Capture the Coast · Dessert · Uncategorized

Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bites

November starts off the holiday season in our home. We already have Christmas music blaring and I can’t wait to start shopping for gifts! To kick off the holiday season, I made Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bites for our local Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. These delicious little nuggets are full of Christmas spirit and are small enough to not feel too guilty eating. The mix of semisweet mini chocolate chips with peppermint is the perfect blend to get you in the mood for the holidays!
The first step of baking these scrumptious treats is to make the graham cracker crust. I couldn’t find chocolate graham crackers so I added 2 tsp of cocoa powder to the original graham crackers, butter, and sugar mixture. After blending the ingredients, I pressed the crust into the mini muffin tins and baked the crust for 5 minutes just so it comes together.
Once the crust is nice and hard (don’t burn these!), then it’s time to add the cheesecake filling. I combined the crushed peppermint candies, softened cream cheese, sugar, flour, egg and sour cream in my mixer. I mixed it until it was well blended. Then I stirred in the mini chocolate chips and peppermint extract. Pay attention to how much extract you put in because you don’t want your treats tasting like toothpaste! Yuck!
After pouring the peppermint chocolate chip cheesecake batter into the already cooked graham cracker crust I baked them until they were crackly on top. In my oven, it took a little longer than 15 minutes, but I just kept checking to make sure they were still doing ok. When they were no longer jiggly, I pulled them out of the oven to cool on a wire rack. Once they were all cooled, I popped those little suckers out of the muffin tin and topped them with cool whip, chocolate sprinkles and crushed peppermint candies. They are super cute and perfect for a dessert buffet or holiday party!
8 chocolate graham cracker rectangles, crushed (1/3 package)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
6 peppermint candies
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2 cup whipping topping
6 peppermint candies, crushed
2 tablespoons chocolate sprinkles
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix the graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and the butter in bowl. Press a heaping teaspoon of the crumb mixture in the bottom of each miniature muffin cup coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 5 minutes. Process 6 candies, the cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, the flour, egg and sour cream in a food processor until smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips and peppermint extract. Pour in the prepared crusts. Bake for 15 minutes or until small cracks form on the tops. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove from the pan and cool completely. Top each cheesecake with 1 teaspoon of the whipped topping. Sprinkle with the crushed candies and chocolate sprinkles.
Yield: 2 dozen
Capture the Coast

Fish and Bubbles Party Mix

It’s that time of year again, when the birds start chirping and the smell of summer lingers in the air. This is personally my favorite time of year because the weather is perfect and there are plenty of birthdays and events to celebrate. My Birthday is in May and since it is around the corner I want to share this amazingly fun and easy recipe with you.

Now I don’t know about you, but I often have great intentions of channeling my inner ‘Martha Stewart’ and making a fabulous dish, only to find myself in the checkout lane 5 minutes before the party. Well, if you can relate, then this is the perfect recipe for you. It is super fun and easy. Plus kids love to help make it and everyone enjoys diving in to devour it. So the next time you need to whip up a quick snack, try this party favorite. You can find this recipe in the Tampa Bay Junior League’s very own, Capture the Coast cookbook, on page 47. Enjoy!

Capture the Coast, pg 47

5 cups crispy corn and rice cereal, such as Chex

3 cups Cheerios

4 cups fish-shaped cheese crackers

2 cups fish-shaped pretzel nuggets

2 cups “M & M’s” Chocolate Candies

1 cup peanuts 1 ½ cups pecan halves or pieces

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Combine the cereals, crackers, pretzel nuggets, peanuts and pecan halves in a large bowl and mix it well.  Bring the butter and brown sugar to a boil in a saucepan.  Boil until frothy, stirring constantly.  Pour over the cereal mixture and toss to coat.  Spread evenly in a large roasting pan.  Bake for 10 minutes and stir.  Continue baking for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.  Add the chocolate candies and toss well.  Store in an airtight container.

Capture the Coast

Hamwich Time!


Capture The Coast pg. 40

3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons mustard
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/3 cup chopped onion
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
1 (16 oz) package frozen dinner rolls
1/3 pound shaved ham
2/3 cup shredded swiss cheese
Hamwiches are easy to prepare and are always a crowd pleaser. For this recipe, instead of using traditional dinner rolls I sweetened things up by using King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls. I thought it paired well with the ham, swiss, and tangy mustard and onion spread. These little sandwiches are great for football parties or to take along with you to a picnic or potluck.
IMG_3209 IMG_3207 IMG_3208 IMG_3205 IMG_3204 IMG_3203 IMG_3206
Capture the Coast · Uncategorized

Healthy New Year: Spicy-Rubbed Shrimp Kabobs

We decided to dust off the grill for some Spice-Rubbed Shrimp Kabobs from the Capture the Coast cookbook to continue with our healthy options in January! As Floridians we are lucky enough to use the grill year round and this dish is a grilling standard. This dish not only adds some kick to your entree but pairs great with a salad for a low-fat meal.

