Beef & Veggie Bolognese

I have a confession to make.  It’s really quite scandalous, but I feel like you all need to know this about me.  I can’t eat plain white rice.  Wow, I know, It’s like I’ve rocked the very foundation of all you thought you knew about me.  What?  The girl who loves all things Asian doesn’t even like to eat rice?

I hang my head in shame, believe me.  I tried to shake the habit in Taiwan, attempting to enjoy many bowls of the stuff, but to no avail.  If you serve a meal that is accompanied by rice, there’s an incredibly high chance that those tiny grains will never see my plate.

The reason I’m bringing up my strange aversion for this one carb is…well I’m not quite sure.  One thing I do know, is that this aversion does not extend to pasta, or bread for that matter.  I eat plain bread all the time, and have been known to start my meal of pasta directly from the steaming hot colander.  Something about pasta (and noodles!) are so appealing to me. Perhaps it’s their length, allowing me to slurp and suck in mouthfuls at a time, twirling them around my fork like yarn wrapped in a skein.

And you can’t forget the sauce.  You should have seen the look on Luke’s face when I announced the completion of a “beef bolognese” dinner.  “What’s the orange stuff?” he asked.  “Um…that’s carrot,” I replied happily.  “Oh.”  10 minutes later I was staring at a plate empty of everything except for the carrot bits.  Oh well, more Vitamin A for me!

I liked the addition of vegetables in this recipe, as I like my sauces to have more body and flavor.  Luke thought it was great too, even if his arch nemesis, carrot, was involved.  Feel free to take out some of the veggies, in which case, decrease the amount of crushed tomatoes so the meat flavor can still shine.

Beef & Veggie Bolognese

Adapted from Kitchen Trial & Error

Makes 4-6 servings

¼ cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 medium carrots, diced

1/2 pound ground beef or 1 pound quartered mushrooms

28 oz crushed tomatoes

¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

In a dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrots and cook until the vegetables are soft, about another 5 minutes.  Add the meat or mushrooms, and cook until meat is no longer pink or the mushrooms are soft, 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the cheese.  Serve over pasta, and garnish with extra cheese!


Carrot Cake Quick Bread

I’m pretty sure that with this post, I’ll have made carrot cake into almost every breakfast item imaginable.

Let’s see…I’ve made carrot cake muffins, carrot cake waffles, carrot cake pancakes, and I’ve made actual carrot cake and carrot cake cupcakes.  (Check out the recipe index!)  The only thing I’m missing are carrot cake donuts.  With a cream cheese glaze, mmmmm.  Well, you know that’s going to happen.

Obviously, this household really likes carrot cake.  Luke has already openly professed his love for carrot cake, but I’m not ready to commit to just one type of cake as my favorite.

But back to cake for breakfast.  This bread is soft and tender, and while it’s not as dense or moist as actual cake, it certainly is still quite tasty.

You can also make a cream cheese spread to accompany, if you want to kick it up a notch.

Carrot Cake Quick Bread

 Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, April 2011

 Makes one 9X5” loaf

 For the bread:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg (or cardamom)

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 cups shredded carrots

2 eggs, beaten

2/3 cup milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil

For the cream cheese icing:

1 oz cream cheese, softened

¾ cup powdered sugar

3-4 tsp milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9X5” loaf pan and set aside.  In a large bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, soda and salt.

In a medium bowl, combine carrots, eggs, milk, and oil and stir until blended.  Add to the dry ingredients, stirring until moistened.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 55-60 mins, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  If it is browning too quickly, cover with foil.  Cool in pan at least 10 mins, then invert onto rack to cool completely.  While the load cools, make the icing.

Stir together all icing ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.  Top bread with icing before serving.

Carrot Cake Pancakes

It’s Saturday!  That means breakfast doesn’t have to be portable today.  It can actually be served on a plate with a fork.

Although I do absolutely confess to eating pancakes with my hands.  I do it all the time in fact.  Now that I think about it, I eat them without a plate either…oh well, I never claimed to be normal.

