09 April 2008

Messy kitchen, happy guests, growing waistlines…

The title pretty much gives it away. As you have undoubtedly guessed, Sunday’s B-Day dinner was a resounding success. The jerk seasoning had just the right degree of kick and it complimented the pineapples perfectly. The cake was sinfully delicious (very similar taste to key-lime pie). The surprising star of the evening, however, was the homemade rice pilaf with pecans. This is something I can easily add to my repertoire; it’s fancy enough to serve to guests, yet also a simple and inexpensive way to give weekday sides an added boost.

Not much else to report right now. Very busy days ahead as I try get through a mountain of work before hubs and I head to Mexico. Can anyone please explain why it takes so much work and effort just to relax? Hardly seems fair….

To tide you over until my next update, I am posting my recipes from Sunday’s meal. Go ahead, give them a whirl...I dare you!

Spicy Jerk Chicken Kebabs with Bell Peppers
and Pineapple

The spice level of this dish is pretty mild. For an added boost, add a few seeds from the jalapeño pepper.

1 tsp. whole allspice
1 tsp. black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
8 garlic cloves
3 large shallots, peeled and cut in half
1 (3-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, halved and seeded
2 lbs. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups (1-inch) cubed pineapple (about 1 medium)
1 1/2 cups (1-inch) pieces red bell pepper (about 1 large)
1 1/2 cups (1-inch) pieces green bell pepper (about 1 large)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Cooking spray


  • Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add first 3 ingredients to pan; cook for 1 minute or until lightly toasted and fragrant.
  • Place spices, brown sugar, and next 9 ingredients (through jalapeño) in a blender; process until smooth.
  • Combine spice mixture and chicken in a large zip-top plastic bag; seal and marinate in refrigerator 2 hours, turning occasionally.
  • Prepare grill.
  • Remove chicken from bag, reserving marinade.
  • Thread chicken, pineapple, and bell peppers alternately onto each skewer.
  • Brush reserved marinade onto pineapple and bell peppers. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.
  • Place kebabs on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 8 minutes or until chicken is done.

    Yield: 8 servings (1 kebab each)

    Rub the skewers with some cooking spray so that the meat will slide off easily when cooked. It’s so yummy that you won’t want to leave anything behind! If you have too much marinade, reserve some for another meal - pork loin would be great!


    Rice Pilaf with Pecans

    Amazing recipe! The rice really absorbs the sweetness from the golden raisins and the combination with cinnamon is perfect! Half the recipe and you can still easily feed a 8 people (as sides).

    3 Tbsp. olive oil
    1 cup (1-inch) julienne-cut carrot
    3/4 cup finely chopped onion
    5 cups low-salt chicken broth
    1 cup orange juice
    3 cups uncooked long-grain rice
    1/2 cup golden raisins
    1 Tbsp. sugar
    3/4 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
    6 Tbsp. finely chopped pecans

  • Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  • Add carrot and onion; sauté 5 minutes.
  • Add broth and orange juice, and bring to a boil.
  • Add rice, raisins, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
  • Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  • Sprinkle with pecans
  • Yield: 12 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

    Tip: Even if you half the recipe to make less rice, I highly recommend adding the full amount of veggies and raisins. Experiment and garnish as you like.


    Lemon-Lime Layer Cake

    Perfect dessert for a lovely summer day BBQ. Almost like a pound cake mixed with key-lime icing and filling.

    Cake Ingredients
    Cooking spray
    1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    1/2 cup butter, softened
    3/4 cup egg substitute
    1 Tbsp. grated lemon rind
    1 Tbsp. grated lime rind
    1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
    2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 10 ounces)
    1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1 1/3 cups low-fat buttermilk

    Icing Ingredients:
    1 tsp. grated lemon rind
    1 tsp. grated lime rind
    1 tsp. fresh lime juice
    8-ounce 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
    2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (about 10 ounces)

    Preparation / Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Coat two (9-inch) round cake pans with cooking spray; line bottoms of pans with parchment paper. Coat paper with cooking spray.
  • Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes).
  • Add egg substitute, lemon rind, lime rind, and lime juice; beat well.
  • In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring well with a whisk.
  • Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  • Spoon batter into prepared pans; tap pans once on countertop to remove air bubbles.
  • Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove cakes from pans.
  • Carefully peel off parchment paper. Cool completely on wire racks coated with cooking spray.

    Preparation / Icing:
  • Place lemon rind, lime rind, lime juice and cream cheese in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth (about 1 minute).
  • Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat).
  • Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/2 cup icing. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake.
  • Chill 1 hour. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator.

    Yield - 16 servings (serving size: 1 slice)

    Tip: Be sure to sample your icing…it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it! I found the original recipe to a little too “cream-cheesy,” so I added in more lemon/lime rind and juice to give it a nice citrus burst! Be sure to reserve some lime and lemon wedges for garnish…a nice finishing touch once the cake is iced.
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