Cranberry Turtle Bars

And the Oscar goes to…

Cranberry Turtle Bars!

If the Oscars had a “Cult Favorite” category, these Cranberry Turtle Bars would definitely take the award!  Since Gourmet Magazine originally published this recipe back in 2001, these beautiful little bars have gained a cult-like following.  They were voted “THE” favorite cookie from 2001! (see The Gourmet Cookie Book-The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009)  Fresh cranberries mixed into a freshly made caramel along with chopped pecans and layered on top of a delicious buttery shortbread crust.  If that isn’t enough, the whole thing is drizzled with chocolate to make it a decadent,  unexpectedly delicious combination of flavors.  They are beautiful and pretty freaking AMAZING!

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Drizzle with chocolate, cool, then cut into bars

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Cranberry Turtle Bar

Cranberry Turtle Bars

Makes 3 dozen bars (more for me, because I cut into smaller bars)

Slightly adapted from “The Gourmet Cookie Book-The Single Best Recipe from Each Year 1941-2009

Ingredients For Base:

  • 2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ Cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks (¾ Cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

For Topping:

  • 2 sticks (1 Cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 ⅔ Cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ Cup light corn syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ Cup fresh or frozen cranberries (I used fresh and chopped in food processor)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 Cups pecans (12 oz), coarsely chopped

For Decoration:

  • 2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), very finely chopped

Special Equipment:

  • A candy thermometer

 Make Base:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on the 2 short sides.  Butter all 4 sides, but not the bottom.

Blend flour, brown sugar and salt in a food processor, then add butter and pulse until mixture begins to form small (roughly pea-size) lumps.  Sprinkle into baking pan, then press down firmly all over with a metal spatula to form an even layer.  Bake in middle of oven until golden and firm to the touch, 15 to 17 minutes, then cool in pan on a rack.

Make Topping:

Melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in sugar, corn syrup and salt.  Boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until caramel registers 245°F on thermometer, about 8 minutes.  Carefully stir in cranberries, then boil until caramel returns to 245°F.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, then stir in pecans until well coated.  Working quickly, spread caramel topping over base, using a fork to distribute nuts and berries evenly.  Cool completely.

Cut and Decorate Bars:

Lift bars in foil from pan and transfer to a cutting board.  Cut into 6 crosswise strips, then 6 lengthwise strips (to form 36 bars).  Melt half of chocolate in top of double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring until smooth.  Remove bowl from heat and add remaining chocolate, stirring until smooth.  Transfer chocolate to a small heavy-duty sealable plastic bag. Seal bag and snip off a tiny piece of 1 corner to form a small hole, then pipe chocolate decoratively over bars. Let stand at room temperature until chocolate sets, about 1 hour.

Liz’s Tidbits:

  • The original recipe notes that if you use frozen cranberries, do not thaw.
  • Once you add the cranberries to the caramel, the temperature will drop substantially.  Make sure you bring the temp back up to 245° before taking off the heat.
  • Use a small offset metal spatula to spread the cranberry mixture.
  • Rather than cutting them first, decorate the bars and let the chocolate set before cutting.
  • The bars keep in an airtight container (use wax paper between the layers) for up to 1 week.

Chicken Enchilada Soup-great for the slow cooker!

I’ve been seeing lots of slow cooker recipes come across my computer screen lately, and it got me to thinking that maybe my slow cooker could use some updating replacing!  I feel certain mine was given to me as a wedding gift, so that puts it in the ancient category!   With all the new technology, I figured there HAD to better ones out there, so with the help of Google and America’s Test Kitchen, I did a bit of research to find “the best” slow cooker on the market today.  If you’re interested in seeing which one now sits on my kitchen counter, click here.  After a quick trip to Bed Bath & Beyond, I’m now the proud owner of a brand spankin’ new slow cooker.  :)

For some reason, I’ve always associated slow cookers with “bland” food, and since no one in my family is a fan of bland, maybe that’s why I didn’t use mine much.  But when BFFE (Best Friend from El Paso), Lisa, raved about this Chicken Enchilada Soup, I figured it was time to initiate my new piece of equipment!   While you can make this soup on the stovetop in about an hour and a half, you can also put it in the slow cooker and be WOWED when you get home from work and walk in the door! The house smells wonderful, and dinner is ready!  Bland, it is NOT! This soup is chock full of flavor and won the approval of both my guys!

