Heather's Florida Kitchen

Seasonally inspired easy recipes for the home cook.
Mojo Beef Kabobs

Mojo Beef Kabobs

Mojo Beef Kabobs (Photo courtesy the  Beef Checkoff program)

Mojo Beef Kabobs (Photo courtesy the Beef Checkoff program)

Mojo Beef Kabobs is a great choice for Valentine’s Day. Lean boneless top sirloin steak is a versatile cut that yields juicy results when cooked to optimum temperature. The recipe is from BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com, a website with lots of grocery shopping tips and kitchen-tested recipes. Served with warm couscous or quinoa tossed with black beans.

Mojo Beef Kabobs
Yield: 4 servings

1 pound boneless beef top sirloin steak, cut 1-inch thick
1 teaspoon coarse grind black pepper
1 large lime, cut into 8 wedges
1 small red onion, cut into 8 thin wedges
1 container grape or cherry tomatoes (about 10 ounces)
Mojo sauce:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons freshly chopped oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon salt

1. Prepare the grill for medium heat cooking.
2. For the sauce, whisk the Mojo ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
3. Cut the beef steak into 1-1/4 inch pieces; season with pepper. Alternately thread beef with lime and onion wedges evenly onto four 12-inch metal skewers.
4. Thread tomatoes evenly onto four 12-inch metal skewers.
5. Place kabobs on grill grid over medium heat. Grill tomato kabobs, covered, about 2 to 4 minutes or until slightly softened, turning occasionally. Grill the beef kabobs, covered, 8 to 10 minutes over medium heat charcoal or 9 to 11 minutes on a gas grill, for medium rare (145F) to medium (160F) doneness, turning once.
6. Serve the kabobs drizzled with sauce.
SOURCE: The Beef Checkoff Program

Florida Orange Juice Teriyaki Marinade

Florida Orange Juice Teriyaki Marinade

Photo courtesy Florida Department of Citrus

Photo courtesy Florida Department of Citrus

Florida Orange Juice Teriyaki Marinade is a farmer recipe from FloridaCitrus.org. Marty McKenna, a third generation Florida citrus grower, has been involved in the Florida Citrus industry all his life. Carrying on the family business with his brother, wife Karen, and children, McKenna produces quality oranges that are used to make Florida orange juice millions of families enjoy every day. McKenna is past Chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission and President/Owner of McKenna & Associates Citrus, a citrus caretaking and consulting operation in Polk, Highlands and Hardee.
“We love this marinade over salmon, pork and chicken,” says Karen McKenna.

Florida Orange Juice Teriyaki Marinade
Yield: 1 1/4 cups

1/2 cup freshly squeezed Florida orange juice
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed (see note)
1 to 2 tablespoons of freshly minced garlic
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger, or powdered ginger to taste (fresh is best)
1 pinch cayenne pepper or dash of Florida datil pepper sauce (optional)

1. In a large glass bowl, whisk all of the ingredients until the brown sugar is completely dissolved.
2. Pour the marinade mixture over salmon, beef, pork, or chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for a minimum of 6 to 24 hours, depending on the protein. Discard the marinade after using.

Recipe notes:

  • If making ahead, bottle the marinade in glass jars and store in the refrigerator for later use.
  • Create your own packaging on the bottle and give the marinade as a gift from the kitchen.
  • Dark brown sugar can be used in place of light brown sugar if using for beef or pork. Dark brown sugar will add a deeper, more caramel-like flavor to the marinade.
  • Double the recipe and bring 1 1/4 cups to a boil, then simmer until slightly thickened and use as a sauce for the cooked fish or meat.

SOURCE: Florida Department of Citrus

Homemade Steak Seasoning

Homemade Steak Seasoning

Homemade Steak Seasoning (Photo courtesy Florida Crystals)

Homemade Steak Seasoning (Photo courtesy Florida Crystals)

Homemade Steak Seasoning is a great host gift for friends who love to grill or roast meats. The spice blend from Florida Crystals has a sweet, smoky flavor with nice notes of pepper and garlic.

