Dry Diggings Distillery – Whiskey Tasting Adventure

This blog probably should have been WWWB…Wine Whisk WhiskEY & Bliss as it is no secret that I love my whiskey. What do you think my answer was when 2nd dad aka Mikey aka Uncle asked if I’d like to go whiskey tasting? Um, YES. Not only does this blog support local and small business but so does my entire family!

Y’all Dry Diggings Distillery is the Hogwarts of whiskey: magical, secretly hidden, and extremely educational. Nestled in the heart of El Dorado Hills this local business/distillery gave us one exciting afternoon. Now, if you’re a whiskey hater…..why are you here? Just kidding. In all seriousness there is a wide variety of spirits available at Dry Diggings and ALL made in house, AND the people running the show are incredible so go anyways for a fun afternoon and memorable experience!

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Please welcome Michelle, my aunt to the blog! She isn’t cooking anything on this post but she went along for the tasting because that’s just what family is for. Kyle and my amazing grandpa went as well but apparently we didn’t take pictures with them….oops. Next time! Mikey and I collab quite a bit you may remember him here & here. We continue! All of us in attendance being whiskey tasting virgins.

We take the short drive to the distillery and upon parking Michelle looks over at me from the backseat with bewilderment across her face and asks “is this it?!” Hogwarts. The distillery is located inside your run of the mill business building! It is totally awesome. We walk through the door, were immediately greeted with a smile, and continued down a short hallway that then transported us into the magical place of Dry Diggings Distillery.

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Our tasting was hosted by Darci and she was absolutely delightful. My family is loud, funny, the best(slightly biased), and memorable and Darci put up with us the entire time! Whiskey and spirits tasting is not what Michelle and I initially thought which was taking numerous shots of whiskey until you can’t remember your name. No, the tasting in TOTAL is only equal to about 1 and a quarter shots. You also can pick your tasting here from whiskey exclusively which is what Kyle chose or the rest of the party’s choice: a mixed flight of both whiskey and spirits. Darci loves where she works and we all could immediately tell the minute she began to explain each bottle, how the idea for it was conceived, the entire process from start to finish, and the uniqueness in taste for each whiskey/spirit. The love for the art of spirits and whiskey absolutely radiates here. I am not going to give too many of the secrets/facts/education away here(sorry) but I feel it is absolutely imperative to hear and experience in person. If you are in the Sacramento area…if you are in California make the drive to this amazing local business. I am telling you that you will not regret it.

Fun fact: Whiskey/Spirit tasting is totally different than wine tasting! Duh, right? Michelle and I are expert wine tasters but had quite the learning curve here and Darci walked us through every step of the way. A fun trick we learned was to breathe in, take a sip, and then breathe out to really capture aromas and flavors while tasting. We tasted an odorless and tasteless vodka….this is how vodka is supposed to be guys if done right. Interesting, right? We had a white rum, cherry brandy, rye whiskey(one of the favorites), an apple brandy lovingly referred to as Apple Jacks(also a favorite of the day), and plenty more whiskey. Darci had a memory for every drink she poured which made the afternoon personal as we in turn told stories and laughed until our hot jaws hurt. Christine, the owner’s daughter joined as well and had a laid back fun personality to match. The tasting itself takes just a little over an hour. We all bought at least 2 bottles for our homes, in addition to her two bottles Michelle got some ginger soda for moscow mules, I bought hot sauces, bloody mary mix, Apple Jacks, and Kyle got a whiskey, and Mikey bought the amazing vodka.

Overall this was a forever memorable day not only because I got to spend it with my family but by the time we left Dry Diggings they also felt like family. Anyone that doesn’t kick us out for crude jokes, asking for a coke with whiskey, likes camping, and puts up with us becomes family. An event you will surely not forget is spirit and whiskey tasting at Dry Diggings Distillery! Check them out and tell em I sent ya! The whole group is going back in October for the official tour so stay tuned! Also stay tuned as one day we’ll get grandpa and Mikey to go wine tasting!

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Vegetarian Coconut Curry

I have been making curry for a long time and every time I do I get these weird ass looks from people. Like, are we not in America? I don’t talk shit about your “Chinese” food……even though orange chicken from Panda Express is not authentic, Kyle. I can have any cuisine I want delivered to my door in a matter of minutes. America is a mixing pot of foods, hello! How are there so many people out there AND that I apparently know that have not had curry?! The real question is why have you waited so long to provide a recipe, Krystal?
Fine.

