Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Got Carrots?

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Candied Carrot Peel
There was a someone-special-in-my-life-birthday this past weekend, (my little brother), which gave me the perfect opportunity to do some birthday-time baking. Yay! My brother and I have, on more than one occasion, discussed our love for carrot cake. I think we were both surprised to learn that it was each our favorite dessert. Well, if we absolutely had to pick just one, anyway!

So there really was no question on what to bake for him. But in all honesty, I was hesitant because I had never made carrot cake before. What?! Yes, it's true. I quickly turned to my trusty google search bar and did a little online recipe hunting. My fear immediately dispersed and I realized that carrot cake cupcakes were going to be perfectly manageable. And even better, I had almost all of the ingredients in my pantry, just waiting to be made into perfect little cupcakes.

I decided on the recipe that I found here, at A Sweet Pea Chef. I liked the simplicity of her recipe, the use of brown sugar, and ginger. Carrots and ginger are a wonderful match. I did have a few simple adjustments of my own, adding about two drops of vanilla extract, and golden raisins to the mix. I also grated my carrots more finely as I prefer that over the thicker strips of carrot. And I really wanted a fun garnish for these. So I peeled an additional carrot, using my potato peeler, and made very short peels that were 1" and under, and candied them. I took 2 cups of white sugar, 1 cup of water, brought that to a low boil, added the carrot peels, and let simmer for about an hour. I then strained out the liquid, and laid the candied peels onto parchment paper, and let sit out for about 2 hours to cool and harden. What fun! And they came out pretty PRETTY! Oh, and the cakes were delicious too. I will definitely be making these again....
After baking the carrot cake cupcakes, I had some carrots still left in my fridge, sitting in the veggie tray next to a few bunches of broccoli. I decided to make a soup, because I just love soup. Can I say that again? I love soup. I don't know why. What is the big deal about soup?? Well, it's warm, and it's delicious. It's filling, and it is generally healthy. Ok, I guess that answers my question. But I know, it is still just soup....

Broccoli soup with Cream and Croutons

So I made soup. A broccoli soup, with carrot too. And crisped up some croutons from a mini french baguette. I began first by making my own veggie stock. It's one of my new favorite things. I keep most of my veggie choppings from the week and save them in one bag. And when I need stock, I throw it all in a pot, along with some aromatics such as fresh thyme, sage, bay leaf, and black peppercorns. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil, let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, and strain. And there, we have our very own veggie stock.

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