Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Key Lime Poke Cake

I am so in love with this cake.  Of course I love anything with lime, especially key lime pie, and this cake is now in my list of favorites.  It tastes light and refreshing and is a lovely change of pace from the typical pudding poke cake.  Don't get me wrong, I like pudding poke cakes as much as the next guy, but this cake kinda puts them to shame.

You'll need lime juice and lime zest.  You'll probably be safe with 4-5 limes for the juice - just remember you'll also need the zest from 3 of them.  Don't be a dolt like me and chuck them in the garbage after juicing only to remember, "Oh yeah, I still need those."  Whoops.  Now my fridge has a couple of naked limes.

And to be specific, when calling for a graham cracker sheet, that means the whole graham cracker (all four sections).

adapted from Betty Crocker

1 box white cake mix
1 1/4 cups water
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
4 eggs
zest of 1 lime

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated)
3/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup lime juice (about 4-5 limes)
zest of 1 lime
4 drops yellow food color, optional
1 drop green food color, optional

1 (8 oz) container Cool Whip, thawed
zest of 1 lime
5 graham cracker sheets
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees for shiny metal or glass pan (325 degrees for dark or nonstick pan).  Grease and flour bottom only of 9x13 baking pan.

In a large bowl, beat cake ingredients with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds.  Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.  Pour into pan. 

Bake 26-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 5 minutes. With handle of wooden spoon, poke holes almost to bottom of cake every inch or so.

In medium bowl, stir together filling ingredients (mixture will thicken).  Pour over cake; spread evenly over surface, working back and forth to fill holes.  (Some filling should remain on top of cake.)  Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. 

Fold zest into Cool Whip and spread over cake.  In a food processor (or whatever method you prefer), pulse graham crackers, butter, and sugar until crumbly.  Sprinkle evenly over cake.  Refrigerate until serving.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fluffer Nutter Blondies

What is a Fluffernutter?  I didn't know until a couple of years ago.  Apparently it's a sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow creme (or "fluff").  It started in Massachusetts in the early 20th century and is a beloved culinary tradition carried on today.  I've never actually had one, but when I saw these bars on the blog Something Swanky, I thought it was time to try out the combination.  Everyone in our family, including my daughter who is not a fan of peanut butter, loved these bars.  Especially the gooey yet crispy swirl of fluff!

from Something Swanky

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 - 1 cup marshmallow creme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray.

Cream butter and peanut butter; add sugars and beat until light and fluffy.  On medium speed, add in eggs and vanilla.  Stir in the baking soda, salt, and flour until just combined.  Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.  Drop creme by spoonfuls randomly over batter:

And swirl with a knife:

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean.  Do not over bake.  Let cool before cutting into bars with a wet knife.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Creamy Greek Salsa

So... I am in love with this concoction.  I got the idea from this recipe on Kuntal's Kitchen.  I saw the photo on Pinterest and thought, "Greek salsa!"  But, no, it's actually a cucumber version of everyone's favorite southwest appetizer.  I did use it as a starting point to make the recipe shared here.  I wanted something similar to a Greek salad, but in appetizer form, and can I just say this stuff is addicting?  And actually GOOD for you?!  It's great served with tortilla or pita chips, but I like it with these:

Tostitos now has multigrain scoops!  Now I'm not stupid enough to think these are a health food, but they can't be any worse than regular tortilla chips.  And I like their flavor.  And they are perfect for scooping up the Creamy Greek Salsa!  (No, I'm not being paid to advertise - but I'd like to be!)

If you like Greek, check out Chicken or Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki or this Seven Layer Greek Dip.

adapted from Crisp Cucumber Salsa on Kuntal's Kitchen

2 cucumbers; peeled, seeded, and diced
3-4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/4 cup minced red onion or sliced green onion
2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
heaping 1/4 tsp. dried dill (or 1 tsp. fresh dill)
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. seasoned salt
tortilla or pita chips

In a medium bowl, combine cucumbers, tomatoes, onion, parsley, and feta cheese.  In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream or yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, dill, pepper, and salt; fold into cucumber mixture.  Serve with tortilla or pita chips.  Makes about 4 cups.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Chicken Chile Avocado Soup

Okay, so I've been posting a few...less than lately.  I thought it was time to remedy that and give y'all something good to eat.  It's already plenty warm here in AZ, but for many of you the weather is still cold enough for soup.  You're probably tired of the heavy fall and winter fare, so here's something that's light and fresh but will still warm your soul.


2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15 oz) can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 (7 oz) can diced green chiles
1/2 tsp. cumin
salt & pepper, to taste
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 avocados, sliced
crushed tortilla chips, optional

Heat olive oil in a large pot over med-high heat.  Add chicken breasts and onions; cook chicken until browned on both sides and onions begin to soften.  Add chicken broth, beans, chiles, and cumin.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Remove the chicken and shred; return to pot with lime juice and cilantro.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve with crushed tortilla chips and sliced avocado.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Soft and Thick Sugar Cookies

Don't these look yummy?  When I made them my daughter shared a couple with her friends and they all wanted more.  Even the hubs likes them.  Apparently the trick to getting a soft sugar cookie is using cake flour.  I just happened to have a box of cake flour (why? I don't know!) that was expiring at the end of this month, so I decided it was time to test the theory.  These soft, thick cookies were the result.

When I read the directions to slightly flatten the cookies after baking, I thought, "How silly!  Why don't I just flatten them before?"  Well, I found out.  They don't turn out as thick if you flatten them first!  So be a sheep and follow the directions on this one.  ;)

If you don't have cake flour, I have another soft sugar cookie recipe here that doesn't call for it.

from Confections From the Cody Kitchen

2/3 cup butter (cold)
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
2 3/4 cups cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
coarse sugar (like sprinkles or raw sugar) for rolling

Cream butter, shortening, and sugar; stir in eggs and extracts.  Combine flours, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture until thoroughly combined.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill dough for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment or Silpat.  Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls (or use a med-sized cookie scoop) and dip or roll in coarse sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet.  Return dough to fridge between batches.