I just recently started using coconut milk. I know I know, vegan/vegetarian friends I am an awful person, but I have now seen the light. Another weird food people seem to be terrified of. You guys, unless you are allergic to coconut like my mother claims to be you must put coconut milk in this recipe or I will not speak to you. Coconut milk is luxurious, smooth, and adds a creamy component you never thought you needed and will never be able to live without. It does NOT make your dish taste like coconut, it does NOT taste like the coconut I guarantee most are familiar with because although Malibu rum is delicious it is not the real flavor of coconut…….Krystal.

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Now, let us discuss curry. “Curry” is a mix of spices made up mainly of: curry leaf, coriander, turmeric, cumin, fenugreek, and chili peppers. I made this particular recipe with a yellow curry blend as it is the only blend Raleys sells…….because it’s not spicy and let’s be honest not too out of the norm. Curry comes in all different colors and spice levels though, and even I have yet to venture out and make those on my own. I do order red, yellow, and green curry when me and the other girl at work order Indian/Thai. You can, of course make your own blend, but no thank you for me. The spices in this blend are perfect as there really isn’t too much of any one spice to overpower the others.
Curry is set it and forget it for at LEAST a few hours. It’s stew but 100000 times better. This is an ultimate comfort dish for us and a staple. I make curry of different variations several times a month.

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Please don’t mind my giant tub of pink salt my dad brought me. Yay Costco!

 

Please please PLEASE get out of your comfort zone and make this. When you do post it. Even if you hate it and feed it to your dog…..tell me!

Recipe (Finally)

Ingredients
1 Can of Coconut Milk
4 Tablespoons Curry Powder of your choosing
2 Tablespoons of Kerrygold butter
1 Tablespoon Avocado Oil
1 Medium Yellow Onion
1/2-1 Cup Veggie Stock
2 Cloves of Garlic
1 Can of Chickpeas
10-15 Small Golden Potatoes cut in quarters
3 Carrots
Green onions or cilantro, jalapeno, lime, and a runny egg for garnish if you so choose.

Saute your onions and carrots in the butter and avocado oil and once they are golden in color add your garlic to cook for 1-2 minutes. Add your curry powder to really wake up the spices, and then add the entire can of coconut milk to the pan. Mix and get all the goodness off the bottom of the pan. Now, when to add the chickpeas is a personal opinion. I personally like them to simmer for the few hours with the potatoes and carrots, but some people prefer them to maintain their body and then you would want to add them about an hour before serving. Add potatoes, salt and pepper. Because potatoes soak up so much flavor/fluid I added half cup of veggie stock which made the curry initially too thin BUT once this simmers for a few hours it is perfect. Consistency is very similar to a beef stew that has marinated all day. Remember you can add whatever you want to this! I simmer mine on low heat for 4 hours and everything comes out magical.

Serve over rice or even more veggies!

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Wine @ 815

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There are three things I am exceptionally good at in life: cooking, writing, and wine tasting. The struggle with wine tasting (and I use struggle lightly because we all know I still get in my car and go) is that the nearest wine country is about 45 minutes from where I live. Amador County is where I go to giveaway all my money to grapes less fortunate than myself. Napa is about an hour and a half away, and so realistically reaching wine country is not too bad, but then Wine @ 815 moved in 5 minutes from my house. Girl, we are in trouble. Rayann and I did not walk we ran to see what this was all about.

From all stand points Wine @ 815 is genius.

Genius #1 – it is actual wine tasting in Historic Folsom. $5 per flight (5-6 tastings) which is extremely reasonable and tasting fees are waived if a bottle is purchased.

Genius #2 – Marketing. Wine @ 815 consists of 3 wineries: Rempfer Cellars, Fiddletown Cellars, Los Portales. Cross promotion makes me swoon, and these guys are doing it right. All 3 are local as well.

Genius #3 Atmosphere. I really just want to take my laptop and setup shop there while sipping on wine all afternoon, and I might actually get something done(probably not cause I totally love Lia the Tasting Manager). The shop is small but they have kept the floor plan open so the feeling of being in a tiny space never sets in. Dimmed lighting is key, because everyone looks better in dimmed lighting, right?

