Monday, April 2, 2012
I have a weak spot for chicken salad. If it’s on the menu, 9 times out of 10 that’s what I’ll order. Problem with chicken salad is that it’s easy to screw up. I’ve had my fair share of bland, chopped too fine, or swimming in mayo chicken salad. I hit the jackpot when I lived in Birmingham, Alabama. O’Carr’s in Homewood is absolutely the best chicken salad I’ve ever eaten…ever. You can get a plate of it with all kinds of delicious fruit or as a sandwhich where they add slices of uber thin cucumber. It’s to die for. This Contessa Chicken Salad is the only recipe I’ve found so far that comes pretty close to O’Carr’s. It’s got nuts and grapes and is full of flavor. It’s the first thing I thought of to serve for my friend’s recent bridal shower.
So, how’s it taste?
I’m such a fan of this recipe. You can roast the chicken yourself or buy a rotisserie chicken. For a good chicken salad, you need to have flavorful chicken. Roasting chicken with skin on and bone in gives you this or use the juicy meat from a rotisserie chicken. I’ve done both and each one works great. What I like about this chicken salad is that it’s not heavy. It’s got sour cream and mayo, so it’s not weighed down by all mayo. I use reduced fat versions of both and it doesn’t sacrifice any flavor. I like chicken salad to have substance to it, so I lean towards the kind with fruit and nuts. This recipe uses pecans and walnuts for a big, nutty crunch. Grapes are a must for me, too, and you can use green or purple or any kind you like. The burst of freshness from the grapes helps break up the dressing. The last ingredient that makes this salad stand out from the rest is tarragon. Tarragon is perfect in chicken salad. It gives it a boost from just using salt and pepper.
For the shower, I served the chicken salad in mini fillo shells. You could also serve a scoop of this on a lettuce leaf or a favorite way of mine to eat it is on a sandwich. I like to mimic O’Carr’s and slice cucumber super thin and add it to the sandwich. It’s unbelievably good!
Contessa Chicken Salad
2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (1 1/2 pounds)
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
use meat from a rotisserie chicken
1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup walnuts halves
1/2 cup mayonnaise (can use reduced fat)
1/2 cup sour cream (can use reduced fat)
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh (or 3/4 tsp. dried) tarragon leaves
1 cup green or purple grapes, cut in 1/2
1. Preheat the oven to 350F or if you're using meat from a rotisserie chicken, skip to step 3.
2. Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside until cool.
3. When the chicken is cool, remove meat from the bones and discard the skin and bones. Cut the chicken into a 3/4-inch dice.
4. Meanwhile, place the pecans and walnuts on a separate sheet pan and toast in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool.
5. For the dressing, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Fold in the chopped tarragon leaves.
6. Place the diced chicken in a bowl, add the pecans, walnuts and grapes. Pour the dressing over the chicken and toss well. Serve on top of lettuce leaves, between bread for a sandwich, or in mini fillo shells.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
If you remember from my sugar cookie post a little over a year ago, I used to hate sugar cookies. Then I started baking the best sugar cookie recipe and using fun cookie cutouts and icing to make a sugar cookie I’d actually eat. Then it seemed the food blogging world exploded with everyone making Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies. Being a reformed hater, I knew I’d try these someday and jumped at the chance when throwing my friend a bridal shower. I thought they’d be perfect decorated in a pale lavender to go with our theme. Did they live up to their food blogging world fame?
So, how’s it taste?
I’m a sucker for a soft cookie. I like my chocolate chip cookies chewy and soft, so I had high expectations for these sugar cookies. Taste-wise, they did not disappoint! The flavor is such a classic, scrumptious vanilla and sugar. It’s sweet and soft and just perfect. The cookie isn’t terribly sweet, which works because the icing is super sweet. Together they make a pretty amazing cookie. I also like that it takes no time to ice them. Grab a spatula and slap it on there and that’s it. No piping bags necessary.
