Wednesday, March 25, 2009

carrot cake for first charity bake sale - recipe: carrot cake

A few years ago, I had the idea to host a charitable bake sale — with all profits going to a local charity. I loved attending bake sales as a kid (who didn’t?) and I thought a bake sale would be a fun and delicious way to generate enthusiasm for a worthy cause. Although this idea was never too far from my mind, life got busy, time flew by, and I hate to say it, the sale never happened. While I try my best to give back to the community regularly, I recently read an article in the paper that moved me into action.

The most difficult aspect of organizing this bake sale was choosing which charity to support; there are so many worthwhile causes in our region. Last May, my husband and I were blessed with the birth of our son, John, so a charity supportive of children felt right. I decided that the first bake sale (I hope we’ll have many) should benefit KidsAbility.

Last week, I spoke with Lisa Talbot, Executive Director of KidsAbility Foundation. I explained I wanted to host a bake sale and Lisa replied that their annual Radiothon was being held on April 3 and this would be the perfect day for it.

Accordingly, our bake sale to benefit KidsAbility will be held on April 3 from 10 a. m. to 5 p. m. All profits from the baking will benefit children with challenges here in our community by helping them reach their potential. After 5 p. m., I’ll head to Conestoga Mall where the Radiothon takes place and I’ll let them know how much money we raised with our sale.

Please consider dropping by our shop. We’ll be selling all sorts of delicious baked goodies including cupcakes, squares, cookies, muffins, pies and of course our signature lemon currant scones.

There’s even a staff challenge — each employee will contribute an item not normally found on our menu. The challenge — to see whose baked goods sell out first. I’m making a delicious carrot cake; Rose is making flourless, organic peanut butter cookies and cheesy buddy dog biscuits. The rest of the team? They’re keeping their contributions top secret — amazing considering how much Rose and I pester them.

Here is an outstanding recipe for carrot cake. I learned to make it while working as the “cafe chef” at Dish Cooking Studio in Toronto. I thought that the recipe was under wraps until I saw it published in the new Dish Entertains cookbook, written by Trish Magwood and published by Harper Collins Canada.

Delicious? Yes. Low calorie or low fat? Absolutely not!

ingredients for cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup drained, crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup raisins

method for baking

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together the vegetable oil and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  • Gently fold the flour mixture into the oil/sugar mixture.
  • Fold in the grated carrots, pineapple and raisins.
  • Pour into a greased or parchment-lined 10 inch by 13 inch cake pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Once cake is cool, top with icing (recipe below).

ingredients for cream cheese icing
(the best part about carrot cake, if you ask me)

  • 1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted

method for cream cheese icing

Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the icing sugar, one-half cup at a time and beat until icing is smooth and fluffy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

chefs’ tips on grilling the perfect steak just in time for the start of barbecue season - recipe: Dead-Easy Blue Cheese Sauce for Steak - recipe: Sal

It’s my husband’s birthday this week. I welcome the opportunity to spoil him because it’s not often that he allows me to do this. Every year I offer him options on what he would like for his birthday meal — this is the one time of year that he’ll indulge himself by telling me exactly what he wants me to cook

This being said, I can almost guarantee that from a wide list of birthday-dinner options, David will choose steak, baked potatoes and Caesar salad.

Traditional, yes, perhaps a bit pedestrian, but certainly delicious (and I can always get creative with the dessert, right?).

Chefs are often asked for tips on how to prepare perfect, restaurant-quality steaks at home.

I have my faves but I thought it would be fun to ask two of the best chefs in town — Mark Saraiva, chef at Dana Shortt Gourmet and Kirstie Herbstreit, a chef at the Art Bar in Kitchener.

Mark’s tips

  • Mark is a man of few words. However, when I asked him about cooking steak he spoke at length and did so very passionately.
  • Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking — an absolute must, he said.
  • Don’t salt the meat in advance — salt it just before searing/grilling (otherwise, the salt will bring out the moisture in the meat and it won’t form as nice a “crust.”)
  • Let the meat rest for at least 5-10 minutes after cooking so that the juices have a chance to “settle” and redistribute.
  • Mark was adamant about this point — he thinks that it’s such a shame that people waste hard-earned dollars on quality steak by tucking into it too soon.

Kirstie’s tips

  • Buy good quality beef, from your preferred butcher.
  • The cut is important. Kirstie’s favourites are top sirloin and strip loin. She finds tenderloin just doesn’t have the marbling to give it that proper “steak” flavour.
  • Oil the meat and then season both sides with lots of kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper.
  • By oiling the meat, as opposed to the grill or cast iron pan, you ensure that the seasoning sticks and that you get a nice “crust” on the steak.
  • Cook it hot and fast. For the perfect medium-rare one-inch steak: lay steak on a hot grill at “10 o’clock,” wait two minutes, turn to “2 o’clock,” cook two minutes, flip and cook a further two minutes, then take it off of the heat.
  • Rub with a cut side of a garlic clove, and rest a few minutes before enjoying.

My tips

  • I absolutely agree with Mark and Kirstie (although my favourite cut of steak is the rib-eye).
  • Purists like their steaks served straight-up but I think a little melted herb butter on top of a grilled steak is fabulous — almost as delicious as the combination of blue cheese with steak — a must try for blue cheese lovers like myself.

Dead-Easy Blue Cheese Sauce for Steak


  • 2 cups heavy (35 per cent) cream
  • Blue cheese, to taste (Danish blue is fine, gorgonzola if you are feeling more indulgent.)
  • Pepper, to taste


  • Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, then continue to boil until the cream thickens — about 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add crumbled blue cheese — how much you add will depend on how thick you want your sauce and how much blue cheese flavour you like. Season to taste with pepper.

Salt-Crusted Baked Potatoes

Inspired by a dinner at the Linger Longer Steakhouse in Greensboro, Ga.


  • 4 half-pound baking potatoes, preferably russet
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt


  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Wash and dry potatoes.
  • Prick potatoes in several places with a fork.
  • Coat each potato with egg white, then crust potatoes completely in salt.
  • Bake potatoes in a shallow baking pan until tender when pierced with a sharp knife, about 60 to 75 minutes.
  • Crack off as much salt as desired from skin before serving.
  • Serve with your favourite accompaniments — sour cream, butter, grated cheddar and scallions.

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