Heather's Florida Kitchen

Seasonally inspired easy recipes for the home cook.
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes can be made up to four days ahead and frozen for up to two weeks. Dairy is essential to the make-ahead aspect of this dish. The combination of cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, butter, and half-and-half create a mashed potato casserole.
Bring the dish to room temperature to reheat. In real time on Thanksgiving Day, when the turkey comes out of the 325F oven, slip in the potatoes with any other sides that need to be warmed. By the time the turkey rests and then is carved for the serving platter, your side dishes are ready for the table or sideboard.
Fresh rosemary leaves can be substituted for the sage sprigs. Gently steeping the herbs in the whipping cream infuses the mashed potatoes with delicate flavor.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Yield: 10-12 servings.

3 fresh sage leaves, torn
2 cups half-and-half
5-pound bag Yukon Gold potatoes
1 tablespoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese, divided
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Minced roasted garlic to taste
Coarse salt and white pepper to taste
Additional fresh sage for garnish
Paprika for dusting (optional)
Additional butter for reheating

1. Place sage leaves and half-and-half in a small saucepan. Let simmer on very low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, to infuse the milk with the fresh herb.
2. Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a large pot. Cover with cold water. Add salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, about 35-40 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and drain.
3. Place potatoes back in pot; return to stovetop over very low heat. Remove sage from half-and-half and discard. Pour warm whipping cream over potatoes. Add butter, cream cheese, 1 3/4 cups Cheddar, nutmeg and garlic. Using a hand masher or an electric mixer, mash or whip potatoes to the desired consistency. Season with coarse salt and white pepper.
4. Pour potatoes into a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Cover and refrigerate up to 4 days. Freeze for 2 weeks.
5. To reheat, remove from refrigerator, uncover. Dot top of potatoes with butter. Re-cover potatoes with nonstick foil and warm in a 325F-350F oven for 20 minutes. (At Thanksgiving, I put the potatoes in to reheat when the turkey comes out.) Uncover, sprinkle with remaining Cheddar, and continue to heat 5 minutes. Stir with spoon to fluff and lightly dust with paprika before serving.
Recipe notes: I leave the skins on the potatoes. If desired, you can peel the potatoes after they cool enough to touch after boiling. Substitute rosemary for sage if desired.

Sweet Potato and Bacon Gratin

Sweet Potato and Bacon Gratin

Sweet Potato and Bacon Gratin (Photo courtesy BettyCrocker.com)

Sweet Potato and Bacon Gratin (Photo courtesy BettyCrocker.com)

Sweet Potato and Bacon Gratin from BettyCrocker.com is an easy side for Thanksgiving dinner with lots of Florida flavor. Resist the urge to use half-and-half or milk in place of the cream, as it tends to break and result in a sauce with a curdled appearance.

Sweet Potato and Bacon Gratin
Yield: 8 servings

10 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium sweet yellow onion, chopped
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup Progresso chicken broth
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup Progresso plain panko crispy bread crumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Heat oven to 375F. Spray a 13-by-9-inch (3-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In 12-inch skillet, cook bacon over medium heat 18 to 22 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Reserve 1/4 cup bacon for garnish. Reserve 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet.
3. Add onion to skillet with drippings; cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes or until softened.
4. In 5-quart Dutch oven, add whipping cream, broth, cooked onions, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling over medium heat. Add sweet potatoes; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. In baking dish, layer half of the sweet potato mixture, half of the bacon and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Repeat with remaining sweet potato mixture, bacon and Parmesan cheese. Spoon any remaining cream mixture over top. Cover with foil; bake 10 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix bread crumbs and melted butter. Stir to coat.
7. Remove foil; sprinkle bread crumb mixture over top. Bake uncovered 20 to 25 minutes or until potatoes are tender, top is browned and edges are bubbly. Remove from oven; let stand 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with reserved bacon and, if desired, a light sprinkling of chopped fresh thyme.
SOURCE: BettyCrocker.com

Butternut Squash Pumpkin Soup With Pepita & Bacon Topping

Butternut Squash Pumpkin Soup With Pepita & Bacon Topping

Butternut Squash Pumpkin Soup With Pepita & Bacon Topping

Butternut Squash Pumpkin Soup With Pepita & Bacon Topping

This fall soup recipe is layered with flavor. The dish starts with a sweet onion, carrot and apple base that is cooked in smoky bacon drippings and finishes with the creaminess of nutritious whole milk. The soup makes a great Thanksgiving starter served in shot glasses as guests arrive or as a hearty first course or side dish. Make this soup up to two days ahead of time and reheat when ready to serve.

