Saturday, November 27, 2010


Sam's carrot cake

True confession:  I had never made a carrot cake before when I decided to try this recipe.  Why I had never made a carrot cake is not a mystery.  It’s because I had never eaten carrot cake.  And that is because I didn’t think I would like it.  Those of you who are carrot cake fans or addicts are shaking your heads in wonderment.  And now, of course, so am I.

This recipe, rated 5 stars on and written by the grandson of “Sam,” was followed to a “T,” with the only exception being that I plumped the raisins in orange juice and lowered the baking temperature from 350F to 325F.  From my first bite, I was addicted to carrot cake – its moistness, rich and complex flavors from fruits, nuts and, of course, the carrots – and the creamy frosting that crowns it. 

I loved this cake, its texture and flavor are amazing, but I'm not giving it my top rating.  The reasons:  first, it’s geared to an 8x12 pan.  Who has one?  I was lucky to have in my kitchen a 7.5”x11.75” Pyrex pan, and it worked well.  Next, I think the cake needs more salt and spices.  That being said, I dreamed about this cake when I wasn’t eating it.  After I try other carrot cake recipes, I may come back and change this rating.  But, like I said, I’ve never eaten carrot cake, so I have no reference point. 

Sam’s Famous Carrot Cake
Adapted from
Rating:  9.0 out of 10
Click for printable page
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup raisins
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon (I would add 3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice to this next time)
1/4 tsp. salt (I would increase this to 1/2 tsp. next time)
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk or soured milk (sour milk=3/4 cup milk + 2 tsps. cider vinegar)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple, undrained

In 1 cup Pyrex measuring cup, microwave orange juice on high till hot, about 20 seconds.  Add raisins.  Leave in microwave (turned off) for 15 minutes or longer to plump raisins.
Heat oven to 325F.  Grease and flour an 8x12 pan.  Line with 2 pieces of wax paper cut to fit bottom of pan.

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, spices and salt.  Whisk in carrots, coconut and walnuts.

In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, oil, sugar and vanilla till smooth.  Lightly stir in pineapple and drained raisins.   Add flour mixture and stir lightly with spatula or spoon till combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan; bake 1 hour or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  
Sam's carrot cake (2)
Cool cake in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack.  Remove wax paper. 

Sam's carrot cake (3)

Cool completely before frosting with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting.  If desired, sprinkle additional toasted chopped walnuts over frosting. 
Sam's carrot cake (8)

Friday, November 26, 2010


I like to cut most of the turkey meat from the bones right after dinner, separating out what we'll eat in the next two days.  It's not a good idea to keep cooked turkey in the fridge past 3 days, counting the day it's cooked.  The bones get frozen if I'm not making soup in the next day or two, along with a package of the meat that will go in the soup.  I usually have two packages of bones and two packages of meat for the bones.  Additional packages of meat would be for casseroles or pot pies.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use up turkey, but note that the recipes listed might be for chicken.  Just substitute turkey, as the two are interchangeable.

Turkey or Chicken Tortelloni

Turkey or Chicken Pot Pies for Two
Favorite Turkey or Chicken Salad
Turkey or Chicken Bones Soup
Tomato-Turkey or -Chicken Vegetable Soup 

(No picture for this favorite old standby soup that is both comforting and delicious.)

I hope your Thanksgiving was a memorable one, filled with good food, friends and family.  

Monday, November 22, 2010


Recently, hubby and I took a trip to Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Orangeburg, South Carolina, and came home via Hot Springs and Waynesville, North Carolina.  It was this trip that made me realize how badly I needed a new suitcase.  

It's not that ours are shabby or anything.  It's just that I want something that's more serviceable and sturdy, yet feminine.  I fell in love with this one:

I love the magenta color and the shape of it, but also admire the sturdy wheels.  It's easier to pull a suitcase that has sturdy wheels that keep the suitcase upright as you pull.  But these wheels also "spin" in different directions, allowing you to easily change directions.  Very functional, yet so pretty and feminine.

I also like this "spinner" in more subdued yet still feminine tones:

But I am dreaming.  There isn't even a trip on the horizon, yet I can't stop thinking how I would love to have a new feminine suitcase.  How about you?