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Chicken Enchilada Soup

Courtesy of Lisa Elbjorn

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small green or red bell pepper, diced ( I used half green and half red)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can (11 oz) Ro-tel diced tomatoes and green chiles (can use the HOT-habanero can for more heat!)
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 ¼ pounds boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup corn
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½  teaspoon Mexican oregano (crushed between fingertips)
  • sour cream, shredded cheese,  and diced avocado for garnish

Preparation:

In medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onions, peppers and garlic, and season with salt & pepper.  Cook until softened, stirring often, about 10 minutes.

To your slow cooker, add the Ro-tel, chicken broth, chicken, corn, black beans, chile powder, cumin, oregano, 1 teaspoon coarse salt (or ½ teaspoon fine salt) and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Mix in the cooked onions, peppers and garlic. Cook on high 3-4 hours or low for 5-6.  Remove chicken breasts to a cutting board and shred into bite-sized pieces, adding back to pot when done.

Serve garnished with shredded cheese (I used Monterrey Jack, but cheddar would be good, too), diced avocado and a dollop of sour cream.

ENJOY!

Pan Sautéed Redfish with Corn, Tomato & Avocado Relish

Redfish just might be my favorite fish.  My boys are all about salmon, and I like that as well, but there’s just something about a nice piece of redfish that I love.  Also known as Red Drum, it’s very similar to Black Drum and Grouper.  It’s a moist fish, mild in flavor and flaky.  If I’m grilling it, I’ll get it “on the half shell”, meaning the skin and scales are left on (great for protecting the fish from the grill).  For sautéing in the skillet like I did with this dish,  I’ll ask for skinned filets. Chuck, at Groomers, is a master when it comes to cutting and filleting fish!

I recently made up a batch of Emeril Lagasse’s “Essence” spice mix, so I decided to give it a try on my fish.  Not knowing just how spicy it would be, I thought a cool avocado, corn and tomato relish might work to tame the spices a bit. I seasoned the redfish liberally with the “essence”, sautéed it in a skillet, then presented it stacked with the relish. It worked! The fish had a nice spice to it, and the relish worked beautifully to cool things down. It was absolutely delicious and definitely a dish I will add to my repertoire!

Blackened Redfish with Corn, Tomato & Avocado Relish

 Redfish with Corn, Tomato & Avocado Relish

Pan Sautéed Redfish with Corn, Tomato & Avocado Relish

Serves 4

Fish:

  • 4 redfish filets (6-8 ounces each)
  • Emeril’s Essence (recipe follows) or your favorite seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Relish:

  • 1 ear fresh corn, cooked and cut from the cob
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, firm and diced
  • ¼ cup red onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • salt & pepper to taste

Emeril’s Essence

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Store in airtight container.

Preparation:

Combine all ingredients for relish in large bowl. Season with salt & pepper, and set aside.

Pat fish dry with paper towel, and brush olive oil on both sides.  Season with Emeril’s Essence or seasoning of your choice.   Heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat until hot.  Place fish in skillet and cook 3-4 minutes or until nicely browned.  Turn fish over and cook another 3 minutes or until flakey (will depend on thickness of filet).  Fish will continue to cook once off the heat, so be careful not to overcook.

To plate, you can either top the filets with the relish, or present it like I did but cutting the fish into pieces and layering with the relish.  Bon Appétit!

Liz’s Tidbits:

Feel free to use any fish you’d like for this recipe.  The relish is delicious, and will pair nicely with any fish. Just remember the rule of thumb for cooking fish…10 minutes per inch of thickness.  Obviously a 1-inch thick piece of salmon will take longer to cook than a – ½-inch thick piece of talapia.

Try and find a ripe but firm avocado.  You want the dice to stand up to the rest of the ingredients and not become “mushy” when combined.

Fresh corn really makes a difference in the relish, but if you don’t have it, frozen corn will work just fine.

Fresh Peach & Blackberry Cake

Peaches are one of my favorite summertime fruits, and with the fresh peach crop now gone until next summer, I’m really happy I took the time to freeze some just for making this wonderful dessert.

When I first made this cake, I followed the directions as written and used a 9 inch square baking pan.  It was delicious, but reminded me more of a cobbler than a cake. The next time I baked it, I used a springform pan to see if there would be a difference. To my surprise, the cake rose much higher and was more like a coffee cake.  Both were delicious, but I thought the springform pan made a prettier cake. I added some blackberries to the top and it was a huge hit.

It’s a delicious breakfast item with a cup of coffee, or equally as tasty as a dessert with either ice cream or my Kahlúa Whipped Cream:

Kahlúa Flavored Whipped Cream

1 cup chilled whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 T Kahlua
 Chill bowl and utensils. Whip cream and sugar until soft peaks form.  Add Kahlúa and combine.
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First layer of batter with half the peaches

Fresh Peach & Blackberry Cake

Fresh Peach & Blackberry Cake

Fresh Peach and Blackberry Cake

adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4-5 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
  • 1 cup fresh blackberries
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup chopped pecans

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray springform pan with baking spray.