Spice Rubbed Shrimp Kabobs

Spice-Rubbed Shrimp Kabobs from Capture the Coast, pg 79

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons paprika

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 pounds jumbo shrimp peeled and deveined with tails left on

olive oil

1 or 4 lemons, cut into slices or quarters

Preheat the grill. Mix the rosemary, paprika, brown sugar, basil, oregano, salt, garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Place the shrimp on large baking sheet and brush each side with olive oil. Sprinkle each side with the spice mixture to coat. Thread the shrimp onto skewers, alternating piercing through the head and tail end with each shrimp and placing a lemon slice between each pair. Brush the lemons with olive oil. Repeat until all the shrimp and lemons are used. Place the skewers on a grill rack. Grill over medium hear for 2-3 minutes on each side or until the shrimp are firm and pink. Squeeze the grilled lemons over the shrimp before each serving, if desired. (Serves 6)

Capture the Coast

Football Party Mix: Fish and Bubbles

You may have heard that the BCS Championship game is being played this upcoming Monday! There has been a lot of buzz coming from the fans of the Florida State Seminoles and the Auburn Tigers. Florida State’s Heisman Trophy recipient, Jameis Winston, has impressed crowds since the very first game of the season against the University of Pittsburgh where he completed 25 of 27 passes which accounted for five touchdowns. Before the season began expectations were fairly low for this Freshman quarterback, but fans have big expectations for him now going into this game! Auburn’s late game pushes to come out on top were apparent all season, but nothing was more memorable than the kick return for a touchdown following Alabama’s missed 57-yard field goal during the last second of the game that solidified Auburn’s spot in the SEC Championship game leading them to this game. Auburn followers are expecting another game winning performance on Monday as well!

I wanted to provide you with a great recipe for hosting a football watch party since it can be prepared ahead of time allowing you to watch the excitement of the game. You may have tried this sweet and salty party mix at our Holiday Gift Market back in November so you know it’s guaranteed to win your guests over! Of course, if you’re not into college football, the Super Bowl is coming up on February 2nd!


Fish and Bubbles Party Mix

Capture the Coast, pg 47

5 cups crispy corn and rice cereal, such as Chex

3 cups Cheerios

4 cups fish-shaped cheese crackers

2 cups fish-shaped pretzel nuggets

1 cup peanuts 1 ½ cups pecan halves or pieces

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 cups “M & M’s” Chocolate Candies

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.  Combine the cereals, crackers, pretzel nuggets, peanuts and pecan halves in a large bowl and mix well.  Bring the butter and brown sugar to a boil in a saucepan.  Boil until frothy, stirring constantly.  Pour over the cereal mixture and toss to coat.  Spread evenly in a large roasting pan.  Bake for 10 minutes and stir.  Continue baking for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.  Add the chocolate candies and toss well.  Store in airtight container.

Yield: 36 servings


Capture the Coast · Dessert

Bern’s Carrot Cake Brownies

If you have had the pleasure of dining at Bern’s Steak House you know it is the quintessential culinary experience, unlike any other in the Tampa Bay area.   The food, dining rooms, staff, and kitchen and wine cellar exploration are all a journey worth indulging.  The final destination, which just so happens to be my favorite part, is the famous Harry Waugh Dessert Room.  The setting of redwood wine casks and live piano music, create an ambiance to remember and the dessert options are endless.   Through our JLT Cookbook, Capture the Coast, you can re-create one of their featured items, Bern’s Carrot Cake Brownies with Toasted Pecan Frosting in your very own home!   I encourage you to make the recipe, it doesn’t disappoint and we were honored to feature the recipe on page 110 of the cookbook, Capture the Coast.

Bern's Carrot Cake Brownie

Bern’s Carrot Cake Brownies with Toasted Pecan Frosting

Capture the Coast, page 110



1-½ cups all-purpose flour

1-teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1¼ cups sugar

Dash of Salt

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 1¾ cups)

Toasted Pecan Frosting

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

12 ounces cream cheese, softened

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup pecans, toasted



1.       Sift the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together.

2.       Beat the butter and sugar at low speed in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until smooth.

3.       Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

4.       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.

