Friday, August 31, 2007

A sweet tart of a cake!

This past weekend we hosted our friends Kim and Jeff over for dinner. Of course I can not have guests over and make dinner without dessert. Once we decided to grill out, this gave me the perfect excuse for making this summer cake. You can find the recipe in the latest edition of Cooking Light and it tastes even better than it looks. We basically devoured this cake in one night with each of us having 2 slices. I sent a huge slice home with Kim and Jeff and Ben almost fought them for it too.

Simply adding lemon and lime zest to the cream cheese frosting really brings out the citrus flavors. It's a satisfying, substantial cake that isn't too heavy...making a perfect dessert for these final few days of summer.

Lemon Lime Layer Cake (Cooking Light)

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup egg substitute
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon grated lime rind
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 10 ounces)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups low-fat buttermilk

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 (8-ounce) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (about 10 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare the cake, coat 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottoms of pans with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray.

Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add egg substitute and the next 3 ingredients (through 1 tablespoon juice); beat well. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Spoon batter into prepared pans; tap pans once on countertop to remove air bubbles.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove cakes from pans. Carefully peel off wax paper. Cool completely on wire racks coated with cooking spray.

To prepare icing, place 1 teaspoon lemon rind and next 3 ingredients (through cream cheese) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth (about 1 minute). Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat). Cover and chill for 30 minutes.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/2 cup icing. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake. Chill 1 hour. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator.

Decadent Pasta

If you don't get the Kraft Food and Family magazine, you should! It's free and comes quarterly with yummy, inexpensive and family friendly recipes. What I enjoy most is most recipes call for very few ingredients and most are quick and easy with time saving tips. This recipe takes regular spaghetti sauce and adds cream cheese to make a rich sauce. By cooking the chicken in an italian dressing it adds another layer of flavor. Usually, I go ahead and make the entire box of bow tie pasta to have tons of leftovers...the recipe makes a lot of sauce and is plenty.

Creamy Bow-tie Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli (Kraft Foods)

3 cups (8 oz.) farfalle (bow-tie pasta), uncooked
4 cups broccoli florets
3 Tbsp. Roasted Red Pepper Italian with Parmesan Dressing
6 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1-1/2 lb.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups tomato-basil spaghetti sauce
4 oz. (1/2 of 8-oz. pkg.) 1/3 Less Fat than Cream Cheese, cubed
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

Cook pasta as directed on package, adding broccoli to the cooking water for the last 3 min. of the pasta cooking time. Meanwhile, heat dressing in large nonstick skillet on medium heat. Add chicken and garlic; cook 5 min. Turn chicken over; continue cooking 4 to 5 min. or until chicken is cooked through (170ºF).

Drain pasta mixture in colander; return to pan and set aside. Add spaghetti sauce and Neufchatel cheese to chicken in skillet; cook on medium-low heat 2 to 3 min. or until Neufchatel cheese is completely melted, mixture is well blended and chicken is coated with sauce, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from skillet; keep warm. Add sauce mixture to pasta mixture; mix well. Transfer to six serving bowls.

Cut chicken crosswise into thick slices; fan out chicken over pasta mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Perfect Brunch

This past weekend, my college roommate, Meg and her new husband, Pat come to visit us for the weekend. We love having guests and entertaining, so a brunch was a perfect ending to the weekend. This brunch casserole orginially called for canned mushrooms and frozen spinach, but I used fresh and it was wonderful.

Sausage, Spinach and Mushroom Breakfast Casserole

2 1/2 cups seasoned croutons
1 pound spicy pork sausage
4 eggs
2 1/4 cups milk
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
Half a bag of fresh spinach, chopped
4 oz fresh chopped mushrooms
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
2 sprigs fresh parsley, for garnish

Spread croutons on bottom of greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Crumble sausage into medium skillet. Cook over medium heat until browned, stirring occasionally. Drain off any drippings. Spread sausage over croutons.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended. Stir in soup, spinach, mushrooms, cheeses and mustard. Pour egg mixture over sausage and croutons. Refrigerate overnight.

