Under The Sea Cupcakes

Now that all the little ones are back to school, I thought it would be appropriate to share this fun kid-friendly treat. Aren’t they adorable? I made them a few months ago for my girlfriend’s baby shower, which had an “Under the Sea” theme, and they were really a hit.

I tinted my standard buttercream frosting in hues of light blue and green, and piped on with a Wilton 2D tip to create sea-colored waves on the cupcake. Then I topped them with Swedish Fish, and a few stalks of green and yellow colored sour straws for seaweed.

I ended up finding the sour straws at my local Dollar Tree, as they have the best selection of just about everything when it comes to candy. I was able to find a multi-pack that had hues of greens, yellow, and dark blue that worked out perfectly.

Use whatever flavor of cupcake you like, I stuck with the classics – chocolate and vanilla. These turned out so great, and were so well received that I’m already looking forward to making them again. Would be a great treat to send in with your little one to celebrate their birthday with their classmates.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Jambalaya Pasta

Now that school is back in session, and fall sports and activities are underway, on weeknights it can be hard to find time time to prepare a proper dinner in the kitchen on those evenings when you have a million things going on.

This quick Cajun-inspired pasta dish is just the ticket to get a delicious meal on the table fast, that the whole family will love. Kielbasa is sliced and sauteed with some garlic, onion, and green peppers. Then seasoned with a bit of my homemade Cajun seasoning. A quick pan sauce is made with the addition of tomato sauce and cream, and then it’s all tossed together with cooked pasta to make for one delicious meal. Dinner is done in twenty, you can’t beat it!

I like to serve it with something green on the side to bump up the veggie factor – something like a nice green salad or a side of steamed broccoli are great ideas. Add this to the menu soon for a night when you need something quick, but filling! You won’t be disappointed.

Jambalaya Pasta

12 oz Farfalle (bowtie) pasta
1 Tbsp butter
1 lb Kielbasa, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 cup heavy cream
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
3/4 cup white wine or chicken broth
1 (15) oz can tomato sauce
kosher salt
black pepper
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

In a large pot, boil water for pasta. Salt water. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Add butter to large skillet and melt over medium-high heat. Add kielbasa and cook, stirring occasionally until nicely browned. Remove from pan and set aside. Add onion and green pepper to the pan and saute until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and Cajun seasoning and cook for an additional 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add chicken broth to skillet, making sure to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. Let liquid reduce by half, about three minutes.

Stir in tomato sauce. Add cream and heat to almost bubbling, then reduce heat to low. Return the kielbasa to the sauce. Let sauce simmer for 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta to the pan, as well as the parsley, and freshly grated Parmesan. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.

Source: adapted from Plain Chicken

Garlic Balsamic Crusted Pork Tenderloin

As summer officially winds down to a close, I’m trying to get as much time in on the grill as we can. Not that you can’t find me outside grilling in the middle of a hurricane, or a snowstorm (especially now that I have an awesome covered back deck!) – but there’s just something about the smell of the grill with a cocktail in hand on a summer evening.

I know you guys have got to be tired of seeing pork tenderloin recipes here, but I just can’t get enough of them. They’re a wonderful canvas to add all kinds of different flavors to, they’re healthy, and they cook relatively quickly – all strong points when it comes to our summertime menu.

This one incorporates the sweet, rich flavor of balsamic vinegar and plenty of pungent garlic. Using a good balsamic is key – you want one that is slightly thicker and has some body (I really like Il Villaggio’s brand for the price – you can find it online here, but I usually pick it up when I visit a higher-end grocery store). The pork is marinaded for an hour or so, or more if you have time – then thrown on the grill to cook and soak up even more delicious flavor.

I served with a side of our favorite garlic rice pilaf and steamed broccoli for a dinner that everyone in the family enjoyed. Also, leftovers were absolutely delicious when sliced thin and put on a sandwich the next day. Perfect summertime eating!

Source: adapted from Kitchen Confidante

Tropical Lemon Curd Bars

There is just something about lemon flavored desserts. I don’t know whether it’s their bright yellow hue, or their tart flavor that makes you pucker – but they’ve always been a favorite of mine. My great aunt always made a really good lemon bar, and these definitely reminded me of them. But with wonderful tropical flavor from the addition of toasted coconut on top instead of powdered sugar.

A basic bar dough is pressed into the bottom of the pan, then it’s filled with a rich fresh lemon curd and topped with a combination of almonds and coconut. The almonds give it wonderful crunch that was great next to the softness of the lemon filling.

I happened to have some of the larger dried coconut shreds, so I used those and they really held up well here. I’d suggest looking for those if you can find them. I’m usually able to find them in natural food stores, or if you’re feeling ambitious – make your own!

Source: adapted from Taste of Home via Oh Sweet Basil