Homemade Steak Seasoning
Yield: 8 ounces or 1 jar of spice mix

1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, crushed
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/4 cup Florida Crystals Organic Brown Raw Cane Sugar

1. In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients with a whisk.
2. Pour mixture into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid to store until ready to use.
SOURCE: Adapted from Florida Crystals

Apricot Curry Cheese Dip

Apricot Curry Cheese Dip

Apricot Curry Cheese Dip

Apricot Curry Cheese Dip

Apricot Curry Cheese Dip is a spin on a Layered Chutney Cheese Spread, an appetizer you will find in community cookbooks from coast to coast. The layered version has long been a go-to potluck starter. But mashing up the elements intrigued me. Instead of chutney, I used apricot preserves. The result was a rich dip with just the right notes of salty and sweet for a festive party.

Apricot Curry Cheese Dip
Yield: 16-20 servings

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, plus additional for garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder, or more to taste
Hot pepper sauce to taste
1 cup apricot preserves, or more to taste
6 bacon strips, cooked until crisp, drained and crumbled
6 green onions, chopped (including green tops), plus additional for garnish
Sturdy wheat crackers for serving

1. With an electric mixer on medium, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, curry powder and pepper sauce.
2. With the mixer on low or using a sturdy spatula, blend in the apricot preserves, bacon, and green onions.
3. Spoon mixture into serving bowls and garnish with chopped green onions. Serve with crackers.

Apricot Walnut Bars

Apricot Walnut Bars

Apricot Walnut Bars

Apricot Walnut Bars

Apricot Walnut Bars have a wonderful, light crackle on the top and the insides are soft and sweet. These are my favorite non-chocolate dessert ever and a must for the holidays. I think I have saved the best for last in this holiday series of 12 great bars that go great with tall glass of cold milk. I first made these in Mrs. Pert’s Home Economics class in grade school in Indianapolis.  You can dust them with powdered sugar if desired, but it’s really not needed.

Apricot Walnut Bars
Yield: About 48 servings

1 1/3 cups (6-ounce package) dried apricots
1/2 cup salted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cup baking mix, such a Bisquick or Jiffy
2 cups packed brown sugar
4 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup baking mix, such a Bisquick or Jiffy
1 teaspoon spiced rum
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
Powdered sugar (optional)

1. Place the apricots in a 2-quart saucepan. Add enough water to cover. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer 10 minutes, uncovered. Drain. Cool completely. Chop and reserve. (Using kitchen shears makes this step a breeze.)
2. Heat oven to 350F.  Line a 15 1/2-by-10 1/2-by 1-inch baking pan lengthwise with nonstick aluminum foil, letting just a bit hang over the edges.
3. Mix the butter and granulated sugar and 2 1/2 cups of the baking mix until crumbly. A pastry blender or two knives are tried and true tools for this, but I have found careful pulses in the work bowl of a food processor work just as well. Pour into the foil-lined baking pan, patting down evenly over the bottom. Bake 10 minutes.
4. Beat brown sugar and eggs. Stir in apricots, 2/3 cup baking mix, rum, and nuts. Spread over the baked layer. Bake 30 minutes. Remove pan to a wire rack and cool completely.
5. Using the foil “handles,” lift the bars from the baking pan and place on a cutting board. Remove foil and cut into bars.

Cocoa Wheat Germ and Walnut Bars

Cocoa Wheat Germ and Walnut Bars

Cocoa Wheat Germ and Walnut Bars

Cocoa Wheat Germ and Walnut Bars

Cocoa Wheat Germ and Walnut Bars are thin treats bursting with flavor. You can substitute pecans for walnuts if desired. Be sure to use a good-quality cocoa powder for best flavor. I used Ghirardelli for this recipe. For the frosting, add the milk a tablespoon at a time. I like the consistency that the entire amount gave the mixture, but you might prefer a thicker frosting.

