Monday, May 31, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

Serves 12-16.

I've been making these for a few years now and they never seem to disappoint. I mean, look at them. Do you feel disappointed?
Source: Cooking Pleasures magazine

1-1/2 c. graham cracker crumbs
5 T. unsalted butter, melted
3/4 c. miniature semisweet chocolate chips

10 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 t. vanilla

5 T. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
3 T. sugar
1 t. vanilla
dash salt
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9" pan with foil, leaving extra foil extending over edges. Spray foil with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs and melted butter until crumbs are moistened. Stir in miniature chocolate chips. Press into bottom and 1" up sides of pan. Bake 6 minutes or until set; cool on wire rack.

Decrease oven temperature to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/4 c. sugar at low speed until smooth. Beat in egg and 1 t. vanilla until just blended. Pour filling into crust.

In same bowl, beat 5 T. melted butter, brown sugar, 3 T. sugar, 1 t. vanilla, and salt at medium speed 1 minute or until blended. Beat in flour at low speed just until incorporated. Stir in 1 c. chocolate chips. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough over filling. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and set through.

Cool. For topping, drizzle melted chocolate across evenly.

A Note From The LL: I'll make things easy on you. Use an 8-oz. block of cream cheese and call it a day. The 2 oz. don't make enough of a different to include them. Lazy? Skip the chocolate drizzle too. There's quite a bit of chocolate already packed into these bars. But, by all means, if you like to follow directions 100%, go for it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Menu: Memorial Day Cookout

It's Memorial Day weekend! Hopefully you have something fun planned. Hopefully you are getting together with friends and/or family. Hopefully you are lighting the grill and cooking out.

Need some help planning your menu?

Here are some of my suggestions...

Something Cold to Drink:
Beer Margaritas - These are so good, so easy, and truly welcome in the summer months.

Beer Dip - Serve with mini pretzels. It's addicting!
BLT Dip - Serve with crackers. Something a little lighter, a little fresher, but just as tasty.

Whiskey Hamburgers - Don't worry, the small amount of alcohol in these won't affect the kids. ;) But by all means feel free to omit. Just leave it in for the adults -- it adds great flavor!

Strawberry Jell-O Pretzel Salad - One of my all-time personal favorites.

Broccoli Slaw - Something crunchy and fresh to balance out the meal.

Oven Fries - Because what's a burger without its fries?

Berry Cobbler - For the fruit lovers. And it's a light recipe too!
Heavenly Brownies - For the chocolate, all-or-nothing dessert lovers. You won't be disappointed.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism

Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism by Jenny McCarthy

I picked up this book at Blockbuster of all places. I didn't even know they sold books, but, alas, they do. It was way marked down (all the books were), and I had been wanting to educate myself since I'm starting a new job this summer and will be working with a little girl on the autism spectrum.

We were flying to Vegas the next week, and I ended up reading the whole book - start to finish - while on the plane. I couldn't put it down. My props to Jenny -- I didn't expect this out of her. It was well-written, easy to read, and educating -- not necessarily in the "Wow, I know all the ins and outs of autism" but in the "Wow, I learned a lot about a family's experiences dealing with autism."

For as fast as one can read this book, I'd recommend it to everyone. Whether or not you are in any way connected to autism, it is a rapidly growing section of our population, and I think everyone would benefit from educating themselves in even the smallest ways.

Stolen from

“Emotional, devastating…a story of hope.”—People

“Honest, informative, down-to-earth, and sometimes painful… Mothers everywhere thank her.”—The Chicago Sun-Times

“Surprisingly fun to read, realistic, and engaging… a good introduction to the ups and downs that autism brings to everyday life.”—

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

Serves 4.

Fries that are good for you! The seasonings are both sweet and savory, and the fries smell great while baking.
Ever-so-slightly adapted from: Carrots 'n Cake

2 large sweet potatoes
3 T. olive oil
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. paprika

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Chop potatoes into fries. Place potatoes in a large Ziploc bag and season by adding olive oil, cinnamon, and paprika. Shake the bag to coat fries evenly.

Spread on a baking sheet that has been coated with non-stick spray. Bake for 35-45 minutes, flipping and stirring about every 10 minutes.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Honey Cumin Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Honey Cumin Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Serves 4-6.

Warmer weather is here (and has actually been here for a while this spring) and we are taking full advantage of the grill. The thing I love about grilling is that you can typically prepare things ahead of time, and simply toss it on when you're ready to eat. I made this marinade the day I brought the pork home from the grocery store, even though I knew we wouldn't eat it for another day or two. It makes the day-of that much more enjoyable.

