The Best Carrot Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting (really!)

I love, love, love carrot cake. Of course that means I'm nuts for cream cheese frosting too. I only make carrot cake once or twice a year, usually at Easter, so it really needs to be delicious 'cause I'll probably eat half of it. This carrot cake recipe is chock full of carrots and is lighter than your standard bakery cake since it uses very little oil. That means you can have a second piece for breakfast the next morning. I will.

This cream cheese frosting is the best I've ever tried . . . and I've tried lots. It's cream cheesy, not too sweet, and it's not super runny - my biggest pet peeve with cream cheese frosting. It holds up beautifully and is delicious. I wish I had doubled the batch just so I would have had enough left to lick from the bowl. So good.

Lighter Carrot Cake 
Amazingly Delicious Cream Cheese Frosting

for the cake
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
1 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c. canola oil
1 t. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
2 c. shredded carrots
8oz can crushed pineapple in juice
1 c. coconut, packed loosely
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

for the frosting
16oz light cream cheese (2 bars)
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted very well
1 t. vanilla
1 c. heavy cream, cold

Bake the Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour three 8" round pans

1. With an electric mixer beat sugar and eggs until pale and fluffy

2. Add canola oil, applesauce and vanilla, mix well

3. Add flour, soda, powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, mix until combined

4. Add carrots, pineapple, coconut and nuts, mix to combine

5. Pour evenly into prepared pans

6. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes until a tootpick in the center comes out clean

Allow to cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting

Make the Frosting

1. Sift the powdered sugar

2. With an electric mixer beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla just until smooth

3. In a separate bowl and with clean beaters, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form

4. Add whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture and mix just to combine - DO NOT over mix

This cream cheese frosting is very stable, but the frosted cake should be stored in the refrigerator.


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We've Got Some Drawings!

I mentioned that we've been thinking about adding on to the side of our house. I think it all started with several freak-outs over shoes and coats in the dining room. We use our kitchen door as our main entry so it's understandable that no one walks all the way to the tiny coat closet in the living room to hang their stuff up. And Little M can't walk yet so he's exempt. Bottom line is this whole addition thing started because S doesn't put his coat and shoes away. Expensive lesson to learn, no? Ha.

But we'd also like a powder room on the first floor because someone told me a first floor bathroom is a must for potty training. And I'd like to have a master bathroom so I don't have to share a bathroom with a little boy learning to aim. I bet S wishes he'd wished for a girl right about now.

Perhaps most of all I want a closet that's big enough to fit all my clothes in one place. Right now my clothes are in the guest closet, the armoire in the guest room and a bunch of boxes in the attic. In all fairness, the clothes in the attic don't fit my squishy post-baby body (as if the ones in my closet do), but they will, damnit, and I want them lined up nicely with the rest of my clothes. All in one place. A bonus to having all my clothes in one place is that it's then easy to purge those clothes when I accept that by the time these clothes fit again, they most definitely will not be in style anymore. I fully expect another huge Goodwill donation deduction on our taxes this year, assuming this addition is finished this year. There's some motivation to get the work finished this year!

So armed with all our ideas about what we'd like in an addition and why, we started talking with contractors. And they all gave us rough ideas of what they'd do. One of the guys we spoke with is the guy who did our basement. We adore our basement. In his quote he allowed for an amount for an architect. We decided to interview a few architects in addition to the guy he recommended. That's when we found Rob. Unlike many of the architects in our area, he gave us a fixed-price quote to design an addition within the scope we laid out, which, by the way, went from 8'x10' to 15'x28' over the course of this whole several month long process.

We first met with Rob six weeks ago. A month after we met he presented us with three ideas - small, medium and large. S and I both liked large - it maximized the use of both the new and old spaces. But we weren't in love with the exterior of version 3. It was really similar to lots of houses in our area with additions on the side (there really aren't that many), but it didn't leave me saying "wow." So Rob went back to his office and whipped up a version with dormer windows, based off a house near us that I love.

I adored how cute the addition looked, but when we learned how the dormers would affect the interior space and that it meant losing a bedroom to accommodate the master bath, we nixed it. Well, I nixed it since S had already nixed it based on his opinion that it looked liked two entirely different houses slapped together. Whatevs.