Cocoa Wheat Germ and Walnut Bars
Yield: About 4 dozen bars

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup regular flavored wheat germ
1/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, divided
Cocoa cream frosting:
1/4 cup salted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, divided
1/4 unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons whole milk

1. Heat oven to 350F. Line a 15-by-10-by-1-inch baking pan lengthwise with nonstick aluminum foil, letting a little bit hang over the edges.
2. Combine the flour, wheat germ, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a whisk to combine.
3. In a mixing bowl, blend the sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Mix in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk. Stir in 1 cup of the nuts. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and use an offset spatula to spread evenly. Bake 15-20 minutes. Remove pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
4. For the cocoa cream frosting, with an electric mixer blend the butter and powdered sugar. Mix in the cocoa, vanilla, and milk.
5. Lift the bars from the baking pan with the foil “handles” and place on a cutting board. Peel away the foil. Spread the cocoa cream frosting over the top and scatter the remaining walnuts over the top. Cut into bars and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut Butter Fudge was my mother’s signature treat and she always made it for special occasions. And peanut butter fudge is still is my sister’s favorite family recipe. It is such an easy go-to for gifts from the kitchen, treats for Santa, or just a sweet indulgence you give yourself. Store the fudge in the refrigerator or the freezer until ready to serve.

Peanut Butter Fudge
Yield: 3 pounds

3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup evaporated milk (see Recipe Note)
1 2/3 cups creamy peanut butter
1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Festive colored sugar for garnish (optional)

1. Line a 13-by-9-inch pan lengthwise with nonstick aluminum foil, letting a bit hang over the edges.
2. Combine sugar, butter and milk in large saucepan, stirring constantly on medium heat, until mixture comes to a soft boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat.
3. Add the peanut butter. Stir until well blended. Add the marshmallow creme and pure vanilla extract. Beat until well blended. Spread in baking pan. Cool completely in the refrigerator overnight.
4. Lift the fudge from the pan using the foil “handles.” Place on a cutting board and carefully peel away the foil. Cut into small squares or bars. Top with colored sugar if desired.
Recipe Note: Evaporated milk is regular unsweetened milk with approximately 60 percent of the water content removed. Be sure to check the label of the can. Sweetened condensed milk looks very similar.

Fresh Strawberries and Cream Cheese Bars

Fresh Strawberries and Cream Cheese Bars

Fresh Strawberries and Cream Cheese Bars

Fresh Strawberries and Cream Cheese Bars

Fresh Strawberries and Cream Cheese Bars are a great way to take advantage of Florida’s strawberry season. It’s our winter gift to the world.

Fresh Strawberries and Cream Cheese Bars

1 (16.5-ounce) package refrigerated sugar cookie dough
2 cups old-fashioned or quick oats, divided
2 (8-ounce) packages low-fat cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs
2 cups chopped fresh Florida strawberries
Crumble topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks chilled salted butter, cut into pieces

1. Heat oven to 350F. Line a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with nonstick foil, letting 1 inch of the lining hang over the sides.
2. Press the cookie dough into the bottom of the baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes, or until just golden brown. Do not overbake. Place pan on a wire rack to cool completely. While still warm, press 1 cup of the oats into the bottom of the cookie crust.
3. With a mixer, combine the cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and eggs. Spread over the bottom of the cooled cookie crust. Top with chopped strawberries (see Recipe Notes).
4. For the crumble topping, mix 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup light-brown sugar, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and cinnamon. Cut 1 1/2 sticks chilled butter into pieces. With your hands (see Recipe Notes), work in the butter pieces, until loose clumps form. Scatter the mixture over the top of the berries. You do not have to completely cover the fruit (see Recipe Notes). Bake 30-35 minutes or until filling is set. Cool completely on a wire rack.
5. Refrigerate, covered, overnight. Using the foil or parchment “handles,” lift bars from pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into bars.
Recipe notes:

