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Archive for the ‘Tried and True’ Category

applecake1

One of my all-time favorite cakes is Apple Spice Cake. I loved when my mom baked them growing up. My favorite two desserts that she made were apple cake and banana pudding. I always requested them and my chances that she’d make them got a lot better when I moved away from home :).

Now that the weather is getting cooler and apples are coming into season I found myself craving an apple cake. The recipe my mom uses calls for a lot of vegetable oil and I decided to try a new recipe that featured butter instead. I researched recipes for a while and found this recipe from Cooking Light that sounded great and had received awesome reviews since it was originally printed in 1997. Now, I kind of disagree that this is a light recipe but if they say so…I guess I’ll let myself feel better about it. But how can a cake be light when the recipe includes a stick of butter and cream cheese?

All that matters is that this cake is so good I ended up baking it three times last week. Once for us, once for my sister-in-law (who is expecting her second soon!) and once for my mom. The cake received outstanding reviews from everyone. My sister-in-law texted me the day after it was dropped off and said she’d already had two pieces for dessert and one for breakfast. And she used it as a bargaining tool to get our niece to eat her meals. She said that Emerson loved it so much she would tell her she could have one bite of cake if she ate a bite of her dinner. And I’m very happy to report that my mom approved of the new recipe and even asked for it. So it was a success all around.

The directions call for baking this cake in a springform pan and it gives it a great height that you can’t get from a standard cake pan. I changed the recipe up a bit by changing the mixing method and adding extra cream cheese, nutmeg and chopped pecans. I think the pecans are a must in this cake.

This Apple Cinnamon Cake stays moist for days and is definitely a fall crowd pleaser.I admit that I ate it for breakfast and dessert! It’s delicious served warm with ice cream!

Apple Cinnamon Cake
(Recipe adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

1 1/2  cups  sugar, plus extra for cinnamon sugar mixture for pan
8 ounces (1 block) 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/2  cup  butter (1 stick), softened
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
2  large eggs
1 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour
1 1/2  teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus extra for cinnamon sugar mixture for pan
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons  baking powder
1/2 teaspoon  salt
1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
3  cups chopped peeled Fuji apples (about 2 large)
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
Cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together a little bit of cinnamon and sugar (about 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 3 tablespoons sugar). Grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter wrapper or cooking spray. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture and tap sides to evenly distribute. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder and salt. Whisk together well to incorporate. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place 1 1/2 cups sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Mix on medium high speed until lightened in color and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low and add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture to cream cheese mixture a little at a time, beating at low speed until well blended.

Mix in apples and pecans. Pour batter prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Yield: 12 servings

applecake

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marinara

Last weekend we picked up some fresh pasta from Pasta Provisions here in Charlotte. It’s a great locally owned Italian grocery. We chose their garlic and rosemary linguine. I was stumped on what sauce to serve with this pasta. Brandon loves red sauce so I decided to keep it simple with an easy marinara full of tomato, garlic and basil.

My dad shared this marinara recipe with me years ago. It’s super simple and so much more flavorful than jarred pasta sauce. It was the perfect complement to our pasta and reminded me that I should keep this in the freezer at all times so I can avoid using jarred sauce on  week nights!

Easy Marinara
(Recipe source my Dad)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and diced
1 stalk celery, broken into 4 pieces
1 carrot, finely diced
32 ounce high quality crushed tomatoes (recommended San Marzano)
2 bay leaves
Dash of sugar
Shot of red wine
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh basil, julienned

Directions:

Heat large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add onions and saute for about 5 minutes, until they begin to become translucent. Add garlic, celery and carrot and cook for another 5 minutes. Add wine, tomatoes, bay leaves, sugar and red wine. Simmer for 1 hour over low heat, uncovered. Season with salt and pepper and stir in fresh basil right before serving.

Yield: 4 servings

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increduladaenchiladas

These Incredulada Enchiladas have gained quite a fan base. Once you scroll down and read the ingredients to the recipe I guarantee you’ll think, “Are you kidding me?” They are a splurge but always a crowd pleaser.

My mother in law introduced us to Incredulada Enchiladas and they are well, incredible. I’ve shared the recipe with friends, served them at parties, taken them to expecting mothers and they’re always a hit. What’s not to love about the creamy chicken filling topped with cream and cheese? Garnish with sour cream and salsa and you’re in for a treat!

Incredulada Enchiladas
(Recipe adapted from A Third Course: More Cooking with Class from Charlotte Latin School)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 1/2 cups cooked chicken, shredded (about 3 chicken breasts)
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
1/4 cup diced jalapeno peppers
8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 (6 inch) flour tortillas (soft taco size)
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese (or your choice, this time I used the Mexican blend)
Cooking spray
Salsa
Sour cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 13 glass baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet and sautee onions until they begin to soften and become translucent. Add garlic, chilies and peppers and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in cream cheese and chicken. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon mixture into tortillas, roll and place seam side down in baking dish. Pour cream over enchiladas and cover with cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until cream thickens and cheese is bubbly.

Serve with salsa and sour cream.

Yield: 6-8 servings

increduladapan

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easybananamuffins

You can almost always find banana muffins in my freezer. I love peanut butter and banana sandwiches but sometimes I don’t get around to using all the bananas. I hate to waste them so I usually end up making muffins with the overly ripe bananas.

My favorite recipe is adapted from a Cooking Light Banana Bread recipe. I like that the recipe is easily cut in half and is perfect to use one banana and make six muffins (of course you can make the full recipe too).

It takes no time at all to get these in the oven. You don’t even have to break out a mixer! Everything can be done by hand. The muffins are soft with a nice crispy crumb when they’re fresh out of the oven. They freeze well and are perfect for an on the go breakfast.

