Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day, Margherita Pizza, and My New Favorite (Healthier) Carrot Cake Recipe!

Remember when I mentioned I made pizza dough in preparation for dinner that night? In case you were wondering, I used my current favorite 100% whole wheat pizza dough recipe. The reason for the overnight sit in the fridge is because the dough needs that time to let the flavors meld and such. I've always given it that overnight time and it has never failed!

This time, I made a margherita style pizza since we had leftover basil, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella from my mom's feast. Sometimes the simplest of flavors create the most magical pizza...
I rolled my dough out a little thinner than usual to get that true "neapolitan" type of feel. I added homemade pesto (mixed with minced garlic) to the crust and then added a layer of fresh mozzarella, a layer of tomato slices from the farmer's market, and then topped it off with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, freshly ground pepper, and kosher salt.
Into the blistering hot (475 degree) oven it went, straight onto the pizza stone, for 10 minutes. Fresh out of the oven I added a garnish of fresh basil. Mouth watering yet?

Paired with a nice fruit and walnut salad this meal was border-lining on perfect.
My favorite homemade pizza to date.
At dinner I said, "I sure do make a mean homemade pizza." and my mom replied "oh yes, and this is your meanest."

Okay, so I don't mean to toot my own horn but...well I do. This was GOOD. :D

Just a note when adding the fresh mozzarella: I used 5 ounces for this huge pizza. When you cut the mozzarella into slices that 5 ounces seems like a very small amount. Your pizza will look very bare and you'll think it needs much more cheese but it doesn't. The slices melt all over the pizza and give it a perfect layer of cheese. Not greasy and thick, not too thin you can barely taste it, but just right. Trust me.

Father's day was much more relaxing in relation to meal prep compared to my mom's birthday meal. My dad really wanted to try out making pulled pork with this new smoking rig he had created so all I was in charge of was the sides and of course, the dessert.

I decided to go with coleslaw so we could add some to our pulled pork sandwiches and also have some on the side. I happened to have more than half of a purple cabbage leftover from something else so the idea ended up being perfect. I looked around for a vinegar based slaw and found this recipe. I basically halved everything except for the carrots, bell pepper, mustard seed, and celery seed.
I made it in the morning so it could sit in the fridge all day to mingle.

The only other thing I had to prepare was the dessert! And since I didn't get the chance to make a cake for my mom's birthday I took advantage of the situation and made a cake for father's day!

I know my dad loves carrot cake, and I have been eying a couple recipes for one (and I love it, too), so I knew it would be perfect. I have about 4 bookmarked, but I decided to go with this one. It was really a shot in the dark since it only had one review and I could barely find anything else on it on the internet from other people that tried it but I was hopeful it would be a good one. (There are really GOOD carrot cakes, but can there ever really be a bad carrot cake? Impossible.)

More on the carrot cake later because we had a barbeque to feast on!

I got out all the fixins. Store bought whole wheat Oroweat hamburger buns-
These are my favorite. Pretty short ingredient list, 100% whole wheat, and bunerific in every way.
I got my slaw out of the fridge. It was crazy purple!
And some bread and butter pickles, too. That kind is my fave. I'm usually not a fan of sweet condiments but I love bread and butter pickles!
Here's the pulled pork in all its glory:
And it was time to make out sandwiches!
Bar-b-que at its finest.

The slaw was..interesting. I think the 3/4 cup of vinegar may have been a teensy-weensy bit too much (okay, WAY TOO MUCH) because this stuff definitely had some tang. After dinner I drained all the vinegar off of the remaining slaw and added a bit more sugar and it tasted much better. In fact, I'm a little addicted to it. You know why? It tastes remarkably like bread and butter pickles but in slaw form. YUM!

So, if you're looking for normal slaw, don't try this recipe. If you're looking for bread and butter slaw then this slaw is for you! (but remember to do the alterations I did that I mentioned earlier)

I put the slaw on my salmon burger (from Costco <3) with a little mustard and laughing cow cheese for lunch today and it was like heaven between two buns! I swear!

Soon enough it was carrot cake time and I was more than excited to test it out! I ended up cutting the recipe in half because it was only going to be me and my dad here for a couple of days and I had other desserts to bake!
Beaming with excitement, I'm sure.

Let me talk a bit about this carrot cake. It's not one packed with a bunch of crazy things; this one is simple. Instead of going crazy with shredded coconut, nuts, raisins and what have you this one is just PACKED with shredded carrot, as it should be.

How packed? The full recipe has 3 cups. Ohhh mama.

Of course, I didn't leave the recipe as it was and changed up a couple things. I wanted a coconut flavor so added some coconut extract and used coconut oil. I also wanted a bit more spice so I added a little all spice to the party. Luckily, this was already a "lightened" recipe, so I didn't have to make any changes to make it lower fat. I did, however decrease the sugar in both the cake and frosting and use half whole wheat flour. Because, you know, I'm like that.
I set the cake in the fridge for about an hour only to let the icing set up. It developed a nice outer "crust" which is exactly what I wanted!

Lighter Carrot Cake
Adapted from My Recipes 
For the cake:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon all spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 of a (8-oz.) can crushed pineapple in juice, drained
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 large egg
1 egg white
1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract  
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
Toasted pecans or walnuts for garnish

 For the frosting:
2 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon Brummel and Brown butter spread (or alternative)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract  
1 cup powdered sugar
Prepare Batter:
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Whisk together pineapple and next 5 ingredients; add pineapple mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in carrots. Pour batter into an 8-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray.
2. Bake at 350° for 22 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from the pan to a wire rack; cool completely (about 1 hour).

Prepare Frosting:
Beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar to butter mixture; beat at low speed just until blended. (Do not over beat.) Frost cake with frosting. Garnish with nuts.

 I added the nuts because I still wanted them to be there but just not in the cake. This helped the cake stay very light! Since there wasn't a whole lotta stuff weighing it down, it had a fabulous consistency. It was perfectly moist, but not so moist and dense that you feel like your eating a muffin (which is an experience with carrot cake I have had too often) 

The cake had the perfect balance of coconut flavor that played very well with the frosting and pecans. We cut it into 6 slices, so there's only a teaspoon of oil per serving! This cake beats any carrot cake I've ever made out of the water. It's honestly THE best! I can't wait to make the full sized version soon!

And even though I decreased the sugar in the frosting, the frosting was pretty sweet but I liked it that way because it worked really well with the cake. Honestly I could go on and on about how good this cake was!

On another note, I could also go on and on about how great my dad is, too. He's the guy that's always there to fix everything, always there when I need a favor, always there when I get lost, and always there for our weekly trips to Costco. He's the sweetest, most caring, patient, giving, selfless person I know. Love you dad; happy father's day!

<3 Carlyn

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