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Cravings and Nesting – FINAL

14 Jul

So here I am with a little more than 4-weeks to go!  It is amazing how much faster this pregnancy has gone by than my first with Elliot.  I just don’t have a lot of time to think about it while keeping up with an almost 3-year-old!

We had a crazy June, traveling a lot and I told myself that when July came I would get serious about making some meals to freeze for those days after baby arrives and we are too tired to cook anything.

We will have another meal swap in August so that will help out.  But here is my problem..it is hot and I am not feeling inspired to cook  soups, casseroles, etc.  I do think I can whip up some easy pasta dishes that freeze well.  Especially with all of the awesome produce our CSA is providing right now.  But I am looking for suggestions, so let’s hear them.

And I have been craving and eating fruit like crazy.  I actually remember craving more meat and protein when I was pregnant with Elliot.  So this leads to my theory that we are having a girl this time (we didn’t find out with E and we don’t know what we are having now either).  We went strawberry picking at Apple Jack Orchard two-weeks ago.  I love that place and I love it even more that they don’t spray their berries!  While there, I also ordered fruit from Michigan that you can pre-order and pick-up in July or August.  Cannot wait for peaches and blueberries, again chemical free!  Anyway – we came home and made a ton of jam, Jen’s boozy jam too and this strawberry cake.  Seriously both Elliot and I have developed a red tint from eating so many strawberries – j/k =)

But they taste so good even if this season’s are a little tart and small due to all of the rain we have had.  Nothing beats local strawberries.

As I anticipate the fruit cravings to continue, any other recipe suggestions?  The belly and I thank you =)

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my favorite carrot cake (and a giveaway!)

11 Mar

I have laryngitis.

For real. I cannot make a sound. All I can do is whisper. Brette thinks it’s hysterical. The dog is a bit wigged out. I’m annoyed. I’ve had to reschedule a number of meetings. That’s not really the annoying part though. The annoying part is that I love to talk and I can’t!

Along with the laryngitis is a super weird cold that can’t make up it’s mind. Congestion, headache, sneezing, and some general fatigue have all made an appearance.

Brette hasn’t been feeling well either so it’s pretty rockin’ at our house lately.

Oh, and I went vegan for lent. So no chicken noodle soup to cheer me up.

I do know what will cheer me up though….writing about cake and a giveaway!

I received an awesome gift in the mail from my friend (and my sister’s bff), Diane.  Diane is one of those people that you just love immediately. She has 6 kids (sainthood!), has about 38 different businesses, is one of the most creative people I’ve met, throws a mean Halloween party, and keeps my sister in line. Therefore,  I consider her family.  The fact that there was a package from her in my mailbox was all to exciting! I love getting mail and I love it more when it’s a package with something beautiful inside.

Diane’s daughter Beth is very talented and creative (the apple does not fall far) and has created these beautiful cake testers. I fell in love with it instantly. She even sent me one that matches my kitchen – sweet!

What’s even sweeter? Beth offered to give one of these testers away to a lucky reader. How awesome is that?

It seriously is adorable and I love the charm on the top that says ‘hand made with love’. Since cakes should be made with love, this seems to be a perfect match. They are simply beautiful.

She has a few different varieties on her site that you need to check out. I think these would make great mother’s day gifts, housewarming gifts, or certainly an anytime gift to a baker.

The best part of getting this in the mail was it meant that I HAD to bake a cake. I certainly had to test the product, right? It’s for research. I had to.

I put a call out on facebook for people’s favorite cake and it was pretty overwhelmingly red velvet.  I was set to go with that, but then two things happened.

1. A friend reminded me of the carrot cake Brette made on Easter last year to celebrate the end of no sugar. It was incredibly awesome. (thanks for the reminder Steff!)

2. We were invited to Willa’s for dinner, it happened to be within two days of her birthday, and her favorite cake is carrot cake.

So, carrot cake it was.

Between Brette and I, there have been several tweaks to this recipe. Here are a few things you should know about it.

  • There are no raisins or pineapple in this cake – I’m a purist. Only carrots and nuts allowed.
  • This cake is not a health food.
  • This cake is not vegan. It’s not gluten-free. It’s not lactose-free. It’s not really anything-free.
  • This cake is so good. It’s not to dense, it’s incredibly moist (I cringed typing that), and the flavor is perfect with the warm spices, sweet carrots, and the nuttiness of the pecans. Carrot cake is my absolute favorite and this version is the best I’ve had. And I’ve had a lot.

I put the cake tester to work and ya know what? It worked great and it was way more fun to use than a toothpick. I’ve never felt so stylin’ in my kitchen. It makes me want to bake even more. This could be dangerous.

Carrot Cake

serves 10-16 depending on how generous you are with the portions

Adapted from allrecipes.com.

Note: You can make this in either 2, 9-inch round pans or a 9×13 pan.

For the cake:

4 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/2 cup coconut oil (or substitute more veg oil or you probably could go just 1 1/4 cup coconut oil if you were feeling crazy)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 cups grated carrots (a food processor or box grater work the best)

1 cup chopped pecans

For the frosting:

1/2 cup butter, softened

8 oz cream cheese, softened

4 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter (or spray) and flour your pan(s) of choice.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, white and brown sugar and the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Slowly add into the wet ingredients, but don’t over mix.