It seems like spring has finally taken hold for realz this time in New England.  Showers and thunderstorms descend randomly, and it’s warm enough that we’ve shut off our furnace.  Which makes us very happy considering how old and inefficient that darn thing is.

So carrot cake pancakes.  They’re like cake for breakfast, but healthier.  Carrot cake seems springy to me, though I’m not entirely sure why.  It’s not like you can’t buy carrots during the winter.

That little dollop on top is not butter, but creamed honey from Trader Joe’s.

Anyway, if you love carrot cake, you’ll love these pancakes.  They are wonderfully moist and fluffy, and obviously, taste just like carrot cake.  So much win I can’t even stand it.

Carrot Cake Pancakes

Adapted from The Joy the Baker Cookbook

Makes about 15 pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

generous pinch of ground ginger

1 large egg

2 Tbsp packed brown sugar

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups finely grated carrots

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.  In a small bowl, whisk together egg, brown sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla.  Stir in the carrots.  Pour the buttermilk mixture, all at once, into the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated.  Let rest for 5 minutes.

Grease a large skillet or griddle and set over medium heat.  Spoon about ¼ cup of batter onto the hot pan and cook, flipping once, until the pancakes are golden on both sides, about 2 mins per side.  Transfer to a large plate and serve immediately with your favorite toppings.

Cream Cheese Filled Carrot Cake Muffins

Today I’m posting about something that both parties of Bashful Bao can get behind.  While I do enjoy making scrumptious dishes involving ingredients Luke doesn’t eat, and savor them immensely, I mainly try to accommodate both our palates.

I’m thinking this one’s right up that alley.  We both love carrot cake (including Izzy…if she was allowed to eat cake), so when I had extra cream cheese filling from my stuffed red velvet cookies, I knew this recipe had to happen ASAP.

Oh man…these muffins are goood.  Like finding the prefect bridesmaid dress at the first store, and it’s on sale good (fingers crossed).

I wish I had had some of these to bring down to CT.  I was so busy preparing my dad’s birthday treats, I completely forgot to make something to bring for my mom and stepdad, since we stay with them while in CT.  After dinner last night, my stepdad asked, “So Anna, what did you bring us for dessert?”  I shamefully hung my head and admitted that I had no goodies stashed away for his sweet tooth.  Some food blogger I am.

Hey, I figure he has my mom to bake for him, right?  Oh well.

I would totally eat these muffins for breakfast, lunch and dessert.  That’s probably why they disappeared so fast.  I will definitely be making them again in the near future, they’re practically an excuse to eat carrot cake all day long.  Best excuse ever.

Cream Cheese Stuffed Carrot Cake Muffins

Adapted from Scientifically Sweet

Makes 12-15 muffins, depending on size

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp each ground allspice and ground coriander
¼ tsp each ground nutmeg and ground ginger
¼ tsp salt
8 oz finely grated carrots (about 2 cups or 2 large carrots)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
¼ cup sour cream
1/3 cup canola oil

For the filling:
4 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F and line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or grease the cavities with cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Whisk ingredients together to blend evenly and set aside.

Make the filling now so that it is ready once your batter is done. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar and beat until very smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds; set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together grated carrots and both sugars. Let stand no more than 3 minutes to allow the sugar to break down the carrots and release some liquid. This helps to soften the carrots slightly so that you don’t end up chewing on stringy, cuticle-like bits in your cupcakes. Beat eggs into carrot mixture, one at a time, until well blended. Beat in sour cream and oil until well incorporated. Add flour mixture to carrot mixture all at once and fold gently using a wide spatula with few strokes until mostly incorporated, but do not over mix.

Scoop of spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling them half-way. Using the back of a small spoon, create an indent in the center of each portion of batter and place one teaspoon of filling into the indent. Divide remaining batter among muffin cups, being sure to spread it out and cover the top and all sides of the filling to prevent it from leaking out during baking. If you don’t need use all of the filling, that’s ok. I’d rather you not overfill them. Maybe you can make these cookies with the extra?

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the edges (someplace where there is no filling) comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool completely.



