Carrot Cake Cupcakes by L

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This Easter, we celebrated with some fun brunches, toddler partying and of course, with a few Easter egg hunts. I searched around the web for a carrot cupcake recipe that wouldn’t be too difficult to prepare and taste delicious. I ended up finding this one from Pinch of Yum. These sweet and moist cupcakes were a hit with both the kids and the adults.

We decorated our cupcakes with some Cadbury’s mini chocolate eggs and some purple bunny Peeps. I was never crazy for these candies when I was a young girl, nor as an adult, but they did mark the Easter holiday for me. Somehow living abroad and away from my native country makes me pine for these little confectionaries. This holiday, we lucked out and received two special deliveries. Topping the cupcakes with these childhood treats, made me feel a bit closer to home this year. Hope your Easter was full of sweet memories!

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Fresh Vegetable Stock by Nikki

it smells sooooo good

it smells sooooo good

Here I go again, sharing my homemade stock creations with you! But I just have to because this one was given the A+ by my good friend MM. You see, I have a number of friends who are vegetarians. I love these people so much that when it was time to host a second Thanksgiving dinner at my flat, I made a fresh vegetable stock to use in place of chicken stock in the Thanksgiving stuffing. Changing the stock to accommodate my friends was no big deal, and I know I didn’t have to do this for them, but I am so thankful for their love and support that it was my pleasure to experiment with this recipe. Here is a little secret for you, I made up the recipe as I went along. So for the first time, I will post this as my own recipe… although I am sure there are plenty of other veggie stock recipes out there with the same or at least similar methods and ingredients!

You can use this stock as a vegetarian base for your favorite soup and as a substitute for meat stocks in other recipes.  But unlike making your own meat based stocks, you can use the leftover veggies! Yep, this is a WHOLE food recipe- no wasting! After removing the bay leaves from the mix, I pureed the veggies in my food processor. After this cooled, I froze this thick vegetable puree to use in a quiche or stew later this winter… If this was a Facebook post I would end it with… feeling accomplished!  Give it a try and enjoy!

fresh veggies

fresh veggies

Vegetarian Stock

(This recipe is all mine!)

ingredients: 8 carrots, 1 bunch of celery stalks, 2 red onions, 2 white onions, 1 bunch of fresh parsley, 5 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon dried sage    optional: fresh peppers, potato, and/or parsnip

directions: Chop all vegetables and throw into a large soup pot with 4-5 cups of water. Add spices and bring to a boil.  Turn heat to medium low and let the stock bubble gently for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. Strain stock through a sieve into a different large soup pot (for immediate use) or large bowl for cooling.

Note: Stock should stay fresh in for one week in the fridge and also freezes well in ice cube trays!

cook for 2-3 hours

cook for 2-3 hours

 

 

When Autumn falls… it’s time for chilli!

When the chill of the autumn air hits, it is time to start warming ourselves with soups and hot meals. Chilli is one of my favorite fall (and winter) foods. Chili is versatile and can be made for meat lovers or vegetarians. It is also a crowd-pleaser for a football gathering or on game night. You can dress chilli up with a variety of toppings such as cheddar cheese, sour cream, or jalapenos!  l prefer mine topped with a dollop of light sour cream and crunchy tortilla chips! What’s your favorite chili recipe? I would live to hear from you and possibly give your favorite recipes a try during this chilly-chilli season! Enjoy

It's Chilli time!

It’s Chilli time!

Spicy Vegetarian Chili

Ingredients: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 medium white onion, 2 medium red, bell peppers, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 tablespoons chilli powder (2 if you want is SUPER spicy!) , 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 + 1/2 teaspoons dried cumin, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 3 cans of whole tomatoes, 1 can of kidney beans, 1 small can of yellow corn, 2 large carrots, 1 cup fresh green beans.

additional ingredients: chopped, fresh cilantro (corriander), sour cream, cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, jalapenos, and/or tortilla chips

Directions: Heat oil over in a large, soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, bell peppers and garlic and saute until onions soften. (about ten minutes) Mix in chilli powder, oregano, cumin and black pepper. Add tomatoes, carrots and green beans and cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes.  Turn heat to low, add beans and corn and let cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. When ready, ladle into bowls and top with your favorite toppings or dip a piece of bread and enjoy!

