Quick Guava and Cream Cheese Tartlets

In keeping within the last-minute and easy holiday treats theme, (see my last post of Parmesan, Pepper and Lemon Oyster Crackers), this sweet morsel is just the ticket.  I love bringing island and tropical flavors to our house as we live in the tropics and also, due to my Puerto Rican roots, our Christmas season is redolent with joyous, celebratory music, luscious ripe fruits from hot climes and plenty of brilliant sunshine.  Pineapple, guava, tamarind, orange and limes, guanabana, mamey sapote, coconuts and apple bananas are some of the magnificent fruits of the season.  I made these guava and cream cheese tartlets just so I could nibble on guava paste.  Sweet and utterly decadent, the taste and even the smell of the ripe, fresh fruit careen me back to my grandmother’s kitchen in Puerto Rico.  As a child the kitchen seemed cavernous although now I marvel at the countless breakfast, lunch and dinners that little nook cranked out, day in and day out for years.  The aromas which wafted out of that kitchen are legendary but at Christmas… well!  My grandmother was a renown baker, recognized throughout the island for her magical cakes.  Her wedding cakes were breathtaking in beauty and taste.  I’m pretty sure the rum syrup she drizzled over them had a lot do with it.  One of the cakes ordered often was the “brazo gitano” or gypsy arm.  It was a vanilla sheet cake slathered with homemade guava paste, rolled up, heavily dusted with confectioner’s sugar and topped with four or five maraschino cherries.  Being so young in age I never understood why someone would want, never mind PAY, for a cake without icing.  A cake without one edible, handmade and hand painted Cinderella or Snow White.  There weren’t any lilies or roses, dwarfs or footmen in livery or, at the very least, sweet, little woodland creatures.  But the gypsy arms sold.  And the profits were my grandmother’s “pin” money.  I would give anything for a taste of one of those cakes.  Or to smell the vat of fresh guavas and sugar bubbling away on the stove.  Christmas time turned the kitchen and dining room into a bustling hive of activity.  My grandmother would hum often when she made her flowers.  What an indulgence it was when she would pinch off a small knob of pastillage for me to savor!  I can see her now, her arms flailing wildly, as she shooed away the errant sparrow who mistakenly flew in through an open window and swooped down to light on one of her floral masterpieces.  Those precious days are gone as well as many of our family members who lived at my grandparent’s massive house.  So many were involved in one way or another.  An aunt might help out by trimming the crusts off the of the gypsy arm.  Any uncle who happened to be around could not sit down to a freshly brewed cafe con leche until he helped carry the 4-foot high wedding cake out to the waiting van.  But the fruit desserts, the “brazo gitano”, which in the folly of my youth I completely disregarded, are today dear to me although they are now faint memories.  We may not have these treasured sights, sounds and smells any longer but I guarantee you, cut off a sliver of guava paste, close your eyes and as it slowly melts in your mouth you’ll be with me at 177 Flanboyanes Avenida.

These little tartlets are a sweet-salty treat that will surprise you with their ease of preparation.  At my grocery store the guava paste is shelved with the canned fruit…go figure.  Packed air-tight in plastic, guava paste is a great pantry staple to have on hand especially during the holidays when sweets are more…how shall I say? De rigueur.  Also good to have on hand are the frozen fillo shells.  Simply store them in the back of your freezer and when you need a quick nibble to enjoy with a glass of champagne they are at your service to fill with shrimp, mushrooms sautéed in wine and tarragon or any number of combinations.  The little shells crisp up perfectly and add a great touch of elegance to any cocktail hour.  I know I don’t to tell you there should always be 2 or 3 bricks of cream cheese in the refrigerator as well.  If you’re pressed for time or low on energy, skip the fruit or berries on top and merely give the finished tartlets a good dusting of confectioner’s sugar.  Enjoy!