Genius #4 Make your own cheese board. Okay, so I almost never order cheese boards, because they always consist of cheese I can’t pronounce and I don’t want to look like a fool AND there are more creepy cheeses than anything else. 815 has changed the game, though. They have a tiny fridge filled with a wide variety of cheeses, pickles, olives, crackers, and snacks. You pick what you would like, pay for those items only, and grab a cheeseboard to eat off of. Unique and fun.

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Genius #5 Experience. I am not going to give too much away here, because wine tasting is really something that absolutely has to be experienced in person. I will tell you that I would have been more than happy to stay at 815 all day and chat with Lia. The education provided while tasting is the perfect blend as all highlights about each bottle, awards, and regions are discussed, but not so in depth that you need a full glass of wine just to be able to listen about the next. Having only 3 wineries provides a more in depth discussion for each pour, and each back story is extremely unique. Lia is fun, smart, and you can really tell she has passion for what she does.

The Wine. Have ya’ll just been waiting for me to talk about the wine? Shut up, Krystal and talk about wine. Okay, here is the main thing. Just go there. Seriously. I will tell you the most shocking reason you should take all your friends and go. Wine @ 815 is red. Red. Red. Red, and some more red. They did not have Los Portales in when I visited so I was only able to taste Fiddletown and Rempfer which are both red. Let’s be honest California is red. Krystal (me) is a white girl living in a red state, and I loved every.single.pour, AND bought with REAL money Rempfer Cellars Petite Sirah and my life was forever changed. I have been to Amador more times than I can count and I have NEVER brought home a red. I thought I would be the girl that loves bubbles and German wines forever, but I am very excited to say that my favorites are now changing thanks to 815. I will put the tasting flights below. I am not going to repeat the fun facts about either the wineries themselves or each wine because it is such an amazing experience to hear Lia tell you for yourself. I will be back. I might live there. I may have them on speed dial. Follow them on Facebook!

 

 

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup – A Lazy Girl’s Dream (Featured Article)

Article & Photos  – Rayann Benson

I don’t know about you, but I love Fall.  There’s just something about the changing leaves, the approaching holidays and the cooler weather that is a breath of fresh air for me.  Unfortunately, Sacramento has yet to receive the “It’s Fall!” memo, and so we’re still dealing with nearly 80° weather.  Ew.

Nonetheless, I am still celebrating my favorite season by whipping up my favorite comfort foods like soup and chili.  Sacramento weather, you’re not the boss of me!

Last week I pulled my slow cooker out for the season.  If you do not currently own a slow cooker, you are missing out on one of the greatest things to grace a kitchen since the invention of sliced bread.  Although I love to cook, many times during the week I lack motivation with dinner and end up making the same dish over and over and over again.  Nothing wrong with consistency, but that kind of routine definitely starts to wear on you.  My slow cooker is my saving grace for these situations.  Just a little bit of morning planning and I have a flavorful and delicious dinner waiting for me when I’m off work that I barely have to lift a finger for.  A lazy girl’s dream.

I made the decision to make chicken noodle soup while I was making the carrot cake for my niece – gotta find some way not to waste them, right?  Well, funnily enough, I accidentally threw away the leftover carrots during one of my weekly refrigerator purges… hence why the carrots you see in my photo aren’t diced, they’re carrot chips.  I had to make a quick run to the store and grabbed these out of convenience.  But, they do add an interesting texture to the soup?  I know, I know, that’s a stretch.

Chicken noodle soup is one of my favorite soups to make because of how versatile it is. However, it can quickly become a bland meal if not properly seasoned, which is why it’s important to use pungent herbs and spices in the soup.  I honestly eyeball the spices and seasonings I add but for the sake of the recipe have included actual measurements.  Also, I personally choose to have extra veggies in mine to make it heartier, but you can adjust the amount you add to meet your tastes.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients

  • 2lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, frozen *
    • Because it is such a lean meat, I use frozen to keep it from drying out while cooking – you could also use another cut of fresh chicken, such as thighs)
  • 2 stalks celery, diced (1 cup)
  • 6 medium carrots, diced (2 cups)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lemon-pepper seasoning (preferably Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
    • Be mindful on how much you add – the lemon-pepper seasoning already includes salt and pepper. I omitted adding additional salt, and added ½ teaspoon pepper.
  • 32 ounces low sodium chicken broth
  • 24 ounces unsalted chicken stock
  • 2 cups egg noodles

Directions

Place chicken breasts at bottom of slow cooker and top with celery, carrots, onion and garlic.  Next, add parsley, thyme, basil and lemon-pepper seasonings.  Stir in chicken stock and broth then season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Cover and cook on low heat for 6½ hours.