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Caramel Apple Pie (4)

Our local farmer’s market had beautiful, big Rome apples recently.  My favorite apples for pie are, in this order:  Stayman Winesap,  Stayman and Rome.  Staymans are hard to find, and Winesaps are almost nonexistent in New Bern, so Rome is my go-to apple for pies.  They become slightly more tangy when baked and hold their shape well. 
Caramel Apple Pie

The inspiration for this recipe came from Linda Hundt, a multiple prize winner in the Crisco National Pie Contest.  Linda now has her own pie/pastry shop in Michigan where people line up for her pies.  When I read the recipe for her “Grandma Ferrell’s Caramel Apple Pie,” I was put off by the amount of sugar used – 2 cups in the pie and topping plus caramel sauce.  Whew!  No way could I eat that.  Linda also thickens the apples with flour.  I decided to use the parts of her recipe that I liked and change or discard the rest.  That meant adding some whole grains, reducing sugar and replacing some with apple juice concentrate, adding some apple jack brandy and 1 dropper of liquid Vanilla stevia, and most importantly, precooking and cooling the apples before baking. 
Caramel Apple Pie (6)

Precooking apples takes a little more time, but it eliminates the need for a thickener, because all the juices flow out of the apples when cooked.  As they continue to cook, some of the apple juices are absorbed back into the apples, intensifying the apple flavor.  It makes for a really good pie.  Instead of making Linda’s homemade caramel sauce, I opted to open a jar of Smucker’s Special Recipe Butterscotch Caramel Sauce.  Because the apples in the filling are not overly sweet, the very sweet crumb topping does not overpower the apples, and a bit of caramel sauce really takes the pie over the top. 

A crispy, crunchy, sweet crumb topping over slightly sweet and tangy apple filling, topped with rich and sweet caramel sauce -- this pie is a winner, and one that I would gladly make again.

Caramel Apple Crumb Pie
Inspired by Grandma Ferrell’s Caramel Apple Pie
Rating:  9.5 out of 10
Click for Printable Page

1 (9”) deep dish pie crust, homemade or store-bought

Crumb Topping: 
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup old-fashioned (5-minute) oats
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, soft

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix by hand or with a pastry blender until crumbly.  Set aside.

5 large Rome apples, peeled, cored, quartered, cut into wedges
1-1/4 cups frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. apple brandy
1 dropper liquid Vanilla stevia (or other liquid sweetener equal to about 1 tsp. of sugar + 1/4 tsp. vanilla)

Caramel Sauce: 
Smucker’s Special Recipe Butterscotch Caramel Sauce, or other caramel sauce of choice

Heat oven to 400F.  Combine filling ingredients in 9x12 or larger baking pan.  Bake 25-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, or till apples are barely tender.  Transfer cooked apples to a sheet pan to cool.  Return pan with juices to oven and bake till light syrup forms.  (Time will depend on how juicy your apples were.)  Alternately, you can cook the apples in a large skillet, removing apple wedges as they become tender and cooking the liquid to a syrup.  Either way, scrape the syrup over the cooling apples and toss to combine.  Cool completely, at least one hour, then spoon filling into crust. 

Caramel Apple Pie (7)

Do not put crumb topping on at this time.  Bake pie in lower part of oven 30 minutes.  
Transfer to counter and spoon crumb topping over pie.  Return to oven and continue to bake an additional 30 minutes, or till pie bubbles. 
Caramel Apple Pie (2)

If crumb topping browns too quickly, loosely tent aluminum foil over pie.  Cool pie on wire rack for several hours before slicing.  Serve with a large spoonful of warm caramel sauce.


There were 34 entries in the Kikkoman Giveaway.  Each entry was assigned a number from 1-34, in the order the comments were posted.  34 numbers were entered into the random number generator.  The first number that came out was 34 (Free Recipe Site Guy).  The second number was 27 (Nutmeg Nanny).

Congratulations to the two winners!