 

Guava and Cream Cheese Tartlets

  • Servings: 45 bitesize tartlets
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 14-ounce block guava paste, for some reason it’s stocked in the canned fruit section of my grocery store so look around for it
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 1.9-ounce boxes of mini-fillo shells, total 45 shells
  • confectioner’s sugar to garnish, optional
  • berries or pomegranate seeds to garnish, optional
  • fresh mint leaves to garnish, optional
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°.  Place the fillo shells on a rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
  2. Using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese and egg until light and fluffy.  Set aside.
  3. Place guava paste in a microwaveable bowl and heat in 30 second intervals until the paste has melted.
  4. Pour the melted guava paste into the cream cheese mixture and add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract.  Mix until smooth and there are no streaks.
  5. Fill each shell with a generous teaspoon of the guava mixture.
  6. Bake 12-15 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and immediately dust with confectioner’s sugar, carefully press in mint leaves and berries.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature.

http://www.theirreverentkitchen.com

 

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Parmesan, Pepper and Lemon Oyster Crackers

Ever been in the irritating position of being empty-handed or feel as though the cupboard is bare when guests or friends show up unannounced and uninvited?  I learned through experience a few years back and vowed not to be caught unaware come Christmas time.  Different versions of these little crackers have been around forever but I find the recipes calling for a packet of dried Ranch or Italian dressing to be far and away too salty.  I came up with this recipe by putting some of my favorite flavors together.  I mean, who doesn’t like parmesan?  Or lemon?  Plus I figured most everyone has these ingredients or some variety of them in their pantry.  That said, this is the ideal time to stock up on some holiday basics the next time you’re in the grocery store.   Various crackers, butter, both grated and shredded parmesan, frozen phyllo shells and dough, puff pastry, cream cheese, jarred pesto, dried cherries and cranberries, fig jam… obviously I could go on and on but you get the picture.  With a well-stocked pantry you can rustle up a remarkable AND good-looking appetizer at a moment’s notice.  I plan to post a few more easy and attractive appetizers that can be made at the drop of a hat.  So the next time the doorbell rings while you’re coloring your hair and you over hear your husband say, “Well, merry Christmas to YOU!  Come on in and have a drink!  Please say you’ll stay!”, you’ll be well prepared 🙂

These are great with cocktails or watching a football game.  Any leftover may be stored in a baggie, out of the refrigerator and are easily re-crisped in the oven at 350° for 5 minutes or so.  The pepper I love to use is a peppercorn medley by McCormick, found at probably every grocery store in the country.  The pink peppercorns in the medley give a lovely sweetness to the pepper flavors.  Lastly, only grated parmesan works in this recipe as shredded won’t stick to the crackers.  Feel free to use more pepper if you wish and enjoy!

Parmesan, Pepper and Lemon Oyster Crackers

  • Servings: about 6 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • grated zest of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons freshly cracked peppercorn medley, I like McCormick with a built-in grinder
  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 9-ounce bag oyster crackers
  1. Pre-heat oven to 325°.
  2. In a small bowl combine and mix well parmesan cheese, lemon zest, peppers and salt.  Set aside.
  3. Place crackers in a large bowl and pour the melted butter over them.  With a large spoon, toss the crackers in the butter until they are completely coated.
  4. Pour the cheese and pepper mixture over the crackers and continue tossing until the crackers are covered with the parmesan mixture.
  5. Place the crackers in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until they become slightly golden.
  6. Serve immediately.

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Tuna and Black Rice Poke Bowl

We ate too much.  Way too much.  Both Jimmy and I suffered from…how shall I put this? Let’s say upset tummies were the result of eating huge amounts of rich holiday food.  That’s not to say we won’t indulge again before, during and after Christmas but some days we crave clean.  Simple and clean.  And this is it.  What I call my “Wahine Bowl” is healthful and straightforward.  The ingredients may be changed, substituted, increased or cut out…it’s whatever one likes.  There is no right or wrong.  As for the recipe, a satisfying amount of sushi grade fish is about 3.5 to 4 ounces per person.  Tuna, salmon, hamachi, or pacific yellowtail, are all delicious; the only rule being, make certain you purchase the highest quality sushi grade fish you can get your hands on.  I buy mine at Fresh Market where they carry 7 ounce tuna pieces available either fresh or frozen and packed in cryovac.  I try to always have a few pieces in the freezer as they are great to flash grill as well.  White, brown or black “Forbidden” rice are all fine, however, if you’ve not tasted black rice yet I  strongly suggest you give it a try.  It’s delicious, loaded with antioxidants and we’re trying to clean our acts up, remember?  The gorgeous pink in the photograph is watermelon radish which I found in Whole Foods.  They don’t always have them in stock but when they do I tend to grab a few and plan meals around them.  They look like small, pale green turnips and although they cost a bit more these radishes have the additional advantage of tasting sweeter and less hot than traditional radishes.  And aren’t they positively gorgeous?  Sliced scallions, avocado, red onion, Serrano peppers, pickled ginger, seaweed nori, sesame seeds and kimchi are some of the many ingredients that work well in this dish.  I serve roughly 1 cup to 1 1/2 cups of rice per person.   Oh, and 1 1/4 of water to  1 cup of black rice is the perfect ratio.  This is a quick meal to prepare.  While the rice is cooking I’m chopping.  When the rice is ready I leave it uncovered and every once in a while fluff it a little so as to cool it off slightly.  We like the rice served warm or even room temperature.  I hope you’ll try this dish on your “healthier” days during the Christmas season and the rest of the year.

