Tag Archives: carrot cake

One of Each: Dessert Tasting at J Betski’s

Gentle Readers, sometimes choosing is too hard. My dining companions, upon learning that I had a food blog, insisted we order one of each dessert on the menu at J Betski’s. For those of you who are math inclined, there were three of us and five desserts. I do like those odds.

The Remains of the Day: Dessert Graveyard

The Remains of the Day: Dessert Graveyard

I met the dessert I want to marry. Typically, I am not a big fan of chocolate and orange. However, I love bread pudding, and I love chocolate and walnuts. But milk chocolate and walnuts and orange?

Hello chocolate bread pudding. No, I don't want to share you.

Hello chocolate bread pudding. No, I don’t want to share you.

It was pure unicorns. Run, don’t walk.

Chocolate hazelnut (blech) bacon sea salt dessert. The bacon made me do it.

Chocolate hazelnut (blech) bacon sea salt dessert. The bacon made me do it.

We also tasted gingerbread and carrot cake and a bacon chocolate sea salt number (marred only by hazelnuts, which loyal readers know I believe were created by the devil) and a strudel of sorts. But they were dead to us after tasting the bread pudding.

Spicy Gingerbread

Spicy Gingerbread

Sometimes, you just have to try them all to decide. Have you ever ordered one of everything? Do tell, it will be our secret. Try the comments box below, it doesn’t bite.

Strudel!

Strudel!

Special thanks to my DessertOps dining companions. I look forward to the next round. Apologies for the delay of game on the potato chips. I’m too full of sugar to edit video right now.

Carrot Cake!

Carrot Cake!

Send black coffee, good ideas, and cooking questions to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today! Also, follow the food pictures on Instagram @amylewi.)

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Coming up Sunday: Weekly Menus, Travel Edition

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Reviews from the Road: San Diego Style!

Gentle Readers, last week’s journey was sponsored by, wait for it, bacon. And avocado. And dessert. It is so very difficult to eat properly while traveling, particularly when the days last for 22 of 24 hours. However, there was much deliciousness to be found in San Diego. This was my first trip, and I very much liked what I saw. I kicked things off with this:

Peppery Lacquered Bacon from the San Diego Marriott: Winner!

Peppery Lacquered Bacon from the San Diego Marriott: Winner!

And it just kept going from there. Because what could be better than mixing my professional (social media) life with my personal (food) life? Answer: nothing. So we threw a Bacon and Waffles Tweetup at Brians24. Ironically, I had eaten so much bacon by this point I went for the lo-cal option, fried chicken.

Not bad for SoCal: fried chicken and waffles!

Not bad for SoCal: fried chicken and waffles!

But that wasn’t enough! We also held a team meeting at Extraordinary Desserts in Little Italy. The taxi driver kept trying to drop my teammate and I off at the bail bondsman, no matter how many times we repeated the address. A hint perhaps? The desserts should have been illegal. They were delicious, and so artfully presented. Carrot cake is a vegetable, right?

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Mango-Caramel Glaze

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Mango-Caramel Glaze

I spent some quality time with my favorite California ingredient, the avocado. I had it in omelets and as presented here, in this fantastic blackened tuna wrap. I attacked this like a wild dog. It was at a cafe in the Gaslamp District, where there are endless little bistros ready to serve you.

Blackened Tuna Wrap with Avocado and a Tasty Side Salad

Blackened Tuna Wrap with Avocado and a Tasty Side Salad

Of course, there was also plenty of my road food staple: oatmeal. Hats off to my friend, SirMinceALot, for pairing a parfait with bacon for the morning meal.

Bacon. Parfait. Bacon. Parfait.

Bacon. Parfait. Bacon. Parfait.

In my meager health defense, I did run a 5K in the middle of the event. I ran most, I walked some, I worked a 12+ hour day after doing so. Not my best planning ever. However, we raised over $1700 for the Wounded Warrior Project, so well worth it.

My first 5K ever!

My first 5K ever!

Overall, I loved the parts of San Diego I got to see, and plan to return when I have time to explore further. Very relaxed vibe, and some truly fantastic food. Have you been to San Diego? Would love to hear your recommendations for the next trip. Post a comment below!

Send your good will, questions, and restaurant recommendations to practical cook at gmail dot com. Connect on Facebook: The Practical Cook Blog. (Thanks in advance for spreading The Practical Cook Blog word. Press “like” on Facebook today!)

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Coming up on Friday, a guest blog: Bacon Pecan Ice Cream Recipe!

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Readers Review the Practical Cook’s Recipes: 1st Edition

One of the highlights of being the Practical Cook—taking a look into kitchens around the world, learning more about how you, gentle readers, are cooking. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to share some of your challenges and your successes. In this premiere edition of Readers Review, we’ll look at three successes and one commercial.

Clearly, no one in the sound of my virtual voice follows directions exactly—and that is awesome. Love the creativity out there! True story, the Practical Cook’s Mom (aka, PCM) once handed the Practical Cook a recipe that she had clipped from the newspaper with her changes noted at the top. It was an entirely different recipe. The Practical Cook must paraphrase Hank Williams Jr. here and say “leave me alone I’m just carrying on an old family tradition.”

Success with the Recipes!

Several of you enjoyed the Rustic Tart Recipe, including Blended Familia, who made a version with chorizo and butternut squash. Looking good!