GF Pickled Refrigerator Carrots by Allison

When you have a pickling partner-in-crime and a jamming go-to-girl, aka my friend M, lots of things can happen.  M’s oven was on the fritz, her CSA delivery came and the carrots were piling up. What’s a girl to do without an oven to roast the carrots, or a burner to make soup because a person can only eat so many raw carrots a week. So we start searching, we made curry carrots and canned them but thought the spices in this particular recipe sounded very interesting and possibly scrumptious. So we set about peeling LOTS of carrots, actually I started peeling carrots with my “professional” OXO veggie peeler which I brought back from the states one of my many journies. How much would you pay for a good kitchen tool that made your life so much easier?! Well let me tell you, I love my OXO tools in the kitchen.
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We “spiced up” the empty jars by dividing up all the spices and we lined them all up, sliced the carrots (we speared most of the carrots but also tried slicing them into coins – p.s. I like the spears better!), poured the brine over the top, tightened the lid and waited patiently for 2 long days.

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Then, bing bang! You have refrigerator pickled carrots and yummy ones too! Spicy yes, a little addictive yes and you must try them and tell me what you think.

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GF Pickled Refrigerator Carrots by Allison

adapted from Food in Jars

Ingredients:

Brine:

3 cups filtered water

3 cups apple cider vinegar with at least 5% acidity

5 Tbsp sea salt

Spices to be placed in each large jar:

2 garlic cloves

1 crushed bay leaf

1/2 tsp. black peppercorns

4-5 cloves

3 allspice berries

2 cardamom pods

pinch of coriander seeds

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

peeled and speared carrots

Add spices to each jar, prepare carrots and bring the brine to a boil. While the brine is coming to a boil, stuff the carrot spears into the jars and when the brine is ready, pour over carrots while leaving 1/2 inch of headspace tighten lid and let it sit until the jar has cooled. Place in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. You can start to enjoy them after two full days. Enjoy! I know M and I sure did!

Careless Carrot Cake Recipe by L

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eggs +

carrots =

carrots =

Carrot Cake!

Carrot Cake!

Ok, maybe you need a few other ingredients, but these two were the ones that came directly from last week’s visit to my local farmers’ market. This is another recipe that I’ve had for some time and not exactly sure where it came from. It’s a low-fat carrot cake recipe (although I think it’s got a lot of sugar, so not really sure how this helps,) that is super moist! I happen to like that in a cake and it’s all thanks to the buttermilk.

This recipe must have come into my life before the time of the internet because it’s recorded in ancient script. When I get a craving for this cake, I realize I missed something during the act of copying the recipe down. Each time I  review the ingredients and steps, I notice that a very key player in this baked treat is missing: the carrots. No where is it written in the recipe or list of ingredients about how many carrots are needed. Therefore, I wing it based on the kinds of carrots I have stored in my bin. Somehow, it always turns out perfect! Thank you baking gods!

recipe documented in old skool style

The recipe documented in “old skool” style, minus the carrots.

Carrot Cake

9 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 egg whites

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 large carrots, grated

Frosting (optional)

1-2 packages of cream cheese

1/4 cup butter

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/8 teaspoon salt

crushed toasted pecans

2 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

Pre heat oven to 350F degrees or 180 C

Grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.

Mix butter and both sugars for 5 minutes.

One by one, add the eggs and egg whites.

Then add the vanilla.

Combine all the dry ingredients.

Slowly add some flour and then some buttermilk.

Continue to alternate the addition of the flour and buttermilk.

Then stir in the carrots.

Bake for 30 minutes or until center comes out clean.

Let cool for ten minutes before adding the frosting.

Directions for Frosting:

Beat the first four ingredients at medium speed.

Then add the powdered sugar and beat at low-speed until well combined.

Let it chill for 30 minutes before using.

Top with crushed pecans if you like.