Tuna and Black Rice Poke Bowls

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
  • 7-8 ounces sushi grade tuna or fish of choice
  • 2-3 cups cooked black rice or rice of choice
  • 1 Haas avocado, ripe
  • radishes, thinly sliced
  • pickled ginger
  • seaweed nori
  • sriracha or any sweet hot chili sauce
  • sesame seeds, black or white
  1. In two separate bowls place equal amounts of rice.
  2. Lightly rinse off fish and gently press between paper towels absorbing any excess water.
  3. Cut fish into small cubes and divide evenly between the two bowls.
  4. Cut the avocado in half and divide between the two bowls.
  5. Add equal parts of radishes, ginger and seaweed to the bowls.
  6. Garnish each bowl with sriracha and sesame seeds.
  7. Serve immediately.

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Turkey and Sausage Gumbo…the best way to use your leftover turkey!

I’m not a turkey person.  I’m not.  I go for the “oysters” under the turkey that flank the turkey backbone.  It’s dark meat at its unctuous finest but after that the bird is all yours.  If the oysters “disappear” then I won’t be having turkey that year.  I like having leftovers to pack up for Daddy and the traditional sandwiches the day following Thanksgiving but I find, without fail, I always have bags of turkey meat left over.  Mammoth drumsticks pester me from their gallon freezer bags as do equally huge bags of carved white meat.  “Use me! Use me!”, they taunt.  Okay.  Get ready to be scarfed down and enjoyed.  The secret to this recipe is a good roux which takes no talent at all…just time, shugah.  You must, MUST, continually whisk it in order for the flavor to bloom and to avoid scorching.  Scorch or burn the roux and all you can do is throw it out and start over.  It takes roughly 30 minutes to prepare.  But other than that it’s easy, clear sailing.  I’m not going to prepare turkey pot pie, tetrazzini, turkey soup, spaghetti sauce or anything.  I’m not.  I’ll toss it before I make that stuff.  But gumbo?  Oh, yes, ma’am!   This’ll be a family favorite, I kid you not.  It’s cold out and now it’s the Christmas season.  Try it.  You’ll be glad you did.

Turkey and Sausage Gumbo

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

  • 8 cups turkey meat plus the turkey carcass and any bones you wish to use, it’s fine to use more turkey if you have it
  •  enough water to cover the turkey in the pot
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 12-ounce package Aidell’s andouille sausage or the andouille of your choice
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 5 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grated garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • prepared rice to serve with gumbo
  • scallions, sliced, to garnish
  1. Place turkey in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil then cover and drop temperature to a gentle simmer.
  2. While the stock is being prepared add the vegetable oil and flour to a sauce pan and whisk over medium to medium high heat.
  3. Continue whisking the roux until it becomes a dark chestnut color.  Do not walk away from it at any point or it may scorch or burn and there’s no saving it at that point.  You’ll have to start all over.
  4. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and thyme to the roux and stir, cooking the vegetables over medium-low heat until softened.
  5. Remove roux from heat and set aside.
  6. Cut the sausage in 1/4″ thick rounds.
  7. Add olive oil to a skillet and brown the sausage.
  8. Remove any bones from the turkey stock and shred any large pieces of meat.
  9. Add a cup or two of stock to the roux mixture and stir until smooth.
  10. Add the roux mixture and sausage to the stock.  Stir until all ingredients are completely incorporated into the stock.
  11. Simmer until thickened about 2 hours.
  12. Serve over rice and garnish with sliced scallions.

