Posts Tagged 'Family Friendly'



Coconut-Key Lime Pie

We are slowly and steadily working our way through the leftover party beverages, but I planned a dinner party for last Friday to help speed up the process.  The weather was relatively nice last week, which (1) motivated me to spring clean my grill, and (2) put me in the mood to serve brighter, lighter food for my party.  To keep things relatively stress free, I went with a menu I served to my family last summer: Cilantro Honey-Lime Grilled Chicken, Southwestern Two-Bean Salad, and Hill Country Coleslaw. Watermelon wasn’t going to work as dessert this time around, though, since it’s hardly the season.  I knew several of my guests were coconut fans and that lime would go well with the meal, so I decided to try a recipe from the November 2010 issue of Everyday Food: Coconut-Key Lime Pie.

I actually made the pie twice; I experimented on my family when they came to dinner two Sundays ago (I’m glad they welcome my tests!), and then I served it at the dinner party mentioned above.  I got fantastic results both times, but I have to admit I made a significant substitution.  Knowing that there are 50 calories and 5 grams of fat per tablespoon of heavy cream, I just couldn’t pile 32 tablespoons worth onto my pie.  Couldn’t do it.  I used an 8-ounce container of Cool Whip Lite instead and saved 37 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points for the entire pie.  I would probably dig out the cream if I planned to serve the pie to hardcore foodies, but my guests certainly didn’t have any complaints.  Here’s the recipe:

Easy Press-In Pie Crust
Prep time: 10 minutes | Total time: 20 minutes plus cooling | Yield: One nine-inch pie crust

Ingredients:
6 ounces cookies (about 12 graham crackers, 46 vanilla wafers, or 30 chocolate wafers, such as Famous)
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Method:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a food processor, pulse cookies until finely ground (you should have about 1 1/2 cups).  Add sugar, salt, and butter and pulse until combined.

Firmly press crumb mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate.  (If using a springform pan, press crumbs halfway up sides.)  Bake until crust is dry and set, about 12 minutes.  Let cool completely in plate on a wire rack before filling.

Coconut-Key Lime Pie
Serves 8

Ingredients:
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 can (13.5 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
1/3 cup fresh or bottled Key lime juice
7 large egg yolks
1 Easy Press-In Pie Crust, made with graham crackers
2 cups cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

Method:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a medium bowl, whisk together condensed milk, coconut milk, lime juice, and egg yolks until smooth.  Pour into crust and bake until set but still slightly wobbly in center, 40 minutes.  Let cool on a wire rack, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, then refrigerate 3 hours (or up to 1 day).

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream and sugar on high until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.  To serve, top pie with whipped cream and sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Source: Everyday Food, November 2010

My notes:

  • When making the crust, I would recommend adding the salt while you’re grinding the graham crackers for the best distribution.  I often enjoy being able to taste the salt in sweet things, but you might want to cut the salt to 1/8 teaspoon if salt isn’t your thing.
  • Beware the unsweetened coconut milk!  I’m used to using sweetened coconut milk, which is pretty smooth and creamy.  The unsweetened, first press stuff is basically chunks and water; I still haven’t figured out how to successfully get it all out of the can without splashing coconut water somewhere.  Also, I would recommend whisking it separately until smooth before adding it to the sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, and egg yolks.  My filling came together much more easily when I did this.
  • I’m usually a from-scratch-all-the-way kind of gal, but when the two grocery stores I visited didn’t have key limes, I just went with the bottled stuff (although it was specifically key lime juice, not just lime juice).  One of my guests commented that he wasn’t usually into citrus desserts because the flavor is typically too intense, but he liked the mellow flavor of this pie.  The coconut probably helped as well.
  • My pie needed 45 minutes (instead of 40) at 325 degrees to be reasonably set with a wobbly center.
  • I already mentioned the heavy cream swap.

Coconut Key Lime Pie

This pie is seriously yummy.  The graham cracker crust is divine – sweet, buttery, salty, crunchy – and I love the bright but mellow citrus-coconut filling.  The cream (real or not!) and toasted coconut on top are great textural elements.  This recipe is perfect for summer, for Southwestern or tropical menus, or for any time you need a little sunshine in the form of dessert.  I’ll be making this one again for sure.

