Realistic Cooking Ideas

for Busy People! And sharing our life adventures along the way!

Healthier Carrot Applesauce Spice Cake with shredded carrots side view

Many of you know that I am a Star Trek fan with Mr. Spock being at the top of the list. I was saddened to hear of Leonard Nimoy’s passing on Friday. On The Testers Edge I wrote a posting discussing the impact of Star Trek and Mr. Spock on my life. You can read my tribute Mr. Spock and Star Trek’s Influence on my Life and as a Software Testing Manager.

Mr Spock
Picture courtesy of the BBC News Entertainment & Arts.

For today’s recipe I am sharing a healthier version of a carrot cake. Nothing is better than a slice of carrot cake! It has always been a favorite dessert of both my father and me. But unfortunately a lot of recipes are made with a lot of oil plus butter and can be as high as 1,000 calories a slice! I do not know about you, but that is far too many calories for me! To celebrate my father and my birthday, I made this healthy carrot cake recipe and had fun decorating with nuts, pumpkin seeds, and carrots.

Healthier Carrot Applesauce Spice Cake with shredded carrots full cake

I love this recipe because it is loaded with a ton of great spices and instead of olive oil I used applesauce – it is a great substitute plus makes a moist cake. For the frosting I made a blend of tofu, light cream cheese, powdered sugar and light buttermilk. Since buttermilk is part of the cake ingredients it seemed like a good idea to add it to the frosting. It was really good even with eliminating the butter.

Healthier Carrot Applesauce Spice Cake with shredded carrots

The measurements are approximate for the frosting – best to take your taste tests to determine the ratios. My preference is a thinner icing as the two inch cream cheese frosting is not appealing to me. Typically it is scraped off the cake! Another option is to eliminate the frosting and lightly dust the cake with powdered sugar.

Healthier Carrot Applesauce Spice Cake with pistachios

Cake Dry Ingredients
2 1/2 cups Flour
1 1/2 cups Packed Dark Brown Sugar or ¾ cup Splenda Brown Sugar
1 ½ tsp Soda
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
½ tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Cloves
1/2 tsp Salt
½ cup Pecans, Chopped (optional)

Cake Wet Ingredients
2 cups Grated Carrot
1 tbsp Freshly Grated Orange Zest
3 Eggs
2 tsp Vanilla, prefer homemade
3/4 cup Buttermilk, low-fat
1 ½ cups Applesauce Unsweetened

Frosting Ingredients
½ to ¾ cup Light Cream Cheese
⅓ cup Powdered Sugar
½ cup Firm Tofu
6 tbsp Buttermilk, low-fat

Optional Toppings Ingredients
Toasted nuts such as pecans, walnuts (whole or chopped)
Shredded Carrots or Coconut
Raw Pumpkin Seeds

Preparation
Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine dry ingredients except for the pecans. Mix together the wet ingredients except for the carrots and orange zest. Slowly add and blend the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Fold in the pecans, carrots, and orange zest.

Prepare either a 13×9 inch baking pan or two round baking pans. Spray and flour pans or consider using baking parchment paper. Spread batter into pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake completely on a wire rack.

To prepare the frosting, place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Then have fun decorating your carrot cake!

Healthier Carrot Applesauce Spice Cake out of the oven
Healthier Carrot Applesauce Spice Cake before icing
Healthier Carrot Applesauce Spice Cake two layers with tofu icing
Healthier Carrot Applesauce Spice Cake with pecans

Chicken Noodle soup Top view

This year our winter in the Northeast consists of arctic air from Canada and far too much snow! Somehow it does not seem fair to have wind chills of -20 degree fahrenheit (or -29 Celsius) and it still snows! Heavy sweaters are a must and driving with gloves is also imperative (I dislike driving with gloves). Of course it is still flu and cold season on top of the frigid weather! Comfort food becomes more important than ever and including a lot of healthy foods. Chicken soup is known for its healing properties and if you have a cold or are not feeling well, mothers will say “have a bowl of chicken soup!” Previously I did make a chicken soup that ended up being a chicken stew with so many noodles. It was really good but I wanted a more traditional version but yet with a lot of flavor and of course those healing properties. Click here for Ginger Chicken Noodle Soup (or stew when I make it!).