With my beloved dormer version off the table, I left version 3 printed, sitting on the dining room table (next to S's coat) so I could see it all day long. It was growing on me last week.
But something about the gable end facing the driveway/road made the addition seem too big. I love how our house is small and cute, this version seemed to get too far away from "cute." Yes, I did use the word 'cute' repeatedly with the architect. I'm sure it is maddening for him to work with a woman who wanted 15'x28' on a 22'x28' house to look "cute." I do know when I'm sounding irrational, but there's no other word to describe what I want the house to look like.

So in a conversation earlier this week I asked for a hip roof version. Our house does not have a hip roof, but outside of my office window I can see a couple houses that do. It seems as though the original developer back in the day alternated hip and regular roofs in our neighborhood. I've always been a little envious of those hip roofs. And of all those non-corner lots where people can put big 'ole additions off the back and not worry a bit about how it affects the facade of their home. But I digress.

This is what we got:
And I fell in love. 

We chatted a little more, I asked for a two window version so we could rule that out since we'd decided that on the original version 3 drawing we liked one window more than two. I sent Rob a photo of a brick house with and addition with dark gray siding that I liked and a house with a porch with chunky columns that I liked. And I asked for a pergola. Because who doesn't like a pergola?

This is what we got:

And I said "wow." And "that's cute."
Adding a little color makes all the difference, no? I don't even mind that it's siding and not brick (brick is not in our budget.) I love the addition of the trim board between the two stories like I'd find in a historic colonial back at home.

So now our big decision is to choose between the double window version above, or the single window version below.

I thought I was going to like the single window version more, but I like them both a lot. Enough that I can't decide. At all. Seriously, it could be a coin-toss kind of decision for me.

My knee-jerk reaction is that more windows is always better, but more windows could mean less room for an entry closet downstairs. And it could mean that having an open bathroom door upstairs wouldn't flood light down a center hallway into the master bedroom at the back of the house. This would make much more sense if I had an electronic version of the initial floor plans to share. But I don't. So just trust me, it's a hard decision.

We've resolved to design the inside around the exterior plan, so I need to let go of my initial ideas of what the floor plans will look like. But I know I want lots more storage and windows don't work well with closets. But most of all I want the outside the look good, so it doesn't matter what I think about windows and closets. Oh the decisions! They're paralyzing I tell ya! What do you think? Which would you choose?

All I know is that now that we've nailed down an exterior style, this whole addition daydream is feeling a whole lot more real and whole lot of exciting. And cue the sleepless nights worrying about budget....

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My Favorite Kitchen Tool

My mom came to visit last week and while she was here she helped that with a little cooking. While cooking chicken or something like that she accidentally snapped the handle off my favorite kitchen tool. I didn't realize it was my favorite kitchen tool until I no longer had it to use. I was totally lost without it this weekend.

What's my favorite kitchen too? The lasagna spatula.

I'm not even a fan of pasta and I don't like tomato sauce so I'm certainly not using my lasagna spatula for lasagna. But the thing is just so useful. I use it for cutting, turning, sautéing, cooking everything, even cleaning cooked on stuff off a skillet. I forgot that she'd broken it and on Saturday I was looking all over for it while making scrambled eggs. It's the best for keeping the eggs from cooking to the pan. It's just my favorite tool ever. I could go without any cooking spoons and just use my lasagna spatula.

So today armed with my 20% off bed bath and beyond coupon I bought myself a new what lasagna spatula. Thank goodness they still make it. I resisted buying two to have a back-up, but now I'm thinking I might need to go back. Totally ridiculous that this is my favorite kitchen tool, right? What's your favorite kitchen gadget?

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Bye Bye G. Reader

I've been a fan of Google Reader forever. Apparently I'm the only one and I can't believe it's going away. Tonight I downloaded the Feedly app on my phone and for Mozilla on my laptop. I thought it was a possible replacement for reader on my phone, but on my laptop it's just kinda confusing. Ok maybe not confusing, but it's different. How well do you handle change? Yeah, me neither.

Maybe I don't need an alternative to reader. Maybe I need to work my bookmarks a little more, visit blogs and enjoy them as they're meant to be read. No one does that anymore do they? Either way, I'm sad to see reader go. Not as sad as I would have been two years ago when I was keeping up with reading it daily instead of monthly as I do now, but I'll miss it. 

What are you all doing to replace your reader? Or are you in the majority that doesn't use reader?

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