Carrot Cake Waffles

When Luke’s parents gave me a waffle iron for Christmas, I was overjoyed.  Still am in fact.  As a little girl, I remember my mom making buttermilk waffles for my brother and me, and I always marveled at the sizzling crevices of the iron, releasing a waffle that was both crisp on the outside, and warm and fluffy on the inside.

I’ve wanted one of my own for a while, since waffles have a bagillion variations, and I can’t wait to try as many as humanly possible.  For my first waffles, I probably should have stuck with something more traditional, but with a big bag of carrots eyeballing me from the crisper drawer, there was really nothing I could do.

There is no way Izzy can eat a pound of carrots (over half her body weight) in a week, so I knew something needed to be done about them.  I grated them up and threw them in waffle batter to make Luke’s favorite dessert into his breakfast.

He was quite pleased.  And so was I.  This recipe called for blooming the spices in melted butter, a process that kind of “cooks” the spices in the butter to enhance their flavors.  The waffles certainly were flavorful, so I guess it worked?

Also, I love how they came out all speckled, though it might be hard to see that in the photos.

Carrot Cake Waffles

Adapted from Willow Bird Baking

Makes about 12 waffles

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, separated
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick butter)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup finely grated carrots
Cooking spray for waffle iron

Bloom the spices in butter.* Heat 4 tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly, until butter is light brown and has faint nutty aroma, 2 to 4 minutes. Add spices and continue to cook, stirring constantly, 15 seconds. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

Combine the flour, salt, sugar, baking soda.

Mix together the buttermilk and the egg yolks. Stir in the spiced butter and vanilla. Preheat the waffle iron. Stir the wet into the dry ingredients.

Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with a whisk or electric mixer (make sure bowl and mixer are spotlessly clean) until they hold soft peaks. Stir them gently into the batter. Add carrots and stir gently to combine.

Spread a ladleful or so of batter onto the waffle iron and bake until the waffle is done, usually 3 to 5 minutes, depending on your iron. Spray iron with cooking spray between waffles as needed.

*If you prefer a quicker breakfast, you can melt and cool the butter plain instead of browning it and blooming the spices in it — but doing so does add flavor. If you do skip the spice blooming, simply add the spices to the dry ingredients. Add your plain melted, cooled butter instead of the spiced butter.

Carrot Cake & Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Last Friday was the first office birthday of the new year.  This time around, we were celebrating three birthdays in one day, but the unanimous decision on the baked good was carrot cake.  Fine by me, I love everything about carrot cake.

Oh, except one thing.  The physical act of grating the carrots.  Every time, without fail, I end up grating off part of a finger.  It’s happened every single time I’ve made carrot cake.  Maybe I need to give up a little sooner towards the end of the carrot.  That’ll make Izzy happy, as she gets all the carrot scraps.

Quick rabbit side note: Izzy’s recovery is going well.  She’s moving around a little more, though grooming herself practically all the time.  She’s not pulling at her stitches thankfully, and has started eating vegetables and pellets again.

Anyway, I was talking about how much I love carrot cake.  I should admit though, that I love pretty much all kinds of cake.  Luke, however, has the guts to decide that carrot cake is his favorite.  I guess I’ll be making a lot more carrot cakes in the future.

After all, there’s no other cake I’d make for Izzy on her birthday!

Carrot Cake

Adapted from Cooking Classy

4 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup applesauce

2 cups granulated sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

3 cups finely grated carrots*

1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of 2 9″ round cake pans with parchment paper.  Grease with cooking spray or butter and flour the pans.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, combine vegetable oil, applesauce, eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla.  Slowly stir in dry ingredients and mix until well blended.  Stir in grated carrots.  Divide mixture evenly into 2 prepared cake pans.  Bake cakes in preheat oven for 37-39 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cool 5 minutes in cake dishes before removing to a wire rack to cool.  Flip cakes out of pan and allow to cool on wire rack completely before frosting (once cool I cut about 1/4″ off the tops to even them out before frosting, you’ll notice the centers don’t rise as high as the rest).  Flip cakes upside down when frosting with Cream Cheese Frosting. Store cake in airtight container.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, whip together cream cheese, butter and vanilla until fluffy.  Stir in powdered sugar and mix until well combine.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes w/ Dulce de Leche Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Jun Blog & Live Love Pasta

2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 cups finely shredded carrots

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with paper liners.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standard mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the eggs, milk, vanilla, and both sugars until smooth. Beat in the oil. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix in the carrots.

