Saturday, August 30, 2008

Orange Crunch Cake

I'm a fan of cake mixes. Several times now they have come in handy when I need to whip up a quick dessert. I usually keep several varieties in my food storage along with muffin mixes, cookie mixes, and a brownie mix or two. One of my favorite things to do with a cake mix is a simple cup cake. They're easy to transport, and kids love 'em.

On occasion however, it's good to have alternate recipes available that use the cake mix, but would be more appropriate to serve to adults. One of my favorites has been the Honey Bun Cake but recently I discovered (and tested) a new recipe, an Orange Crunch Cake. This recipe appears on, but apparently it was originally from a Pillsbury ad in a magazine from years and years ago.

Orange Crunch Cake

1 cup graham cracker crumbs**
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup butter, softened

1 package yellow cake mix
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 Tbsp grated orange zest

1 (16 oz) can prepared vanilla frosting
1 (8 oz) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
3 Tablespoons grated orange zest
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 (11 oz) can mandarin oranges, drained

**one sleeve of graham crackers makes about 1 1/4 cups crumbs.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch pans. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, brown sugar, walnuts and butter. Divide mixture evenly between the prepared pans. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cake mix, water, orange juice and oil until blended. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the orange zest. Pour the mixture evenly over the crunch layer in the pans.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and cool completely before frosting. Frost (crunch side up) between layers, on top and sides. Arrange orange sections on top, then refrigerate.

TO MAKE THE FROSTING: In a medium bowl, beat the vanilla frosting until light and fluffy, then mix in the whipped topping. Stir in the orange and lemon zest. Use frosting on completely cooled cake layers.

Week 68 Menu

Monday - something fun.... happy Labor Day!
Tuesday - Southwest Chicken Salads (w/ honey lime chicken...recipe coming!)
Wednesday - leftovers
Thursday - Fried Rice & Pot Stickers
Friday - BBQ Chicken Pizza
Saturday - eat out
Sunday - Potato Ham Skillet

More menu ideas found HERE

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Basil Pesto

Back in October I wrote a post about my having to purchase my basil from the grocery store (insert dramatic pause here, while I await your very audible gasp). No, I'm really not that hoity-toity. There's nothing wrong with buying fresh basil wherever you can find it. My reason for this post, is to say that this Summer I found a spot in my flower bed to stick a basil plant and I am so glad I did. It's uh, quite prolific.

I was talking to one of my fabulous sisters yesterday and she was telling me how great her basil plant was doing also. She needed some new ideas on how to use all of that basil and I figured others out there might need some suggestions as well. So I'm sharing my recipe for Basil Pesto along with a list (with links) of some of my favorite recipes that call for basil. (scroll down for list of recipes)

Basil Pesto

about 2 cups of packed fresh basil leaves - no stems
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts **
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Lightly toast pine nuts in a dry pan over medium low heat (optional**). Add pine nuts, basil, garlic, cheese, and 1-2 Tablespoons of the olive oil to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the remaining olive oil until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

**Toasting the pine nuts is completely optional. My husband cannot eat raw pine nuts, but if I lightly toast them, he's fine. Here's another pine nut tip: In the past I've been able to find nice large bags of pine nuts at Costco for a great price. Buy those, and keep them in your freezer - they'll last a LOT longer. Pine nuts tend to go rancid quite quickly, and no one likes to toss those adorable little golden nuggets in the trash.

Some of my favorite recipes using basil:

Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Orzo
Pizza Margerita
Fresh Pasta Primavera
Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad
Pesto Chicken Florentine

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Week 66 Menu

Monday - Oriental Chicken Wraps
Tuesday - Zuppa Toscana
Wednesday - Hamburger Stroganoff & corn
Thursday - Chicken Taquitos
Friday - Taco Salads (yes, again!)
Saturday - eat out
Sunday - Baked Ziti

Monday, August 18, 2008

Rustic Plum Tart

I have always loved baking. Growing up, I loved baking cookies and cupcakes and I could bake often because there were a lot of taste-testers around. Now there are just the three of us, so I don't bake as often. I kind of miss it too. Here's my latest foray into the baking world: A Rustic Plum Tart.

Looking at the recipe (found here), I was a little concerned about the addition of cornmeal. I was tempted to omit it, but in the end I was very glad I didn't. It adds a cool texture and enough of a unique flavor to make the tart interesting.