Remove chicken from slow cooker and shred, using two forks.  Stir shredded chicken and egg noodles back into the slow cooker, then cover and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes (or until egg noodles are tender).  Serve warm, and enjoy!

Vegan Potstickers

I am only posting these because they were not as much of an epic fail as I predicted. I have wanted to make potstickers for sometime, foolishly as I know they are $10 for a bag of 1,000. Yet, I had to try, because I am stupid.

I get to blame my husband for not buying mushrooms for these delicacies as they were the only ingredient I desperately needed. Kyle did earn points with his potsticker folding skills as they were superior to my own. Figures, the Irish guy can pinch potsticker dough.

Add mushrooms to your recipe.

Ingredients

Wonton Wrappers (you get a million in 1 package)
1 Head of Purple Cabbage thinly sliced
1 Carrot thinly sliced
Bean Sprouts (as many as you like)
1 bunch of green onion
MUSHROOMS
1/2 Jalapeno
1/4 Red Onion
1 clove of garlic
Sesame Oil
Soy Sauce
Sugar
Red Chili Flakes
Siracha
Avocado Oil

Instructions

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Slice, dice, and chop all your veggies then add them to a pan with avocado oil. The veggies only need to cook for about 5 minutes as you want them to still have crunch left.

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After my veggies cooked down I did realize they were too large for the wrappers so upon cooling I did chop the filling down to more manageable size pieces. Learn from my mistakes. Also, seriously wait til the filling is cool.

Once your filling is room temperature OR cooler begin filling the wrappers. 1 outer edge of the wrapper needs to be moistened with water so that after filling it can be “glued” together with the other side. I was awful at this. I could not get the classic pinch right, my nails kept breaking through the dough, and as always I tried to stuff my wrappers with too much goodness. Somehow Kyle made decent looking potstickers. We like our potstickers cripsy and not boiled. I place the potstickers in a pan with some avocado oil, crisped them up and placed about 4 tablespoons of water in the pan and covered.

Even though I missed my mushrooms terribly these were in fact delicious. I made a simple sauce of soy, sesame oil, siracha, rice wine vinegar, green onion, and red chili flakes for dipping. Potstickers/dumplings have endless possibilities, and I may or may not be making these again as it is pretty darn tempting to have them ready to go in my freezer. These were way better homemade, though.

Battle of the Boxes: Blue Apron vs Plated

If you have not heard of Blue Apron or Plated continue enjoying life living under a rock. Please do not let this blog disturb you as I am sure it is quite peaceful under the shelter of a boulder.

Blue Apron and Plated pop up all over my emails, Facebook, and Instagram on the daily. I’ve never followed either service until we decided to make the two brands duke it out, and so I am assuming the Internet is reading this blog and chooses to advertise food to me. “Hey all you post about is food – here is a box full of it, fatty!” -Internet. So, the idea was born for competitions between meal delivery services.

Blue Apron and Plated are the most advertised and in my humble opinion the most popular for meal delivery make it yourself fancy culinary grade service. Too many adjectives? Both companies are about equally priced, seem to have a similar style in meals, but Blue Apron demolishes in the world of marketing. I can guarantee 9/10 people have heard of Blue Apron, but maybe only half of those people know of Plated. I wanted to change that. I wanted to see who was really better. I was joined by my friend, Rayann on this adventure, and then the idea to include husbands came about. Plated and Blue Apron advertise they provide all ingredients for culinary grade meals with detailed instructions to make the process of cooking a breeze. Well, neither of our husbands can make scrambled eggs. So, we shall see.

This is a full and detailed review of both subscriptions.

