Monday, September 26, 2011

people in the house! carrot cake bars

Joy, joy, joy: after 5 days of just me at home, Greg and Kelly are home this weekend and it's gray and cloudy so it's time to cook and bake!  Yippee!  Original plan:  order pizza and watch football.  New plan:  make chili and carrot cake bars and watch football.  We're pretty easy to please.  Made my chili from the blog, but instead of adding rotisserie chicken, I browned ground turkey and added it back in after softening the onion, garlic and peppers.  Yum.  Kelly's taking a nice big container back to school.  Hopefully I can freeze some for my house full of company next weekend for the "big" night game at Purdue against the hated leprechaun and his minions from Notre Dame.  Going to be an awesome tailgate and night games are so awesome until they start playing (based purely on past disappointments, hoping for a better outcome this year but there's not much to back that up).

Clipped a carrot cake bar recipe from a local paper this week.  Instead of shredding carrots, you process the wet ingredients and then add cut-up carrots to the food processor until the carrots are chopped fine.  Kelly and I ended up with more of a carrot puree added to the wet ingredients, but we added pecans and raisins for a little texture.  They are of course topped with cream cheese frosting and will be much more portable for tailgating than a carrot cake.  It is the cream cheese frosting that makes these bars:  lemon juice, nutmeg and vanilla really bring out the best in the bars.  Keep them refrigerated.  They only get better if you make them ahead of time and chill them.

finished goodness
Carrot Cake Bars with Yummy Cream Cheese Frosting

1 C all-purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 C carrots in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 C chopped pecans
3/4 C raisins

6 oz. cream cheese, softened (I always use light cream cheese, but never for the love of God, fat-free)
1 C confectioner's sugar
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.   Whisk together flours, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Get out your food processor and add the oil, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla to the food processor bowl.  Process until blended.  Add the carrot pieces through the shoot with the motor running and process until carrots are finally chopped.  Pour the carrot mixture over the flour mixture and stir until well-blended.  Stir in the pecans and raisins.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until edges pull away from sides and a tooth pick placed in the center comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack.

When the bars are cool, make the frosting by beating together the cream cheese and confectioner's sugar until fluffy.  Add the lemon juice, nutmeg and vanilla and blend well.  Spread over bars.  Keep refrigerated and cut into squares or bars to serve.

carrot cake bar ingredients

sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in food processor

carrots and etc from processor poured over dry ingredients

bar batter in the pan

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tailgate Classics

Today I spent my one weekday off just like my old Carmel Housewife days:  yoga, grocery, walk/run, lunch, tailgate prep and a little cleaning.  Gorgeous cooler weather.  Football maybe be so pretty, but it's another "directional" school visiting Purdue tomorrow.  One can hope.
Anyway, tomorrow we have special guests at our tailgate, one of Kelly's favorite sisters (Kimmie, we love her too and I'm sure she's made it into some pictures) has her parents in from Pennsylvania for their very first Purdue tailgate experience.  It's the girls' senior year, so no time like the present.
The girls are starting early with the Breakfast Club (i.e. wearing costumes and hitting the bars at 5 a.m.) so they'll want food by the time we get up there.  Kelly's pledge class is dressing according to the 50 states theme.  Kelly, I believe, is New Mexico.  This should be good.
So it's classics on the menu tomorrow:  guacamole from my very first post, queso because college students (and my nephew, Jacob who is coming along tomorrow) love it, macaroni and cheese because legal-age sorority girls need it, barbecue chicken (no trick there, shredded rotisserie chicken simmered in Austin's Own barbecue sauce from Whole Foods), burgers, rocky road squares and the amazing full tray of apple pie squares (this time with egg/milk wash and coarse sugar sprinkles instead of icing just because I like it better).
Have an amazing weekend!  Next week with any luck I'll continue to adapt to my working girl life and find time to post (my new goal is twice a week).  This week I also squeezed in work on our Central Indiana United Methodist Church Habitat for Humanity build.  Super fun day.  Second day of construction so I was caulking where wall panels met and driving a few nails (just for entertainment, you do not want me hammering at critical junctures these nails were just extras while we waiting to raise the roof trusses).  Find your local Habitat chapter online and sign up to be a general volunteer.  You'll love it.  Safe, decent and affordable housing.  A basic need.  Kind of like apple pie.

look what's sitting on my cooktop!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

salutation salvation nation: lemon mascarpone cupcakes

My first tailgate post for the 2011 Boilermaker football season (woo-hoo 1 and 0, baby!) promised the recipe for lemon mascarpone cupcakes so while the adaptation is fresh in my memory I'll "come good" on my promise.  

cupcakes, what more do you need to say?
apparently plenty :)

Let's first discuss my post title.  This weekend lululemon athletica stores in the US and Canada are joining together in a never-ending "om" with all offering community yoga events from 9-10 am local time under the banner of "Salutation Nation".  Check your local store's page on or facebook for details.  I'll be leading my own little Salutation Nation celebration on the shores of Lake Michigan on our annual couples' trip up north.  I even have my playlist ready!  