Baking the cookies took some trial and error though. Out of the 10 or so blogs I read that had made these, none of them talked about the ridiculous amount of spreading that happens during baking. Or that despite their cute appearance in pictures, these cookies are freaking HUGE. I’m glad I baked them in batches because my first batch ended up in the trash. They had spread way too much and basically covered the entire baking sheet to form one big blob. On the second batch, I decided not to touch the ball of dough and I only put 9 on the baking sheet. The instructions said to flatten the ball slightly, but I recommend leaving it alone. It’s also good to periodically stop and chill the dough again as it starts to come to room temperature. This will help with the spreading.
Now there’s nothing wrong with a huge cookie, but when they’re this soft, they tend to break and fall apart under their own weight. If you look closely at my picture, you can see the wrinkles in a few cookies that are starting to buckle. When I make these again, I’ll scoop only 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough into a ball. Either using half a recipe and making 24 regular-sized cookies, or using the full recipe and making 48 regular-sized cookies.
To answer the question, yes they absolutely lived up to their food blogging popularity.
Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
5 tsp. vanilla extract
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
7-8 tbsp. milk (plus more, as needed)
Food coloring (optional)
Sprinkles/coarse sugar/edible decorations (optional)
1. For the cookies, line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl blend the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until soft and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla. Adjust mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated and evenly mixed. Cover and chill the dough for 1 hour.
2. Preheat the oven to 350F. Scoop 3 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball for very large cookies or scoop 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough for regular-sized cookies. Place ball of dough on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the cookies at least 2-3 inches apart. The dough will dramatically spread during baking and flatten out. Make sure you space them pretty far apart. Bake about 10-12 minutes or just until set. The edges should be no more than very lightly browned. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
3. For the frosting, place the confectioners’ sugar in bowl of an electric mixer. Add the melted butter, vanilla, and milk and blend until smooth. Add additional milk as necessary, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. Tint with food coloring, if desired. Use an offset spatula or spoon to frost the cooled cookies. Top with sprinkles, coarse sugar, or other edible decorations, if desired. Store in an airtight container.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Blackberry and chocolate? Raspberry and chocolate go so well together, so why not? I created these Blackberry Chocolate Cupcakes for a lavender and purple themed bridal shower this past weekend. They were instantly my favorite out of the entire spread of food. Actually they just might be one of my all-time favorite cupcakes ever. Not chocolate and caramel or chocolate dripping with more chocolate. Yep, chocolate and blackberry.
So, how’s it taste?
I really wish I could send all of you one of these cupcakes. They blew my mind! I had a feeling they’d be pretty darn good because for my birthday last year, Shannon over at Family Bites, made me the same cupcake but with raspberry. It also blew my mind. I went with blackberry because it’s my favorite of the berries, and I thought it would help color the buttercream closer to purple than raspberry. I still added violet food coloring to get the right shade of lavender. The chocolate cake is my go to recipe from Hershey’s. It’s amazing and the only chocolate cake recipe I use (unless it’s Duncan Hines). Rich and super chocolatey, yet light as air.
The fruited buttercream is simply to die for. The preserves are sweet but have a hint of tang from the berries so it cuts into the richness of the buttercream. I go crazy for it. It makes me think of all the different flavors I could create with fruited buttercream. I’m not a huge icing fan and regular buttercream I’d rather scrape off than eat, but this fruit business takes it to another level. You’d be surprised how chocolate and blackberries come together for a fantastic pairing.
Blackberry Chocolate Cupcakes
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Hershey’s cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
Seedless blackberry preserves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup seedless blackberry preserves
6 cups powdered sugar
Food coloring, optional
1. For the cupcakes, heat oven to 350°F. Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper baking liners.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Fill cups 2/3 full with batter.
3. Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center of cupcake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.
4. Use a piping bag with a small rounded tip to pipe a bit of the blackberry preserves into each cooled cupcake. If you'd like a lot of filling, use a cupcake corer or small spoon to scoop out a bit of cake and then fill with the preserves.
5. For the buttercream, beat the butter and preserves in a mixer until blended and fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add food coloring, if using, and mix until well blended. Pipe onto filled cupcakes.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Yesterday my friend Meghan and I hosted a bridal shower for our friend Allison. Allison’s getting married to Chris in one month! The colors of her wedding are different shades of purple, so we stuck with that theme and threw her a Lavender & Purple Bridal Shower. I tried to incorporate as much purple in to the menu as well, so on this special day, we could surround Allison in her favorite color. We also decorated with everything in purple and lavender. Balloons, tissue pom poms, even down to the games, we tried to cover the place in color!
