Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Caramel-Pecan Sheet Cake

I recently started following Weightwatchers again. I haven’t been on Weightwatchers for over ten years, but I knew I needed to do something when earlier this year during my vegan Lent, I only lost two pounds. Generally, I try not to equate weight loss with my Lenten promises, but (Come on!) I should have shed a few more pounds. I was obviously eating healthy, so I knew my problem was with portion control. And, Weightwatchers has been helping.

My only problem with Weightwatchers, or any weight loss program really, is that I don’t do well with someone else telling me what to eat and how much exercise I need. My mind plays tricks on me, and I end up cheating. Somehow I never think of it as cheating on myself, but as cheating on “the man.” I know, it doesn’t make any sense—it’s just how I am, and I have to work on that.

So, last week, all I could think about was cake. I’m not even a huge cake fan, but all I wanted to do was bake, and all I wanted to bake was cake. I found this recipe for Caramel-Pecan Sheet Cake in Taste of the South magazine. I’m not sure how I ended up with this magazine, but I received it in the mail, and when I saw this cake, I couldn’t resist the frosting. I’m a sucker for caramel frosting!

This cake is easy to make. I love sheet cakes for their technique. I used my hand-held mixture, but with a little fortitude, you could mix the cake and frosting by hand. And, who doesn’t love being able to pour warm frosting over a warm cake? It saves so much time, and keeps the cake tender and moist.

Les and our son loved this salty sweet cake, and were disappointed to see me packing it up to take to work. I wanted to bake a cake—I just didn’t want to eat it all! I am on Weightwatchers after all. My co-workers polished the cake off before 9:30am. Win!  

Caramel-Pecan Sheet Cake 
From Taste of the South 
Printable Recipe
1 cup butter
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Caramel Frosting (recipe follows)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 15x10-inch baking pan. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring butter and 1 cup of water to a boil. In a large bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Add the hot butter mixture to the flour mixture and beat at low spread with an electric mixer just until the mixture comes together. Add the sour cream, beating well. Add the eggs one at a time and mix, and stir in the vanilla. Pour mixture into the prepared pan.

Bake the cake until it is lightly browned, and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cake, comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Pour hot Caramel Frosting over warm cake, spreading to edges. Sprinkle with pecans. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack.

Carmel Frosting
½ cup butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sour cream
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla

In a large heavy saucepan, bring butter, brown sugar and salt to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and slowly stir in the sour cream.

Bring mixture just to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Gradually add powdered sugar and vanilla, beating at medium speed with a hand mixer until the frosting is smooth. Pour immediately over warm cake.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Corn and Heart of Palm Salad

I love potlucks! We had a potluck lunch at work last week, and while the company brought in the main dishes, everyone else brought in salads and desserts. I know I just admitted loving potlucks, but my love is for homemade potluck dishes, and have you noticed more and more potluck tables are populated by boring store-bought items? I don’t love those, but I have to admit resorting to a store-bought dish in a pinch. I know, bad huh?

I usually try to taste all of the homemade dishes, and lucky for me, someone always brings something interesting. Last week’s potluck was no exception. My co-worker Jill brought in this Corn and Heart of Palm Salad. I was in the kitchen while she prepared the salad, and when she needed someone to test for seasoning (okay, I kinda forced myself on her as a taste tester, but she was gracious and let me try her salad.) And, since I got a preview, I knew exactly where to head when it was time to eat.

I love the combination of the sweet corn, creamy avocado and crunchy hearts of palm in this salad. Once you stir the avocado into the salad, it mixes with the lemon juice to make a delicious almost creamy dressing. Jill says this is her go-to salad for potlucks and parties. If avocados aren’t looking good at the market, she just leaves them out and adds a bit of olive oil. I added the parsley for some color and flavor, but it wasn’t in Jill’s original recipe.

So, next time you need to bring something to a potluck, try Corn and Heart of Palm Salad. It's almost as easy as picking up something pre-made from the grocery store.  

Corn and Heart of Palm Salad
Printable Recipe 
2 14.5 ounce cans of sweet corn, drained (or 4 cups frozen corn, thawed)
1 14.5 ounce can hearts of palm, drained and chopped
¼ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup chopped parsley (optional)
3 avocados, cut into chunks
juice of one lemon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix together the corn, hearts of palm, red onion, parsley in a medium bowl. Squeeze half of the lemon juice over the avocado, and add to the corn mixture. Add the rest of the lemon juice, salt and pepper to corn mixture. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Let the salad sit for 15 or 20 minutes so the flavors can mingle, and serve.


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