Butternut Squash Pumpkin Soup With Pepita & Bacon Topping
Yield: 6-8 servings

1 1/2 pounds butternut squash
2 slices thick bacon
1 cup chopped sweet yellow onions
2 large carrots, grated
1 gala apple, grated
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, or enough to reach desired consistency
Coarse salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon freshly chopped chives
1 cup whole milk
Toasted pepitas (see note)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut squash in half or in large pieces, removing seeds. Place squash, cut sides down, in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour water into dish around squash halves. Bake until tender and easily pierced with a fork, about 1 1/2 hours. Carefully remove the peel. Dice squash and set aside.
2. Cook the bacon in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pot. When cooked through, drain, crumble, and set aside. Leave the bacon drippings in the pot.
3. To the pot, add the onions, carrots, and apple. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat 15 minutes. The onions should be translucent and golden brown. Add the pumpkin puree, cooked butternut squash, broth, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer over medium-low for 10 minutes.
4. Using an immersion blender, blend the ingredients to the consistency of soup. (Alternatively, you can blend the mixture in batches in a food processor or blender.) Stir in fresh chives and milk. Slowly heat through.
5. Ladle into bowls and top with toasted pepitas and crumbled bacon.

Recipe notes

  • For additional flavor, toss uncooked butternut squash with olive oil and garlic in a large bowl. Season with salt and black pepper. Arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast 25 to 30 minutes. Squash should be tender and lightly browned.
  • Pepitas are raw pumpkin seed kernels. To toast, heat the oven to 325F. Toss the seeds with olive oil and spread in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Toast in the oven, stirring occasionally, until golden, 13 to 15 minutes.
  • If desired, add a swirl of crème fraiche or Greek yogurt to each serving.
Caramel Apple-Spice Cupcakes

Caramel Apple-Spice Cupcakes

Caramel Apple-Spice Cupcakes (Photo courtesy BettyCrocker.com)

Caramel Apple-Spice Cupcakes (Photo courtesy BettyCrocker.com)

Caramel Apple-Spice Cupcakes from BettyCrocker.com are easy treats for holiday bake sales, parties and after-school gatherings. Store loosely covered in refrigerator.

Caramel Apple-Spice Cupcakes
Yield: 24 cupcakes

1 box Betty Crocker SuperMoist spice cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
1 cup chopped, peeled apple (1 medium)
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup caramel topping
24 (3-sticks) cinnamon sticks
Ground cinnamon for garnish

1. Heat oven to 350F. Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups.
2. Make cake mix as directed on box, using water, oil and eggs. Stir in chopped apple. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
3. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling racks. Cool completely.
4. In large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Spoon frosting into decorating bag fitted with star tip; pipe on tops of cupcakes.
5. Drizzle with caramel topping. Top each cupcake with cinnamon stick. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon.
SOURCE: BettyCrocker.com

Warm Tuscan Chicken Sandwiches

Warm Tuscan Chicken Sandwiches

Warm Tuscan Chicken Sandwiches (Photo courtesy National Chicken Council)

Warm Tuscan Chicken Sandwiches (Photo courtesy National Chicken Council)

Warm Tuscan Chicken Sandwiches are great for tailgate parties and other casual weekend gatherings. Use deli roast chicken or carve slices from a rotisserie chicken. For easy toting, wrap in parchment paper. The recipe was developed for the National Chicken Council and ChickenRoost.com, a wonderful source for kitchen-tested recipes.

Warm Tuscan Chicken Sandwiches
Yield: 4 servings

1 pound roasted chicken, sliced
2 teaspoons freshly minced rosemary
2 teaspoons freshly chopped basil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf crusty baguette, split lengthwise and soft insides removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 pound sliced provolone cheese
8 sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and cut into strips

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Combine the rosemary, basil, garlic, salt and pepper and set aside. Brush inside of the baguette halves with olive oil. Sprinkle evenly with the herb mixture.
3. Place sliced chicken, provolone and sun-dried tomato strips evenly on one baguette half. Put other half of baguette on top, press down slightly and tie the baguette, at 2-inch intervals, with kitchen string, if desired.
4. Put baguette on a baking sheet and into the hot oven. Bake until warmed through and the cheese is melted, about 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Remove the baking sheet from oven and let the sandwiches rest for about 5 minutes. Remove strings and cut into quarters before serving.
SOURCE: National Chicken Council

Three Cheese Veggie and Beef Calzone

Three Cheese Veggie and Beef Calzone

Three Cheese Veggie and Beef Calzone (Photo courtesy DairyGood.org)

Three Cheese Veggie and Beef Calzone (Photo courtesy DairyGood.org)

Three Cheese Veggie and Beef Calzone is a great find from DairyGood.org. Oozing with Fresh From Florida flavor, the calzones are comfort food at its best. You can sub deli turkey or chicken for the beef or go all veggie.