2 pork tenderloins, about 1 lb. each
1/2 c. soy sauce
6 T. honey
2 t. lime zest
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. chile powder
1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. salt
3 T. canola oil

4 T. honey, warmed
2 t. ground cumin
1 t. chile powder

Season pork tenderloins with salt and pepper and then place in a large Ziploc bag. Make marinade by combining remaining ingredients and pour over pork. Massage marinade into pork through the bag, and refrigerate several hours.

Heat grill to medim heat. Remove pork from marinade, and brush both sides with honey glaze. Grill until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat reads 160-165 degrees F, turning once. Remove from heat, cover with foil, and allow to rest 15 minutes before slicing.

A Note From The Little Lady: True confessions: I completely forgot about the glaze. The bad news is I can't tell you how it was. The good news is I can assure you the pork was still fantastic without it. I'll definitely try to remember it next time, as I'm sure it offers a tasty carmelized "crust."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Skeen Burgers

Skeen Burgers

Makes 8 burgers.

Yummy, yummy, in my tummy. I loved these burgers. And they do not taste like they are a Cooking LIGHT recipe. They were juicy, flavorful, and something new. The Mr. thought they were a little too soft inside (even when cooked through), so if that concerns you, up the amount of beef, but keep the other measurements as-is.
Source: Cooking Light Magazine

2 lbs. ground beef
1-1/4 c. (about 20) crushed round buttery crackers, such as Ritz
1/2 c. applesauce
1-1/2 t. hot pepper sauce
1/4 t. garlic powder
1-oz. pkg. onion soup mix
8 hamburger buns
Toppings: ketchup, red onion, lettuce, tomato, etc.

Preheat grill.
Combine first 6 ingredients. Divide mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2"-thick patty.
Place patties on a grill rack that has been coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until done.
Place buns, cut side down, on grill rack; grill 1 minute or until toasted.
Prepare buns with desired toppings; top with hamburgers.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Jalapeno-Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes & Potatoes

Jalapeno-Baked Fish with Roasted Tomatoes & Potatoes

Serves 4.

This is a fantastic recipe. It's easy to prepare, cooks quickly, and pleases the crowd! The spicy, flavorful tomato mixture complements the mild fish perfectly. We licked the serving dish clean!

4 medium (1 lb.) red-skin boiling or Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
1 T. olive oil
1 (15-0z) can diced tomatoes, with juice OR 3 fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 large garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
1/3 c. (loosely packed) coarsely chopped cilantro, plus extra for garnish
1/4 c. sliced canned pickled jalapenos
1 T. jalapeno pickling juice
4 (4- to 5-oz. each) skinless fish fillets, such as tilapia

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Scoop the sliced potatoes into a microwaveable baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, and spread in an even layer. Cover with plastic wrap and poke a few vent holes in the top. Microwave on high for about 4-5 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, blender, or using an immersion blender, puree the tomatoes (with their juice), garlic, cilantro, jalapenos, and pickling juice. Leave some texture.

Remove potatoes from microwave and lay fish fillets in a single layer over potatoes; season with salt and pepper. Pour the tomato mixture evenly over the fish.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the fish flakes easily. Serve each fish fillet with potatoes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Grand Cayman: Part 3

Grand Cayman: Part 3

And for the final installation of my Grand Cayman recap, here are my picks for Overall Experience.

ph - 345.945.6600

Decker's was kind of a last minute decision. We were mainly picking places on the water, and Decker's is not only opposite the beach, but it looks like a restaurant you could find anywhere. But then, when you walk in, you realize there is a lot more to it than originally meets the eye. A double-decker bus (hence the name) makes up the bar, and the largest fan in Grand Cayman (and probably one of the largest in the world!) keeps patrons cool and comfortable.

Here's the double-decker bar:

The Mr. got the mixed grill - a daily special - that consisted of grilled steak, fish, and chicken. And you know what he raved about most? The vegetables and accompanying sauce!

I got the lobster ravioli, which was equally fantastic. A flavorful, rich sauce, and a whole lobster tail too!

Final Verdict: Don't let the exterior of Decker's fool you. It's quite the place to eat. The food is amazing, the live music is perfect background music, and I can almost guarantee that you'll be pleased.

ph - 345.943.5637

Coconut Joes is basically just a bar and grill. And I wasn't expecting it to be much more than that. We ate here our very first night in Grand Cayman. We had traveled all day and were excited to check out our first restaurant while honeymooning, but we didn't feel like getting too dressed up and diving into anything too fancy. So we picked Coconut Joes. And I'm so glad we did!