Salutation quickly mutates to salvation and a few little thoughts I've meant to get from my cluttered little head to the keyboard.  The obvious salvation through lululemon is the perfect circle that took me from my first yoga class at the Broad Ripple showroom to an almost daily yoga practice at The Yoga Center of Indiana and back again to a great job at the Keystone store.  My yoga practice has of course kept me nice and fit and flexible, but more than that it's brought intention, gratitude and a quieter mind into my life.  My work is with amazing company whose culture is so positive and affirming that even today when I was feeling just a little sad with the empty nest I couldn't stay that way for too terribly long.  Who wants to buy the world's best stretchy pants from someone sad?  Besides, we play great music.  

And my final ramblings for today: earlier in the summer I watched an internal lulu video with athletes sharing what they loved about "sweating" once a day (while wearing amazing technical lulu things, but that's beside the point).  One handsome runner stopped for a minute and said how the pulsing energy made him feel so alive.  Okay, stick with me here.  So I'm playing in a hot hot tennis match (singles, so I'm my own cheerleader and coach) and we've been out there a while and I need to close it out on my serve.  I felt the flutterings of what normally I would interpret as nervousness and exhaustion but chose instead to think of as the pulsing energy of being alive.  There.  No nerves, just the wonderful feeling of being alive.  Able to play a long hot tennis match.  Breathing, moving, thinking and just being.  I remembered how nice it truly is to just be playing tennis.  Just pulsing energy.  There's another little victory for me in there.  

Ready to make cupcakes?  Sorry, just needed to do a little sharing.  I'm ready to bake too.  Actually, once this is posted another batch of the coffee crunch is going in the oven for the trip.  This recipe is adapted from a Giada cookbook.  She made plain vanilla cupcakes in mini form and dipped them in a strawberry glaze.  I only have two mini muffin pans, so I made standard size cupcakes.  I had a nice plump bag of "lemon bits" from King Arthur Flour and since it was going to be nice and toasty at the tailgate lemon sounded refreshing.  I iced mine with a little batch of vanilla buttercream.  Sometimes I make these without icing.  They're so moist it's not even necessary.  I'm pretty sure you can use any cake mix flavor you like, the mascarpone cheese makes the cupcakes so tender and delicious.  Yum!

Lemon Mascarpone Cupcakes

8-ounce tub mascarpone cheese, room temperature
2 egg whites
1/4 C vegetable oil
1 box white cake mix
1 1/2 C lemon bits, optional

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line mini or regular muffin pans with paper liners.
In mixing bowl combine mascarpone cheese, egg whites and vegetable oil.  Using a hand or stand mixer beat until combined and creamy.  Add the cake mix and 1 C water and mix at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes.  Fold in lemon bits if using.  Fill the muffin liners to just below the rim and bake the cupcakes until puffed and golden, 18-20 minutes.  Remove pans from the oven and cool about 5-10 minutes before turning cupcakes out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.  
Ice as desired.  I made a little batch of vanilla buttercream frosting.


getting creamy

completely optional, but delicious

ready to bake

Sunday, September 4, 2011

tailgating 2011: coffee crunch bars

our 27th wedding anniversary gift:  tailgate flag and 20+' pole
really comes in handy for finding our tailgate at halftime!
note the little Duke flag in case there is another Rogers family flag out there

The arrival of college football season is like Christmas for my entire little family of four.  We count it down and then jump right in and enjoy it to it's fullest.  Saturday was the home and season opener for our Purdue Boilermakers.  They tried very hard to lose their game to a "directional" Tennessee school, but managed to win in gut-wrenching fashion on a record-setting 97-degree afternoon.  Every year, so excited for a new season.  And recently those good feelings barely last past kick-off.  As Greg says, we've never lost a tailgate.  This is our final season with one of our girls as a Purdue student and we are off to a festive start.  Kelly brought a happy crowd of sorority sisters to join our mainstay base of Greg, myself, Lance and Dawn and our guests for the week:  Greg's parents, Charlie and Becky (both Purdue people as are my parents, the black and gold runs deep). A sweaty start, but since we won it's all good.  One tailgate down and six to go!
Kelly and half of her grandparents that went to Purdue
(she's 21, the beer is now legal excise people)

senior sorority girls (some in Survivor gear from Breakfast Club-
a Purdue tradition where bars open at 5 a.m. before home football games)

Kelly and me profusely sweating and hugging it out

First tailgate means classic tailgate fare:  queso and chips, hot dogs (Coleman uncured natural beef from Costco), hamburgers, fruit, veggies, snacks and desserts.  I tried a new twist on a family favorite adding King Arthur Flour's lemon bits to mascarpone cupcakes which I baked the night before (I will post the recipe, just might not squeek it into this post).  Got up nice and early on Saturday and decided I also had to bake something with chocolate that wouldn't get too melty.  Dusted off a recipe for a coffee crunch bar cookie that I've had since I sang in the chancel choir with my parents during my high school years.  That's a vintage recipe card (made it at least 30 years ago).  I grew up (baptized, confirmed and married) in the Chagrin Falls United Methodist Church where my parents have been members for 50 years.  My dad still sings in the chancel choir.  Good times.  Anyway, the choir director's wife made these for a church function and what's not to love?  So easy and really delicious.  I did update them a bit using espresso powder instead of instant ground coffee, splitting the sugar into half white and half brown and adding kosher salt since it doesn't melt into the batter as much as table salt for a little extra sweet v salty ratio. Yes, they are basically butter and sugar.  That, I believe, is exactly what makes them so good.  Make them and share them at work, a tailgate or a party so you can enjoy them but not eat the entire pan!