Recipe links: Easy Press-In Pie Crust and Coconut Key-Lime Pie

Simple Strawberry Smoothie

Dr. O and I have been in an undeniable breakfast rut.  I love egg sandwiches, but we’ve been eating them for breakfast almost every morning (weekends included) for months and months and months now.  I broke the monotony a bit last week because I needed to use strawberries left over from my party, but my go-to strawberry recipe (oatmeal with macerated strawberries) takes almost 15 minutes. In my quest to find a quick breakfast that would make use of the leftover fruit, I came up with a simple smoothie recipe.  Now that the party berries are gone, I’ve bought more so I can keep making this healthy, filling breakfast.

Simple Strawberry Smoothie
Makes about 20 ounces

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulls removed
1/2 cup milk (I use 1%)
1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, or agave nectar  (or more to taste)
6 ice cubes (exclude if using frozen fruit)

Method:
Combine all ingredients in a blender.  Process on the highest setting until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Simple Strawberry Smoothie

I love this smoothie!  The consistency is just right: thin enough to be drinkable, but thick enough to feel like a satisfying meal.  With just a hint of added sweetener, the flavor of the berries really shines through.  Plus, it’s infinitely adaptable since you can substitute any type of fruit for the strawberries.  I made one yesterday using a banana and some frozen mixed berries I had in the freezer.

The recipe does make enough for two people to share, but I’ll admit that I can put down a whole recipe by myself.  With only 6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points for the whole smoothie, I figure it’s a great source protein, calcium, and vitamin C and a healthy way to start the day.

TIPS:  If you’re really in a hurry in the mornings, put all of the ingredients (except the ice cubes) in the blender jar the night before, put the lid on, and stash it in the refrigerator.  All you’ll have to do the next morning is blend for two minutes and go.

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged the Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted meringue coffee cake.
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I very nearly missed this one with all of the craziness leading up to our weekend trip for Dr. O’s birthday, but I didn’t want to skip two months in a row.  Thankfully, this was easy enough to make in an afternoon and it turned out on the first try.

Here are my notes:

  • I made a half recipe.
  • I measured all of my ingredients by weight.
  • I chose my filling based on what I had in the pantry: almonds, dried plums, white chocolate, and cinnamon-sugar.
  • I completely forgot to make the cuts in my cake before baking (I realized this about an hour later after the cake had cooled, of course), but it turned out just fine anyway.
  • I baked my cake for the full 30 minutes at 350°F.
Unbaked Meringue Coffee Cake

Unbaked Meringue Coffee Cake

Baked Meringue Coffee Cake

Baked Meringue Coffee Cake

Sugared Meringue Coffee Cake

Sugared Meringue Coffee Cake

Meringue Coffee Cake Interior

Meringue Coffee Cake Interior

This was a delicious and relatively easy cake.  I especially liked the crunchiness of the almonds and the fact that the cake wasn’t overly sweet.  However, the king cake I made last month is incredibly similar in concept, and I have to say I preferred the king cake.  I liked the crumb of the king cake a bit better and for me, cream cheese filling trumps meringue filling any day.  I loved the versatility of the meringue coffee cake recipe, though, and it was definitely fun to make and compare such similar cakes in a short period of time.

Thanks for a great challenge, Ria and Jamie!

Recipe link: Jamie’s version or Ria’s version

North Woods Bean Soup

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t been cooking much.  I felt like I had to break the takeout cycle for at least the beginning of this week, though, since we’re about to have an indulgent weekend in honor of Dr. O’s birthday.  When I went back into the kitchen on Monday night, I had several recipe requirements: easy, tasty, fast, preferably healthy.  It certainly hasn’t been soup weather in Denver lately (it was 74° on Monday!), but I had a soup recipe that fit the bill perfectly: North Woods Bean Soup from the January 2002 issue of Cooking Light.  I first made it last winter, and the fact that I could easily recall how delicious it was made it worthy of a repeat.  Here’s the recipe:

North Woods Bean Soup
Makes five 1 1/2-cup servings

Ingredients:
Cooking spray
1 cup baby carrots, halved
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
7 ounces turkey kielbasa, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 (15.8-ounce) cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 (6-ounce) bag fresh baby spinach leaves

Method:
Heat a large saucepan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onion, garlic, and kielbasa; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium; cook 5 minutes. Add the broth, Italian seasoning, pepper, and beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes.