  • The oats on top of the baked cookie crust help form a barrier to any liquid that exudes from the berries. Also, it’s best to let the chopped berries rest in a strainer or on paper towels for at least 15 minutes before adding in Step 3.
  • I keep plastic food service gloves in the kitchen at all times for mixing foods by hand. Your hands are one of your best tools in the kitchen. And the gloves help make sure you work with food safety in mind. You can buy the gloves in supermarkets and restaurant supply stores.
  • Any extra crumble mixture can be toasted separately at 350F for 15 minutes. Store in a freezer quality plastic bag and use as a topping for ice cream.
  • Gingerbread Pecan Bars with Lemon Buttercream Glaze

    Gingerbread Pecan Bars with Lemon Buttercream Glaze

    Gingerbread Pecan Bars with Lemon  Buttercream Glaze

    Gingerbread Pecan Bars with Lemon Buttercream Glaze

    Gingerbread Pecan Bars with Lemon Buttercream Glaze will fill your kitchen with the scents of the season while they bake. You can cut them into short strips, squares, diamond or triangles. The topping is a cross between a frosting and a glaze. It melts into the warm-from-the oven bars giving them a nice sheen. Poking the baked gingerbread with the tines of a fork or picks to let some of the topping seep into the bars.

    Gingerbread Pecan Bars with Lemon Buttercream Glaze
    Yield: About 48 squares

    10 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature, plus more for the sides of the pan
    2 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus a bit more for dusting pan
    2 teaspoons ground ginger
    1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 1/4 cups packed dark brown sugar
    2 large eggs
    1/4 cup molasses
    1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
    Lemon buttercream glaze:
    1/3 cup salted butter
    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    3 cups powdered sugar
    1/4 cup milk, or more to achieve a thin, pourable consistency
    Garnish:
    2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 13-by-9-inch baking pan lengthwise with nonstick foil or parchment paper, letting foil or paper hang about an inch over the ends. Butter the exposed sides of the pan and lightly dust with flour.
    2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, ginger, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to blend.
    3. In another bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until creamy and smooth. With the mixer running, add eggs one at a time, beating until smooth. Beat in the molasses. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the the bowl. With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture and pecans, beating until just incorporated. Spread evenly in the baking pan. Bake until golden brown and a pick inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
    4. For the glaze, beat butter and lemon juice until completely incorporated. Gradually beat in powdered sugar a cup at a time. With mixer on low, add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached. The glaze should be pourable. Poke the baked gingerbread with the tines of a fork or picks. Drizzle the lemon buttercream mixture generously over the top of the warm gingerbread bars. (Reserve any extra lemon buttercream mixture for another use.)
    5. Let glazed gingerbread cool completely in pan on a rack. Refrigerate, covered, overnight.
    6. Using the foil or parchment paper “handles,” lift the gingerbread out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Peel away the foil or paper. Top with fresh lemon zest, cut into bars and serve.

    Cranberry Jalapeno Dip

    Cranberry Jalapeno Dip

    Cranberry Jalapeno Dip

    Cranberry Jalapeno Dip

    Cranberry Jalapeno Dip has a lovely jewel-toned appearance for holiday tables. The sweet-tart flavor of the dried cranberries and heat from the jalapeno balance out nicely. Fresh parsley has a natural slight peppery flavor, so the herb enhances the jalapeno. For more heat, add another jalapeno. Chopped walnuts would work well with this recipe.

    Cranberry Jalapeno Dip
    Yield: 2 1/2 cups

    2 (8-ounce) packages lower fat cream cheese, at room temperature
    1 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
    3/4 cup freshly chopped parsley, plus additional for garnish
    1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
    1 to 2 tablespoons milk or half-and-half, or more to taste
    Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    Sturdy wheat crackers, such as Triscuits, and celery sticks for serving

    1. In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the cream cheese, craisins, parsley, and jalapeno. Pulse several times until ingredients are thoroughly combined.
    2. With machine running, drizzle in milk until the desired consistency is reached. I like about 2 tablespoons for a mixture that can be dipped or spread.
    3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley. Serve with crackers and celery sticks.