5.       Add the flour mixture and mix well.

6.       Scrape down the side of the bowl.

7.       Stir in the pecans and carrots.

8.       Spoon into a buttered 9×13-nch baking pan.

9.       Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes or until the edges pull from the side of the pan.

10.   Remove from the oven to cool.

Toasted Pecan Frosting

1.   Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until soft and creamy.

2.   Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar.

3.   Fold in the pecans with a spatula.

4.   Spread over the cool brownies.

Capture the Coast · Drinks · Party Beverage · Party Drink

Refreshing Pomegranate Cocktail to Share!

What sounds better than a 6 bedroom/5 bathroom house on the beach with your husband and 8 close friends for a long weekend?! Not many things! I couldn’t think of a better way to send a fellow Junior League friend out of her 20’s and roaring into her 30’s over her 30th birthday beach weekend!

Pomegranate cocktail

Every fall my life seems to get extremely busy. I seem to have plans weeks in advance with weddings, football weekends, birthdays and other social gatherings as I’m sure many of you do too! I feel extremely grateful to have friends who love to get together often. We all offer to bring whatever is needed, but always end up with way too much food! I’ve decided to start offering to bring drink options from time to time, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic to share a new taste with the group! I am a big fan of pomegranate so when I came across Pomegranate Sunset recipe in our Capture the Coast cookbook it just felt like it would fit right in at the beach!

I will admit I was unable to find mint simple syrup from the few stores I tried, but they were primarily grocery liquor stores and had only a few flavors. Since we were already in “vacation-mode” we decided it would be fine to improvise this time. We muddled mint into the simple syrup for about 20 min prior to starting the drink creation and let it sit while we added the other ingredients. I then picked out the actually mint and added the syrup to my creation! This simple and refreshing drink was perfect for cocktails with a group and I plan on making it again and again!

Pomegranate cocktail

Pomegranate Sunset, page 30

1 cup pomegranate juice

1 cup Mint Simple Syrup

½ cup fresh lime juice

1 ½ cups vodka

1 (1-liter) bottle club soda, chilled

8 sprigs of fresh mint


Mix the pomegranate juice, Mint Simple Syrup, lime juice and vodka in a pitcher. Chill before serving. Stir just before serving. Fill each glass halfway with the juice mixture. Add club soda to fill each glass. Garnish with the mint.

For a non-alcoholic drink option, try Princess Punch also on page 30 of the cookbook!

Go to to purchase a cookbook of your own today!

Capture the Coast · Junior League of Tampa · Lobster

Mouthwatering Grilled Lobster Tails

Earlier this month I joined my husband and his family on their annual trip to the Florida Keys for the opening of lobster season for the first time! I found out quickly that they are serious about their lobstering! They scout out the holes they’ve marked in their GPS from past years during the few days leading up to open season. Opening Day, August 6th, is an early day for the family and we stay out until we’ve reached our maximum of 6 lobsters per license.

Spotting and catching lobster requires a snorkel, mask, tickle stick, net, and measuring device. First, you have to “drag” behind the boat, which means you hold a tow line as the boat moves at a slow speed while wearing your mask and snorkel and surveying the ocean floor at about 10 feet or less for lobster holes. After spotting a lobster hole, you use your tickle stick to entice the lobster to come out of the hole. You must have your net ready as they use their tail to propel themselves backwards (and they can be fast!). Once you catch one, you must immediately measure it to make sure it’s 3 inches from between the eyes to the end of the carapace (just before the tail begins). Of course it takes some time to find the right ones as they must meet the minimum requirements to keep. Measuring the lobster was usually my job as the others were more experienced and were responsible to catch the lobster!


When I said my husband’s family was serious and experienced with their lobstering, I meant it. They bring a vacuum sealer and a freezer to freeze the lobsters almost immediately after cleaning! This worked out well for us as we were able to bring 14 tails home!


Once we returned home I was anxious to flip through my Junior League of Tampa cookbooks to find a lobster recipe to get cooking right away! I landed upon the Florida Lobster with Lemon Basil Butter recipe in Capture the Coast and knew it was going to be first on the list! It is extremely simple, but the cooking directions helped us ensure it was grilled just right. The butter sauce was surprisingly flavorful even with the very few ingredients required. We will definitely be having this one again!