Three Cheese Veggie and Beef Calzone
Yield: 6 servings

1 teaspoon olive or vegetable oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 pound frozen pizza dough, thawed
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained
6 slices (6 ounces) deli roast beef
3 slices provolone cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) reduced-fat shredded mozzarella cheese
1 (4-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions and mushrooms; cook 5 minutes or until softened and lightly browned at edges. Stir in the spinach and red pepper flakes. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.
2. In a blender, add the 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes and puree until smooth; set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 350F.
4. On a lightly floured work surface, cut dough into 6 equal pieces. With a rolling pin, roll each piece into a 6-inch diameter. Spread 1 teaspoon of the sun-dried tomato paste over 1 dough circle. Place 1 slice of beef in center. Top with half of a provolone slice, some of the mozzarella, some of the vegetable mixture, a piece of the roasted red pepper and Parmesan cheese. Fold circle of dough in half and press with fork to seal edges.
5. Place calzones on a large foil-lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Repeat with remaining dough and ingredients. Bake about 30 minutes or until evenly browned and heated through. Serve hot or warm.
Source: Dairygood.org

Mushroom and Kale Pesto Pasta with Toasted Hazelnuts

Mushroom and Kale Pesto Pasta with Toasted Hazelnuts

Mushroom and Kale Pesto Pasta with Toasted Hazelnuts (Photo courtesy PastaFits.org)

Mushroom and Kale Pesto Pasta with Toasted Hazelnuts (Photo courtesy PastaFits.org)

Mushroom and Kale Pesto Pasta with Toasted Hazelnuts is from PastaFits.org. A medley of mushrooms, kale pesto and whole-wheat pasta, this earthy and flavorful pasta dish is a nutritional powerhouse.

Mushroom and Kale Pesto Pasta with Toasted Hazelnuts
Yield: 4 servings

2 cups packed chopped kale, stems removed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 ounces whole-wheat linguini
8 ounces thinly sliced mixed mushrooms
Coarse salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

1. In a food processor, combine kale, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons water, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, garlic and pepper; purée until smooth. Set aside.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve 1/3 cup cooking liquid.
3. Heat remaining oil in large skillet set over medium-high heat; add mushrooms and season with salt. Cook, stirring often, for 5 to 8 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Add pasta, reserved cooking liquid and kale pesto to skillet; toss until well coated.
4. Top with hazelnuts and remaining cheese.
SOURCE: A Pasta Fits original recipe.

Mushroom Pizza Rolls

Mushroom Pizza Rolls

Mushroom Pizza Rolls (Photo courtesy Mushroom Council and MushroomInfo.com)

Mushroom Pizza Rolls (Photo courtesy Mushroom Council and MushroomInfo.com)

Mushroom Pizza Rolls is a from-scratch treat developed for the Mushroom Council. The rolls can add a savory option to brunch, serve as a slumber party snack or be paired with a salad for a meal. Be sure to add some extra warmed pizza sauce on the side for dipping.

Mushroom Pizza Rolls
Yield: 12 servings

3/4 cup water, warmed to 110F-115F
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
2 teaspoons honey
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons finely diced white button mushrooms
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
5 to 6 tablespoons water
Olive oil to coat bowl
1/3 cup pizza sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup thinly sliced white button mushrooms
Olive oil to brush rolls, optional
Pizza sauce for serving

1. Stir yeast and honey into warmed water. Let sit undisturbed until yeast blooms (begins to foam and expand at the top), about 5 minutes.
2. Place flour in bowl of an electric mixer fitted with dough hook attachment and stir in mushrooms and parsley. With mixer on low, pour in bloomed yeast and liquid. Continue to mix on medium, adding salt and garlic powder. Gradually add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough forms and creates a ball in the center of the mixer. It should be soft and pliable enough to handle, but not too sticky. Continue to mix for 2 minutes.
3. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 5 more minutes, until smooth and elastic. Roll into a ball. Coat sides of a large bowl with olive oil. Place dough in bowl, cover with a clean dish towel and let sit in a draft-free place until doubled in size, about one hour.
4. Once dough has risen, punch it down and roll it out on a floured surface to approximately a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Spread pizza sauce over dough, sprinkle with cheese, then top with sliced mushrooms. Working from one long side, roll dough up into a log and tuck in each end. Using a serrated knife, cut log into 12 rolls.
5. Spray 9-by-13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Place rolls cut side up in pan. Let rise for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400F.
6. Bake rolls 24 to 25 minutes, until browned and baked through the center. Brush warm rolls with olive oil, if desired. Serve warm with pizza sauce for dipping.
SOURCE: Mushroom Council and MushroomInfo.com

