Insanely Moist Carrot Cake

First off, I have some exciting news! I had my baby! Jack was born two weeks ago and he is perfect. Check out my other blog for his full birth story
My mom came for a month to help take care of us—for which I am insanely grateful. She left today and I wish she could come back already. She took care of all the cooking so I apologize for not having any new recipes lately. However, she made me an awesome treat for Easter that I wanted to share.
Carrot cake will always remind me of my grandmother. No one else in my family likes carrot cake but me, so she only made it when I was visiting. Sweet carrots, rich cream cheese frosting, and the smile on her face when I took the first bite. Such happy memories. Then my mom burst my bubble few years ago and told me she used a box mix. Oh well, I still cherish those memories. At least she would doctor it up with extra carrots, walnuts, and raisins.
So I asked my mom if she would make me a carrot cake for Easter. She also used a box mix but doctored it up. Now, no offense to late grandmother, but my mom’s cake was AMAZING. Light but insanely moist. Just the right amount of sweetness with light creamy frosting. 
This recipe makes one sheet cake. Because this cake is vegan and does not have eggs, it will not rise significantly. As a result, I would not suggest making this into a layer cake. 
Carrot Cake
Cake
1 box carrot cake mix (check to make sure it is vegan)
1/4 cup applesauce
1 can crushed pineapple in juice
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Frosting
1 container of vegan cream cheese 
1 cup powder sugar 
Pre-heat the oven to temperature for a sheet cake as specified on the box. 
Spray a baking sheet pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, mix together all the cake ingredients. Use the whole can of pineapple, juice included. 
Bake according the the directions on the box. However, since there are no eggs it may take a bit longer. Adjust the time as needed. Like a regular cake, a toothpick inserted in the middle should be clean when removed.
Once the cake is cooled, make the frosting. Mix together the cream cheese and powder sugar. It will just be a light frosting/glaze. 
Spread on the cake and let it set. 
It’s so insanely moist, I love it. Maybe Jack will take after me and love carrot cake too. Maybe he can have happy memories eating it with his grandma too. And maybe you can bake up this treat and make memories of your own.

Roasted Fennel Carrots

I decided to make a healthier side dish for burgers instead of fries. I randomly threw some spices on some carrots and roasted them. They came out so good I could not believe it. Michael instantly told me to put them on my blog! I used the organic carrots from my veggie box delivery.

This recipe calls for mango powder. The powder it made from dried green mangoes. It’s a common spice in Indian cooking.  It’s kind of tart and zesty. I bought it awhile since most of the Indian foods Michael ask for call for it (I am trying to not make “white people Indian food” as he calls it) and I am learning to love it. It can be found in Indian Grocery stores and most health food stores. It’s worth adding to your spice rack.

This recipes make 2 servings, but can be easily multiplied.
Roasted Fennel Carrots
1 medium bunch of carrots, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1 tbs coconut oil (warmed if necessary so it is liquid)
1 tsp mango powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp curry powder
1/2  tbs whole fennel seeds
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
If using fresh organic carrots, cut the top greens off. Wash well.
Chop the carrots into larger bit-sized pieces, about 1 inch or so.
In a large bowl, combine all remaining ingredients and toss to coat well.
Roast in the oven until soft and golden brown, about 20 minutes.
A healthy side dish loaded with flavor!

Organic Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad with Lemon Quinoa

I decided that Michael and I need to eat more organic vegetables. I wish we could afford to buy all organic, especially from a farmers’ market so we could support the local agriculture. Unfortunately, for a young couple just starting out, that is out of our budget. Then I randomly thought of farm delivery service. Most of them allow you to select a package within your price range and it comes right to your door. So I simply Googled “organic produce delivery Bay Area” and a bunch came up. I decided to go with Farm Fresh to You. I like how professional the website is (I hate when business have website’s that look like 1995) and thought the farm’s story was nice. I also thought the prices were reasonable and I liked that you could chose the frequency of delivery. And you can customize your deliveries by adding produce to your exclude list. For  example, I am not a fan of peaches, so I added peaches to my exclusion list. Now I will open the box and go “Ick, peaches!”