Stir in carrots and then fold in 1 cup of chopped pecans.

Pour into prepared pan(s).

Bake for 25-30 minutes for round pans and 40-50 minutes for 9×13 pan, rotating the pan(s) halfway through.  Test with your cake tester and if it comes out clean, it’s done.

Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

For the frosting, combine butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer or stand mixer until mixture is smooth and creamy. It takes a little bit for it all to come together so be patient. Frost the cooled cake and sprinkle with 1 cup chopped pecans. I frosted each layer and then around the the sides. I had just enough frosting. Okay, so I had a little bit left that I used as a filling for a graham cracker sandwich. I hate to see anything go to waste.

So, for the giveaway! Beth is giving away the design below. It’s gorgeous and sparkly and will make cake baking all that more exciting.

cake tester 1

To be eligible to win this beautiful cake tester, you can enter a number of ways (and each way if you’d like).

1. Leave a comment with your favorite cake.

2. Follow me on Twitter (and leave a comment that you did so).

3. Tweet about the giveaway and let me know you did: @jensaidso is having a sweet cake tester giveaway at http://wp.me/ptYgB-T!

The contest will remain open until Monday (3/14) at 5 p.m.  I will pick a winner at random.

In the meantime, check out Beth’s site to see all of the other beautiful designs.

Oh, and make the carrot cake while you’re at it.

stocking the kitchen: pantry

1 Mar

I am very fortunate to have awesome in-laws. Brette’s parents and two brothers are terrific and I love that they are my family. I’m even more fortunate that Brette’s brother married an awesome woman. Those boys have impeccable taste in women. It is so much fun to have a fellow “outlaw” around.

This was already two years ago. Boy, would I love to be in FL right now.

Melissa has recently taken on a change in her eating habits. She’s limiting her processed foods and sugar and adding more produce, nuts and grains. We’ve been facebook chatting a lot about different foods, recipe ideas, and grocery shopping. She asked me what my staple foods are. Meaning, what foods do I always have on hand. This is a great question. A well stocked kitchen is key for those nights where a trip to the grocery store just isn’t going to happen, and you’d rather not order a pizza.  I always have staples on hand for those types of nights. Brette would probably argue that our kitchen is to well stocked. (I’m not sure if that’s possible. I mean, what if I’m stuck in the house during a blizzard for 12 days?)

So, I thought I’d share with you some of the things I always have on hand. Not just in the pantry, but in my fridge and freezer as well. This is going to be a series of posts over the next couple of weeks on stocking your kitchen.

Today we’ll be focusing on the pantry. My lovely super organized pantry! Yes, it still actually looks like this. Go me. Here’s what I keep in it.


  • bulk grains – I always have a variety; brown rice, whole wheat couscous, quinoa, millet, polenta and bulgur are currently in stock. Buying them in bulk is so much cheaper. I store them in mason jars.
  • lentils and beans – I have both canned and dried beans, but I definitely use the canned ones more. I love lentils and typically buy the french green variety and red lentils. Again, I buy them in bulk. Beans and lentils are a great protein source and you can do a lot with them.
  • canned tomatoes – I can my own in the summer, but I also like having a few smaller cans of the fire-roasted variety on hand for soups, chilis and stews. I also make sure to have tomato paste and sauce. I use paste in a lot of my soups and sauces. And one must have sauce on hand for homemade pizza!
  • pasta – I typically have a few varieties of pasta (mostly whole wheat). This is almost always Brette’s go-to if I’m gone.
  • vinegars and oils – I’m a bit of a vinegar junky, but I love using different ones with olive oil for salad dressings. I don’t purchase ready-made dressing anymore because it’s expensive, full of unprouncables, and just not as good. As for oils, I always have extra virgin olive oil, canola oil (better for high heat cooking), coconut oil, and likely some type of dipping oil that made it’s way into my cart.
  • spices – I use quite a few different spices and find they add a lot to dishes. My most used are cumin, oregano, curry powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, coriander and red pepper flakes.
  • nuts and seeds – I almost always have some mixed nuts on hand in case we entertain or just for a quick snack. I also typically have walnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds jazz up a salad pretty quickly. The walnuts are a must for Brette’s favorite granola.
  • oatmeal supplies – yes, this deserves it’s own category. I eat oatmeal almost every day, plus I go through a ton of oats in aforementioned granola. I buy both the regular rolled oats and thin cut oats (for microwave situations). Again, buy in bulk. Oats are freaky cheap. In addition, I have canned pumpkin (for pumpkin oats of course), cinnamon, chia seeds and cocoa nibs.
  • baking supplies – I don’t bake as much as I’d like  (cuz I have no ‘off’ button on baked goods), but I do keep all the essentials on hand – a variety of flours (all-purpose, cake, whole wheat pastry flour and regular whole wheat), sugars (regular, powdered and brown), baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, cocoa powder, and various baking chocolates.
  • dried fruit – again, this gets used in granola, but it also can add some fun to salads or mix with nuts for a quick snack. I almost always have cranberries, raisins and cherries.
  • the other category – coconut milk (curries, soups, etc.), and panko breadcrumbs (I know much prefer these over regular)

 

What do you stock your pantry with? Do you always have certain things handy for those last minute meals?