Divide the batter equally among the lined cupcake cups. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 10 minutes, or until a cake tester or a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the tins and let cool to room temperature on a cooling rack.

For the Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup confectioners’ sugar (more or less depending on consistency)

3 tablespoons dulce de leche

Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until the frosting is smooth. Beat in the dulce de leche.

Bananarrot Cake

Last Monday was my second office birthday.  After the success of my first attempt, I was really excited to go at it again.  This time though, I was making a birthday cake for my fiancé’s father, so the pressure was on….

Everything was going great.  I made the frosting the night before to get it out of the way, and I got to put my kitchen scale to good use, as the recipe used weight instead of volume measurements.  Making two separate cake layers was slightly annoying, it felt like I was continuously washing and drying bowls and spoons so I could use them again.  But it was worth it.  The cakes turned out great despite some ambiguity in the recipe, and everything was going smoothly.  Until the car ride to the office.

I love how the carrots conformed to the cup.

I had purchased two cake carriers on Amazon to make the delivery process easier, but this cake was out to get me.  About three minutes into the ride, I noticed the top layer was shifting slightly.  Let me tell you, driving and trying to reposition cake layers is not the best example of efficient multi-tasking.  I thought I was compensating nicely, until I went around a turn and the top layer slid right off into the side of the carrier.


I realized there was nothing I could do until I stopped driving, so I did my best to keep driving calmly while my fiance’s dad’s birthday cake was slowly becoming my first public baking catastrophe.  When I pulled into the parking lot, I maneuvered the layers back into place by hand, and tried to smooth out the frosting.  It looked…well I thought it looked awful, but no one seemed to notice.  Bonus.  And it was very tasty.  Double bonus.

I picked this cake because Luke’s dad likes bananas and carrot cake.  The layers complement each other very nicely, and cream cheese frosting is perfect with banana and carrot.  I was very pleased with the outcome, even if it did require some last minute adjustments on my part.

I stayed in the office until the cake was cut so I could take a pic of the layers.

Also, I think this title is totally legit, but Luke thought a cake name shouldn’t end with the sound “rot.”  The recipe only has weight measurements, so if you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can look up equivalent volume measurements on the Internet.

Bananarrot Cake

Adapted from Citrus and Candy

Carrot Layer

150g all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ tablespoon cocoa powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

150g sugar

50g light brown sugar

150ml of canola oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups shredded carrot

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8” cake pan.  You could also use a 9” one.  When making layer cakes, I also line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper for easy removal.  In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and cinnamon.  In a medium bowl, beat together sugar, brown sugar, oil and eggs and vanilla until well blended.  Add the flour mixture mixing slowly until just incorporated.

Add the carrots and beat for another 10 seconds.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the middle comes out clean*.  Cool for 20 minutes in pan, then turn out to cool completely.  Remove parchment paper if necessary.


Banana Layer

 2 large ripe bananas, mashed

116g sour cream

2 eggs

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon zest

170g sugar

120ml canola oil

200g cake flour (or all-purpose)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

Oven should still be at 350 degrees.  Grease another 8” or 9” cake pan.  Mash the bananas in a medium bowl, and add sour cream, mixing to combine fully.  Add in the eggs, vanilla and zest and mix until well blended.

Add in the sugar and mix until combined.  Gradually add in the oil, beating until it’s completely incorporated.  Sift in dry ingredients.  You can combine them together in a small bowl beforehand, or sift them in one at a time.  Mix slowly until fully combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, or until passes the toothpick test.  Cool for 20 minutes in pan, then turn out to cool completely.

*This will hereafter be known as the toothpick test.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Culinography

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3.5 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cake.