The next morning, preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes or until set and lightly browned on top. Garnish with parsley sprigs and serve hot.

Hot and Spicy!

I've had this recipe printed out for a while, just waiting for the perfect time to make it. I wish I had made it sooner. It will definitely be in our rotation for dinners. It could not have been quicker to make too. You can use chicken breasts or chicken thighs as well as either broil the chicken or grill it. We had the time to start the grill on the night we made this, and it turned out wonderful and very moist. Next time I will probably half the spices since we only grilled 3 pieces of chicken, but the spices weren't overpowering since the honey balances it out.

Spicy Honey Brushed Chicken (Cooking Light)

2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Cooking spray
6 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Preheat broiler.
Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Add chicken to bowl; toss to coat. Place chicken on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Broil chicken 5 minutes on each side.
Combine honey and vinegar in a small bowl, stirring well. Remove chicken from oven; brush 1/4 cup honey mixture on chicken. Broil 1 minute. Remove chicken from oven and turn over. Brush chicken with remaining honey mixture. Broil 1 additional minute or until chicken is done.

Our Beach Trip...

For the past 2 years, we've been taking our annual family vacation to a new beach. Since we all love cooking and on vacation have the time, we each take a day to do all the cooking. This year we made breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and a special cocktail to enjoy with appetizers. The 12 recipes are just a sampling of what we enjoyed while in the Outer Banks this summer. Most of them Ben and I made for our days, but I added a few we really enjoyed or that we make often ourselves. ENJOY!

Mahi Mahi with Fresh Mango Salsa

This is a great dish for a hot summer evening. Any white fish such as Mahi-Mahi, Halibut or Tilapia work well. You can serve the leftover salsa with tortilla chips for snack or make it on its own. Also, if Mango's are out of season peaches are a good subsitute.

Mahi-Mahi with Fresh Mango Salsa (Cooking Light)

2 cups plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 1/2 cups diced peeled ripe mango
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 (6-ounce) mahi mahi fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil

PreparationPrepare grill.

Combine first 7 ingredients. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and garlic.
Rub halibut with oil; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Place fish on grill rack; grill 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with mango salsa.

Banana Split CAKE!

My dad made this cake for his dessert at the beach. It's delicious and even better the following day. If you love banana splits, you'll love this dessert...the best thing is it doesn't melt as quick. Make sure to serve with with lots of cherries on top.

Banana Split Cake (Paula Deen)

4 cups crushed graham crackers
3 sticks butter, room temperature
2 eggs
16-ounce box powdered sugar
20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
2 to 3 bananas, sliced 1
2-ounce container whipped topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For crust, mix crushed graham crackers and 1 stick of butter. Line bottom and sides of a 13 by 9-inch pan with mixture. Bake crust for 5 to 8 minutes.

Beat the eggs, 2 sticks butter, and the powdered sugar until fluffy. Spread mixture on cooled crust. Add layer of crushed pineapple and layer of sliced bananas. Cover with whipped topping and sprinkle with nuts or graham crackers. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

A taste of summer.

Key Lime Pie (Cooking Light)

2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup Key lime juice (such as Nellie and Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice)
1 teaspoon grated lime rind
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1 (6-ounce) reduced-fat graham cracker crust
1 1/2 cups frozen reduced-calorie whipped topping, thawed

Preheat oven to 350°.

Beat eggs and egg whites at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended. Gradually add juice, rind, and milk to egg mixture, beating until well-blended. Spoon mixture into crust, and bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until almost set (the center will not be firm but will set up as it chills). Cool pie on a wire rack. Cover loosely, and chill 4 hours. Spread whipped topping evenly over filling.

Twice As Nice!

This dish is known as "The Meal" in my family. We have this whenever we left for camp, school, celebrated a birthday and have always had this on Christmas Eve. The side dishes may vary each time, but the steak and peppers are always a must. It's safe to say it's a family recipe!

