The original Cuban Sandwich


Ask any Tampa native where the original Cuban sandwich was created, and she will tell you: right here in our own backyard, Ybor City. There are few dishes that scream “Tampa” louder than the Cuban Sandwich, and when I was searching for a traditional dish to bring to a family birthday celebration, I found my answer in a likely place – The Junior League of Tampa “Tampa Treasures” cookbook. The sandwich came together quite quickly, and I was pleased when I took the first bite and it tasted just like the many Cuban sandwiches I’ve had at The Columbia Restaurant. My family gobbled them up, and I even got nods of approval from my grandparents, both Ybor City natives.

Cuban Sandwich

Ingredients:

1 ½ loaves Cuban bread Plain prepared mustard Mayonnaise ¼ pound baked ham, thinly sliced ½ pound BBQ or Roast Pork, thinly sliced ½ pound swiss cheese, thinly sliced ¼ pound Italian salami, thinly sliced Dill pickles, sliced lengthwise

Directions:

Cut Cuban bread into 6 pieces, 8 inches long. Split bread lengthwise. Spread mustard on six sliced of bread, mayonnaise on the other six. Dive ham, pork, Swiss cheese, salami and pickle slices among the sandwiches, arranging in layers on the bread. Secure with toothpick. Note: Flavor is improved by warming in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6

Ingredients

Ingredients

Enjoy!

Enjoy!

Bern’s Carrot Cake Brownies With Toasted Pecan Frosting


Anyone who’s visited or lives in Tampa knows that Bern’s Steakhouse is a tradition and an experience in the South Tampa area. The Junior League of Tampa is lucky enough to have one of the most famous recipes from Bern’s included in their Capture the Coast cookbook. The Bern’s Carrot Cake Brownies With Toasted Pecan Frosting is soon to be a tradition in your house once you try them and see how delicious they are! The nice balance of cinnamon and nutmeg combined with shredded carrots topped with a pecan cream cheese icing will leave you wanting “just one more” brownie. Don’t worry, we don’t judge!

This recipe takes a little bit in terms of prep time but I promise it’s worth it in the end. The brownie mixture is pretty straightforward and I do recommend using a stand up mixer, if you have one. When it was time for the carrots I used my small food processor to speed up the process and get the carrots shredded and chopped then added to the batter. I would also say if you are not one to have peach schnapps lying around you can buy the small “airplane” size mini bottle at the liquor store since you only need a small amount. To test the brownies I used a toothpick and looked to see that the edges were pulling from the side of the pan, as the recipe directs.

The frosting is pretty simple (hoorah!) with cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar and pecans as the only ingredients. The nice thing about this frosting is that you can add a little more sugar or pecans if you want a sweeter or crunchier frosting.

Once the brownies cooled I frosted them in the pan, then cut them before placing them on the serving dish.

Bern’s Carrot Cake Brownies With Toasted Pecan Frosting 

Brownies

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

Dash of salt

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 ¼ cups sugar

2 eggs

5 tablespoons buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon peach schnapps

¼ cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped

3 carrots, peeled and shredded (about 1/3/4 cups)

Toasted Pecan Frosting

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

12 ounces cream cheese, softened

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup pecans, toasted

For the brownies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together. Beat the sugar at low speed in the bowl of a stand up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and schnapps a small amount at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape down the side of the bowl occasionally. Add the flour mixture and mix well. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Stir in the pecans and carrots. Spoon into a buttered 9×13-inch baking pan. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the edges pull from the side of the pan. Remove from the oven to cool.

For the frosting, beat the butter in the bowl of a stand up mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until soft and creamy. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar. Fold in the pecans with a spatula. Spread over the cool brownies.

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Getting ready to sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt

Getting ready to sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt

adding the buttermilk, vanilla, schnapps and egg

adding the buttermilk, vanilla, schnapps and egg

Flour mixture before adding the carrots and nuts

Flour mixture before adding the carrots and nuts

Batter before baking

Batter before baking

Time for frosting! Cream cheese, butter and confectioner's sugar

Time for frosting! Cream cheese, butter and confectioner’s sugar

Fold in the pecans to complete this easy frosting recipe. You can always choose to leave the pecans out if preferred.

Fold in the pecans to complete this easy frosting recipe. You can always choose to leave the pecans out if preferred.

Our brownie fresh out of the oven.

Our brownie fresh out of the oven.

After the brownies cooled they were frosted and cut into squares.

After the brownies cooled they were frosted and cut into squares.

Ready to serve!

Ready to serve!

Wright’s Dill Potato Salad


In search of a traditional side dish I scoured my favorite Junior League cookbooks until I found the Wright’s Dill Potato Salad from the Capture the Coast Cookbook. I was looking for something that would be a nice addition to my Easter lunch and even please some picky eaters (you know there’s at least one in every group).