I wanted a few items sweet and a few items savory. I also wanted to have everything in grab and go sizes, so no one was holding up the line trying to scoop cheeseball onto a cracker.
On the menu:
Blackberry Chocolate Cupcakes
Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
Ham & Swiss Sliders
Contessa Chicken Salad in Mini Fillo Shells
Spinach Dip with Veggies in Baguettes
The Blackberry Chocolate Cupcakes were my favorite. A little different cupcake combination, but I figured if raspberries and chocolate went well together, then blackberries and chocolate just had to, too! It’s a basic chocolate cupcake filled with blackberry preserves and topped with a blackberry buttercream. The blackberries helped color the buttercream a bit, but I also used violet food coloring to get that light shade of purple.
I’ve been wanting to make these Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies for a while and now I finally had a reason. I used the same violet food coloring to tint my icing and I thought they turned out a lovely shade of lavender. I made them sparkle just a bit with coarse white sugar sprinkled on top. The cookies turned out to be quite huge, but they were delicious. I have a weakness for soft, buttery cookies and these didn’t disappoint.
I’ve seen these Dipped Pretzels everywhere. Salty and sweet together, it’s the perfect snack. I dipped the pretzel rods in white almond bark and once they were set, I melted lavender candy melts and drizzled it over the top.
I’m a huge fan of Dipped Strawberries. Sweet and juicy strawberries underneath and a coating of candy on top. Take a bite and the candy crackles and gives in to the succulent strawberry. It’s mostly fruit, so it’s got to be healthy right? I dipped these in the same almond bark and lavender candy as the pretzels.
I forgot to take a picture of the Ham & Swiss Sliders. My friend Meghan made these from an earlier post on my blog. Let me tell you they were a hit. Meghan doesn’t even like onions or Swiss cheese and she loves these little sandwiches. How’s that for how good they are?!
I consider myself to be a chicken salad connoisseur. My absolute favorite is from O’Carr’s in Birmingham, Alabama. I’ve come close to finding a recipe that is pretty similar with the Barefoot Contessa’s Chicken Salad. It has both pecans and walnuts and halves of purple grapes. See how I tied in the purple? I made them easy to handle and bite-sized by stuffing it into mini fillo shells.
Here’s another recipe I’ve been dying to make. Serving Spinach Dip with Veggies in a Baguette is so cute. It’s the best of both worlds. Why decide between dipping veggies or bread? Have both!
Allison’s mom made this incredible Raspberry Sherbet Punch. It’s simple to make with raspberry lemonade, ginger ale, scoops of raspberry sherbet, and frozen raspberries. It’s perfect party punch and I wouldn’t mind drinking this poolside with a splash of vodka! (It’s fizzy in this picture because it’s freshly stirred.)
I wanted to make sure everyone knew what they were eating, so I made these cute food label cards. They’re actually business cards from Avery. I found a purple striped template from their website and altered it to use as a label. The cards are two of the business cards, still attached, so they would stand up on the table.
I kept my crafty hat on and made these tissue pom poms. I followed this tutorial from Martha Stewart, using purple tissue and lavender tissue. I think these would also be pretty using both colors in one pom pom. I chose the pointy cut ends instead of rounded.
Hosting a bridal shower isn’t all about the food. It’s about the games! I found the Staches & Tiaras game on Craftaholics Anonymous. I made the tiaras out of sparkly purple scrapbook paper and the moustaches out of black textured scrapbook paper. I used a template to outline the shapes and glued craft sticks to the back.
Guests had to guess who answered the questions I read out loud. Hold up the stache if you think it’s Chris, hold up the tiara if you think it’s Allison.
This game is hysterical!
As you can see we had a lot of fun with this one!
Another game was Advice to the Letter. Meghan made these cute cards that spelled A-L-L-I-S-O-N. Each guest had to write advice to the bride using each letter in the bride’s name.
The cards are great keepsakes for the bride.
Let’s not forget about the gifts! Here’s the bride posing with her new robe that reads “Bride” on the back.