Step 1: Ordering

Ordering was not challenging. These are subscription boxes and so upon signing up you will be placed on a monthly order, BUT this is very easy to opt out of once your first box ships if you are just trying the service for the first time. Websites/Apps were user friendly. Blue Apron’s site and app seemed to be more fluid which was not too much of a shock. The only mention in the negative realm for both services was that they are advertised as you (the customer) being able to pick your meals exactly upon signing up or every month, but this is not particularly the case. Instead, both companies give you a list of meat preferences(they also have you notate any allergies & have vegetarian options) and unless you go into your account, view the menu and elect to change the recipes in time you’re stuck with what they send you. I ordered both recipes on a Friday night, went to elect changes the following afternoon (not even a full 24 hours passed) and could only change for Plated because Blue Apron said the order had already been processed.

Step 2: Delivery

Deliveries arrived intact. One of the boys did want us to notate that Blue Apron had a fancier box with a close-able lid. Also, if you choose to order two subscriptions at once do not have food in your fridge if you live in an apartment, because you need to learn from our mistakes.

Step 3: Unboxing

Plated

3 Recipes – 2 Servings – $72 per week
$24 per day
$12 per person/serving

Long Life Noodles with Mushrooms and Soy-Sesame Sauce
Vegetarian


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All ingredients arrived intact and packaged.

Korean Beef Tacos with Bell Peppers, Gochujang, and Kimchi

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Seared Steak with Sunchoke Hash and Red Pepper Aioli

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All ingredients arrived intact and packaged.

Blue Apron

3 Recipes – 2 Serving – $59.94 per week
$19.98 per day
$9.99 per person/serving

Carmelized Onion & Kale Quiches with Frisee & Pear Salad
Vegetarian

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All ingredients arrived intact and packaged.

Spiced Pork Burgers with Pickled Beets and Cone Cabbage Slaw

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Cone Cabbage did not come wrapped, but rather just placed in box unprotected.

Pan Seared Chicken with Roasted Honeynut Squash and Apple

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Apple was clearly bruised, and squash was unprotected as well, and left at bottom of box so one whole side rested on the ice packs causing freezer burn on one side of the squash.

Step 4: Quality of Ingredients/Packaging

I would really like to know where Blue Apron finds such miniature vegetables and fruits? Seriously, they are adorable and somewhat strange all at the same time. Due to a few of our items arriving bruised, freezer burned or just rolling around in the box quality and packaging has to go to Plated.
The one thing I felt was missing from both boxes was acknowledgment of local or used vendors. Both boxes stated grain free meats, no antibiotics, and then a few items used (honey, for example) had brand packaging but no mention of the brand nor of the farm the meat products came from. I feel both boxes are really missing a strategic move here. I like to know where my food comes from, and even more so if it is miniature sized.

Step 5: Cooking

Plated

Long Life Noodles with Mushrooms and Soy-Sesame Sauce

Plated instructions are very simple to follow and they go in order and do not try to have the cook multitasking too many tasks at one given time. This recipe did say to salt and pepper the mushrooms/leeks while they were cooking but later in the recipe we would be adding quite a bit of soy sauce so I opted out of S&P, but a person that does not cook may not know that. I feared the food would be far too salty upon adding the soy sauce in entirety as instructed. Plated tends to stay in the world of comfort food but with a twist of ingredients not often used by common cooks. I rarely use leeks or wild mushrooms and I cook A LOT.

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Easy to make? Yes
Worth $12 a plate? Yes

Korean Beef Tacos with Bell Peppers, Gochujang, and Kimchi

Recipe was extremely easy to follow. I believe this by far was everyone’s favorite meal of the night. Can you really beat tacos? Really? Once again, a comfort and classic but with a twist. I am not afraid to admit that no one in the household had ever had Gochujang (almost a sweeter sriracha) and it was absolutely amazing. The bell pepper and onion are marinated in this mixture but then mixed in with cooked ground beef so the sauce is dispersed throughout the meal. Every single thing was on point with this meal, AND 3 tacos per person is more than enough. We had 4 people try one taco each and still had plenty of filler mixture left as well as Kimchi.

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Easy to make? Yes
Worth $12 a plate? Yes, absolutely 1000 times yes

Seared Steak with Sunchoke Hash and Red Pepper Aioli

This meal was cooked by Bradley(Rayann’s husband), and there were no “during” pictures as we took video of the men attempting to cook. Bradley was unfamiliar with the ingredient sunchoke and felt kale is the worst food on the planet, but overall he did fairly well. The aioli frustrated him the most as the instructions did state “whisk till smooth” but the task would have been impossible without a blender or food processor (which the instructions also state you may use). The steak was incredible and very high quality. We are hoping to have the video live shortly after this review…..it is far more interesting than this post.