This recipe was pretty simple and easy to follow with only 6 total ingredients.  I substituted light sour cream for the regular as well as light mayonnaise for the heavy stuff.  My guests couldn’t tell I had made it with lighter ingredients so if you want to cut out some calories, give it a try. I also used regular black pepper after having issues finding the white pepper.

The prep time was mostly cutting the potatoes and mixing the sour cream and mayonnaise mixture, which took about 20 minutes for the combined prep. After cooking the potatoes I let them cool about an hour until they were cool to the touch before combining them with the sour cream and mayonnaise mixture. In the end, the potato salad came out with a nice tangy dill taste and also served about 8 people, which was a nice surprise.

Enjoy!

Wright’s Dill Potato Salad

2 pounds red bliss potatoes

Salt to taste

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon fresh dill weed

¼ cup sour cream

finely ground white pepper to taste (I used black pepper because after searching 3 stores, I gave up!)

Cut the potatoes into ¾ -inch pieces and place in a saucepan. Add salted water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Cook until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Chill in the refrigerator. Combine half the mayonnaise and the dill weed in a small bowl and mix well. Add the sour cream and remaining mayonnaise and mix well. Combine with the potatoes, salt and white pepper in a large bowl and mix gently.

All 6 ingredients :)

All 6 ingredients :)

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While the potatoes cook, I make the dill, sour cream and mayonnaise mixture

While the potatoes cook, I make the dill, sour cream and mayonnaise mixture.

After the potatoes are done cooking spread them evenly onto a baking sheet and let them cool in the refrigerator.

After the potatoes are done cooking spread them evenly onto a baking sheet and let them cool in the refrigerator.

The finished dill mixture

The finished dill mixture.

Now it's time to combine the dill mixture and the cooled potatoes.

Now it’s time to combine the dill mixture and the cooled potatoes.

Finished product, ready to serve.

Finished product, ready to serve.

Chocolate Chip Cake


If you’re like me you’re always looking for simple dessert recipes to make last minute but taste like they took hours. While I was looking for something to whip up for a last minute party I came across this recipe for a Chocolate Chip Cake from The Life of the Party cookbook. I scanned the ingredients and thought it sounded perfect for what I needed and looked simple enough.

After running to the store I got out my mixer, a few bowls and a bundt cake pan and went to work. I was surprised how easy the prep work was. All in all it took about 15 minutes. Once in the bundt pan I placed it in the oven and checked back in on it at the 45-minute mark. It needed a little more time so after 50 minutes, the toothpick came out clean and then I just had to wait for it to cool. I let the cake cool for about 30 minutes before transferring it to the wire rack. I flipped the pan upside down on the rack so as it cooled it would loosen from the pan. After it cooled, I found a pretty spring plate to serve it on and sprinkled it with some confectioner’s sugar and, voila!

This cake will surprise you with its moist texture and rich chocolate flavor that comes from two different types of chocolate (yes, two kinds of chocolate!). The ingredients are simple enough you may want to stock up on the dry goods to keep on hand.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Cake

4 eggs

1-cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 (2-layer) yellow cake mix

1 (4 ounce) package vanilla instant pudding mix

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, grated

1 cup chocolate chips

Confectioner’s sugar

Beat the eggs, water and oil in a mixing bowl. Add the cake mix and pudding gradually, beating for 2 minutes. Stir in the grated chocolate and chocolate chips. Pour into a greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Invert onto a serving plate. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Step one- combine eggs, oil, water

Step one- beat eggs, oil, water

Added in the pudding and cake mix to the first step

Added in the pudding and cake mix to the first step

Chocolate bar before being grated

Chocolate before being grated (yum!)

Add the grated chocolate and then the chocolate chips

Add the grated chocolate and then the chocolate chips

Time to bake!

Time to bake!

Finished product!

Finished product!

Served with some whipped cream and strawberries.

Served with some whipped cream and strawberries.

Blueberry Banana Breakfast Bread


Spring is my favorite time of the year, especially in Tampa. We are fortunate to have such great weather that the flowers bloom early and fruits and vegetables that are locally grown pop up early in the produce markets. I decided I wanted a recipe that incorporated some fresh ingredients so I decided to try the Blueberry Banana Breakfast Bread from Everyday Feasts. I’ve had this coffee cake before and loved it, but never made it so I decided to try it out and test it on some friends.

The recipe is pretty straightforward and takes about thirty minutes for prep time and one hour to bake. This is a great recipe to serve a large group and is easy to double (just have one extra baking dish). I used whole wheat flour in place of white flour and it came out great and did not alter the texture or taste. Overall, it was a hit with everyone!

