Apple Cider Spice Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Diva Entertains Spice Cupcakes

I came across this recipe for Spice Cupcakes that basically took a spice cake mix and ‘doctored’ it up with cider and grated apple.  Sounded good to me.  But never having used a spice cake mix I was a bit disappointed with its spice flavor – or in reality, lack of.  So I added a little extra cinnamon and a bit of cardamom.   Nutmeg would also be a fine addition.  An extra 1/2 – 1 tsp. of spice will do it.

Diva Entertains Spice Cupcakes

It called for a butter cream frosting made with a bit of cider which did sound nice.  But something just called to me that said these cupcakes needed a cream cheese frosting.  And not just any cream cheese frosting, but one that had been subtly flavored with real maple syrup and then finished with a bit of cinnamon.  Oh yeah…that did the trick!

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Pecan Pie Cheesecake

Diva Entertains Pecan Pie Cheesecake

I ran across this pecan pie cheesecake recipe years ago in Southern Living Magazine.  It received the highest rating that the magazine gives its recipe and after tasting it I can understand why.  It is sinfully delicious.  And because part of the filling calls for using a purchased, frozen pecan pie – the recipe isn’t that hard or complicated.

That being said – I’ve had to adapt the instructions a bit.  The original recipe said to “cut pie into 20 thin slices…and to arrange 10 pecan pie wedges in a spoke design in prepared pan, placing 1 cut side of each wedge on crust with narrow end towards center of pan.”  But after making this pie many times I never could get 10 perfect pieces to work let alone cut 20 narrow pieces.  Instead my instructions are a bit more ‘lax’ and depend on smooshing pieces in place if needed.  Works every time!

Diva Entertains Pecan Pie Cheesecake Whole

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Great Turkey Burger Recipe (In My Humble Opinion:)

Diva Entertains Turkey Burgers

I love a good burger. For me, burgers always meant made with good ol’, full of fat hamburger. And although we don’t eat it very often when we do I savor every bite.  However, when I came across this turkey burger recipe I decided to give up tradition this once and try something new.

Why this one?  Because the picture had little bits of green showing in the meat, which were chopped scallions and parsley, and I just knew that they would provide great flavor to the otherwise bland turkey meat.  The panko would add to the taste, too, as well as help make a flavorful  ‘crust’ to the burger.  Add a little garlic,  lemon zest and juice, soy sauce (which is known to add a ‘meaty’ flavor to foods) and I was just sure this was going to be good.

And it was.  My husband, who I wasn’t even sure would agree to eat one, ate two!

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Salmon with Honey Mustard Horseradish Sauce

Diva Entertains Grilled Salmon with Honey-Horseradish-Mustard Sauce

Honey mustard salmon has been a popular dish for as long as I can remember.  The sweet of the honey mixed with mustard’s sharp bite – well, it just works.  This honey mustard horseradish sauce is a bit of a different take on it, one that we really liked.  The sauce calls for some chopped mint too – do include if you have access to fresh mint, it adds a wonderful flavor dimension to it.  Best of all, you can pull the sauce together in a matter of minutes.

As for the salmon, you can bake, broil,  or grill it.  I’ll simply provide directions as to how to prep the salmon for the way you choose to cook it.  The rule of thumb for fish is that it takes 10 minutes per inch to cook.  However, some people prefer their salmon more translucent on the inside and others prefer it well done.  So actually cook time could be anywhere from 6 – 10 minutes.

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Chocolate Caramel Bars with Chocolate Chip Cookie Base

Diva Entertains Chocolate Chip Caramal Bars

I love the combination of chocolate and caramel bars and made up this recipe for my nieces and nephews.  Although there are several steps to it, none are complicated.  And leftovers freeze beautifully!

I like the chocolate chip cookie base to be a bit soft and chewy (melted butter in a chocolate chip recipe makes a chewier cookie) so I cook it for about 22 minutes.  But you may want to leave yours in a few minutes longer if you like yours a bit more done/crunchy.