IMG_2808.jpgI was instructed to notate that Bradley was unaware aesthetics of plating were important.

Easy to make? Medium
Worth $12 a plate? For the steak alone, yes

Blue Apron

Carmelized Onion & Kale Quiches with Frisee & Pear Salad

Let me just say that these quiches were good, BUT they are quiches. This was the meal I was most disappointed in. Reason one is because it is quiche. Quiche is quite possibly one of the easiest dishes to make AND master all in the same day so immediately upon opening I was bored. Reason two you only receive two eggs, and yes that means one egg per person. I added an extra egg to one quiche and left the other with the solo egg that belonged to it (pictures below of the difference). I do not feel this would fill someone up even with the little micro nutrient salad to accompany it, and it is QUICHE. I have seen a million recipes just like this one all of Pinterest.

Quiche using only one egg as instructed.

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My quiche using two eggs. I am not bitter. I promise.

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They both puffed up fairly well for the end result but I think we can tell who is 1 egg and who is 2.

Easy to make? Child’s play
Worth $9.99 a plate? Considering I can buy 2 dozens local eggs for that price, no.

Spiced Pork Burgers with Pickled Beets and Cone Cabbage Slaw

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These burgers were unique and have convinced me that switching out a pickle for a beet on occasion would not be the worst. The box came with a little baggy filled with spices for the pork. Pork needs lots of seasoning, and salt, and this little baggy did not do the trick. The flavor was just lacking. Due to the fact that we were not told where the pork was supplied from we cooked it to well, and not medium as the 4-5 per side time allotted. We put the side coleslaw on the burgers because they needed some crunch and sauce, the mayo, mustard and goat cheese blend for spread was not enough for two burgers. Overall these were tasty. Did they knock me on my feet? No, but I’d let them take me out again if they paid for dinner.

Easy to make? Definitely
Worth $9.99 a plate? Yes

Pan Seared Chicken with Roasted Honeynut Squash and Apple

This was the meal Kyle cooked on his own (my husband). He feels the meal was tasty and the instructions were easy to follow. The apple became mushy (possibly as it was bruised) but he is not the biggest fan of fruit with savory items so he may be biased or rude. This meal was outside the box for our household as we do not eat a lot of squash or baked apples.I enjoyed that sage was used since I generally only use it with whole roasted chickens, and never thought to incorporate into sauce. Overall it was challenging enough for Kyle to keep us all entertained but delivered a delicious meal for even the culinary lacking as Blue Apron promised. This is a meal I would make again for a dinner party. It is an impressive meal without all the blood sweat and tears.

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Easy to make? Medium
Worth $9.99 a plate? Yes

Final Thoughts

Will we be ordering again? I think both subscriptions would be amazing for hosting a dinner party (both boxes have options for servings up to 6). For ourselves? We would order Plated again, and it may surprise some as it is the more expensive subscription but it really nailed the comfort food/slightly different aspect. We all enjoyed the familiar dishes but with unique ingredients, and all had a new ingredient we had not previously thought to use. The leeks in the noodles, Gochujang with tacos, and sunchokes with the amazing steak all ingredients that made all 4 of us change our mindset. Blue Apron is the less expensive subscription and they do now have the ability to add bottles of wine to your order, and you know I am all over that. Blue Apron just had a small step down in the category of creativity compared to Plated. Personally I would also order Plated as strictly vegetarian on my second order as I think they would deliver on some really unique and delicious recipes (I am not bitter about the quiche). I read an article the other day about how Blue Apron can reduce someone’s grocery bill, and I am not sure I can agree with that. Kyle and I eat quality meat and vegetables, and spend an average of $100 a week on groceries, but if I used Blue Apron $59.94 I would only have $40 left to provide breakfast, lunches, and 4 additional meals.I do think getting a box for a fun dinner party OR a holiday would in fact be cheaper than buying all necessities individually from the grocery store. Maybe that can be yet another challenge? Rayann and I plan to continue the Battle of the Boxes series with other subscription meal boxes (Hello Fresh, Martha Stewart, the list goes on and on).