The Mr. ordered grouper, and look how beautiful it is:

And to think we got this at bar and grill! Wow! And it tasted as good as it looks!

I got the "BIG" Salad. Crunchy, crisp lettuce in a tortilla bowl, topped with cajun grouper and plenty of toppings. One of the best salads I ever had. Maybe I was just excited to be on vacation. But I will tell you, it was so good!

Oh, and those Sols are $3 Mexican Night specials...

Final Verdict: Everyone needs an inexpensive, casual option once in a while. Most of the time, I like to mix it up between fancy places and comfortable, laid-back places. Make this one of your laid-back choices. You'll love it!

ph - 345.947.2525
Seven Mile Beach

We had Al Fresco delivered to our condo through a local delivery service. Once we realized that some of the best "tables" were right outside our condo on the beach, we figured we'd dine there and have the food brought to us! What a smart choice. We were content as can be eating on the beach. And Al Fresco didn't disappoint either.

Here's what I ordered: The Seafood Pizza.

And The Mr. got the Cajun Red Snapper with rice, veggies, plantains, and even a slice of banana bread!

Final Verdict: I can't review the actual restaurant of Al Fresco, but I've heard good things about it. The food was great and if anything, do what we did -- order out!

ph - 945.943.YOSH
Seven Mile Beach

Another beach picnic! Mango Roll, California Roll, and egg rolls made up our dinner tonight. We loved the whole meal!

Final Verdict: Again, I can't attest to the restaurant, but we loved the food!

ph - 945.943.EATS
Falls Shopping Center
Seven Mile Beach

EATS has been around for a long time. It's changed its look recently (and my personal opinion is that it's a little too modern now), but it still serves great diner food. I didn't get any pictures of the food this time around, but I had an excellent Ole Guacamole Bacon Burger and The Mr. had the Crispy Buffalo Ranch Grill - a chicken sandwich. We both left full... and happy.

Final Verdict: EATS is a great place for lunch (or dinner), but I hear their biggest draw is their breakfast. Plus, it's a Grand Cayman must-do. Go for breakfast, or if you're like The Mr. and I and aren't huge breakfast-eater-outers, go for lunch. I'd recommend it as a dinner spot last, unless you really just need to grab something fast.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grand Cayman: Part 2

Did you catch Monday's post about atmosphere? Today's we're touching on Drinks & Nightlife.

ph - 345.945.7850
Seven Mile Beach

Calico Jack's is located at the north end of Public Beach on Seven Mile Beach. It's a fun little place to party, and one of Grand Cayman's liviest hot spots. Keep in mind that Grand Cayman is not known for its nightlife. If anything, it's known for not having a nightlife. People enjoy the food, and typically wind down after dinner. But if you're looking for an opportunity to dance on the beach, under the stars, and with drink in hand, head over to Calico Jack's. You'll find it's crowded in the afternoon, evening, and past midnight.

Here's what Calico Jack's looks like from the water:

You don't typically see signs like this at a bar:

We joined the celebration of Canada Day on July 3rd. There was a big beach bonfire and s'mores ingredients for the party-goers:

Remember how I said we celebrated the full moon at Kaibo? We celebrated again at Calico Jack's. While Kaibo's party was held over the weekend closest to the full moon, Calico Jack's celebrated on the actual evening of the full moon. They had neon lights, live music, and even a fire dancer.

Final Verdict: Calico Jack's is a fun place to visit for an afternoon cocktail or multiple at night. It's a fun place to be. You should check it out.

ph - 345.945.6358
Seven Mile Beach

Royal Palms is in the middle of Seven Mile Beach. It was too far for us to walk from our condo, but definitely worth checking out for one evening. I had read wonderful reviews about it. Royal Palms is actually #1 to most people who have been to Grand Cayman. I think Calico Jack's became our #1 due to its convenient location.

Royal Palms also draws a slightly older crowded. Gone are the party people. Instead, you'll find a range of ages, all there to enjoy the live music and beach bar.

The night we were there was the 4th of July. While everyone at home was celebrating with burgers and fireworks, Grand Cayman was carrying on as usual (although a few places lit a few fireworks). So, on July 4th, a local band, Los Tropicanos, played:

And people danced!