Morning Mix recipe: Make-Ahead Cheesy Turkey Chili Bake

Morning Mix recipe: Make-Ahead Cheesy Turkey Chili Bake

Make-Ahead Cheesy Turkey Chili Bake (Photo courtesy Pillsbury.com and the General Mills Co.)

Make-Ahead Cheesy Turkey Chili Bake (Photo courtesy Pillsbury.com and the General Mills Co.)

Make-Ahead Cheesy Turkey Chili Bake is my Morning Mix recipe of the week. Developed in the General Mills test kitchens, the recipe is very versatile. Make it with ground turkey, beef or a meatloaf mix. Also, shredded rotisserie or leftover baked chicken saves stovetop prep time. You can find more recipes curated exclusively for WOMX Mix 105.1’s website.

Make-Ahead Cheesy Turkey Chili Bake
Yield: 8 servings

1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
1 (1-ounce) package Old El Paso taco seasoning mix
2 (19-ounce) cans Progresso cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
1 (4.5-ounce) can Old El Paso green chilies, undrained
1 (11-ounce) can white shoepeg corn
1 (16-ounce) jar Old El Paso Thick ‘n Chunky salsa
2 cups shredded Mexican four-cheese blend
4 cups cooked brown rice (optional)
Toppings (optional):
Freshly chopped cilantro
Sliced green onions
Sour cream or Greek yogurt
Salsa
Guacamole

1. Heat oven to 350F. Spray a 13-by-9-inch (3-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.
2. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat turkey and salt to taste over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Add remaining ingredients except cheese; stir to combine. Spread in baking dish. Top with cheese. Spray piece of foil large enough to cover baking dish with cooking spray. Cover baking dish with foil, sprayed side down.
3. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until instant-read thermometer inserted in center of casserole reads 165F. If desired, serve over rice with favorite chili toppings: cilantro, green onions, sour cream, yogurt, salsa, guacamole.

Recipe notes:

  • To freeze, spray 2 (8-inch) disposable foil cake pans with cooking spray. After covering pans with sprayed foil, place pans in gallon-size sealable freezer plastic bags, or wrap in double layer of plastic wrap. Label and freeze. To bake: Thaw overnight in refrigerator. Heat oven to 350F. Remove from plastic, and place foil-covered pans on cookie sheet. Bake 40 to 50 minutes. If baking from frozen, bake 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.
  • Spicy tomatillo salsa makes a nice substitute for the Thick ‘n Chunky salsa, if you can take the heat.
  • Shave off prep time by using 2 cups shredded deli rotisserie chicken in place of the ground turkey.

SOURCE: Pillsbury.com and the General Mills Co.

Creamy Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta and Spinach

Creamy Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta and Spinach

Creamy Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta and Spinach (Photo courtesy Weight Watchers International)

Creamy Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta and Spinach (Photo courtesy Weight Watchers International)

Creamy Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta and Spinach is just one of the recipes I am enjoying on my Weight Watchers journey. I signed up January 6 online and have embraced accountability for what I eat without giving up much. I simply make thoughtful choices. This is not a quickie transformation just a slow, progressive route to living better. The only modification is made to this recipe is subbing out “1 tsp table salt” and “1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground (or to taste)” with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. For those who also count WW points. A cup of this dish is four points.

Creamy Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta and Spinach
Yield: 8 (1-cup) servings

3 1/2 pound uncooked spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small uncooked onion, finely chopped
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
6 ounces fresh baby spinach, about 6 cups
15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup, shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup freshly chopped basil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Put squash halves on microwave safe plate, cut- side down; microwave on HIGH until tender and squash can easily be scooped out with a fork, 10-12 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; cook onion, stirring occasionally, until golden and tender, 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes start to soften, 3 minutes.
Add spinach; cook, stirring, just until wilted, 1 minute. Remove from heat.
4. Scoop “spaghetti” strands into skillet; toss to coat. Stir in ricotta, 1/4 cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, basil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a 2- to 3-quart baking dish; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
5. Bake until bubbly around edges and top is lightly golden, 15-20 minutes.
SOURCE: Weight Watchers