Grilled Pepper Steak with Bell Pepper Salsa (Cooking Light)

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 large shallots, peeled and minced lengthwise
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (about 8 ounces)
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped(about 8 ounces)
Cooking spray
4 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper
4 (4-ounce) beef tenderloin steaks (about 1 inch thick)
Thyme sprigs (optional)

Combine first 9 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes. Place marinated vegetables and sauce in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook until vegetabales are soft and marinade has reduced.

Place a grill pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat until hot. Press 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper onto 1 side of each steak. Wipe pan clean with paper towels; recoat with cooking spray. Place pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add steaks, peppered sides down; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Serve with bell pepper salsa and thyme sprigs if desired.

Twice Baked Potatoes

4 large baking potatoes
8 slices bacon
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
8 green onions, sliced, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake potatoes in preheated oven for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.

When potatoes are done allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh into a large bowl; save skins. To the potato flesh add sour cream, milk, butter, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup cheese and 1/2 the green onions. Mix with a hand mixer until well blended and creamy. Spoon the mixture into the potato skins. Top each with remaining cheese, green onions and bacon.

Bake for another 15 minutes.


This is one of my favorite cocktails that I discovered in Mexico on our honeymoon. Try using brown sugar instead of white sugar to add a slightly different taste.


10 fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons sugar
Juice from 1/2 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup light rum
Ice cubes
Splash of club soda

Combine mint leaves, sugar, and lime juice in a small mortar bowl; crush mint using a pestle. Transfer mint mixture to a tall glass.

Add rum, and stir; add ice cubes. Add a splash of club soda.

Note: If you don't have a mortar and pestle, simply use the back of a spoon to crush the mint leaves in your glass with the sugar and lime juice.

All wrapped Up

I have made this "lunch" dish several times since it first appeared in the July edition of Cooking Light since techinically no cooking is required. Sweet potato chips go perfectly with this wrap.

Chicken & Bacon Roll Ups (Cooking Light)

1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 (2.8-ounce) whole wheat flatbreads (such as Flatout)
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
2 cups chopped tomato (about 2 medium)
4 center-cut bacon slices, cooked and drained
2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast

Combine reduced-fat mayonnaise, minced tarragon, and fresh lemon juice in a small bowl. Spread 2 tablespoons mayonnaise mixture over each flatbread. Top each with 1/2 cup shredded romaine lettuce, 1/2 cup chopped tomato, 1 bacon slice, crumbled, and 1/2 cup chicken. Roll up.

A Tropical Breakfast

This was the perfect breakfast to start a day at the beach. A very tropical taste with the fruit and coconut milk in the french toast. It's made the night before, so the bread can soak up the coconut egg mixture and then it's baked in the morning.

Baked Coconut French Toast with Tropical Fruit Compote (Cooking Light)

1 1/2 cups chopped fresh pineapple
1 cup chopped peeled mango
1 cup chopped peeled papaya
1 cup chopped peeled kiwifruit
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

16 (1-inch-thick) slices diagonally cut French bread baguette (about 10 ounces)
Cooking spray
1 1/4 cups light coconut milk
1 1/4 cups egg substitute
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut

To prepare compote, combine first 6 ingredients. Cover and chill for 8 hours or overnight.

To prepare the French toast, arrange bread in a single layer in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine light coconut milk, egg substitute, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon vanilla, stirring with a whisk, and pour evenly over bread. Turn the bread over to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350°.

Remove bread mixture from refrigerator, and uncover. Turn bread slices over, and sprinkle evenly with flaked coconut. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Bake, uncovered, at 350º for 30 minutes or until coconut is golden. Serve warm with fruit compote.

Dessert Pizza!

Ben's pizza night at the beach wasn't complete without a dessert pizza. This pizza is made with regular unseasoned pizza dough, a chocolate hazelnut spread base, and a combination of chocolate chips and nuts. Ben used M&Ms and substituted walnuts for hazelnuts...what a sweet ending!