Final Verdict: Depending on your location, Royal Palms could be your favorite place. There's always something happening and the mood is always happy. Even if you don't want anything to drink, you'll enjoy the food, atmosphere and all-around popular vibe.

ph - 345.949.3000
email -
Seven Mile Beach

The Mr. and I were on a hunt for a Painkiller. Before getting married, The Mr. had collected a few mugs from various locations already, and now I guess you could say we are collecting them. When I found out that the grill at Sunshine Suites had Painkillers, we opted to stop by for one after dinner one night.

Sunshine Suites is a bright, simple resort across the street from the ocean. It's tucked away and displaced from the noise of West Bay Road - the main drag on Seven Mile Beach. Since returning to the states, we have heard that the locals like the grill at Sunshine Suites because it's never too crowded and the food is good. I can't attest to the food, but we liked the drinks. Although, after one Painkiller, you'll want to leave. Your tolerance might not be able to handle another... and neither will your wallet.

Here I am, enjoying my Painkiller!

Final Verdict: Go to Sunshine Suites if you want a Painkiller. Or if you want a quiet, removed place to enjoy a casual, inexpensive meal. If you could care less about either, you may not find much to scream about at Sunshine Suites.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Grand Cayman: Part 1

Grand Cayman: Part 1

The votes were cast, and the results were tallied. Welcome to my first attempt at including a travel section! To stick with the overall theme of my blog, I am mainly going to focus on the food and drink of the destinations I highlight. If you want additional information about accommodations, activities, etc., feel free to ask about it in the comments section. I have a to tendency to over-research vacations, so I probably have an answer for you... or could at least point you in the right direction.

Without further ado...

The Mr. and I traveled to Grand Cayman for our honeymoon last summer. We stayed in a beautiful condo on 7 Mile Beach and enjoyed exploring the sights, sampling the eats, and sipping the drinks.

This week's posts will touch on three areas of Grand Cayman's culinary scene: Atmosphere, Drinks & Nightlife, and Overall Experience.

The following fall under my top-rated picks for ATMOSPHERE.

Ph - 345.947.9975
Email -

Kaibo is a magical place right on the beach. It's beautiful, tranquil, and you'll leave feeling satisfied physically, mentally, and emotionally. We were lucky enough to experience a Full Moon Party at Kaibo, which they host, you got it, once a month. Due to my researching habit noted above, I discovered the party ahead of time, and made reservations before even arriving to the island, as I read that it booked up quickly. That night we dined on the beach, under the stars, and our table was lit by the full moon above. As we were finishing up dessert, they released floating fire lanterns (don't worry, they are safe for the environment!). The whole evening was accompanied by relaxing, almost mesmerizing, music spun by the DJ.

We started our meal with the Mixed Ceviche, an almost salsa-like appetizer served with tortilla chips. For a couple that just started eating sushi (and for The Mr., only vegetable at that!), ceviche was one of those, "We're in Grand Cayman. We'll try it," decisions. And I'm glad we did. Lightly marinading, it was light and flavorful, a perfect start to our meal, and very much "the thing to do" being that we were on an island in the middle of the ocean.

The Mr. got the Crispy Coconut Curry Grouper; I tried it; we both loved it. And that doesn't surprise me considering it's the best-selling dish at Kaibo.

I had my eye on the grouper as well, but when The Mr. ordered it, I decided to get something else: the one time on the island I ordered.... chicken. It was good, but I was in the Caribbean. I should've ordered fish.

Final Verdict: GO TO KAIBO. It's an experience. Take the advertised water taxi if you're coming from 7MB. And check the website before you go. If possible, plan your visit around one of their many parties and activities. Besides the Full Moon parties, they have weekly Caribbean Barefoot Beach BBQs on Tuesdays, Hot Buttr'd & JAM parties every holiday Monday, and events for most other holidays and island happenings.

Ph - 345.945.5217
Email - contact form
West Bay

Sitting at the Macabuca Tiki Bar at Cracked Conch made me feel happy. And carefree. It was a beautiful evening, there was live music, and I was with the love of my life. Oh, and all the bright colors definitely played into it as well. The bar has a thatched roof, the drinks taste like island cocktails should, and everyone there is content. It's one of my best memories of our honeymoon. It was one of our last nights, and it was perfect.

We started with the Conch Platter - Fritters, Spicy Cracked Conch, and Ceviche. Our reasoning? When in Rome...
Feeling a bit on the wild side, I ordered the Turtle Sandwich & Fries, mainly because I had never seen that before, and figured I never would again. It tasted a lot like BBQ pulled pork. Sorry to all the turtle lovers out there.
The Mr. ordered the BBQ combination plate, a special that day. He loved it.

