Heather's Florida Kitchen

Seasonally inspired easy recipes for the home cook.
Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup (Photo courtesy Pillsbury/General Mills)

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup (Photo courtesy Pillsbury/General Mills)

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup is great rainy day choice. It’s from Pillsbury.com and I fully admit I am a Pillsbury geek. I judged the first $1 million Bake-Off in 1996 in Dallas and returned to the judges table in 2014 in Nashville. A child of the Becky Home-ecy generation, I watched my mother get recipes from product boxes and labels that became family favorites. Pillsbury.com is consistently full of inspiration for meal planning. Chefs inspire me as well but sometimes something basic, simply crafted from combining fresh ingredients with convenience items is just what you need.

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1 (28-ounce) can organic crushed tomatoes with basil, undrained
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup freshly chopped basil leaves
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. In 3-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion in oil about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender.
2. Stir in crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover; simmer over medium-low heat 15 minutes.
3. Remove from heat; stir in half-and-half and basil.
4. Carefully pour half of mixture into blender. Cover; blend on high speed about 30 seconds or until smooth. Place blended mixture in bowl. Repeat with second half of mixture. Return blended soup mixture to saucepan; heat over medium-low heat until heated through. Top servings with Parmesan cheese.
Recipe note: To make ahead and freeze, mke soup as directed in steps 1 and 2; cool to room temperature. Place in 1-gallon resealable freezer plastic bag. Seal bag. Lay flat and freeze up to 3 months. When ready to use, thaw in refrigerator overnight or until completely thawed. Heat in 3-quart saucepan over medium heat; stir in half-and-half and basil. Continue with step 4.
SOURCE: PILLSBURY CO.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake (Photo: Chicago Tribune)

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake (Photo: Chicago Tribune)

Recently I celebrated a birthday. My sister and I have long held true that a birthday is a weeklong occasion to savor. For the actual day my husband and took a quick trip to New Smyrna Beach where we celebrated at Spanish River Grill restaurant and enjoyed quiet walks and talks. Birthday cake is something I save for the last day of birthday week. I have a few days to decide: homemade or store-bought? As I sifted through recipes I came across this classic I saved from a 2013 column by my friend Bill Daley at The Chicago Tribune. The recipes for the cake and frosting first published in Abby Mandel’s “Weekend Cook” column on Nov. 15, 1987. Mandel was searching for the perfect chocolate cake recipe and gathered these from two readers. I am leaning toward chocolate and this one maybe hard to resist.

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake
Yield: One 9-inch 3-layer cake

2 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups buttermilk
Satin Fudge Frosting (recipe follows)

1. Fifteen minutes before baking, place rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans and line with parchment or waxed paper. Butter the paper.
2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together and set aside.
3. Cream the sugar and butter with an electric mixer on high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla.
4. Alternately add the buttermilk and dry ingredients, in thirds, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.
5. Transfer to prepared pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then loosen from the pans with a small knife. Invert onto a wire rack and cool completely. When cool, spread with satin fudge frosting.
SOURCE: Florence Martin, Marengo, Ill.

Satin Fudge Frosting
Yield: About 2 cups

5 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1. Cut the chocolate into small pieces and set aside.
2. Combine the sugar and cream in a heavy 3-quart pan, stirring to dissolve. Bring to a boil, then cook for 6 minutes from the time it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and butter, stirring until melted. Add the vanilla.
3. Refrigerate until well chilled, but not solid. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until it is a soft, spreadable consistency.
SOURCE: Norma Johnson, Oak Park, Ill.

Honey-Mustard Glazed Wings with Scallion-Sesame Confetti

Honey-Mustard Glazed Wings with Scallion-Sesame Confetti

Honey-Mustard Glazed Wings with Scallion-Sesame Confetti (Photo courtesy Pyrex)

Honey-Mustard Glazed Wings with Scallion-Sesame Confetti (Photo courtesy Pyrex)

Honey-Mustard Glazed Wings with Scallion-Sesame Confetti is one of my go-to wing recipes. I shared this dish many times when I was Food Editor for The Orlando Sentinel. Tailgate season has commenced so it’s time to bring it back. Instead of prepared drummettes and flats, this recipe uses the whole wing. A good cleaver or heavy-duty kitchen shears make quick work of prepping the chicken. The baked wings are a fabulously flavorful and sticky and don’t need a dipping sauce. Just be sure to serve with lots of napkins.