Easy Banana Muffins
(Recipe adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

1  cup  all-purpose flour
1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
1/4  teaspoon  salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 large egg
1 large banana, mashed
2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons of plain low-fat yogurt or low-fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 and spray muffin tin with cooking spray.

Mix together flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together sugars, oil, egg, banana, yogurt or sour cream and vanilla.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until just moist and incorporated. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling about 2/3 of the way full.

Bake for about 18-22 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.

Yield: 6 muffins

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blackbeansrice250

Part two of last night’s delicious grilled shrimp taco dinner. This is pretty much my go-to black beans and rice recipe. I’m almost always guaranteed to have all the ingredients in my pantry and it’s simple, good and always a great side dish for Mexican night. And be warned…this recipe makes a ton!

Black Beans and Rice
(Recipe source Joy of Cooking)

Ingredients:

1 large onion, diced
1 fresh pepper, seeded and diced (like jalapeno or habanero, or substitute diced canned jalapenos or red pepper flakes – use what you have!)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes (or 1 can of diced tomatoes)
1 cup rice
2 1/2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt (or more, to taste)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

Directions:

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and peppers and cook for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until mixture is softened.

Stir in tomatoes, water, rice and salt. Bring mixture to a boil and then stir in black beans. Cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, until water absorbed and rice is tender. Don’t peak until the 20 minutes are up!

Remove from heat and let stand about 5-10 minutes (still covered) before serving.

Yield: 6-8 side dish servings

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freshfigbluepizza

I stopped by my in-law’s house today during my lunch break. Brandon was over there helping his mom cut some dead trees down to create extra sunlight for the garden she’s planning. So as he was doing back breaking labor, I was meandering around the yard and saw a fig tree I’d never noticed before – chock full of fresh, ready to pick figs. I left with a bag full of fresh figs and Brandon left sweaty and sore. Hey, fair trade for this super flavorful, delicious pizza we created tonight!

I came home and started looking for recipes to use my fresh figs. I saw tons of suggestions just to wrap them in prosciutto or stuff them with cheese. I decided to take those ideas and turn it into a pizza. One of our favorite grilled pizzas during the summer is this Gorgonzola, Walnut and Caramelized Onion Pizza from Gourmet. Using the preparation method from that recipe, I created this pizza. The flavors went together beautifully and it was a perfect light dish for this very hot summer day. I served it with a side of mixed greens.

Grilled Fig and Prosciutto Pizza
(Recipe inspired by Gourmet)

Ingredients:

1 ball pizza dough (homemade or store bought – we used Trader Joe’s) at room temperature
Extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces prosciutto
1/2 cup sliced fresh figs
1/2 cup caramelized onions
1 cup blue cheese, crumbled

Directions:

Preheat grill to medium. On a well-floured surface, stretch dough into about a 12 x 10 rectangle (we chose to divide our dough and make two smaller pizzas because they’re easier to handle on the grill).  Brush top with olive oil to lightly coat.

Create a platter and bring your dough and pizza toppings to the grill area. Oil grill rack and place dough olive oil side down on the grill (with no toppings on it at this point) and grill, covered, for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown on the bottom.

Carefully remove dough from grill and turn over (grill side up). Layer toppings starting with prosciutto, followed by onions, figs and cheese. Return to grill and grill covered for another 3 minutes, until underside is golden and cheese is melted.

Let cool before slicing into squares.

Yield: 2-3 servings

figpizzaongrill

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cajuntilapia

I am always hearing the question, “What can I do with tilapia?” One of our all-time favorite tilapia preparations is this Cajun tilapia. For a while I kept this Cajun seasoning in the pantry and even gave it out as a Christmas gift in mason jars a couple years ago.

So I was looking for a way to jazz up  the Cajun tilapia. I usually just serve it with roasted potatoes (sprinkled with the Cajun seasoning) and a vegetable. I found myself with some peppers and mushrooms in the fridge and decided to saute them and serve the fish over polenta. It was great!

If you’re looking for a new idea for tilapia and you like a little spice, this recipe is for you!

Cajun Tilapia with Polenta and Peppers
(Recipe source: Tilapia – Cooking Light, Polenta – Joy of Cooking, Vegetables – a Bakin’ and Eggs original)

Ingredients:

FOR THE CAJUN SPICE MIX
3 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons red pepper
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sugar

Mix everything together and store in a airtight container. You can use this Cajun seasoning on anything – poultry, pork, fish, vegetables.

FOR THE FISH
1 pound tilapia fillets
4 tablespoons Cajun seasoning mix (enough to coat fish fillets)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for coating fish
Sliced lemons (optional for garnish)

FOR THE POLENTA
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup onions, finely diced
2 1/2 cups water, divided
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup yellow cornmeal
Salt, to taste

FOR THE PEPPERS
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 green bell pepper, cut into strips
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

FOR THE FISH
Coat each fish fillet in olive oil. Coat with Cajun seasoning.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat until shimmering. Carefully add fish fillets and cook about 3-4 minutes per side. Fish should be opaque and flaky. Internal temperature should read about 145 degrees.

FOR THE POLENTA
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in 1 1/2 cups water and 1 1/2 cups chicken stock and bring mixture to a boil.

While the mixture is coming to a boil, mix together 1 cup water and 1 cup cornmeal. Gradually stir into the boiling water and then reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the cornmeal is thick and leaves the side of the pans when it is stirred. About 25 minutes. Add extra water or chicken stock in small amounts if necessary while cooking the polenta. Season with salt to taste.

FOR THE PEPPERS
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and heat until shimmers. Add sliced peppers and mushrooms and cook about 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables have softened a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

YIELD: 4 servings

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