Chicken Noodle soup close up 3

One does wonder if Chicken Noodle soup really helps you heal and boost your immune system or if its warmth is just comforting when one is sick. I ran across some interesting research from University of Nebraska Medical Center physician/researcher Stephen Rennard, M.D on a study conducted to test this theory. You can draw your own conclusion and below are a few links with more information.

Chicken Noodle soup side shot

The Science of Chicken Soup
Chicken Soup for a Cold
Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro

Chicken noodle soup close up 2
If you enjoy reading research papers – below is the link to the paper:
Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro

Chicken noodle soup close up

Regardless of your conclusion on its health benefits, this recipe for Chicken Noodle soup is excellent! A lot of great flavor and it is the ultimate comfort food on a bitter cold winter day. If you are feeling a bit under the weather it would be comforting. I served it with some nice hot, crusty French bread.

The combination of the different vegetables adds a nice flavor to the broth and there are sweet undertones to this soup. Add some fresh parsley near the end of simmering the soup for a mellow and sweet flavor.

Chicken Noodle Soup with crusty french bread

I adapted this wonderful soup from the original recipe based upon Grandma’s Recipe that was part of the original study. I like how the grandmother placed all the vegetables in a food processor to chop them finely so ensure all her children got their vegetables. A wise woman who even when money / food was short was creative to provide nutrients to her children. Doesn’t this soup look just delicious!! I love all the vegetables and colors.

Chicken Noodle Soup in a ladle spoon

Vegetable Ingredients
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
2 cups Parsnips, chopped
1 ½ cups Turnips, chopped
2 cups Carrots, chopped
2 cups Butternut Squash, chopped

Broth
10 cups Chicken Broth
Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper
2 cups cooked Chicken, chopped (I use a rotisserie chicken)
2 Bay Leaves
Basil

Final Step
Soup Noodles such as Filini pasta
About two handful of Flat-Leaf Parsley, chopped

Instructions
Heat olive oil in a large soup pan and saute the chopped onions for a few minutes. In the meantime start chopping your vegetables and add them to the soup pan as they are chopped. I like to let mine roast a bit in the soup pan before adding any liquids to start releasing their flavor.

Add chicken broth, chicken, salt, pepper, bay leaves, and a lot of basil. Let simmer for about an hour or so. Then add some freshly chopped parsley near the end of cooking and boil the soup noodles. I like to make them separately and add them to the soup as it is being served. Too many times I found that the noodles soaked up the broth when reheating the next day! Boil the amount of noodles you feel will be required including any leftovers. Store the cooked noodles in a small bowl with some chicken broth. When ready to serve, spoon the desired amount of noodles into a soup bowl, ladle in some soup, and top with more fresh parsley if desired. Serve with crusty French bread!

Chocolate Cranberry Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing Closeup 2