Place 2 cups of the soup in a food processor or blender, and process until smooth. Return the puréed mixture to pan. Simmer an additional 5 minutes. Remove soup from heat. Add the spinach, stirring until spinach wilts.

North Woods Bean Soup

This soup is so good.  It has so many of my favorite ingredients – turkey kielbasa, carrots, fresh spinach – and puréeing part of the soup makes it seem rich and hearty (instead of super healthy).  This is another recipe where I need to go several rounds with the salt and pepper to get the taste I want (Cooking Light recipes are never salty enough for me!), but the extra effort is worth it.  I’m not asking for cooler weather, but if it comes, I’ll just use it as an excuse to make another batch of this soup.

TIPS: This probably has more to do with the size of my carrot pieces than it has to do with the lower boiling temperature of water at high altitude, but I had to extend my initial simmering time (immediately after the broth was added) to 8 minutes instead of 5 minutes to adequately cook the carrots.  I figured they wouldn’t purée very well if they were too firm.

Recipe link: North Woods Bean Soup

Sweet “Potatoes”

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!  Is it just me, or does it seem like it’s continuously been St. Patrick’s Day since last Saturday?  I suppose having it fall on a Thursday maximizes the pre-celebration.

I was thumbing through the March 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living the other day when I found this year’s St. Patrick’s Day project: Sweet “Potatoes” (since potatoes are oh so Irish!).  I’ve done Guinness bread and Guinness ice cream, and so many others have done some variation of Guinness cupcakes.  The “potatoes” are balls of cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and chopped walnuts rolled in cinnamon to emulate the look of real potatoes.  Fun and unusual, right?

Apparently, the unusual overrides the fun, at least initially.

The “potatoes” were already made when Dr. O came home yesterday evening, so he hadn’t seen what went into them.  I asked him if they looked like potatoes (so desperately wanting him to say “yes!”), and he said they didn’t.  I found out about 20 minutes later that he thought they really were potatoes that didn’t look like the kind of potatoes he was used to seeing.  Consequently, you should have seen his face when I asked him to take a bite.  He took the tiniest nibble off of an edge and wasn’t sure what to think…  Since he thought they really were potatoes in some form, he was expecting a savory bite; he was also completely caught off guard by the white cream cheese and butter interior.  Ha! Once he realized that the “potatoes” were sweet candies, he enjoyed them a heck of a lot more.  Perhaps that’s the lesson here: If you want to confuse/surprise adults or make something that kids will think is cool, this is the project for you.  I don’t see these flying off of a serving tray if people don’t know what they are, though.

For those of you with kids and/or a sense of humor, here’s the recipe:

Sweet “Potatoes”
Makes 40

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
4 tablespoons softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
2 cups walnuts (toasted, cooled, and finely chopped)
Ground cinnamon

Method:
Beat butter and cream cheese with vanilla and salt until pale and fluffy. Mix in sugar and walnuts until smooth. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Roll dough (1 tablespoon each) between your hands. Shape into “potatoes.” Roll in cinnamon; brush off excess with a pastry brush. To create “eyes,” stick in walnut pieces. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Sweet Potatoes

The candies are definitely on the sweet side (to be expected since the bulk of the dough is made of powdered sugar), but the cream cheese and walnuts sure do make them tasty.  I think the cinnamon plays nicely with the walnuts, too.  They won’t knock your socks off, but they’re certainly a fun holiday project.

TIPS:  In order to make the candies look most potato-like, I found that brushing the cinnamon on with a pastry brush worked better than rolling them in the cinnamon. Grocery store potatoes have that uneven layer of soil on them, and rolling the candies coated them a bit too evenly.