Friday, November 19, 2010


pumpkin cc streusel muffins (2)
Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips are the perfect complement to a very moist, modestly spiced, sweet pumpkin muffin.  A brown sugar-cinnamon-pecan crumble topping brings the flavors over the top.  Now add a silky texture reminiscent of pumpkin pie, and you have the ultimate pumpkin muffin.  This very well may be my most favorite muffin of all, and you can just bet I’ll be making more.

Please try these, you won’t be disappointed!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Streusel Muffins
Inspired by The Peppered Pantry
Rating:  10 out of 10
Click for Printable Page
Topping:  1-1/2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. toasted pecans, chopped
2 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat)

In small bowl, combine all topping ingredients; set aside.

Muffin:  1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose +
3/4 cup white whole wheat) 
2-1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli bittersweet 60% cacao)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar (I used 2 Tbsp. NuNatural Stevia powder)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
3/4 cup cooked mashed pumpkin, or canned pumpkin
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1 (3.9 oz.) cup unsweetened applesauce (about 1/2 cup)

Heat oven to 400F.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin, or line with paper cups that have been lightly sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  In large bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips; set aside.

In medium bowl, whisk together sugars, eggs and oil till smooth.  Whisk in pumpkin, juice and applesauce until blended.  Add wet ingredients all at once to dry ingredients and stir with spatula or spoon just till barely combined.  Do not over mix, a few lumps are okay.  Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, using about 1/4 cup for each.  
pumpkin cc streusel muffins (3)
Top with streusel. 
pumpkin cc streusel muffins (4) 
Place muffin tin in oven on center rack.  Close door and immediately reduce heat to 325F.  Bake about 20 minutes, or till toothpick inserted in center of muffin returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool in pan 5 minutes, then turn muffins out onto wire rack to finish cooling. 
Yield:  12 standard-size muffins

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Whether you want to make this fabulous apple-soy-brined grilled turkey with apple jack cream gravy or some other recipe using Kikkoman products, you need to enter this giveaway.

There will be two prizes:
PRIZE #1:  two full-size Kikkoman products from The Rogers Group, the co-sponsor of this giveaway.
PRIZE #2:   a Kikkoman reusable grocery bag, 

adorable rubber ducky

 and coupon for one free Kikkoman product, from me.

First-place winner (first name drawn) will have choice of one of the two prizes.  Both winners will be selected by random drawing.  Any US resident may enter, no need to be a blogger.  Deadline for entering is Thursday, November 18.

1.  Mandatory entry:  Leave me a comment , any comment at all.  Include your email address!

Extra (optional) entries:
2.  Follow my blog or subscribe to my feed, then leave me a comment telling me what you did.

3.  Follow me on TWITTER, then leave me a comment telling me what you did.

4.  Like me on FACEBOOK, then leave me a comment telling me what you did.

5.  Leave me extra comments, as many as you like.  Each comment counts as one chance.  I would love to hear what you will do with the prizes, how you use soy sauce, what you think of my turkey/gravy recipe, or anything else you can think of.

Apologies to other readers, but this contest is open to US residents only.

Remember, deadline is Thursday, November 18, and your time starts.....NOW!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Kikkoman brined grilled turkey (3)

I was contacted by a representative of The Rogers Group and presented with a challenge:  to prepare a turkey using Kikkoman soy sauce in the brine.  First, let me say that I am a huge fan of brining.  There’s no question in my mind that a brined turkey is moister, more flavorful and tender.  Brining has become an important  part of my turkey roasting ritual.  But soy sauce in the brine?  At first, my mind rejected the idea.  But then I  thought, why not?  Soy sauce is really another form of salt with flavor added – umami, as they would say on Iron Chef. 

Besides, I wait all year for Thanksgiving because I love turkey, so why not get some of that wonderful turkey goodness early?   I accepted the challenge, along with a box of goodies from The Rogers Group (lots of Kikkoman products, an apron, a Kikkoman spoon rest, and a $25 gift certificate which paid for my 11.5-lb. Harris Teeter Premium turkey). 

Brining is definitely catching on, and brining bags are starting to pop up in grocery stores and online to make the job a little easier.  It’s worth the price to buy a throw-away bag that’s food safe.  Plastic trash bags are not food safe and should never be used to brine a turkey.  You can use a bucket, if you have one that’s clean, but how do you fit it into your fridge where you can control the temperature and keep the turkey cold?  Definitely buy the brining bag. 