This was the last gift Allison opened. It’s a knife and server set, a picture frame, and engraved flutes from her mom and dad. This got a lot of oohs and aahs and maybe a few teary eyes. Congratulations to Allison and Chris!
Upcoming posts will feature the recipes for Blackberry Chocolate Cupcakes, Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies, Contessa Chicken Salad, and Spinach Dip with Veggies in Baguettes. This blog post is featured in Foodbuzz’s March 24×24. 24 unique meals all happening in a 24-hour period, hosted by 24 Foodbuzz featured publishers. A big thank you to Foodbuzz for selecting this Lavender & Purple Bridal Shower as one of the featured posts! See all the other posts on Foodbuzz.com.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
I really lucked out finding this Shrimp & Feta Rotini recipe. It’s perfect for a light meal in these Spring (er, Summer if you’re in Nashville) temperatures. Other than the shrimp and feta, you probably have most of the ingredients on hand. Make the simple sauce from scratch, toss in shrimp, pasta, basil, and olives…that’s it!
So, how’s it taste?
It’s incredible! I was in the middle of a busy baking and cleaning day and realized I was starving. I didn’t notice the time and it was way past lunch. I was glad I had planned on making this pasta dish because it took no time to whip together, even though the sauce is homemade. It’s basically a roux amped up with garlic and herb feta. The feta added great flavor and there’s more garlic cooked with the shrimp, but it’s not overpowering. It’s a subtle herby, tangy taste. The sauce is creamy and light, so you really enjoy the shrimp and pasta because it’s not swimming in it. Don’t skip the fresh basil. It brightens the dish and adds wonderful specks of green. The olives are optional, but I really liked them. They added a little bit of zing!
Shrimp & Feta Rotini
2 cups (6 oz.) uncooked rotini pasta
1 tbsp. butter
1 cup skim milk
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup crumbled garlic & herb feta
1 lb. uncooked shrimp, peeled & deveined
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
12 Kalamata or black olives
1. Cook and drain pasta as directed on package.
2. While pasta is cooking, spray 10-inch nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp and garlic in skillet about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, just until shrimp are pink and firm. Remove from skillet and keep warm.
3. In same skillet, heat butter over medium heat until melted and bubbly. Shake milk, flour, salt, and pepper in a tightly covered container. Gradually stir mixture into butter. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute more. Stir in cheese until melted.
4. Toss pasta, shrimp, and basil into the cheese mixture. Sprinkle with olives.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Nothing says Spring to me like a dessert filled with fruit. Tart lemon and sweet berries make this Gingered Lemon Berry Tart irresistible. The crust is simple to make using store-bought puff pastry. The filling is quickly made in a saucepan and once it cools, it’s a matter of assembly. Light and refreshing, this dessert is sure to please anyone.
So, How’s It Taste?
Love at first bite. Serious love. I like my lemon desserts on the tart side and this doesn’t disappoint. The filling is super lemon tart but the berries and crust help to sweeten the dessert a bit. The crystallized ginger turns into wonderful pops of spiciness. The puff pastry is such a great crust because it’s light and airy. It goes perfectly with the creamy filling. The berries take it over the top. Bursts of sweet berry meet the tart filling, all delivered on a crispy crust. It’s heaven.
It’s a bit gooey, but that adds to its decadence. Look at all that lemony berry goodness oozing out! It was incredibly hard not to devour the entire tart in one sitting! I used frozen berries and that’s why you see berry juice mixed in with the filling. Fresh berries would work much better and would prevent any spots of berry juice. This is the type of dessert you want to make the day you plan to serve it. You can bake the puff pastry crust the day before or morning of, but I would assemble as close to serving time as possible. Although this tart tasted just as delicious the next day, since I used frozen berries, the berry juice was everywhere and not as pretty as when it was first put together.
For the puff pastry, thaw it about 20 minutes first. You want the pastry to be pliable but still chilled. Be careful not to brush the cut edges with egg or it will prevent them from rising evenly. Don’t worry about cutting perfect rectangles. I think having not-so-perfect edges add to its appeal.