This tart is very delicious, but in the end it made a big mess in the pan and it was difficult to serve. I would never attempt to make this for guests, but I would make it again for just my little family - they don't care if food is ugly - the messier the better. In fact, just cover over the ugly with a smear of whipping cream and you're good to go.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Week 65 Menu

Want more menu ideas? Check out Menu Plan Monday

- BBQ Country Ribs & baked potatoes
Tuesday - Teriyaki Rice Bowls
Wednesday - Pesto Chicken Florentine
Thursday - Chicken Fajitas
Friday - eat out
Saturday - taco salads (using leftover chicken from Thursday)
- Crockpot Hasbrown Breakfast Casserole

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Teriyaki Chicken

My friend Christa shared her ever-so-simple Teriyaki Chicken recipe with me and I can't believe how easy AND delicious it is. (Again, thank you Christa!)

Teriyaki Marinade

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup Sprite
1/2 tsp minced garlic

(She said the longer you marinate the chicken the better is, although she has marinated chicken for just one hour and it was great.)

I placed the chicken in a large ziplock bag, added the marinade ingredients, sealed it and stuck it in the fridge. A few hours later I had wonderfully marinated chicken, no leaks, no garlic smell in my fridge, and no dish to wash.

This Teriyaki Chicken is perfect in the Oriental Chicken Wraps that I wrote about last week. Next week I'm going to use this same recipe in some Teriyaki Rice Bowls. Oooo - I can't wait!

(side note: I know this will reveal just how ridiculously particular I am, but I wanted to share what I learned today from Apparently "marinate" is a verb and "marinade" is a noun. I never knew that before today. And there you have it - a recipe and a spelling lesson all in one!)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Week 64 Menu

Monday - BBQ Club Sandwiches
Tuesday - shredded beef tacos
Wednesday - Fajita Chicken Quesadillas & Fiesta Rice
Thursday - BBQ country ribs
Friday - eat out
Saturday - Oriental Chicken Wraps
Sunday - Chicken Cordon Bleu Crepes

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Oriental Chicken Wraps

I've been remiss in writing about this next meal. A few weeks ago a very generous friend of mine brought over a yummy dinner for our family. (Thank you Christa!!!) It was a wonderfully fresh fruit salad and oriental chicken wraps. I must say it was the perfect meal for a warm summer evening.

Who wouldn't like a bowl of beautiful fruit brought to their door?

These oriental chicken wraps rocked! I loved the fresh taste of the ingredients, and the Creamy Sesame Dressing is good enough to drink as a beverage (although it wouldn't quench thirst very well.)

Oriental Chicken Wraps

terriyaki chicken, shredded
mandarin oranges
bag of mixed salad greens
crispy chow mein noodles
sliced green onions
Creamy Sesame Dressing (recipe below)

Creamy Sesame Dressing

1 c. Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. Sesame Oil
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1/3 c. Sugar
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
5 Tbsp. Milk

Combine all ingredients & enjoy!

Monday, August 4, 2008

BBQ Club Sandwiches

I'm not sure why, but this summer has been the summer of sandwiches for me. Lately it has been my favorite thing to "cook" for dinner. This recipe (if you can call it that) for BBQ Club Sandwiches was one that I was skeptical about at first. However, since I first tested it out last week, we have had them 4 times (once for dinner and 3 times for lunch.) Now that's a great sandwich.

Apparently it's a clone from a sandwich that Applebee's used to have on their menu called the Club House Grill. I have never had the Applebee's original, so I cannot vouch for how authentic this version is, but because of the simplicity of it, I can't imagine that it's much different.

Just as a note, we tried this sandwich in a panini press and also on a grill pan on my stove. Surprisingly the grill pan version won.

BBQ Club Sandwiches
(recipe makes 1 sandwich)

2 slices french bread (medium slices - not too thick)
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 slices deli turkey breast
2 slices deli ham
2 slices tomato
2 tsp Bullseye BBQ Sauce

Take the two slices of bread and butter one side of each. On the other side of one slice, spread mayonnaise. Top with half of the cheese, ham slices, tomato slices, BBQ sauce, turkey slices, rest of cheese and final slice of bread. It is important to have the cheese next to the bread to act as glue. Grill on a grill pan or skillet over a medium heat until cheese is melted and bread is toasted. If this cooks too quickly the cheese will not have a chance to melt and the meats will not be warm.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Week 63 Menu

Monday - BBQ club sandwiches & corn
Tuesday - Pasta Primavera
Wednesday - Taco salads (w/ creamy cilantro lime dressing...recipe coming!)
Thursday - something using pesto - maybe a panini?
Friday - eat out
Saturday - BBQ Chicken Pizza
Sunday - pancakes & scrambled eggs (yup, breakfast for dinner)