It seems like a good idea to post another dessert recipe on this frigid winter day. In the Northeast our temperature with windchill is -27 fahrenheit, which is -32 celsius – it is darn cold! Even in the house you feel a slight coldness – even though the temperature is the same as always. But one look outside and you just feel cold. It is possible to get frostbite if your skin is exposed for 15-minutes in this weather. So what’s a gal to do? Well I try out new recipes and to stay warm today I made my Tomato Based Beef Stew with Red Wine Undertones. To stay occupied I have the first season of Broadchurch to get through in preparation for season 2 that starts in March. I need to be careful of any spoilers since it is being aired in the UK right now. It is an intense series and I love how Tennant plays such a different character than he did in Dr. Who. I just loved him in Dr. Who and it is great to see him in a different role – more intense. The filming is excellent with the angles, the close ups, and the beautiful coast line! Is anyone watching Broadchurch? We also want to see Mr. Selfridge but Broadchurch is the first priority. Greg and I love quality TV and it can be difficult to find good shows. Big Bang Theory is also a great show that I am completely addicted. Of course I know people and work with people who are similar to the main characters in the show. Recently I finished a book series by Nora Roberts and started another series she wrote – both are based in Ireland. They are a great escape from this bitter cold and snowy winter. One would think with such bitter temperatures that it would not snow. But yesterday it snowed another 6-inches – somehow it does not seem fair! What is your favorite way to escape from winter? Chocolate Cranberry Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing Chocolate Cranberry Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing Closeup The cranberries are great with this dessert but of course you could substitute cherries or some other dried fruit that you might have in the pantry. I actually made this cake for a birthday at work and decided to make individual servings – I think they present so nicely. Just before serving pour or drizzle the icing letting it puddle on the plate. Very pretty indeed! Chocolate Cranberry Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing birthday 2 Chocolate Cranberry Cake with Chocolate Peanut Butter Icing birthday Dry Ingredients 2 cups cake flour 2 cups sugar ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder 2 tsp baking powder 1½ tsp baking soda 1 tsp salt Wet Ingredients 1 cup milk ½ cup vegetable oil 2 eggs 2 tsp vanilla extract 1 cup boiling water Cranberries and Spices 1 cup cranberries, chopped mixed with 2 tbsp sugar 1 tsp Ginger 1 tsp Cinnamon Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter ⅛ cup unsweetened cocoa powder About 1/2 cup cake flour 1/2 to 1 cup confectioners’ sugar About ¼ to ½ cup water 1 tsp vanilla Cranberry Topping Cranberries Maple Syrup Preparation Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans or ramekins by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Add dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a mixer blend together the wet ingredients except for the boiling water. Add dry ingredients and once blend carefully add the boiling water. Mix in cranberries and spices. Distribute batter into desired baking pans whether it is a cake or ramekins. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. While the cake is baking, prepare the chocolate peanut butter icing. I like to add it just before serving and top with cranberries mixed with maple syrup for a garnish.

Red Velvet Cupcakes close up on a stand 2

It is getting close to Valentine’s Day and I wanted to share this great Red Velvet Cupcake recipe that you can dress up with icing and fun decorations. This is the first time I made red velvet cupcakes and I have to say they are excellent! There are so many fun ways to decorate them. If you do not care for icing then place a heart on the cupcake and then with a small sifter, sprinkle powdered sugar around the heart and then carefully remove the heart. It is so pretty and is a nice alternative to icing. You do need to do this close to serving because the next day the powdered sugar will disappear into the cupcake – at least it did for me! Also don’t forget to check out my other Valentine’s Day ideas: A Healthy Whole Grain Cinnamon Oatmeal and Fruit Cookie and Make Your Own Valentine’s Day Dessert! What are your favorite deserts to make for Valentine’s Day?

Red Velvet Cupcakes close up with powdered sugar 2

I went with a simple icing of light cream cheese, milk, and a little powdered sugar. It makes a nice pure white icing. Each cupcake was placed in a pretty festive liner after baking and then a heart pick was placed in each cupcake.
Red Velvet Cupcakes with white icing

For as much as I liked the white icing it was too bland for Valentine’s Day so I added sprinkles and cinnamon candy. I loved the candy since it added a nice spice to the cupcake.
Red Velvet Cupcakes lots of them decorated

I love this picture because it looks like you have an endless row of beautiful cupcakes!!
Red Velvet Cupcakes in a row with a closeup cupcake

And another picture of using powdered sugar to decorate – just be sure to save your most perfect cupcakes for this minimalist approach as icing can hide a few flaws!
Red Velvet Cupcakes close up with powdered sugar

The last few pictures present the cupcakes on a pretty stand that would make a nice centerpiece on the table!
Red Velvet Cupcakes close up on a stand at a distance

Red Velvet Cupcakes close up on a stand 2

Red Velvet Cupcakes close up on a stand

This recipe was adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens

Room Temperature Ingredients
3 eggs
¾ cup butter

Flour Ingredients
3 cups flour
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ tsp salt

Remaining Ingredients
2 ¼ cups sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 1 ounce bottle red food coloring
1 ½ cups buttermilk, light

Baking Soda Ingredients
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp white distilled vinegar

Topping Ingredients
Your favorite icing
Powdered Sugar
Cinnamon Candy

Directions
Let eggs and butter stand for 30 minutes at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with 28 paper liners.

In a medium bowl combine the flour ingredients and set aside. In large mixing bowl beat butter for about 30 seconds until creamed. Slowly add sugar and beat until combined. Add and mix in the vanilla.

Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Blend in food coloring on low. Then alternate between the flour mixture and buttermilk and beat until combined. Stir together baking soda and vinegar – it will fizzle and bubble. Add to batter; beat to combine.

Spoon batter into prepared cupcake pans, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake 15 to 17 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes and then remove. Cool completely and then have fun decorating them and then enjoy eating them!

Healthy Whole Grain Cinnamon Oatmeal and Fruit Cookie in Valentine Bags closeup

Healthy Whole Grain Cinnamon Oatmeal and Fruit Cookie in Valentine Box close up

It is that time of year when everyone is thinking about a Valentine’s Day gift for loved ones or for their friends. We tried this healthy cookie at Wegmans and it is just wonderful! It will make a nice Valentine’s Day gift and you can present it in so many beautiful ways. And after Christmas and New Years, we really need to watch our calories but yet we want something yummy for Valentine’s Day. Not only is this cookie healthy, you also get to use your favorite dried fruit. Try a variety of dried fruit for more fun!

Healthy Whole Grain Cinnamon Oatmeal and Fruit Cookie in Valentine Bags

You can find Wegmans original recipe by clicking here and an article about their new cookies by clicking here.

I made my cookies a bit smaller and they were easy to stack and then wrap some pretty ribbon around them. Of course you could always make them larger! They would also be pretty in a small clear bag with maybe some hearts or other decorative touches!

Healthy Whole Grain Cinnamon Oatmeal and Fruit Cookie Stacked closeup

Find a nice Valentine’s Day box to present several of the cookies as a gift or as a centerpiece on your table. It will be fun to grab a cookie when you walk by and most likely you will find excuses to walk by the table! I know candy is a popular gift but consider making this cookie for your gift giving or just for yourself! It is a nice treat! What is your favorite gift to give someone on Valentine’s Day?

Healthy Whole Grain Cinnamon Oatmeal and Fruit Cookie in Valentine Box

Dry Ingredients
1 cup Unbleached White Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup Quick Oats
3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic Whole Ground Flaxseed Meal
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Wet Ingredients
3/4 cup Unsalted Butter
3/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar, packed
1 Large Egg
1 tsp. Vanilla

Fruit Ingredients
1 1/2 cups assorted dried fruit

Instructions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl.

Beat butter and dark brown sugar in a large mixing bowl until creamy. Add the remaining wet ingredients and mix until combined. Gradually beat in dry ingredients. Add dried fruit and stir.

Measure out a rounded tablespoon for smaller cookies to make about 30-cookies. Drop onto either an ungreased baking sheet or one lined with parchment paper. Bake between 9 to 11 minutes. The centers of this cookie will be soft and the edges should be a light brown.

Let cookies rest a couple of minutes on baking sheet and then remove to a cooling rack. And enjoy!!

Buffalo Blue Cheese Wing Pizza close up 2 Sliced and plated

Is everyone who lives in the States ready for Super Bowl Sunday? We are ready to go with preparations beginning on Saturday. I started the Chocolate Coconut Cheesecake with Rum and we had this fabulous pizza! Today I am making a different version of a Buffalo Wing Pizza that I can’t wait to try. We use the Original Anchor Bar Buffalo Wings Sauce – this is an authentic wing sauce as many are rather questionable that claim to be Buffalo! During our travels we have been served “Buffalo Wings” and they were rather humorous. For the cooked chicken I shake them with medium sauce, which was a nice contrast to the blue cheese dressing that is meant to reduce the heat of the wing sauce. My husband likes his a bit hotter so he just added some Buffalo Wing sauce to his pizza – that is a great option if people like different levels of heat! The cheddar cheese is a nice compliment to the wing sauce – I used 2/3 cup since 1/3 was not enough but next time I would add a bit less cheese to showcase the Buffalo chicken. And don’t forget to add a bit of crumbled blue cheese when serving!