In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and 1 cup of the sugar for 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, add eggs, one at a time, then sour cream and vanilla, and mix until batter is smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined. In a small bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon.

Spread half of batter evenly in the pan. Top with half of the peaches, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the sugar mixture. Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining peaches and berries (if using), and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture and pecans.

Bake cake for 60 – 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Liz’s Tidbits:

Ina’s recipe called for peaches only, but I had some beautiful organic blackberries on hand and added them to the top.  Blueberries would be another great option!  I used pecans, but if you prefer walnuts or another nut, by all means, use them or none at all!

I’ve also used non-fat Greek Yogurt in place of the sour cream with great results!  Also, depending on the sweetness of your peaches, if desired, you could decrease the amount of sugar used.

Roasted Lemon Chicken Breasts

Looking for a delicious dinner recipe for chicken breasts?  I made this dish the other night for a “girls’ night” get-together, and it was a hit.  I love anything with lemon, and this dish didn’t disappoint.  Along with making the house smell heavenly while it was cooking, the chicken came out nice and juicy and the sauce was delicious. I mean, really…how can you go wrong with lemon, garlic and white wine? I will double the recipe next time, because the leftovers were just as good the next day!

This dish is 100% “guy-approved”, so I can now add it to my repertoire of quick, easy and delicious weeknight meals.  :)

Lemon Chicken Breasts

Lemon Chicken Breasts

Roasted Lemon Chicken Breasts

Slightly adapted from Ina Garten

4 Servings

Ingredients:

1/4 cup good olive oil

3 tablespoons minced garlic (about 9 cloves)

1/3 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (approx. 2 lemons)

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (see Liz’s Tidbits)

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves (I just laid the sprigs on top of the chicken instead)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

4 boneless, chicken breasts, skin on (I used organic “skinless” breasts for a healthier version)

1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges (I used 2 lemons)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Watch carefully as to not let the garlic turn too brown.  Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme and 1 teaspoon salt.  Pour this mixture into a 9 x 12 inch baking dish.

Pat the chicken breasts dry and place over the sauce.  Brush breasts with olive oil, sprinkle liberally with salt & pepper and tuck lemon wedges among the chicken.  Bake 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the breasts, until done.  Turn broiler to high and broil 2-3 minutes until top of chicken is nicely browned.  Remove from oven, tent with aluminum foil and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.  Serve hot with pan juices.

Liz’s Tidbits: 

  1. There is NO SUBSTITUTION for fresh lemon juice in this recipe.  No bottled stuff! Click here to see my favorite citrus juicer.  It makes juicing lemons (or any citrus, for that matter) a breeze!
  2. Ina’s original recipe calls for “skin-on” breasts, which will crisp up nicely and be beautiful when browned.  It’s all a matter of preference or diet restrictions.  I like to lose the skin for a healthier meal.  Your choice! :)
  3. I don’t have time for thyme! Instead of peeling all those tiny thyme leaves off their stems, I merely sprinkle the thyme (stem and all) in and around the juices and over the top of the chicken.
  4. Garlic is a lot easier to mince if you’ll smash the cloves first with the back of a large knife.  This not only helps to release the oils, but also makes it much easier to mince.
  5. I always like to rub dried herbs, especially oregano, in the palm of my hand before adding to the dish.  This helps to release the oils.  Also, check your dried herbs before using.  If they’ve been in your pantry for more than about 6 months, toss them.

Walnut and Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken Cutlets

I’ve had some recent requests for easy but flavorful weeknight meals with chicken breasts.  I love the fact that boneless, skinless, organic chicken breasts are so readily available to purchase these days.  If you’re looking for high protein, but low in fat and calories, the bird is the word!

I frequently look to “Cooking Light” for weeknight meals since I can count on them being healthy and delicious at the same time.  I look for recipes that have high ratings on the posted “user reviews” and recipes that appear to be quick in their preparation.  What I don’t want to sacrifice, however, is flavor!  We’re all about eating food that tastes good!  I do lots of cooking, but if a finished dish does not measure up to our standard of flavor, it doesn’t make the blog!

This chicken dish has several flavor components…dijon mustard, fresh rosemary, parmesan cheese and walnuts.  The mustard/buttermilk mixture gives the chicken a nice tangy flavor while helping the crumb mixture adhere to the chicken.   I love the idea of using cutlets, because they cook up so quickly!  The cooking time will depend on the thickness of your chicken, but it you pound the breasts out to about 1/4 inch in thickness, they shouldn’t take more than about 13 minutes cooking time.