Honey-Mustard Glazed Wings with Scallion-Sesame Confetti
Yield: About 50 pieces

About 25 whole chicken wings
1/2 cup orange blossom honey
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
6 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Florida datil pepper sauce or to taste
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1. Cut off end discard wing tips. Cut remaining wings into 2 pieces at joints.
2. Heat oven to 375F. Spray a 13-by-9-inch or larger baking dish with nonstick spray. Arrange wings in two layers in dish.
3. Bake 30 minutes, stirring after 20 minutes. Remove as much oil as possible.
4. In a saucepan, heat honey, orange juice, mustard, soy and red pepper sauce to boiling for 5 minutes. Pour over wings. Return pan to oven.
5. Bake, stirring, until wings are lightly browned, about 40-50 minutes.
6. Sprinkle scallions and sesame seeds over wings. Stir to coat.

Mexican Pasta Bake

Mexican Pasta Bake

Mexican Pasta Bake (Photo courtesy Betty Crocker)

Mexican Pasta Bake (Photo courtesy Betty Crocker)

The more the merrier in Heather’s Florida Kitchen! That’s why I have teamed with the fabulous folks over at Orlando’s WOMX Mix 105.1 to offer the Recipe of the Week. Today’s recipe is Mexican Pasta Bake. It’s an easy weeknight meal for busy households. The ingredients are readily available and you can substitute fresh elements for convenience foods such as frozen corn. Every Thursday you can find more recipes exclusively for Mix 105.1 here and at the radio station’s website.

Mexican Pasta Bake
Yield: 6 servings

1/2 pound lean ground beef
2 1/2 cups uncooked rigatoni pasta (8 ounces)
1 cup frozen or fresh corn
1 (24-ounce) jar thick and chunky salsa
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/3 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
2 small Florida tomatoes, thinly sliced
Diced Florida avocado for garnish

1. Heat oven to 350F. Grease 4-quart casserole.
2. Cook beef in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown; drain.
3. Cook and drain pasta in 4-quart Dutch oven as directed on package. Return pasta to Dutch oven. Stir in beef, corn, salsa and beans. Spoon half of the pasta mixture into casserole. Sprinkle with 2/3 cup of the cheese. Spoon remaining pasta mixture into casserole. Place tomato slices on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
4. Cover and bake 35 to 40 minutes or until hot and cheese is melted.
SOURCE: Adapted from a Betty Crocker recipe

Mushroom, Basil & Goat Cheese Lasagna Roll-Ups

Mushroom, Basil & Goat Cheese Lasagna Roll-Ups

Mushroom, Basil & Goat Cheese Lasagna Roll-Ups (Photo: Worth the Whisk)

Mushroom, Basil & Goat Cheese Lasagna Roll-Ups (Photo: Worth the Whisk)

Mushroom, Basil & Goat Cheese Lasagna Roll-Ups take advantage of a Florida crop that is always in season: Mushrooms. The vegetarian recipe, which was developed by Patti Londre of Worth the Whisk, offers big flavor from meaty sautéed cremini mushrooms, basil and goat cheese. Cremini mushrooms are sometimes sold as baby bellas or baby portobello mushrooms.

Mushroom, Basil & Goat Cheese Lasagna Roll-Ups
Yield: 9 servings

9 lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces sliced baby portobello mushrooms
1/2 medium sweet yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pint ricotta cheese
4 ounces goat cheese
1 large egg, slightly beaten
4 large leaves fresh basil. julienned
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano or to taste
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt to taste
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cook noodles according to package directions, drain and rinse to cool.
2. In skillet, heat oil. Sauté onions, garlic and mushrooms 5 minutes.
3. Blend ricotta, goat cheese, egg, basil, oregano, pepper and salt.
4. One noodle at a time, spread a layer of cheese and then a light layer of mushroom/onion mixture. Roll up and place in baking pan. Once all rolls are filled, top with remaining ricotta mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella.
5. Bake 1 hour or until cheese is melted and golden brown.
Recipe notes: The original recipe did not specify how to prepare the pan. I lightly wiped the pan with olive oil and lined the bottom with parchment paper for easy clean up. You could also line the pan with nonstick foil. I made two minor changes to use ingredients on hand: Sea salt and fresh oregano instead of kosher salt and dried oregano.
SOURCE: Courtesy of the Mushroom Council and Worth the Whisk

Roasted Tomato & Bacon Cobbler

Roasted Tomato & Bacon Cobbler

Roasted Tomato & Bacon Cobbler (Photo courtesy Martha White Kitchens)

Roasted Tomato & Bacon Cobbler (Photo courtesy Martha White Kitchens)

Today’s Roasted Tomato & Bacon Cobbler won the 18th Annual National Cornbread Cook-Off in 2014. The contest, sponsored by Martha White and Lodge Cast Iron, awarded $5,000 cash and a $3,250 stainless-steel cooking range to a North Carolina home cook. Now that’s a lot of dough for a smart turn on a Southern staple. Roasted Tomato and Bacon Cobbler takes the familiar flavors of a classic tomato pie and transforms them into a savory twist on a fruit dessert.
Of course, I used Florida tomatoes when I first tested the recipe two years ago and it has become a brunch favorite. I prefer the dish fresh out of the oven, so I do not put it in the potluck category. The original recipe called for a small amount of sugar on the roasted tomatoes. I have found Florida tomatoes develop their own natural sweetness when roasted low and slow. And I add thyme to or herbes de Provence to enhance the flavor. I have substituted grape tomatoes for Roma with good results. And at one brunch to oomph up the creaminess I add ricotta cheese. I love recipes that offer great road maps for your own creativity. This recipe is a keeper.

