Friday, July 15, 2011

24 Carat Cake

Carrots are such a versatile vegetable. They can be used in sweet as well as savory recipes. They're wonderful either raw or cooked. They can be chopped, sliced, grated, pureed, or eaten whole. They're super nutritious and they keep for quite a while in the fridge.

I like to add grated carrots as a nutritious extender in potato salad, egg salad, tuna salad, and macaroni or pasta salad. Just mix some finely grated carrots into any of these old standards for a healthy dose of color and vitamin A.

On the sweeter side, here's a delicious carrot cake recipe adapted from an old edition of the Farm Journal cookbook that was given to me by a dear friend. This recipe makes a two-layer cake, but you can increase the recipe by 50% and make a spectacular three-layer cake fit for a special event.

24 Carat Cake

1-1/3 C sifted all-purpose flour
1-1/3 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1-1/3 C granulated sugar
1 C vegetable oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 C finely grated carrots
2/3 C crushed pineapple, well drained
2 t finely grated orange rind
1/2 C chopped pecans
1/2 C flaked coconut, lighted toasted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Butter 2 9-inch round cake pans and sprinkle them lightly with flour. Set aside.

3. Sift together the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

4. Add the oil and eggs and beat until well combined.

5. Mix in the remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly.

6. Pour the batter evenly into the 2 prepared pans and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean .

7. Cool the cakes in their pans for a few minutes. Then run a thin knife around the edge to loosen the cake, if necessary, and turn out the cakes onto a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting between the layers and on the top and sides with cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting: Cream together 1 stick butter with 8 oz cream cheese. Mix in 1 t vanilla. Gradually beat in about 1 lb confectioner's sugar, until frosting is of spreading consistency. If it's a little too thick, add some milk, orange juice, or orange-flavored liqueur. You can also add finely grated orange rind to the frosting.

Going on Vacation? Don't Toss Those Veggies!

Summertime is vacation time for many, and clearing out the refrigerator is a pre-vacation ritual in my house. With our compost pile and our chickens, not much food goes to waste. But between our garden and the CSA, I can still find my refrigerator full of beautiful fresh produce just days before I leave town. Lately, I've taken to figuring out ways I can preserve my fruits and veggies for later use. Here are a few tips you might find helpful if you find yourself in the same situation.

Summer squashes, eggplant, peppers, mushrooms, and leeks can be sliced and sauteed in a little olive oil until just tender. When cool, pack them in freezer containers and freeze. Use them later in soups, stews, or as toppings for pizza. Remember, they've already been cooked, so add them toward the end of cooking. Defrost and pat dry before using as a pizza topping.

Corn kernels can be cut off the cob raw or after lightly steaming the corn. Allow the corn to cool before packing in freezer containers and freezing. Use the corn in corn chowder, corn pudding, soups, and stews.

Tomatoes lose their structural integrity when frozen, but they can still be used for tomato sauce. If you don't have time to make a slow-cooked tomato sauce before you leave, peel the tomatoes and freeze them whole. They'll be just fine for sauce when you return.

Berries can be frozen whole on a cookie sheet, then packed into freezer containers and frozen. They'll be mushy when you defrost them, but they're fine for smoothies and for mixing into yogurt or oatmeal. Or use them to make jam or preserves.

Stone fruit should be pitted, peeled and sliced into sections, then frozen on a cookie sheet and packed just like berries. They'll be mushy, too, when defrosted, so use as you would berries.

Turn fresh herbs into pesto and freeze the pesto. Don't add cheese until you defrost it.

Root veggies keep for weeks in your fridge, so carrots, parsnips, potatoes, onions and the like will probably been fine while you're gone. However, sometimes I chop and cook carrots and parsnips in a little broth or water until very tender. When cool, I puree them until smooth and pack in freezer containers. I'll turn these purees into soups when the weather turns cooler.

Of course, you might be able to take some of your fresh produce with you when you travel. I frequently pick green tomatoes from my garden and let them ripen on my trip. I'll eat them days later when they're ripe with some locally-bought fresh bread.

If you're really pressed for time, just pass along your fresh fruits and veggies to to friends and neighbors. Who wouldn't love to get some of summer's best.

Today's bounty included the following:

From Underwood Family Farms: Romaine lettuce, Blue Lake green beans, bi-color corn, round carrots, summer squash, pickling cukes, Texas sweet onions, and Cherokee heirloom tomatoes.

From Sage Mountain Farm: Arugula, carrots, pattypan squash, collard greens, heirloom purplette onions, and rainbow chard.

From Sweet Tree Farms: Yellow nectarines and plums.



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