Final Verdict: Definitely visit, but go when it's still light out so that you can experience Macabuca Tiki Bar for all its bright colors. Have a drink, order the Conch Platter, and stay for dinner if you want something casual and basic. If you're looking for a fancier dinner, head up the actual Cracked Conch restaurant, or check out something else nearby.

website (closest thing to one, at least)

Is there really anything better than after spending a morning at sea, climbing off a boat, wading to shore through the ocean, and eating a rejuvenating lunch at a restaurant with your feet in the sand? I don't think so.

Rum Point is what many would call a tourist trap. What started a secret gem quickly turned into a busy, crowded beach full of cruise-goers. You'd be missing out if you didn't visit Rum Point, but I'd strongly recommend going on a day when the port is empty of cruise ships.

We were lucky enough to be treated to a boating day with a good friend of the couple who owned the condo we stayed at. Lewie was a fantastic host, taking us to Stingray City (again, a great thing to do on a non-cruise ship day), sandbar, and Rum Point. It was a blast.

For lunch, we got greasy (but amazing!) burgers and fries. And, after a day of cocktails in the sun, they tasted ever-so-amazing.

Want to visit Rum Point without driving all the way around the island? Red Sail Sports offers a Rum Point Dinner & Catamaran Sail from Safehaven Dock on 7MB.

Rum Point from the boat: ...and... Feet in the sand:

Final Verdict: If you go to Grand Cayman, you have to go to Rum Point. It's just one of those must-do things that every destination has. Catch it on a day when cruise ships are absent, and you'll appreciate you did.

ph - 345.949.1119
email -
West Bay

Pappagallo is almost like a hidden paradise. It's enchanting and secretive, and when you're there you feel worlds away from the rest of the island. By the time we arrived, the sun had set (we were on the beach for that!) and so the photo ops were too available. Don't rely on just my one picture below. Check on Pappagallo's website, as you will get a much better feel for the place.

Pappagallo came highly recommended from the owners of the condo we were staying at, and we even got some special treatment because of it.

For an appetizer, we had the Fresh Mozzarella, served with fresh tomatoes and onions drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. As our entrees, I ordered the Lobster Ravioli and The Mr. ordered grouper, again, off the daily specials menu. I always love rich pasta dishes, and The Mr. loves his grouper, so we were both happy as clams.

Final Verdict: If you have a reason to celebrate something special, make reservations at Pappagallo. You'll experience great service and great food in a magical setting.

ph - 345.943.8439
George Town

Breezes is a classic island restaurant. It's bright; it's cheerful; it's right by the water; and it's located in the midst of George Town, the capital of Grand Cayman and home to cruise ship drop-offs and tourists left and right. They have happy hours, live music on the weekends, an extensive drink list, and satisfying food.

We ate at Breezes in the afternoon. We had already eaten lunch, and had dinner reservations set somewhere else, but I was starving. I don't know what came over me but I needed to stop browsing the shops, sit down and eat something. So we came across Breezes and did exactly that. And I was refueled. :)

The Mr. and I split an empanada appetizer that came with two different dipping sauces. It was mildly spicy and the perfect size to satisfy our growling tummies without spoiling our appetite for dinner.

Final Verdict: I wouldn't make a special trip to Breezes, but it's a fun place to grab a drink or snack while exploring the "downtown" area of George Town. It's a nice break from the action, yet you'll still feel like you're enjoying the hustle and bustle of the "city."

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Although originally written as a children's book, The Secret Garden is fit for a reader of any age. It's an enchanting fairy tale and, although fairly predictable and at times too whimsical, I'm glad to have it on my list of books read. It's a classic. Read it alone, with your daughter, or aloud to a class. Just be sure to explain that the words "queer" and "gay" mean different words now than they did back then. :)

Mistress Mary is quite contrary until she helps her garden grow. Along the way, she manages to cure her sickly cousin Colin, who is every bit as imperious as she. These two are sullen little peas in a pod, closed up in a gloomy old manor on the Yorkshire moors of England, until a locked-up garden captures their imaginations and puts the blush of a wild rose in their cheeks; "It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of roses which were so thick, that they matted together.... 'No wonder it is still,' Mary whispered. 'I am the first person who has spoken here for ten years.'"

As new life sprouts from the earth, Mary and Colin's sour natures begin to sweeten. For anyone who has ever felt afraid to live and love, The Secret Garden's portrayal of reawakening spirits will thrill and rejuvenate. Frances Hodgson Burnett creates characters so strong and distinct, young readers continue to identify with them even 85 years after they were conceived. (Ages 9 to 12)