All turkeys nowadays (except for the $50 ones) are injected with some solution that contains salt.  Not wanting to eat a salt lick for dinner, I did tweak the Kikkoman recipe a bit to cut some salt.  The perfect venue presented itself:  hubby was having his football buddies over to watch the Browns.  They were ecstatic to taste a pre-Thanksgiving experiment at half-time instead of the usual hot dogs.  Apple Jack cream gravy, potato stuffing, roasted fingerlings, baby carrots and asparagus, cranberry sauce and caramel apple pie rounded out the meal.  The Apple Jack cream gravy, made with the turkey drippings, is my new favorite, even beating Emeril's giblet gravy made with white wine. 

I’m so glad The Rogers Group sent me two big bottles of Kikkoman soy sauce, because  I’ll definitely be making this brine again, not just with turkey, but also with chicken.  It’s delicious, not too salty and added such nice flavor to the turkey.   There was no hint of soy sauce in the flavor –  the turkey just tasted good.   Everyone gave it two thumbs up, way up.  And, by the way, the Kikkoman website has plenty of recipes and ideas for using their many and varied products, as well as printable coupons.Kikkoman brined grilled turkey

Soy-Apple Brined Grilled Turkey with Apple Jack Cream Gravy
Rating:  9.5 out of 10
BRINE:  (for 10- to 15-lb. turkey -- double the recipe for 16-24 lbs.) 
2 quarts +  20 oz. cold water (divided use)
2 Tbsp. coarse sea salt (or kosher salt, if preferred)
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 (12 oz.) container frozen apple juice
4 oz. Kikkoman soy sauce, regular or low sodium (I used low-sodium)
2-1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage (or 2-1/4 tsp. dried sage)
2 tsp. celery seed
4-5 fresh thyme sprigs (or 1-1/8 tsp. dried thyme)

TURKEY:  1 (10 to 15 lb.) frozen turkey, thawed in refrigerator and rinsed with cold water, neck and giblets removed.  (Generally, figure 5 hours of thawing for each pound, but this depends on the temperature of your fridge and whether you place the turkey on the upper or lower racks, in the front or in the back. The higher up you place your turkey in the fridge, the warmer the temperature and the faster the thawing.  And the front of the fridge is warmer than the back of the fridge.) 

1 small unpeeled apple, chopped in chunks
1 celery stalk, chopped in chunks
1 small onion, chopped in chunks
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2-3 thyme sprigs
4-5 sage leaves, chopped

GRAVY:  Drippings from turkey
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided use
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1-1/2 Tbsp. apple jack brandy
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt  and pepper to taste

To make brine, combine 1/2 cup cold water with salt and sugar in a small saucepan.  Heat to boiling; stir till salt and sugar are thoroughly dissolved.  Cool; chill in fridge several hours till very cold.  (You can do this one day ahead.)  When ready to brine, add remaining water and brine ingredients to salt/sugar solution.    Place rinsed, drained, thawed turkey in brine, using a brining bag or clean bucket; cover.  (Do not use a plastic trash bag!)  Refrigerate turkey overnight, or at least 8 hours.  Remove turkey from brine, discarding brine.  Rinse turkey well, inside and out, with cold running water; drain; pat dry inside and out with clean paper towels.

To grill turkey, prepare 3-burner gas grill by heating right and left units only to 350F, or heat one side of a 2-burner gas grill.   Buy an inexpensive (about $9 at Wal-Mart) turkey roaster with V-rack and just use it for the grill.   Buy a second shallow pan (disposable) that will fit inside the roaster and under the turkey to catch the drippings.  

Stuff main and neck cavities with the aromatics.  Place turkey legs inside metal; skewer shut neck cavity; turn wings under.  Rub turkey with oil or butter.  Place, breast side down, on V-rack over unlit portion of grill.  Cover grill.  Cook 1-1/4 hours.  Turn turkey over on back, breast side up, using clean potholders or mitts.  Continue to cook additional 2-1/2 hours, or till pop-up timer pops.   Thermometer inserted at the inside of the thigh should register 165F.  (Insides of thighs and wing joints are the last two parts of the turkey to cook.  All parts of the turkey must register 165F or higher to kill bacteria.)  It is not necessary to baste this turkey.  If any part of the turkey browns too much, cover it with tinfoil to keep it from burning.  If entire top of turkey is too brown, tent loosely with tinfoil while continuing to cook. 