Walnut and Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken Cutlets

Walnut and Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken Cutlets

Fresh Black-Eyed Peas, Southern Style

Fresh Black-Eyed Peas, Southern Style

Walnut and Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken Cutlets

Slightly adapted from Cooking Light

Serves 4 (1 cutlet each)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 (6-ounce) chicken cutlets (see Liz’s Tidbits)
  • 1/3 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • Rosemary leaves for garnish

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine buttermilk and mustard in a shallow dish, stir to combine, and add chicken turning to coat.

Arrange a wire rack on a large baking sheet, and coat rack with cooking spray. Heat a small skillet over medium high heat, and add panko crumbs.  Cook 2-3 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently (watch carefully as the crumbs can burn very quickly).  Combine panko with grated cheese, walnuts, rosemary, salt & pepper and place into a shallow dish. Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture, dredge in panko mixture, and arrange on the wire rack.  Coat top of chicken with cooking spray, and bake at 425° for 13-15 minutes or until chicken is done. Garnish with rosemary leaves, if desired.

Liz’s Tidbits:

Chicken cutlets are very easy to make from the breasts.  Why pay extra when you can create your own in less than a minute? Just place a chicken breast onto your cutting board (always use a designated board for raw meat–mine is a black plastic one that can be disinfected in the dishwasher!), hold your knife parallel to the cutting board, and slice horizontally from the thickest end of the breast to the thinnest end.  I then put the cutlets between two pieces of plastic wrap and lightly pound them to an even thickness of about 1/4 inch.  Click here to see how to cut the chicken.

Tonight, I served the chicken along with a side of kale salad and some fresh black-eyed peas (cooked exactly like these butter beans), but the cutlets would also be great on top of a green salad!

Argentinean Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri Sauce

Pork tenderloin is a great weeknight meal.  The tenderloin is already tender, but since it’s rather bland, you can jazz it up with just about anything you want, and it will take on that flavor.  Another added benefit is that it cooks in a very short amount of time and can stand up to some pretty bold flavors.  This particular recipe calls for marinating the meat (I let mine marinate for about an hour).  It’s great on the grill and takes only about 12 – 15 minutes, depending on the size of your tenderloins.

Chimichurri is an Argentinean sauce usually made from finely chopped parsley or cilantro, minced garlic, olive oil, fresh oregano, and red wine vinegar.  This particular recipe calls for both parsley and cilantro, and it really makes the dish!  Don’t omit it! MM (Marlboro Man) brought in some chile pequins from the garden just before dinner, so we decided to throw a few into the sauce.   They gave it a nice little kick, so next time, since we like things spicy, I think I’ll add a few to the food processor as I’m making the sauce.

A 2004 Cab from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa paired very nicely with the meal.  I served roasted broccoli and roasted red potatoes with onions as sides.  Both dishes went into the oven as we put the meat on the grill, so everything was ready by the time the meat had rested.

This recipe would be great for entertaining, but whether it’s for a weeknight dinner or company, take my advice and at least double the recipe.  You’ll be glad you did!  :)

Pork Tenderloins ready for the grill

Pork tenderloins ready for the grill

Argentinean Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri

Argentinean Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri Sauce

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Jardin Cabernet from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa went nicely with the pork!

Argentinean Pork Tenderloin with Chimichurri Sauce

Serves 4

Slightly adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves, divided
  • 2/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (to taste)
  • 1 (1-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped

Preparation:

Combine 2 tablespoons oil, 1/4 cup parsley, 1/3 cup cilantro, cumin, and red pepper in a shallow dish. Add pork, turning to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour, turning once.

For the chimichurri sauce, combine 3/4 cup parsley, 1/3 cup cilantro, 1/4 teaspoon salt, oregano and remaining ingredients in a food processor. Pulse about 10 times, then drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil through the food chute with processor on.  Serve with pork.

Preheat grill to medium-high.  Sprinkle pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper, and place on grill rack coated with cooking spray.  Grill for 6-8 minutes, turn pork over and grill another 6-8 minutes or until a thermometer reads 145 degrees.  Remove pork from grill and let stand for 5 minutes.  Slice crosswise.

Liz’s Tidbits:

I like to use a Ziploc bag when marinating meat…easy cleanup!

Be sure and let your meat rest for about 5 minutes to let the juices redistribute before cutting into it!

This recipe is for 1 tenderloin only.  Many times, if you buy pre-packaged tenderloins, they will come 2 to a package, and you’ll want to double the recipe.

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