Rustic Tart with Chorizo and Butternut Squash

Rustic Tart with Chorizo and Butternut Squash

From Miss Clairol, we have a riff on the Great Tuna Salad Experiment Recipe. Just like PCM, liberties were taken with this recipe. The idea of pan-seared tuna on greens is there, but surf-n-turf style, using Montreal steak seasoning, salt and pepper, Parmesan, and croutons dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, served alongside some asparagus sauteed in butter. Well, at least two ingredients were the same, so let’s claim victory! Here’s a look:

Surf-n-Turf Tuna on a Bed of Greens

Surf-n-Turf Tuna on a Bed of Greens

Furthermore, success can be claimed on the All-Purpose Blueberry Muffins (twice made for school snack, the last time in quadruplicate). This is what 40 muffins look like (the 41st was requisitioned and divided for Quality Control and Crowd Control).

40 All-Purpose Blueberry Muffins

40 All-Purpose Blueberry Muffins

Because there was so much volume, requiring 6 cups of something flour-esque, I was able to sub half of it: 2 cups almond meal, 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour. We played “guess the secret ingredient” during the class, and they got sugar, cinnamon, and blueberries, but not one person guessed whole wheat, applesauce, or flax seed meal. Score! One student insisted it was a doughnut, failing to notice I reduced the sugar from 2 cups to 1.5 cups.

Blueberries Cover All Sins (and Whole Grains)

Blueberries Cover All Sins (and Whole Grains)

Another excellent amendment was made to the Banana Bread Recipe—mini chocolate chips. If you’re a choco-banana fan (hello Chunky Monkey), take this idea and run with it! Thanks to KAD for that one.

The Commercial

Quaker Oats Guy vs. Scott's Porage Oats Guy: KO in the first round!

Quaker Oats Guy

Last, but far from least, a fantastic follow up to the surprisingly popular One Ingredient, Three Ways: Oatmeal Edition. So many of you wrote with flavor combos and ideas, there will be a sequel. In the meantime, please enjoy the ultimate nexus of food and marketing, an ad campaign by Scott’s Porage Oats. Special shout-out to the Kilted Vegan for sharing that with us (and for providing me with an opportunity to create and use that moniker).

Seriously, we’d have no problem selling oats in America if we ran ads like that. Quaker Oats Guy vs. Scott’s Porage Oats Guy: KO in the first round!

And that brings us back to Sunday’s Weekly Menus. Some time between losing my mind decorating that Carrot Cake and setting up a treasure hunt, I’ll share next week’s plan. I can already tell you that Wednesday I’ll be serving something purple. More on that later.

Keep the reader reviews coming in, and we’ll keep the test kitchens open: practicalcook at gmail dot com

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Cake Decoration: 101

True confession time here, the Practical Cook loves cake. The Southern cooking tradition is full of cakes, often intensely sweet and involving Cool Whip. In my past professional life, I had the privilege of working with the Cake Mix Doctor. It is absolutely impossible to spend a chunk of your working day talking, writing, and promoting conversations about cake and not do some field research. So the Practical Cook headed to the local craft store and took a class on cake decoration.

For some of you who know me in real-life, this is probably a shocking admission, but yes, I can produce a “Wilton rose” and fold parchment into a makeshift icing bag.

Here’s someone on YouTube to show you how:

If you have time or inclination, I highly recommend taking a class. It was fun, and it’s a great skill to have up your sleeve. (Special thanks to partner in crime Dr. Particular for taking the class with me; they encourage you to sign up with a friend.) Look for cake recipes in future posts, but for today, take what you’ve got, and make it pretty. Here’s how.

1. Work your theme. This is a Little House on the Prairie cake with fruit strip log cabin, plastic figurines, candy sky, sugar grass, and the good old bulldog Jack, who is actually a licorice Scottie from Trader Joe’s.

Little House on the Prairie Cake

Little House on the Prairie Cake

2. Buy or borrow the right pan. It’s not a hassle when you can provide a castle for the princesses on bikes party. A little sugar glaze, some sparkly purple sugar, licorice in the turrets, and a photoshopped Princess on a Bike flag.

Princesses on Bikes Castle Cake

Princesses on Bikes Castle Cake

3. Cut-up cakes are your friend. Search for Baker’s Coconut Cut-Up Cakes to see the classics. The Practical Cook’s Mom passed her copy down to me, and it’s a treasured resource. This is a homemade Carrot Cake (recipe now available!). It’s easy to maneuver and contains 1 pound of carrots and some whole wheat flour.

Butterfly Cut-Up Cake

Butterfly Cut-Up Cake

4. Fruit strip art is hip, and requires no icing skills. My favorite trick here is the cherry juice and powdered sugar I mixed to make that bright pink shiny nose. This is just two 8 or 9 inch rounds cut into shapes. It’s the carrot cake again, perfect for Easter, and slightly post-modern.

Bunny rabbit cut-up cake with fruit strip detail

Bunny rabbit cut-up cake with fruit strip detail

5. Be unafraid, frosting covers all sins. The cake was slanted, the frosting refused to become smooth, so I went bridal on it. The drop flowers are very easy to make and place, and the bright colors liven up a chocolate cake.

Vertical Height and Frosting Make Simple Cakes Festive

Vertical Height and Frosting Make Simple Cakes Festive

A few ideas to get you started. Obviously, my primary work is kid’s birthday cakes, but the lessons apply to any cake. Add some fruit, some gummies, some jelly beans, and you’ve got a decorated cake. Cut up fruit strips and “draw” with them. Use candies creatively. Cake is fun—there’s never been a better time to play with your food.

Coming up tomorrow, Peanut Butter Powerhouse Snacks recipe. Snack time has never tasted better.

Share a birthday cake idea: practicalcook at gmail dot com

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