Recipe link: Sweet “Potatoes”

Chicken and Spinach Casserole

I initially hesitated to post this recipe because I knew it wouldn’t photograph very well, but what the heck?  It’s too yummy not to share.

I’m not usually one for recipe repeats (unless I’m entertaining), but I’ve made this dish twice in the past couple of weeks.  Both times, I was motivated by the need to use an excess amount of spinach in my refrigerator.  (I can’t pass up organic baby spinach at Costco since, at under $4, it’s less than the tiny containers I would get at the regular grocery store.  A pound of spinach is a lot of spinach, though!)  The first time was a test; the second time, I knew I’d be making something absolutely delicious.

What do I like about this recipe (besides the flavor, obviously)?  I like that it uses fresh spinach instead of the frozen stuff, since I think fresh tastes so much better. I like that it incorporates the convenience of rotisserie chicken.  I also appreciate that there isn’t much prep work, since the only ingredient that requires chopping is one onion.  (I used jarred minced garlic.)  I love that it can be made ahead, though I haven’t taken advantage of that option just yet.  Here’s the dish after Dr. O and I had devoured half of it:

Chicken and Spinach Casserole

Think of this dish as creamed spinach with shredded chicken and fabulous, salty toasted bread on top.  If that appeals to you (and it does to me!), you’ll love this dish.  I also enjoy that I get something super creamy that isn’t completely nutritionally devastating because the base is made with half-and-half instead of cream.

Note:  I baked this in a 1 1/2-quart Corningware dish, and I’ll admit that the amount of food the recipe produces isn’t huge.  This is perfect for Dr. O and me to have dinner with enough left over for one person’s lunch the next day.  If you wanted to serve four (or even six) adults, I would double the recipe.  Also, be generous with seasoning during the cooking process.  It makes all the difference.

Recipe link: Chicken and Spinach Casserole

King Cake

We had our Cajun-themed gourmet club meeting on Saturday night, and I was on deck for dessert.  When we settled on a theme, the hostess asked if I had thought about making a king cake.  I had to Google it because I had never even heard of it (sad!), but it looked like fun, so I started hunting for recipes.

Since high-altitude baking is often a challenge, I felt lucky to find a recipe through The Denver Post that was specifically titled “Louisiana-to-Denver King Cake.” Surely, it would be fantastic, right?  Wrong.  It’s not so much that it didn’t work; it just wasn’t special enough to serve as the finale for what would surely be a spectacular Cajun meal.  It didn’t pack enough of a flavor punch and was a bit dry. Having learned that king cake was more like sweet bread, though, I realized that I didn’t really need to make any high-altitude adjustments and could just look for the best-rated recipe out there.

I settled on one with a sour cream base and cream cheese filling from Food.com. The results were amazing!  The recipe is a bit long so I’ll just link to it.  Here are my notes:

  • I used full-fat sour cream and light (neufchatel) cream cheese.
  • I made a half recipe each time.  The only challenge was using half an egg in the cream cheese filling; I used my kitchen scale to measure half an egg by weight.  (Half of a large egg weighed about 26 or 27 grams.)
  • Once I had rolled my dough into a rectangle, I found that it was best to distribute the cream cheese filling on the long side of the dough closest to me rather than spreading it over the entire surface of the dough.  I was able to keep most of the filling rolled up in the dough that way instead of having it ooze onto the counter.
  • I baked my cake for 20 minutes at 375°F instead of the 15 minutes recommended by the recipe.
  • I cooled my cake before icing it; otherwise, the icing would have just melted off the cake.
  • I already had colored sugars in my pantry, so I didn’t make any from scratch.
  • I did put a small plastic baby in my cake (per tradition), but I didn’t bake it in. I just poked it into the underside of the cake after the cake had cooled a bit.
Unbaked King Cake

Unbaked king cake

Baked King Cake

Fresh out of the oven

King Cake

Iced and ready to go

King Cake Interior

To-die-for cream cheese custard

This king cake is heavenly.  The bread is so incredibly moist, and the cream cheese filling bakes up into a delicious custard.  Wow!  I’ll be making this every year (sometime between January 6 and Mardi Gras day, according to tradition) from here on out.

Recipe link: King Cake




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