Spring’s Not Here, but the Farmers’ Markets Are! by L

Náplavka Farmers’ Market

Náplavka Farmers’ Market

The sun has been quite a tease around here in Prague. We’ve gotten a few warm days, but then the temperatures suddenly go down and we’re back to winter all over again. The coldest of seasons continues to linger on, but I know spring is coming because the farmers’ markets are back! A favorite of mine is the Náplavka Farmers’ Market, located on the Vltava River in Prague 2. There are a variety of stalls selling food and homemade goods by local artisans and farmers. On a good day, you can find a variety of fresh vegetables and fruits. Unfortunately, the day I visited, it wasn’t a good day for fresh produce. However, if you were looking for smoked meats, dairy products, fresh eggs, bread, chicken, fish or pop-up restaurants serving pasta, Balkan food, a cup of Belgian hot chocolate or a plate of fish and chips, then this would have been a good day for you.

The Market Crowd

The Market Crowd

There were cartons of potatoes, carrots, parsips, cabbage and onions which were all signs that winter was still here. Despite the bleak variety of vegetables and lack of fruits, it was still great to enjoy a sunny Saturday stroll at the market.  I indulged in a fresh almond croissant, along with a cup of Belgian hot chocolate to warm me up. In the end, I bought a bag of carrots and decided to make some fresh carrot-ginger-miso salad dressing. It’s not exactly salad weather, it still feels like we need some hearty soups (or cake in my case) to get us through these chilly days. However, summer will be here sooner than we imagine and I need to get ready for those sleeveless tops and shorts!

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Carrot Ginger Miso Dressing

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2 tablespoons peanut, corn or vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons white miso
2 medium carrots, grated
1 inch ginger root, diced into small pieces
1-2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
a few tablespoons of cold water

Put all the ingredients in your beloved blender, except the water.
After running it for a few minutes, slowly add a few tablespoons of water
until you get the right consistency.
I will leave that up to you, as some people prefer a creamier dressing and some a
thinner, liquid like type.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Mixed Greens with Fried Tofu Salad

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1 block firm tofu
Cornstarch to coat tofu
1 -2 tsp. salt
Your choice of mixed greens ( I used a bag of baby spinach leaves and some romaine lettuce)
1 tomato, sliced
1 scallion, diced
Neutral oil for frying

Drain and slice tofu into thin blocks.
Cover all sides in cornstarch and salt mixture.
Heat oil in shallow frying pan.
When ready, add the coated pieces of tofu.
It should take about 3-4 minutes for each side,
until it begins to turn golden.
Remove and drain excess oil.

Toss all the vegetables in a bowl.
Cut up the tofu into small square pieces.
Add to the salad.
Serve with carrot-ginger miso dressing.

Sweet Pea Soup with Carrots and White Beans… yes, peas! By Nikki

Sweet Pea Soup for the Soul!

Sweet Pea Soup for the Soul!

Have you noticed a a theme in our recent posts…? As Allison mentioned in her last post, we are in the full swing of winter here in Praha. It is cold outside and naturally it is the best time for warm, winter soups! We at the Prague Basket have dedicated the month of January to soup… we hope one of these recipes finds it’s way into your kitchen this month! Stay warm and enjoy…

peas, peas, peas

peas, peas- yes please!

 Green Pea Soup with Carrots and White Beans

adapted from Cooking Light

This is a Sunday soup- a labor of love some might say! You will need time and patience to prepare… but it is worth it! So put on your favorite tunes, sing along and at the end you will enjoy the fruits (er.. soup!) of your labor!

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons butter, 1 cup coarsely chopped green onions, 4 cups shelled green peas (about 4 pounds un-shelled), 2 carrots, chopped, 1 can of white beans, 3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth, (Substitute 3 cups of vegetable broth for vegetarian based soup), 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, Cracked black pepper (optional)

Note: I made my own, fresh chicken broth by boiling 3 chicken breasts with 4 bay leaves, salt, pepper, 1 medium onion, and 2 cloves of garlic, chopped. Boil for 20 minutes, strain and use broth for soup.

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Homemade, fresh chicken stock

Directions:

   Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat; add onions and cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add peas, broth, and 2 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or until peas are very tender. Remove pan from heat and let stand 15 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

While the soup sits, use 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan. Lightly saute carrots until tender. Season with salt and pepper as desired.

Place half of the pea mixture in a blender and process until smooth. Pour the pureed soup mixture into a large bowl. Repeat this process until all the pea mixture is blended well. Pour half of pureed soup mixture through a sieve over a large bowl, reserving the liquid. Return liquid to pureed soup mixture and discard the pea skins.