Roasted Tomato & Bacon Cobbler
Yield: 8 servings

2 1/4 pounds Roma tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or herbes de Provence blend
Filling:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Havarti cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup sliced fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon each: Red pepper flakes, and coarse ground salt and black pepper
Crust:
1 (6.5-ounce) package yellow cornbread and muffin mix
4 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
2/3 cup milk

1. For the tomatoes, heat oven to 450F. Line a large baking pan with foil. Brush with 1 tablespoon oil. Place tomatoes on pan, cut side up, in a single layer. Brush with 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with salt, thyme and pepper. Roast until tomatoes are caramelized, 25-30 minutes. Reduce heat to 425F.
2. For the filling, heat oil in 10 1/2-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-low. Add onions and cook until golden, about 15 minutes, stirring often. Set aside to cool. Combine remaining filling ingredients in medium bowl. Stir in caramelized onions. Arrange half the tomatoes in skillet. Spread with cheese mixture. Layer remaining tomatoes over cheese mixture. Bake 10 minutes.
3. For the crust, stir ingredients in medium bowl. Pour batter evenly over tomatoes. Bake 12 to 17 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes before serving.
SOURCE: MARTHA WHITE KITCHENS

Chocolate Truffle Pie

Chocolate Truffle Pie (Photo courtesy Pillsbury Co.)

Chocolate Truffle Pie (Photo courtesy Pillsbury Co.)

With kids back in school, bake sale season is not far behind. Chocolate Truffle Pie is an easy dessert that uses pecans, one of Florida’s many nut crops. The original recipe called for chopped baking chocolate squares, but I liked the results much better with chocolate chips so there is no chopping needed (time-saver win!). This pie, which has a fudge-like consistency,  is so rich I have been able to get 16 servings out the recipe when served with a small scoop vanilla frozen yogurt.

Chocolate Truffle Pie
Yield: 12 servings

1 box refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on package
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
12 ounces semisweet baking chocolate
2 1/2 cups whipping cream
12 pecan halves

1. Heat oven to 450F. Make pie crust as directed on box for one-crust baked shell using 9-inch glass pie plate. Before baking, sprinkle chopped pecans over bottom of crust; lightly press into crust. Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, place chocolate. In 2-quart saucepan, heat 2 cups of the whipping cream over medium just until it begins to boil. Pour over chocolate. With electric mixer on low speed, beat 1 minute or until chocolate mixture is smooth. Pour into cooled baked shell. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
3. Just before serving, in small bowl, beat remaining 1/2 cup whipping cream with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Spoon or pipe whipped cream around outer edge of pie. Top each serving with pecan half.
SOURCE: PILLSBURY

Baked Gator Fritters

Baked Gator Fritters

Red bell peppers add flavor to the fritters (Photo: BonniePlants.com)

Red bell peppers add flavor to the fritters (Photo: BonniePlants.com)

When the statewide alligator hunting season kicked off Aug. 15 my first thought was Baked Gator Fritters paired with spicy cocktail or remoulade sauces. Today’s recipe concept originated in the cookbook “The Florida Cookbook: A Lighter Look at Southern Cooking.” I edited the Tribune Publishing work many years ago. Over the years I have adapted the recipe to seasons and seasoning whims. Alligator is usually purchased frozen but fresh is absolutely the best. Sometimes I add minced carrots instead of bell pepper to the mix. Another tip: Add the flour and breadcrumbs slowly. Depending on the freshness of the meat and juiciness of the celery and bell peppers, you may not need the full amounts.

Baked Gator Fritters
Yield: about 50 fritters.

1 pound gator meat
1/2 cup each: finely chopped celery and green onion
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 cups panko bread crumbs
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Hot sauce to taste
Coarse salt to taste
1/4 cup each: flour and olive oil
Cocktail or remoulade sauce for serving

1. In the work bowl of a food processor, process gator until it’s the consistency of sticky dough.
2. Mix gator with balance of ingredients. Chill mixture 30 minutes.
3. Heat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or lightly spray with olive oil-flavored cooking spray.
4. Form mixture into small balls. Place on baking sheets and bake 15-20 minutes. Serve with sauce.