Gingered Lemon Berry Tart
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 egg yolks
2 tsp. finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 cups mixed berries, fresh (frozen not recommended)
1. Preheat oven to 400F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry to 12x9-inch rectangle. Cut pastry to make 10x5-inch rectangle. Place on baking sheet. Brush lightly with beaten egg. (Do not brush egg over cut edges. It will seal the edges and won't rise evenly.)
2. Cut 4 (1-inch) strips from pastry trimmings. Place strips on edge of pastry rectangle, forming a 1-inch raised edge. Trim if necessary; seal edges together. Brush with egg. Prick center bottom of pastry several times with a fork. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar.
3. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown and puffed. Center will puff up during baking. Pierce center several times with tip of knife; center will gradually sink during cooling. Cool on wire rack.
4. In heavy medium saucepan, combine all filling ingredients; beat with wire whisk until combined. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens. If mixtures comes to a boil, remove from heat immediately. Pour mixture into medium bowl; cool completely.
5. To assemble, place pastry on serving plate. Fill center with cooled lemon filling. Top with mixed berries. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Store in refrigerator, but best to eat the same day.
This post was sponsored by Frigidaire. When you check out Suzanne Goin’s springtime recipes at www.maketimeforchange.com, Frigidaire will donate $1 to Save the Children’s U.S. programs. Plus, you’ll be entered for a chance to win the new Frigidaire Range with SymmetryTM Double Ovens – featuring two large ovens (that can each fit up to a 28 pound turkey!), providing the flexibility to cook multiple dishes at the same time at different temperatures, so you can get more on the table at the same time.
Friday, March 16, 2012
Hi! Welcome to So, How’s It Taste! You may have found this post through Pinterest, so thanks for stopping by! If you’re interested in caramels, please check out my posts for Chocolate Chip Caramels and Salted Caramels. Hope to see you back soon!
Tomorrow’s St. Patrick’s Day and here’s my contribution…Salted Whiskey Caramels! I didn’t use Irish whiskey, but it’s whiskey nonetheless and that counts, right? The original recipe calls for honey-flavored whiskey, which I don’t like, so I opted for good ol’ straight Jack Daniel’s and I already had it on hand. I couldn’t wait to whip up a batch of homemade caramels, since I had such success with my first try, and find out what the added whiskey did for taste.
So, how’s it taste?
Om nom nom! I was pretty happy with these, although I wish I had taken them off the heat about 1 second earlier. They’re a teeny tiny tad bit darker than what I’d like, although they look as dark as the ones on Betty Crocker, and the ones I’ve done before. You really have to watch the sugar once it starts to change color, it goes fast! There’s a slight difference in taste between these and the ones without whiskey. I’m not sure if it’s a slight taste of burnt sugar from taking it off a bit late or if it’s the whiskey. I can see how the honey-flavored whiskey might blend in better, but I happen to like the taste of whiskey, so I didn’t mind. I really don’t think you’d be able to tell there’s whiskey in the caramels unless someone told you. They’re still decadently rich and creamy, with a hint of saltiness to balance. I’d make these again in a heartbeat!
Salted Whiskey Caramels
5 tbsp. butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 oz. (1/4 cup) whiskey (I used Jack Daniel's)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. kosher (coarse) salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
up to 1 tbsp. kosher (coarse) salt, for sprinkling (you may not need the entire tablespoon)
1. Line 9-inch square pan with parchment or wax paper, allowing the paper to drape over two sides; spray lightly with cooking spray.
2. In 1-quart saucepan, heat butter, heavy whipping cream, whiskey, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to boiling, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; set aside.
3. In 3-quart saucepan, mix sugar, corn syrup, and water. Heat to boiling over medium-high heat. DO NOT STIR. Boil until sugar turns a warm golden brown.
4. When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful -- it will bubble up violently. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. Pour caramel into pan; cool 10 minutes. Sprinkle with up to 1 tablespoon salt; cool completely.
5. Cut into squares; wrap individually in parchment paper.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Happy Pi Day! Yep, today’s 3/14 and what better way to celebrate than with pie! (Like I need an excuse to make a pie, but I’ll use it.) I decided to make Coconut Dream Pie for the occasion. It wasn’t my first choice, but I wanted something easy to whip together and I also wanted something that wouldn’t be too over-the-top and blow my calories for the day. I’m working from home today, so me + alone with pie = very dangerous. Plus this pie has a unique crust and my curiosity just had to find out how it worked.