Return the soup liquid to the soup pan, add the white beans and sauteed carrots and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve in bowls with a dash of pepper… preferably with your favorite bread!

Enjoy!

 

Roasted Cumin Lime Carrots by Allison

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I had been looking forward to doing my weekly Saturday morning shopping at the Holesivice market since I returned to Prague. Carrots were piled up high at several vendors. I had to take advantage of several bunches of these carrots and wanted to try out something new. New and improved. A little spicy perhaps. As I perused through many recipes online, I came across this one for Roasted Cumin Lime Carrots. The recipe link can be found at the bottom of the page. Very tasty, go on and enjoy a little spice on your carrots. A perfect healthy accompaniment on a summer’s evening to anything really!

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Recipe can be found here at Family Style Food Recipes

Hip! Hip! Puree! by L

Simple. Easy. Practical. Lately, these are the words that continiously ring in my head. My husband and I come from different continents and our parents still live in the cities where we were born and raised: NYC and Valencia, Spain. We both grew up with members of our extended families living in the same neighborhoods and we both experienced relatives coming in to pitch in and help raise the children. Our adult lives turned out differently, mainly because our jobs took us far from home. Sadly, our daughters don’t have the luxury of having all those family members nearby to spoil them. In order to provide some of that extra family support, we had to come up with an alternative. We asked our parents to come to Prague and move in for a few months for some extra tender loving care, both for our twin daughters and ourselves. They happily accepted and we devised a schedule that allowed both sides of parents to have a chunk of time with us. Unfortunately, all good things must come to a pause. This past weekend, my mother flew back to NYC, after 4 wonderful months of having her by my side. Mom got the babies started on solids, witnessed the first time they crawled, taught them to wave “hello” and even attended swim lessons with us. I started missing her before she even left. However, my solo flight time will last just a week. My in-laws are eagerly awaiting our arrival for the summer holidays. But there is nothing like having your own mother by your side.

My mom even enjoyed preparing the babies’ food. Every two weeks, we receive a box of organic fruits and vegetables from Fresh Bedynky to make the girls’ meals. As soon as the delivery arrived, my mother would whip out the hand blender and start creating a variety of pureed baby food.  Without my mom, Team T&P are minus some extra hands. Hence the words: simple, easy and practical. This meal is exactly that, a puree for all!

What is particularly special about this week’s order from Fresh Bedynky are the purple carrots. This heirloom vegetable appears to be making a comeback and when I saw that it was available, I had to sample a bunch. Don’t these carrots have a gorgeous blend of colors?

When the zucchini, potatoes, onions and carrots were cooked, I separated a batch on the side for the grown-ups in the house in another pot. While the girls’ portion was cooling down, I added a little more seasoning and broth to make the adult version of Puré de Verdura. We often have this dish as a starter in Spain, followed by a second course. For us though, the only accompaniment was a salad on the side. I still have some of that leftover baby belly to shed. Ugh!

Puré de Verdura (Vegetable Puree Soup)

For babies, omit the garlic, bay leaf and bouillon cube. Instead of frying the vegetables at first, boil them all together in one pot. Use the liquid from the boiled vegetables to puree the baby food to the consistency of your liking.

3 potatoes
1 zucchini
1 carrot
1 onion
1 clove garlic
2 bay leaves
water or vegetable broth
bouillon cube (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Peel and chop all the vegetables.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot.
Add onions.
After a few minutes, add the other vegetables.
Stir and let cook for a few more minutes.
Then add enough water or broth to cover the vegetables.
(If just using water, you may add a bouillon cube here)
Add mashed garlic clove and bay leaves.
Let it come to a boil, then lower heat.
Cook for at least 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Then set aside to cool.
When ready, remove the bay leaves and pour into a blender
or use a hand blender, to purée all the ingredients.
Pour mixture into a serving bowl.
Add a tablespoon or two of good olive oil.
Mix well.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Top with croutons and serve.

Homemade croutons

2 slices of whole wheat bread
Few tablespoons of olive oil
salt and dried herbs

Chop the bread into tiny cubes.
Heat a small pan with some olive oil.
Add the bread to the pan on low heat.
Sprinkle some salt on top and other dried herbs to your liking.
Cook until toasty brown on both sides.