I selected the Veggies Only box every other week. Friday morning when I stepped out the door to go work, there was the box. When I came home from work I checked out all the lovely produce. Sweet peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, avocados, eggplant, nectarines (I modified my order because I did not want something), baby beets, and carrots. It all looked good, but the minute I saw the beets and carrots, I thought only one thing: roasted salad. I LOVE roasted beets. So good and so easy to make. And, roasted carrots are so sweet. Nothing not to love.

Now I would just eat the salad for dinner, but Michael would not be happy. “I know all you eat is vegetables, but I need more food!” Our lemon tree had a brunch of ripe lemons, so made him lemon chicken. Since I had so many, I thought I would make lemon quinoa as well.

Another side note, I also decided Michael and I are going to eat only healthy fats. So only olive oil and coconut oil from now on. Obviously Michael still eats meat so he has animal fat too. That is his life choice and I respect that.

Roasted Beet and Carrot Salad:
4 beets (I had one large and 3 medium)
1 bunch of carrots (I had Nantes specifically)
1 tbs olive oil, divided
Salt and Pepper
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 squirt of fresh lemon juice

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Alternately, you can do this on the grill. But you REALLY need to watch them and turn them regularly. They tend to go from uncooked to burned-beyond-all-recognition in an instant.

Cut the tops and bottoms off the beets. Wash well. Cut a small silt in the top of the each beet. Place each beet in it’s own piece of foil. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper.Wrap each beet up with the foil so it is covered completely. *Side note: I do not put olive oil on them before roasting. You are going to be peeling the skin off later, so I feel it is just a waste and add excess calories.

Cut the greens off the top and the root strings off the bottom of the carrots. Wash well. Cut into 1/4 of inch sized pieces. In a small pan or baking sheet, toss together will 1/2 tbs of olive oil. Then season with salt and pepper. *I do add olive oil to the carrots for roasting since they will not be peeled and loosing the flavor.

Place beets in the oven right-side-up. Cook for 30-40 minutes. They will be ready when a knife can be inserted in the middle with no resistance.

When the beets have 20 minutes left, add the carrots to the oven. When the timer goes the carrots should be   golden (it is okay if they are a little black) and soften,  and the beets will black on the outside but soft on the inside.

Set both the beets and the carrots aside to cool. This salad is served chilled or room temperature.

Once the beets are completely cooled (unless you like burning your hands on hot beet juice), take a spoon or a peeler (or your hands if you do not mind pink fingers) and peel off the charred skin.

Cut the beets into bite-sized cubes.

In a small serving bowl, add the beets, carrots, remaining olive oil, Italian seasoning, and a squirt of lemon juice. Mix together well. Season with salt and pepper as needed.

Lemon Quinoa:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 tbs olive oil
2 tsp Italian Seasoning
Salt and pepper

In a small pot, add the quinoa, water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil.

Reduce to simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let sit covered for 5 minutes.

Then add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

I let mine cool for a bit, that way the flavors could set in more. Plus, it was hot and I did not want to eat a lot of hot food.

A lovely summer dinner. The beets and carrots were so good. Organic really does make all the difference. I really encourage everyone to not only eat more vegetables, but eat organic ones. Good for you, supports the local economy, and support sustainable agriculture. Another cool thing about Farm Fresh to You, you can adjust your delivery dates. We are going to a wedding in Tahoe in two weeks, when the next box delivery will come. I do not want my veggies to spoil, so I adjusted the delivery to this week instead. So look out for some more organic recipes soon!

Aloo Mattar

Sorry I haven’t posted in so long, I’ve just been lazy. But I am going to make up for it with a totally awesome meal. The other day I couldn’t decide what I want to make for dinner, so I asked my boyfriend. He usually says “I don’t know”, but this time he actually had a request! He wanted this gravy peas and potato dish his mom used to make. After some research on the internet, I found what he was talking about. This recipe is based on the one from Manjula’s Kitchen called Aloo Mattar (Potatoes and Green Peas). And, he’s family eats roti, which I’d never heard of before. I am used to naan bread, but I thought I would try making it. And, since I had cilantro in the fridge, I decided to make a chutney too. I will post the other two recipes later, but here is the aloo mattar for now. 


A few of the spices might take a bit of work to find, but if I can find them on the Big Island, I am sure you can too. 