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Warm fig, brie and rosemary bites

Hey, y’all!  I’m going straight into this recipe without chit-chatting about having James home this weekend and getting to smother him and cook for him because he was sick with a cold nor will I regale you with details of the Miami Book Fair because I want you to have plenty of time to get your menu together for Thanksgiving.  These warm and gooey appetizers are the perfect combination of sweet and savory but the best part is the dough is already made, rolled out and waiting for you in the dairy section of your grocery store.  I found a new product by a company I NEVER use, Pillsbury, at the store and thought I’d try it out.  Pillsbury now makes  a thin and a thick pizza dough, rolled up and on parchment paper in a plastic tube alongside the boxed pie shells.  I used the thin dough and it was terrific in that the dough is sturdy enough to hold the heavy cubes of cheese and fig jam unlike phyllo which seemed to always fall apart on me.  The mini-bites may be assembled the night prior to baking if kept chilled in the refrigerator.  Try to find a ripe piece of brie to play up its flavor.  If the cheese isn’t fully developed the taste, the character, will get lost in the fig preserves.  Which isn’t a bad thing…I mean, who doesn’t love figs?!  And that gets me to the figs.  This recipe calls for a jar of fig jam, no fresh figs to be cut.  Gosh, but I love this receipt.  The dough is cut into squares with a ruler and a pizza cutter and the cheese is cubed.  The fig jam is already prepared and the fresh rosemary leaves, waiting in the produce department, are either pinched or clipped off the stalk.   Oh, so easy peasy.  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

Warm fig, brie and rosemary bites

  • Servings: 24 bites
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 10X13″ Pillsbury Pizza Dough, thin crust
  • 8 ounces well-developed brie
  • 1 11.5 ounce jar fig preserves, Braswell’s is great
  • fresh rosemary, about 2 stalks
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°.  Cover a 24-cup mini-muffin tin  with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. Open dough on counter and, using a rolling pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut into 24 even squares.
  3. Firmly press each square into the muffin tin cups.
  4. Cut the brie into 24 cubes and press into the muffin cups.
  5. Cover each cube of cheese with a teaspoon of fig jam.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Do not over bake!
  7. Cool tin on a rack for 5 minutes and while cooling garnish with small sprigs of fresh rosemary.
  8. Serve immediately.

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Deep South Tomato Pie

The end of tomato season is almost tragic.  Not only is this favorite food lying low for four or five months but it’s an obvious sign that summer is over.  Pools are way too cold to dip a toe in.   Cotton nightgowns have been put away and it’s dark out at 6:00 p.m.  I told a friend it makes me feel like Persephone on her way to the underworld.  I hate you, Hades, and your stupid pomegranate, too!  On the upside we have college ball which I’m crazy about.  Plus this is the time of year when Trader Joe’s carries brussel sprouts on the stalk, figs are in season and one can work out outside and not faint from heat stroke.  Tomatoes, though, are not the sweet, juicy apples of love they were just last month.  It’s okay if the last of the tomatoes just don’t have enough flavor because this is the recipe which will make them sing.  Baked with a generous amount of fresh basil and grated cheeses, this pie is heaven served next to a homemade mixed green salad.  Tomato Pie has been around forever in the South and not only makes wise use of the last-of-the-season fruit but is a perennial favorite at baptisms, first communions, funerals, brunches and pot lucks.  I always make two; one for my house and one to give away or take to one of the aforementioned functions.  The pie needs to be enjoyed relatively soon after baking as the bottom will get soggy if it sits around too long, as with any pie.  It can be re-heated but only in the oven.  Heated in a microwave turns this little jewel into a squishy, wet mess.  It’s super easy to prepare and the crust is merely Bisquick and milk mixed together and patted into your pan.  There’s no ice-cold, cubed butter or rolling out involved.  And everybody loves it.  So when you’re craving some ‘maters but Mother Earth has other ideas, try this recipe out.  It won’t let you down and Fall’s injustices will turn into Autumn’s glories!

