Pumpkin Carrot Bars

Posted in Food, Recipes by Sarah on January 31, 2011

I originally made these delicious pumpkin carrot bars back in October and November, when pumpkin was in abundance and Fall flavors were whirling about.  This weekend I decided I needed a little pumpkin treat, though.  In all honesty, I could eat pumpkin-flavored anything just about any time of year.  I adapted this recipe from FitSugar and I think I have made it enough times now to start playing with the recipe a little bit.  I may be posting some successful experiments here in the future!

Let’s start with the equipment:  to make these pumpkin carrot bars, you will need two bowls (1 small, 1 large), a 15 x 10 baking dish, a food processor or blender, and an electric mixer (a wooden spoon and elbow grease will do in a pinch!).


  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup Earth Balance (or other butter substitute)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 15-oz. can pumpkin (pumpkin pie filling is ok too)
  • 2/3 – 1 cup. finely shredded carrots (Note:  this tends to be less than half a bag of baby carrots)


Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Don't Forget To Preheat!

Spray your 15 x 10 pan with cooking spray.

Totally Shredded

Shred the carrots using a food processor or blender.  I like to do this first, as I’m getting my ingredients out, so that the flow of adding ingredients isn’t interrupted later.

For the dry ingredients:  in a small bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside.

Dry Ingredients

For the wet ingredients:  In a larger bowl, beat together the sugar, brown sugar, and Earth Balance with an electric mixer until the mix is crumbly.  Then, add the eggs, egg whites, pumpkin, and carrots.  Beat together until well-blended.

Wet Ingredients


Wet Ingredients


Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of wet ingredients and mix together well.

All Togther Now

Spread the mix onto your greased pan and pop in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  I tend to use a smaller pan (9 x 9) and find that I need about 45 minutes total cooking time.

Tasty Results

Fresh Outta The Oven!

Exciting Options

Like the beaches in France, topping is optional for these bars.  The cream-cheese based topping consists of 4 oz. light cream cheese (softened), 1/4 c. sugar, 1 Tbsp. skim milk, blended together.  The topping goes on the unbaked pumpkin carrot bars.  I go au naturel with these babies most of the time, though 😉

I have some ideas for other ingredients to toss into the bars too, like raisins, cranberries, walnuts, and pecans.

This tasty delight feels like much more of an indulgence than it really is.  The pumpkin and carrots add so much moisture and richness that you can go easy on the butter and the sugar, and still get a burst of fall-inspired flavor with every bite!


Welcome to Forney!

Posted in Life by Sarah on January 27, 2011

Yesterday I had the opportunity of a Forney lifetime . . . to visit Forney, Texas!  I had this opportunity while I was driving to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport from Marshall, Texas.  This little town is on the outskirts of Dallas, just east of the city.

I managed to grab a few shots from the driver’s seat as I was passing through.

Forney Animal Hospital



Forney Chamber of Commerce Sign

Welcome to Forney: Home of the Jackrabbits




In case you’re interested, here’s a little additional history about Forney, Texas.  Originally called Brooklyn, Texas, the name of the town was changed to “Forney” in 1873. It was named in honor of our ancestor, John W. Forney, who was born in Lancaster, PA in 1817.  He was the director of the Texas & Pacific Railway company, in addition to being a politician, diplomat, and journalist.  John Forney is reported to have been instrumental in establishing the railroad through the town of Brooklyn.  When the town applied to the federal government for a U.S. post office, it learned that another town in Texas also had the name of Brooklyn.  The name was then changed to Forney, in honor of John Forney, and has been Forney, Texas ever since!

It may not be a town to write home about for most, but I’m writing home about it anyway because it is our namesake!  For additional information on the history of Forney, Texas definitely check out this site and the Forney Historic Preservation League.   And more on John Forney’s biography is available here!

Minnesota Wild Rice Soup

Posted in Food, Recipes by Elizabeth on January 21, 2011

It’s that time of January when the spring still seems a long way away.  Root vegetables remain the star of farmer’s markets and restaurant menus, but you’re starting to crave spring asparagus and early blueberries.  With word of snow in DC’s forecast, a predicted 1-3 inches (which usually means a dusting accompanied by some bitter wind), I sighed and searched for another soup to soothe my cold feet and hands.  I came upon a number of Minnesota Wild Rice soup recipes and decided it was precisely the remedy for January blues.  Judging from my online research, I am guessing that if you are from Minnesota you’ve had this soup.  I’m also guessing that your mom or dad has her or his own version, which of course is the best wild rice soup you’ve ever had.  If this particular recipe violates your mother’s amazing wild rice soup, I apologize.