Buffalo Blue Cheese Wing Pizza Sliced and plated

The below closeup picture shows the blue cheese sauce, the vegetables, and the Buffalo Wing chicken blends in with the cheddar cheese. I diced the carrots and celery small and they provide a nice crunch as if you were having chicken wings, blue cheese with carrots and celery. A popular staple in the Buffalo region! To learn more about how the Anchor bar discovered chicken wings click here and here. Their wikipedia page documents how Teressa Bellissimo discovered chicken wings back in the 1960’s – a story known by many Buffalonians. Teressa is credited with the creation of the dish when she deep-fried some wings and covered them in Frank’s RedHot hot sauce and butter. Back then chicken wings were not popular and often thrown away. She served them with blue cheese dip as an appetizer at the bar. They were initially offered for free. Now chicken wings are in demand around the country and can be expensive depending upon supply and demand. Every year in Buffalo we have a wings festival where different restaurants bring their best Buffalo Wing Sauce to win top honors and bragging rights!

Buffalo Blue Cheese Wing Pizza close up Sliced and plated

I love how a cast iron skillet pizza looks coming out of the oven! This is a perfect healthier option for us by using a rotisserie chicken, dice the meat and shake in wing sauce that has 0 calories. Blue cheese dressing is excellent but keep it light!

Buffalo Blue Cheese Wing Pizza out of the oven

Ingredients
10-inch Cast Iron Skillet
½ cup Light Blue Cheese Dressing
½ cup Carrots, diced
½ cup Celery, diced
4 ounces Cooked Chicken, cubed
1/3 to 2/3 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
Original Anchor Bar Buffalo Wing Sauce
Crumbled Blue Cheese for garnish
Whole Wheat Pizza dough – 14 ounces

Preparation
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Season the cast iron skillet. Roll out pizza dough into desired size and place in the cast iron skillet. Let it rest for a few minutes. Add light blue cheese dressing as your sauce. Top with carrots and celery. Shake the cooked chicken in the Original Anchor Bar Buffalo Wing Sauce and add to the pizza. Top with cheddar cheese. Bake for about 20 to 25-minutes.

Top with crumbled blue cheese as the garnish and serve with extra blue cheese and Buffalo Wing Sauce to dip your pizza in!

Buffalo Blue Cheese Wing Pizza with carrots and celery

Buffalo Blue Cheese Wing Pizza with chicken shaked in buffalo wing sauce

Buffalo Blue Cheese Wing Pizza with cheddar cheese

buffalo-style-meatballs-final

In the states, people are getting ready for the big game on Sunday. Even those of us who really are not football fans enjoy the commercials, entertainment, and of course the food aspect of the Super Bowl! Every year I try new recipes and am sharing a few favorites from past years. This year I am trying two new Buffalo Wing style pizzas made of course in my cast iron skillet! Plus a Buffalo Style dip and maybe even a dessert!! What are your food plans for Super Bowl Sunday and do you have a favorite team?

Super Bowl Turkey Chili With Cornbread is an awesome option that can be served as part of the dinner buffet or an appetizer.

awesome-turkey-chili

It is Super Bowl Sunday with Buffalo Style Meatballs! I just love these Buffalo Style Meatballs! Again great as part of your dinner buffet or make them a bit smaller as an appetizer. They are a guaranteed hit!

buffalo-style-meatballs-final
Buffalo Style Potatoes with Crumbled Blue Cheese Dressing. Just when you think it can’t get any better – here comes these fabulous potatoes!

buffalo-style-potatoes-with-crumbled-blue-cheese

Chicken Quesadillas are always a hit and make a great appetizer and finger food.

chickenquesadillafinal5

Cosmo Martini and Mocktail. Of course we need a cocktail or two to select from. Many cocktails can be shaken without alcohol!

cosmo-martini

Orange Dream Martini and Mocktail. This is one of my favorites – so much fun to drink!!

orange-dream-martini-cover-picture

Asian Inspired Layered Chicken Dip. This is a wonderful appetizer that is easy to make!

asian-inspired-layered-chicken-dip2

Wood-Grilled Chicken with Sundried Tomato Flatbread. For those in warmer climates consider this wonderful wood-grilled pizza!

wood-grilled-flatbread-closeup

Bite-Size Bread Pudding with Strawberry Topping. And don’t forget the bite-size desserts – I have a few of them on my blog.

bite-size-bread-pudding-cover-picture

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