Chocolate Hazelnut Pizza

1 pound homemade pizza dough or purchased pizza dough
2 teaspoons butter, melted
1/4 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread such as Nutella
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons milk chocolate chips
2 tablespoons white chocolate chips
2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts, toasted

Position the oven rack on the bottom of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the dough to a 9-inch-diameter round. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. Using your fingers, make indentations all over the dough. Brush the dough with butter, then bake until the crust is crisp and pale golden brown, about 20 minutes. Immediately spread the chocolate-hazelnut spread over the pizza then sprinkle all the chocolate chips over. Bake just until the chocolate begins to melt, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the pizza. Cut into wedges and serve.

Hands Down the BEST Pizza Ever!

As many of you know we have instituted Friday Pizza Nights in our household. We've been trying several combinations of ingredients for our pizzas, but this is the absolute best version Ben has made so far. He used fresh cooked shrimp, fresh portabella mushrooms and spinach. It tasted very gourmet and I'd happily pay $30 for the entire pizza. It was perfectly crunchy. By brushing the pizza crust with olive oil and pre-baking it for about 5 minutes, then adding all the toppings and baking for another 15 minutes, ensured a perfect balance of crispy and chewy crust.

Shrimp, Spinach & Mushroom Pizza

1/2 lb. cooked peeled, deveined shrimp
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
White pizza sauce (recipe below)
1 (6 ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 unbaked pizza crusts
1 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spread pizza crusts out onto baking sheets or pizza pans.

Place the shrimp, spinach and white sauce in a saucepan, and warm over medium heat. Stir occasionally. Spread 1tablespoon of olive oil onto each pizza crust. Spoon the shrimp and spinach mixture onto crust. Top pizza with the mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle mushrooms on top.

Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the bottom is nicely browned.

White Pizza Sauce
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup evaporated skim milk
1/2 cup shredded reduced sodium Swiss cheese (2 ounces)
2 tbsp Chablis or other dry white wine
1/4 tsp garlic powder (or use fresh to taste!)
1/4 tsp ground white pepper

Combine cornstarch and milk in a small saucepan, stirring until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in Swiss cheese, dry white wine, garlic powder (or minced or pressed fresh!) and ground white pepper. Spread sauce evenly over Pizza Crust.



1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup frozen lemonade concentrate
1/3 cup orange juice
1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry red wine
1/2 cup triple sec
1 lemon, sliced into rounds
1 orange, sliced into rounds
1 lime, sliced into rounds
1/4 cup white sugar (optional)
8 maraschino cherries
2 cups carbonated water (optional)

In a large pitcher or bowl, mix together the brandy, lemon juice, lemonade concentrate, orange juice, red wine, triple sec, and sugar. Float slices of lemon, orange and lime, and maraschino cherries in the mixture. Refrigerate overnight for best flavor. For a fizzy sangria, add club soda just before serving.

Gorilla Bread

This breakfast treat is similar to Monkey Bread, but has cream cheese stuffed inside each piece. Ben has made this twice now and used a honey nut flavored cream cheese the second time. It was the perfect flavor to compliment the nuts on top.

Gorilla Bread (Paula Deen)

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
2 (12-ounce) cans refrigerated biscuits (10 count)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray a bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray. Mix the granulated sugar and cinnamon. In a saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar over low heat, stirring well; set aside. Cut the cream cheese into 20 equal cubes. Press the biscuits out with your fingers and sprinkle each with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar. Place a cube of cream cheese in the center of each biscuit, wrapping and sealing the dough around the cream cheese. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the nuts into the bottom of the bundt pan. Place half of the prepared biscuits in the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, pour half of the melted butter mixture over the biscuits, and sprinkle on 1/2 cup of nuts. Layer the remaining biscuits on top, sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar, pour the remaining butter mixture over the biscuits, and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of nuts. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Place a plate on top and invert.