Morning Mix recipe: Emeril’s Banana Cream Pie

Morning Mix recipe: Emeril’s Banana Cream Pie

Emeril's Banana Cream Pie

Emeril’s Banana Cream Pie

The more the merrier in Heather’s Florida Kitchen! That’s why I have teamed with the fabulous folks over at Orlando’s WOMX Mix 105.1 to offer the Recipe of the Week. Today’s recipe is Emeril’s Banana Cream Pie. I chose this favorite to remind everyone that VisitOrlando’s Magical Dining Month is coming up. From Aug. 29-Oct. 2, restaurants all over Central Florida will be offering amazing three-course dining deals for just $33. And $1 from each meal will be donated to The Russell Home for atypical children. That is calories for a great cause, my friends. Check out VisitOrlando.com for menus from all the participating restaurants. Every Thursday you can find more recipes exclusively for Mix 105.1 here and at the radio station’s website.

Emeril’s Banana Cream Pie
Yield: 8-10 servings

4 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and seeds scraped
3 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 pounds firm, ripe Florida bananas, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Graham cracker crust
Caramel and chocolate sauces (see notes), shaved chocolate and confectioners’ sugar for garnish

1. Stir 2 cups cream, milk, 1/2 cup sugar, bean and seeds on medium. At gentle boil, whisk to dissolve sugar. Set aside.
2. Whisk yolks, eggs, cornstarch, 1 cup sugar until pale yellow. Whisk 1 cup of hot cream mix into yolks. Gradually whisk egg mix into hot cream. Simmer, stirring with wooden spoon 5 minutes. (If mix separates beat until thick and smooth.) Strain; cover with plastic, pressing against surface to prevent skin from forming. Chill 4 hours.
3. Spread 1/2 cup custard on crust. Arrange not quite 1/3 of bananas in tight pattern on custard, pressing to pack. Repeat using 3/4 cup custard and enough bananas to cover. For third layer, spread 3/4 cup custard on bananas. Top with remaining bananas, starting 1-inch from edge. Top bananas with 1 cup of custard. Cover; chill 4-24 hours.
4. Whip remaining cream to soft peaks. Add remaining sugar and vanilla and whip to stiff peaks. Cut pie into 10 equal slices. Transfer to plates. Fill pastry bag with whipped cream and pipe onto each slice. Drizzle slices with caramel and chocolate sauces. Add garnishes.
Caramel sauce: Combine 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons water and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice in pan on medium-high. Stir until sugar dissolves. Let boil without stirring until mixture turns deep amber, 2-3 minutes. Watch closely so it doesn’t burn. Whisk in 1/2 cup heavy cream and remove from heat. Add 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup whole milk, 2 tablespoons at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Makes generous 3/4 cup.
Chocolate sauce: Scald 1/2 cup half-and-half and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in heavy pan on medium heat. Remove from heat. Place 1/2 pound semisweet chocolate chips and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in heat-proof bowl. Add hot half-and-half. Let sit 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Serve warm. Sauce can be refrigerated for several days, but it must be at room temperature to serve. Makes 1 1/2 cups.
Recipe note: Emeril’s Orlando is at 6000 Universal Blvd. in Orlando at Universal CityWalk. For dining information call 407-224-2424.

Lemon Seared Scallops over Angel Hair Pasta

Lemon Seared Scallops over Angel Hair Pasta

Lemon Seared Sea Scallops over Angel Hair Pasta (Photo courtesy Pastafits.org)

Lemon Seared Scallops over Angel Hair Pasta (Photo courtesy Pastafits.org)

Lemon Seared Scallops over Angel Hair is an homage to Florida’s bay scallop season, which opened in June and runs through Sept. 24. There are several types of scallops harvested but home cooks are probably most familiar with sea, bay and calico scallops. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulates harvesting of scallops, like it does all of Florida’s fisheries. A saltwater fishing license is required if you enter the water by boat. The daily limit is 2 gallons whole bay scallops in shell, or 1 pint of bay scallop meat per person; maximum of 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in shell, or 1/2 gallon bay scallops per vessel. Crystal River is a prime location for scalloping in Central Florida.

Lemon Seared Scallops over Angel Hair Pasta
Yield: 6 servings

8 ounces angel hair pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds sea or bay scallops
6 cups mixed crimini mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook the pasta,according to package directions. Drain and reserve.
2. Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil. Add the scallops in one even layer. If there are too many, sauté in batches. Cook the scallops until browned on the first side, then flip and repeat, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate.
3. Lower heat to medium-low and add the mushrooms. Cook until softened and starting to brown, about 3 minutes.
4. Add the garlic and thyme and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds.
5. Deglaze the pan with the lemon juice, whisk to pick up the brown bits. Add the cream and pasta and toss to coat. Divide between 6 bowls. Arrange the scallops on top of the pasta. Garnish with parsley.
SOURCE: Adapted from pastafits.org