Bake for 8-9 minutes or just until bottoms start to lightly brown.  Remove from oven and slightly flatten cookies with a spatula.  Let cool on cookie sheet 3 minutes before removing to wire rack.  Makes 3 dozen cookies.

If you want to make larger cookies, you will need to adjust your bake time about 1-2 minutes.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Buttermilk Syrup

This is buttermilk syrup.  Otherwise known as liquid gold or caramel crack.  It's bad for you, like most delicious things.  It's totally sinful, so I kind of save it for special occasions.  Like Tuesdays.

Buttermilk syrup goes with anything.  Pancakes, waffles, french toast, ice cream, brownie sundaes, cheesecake, etc.  We recently paired it with Honey Orange French Toast; oo la la!  **Update: today we dipped apple slices in this stuff - fabulous!

from OurBestBites

3/4 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) real butter
2 Tbsp. corn syrup
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

In a LARGE pot (like a stock pot - this foams while cooking!), combine buttermilk, sugar, butter, corn syrup, and baking soda.  Bring ingredients to a boil and then reduce heat to low; cook, stirring frequently, for 8-9 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Let cool slightly before serving.  You can skim the foam off the top if you wish.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Honey Orange French Toast

There's a fabulous restaurant chain in the South (FL, GA, NC) called The Flying Biscuit.  I've mentioned it before - that's where the Cranberry Apple Butter recipe comes from.  Their specialty is mile-high biscuits but everything on their menu is amazing.  The first thing I ever ordered was the Orange Scented French Toast with raspberry sauce and honey creme anglaise.  Heaven.  I've never forgotten it.

Imagine my delight when I came across a similar recipe on Pinterest!  It comes from the blog Blue Eyed Bakers, which is just a delight to peruse on a lazy Sunday afternoon. 

This time around I just sprinkled the toast with powdered sugar, but here is a recipe for raspberry sauce if you would like to make it.  Or you can wait until Wednesday when I'll post a recipe for buttermilk syrup - which is basically caramel sauce.  Yum.  My daughter usually doesn't care for french toast but when I served her this Honey Orange French Toast with some buttermilk syrup?  She devoured it and asked for more!

slightly adapted from Fall French Toast on Blue Eyed Bakers

4 eggs
1 cup half-and-half (I used fat free)
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. orange zest
pinch of salt

1/2 loaf of bread, cut into 1-inch slices (about 8-10 slices)
powdered sugar for garnish

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, half-and-half, honey, cinnamon, vanilla, zest, and salt.  Preheat griddle to medium heat or 325 degrees.  While griddle heats, soak bread slices in egg mixture.  Spray griddle lightly with cooking spray.  Cook toast until lightly browned and flip.  Toast is done when center is firm, not soggy.  Dust with powdered sugar.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Creamy Orzo and Asparagus

Like most ignorant children, I hated asparagus.  I think for most it is an acquired taste.  Thankfully I grew up and learned to appreciate this fabulous veggie.  Even if it does have a weird side effect

When I saw asparagus go on sale at one of my local grocery stores recently I got excited.  I have a recipe on this blog for grilled asparagus, which is one of my favorite ways to prepare it.  I also like roasting it in the oven (guess I should post a recipe for that too).  After purchasing a couple of bundles of the stuff, I decided to look up a few other recipes to try while asparagus was in season and cheap.  In my search I came upon this little gem.

I cannot rave about this recipe enough.  It's simple, it's fast, and though the flavors are mellow, they are perfectly in tune with each other.  I've made it twice in one week!  The recipe comes from Sugar & Spice by Celeste: a food blog that's been featured on the Cooking Channel, Fox News, The Knot, and The Huffington Post.  I recommend checking it out!

from Sugar & Spice by Celeste

1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 cup asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (yes, the Kraft kind works)
1/4 - 1/2 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil.  Add orzo and cook for 5 minutes.  Add asparagus and cook for another 5 minutes.  Drain and return to pot.

Stir in butter and Parmesan cheese until melted.  Add cream until desired consistency.  Season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tender Beef Tips With Gravy

This recipe comes from a cute food blog called Mommy's Kitchen.  I really enjoyed this dish - probably because it's similar to stroganoff (one of my favorite comfort foods).  It calls for beef tips, but the slow cooking process makes it so you can use a tougher (and cheaper!) cut of meat like a chuck roast or stew meat.  I've slightly adapted the recipe because my husband and I found it to be a little salty and I wanted more sauce for the noodles. 

The directions call for baking this covered, for 3 hours.  I think you could just as easily throw it all in a slow cooker and leave it on low for 6-8 hours.

slightly adapted from No Peek Beef Tips on Mommy's Kitchen

2 - 2 1/2 lbs. beef tenderloin tips, chuck roast, or stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 (10.5 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (0.87 oz) packet brown gravy mix
1 (1 oz) envelope onion soup mix
1 (4 oz) can mushrooms, drained, optional
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup sour cream, optional

1 (16 oz) bag egg noodles (cooked according to package directions)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Place cubed meat in a 9x13 baking dish.  In a medium bowl, combine mushroom soup, brown gravy mix, onion soup mix, mushrooms (if using), and water.  Pour mixture evenly over meat, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 3 hours.  Stir in sour cream, if using, before serving over egg noodles.

Alternately, combine beef with soup mixture in a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until beef is tender.  Stir in sour cream, if using, before serving over egg noodles.