  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8-10 oz mushrooms, chopped
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups cannellini beans
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 c flour
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Since wild rice takes about 50 minutes to cook, this soup can take some planning ahead.  I roasted my chicken breasts at 400 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, let it rest, and chopped it into bite-sized pieces.  For the cannellini beans, I soaked overnight about a cup and cooked them the following day.  Canned beans will also work. Set the rice, chicken, and beans aside.

In a large pot, over medium-high heat, melt the butter and add the vegetables with a healthy dash of salt for about 12-15 minutes until they are softened.  I kept my vegetables chunky for a more rustic soup.  I also put a few shakes of red pepper flakes in at this stage of the process.  This is optional and great for a kick in the soup.  Add the flour and stir until it is mixed with all the vegetables.  Add the chicken stock and bring the soup to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, add the rice, chopped chicken, and beans.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Let everything get nice and warm together for another five minutes on low heat.  Serve with a piece of bread or some crackers.  I followed this soup with my favorite cranberry ginger cookies.  Wind gusts of 40mph?  Bring it on.

Bouchon dinner

Posted in Food, Recipes by Elizabeth on January 18, 2011

Last week Adam and I did the ambitious – we had guests for dinner on a week night.  I call this ambitious because weeknight dinners, with guests coming at 7:45-8pm, means we have 2 hours to prep and cook dinner and get the house in order.  Since our kitchen island is our dining table, getting the house in order includes cleaning up most of what we’ve cooked with.  Of course this wasn’t a challenge enough for us and we made it a little more ambitious.  Thanks to a recent holiday gift (thanks j&j!) we came up with a Thomas Keller Bouchon inspired dinner.

Our menu meant there was a lot of prep work and precooking done the night before.  We started with an onion soup – classic and a perfect remedy for the bite of the dc winter wind (see p 47).  With 6 pounds of onions, beef stock, butter, flour, sherry vinegar, and a spice bag, we were ready to go.  Oh, and I can’t forget the day old baguette and Emmantaler cheese for the topping.  Adam had made onion soup many times before but this time he followed Keller’s suggestion of caramelizing the onions for 4 hours.


4 hour onions

After tasting the soup with the onions done this way, I wouldn’t make it any other.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  We did end up reducing the amount of stock he added pretty significantly.  This was merely from a preference standpoint.  We both love lots of onions in our soup and just a little less broth.  The broth, of course, is utterly essential for sopping up the cheese encrusted crouton on top. The Emmantaler cheese was a departure from our regular Gruyere cheese.  However, with the extra cook time on the onions, the more mild Emmantaler is a perfect compliment to the star of the soup.

Our main course was a salad that was a bit of a riff on Keller’s roasted beet salad (p. 7).  As you know by now, I’m a sucker for beets.  For this one I got golden beets, roasted them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, in a tent of aluminum foil. I added juice from a blood orange to some olive oil, salt and pepper, and red wine vinegar to make a vinaigrette. The beets marinated over night in the dressing. They then went on top of arugula with some goat cheese, some sliced red onions, chives, and tarragon. As added color and tartness, I cut some sections of a blood orange to toss in the salad as well.

Along with this, we roasted a chicken. A favorite of ours, we are total converts to Keller’s Bouchon dry roast method (see Bouchon introduction or the video below).

By patting the chicken dry, seasoning (inside and out), and cooking for about 45-60 minutes depending on your bird size, at a high heat (450 degrees).  This makes the skin extra crispy.  The only basting we do is after it comes out and we transfer it to the resting board. We tossed in some thyme to the juices left in the pan and basted the bird.  Rest time is important so that the moisture from the chicken redistributes.  The skin stays crisp and golden and the inside is succulent.  We put just a bit of butter on the chicken and served it with some mustard.

With plenty of wine, some pre-made walnut moons, and just a little hot chocolate to cap the evening, the guests left warm with full bellies.  All in all, a wonderful weeknight dinner.

