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Fireside Supper

December is here again, and for many of us it’s the busiest month of the year. For a leisurely fireside supper, try the beef barley soup. A simple salad completes a quick and filling meal. I’ve also included one of my favorite dessert recipes by my favorite chef, my uncle Vincent Beasy, who served as executive pastry chef at many of the finest resorts in the country. If you choose not to split his recipe, which makes two decadent carrot cakes, freeze the second for a great ending to a holiday meal.

As another year passes, my daughter Noelle and I wish each of you peace and blessings.

VINCE BEASY’S REMARKABLE CARROT CAKE
6 cups cake flour
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon salt
2-1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon
5 cups sugar
3-1/2 cups oil
9 large eggs
1-1/2 lbs. shredded carrots, cleaned but unpeeled
8 oz. crushed pineapple, semi-drained
8 oz. walnut pieces, toasted in a 350° oven

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large mixing bowl, sift together three times: flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add sugar, oil, and eggs, and cream until sugar is dissolved and mixture is light and fluffy. Add carrots, pineapple, and toasted walnuts.

Grease and flour two extra-deep 9 x 13-inch pans. Divide batter among both pans and bake, about an hour, until center springs back when lightly pressed. When cakes are done, remove from oven and cool in pans for about 30 minutes before removing. You may loosen them around the edges with a spatula after removing them from the oven. Turn out onto large racks or place on large sheets to cool completely. After cooling, split each of the cakes into two layers before icing with the frosting recipe that follows. You may choose to leave the layers whole and ice only the tops and sides.

CREAM CHEESE ICING
3 cups powdered sugar
8 oz. Crisco oil
8 oz. (2 sticks) butter
2 lbs. cream cheese
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
8 oz. raisins
10 oz. flaked coconut
8 oz. chopped walnuts
4 lbs. powdered sugar

Cream together 3 cups powdered sugar, oil, butter, cream cheese, and lemon zest and juice. Add raisins, coconut, and walnuts (or you may press walnuts into icing after cake is frosted). Gradually add in approximately 4 pounds of powdered sugar until desired consistency. Makes enough frosting to completely frost both large cakes.

This recipe makes two very large cakes (these cakes freeze beautifully) or you may cut recipe in half to make one large cake. Each cake serves 8-10.

HEARTY BEEF BARLEY SOUP
2-1/2 Tablespoons canola oil
Salt and pepper
1-1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cubed
1 carrot, sliced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cups water
3 cups beef stock
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/3 cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped tomatoes (canned work great)
1-1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 pound medium-size button mushrooms, rinsed, trimmed, and sliced
3 Tablespoons fresh minced parsley or 1 Tablespoon dried

Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Sear on all sides until well-browned. Set meat aside and wipe oil out of pan with a paper towel. Lower heat to medium and add 1/2 Tablespoon of oil to the same pan. Add carrot, onion, and celery, and sauté until tender. Return the meat to the pan with water and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer very low, cover, and cook 1-1/2 hours until meat is tender. Add thyme, barley, and tomato, and continue simmering the soup, covered, for 45 minutes.

In a medium skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat, add mushrooms, and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper to taste and add to the soup, simmering 15 minutes longer. Skim fat from the surface with a ladle. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste and serve in warm bowls. Serves 6-8.

ROMAINE SALAD WITH BLUE CHEESE VINAIGRETTE
2 hearts of romaine, chopped
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh combined herbs such as parsley, basil, oregano, and sage
2 teaspoons sugar
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 lb. blue cheese crumbled bits
Salt and pepper to taste

Place lettuce and tomatoes in large bowl. Combine garlic, herbs, sugar, and vinegar in small bowl. Add olive oil in a slow steady stream, whisking constantly. Stir in blue cheese crumbles. Pour over salad and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4.

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