Florida lobster tail

Florida Lobster with Lemon Basil Butter from Capture the Coast

½ cup (1 stick) butter

1 ½ teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

4 (6 to 8 ounce) fresh Florida lobster tails, thawed

½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

Preheat the grill. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over very low heat. Add the lemon zest. Pour into small bowl (I split between 2 bowls to use one before cooked and the other after). Split each lobster tail into halves lengthwise using a sharp knife or kitchen shears. Note that you will need to cut off the hard bottom shell if these are not store bought. Brush the exposed lobster meat lightly with the lemon butter. Place lobster meat side down on a grill rack. Grill over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly marked. Turn and grill for 5 to 7 minutes longer or until the lobster meat is white and firm, brushing with more of the lemon butter, if desired. Remove from the grill. Stir the basil into the remaining lemon butter. Brush each lobster tail with the lemon basil butter. Serve with the remaining lemon basil butter for dipping.

Only 12 more lobsters to continue testing recipes on!

You can find all of our lobster recipes in our Junior League of Tampa cookbooks at

Capture the Coast

Fresh Orzo Pasta Side Dish!

I love the flexibility of orzo pasta, but my favorite version still remains Mediterranean Orzo Salad from Capture the Coast. I make it different almost every time depending on the crowd and how well I know them. Earlier this month I made it for my sister’s baby shower, but opted to leave out a few items since I knew one guest was allergic to nuts and not everyone (including myself) cares for olives or raisins. The salad still tasted amazing even though I usually like to include the pine nuts! It’s a nice, fresh side that I’ve received compliments on at every event I served it at! Feel free to try it out and mix and match ingredients yourself!


Mediterranean Orzo Salad

¼ cup good-quality olive oil

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper

½ cup sugar

2 cups orzo

½ cup golden raisins

6 tablespoons finely chopped pitted black olives (optional)

6 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or red onion

½ cup thinly sliced fresh basil

4 ounces feta cheese, drained and crumbled

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and the sugar in a small bowl. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain.

Place the pine nuts in a dry small skillet. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until evenly toasted, shaking the skillet constantly.

Combine the pasta and dressing in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Add the pine nuts, raisins, olives, shallots and basil and mix well. Add the cheese and toss lightly. Season with salt and pepper.

Find this recipe and many others in our cookbooks at!

Capture the Coast · Dessert

Blueberry Fields Forever

By Krista Dietrich

Growing up spending summers in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania has left me with many fond memories.  One of them is going blueberry picking.  Every July, we would make a trip out to the local blueberry farm in hopes of a good harvest.  Some years we would find plump and juicy berries the size of a quarter.  Other years, we would go from row to row, plucking miniscule berries, barely filling up our buckets.  Regardless of what we brought home, there was always enough for Aunt Linda’s famous blueberry pie and a stack of blueberry pancakes for breakfast. 

This past year, I returned to Coutt’s Family Blueberry Farm feeling nostalgic for my memories from many years ago.  Not much has changed at the farm over the years.  You can still pick ‘em, weigh ‘em, pay for ‘em and take ‘em home.  The gift shop still sells homemade jams, knick-knacks and the same delicious blueberry ice cream that I just can’t help but have a scoop.  Even though we didn’t come home with dozens of Ziploc bags full of berries, we had a great time recalling fond memories in the fields together.  I’m looking forward to sharing the same family tradition with my family someday!

The Junior League of Tampa’s cookbooks offer a great variety of summer dishes and desserts made from locally grown produce.  The Blueberry Crumble Cheesecake Bars in Capture the Coast will melt in your mouth; they’re simply delicious.  Try them for the perfect summer dessert!  To purchase this culinary classic cookbook visit:

Blueberry Crumble Cheesecake Bars (Capture the Coast pg. 111)

A hint of lemon gives these delectable cheesecake bars a fresh flavor.  Perfect for a crowd.

 2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) butter

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

3 tablespoons water

½ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

16 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup packed light brown sugar

½ cup quick-cooking oats

½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix 2 cups flour and ½ cup brown sugar in a medium bowl.  Cut in 1 cup butter with a pastry blender until crumbly.  Press evenly in a 9×13-inch baking pan lined with foil.  Bake for 15 minutes or until light brown.

Combine 1 cup blueberries, the water, ¼ cup granulated sugar and the lemon juice in a small saucepan and mix well.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Add 1 cup blueberries.  Cook for 8 minutes, stirring frequently.  Keep warm.

Beat the cream cheese and ½ cup granulated sugar at medium speed in a mixing bowl until smooth.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.  Pour over the warm crust.  Spoon the blueberry mixture evenly over the cream cheese mixture.  Mix 1 cup flour, 1 cup brown sugar, the oats and ½ cup butter in a bowl until crumbly.  Sprinkle over the blueberry layer.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the filling is set.  Cut into bars.  Serve warm or cold.