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Thousand Oaks

Now You’re Cooking: Spring Dessert and Hors d’ouevres

These simple, tasty deviled eggs are incredibly easy to make and are the perfect appetizer for spring get-togethers. For Easter, we like to have a deviled egg bar where guests can customize their eggs to their liking using a broad assortment of toppings. I’ve provided a few suggestions below, but the sky’s the limit! For a more upscale presentation, use a pastry bag fitted with a star tip to pipe filling into the egg whites.

There are so many methods for hard-cooking eggs. My favorite is using an Instant Pot pressure cooker – the shells just slip right off! Simplyrecipes.com has very clear, easy-to-follow directions for hard-cooked eggs using an Instant Pot if you want to give this method a try.

Deviled Eggs with Fresh Dill Pickles

(Makes 24 deviled eggs)

12 large hard-cooked eggs, peeled

⅓ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons sour cream

2 teaspoons spicy brown, Dijon or regular mustard

1 to 2 teaspoon dill pickle juice, distilled white or apple cider vinegar

½ teaspoon granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne or dash of hot sauce

2 tablespoons finely chopped dill pickle

Topping ideas: smoked paprika, crumbled cooked bacon, snipped fresh dill or chives, finely chopped shallot, finely chopped jalapeno, finely chopped sweet or dill pickle.

Slice eggs in half lengthwise. Transfer yolks to a medium bowl. Mash yolks with a fork or pastry blender until no lumps remain. Add mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, pickle juice, sugar, salt, pepper and cayenne; stir until smooth. Stir in dill pickle.

Transfer yolk mixture into a quart-size zip-top plastic bag, twisting the top of the bag to help push mixture toward the tip of the bag. Using scissors, snip about ½ inch off the corner of the bag.  

Arrange egg whites on a serving platter. Pipe yolk mixture evenly into egg whites. Top deviled eggs as desired. Serve immediately. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Tip: Unfilled egg whites and yolk mixture can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated separately for up to two days before assembling.

Carrot cake is one of life’s sweetest pleasures. With its outstanding spice flavor, moist crumb and velvety orange-scented cream cheese frosting, this is easily one of my favorite cakes. I purposely left the nuts and raisins out (both traditionally found in carrot cake) because I’m not a fan of them in baked goods, but this recipe works perfectly well with those additions. Simply fold in ½ cup raisins and/or ½ to 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts with the carrots.

It’s best to use freshly grated carrots (using a food processor with a shredding disk or by hand using the large holes of a 4-sided box grater), as pre-shredded carrots are a bit too firm and dry for this cake recipe.

This cake freezes beautifully, frosting and all! To freeze, place the assembled cake in the freezer unwrapped until frozen solid. Remove from the freezer and wrap in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Store in the freezer for up to 1 month. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight and then bring to room temperature before serving.

Layered Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

(Makes 16 servings)

4 large eggs

1 cup vegetable or coconut oil

1 ⅓ cups granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

¾ cup unsweetened applesauce

4 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided use

1 ½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest, divided use

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 cups lightly packed grated organic carrots

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 cups powdered sugar

Optional garnish: chopped toasted pecans or walnuts

Arrange oven rack in bottom third of oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly spray two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Beat eggs, oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, applesauce, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon orange zest in a large mixer bowl on medium speed until well blended. Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg into the wet mixture; stir until just combined. Fold in carrots.

Pour batter into prepared cake pans, dividing equally. Bake for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.

If your cake has a small dome, use a serrated knife to horizontally cut the top off so that you have a flat surface. Slice each cake in half horizontally. Place cake layers in the refrigerator or freezer while making the frosting (a chilled cake is much easier to frost).

Beat cream cheese, butter, remaining 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, remaining ½ teaspoon orange zest and a pinch of kosher salt in a large mixer bowl until smooth. Sift powdered sugar into cream cheese mixture; beat on low speed to combine. Gradually increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

To assemble, place one cake layer cut-side-up on a cake stand or platter. Spread about ¼ of the frosting over the cake layer. Repeat with the remaining layers. With an offset spatula, spread the remaining frosting evenly over the cake, smoothing the edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving (chilling helps the cake cut beautifully). Garnish with chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.

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