnuts. I must admit, it’d be fabulous with walnuts. 
  • I added the raisins to my dry ingredients, so they wouldn’t all sink to the bottom of the loaf. 
  • I baked this in my toaster oven at 350F, on the bake setting for about 50 minutes. I turned up the temp to 400F and baked it for 5-10 minutes more because it was still undercooked in the middle. 
  • If baking in a toaster oven, please watch the cake! Make sure it is baked all the way through and watch out for dry spots. 

An oven by any other name…

…bakes just as good.

What’s in an oven? Lots of things, that’s for sure. Living in a small New York City kitchen, space is of the essence. Now, I love being in the kitchen but it is difficult to maneuver when the kitchen’s size resembles a shoebox. Well, what does one with space issues do? Rely on small appliances!

We have a microwave atop of the fridge, a toaster that lives in a cupboard, a panini press that lives on top of our washing machine, a blender that sits next to our toaster oven, and our prized possession in its own little nook in a corner of the kitchen. Our old and used up toaster oven is my family’s favorite appliance. It is convenient, cooks well and is out of the way.

Now, I have Dominican parents. I don’t know if anyone else has parents like mine but they like their things overcooked. Because of this, the oven is set permanently on the “toast” feature, with the temperature cranked up all the way up (thankfully, the oven doesn’t go past 450 degrees F). Depending on what I’m making, I change the settings. Some recipes may take longer to bake, so I have to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn/overbake. I actually love using the toaster oven because I get a better golden brown effect on some of my recipes. Maybe that’s why it’s called a toaster oven 😉

It may sound like we prefer the toaster oven (we do, hah) but we do use our conventional oven. The only problem with using it, besides overheating our apartment, is that my mom stores her pots and pans in there! To use the oven, we have to take everything out. This is also the issue with having a tiny kitchen; there’s nowhere to put them! When we do use the oven, pots and pans are everywhere you turn. We mostly reserve our big oven, as I affectionately call it, for items that don’t fit in the toaster oven, or if you’re planning on cooking a lot of things at once. It’s mostly in commission during the fall/winter seasons, because of the holidays and for its toasty, warming effect on our apartment on super cold days.  I personally use it if I’m making cookies, layer cakes, and dozens of cupcakes; which is actually a rare occurrence.

I hope this intro has intrigued you enough to follow me on my journey of discovery and deliciousness. I want to share my own recipes, as well as established favorites. I’m also planning on sharing my favorite items and gadgets, as well as cookbooks, bloggers, etc. I want this blog to be an extension of me and my time in my tiny kitchen. So, come for the recipes, but stay for the story 🙂