Make it Easy: Can o’ Beans Bowl

Posted in Food, Recipes by Sarah on January 16, 2011

The other night I adapted a recipe from The Kitchn that was incredibly easy and ended up being very tasty and filling.  It’s a simple black bean bowl spiced up with a little cilantro, lime, and cumin.  Here are the basics:

Can O’ Beans Bowl


One 15-ounce can black beans
1/2 lime, juiced (or lime juice)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 small shallot, diced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Mix all the ingredients together (no cooking required)

The recipe I adapted from is here.  Here’s what I did differently:

  • I added a can of white cannellini beans, drained (to make it a black & white bowl)
  • I used black bean soup that I had on had, as drained as it could be (next time I’ll try a can o’ beans instead)
  • I added more cumin than the recipe called for, because I love that spice
  • When serving, I added in chopped chicken that I had broiled the other day

This recipe is incredibly easy and flexible.

No cooking, one bowl, easy ingredients, healthy results.

Other ingredients  on the healthy side that I imagine would be tasty in here include:  cherry tomatoes, peppers of any color, corn, adobo seasoning, chili powder for a kick, and you may think of others!  If today is your splurge day, go ahead and add cheese and sour cream, too.

Serve on its own, over brown rice, quinoa, or another favorite grain.  Added bonus:  it’s good hot or cold.  Enjoy!

Adorable Grandma

Posted in Life, Pictures by Sarah on January 14, 2011

I got this adorable thank-you card from Grandma in the mail tonight.  Thought I’d share…


You learn something new every day:  Grandma’s first full-time job after high school was with a book company!

Too cute.

Back to reality

Posted in Food, Recipes by Elizabeth on January 4, 2011

I think I’ve heard almost everyone I know utter this phrase this week (myself included).  After two long weekends in a row, both with some over indulging, “back to reality” has a kind of comforting ring to it right now rather than the usual drudgery.  Back to work, back to the gym, back to routine, back to foods without 2 cups of sugar and sticks of butter in the ingredients.  It’s Tuesday night and I’m definitely feeling on track already.  After a much needed trip to Whole Foods, tonight I cooked up some baked farro pasta to have for lunches this week.

Baked Farro Pasta (slightly modified from 101Cookbooks)

  • 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, and some for the baking dish
  • 2 medium leeks, diced
  • 3 garlic gloves, minced
  • 1/2 medium head of Napa cabbage, cored and shredded
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp (or however many healthy dashes you like) of red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces farro pasta (I used the penne shapes)
  • 4 ounces of Fontina cheese (or another soft-rind cheese, see 101 recipe for recommendations)

Cut and boil your potatoes until tender; drain, salt, and set aside. Boil your pasta with a healthy dash of salt in the water for flavor; strain and set aside.  In a medium skillet, melt the butter and add the leeks with a pinch of salt.  I seasoned this mixture with each step to ensure a tasty dish.  Once the leeks are smelling nice and are almost starting to brown, add the garlic and let that get fragrant for about a minute.  Next, add the cabbage and chicken stock.  Cover the skillet for a few minutes and cook until the cabbage is tender.  Take the skillet off the heat and add the Parmesan cheese, mustard, and red pepper flakes.  Be sure the mixture is seasoned with salt and pepper to your taste.  In a buttered 9 x 13 layer half the pasta evenly on the bottom, then add a layer of half of the cabbage and leek mixture and half of the potatoes.  Add half the chunks of the fontina cheese.  On top of this add the remaining pasta, and then the remaining cabbage mixture and potatoes.  Top with the last chunks of cheese.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for 40-60 minutes until the top is nice and golden.


When I was layering this I thought to myself, “Boy, I hope I have enough of the cabbage mixture here!”.  I did.  When it bakes up everything gets nice and friendly and mixed up.  The changes I made from Heidi’s 101 version are as follows:  I used chicken stock rather than vegetable stock, mostly because that is what I had on hand but also because I am a meat eater and like the way meat flavorings make things taste good.  I decreased the amount of Parmesan cheese from 1 1/2 cups to 1/2 cup generally to keep the dish on the healthier side (I did say back to reality right?).  Finally, I left out the sage and added the red pepper flakes instead.  While it would have been tasty I am sure, I felt the sage would add a sweetness to the dish and I was looking for something a little more savory.  I really enjoy the bit of kick the pepper flakes added to this.  I like these baked pasta dishes because they usually heat up very nicely the following day – I will test that theory with this dish tomorrow at the office.

baked farro pasta

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