The recipe:

PECAN TOPPING:

1/4 cup flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons chilled butter, chopped

BREAD:

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup mashed bananas (3-4 bananas)

1/2 cup milk

2 cups fresh blueberries

For the topping, combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon and pecans in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, 2 knives or with your fingers until crumbly and set aside.

For the bread, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8×8 inch baking dish or a round 2 quart baking dish. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in small mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until blended. Combine the banana and milk in a bowl and mix well. Add to the creamed mixture alternately with the dry ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Fold in the blueberries.

Pour in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the topping. Bake for 1 hour or until wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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The ingredients for the topping. I used a pastry cutter to make the crumb mixture

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Dry ingredients, egg mixture, and banana mixture

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The batter

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Ready to bake

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After baking one hour

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Served with a little fresh whipped cream!

Chocolate Lovers’ Cupcakes!


Who doesn’t love a cupcake, right? While I personally enjoy them year round, Valentine’s Day is always a great reason to bake some for friends, a special someone, or even yourself! I decided to try a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Junior League of Tampa’s Capture the Coast. The title, “Chocolate Lovers’ Cupcakes” was convincing enough for me and looked pretty simple.

After picking up some items from the grocery store I got out my stand up mixer and started on the batter. While the stand up mixer is definitely not required, I like finding any reason to use mine. The instructions are pretty easy to follow but I will mention that when you are buying your ingredients make sure that you have the ingredients called for on the cake mixture as well. This is not included in the recipe itself but will call for it when preparing the batter.

After prepping the batter I went to put the batter in the cupcake liners. I noticed that the instructions did not call for the liners to be sprayed with a non stick spray. I’m always a little hesitant if a recipe doesn’t specify so I sprayed half with spray and left the other half as is. Once the cupcakes came out, I noticed the ones I did spray were a little greasy on the bottom. While it didn’t modify the taste of the cupcake (of course, I happily tested one from each batch), I would recommend not spraying the liners before baking.

Next up was the frosting, my favorite part! I let the cupcakes cool and whipped up the frosting with no trouble. The recipe is nice because you can make the frosting ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator. Also, if you want a vanilla frosting there are instructions on how to make that as well.

Overall, the recipe was pretty simple and the cupcakes came out with a rich, creamy chocolate texture topped off with a great chocolate frosting.

Enjoy!

Cupcakes:

1 (2 layer) package chocolate fudge cake mix (plus ingredients listed on box)

1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) mini chocolate chips

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (4- ounce) package chocolate cook and serve pudding mix

1 envelope whipped topping mix (found this near the cake mixes)

Chocolate Frosting:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

6 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 1/4 cups unsweetened baking cocoa

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss 1/4 cup of the dry cake mix with the chocolate chips in a small bowl to coat and set aside. Prepare the remaining cake mix using the package directions. Add the vanilla and pudding mix and beat for 1 minute. Add the whipped topping mix. Beat at medium speed until the batter is light and fluffy. Fold in the chocolate chips. Fill the lined muffin cups a little over three-fourths full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centers comes out clean. For a cake, spoon the batter into 9-inch cake pans and bake for 25 to 28 minutes or until knife instead into the centers comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

For the frosting, beat the butter, 4 cups of the confectioners’ sugar, the baking cocoa, 1/4 cup of the milk and vanilla at low speed in a mixing bowl for 1 minute. Beat at medium speed for 4 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, beating for 2 minutes after each addition. Add the remaining 1/4 cup milk or additional sugar if needed for the desired consistency. Spread over the cupcakes. You may add additional baking cocoa to taste. The frosting may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. For vanilla frosting, substitute an additional 1 teaspoon vanilla extract for the baking cocoa. Use clear vanilla extract for a bright white frosting.

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Easy, homemade cannolis!


Ever since I tried cannoli for the first time as a child on a family trip to New York, I’ve been addicted to the delicious little Sicilian treats. If cannolis appear on a dessert menu anywhere, you better believe I will order them. For some inexplicable reason, however, the thought to make my own cannoli never crossed my mind. That is, until, I stumbled across a seemingly simple recipe in JLT’s Capture the Coast cookbook. I gave the recipe a whirl one Sunday to serve at family dinner, and received as much praise in one evening as I had my entire life combined.

Here is how this delightful pastry came together.

Ingredients:

32 oz soft whole milk ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

1 cup miniature chocolate chips, divided

12 cannoli shells, or 24 mini cannoli shells

Combine ricotta cheese, vanilla, confectioners’ sugar and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and stir until incorporated. Add in the chopped pecans and ¼ cup of chocolate chips. Chill for at least 2 hours in refrigerator.

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Place the filling in a pastry bag (or, if you’re like me and have never owned a pastry bag, in a plastic bag with the corner snipped off). Pipe the filling into the cannoli shells. Place the remaining chocolate chips in a bowl and dip the ends of each cannoli into the chocolate chips to coat, if desired.

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Buon Appetito!