Transfer V-rack with cooked bird to a cutting board that has indentations for juices.  Cover bird with tinfoil, then with a clean bath towel, folded over.  Let rest for at least 1/2 hour, or up to 1-1/2 hours.  When ready to carve, remove towel, tinfoil and V-rack and pour juices that have collected into gravy.  Discard aromatics.

To make gravy, strain drippings from disposable pan through strainer into a 1-1/2-quart saucepan.  Place saucepan in freezer for 1/2 hour; discard hardened fat.  Whisk in 1-1/2 cups broth and heat to boiling over medium-high heat.  (Combine cornstarch with remaining 1/2 cup of broth; whisk into pot and cook till gravy thickens, several minutes.  Lower heat; add brandy and cream.  Taste to adjust seasonings.  (The drippings are so flavorful you will not need much, if any, salt and pepper.) 

Sunday, November 7, 2010


apple coconut muffins (2) 
Muffins make a wonderful breakfast item, snack and even dessert.  My freezer is always full of several kinds.  This one is almost guilt free, because it’s loaded with fiber, fruit, whole grains, healthful coconut oil, and not much sugar.  Yet it’s moist, tender,  flavorful and sweetly satisfying.  Spread with European butter, one of these muffins is a decadent treat, but I usually top mine with Smart Balance Lite.  You'll get 1 dozen standard-size muffins and 1 dozen minis from this recipe.  They’ll go quickly because they’re really good.
apple coconut muffins
Just in case you don't care about fiber, good fats and less sugar, I've printed the original recipe below and mentioned in parentheses what I did to make the recipe more healthful.
Coconut-Apple-Cranberry-Pecan Oat Crumble Muffins
Adapted from
Rating:  9 out of 10
Topping:  1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
5 Tbsp. quick oats
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. butter, melted (I used Smart Balance buttery spread)
Muffins:  2-1/4 cups flour (I used 1/2 cup coconut flour, 1-1/4 cups bread flour + 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour)
1-1/2 cups brown sugar (I used 3/4 cup brown sugar + 3 Tbsp. NuNaturals Stevia)
1 tsp.baking soda
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 large egg
1-1/2 cups yogurt (I used 6 oz. Greek yogurt + enough 2% milk to make 1-1/2 cups)
1 Tbsp. coconut-flavored rum (my addition, optional)
1/2 cup oil (I used 1/2 cup unrefined extra-virgin coconut oil)
2 cups chopped or grated apples (I used Granny Smith)
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Heat oven to 450F.  Grease a 12-cup standard muffin tin and a 12-cup mini-muffin tin.  In small bowl, combine topping ingredients; set aside.

In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.  In medium bowl, whisk together egg, yogurt, rum (if using), and oil till smooth.  Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir lightly with spoon or spatula, just till barely mixed. Do not overmix.  Stir in apples, cranberries and pecans.  Spoon batter into prepared pans, filling each almost to the top.  Spoon some of the topping over each, pressing in slightly.  Place in oven and immediately lower heat to 350F.  Bake minis about 12 minutes, standards about 17 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool in pans 5 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling.  Yield:  12 standard muffins + 12 mini muffins

Monday, November 1, 2010


My new love is champagne vinaigrette.  My version uses lots of fresh parsley, chopped fine.  The parsley gives the vinaigrette wonderful flavor and it's also a very healthful herb.  Loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, raw parsley also acts as a blood cleanser and helps to keep blood from getting sticky.  I'm so glad it tastes good, too.  You can make the vinaigrette in just minutes, no waiting time either.  Chopping the parsley is easy if you have a sharp knife.  My hubby keeps our knives sharp, and my knife skills have improved since I'm doing so much parsley chopping now.  Get the recipe for champagne here.