So, how’s it taste?
It didn’t blow me away and won’t be taking the place of a real coconut cream pie anytime soon, but it was pretty good. I loved the crust. It’s a corn flake crust with a bit of honey and sugar. The crust is fantastic. Slightly sweet and crunchy. It’s super crumbly and hard to get out of the pie plate though. I cut the first piece straight from the refrigerator, so I’m wondering if letting it warm up a bit will help the crust come loose from the plate better. I had to really scrape to get it all out.
The filling is tasty, but it took me a few bites to like it. It’s really thick. Between the 1/4 cup of cornstarch and gelatin, I wasn’t surprised. It needs to be thick, but it’s almost too much so. After a few bites, I enjoyed it more. It’s not as coconut-y as I’d like, but the flavor goes well with the corn flake crust. It has a rich, heavy aftertaste that I don’t care for. You know how when you eat something fatty, there’s a slight film in your mouth? That’s what this feels like after you eat it. I think it’s from the coconut milk. It’s 180 calories per slice, but I didn’t pay attention to the recipe being 12 servings. That’s a really small slice. My pie slices are more around the 8-servings size, which bumps up the calories for this pie to 270 each. For 270, I feel like I should’ve picked a tastier pie. It wasn’t a terrible pie, but I wouldn’t make it again.
Coconut Dream Pie
1 1/2 cups corn flake crumbs
5 tbsp. butter, melted
1 tbsp. honey
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 can (about 11.8 oz.) sweetened coconut milk (roughly 1 1/2 cups)
1 tsp. coconut extract
8 oz. frozen light nondairy whipped topping, thawed
3 tbsp. sweetened flaked coconut, toasted
1. Heat oven to 425F.
2. Stir corn flake crumbs, butter, honey, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a medium bowl. Press crumb mixture evenly on bottom and up sides of a 10-inch round pie plate.
3. Bake crust for 10 to 11 minutes or until slightly golden around edges. Remove pie plate to wire rack; let cool completely.
4. Meanwhile, stir together remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, cornstarch, and gelatin in a medium saucepan. Stir in coconut milk. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and bubbly, about 8 minutes. Stir in extract. Let cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.
5. Once cooled, fold in whipped topping. Spread filling evenly in baked crust. Garnish with toasted coconut. Refrigerate 2 hours until set.
Monday, March 12, 2012
Quick Fix Lasagna doesn’t require boiling the noodles first, nor does it require special no-boil noodles. How in the world do the noodles get tender?! I think it’s from the sauce being a little on the saucy side. Using cottage cheese instead of ricotta leaves more moisture in the dish, also. Whatever the science behind it, it works. It tastes pretty good, too. With a few lower fat/fat-free substitutions, I could eat a slice of this yummy lasagna with a salad and not blow my diet.
So, how’s it taste?
I thought this dish would be too simple to be good. You may remember the elaborate lasagna I made not too long ago. That was tasty lasagna, but so labor intensive. This lasagna is the exact opposite as far as labor goes. I didn’t have faith in it and thought the noodles wouldn’t be done. Luckily I was wrong. I cooked my lasagna for 1 hour and 10 minutes. I poked a fork into it to test the noodles. They were done, but I felt like I should have cooked the lasagna for a minute or two more.
The taste was beyond my expectations. I like lasagna using ricotta and I like it with cottage cheese. I do think the cottage cheese makes it feel not as heavy. The texture change is nice as sometimes I get sick of ricotta’s gritty feel. I used chunky tomato sauce with mushrooms, so I had an added bonus of chunks of mushroom along with all the cheese and spinach. This lasagna was loaded with cheese, which will always get a thumbs up from me. I almost mixed the spinach in with the cheese mixture and not that it would have made a huge difference, but I think I will next time.