Aloo Mattar

3 medium boiled potatoes

2 tablespoons oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced

3/4 cup frozen green peas

1 minced green chili, minced

1 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon asafetida
2 tablespoons coriander 
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon paprika 
2 teaspoon garam masala
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro 



Peal and cut the potatoes into bite-sized pieces.  
Add them to a pot of cold water and bring to boil on the stove. Cook until soft. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. 
Add the onions and cook until translucent. 
Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. 
Add the frozen peas and cook until warmed. 
Add the potatoes. 
Add the minced green chili, cumin, asafetida, coriander, turmeric, paprika, turmeric, and gram masala.  Mix together well and cook until for about 10 minutes, covered, and stirring occasionally. 
Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they are soft. 
Season with salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with some cilantro. 
It is good on it’s own, but it is amazing with the cilantro chutney, which I will post tomorrow. Michael’s only complaint was it is more like “white people Indian food”….my answer was “well, a white girl made it!” hahahaha.  I really suggest this dish, it’s easy and so freaking good. 

Peas and Carrots Gravy, Brought to you by Foodbuzz and Green Giant

You know what is even better than delicious vegetables? Free delicious vegetables! Foodbuzz Tastemaker program selected me for a free product coupon from Green Giant. I’ve preached the benefits of fresh produce on my blog several times before, but I sadly know that fresh produce is impractical for some people. Sometimes life gets in the way of using that lovely fresh spinach or broccoli that you bought with the best intentions. You might be too busy, too broke, or have picky kids. This is not an excuse to cut vegetables out of diet all together. It means frozen produce is your best bet. And, as if always ripe veggies all year round wasn’t cool enough, Green Giant has steamer bags. You don’t have to dirty another dish.

I was very excited when my coupon came in the mail, mainly because I hardly ever win things. But sadly, when I got to the store, I got a little discouraged. I had a hard time finding a steamer bag product that was vegan. In order to make their products as convenient as possible, some of the steamer bags come in their own sauce, usually a butter or cheese sauce. Now, I want to stress that my discouragement is not Green Giant’s fault. They have several products in their line that are sauce-free and vegan. The lack of options was because I live on an island in the middle of the Pacific. I went to another larger grocery store, I found a bag of delicious Green Giant sweet peas. 

The minute I saw the bag, for some reason I thought of white gravy with peas and carrots. I imagined it over some breaded and baked tofu with a roll on the side. A very tasty Sunday night dinner. 

Peas and Carrots Gravy

1/2 of an onion, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large carrots, diced into pea-sized pieces
1/2 bag Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamers Sweet Peas
1/2 cup to 1 cup of water or vegetable broth, for cooking the vegetables 
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 cup flour
2 cups water
1 tsp ground sage
1 tsp oregano 
Salt and pepper to taste 

Chop the onions, garlic, and carrots. 

So, realized I didn’t have any oil or butter after I had chopped everything. I didn’t have enough money to run out and buy some, so I thought I would have to postpone this to Friday when I get paid again. Then I remembered a trick I saw on  VegWeb TV’s Youtube Channel. Sauté your veggies in a bit of water or vegetable broth! This won’t work if you want to caramelize, but just cooking through and softening is fine. This also cuts down on the fat too.

In a large skillet, heat about 1/4 cup of water or broth over medium heat. Once the water is heated, add the onions. Cook until the onions are translucent and the water is mostly gone.

Add some more water or broth, and then add the garlic and carrots. Cook until the carrots are soft and the water is mostly gone. 

While the carrots cook, microwave the bag of sweet peas according to the instructions. 

Add half the bag to the skillet, and save the rest for either a side dish or for something else. 

In a small bowl, mix together the 1 cup vegetable broth, soy sauce and flour into a slurry. Mix well to get the lumps out. 

Turn the heat down to low, and add the slurry to the skillet. The flour will start to cook and it will thicken up quickly. Just keep mixing so it doesn’t get lumpy. 

Add the final 2 cups of water and continue to mix until smooth. 

Add the sage, oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Let it cook a few more minutes on low to thicken up. 

I served the gravy generously over some breaded tofu from my South Dinner post, except I baked it instead of frying it, and a homemade roll. I even had some peas on the side for some extra green. 
The gravy is creamy, rich, and just a hint of sweetness from the peas. I will happily be eating the leftover gravy for the next few days. Thank you Foodbuzz and Green Giant!