Coffee Crunch Bars

1 C unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C brown sugar, packed
1/2 C sugar
2 heaping T espresso powder 
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract (mine is an emulsion from KAF)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 C flour
1 C mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter, sugars, espresso powder and extracts until light and fluffy.  Stir in flour and salt until well-blended.  Stir in chocolate chips.  You can add some chopped almonds too if you like.  Spread batter in an un-greased jelly-roll or 9x13x2 pan.  It's easiest just to use your hands, but if that's not a tactile experience you enjoy spray a spatula with cooking spray and move the batter around that way.  Bake 20-22 minutes until golden brown.  Cool and break into pieces to serve (breaking like peanut brittle, you can't cut them very easily).  Remember to share them or I'll be seeing you at hot yoga every day for the next few weeks while you work them off.  Don't worry, I'll be working off tailgates through November!  Totally worth it.

what you need

creamed butter, sugars, extracts and espresso powder

flour, salt and chips mixed in

in the oven
ready for breaking and eating!

so what's new in your world? grilled figs on goat cheese toasties

Writer's note:  best intentions to add pictures and post this when I wrote it on Wednesday, but it took until Sunday to finish what I started.  I'll get back up to speed.

Gee, where to start?  Here I am all by myself with one happy to be back at Purdue for her senior year, the other safely starting her journey at Duke after "surviving" an earthquake (didn't feel it, we were walking) and a hurricane (two hours inland, just very blustery) and my husband living the dream out on the road this week in Boston (not a lot of power out there so his hotel is full).  The cat and the guinea pig are fabulous conversationalists (not really, despite my best efforts, maybe I should speak to them in Spanish or French and see if they get that) so I'm super thankful to have my lululemon gig.  People everywhere.  Our store is crazy busy and the days fly right on by.  Finding a little routine day by day.  Going to bed earlier so I can squeeze in hot yoga or a walk/run before work.  Remembering that with my allergies, walking outside on a really pretty morning is kind of suicidal.  Should have gone to sunrise vinyasa.

So here are some highlights from my first week in empty-nesterville:  yoga everyday this week (!need it!), crawled up on my own into a headstand three times (I am awesome!), pinned up pants for hemming this week for a local celeb (pressure), tried a zumba class in the parking lot of Lifetime Fitness with 3 other lemons and 150 other people (hilarious, but so much fun I'll try it again), drove home at dusk under the canopy of trees and maybe a dozen dive-bombing bats on 106th St. (spooky), fed Kelly as she dropped by for two hours this afternoon and skyped with Sara for the first time.  That's all in three days.
Today I really should have cleaned and done paperwork, but since Kelly could eat dinner with me I spent most of the mid-day cooking and baking.  I do love my job and I'm too busy to be all melancholy, but there's just something lovely for me about spending a few hours in the kitchen and sharing a meal.  Heavy sigh.

I'm not planning on "cooking for two" or "cooking for one" as the evening's attendance figures fluctuate.  How would I have leftovers?  Greg and I love leftovers.  Mine often morph into a salad or sandwich version of the original.  Greg is straight up on the plate, no balance of food groups needed.  Now all I need is a bit more time at my mac to get my posts out of  my head and onto my blog page.  Last weekend I bought some pretty "brown turkey" figs at Whole Foods.  I've dog-eared so many fresh fig recipes and finally decided to give them a go.  If I lived in California I'm sure I'd have attempted this sooner, but here in the midwest it's a little trickier to buy them ripe and use them before they get questionable.  It was a quick dinner so I just decided to skip the recipes and halve them, grill them to caramelize them and serve them atop goat cheese toasties.  Good plan.  These would be great appetizers, but I served them alongside lightly dressed field greens for a salad/side dish.

Here's my little recipe of the day:

Grilled Figs on Goat Cheese Toasties

pint basket of ripe figs
olive oil
nice whole grain baguette
plain goat cheese
honey or balsamic vinegar, if desired

Preheat the grill.  Halve the figs.  Brush lightly with olive oil.  Grill cut side down over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes until soft and caramelized.  Brush baguette slices with olive oil, flip over and top with goat cheese.  Grill alongside figs until lightly browned on the bottom and melted cheese on top.  Top cheese toasties with figs.  Drizzle with honey or balsamic vinegar as desired or serve them plain (like I did).

caramelizing on the grill

pretty on the plate

working their way towards the cheese toasties