What’s odd about this lasagna is the noodles continue to get softer. On the next day, the noodles were perfect. The day after that, a little too soft. To counteract that, I put the rest of my leftovers in the freezer. When I thawed a piece, it was back to perfect. So if you aren’t serving a crowd, I’d freeze the leftovers on day two. One last note, the serving size is kind of small, which explains the low calorie count. Slice them bigger if you prefer.
Quick Fix Lasagna
1 lb. lean (at least 80%) ground beef
1 jar (24 oz.) chunky tomato pasta sauce
1/4 cup water
1 box (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach
1 container (24 oz.) fat-free cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. parsley flakes
8 uncooked lasagna noodles
2 cups reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese (8 oz.)
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9-inch (3-quart) baking dish with cooking spray. In 12-inch skillet, cook ground beef over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until thoroughly cooked. Drain.
2. Reduce heat to low. Stir in pasta sauce and water. Cook until thoroughly heated.
3. Meanwhile, thaw spinach as directed on box; squeeze to drain well. In large bowl, beat eggs. Add cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, and parsley flakes; mix well.
4. Spoon 1 cup beef sauce into baking dish. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles over sauce, breaking to fit if necessary. Spoon half of remaining sauce over noodles. Top with all of spinach. Evenly spoon half of cottage cheese mixture over spinach. Top with 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers of noodles, beef sauce, and cottage cheese mixture. Cover tightly with foil.
5. Bake 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes or until hot, bubbly, and lasagna noodles are tender. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
Friday, March 9, 2012
I knew I had to make Mexican Corn Cakes the second I saw them. It’s just so weird! Savory pancakes? I’m a big fan of anything full of refried beans, salsa, and cheese. Plus any food that gives me an excuse to eat sour cream is a good thing. I couldn’t wait to taste a pancake with cornmeal and topped with savory goodness.
So, how’s it taste?
Well, it took me a few bites to get used to it. With Mexican food, I expect something crunchy and you won’t find that in this dish, except from the corn a bit. Every time I eat this, it throws me off with the pancakes. It tastes good, but it takes me a few bites every single time. It also makes me crave real pancakes drenched in butter and syrup! Once it hits me that I’m enjoying a savory dish, I really like it. It’s simple so there’s not much to complain about. Beans, salsa, corn, olives, cheese, sour cream. Basic stuff. The cornmeal pancakes are fantastic. I’m almost convinced, that with an added bit of sugar, you could top these pancakes with syrup. Very fluffy, but not a lot of corn-y-ness. I’d like them to have more of that cornmeal flavor, maybe that would be the crunch I’m looking for.
What I like best about this dish is that it’s incredibly filling. At only 270 calories per stack, it’s a calorie counter’s dream. It’s hard for me to finish a stack because I’m so full and I noticed the recipe calls for quite a bit of salsa on top. But pancakes do that to me as well. Although an hour later, I’m looking for a snack. Go figure. I’m normally not a fan of fat-free products, but the optional fat-free sour cream works here. There’s so much other flavor going on, you don’t miss the full fat or reduced fat sour cream.
Mexican Corn Cakes
1 1/2 cups Bisquick Heart Smart® mix
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 cup fat-free (skim) milk
3 egg whites
1 jar (16 oz.) chunky salsa
8 3/4 oz. can whole kernel corn, drained
2 tbsp. chopped black olives
1 cup fat-free refried beans
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (I used reduced-fat 4 cheese Mexican blend)
Fat-free sour cream, if desired
1. Heat nonstick griddle to 375°F or heat skillet over medium heat; spray with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir Bisquick® mix, cornmeal, milk, and egg whites until blended. Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto hot griddle. Cook until edges are dry. Turn; cook other sides until golden.
2. In small bowl, mix salsa, corn, and olives. Place 1 corn cake on each of 6 microwavable serving plates; spread each cake with generous 2 tablespoons refried beans. Top each with additional corn cake. Spread 1/3 cup salsa mixture over top of each cake stack. Sprinkle each serving with generous 1 tablespoon cheese.
3. Microwave each serving uncovered on High about 1 minute or until heated through and cheese is melted.* Serve with additional salsa and sour cream if desired.
*Note: I found I like heating the stacks without the cheese on top and adding it after. When reduced-fat cheese melts, it globs together into one big mass that makes the stacks difficult to eat.