I encourage you to try both subscriptions if you have been on the fence. Blue Apron and Plated delivered on unique and tasty dishes for a fair price (you get a discount for your first month from both boxes). Cook the meals with a friend or your spouse as it can definitely be an amusing activity. Overall, it would be a fun week filled with food and eating outside the box. Get it?

Rayann’s Carrot Cake

“What 12-year-old girl wants carrot cake for her birthday?” – Krystal
Prepare yourself (and your taste buds) for something completely out of character for this blog: cupcakes.
Yes, cupcakes. You read that right. BAKED GOODS.
Now, while Krystal is an amazing chef who is talented in all things culinary, she will not step within ten feet of a cake pan… which means you are stuck with me!
Fun fact about me – baking is in my blood. I learned nearly all there is to know about baking from my grandmother. She’s a pro. Just look at the cake she made for my wedding a few weeks ago:

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Wedding Cake

PERFECTION.

But I digress.
When I was in high school I started baking birthday cakes for my friends – it was simply a nice gesture that soon became regular requests from both friends and family alike. So it didn’t take me by surprise when my 12-year-old niece asked me to bake a cake for her birthday. What DID surprise me was the flavor. Carrot cake?
In my niece’s defense, this request is not entirely random. Other members of my family have asked for carrot cake for their birthdays which has given me the chance to perfect the recipe: a delicious treat that still yields a slightly higher nutritional value than your average carrot cake. Now these were adults we’re speaking of, not kids, so I’ll take it as a true compliment that a 12-year-old girl would ask for it specifically!
The secret to this recipe is how the cake is sweetened – applesauce and honey. These both complement the taste of the carrots without overpowering it entirely. The cream cheese frosting gives you just the right amount of sweetness to make it decadent, yet guilt-free.
I decided to go out of my comfort zone and make cupcakes for the birthday girl, but below you’ll find directions for both cupcakes and a traditional cake.

Rayann’s Carrot Cake
(Yields 24 cupcakes OR one 9” round, two layered cake)
INGREDIENTS
For the cake:
– 3 cups carrots, peeled and grated
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 ½ tsp baking powder
– ½ tsp salt
– 2 tsp cinnamon
– 4 eggs
– 1 cup organic honey
– ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (I used California Olive Ranch)
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup applesauce (I used Santa Cruz Organic)
For the frosting:
– 2 cups powdered sugar
– 16 oz cream cheese (I used Philadelphia Whipped)
– 2 sticks unsalted butter (I used Tillamook)
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract

I know many people like walnuts on their carrot cake. Personally, I’m not a fan of using nuts as a garnish on cake, but if you’d like to, you can also use ½ cup of coarsely chopped, lightly toasted walnuts to decorate.

INSTRUCTIONS
How to make the carrot cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour your cake pans
a. For cupcakes, use two cupcake pans.
b. For standard cake, use two 9” round pans.
* I chose to use cupcake liners in place of greasing the pans.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat eggs on high for one (1) minute. Add in honey and beat on high for another three (3) minutes. Blend in olive oil, applesauce and 2 tsp vanilla extract.
4. Slowly add in flour mixture (½ cup at a time) and mix into a smooth batter.
5. Fold grated carrots into the batter (and walnuts, if you so choose).
6. Divide the batter equally within the cake pans and place in oven.
a. For cupcakes, bake for 15-20 minutes.
b. For standard cake, bake for 25-30 minutes.
*Use this time to make your frosting – make sure to refrigerate it until you are ready to use it.
7. When ready, remove cakes from oven (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean). Remove from pans when cool enough to handle, and then let cakes cool to room temperature before frosting to keep frosting from melting.

How to make the frosting:
1. Use a food processor to mix together the butter and powdered sugar until the mixture takes on a pale, fluffy appearance.
2. Add in cream cheese (1 cup at a time) and mix until combined. Continue to mix for one (1) more minute.
3. Add in 1 tbsp vanilla extract, and then mix for one (1) minute. Refrigerate frosting until ready to use.

I will leave the frosting of your cakes up to you, get creative and make it your own! Just be sure to be mindful of the frosting – it is perishable and thus needs refrigeration if it’s not going to be eaten right away.

 

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