Diva Entertains Chocolate Chip Caramal Bars 1

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Ginger Carrots with Maple Glaze

gingered carrots

I wish I remembered to make this recipe for ginger carrots more often.  It’s a simple recipe that, aside from chopping carrots (although I’m sure you could skip that by using the packaged baby carrots) and mincing ginger (you can purchase bottled minced ginger), comes together on the stove-top in under 15 minutes.  And it’s the only way that I can get my husband to eat carrots! (He’s even been known to have seconds.)

 

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Simply (Delicious) Grilled Lamb Chops

Diva Entertains Simple Grilled Lamb Chops.

This simple grilled lamb chops recipe is simply delicious.  Good chops need nothing more than a few hours marinating in some olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper and chopped fresh rosemary.   I usually prepare the marinade in the morning, add the lamb chops to it and then refrigerate them for the day.  About an hour before I am ready to cook them I remove them from the fridge to bring them to room temperature.

If you don’t happen to have an herb garden handy:) and you need to purchase rosemary; don’t throw out the leftovers from the package.  Rosemary freezez beautifully; just take out the amount that you need from the freezer as you need it.

We cook the lamb chops 3 to 3 1/2 minutes per side but every grill and oven is a bit different.  If you haven’t cooked lamb chops before and are unsure of timing, start with 3 1/2 minutes per side (on a very hot fire)  and see if it meets your desired level of doneness.  If not – put them back on for another minute or two.

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Lemon Cheesecake – The Best I’ve Had!

Diva Entertains Lemon Cheesecake

You know you’ve found something really good when family and friends request it over and over again.  For their birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions.  And so it is with this recipe.  It is simply scrumptious!  And, believe it or not, light tasting. (Note that I said light tasting.  Three bricks of cream cheese hardly qualifies as a light dessert:)

This recipe comes from one of my favorite cooking magazines, Cook’s Illustrated.  Unfortunately you have to have a membership to view this particular recipe on the site.  But it is a fabulous magazine and every recipe in it is like a mini cooking lesson.

Let me start off by saying I took the easy way out with this recipe.  I skip the Baine Marie (water bath) for the cheesecake because it’s a lot of extra work and I can’t image the cheesecake tasting any more amazing than it does.  Granted, a Baine Marie does cut down on the risk of your cheesecake top cracking but, at least for me, I’m totally good with covering it with some fresh fruit or a dollop of carefully placed whipped cream.  It also calls for a top layer of lemon curd which I also leave off because: 1)um…I’m a tad lazy, 2) I think it would take away from the lightness of this cake, and 3) it wouldn’t freeze as well if there were leftovers.   But you can also make homemade lemon curd or…much easier, purchase it and top the cheesecake off with it.  I’ve found lemon curd in the “International Aisle” of most supermarkets in the “British” section.

I made up my own crust using Nilla Wafers by Nabisco, I love the vanilla-buttery taste of them.

Finally – the technique of cooking the cheesecake until it reaches an internal temperature of 150F and then turning the oven off and leaving it in the oven for an hour with the door propped open a bit makes the creamiest, most luscious cheesecake I’ve ever tasted.  All you need is an inexpensive instant read food thermometer from the cooking aisle of your grocery store.

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Pan Sauteed Fish with Carrot Ginger Sauce

Diva Entertains Pan Sauteed Fish with Carrot-Ginger Sauce
When I told my husband that I was making Pan Sauteed Fish with Carrot Ginger Sauce, well, let’s just say it did not go over well.  He dislikes carrots.  Really, really dislikes them.  But I remembered having a similar sauce in a Japanese restaurant once and just loved it.  And knew he would too.  So I made it…and he loved it.

The carrots lend sweetness and and gives the sauce its vibrant color.  But what it really tastes like is an Asian inspired sauce with a gingery sweetness to it.  And its easy to make – the sauce can even be made a day or two ahead of time and kept in the fridge until needed.

The sauce would be great served with most any fish: red snapper, tilapia, tuna, grouper, etc.  So choose your favorite and get cooking!

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