 

Deep South Tomato Pie

  • Servings: one 9 inch deep dish pie
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 packed cup fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and cut into thin ribbons
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup good mayonnaise, Duke’s or Hellman’s
  • about 2 pounds not-so-ripe tomatoes, peeled, sliced and drained on a thick layer of paper towels.  It’s okay if you don’t quite have the 2 pounds but you don’t want more as the ingredients will over flow when the pie is baked.  We’ve all been there!
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350° and cover lightly a 9″ pie pan with non-stick spray.  Set aside.
  2. Place cheddar, basil, parmesan and mayonnaise in a medium-sized bowl and mix until completely combined.  Set aside.
  3. While the tomatoes drain on the paper towels, mix the Bisquick with the milk in a medium size bowl until a dough ball has formed.
  4. Dump the dough into the pie pan and lightly grease your hands.  Gently press the dough evenly over the bottom of the dish and all the way up the sides.
  5. Using your fingers or a pastry brush spread the mustard over the pressed pie shell.
  6. Sprinkle tomatoes with the black pepper and layer the tomatoes evenly over the pie shell.
  7. Cover the tomatoes with the cheese mixture and spread evenly.  I find breaking it apart with my hands is easiest.
  8. Bake in the oven for 60-90 minutes until the cheese turns a warm, golden color.
  9. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes prior to serving to make for easier slicing.

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Shrimp in a Spicy Coconut Sauce

Sometimes a girl just has to have a big, steaming bowl of lovely Asian-style deliciousness for dinner.  How many times have we made our way home at day’s end after spending 10 hours working… working hard.  To add to our woes often a last-minute run to the grocery store is required if we expect to have dinner.  All of the ingredients for this dish are available at your grocery store and, get this, if you’re so beat you’re willing to take the easy way out, most of the makings called for are already cleaned, prepared and/or cut up.  Yay for grocery store food prep!  I don’t know about you but I’m slow as molasses in the kitchen and that’s on a good day.  So if I can get a little help to speed things up I’ll take it.  The recipe can easily be halved but I like to have leftovers for lunches the following day so take that into consideration.

This dish can be served over noodles, (rice, udon or cellophane are all fine), or it may be served over rice, (white, brown, jasmine or basmati), it all works.  If you’re staying away from carbs altogether add more broth and the dish becomes more soup-like.  Nice, huh?  Most of the vegetables can be found already chopped in the produce section of your grocery store, the shrimp has been cooked and is in the seafood department and the sweet potato can be thrown in the microwave to “bake”.  The sweet potato is SO good paired with the savory lemongrass!  The spinach is tossed into the pan straight from the bag and the basil leaves are torn from the stalk and added without having to cut.  Also, in the produce section, you’ll find tubes of fresh lemongrass, grated ginger paste and minced garlic in the jar.  Oh, the glory of it all!  Wait, wait!  I almost forgot to mention that in the “international” section of the store are already prepared udon noodles in cryovac and, if you prefer glass noodles, just know they don’t have to be cooked.  They soak in hot water for 15-20 minutes so they’re ready when you’ve finished the shrimp part of the recipe.  Can you believe it?  Again, if you’re trying to watch your weight, using “lite” coconut milk is perfectly fine.  I try to have boxed chicken broth always on hand and it’s perfect with the shrimp but feel free to use what you have in the pantry.  Speaking of pantry, the jarred herbs and all-ready-prepared noodles are great staples to stock up on as are a few bags of cleaned shrimp in the freezer, perfect for last-minute soups, salads and stirfrys.  I know this recipe calls for a  lengthy list of ingredients but please keep in mind, this is pretty much a “dump and stir” meal.  I’m thrilled with the ease of it and I know you will be, too.  Enjoy!

Shrimp in a Spicy Coconut Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup lemongrass paste
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons ginger paste
  • 2 red peppers, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds zucchini, sliced
  • 1 6-ounce bag fresh baby spinach
  • 1 handful fresh basil leaves, 1 small box or bunch
  • 2 pounds cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and shells off
  • 2  13.5-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk, lite is okay
  • 2 cups seafood, vegetable or chicken broth, boxed is fine
  • 1 medium to large sweet potato, roasted, peeled, cut into 1/4″ cubes
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 red chiles or jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped.  I use 2 as we like heat and spice but feel free to use just one for less spice.  But do use at least one or it won’t be spicy, now will it?
  • salt to taste
  • rice or noodles for serving
  • hot chili garlic sauce, optional, for serving
  1. Over medium-high heat add olive oil to a large, high sided pan.
  2. Add onions and stir until coated with oil and starting to release its perfume.
  3. Add lemongrass, garlic and ginger and thoroughly stir into onions.
  4. Add peppers and zucchini and continue stirring for 2 minutes.
  5. Add spinach and basil and stir until almost completely wilted.
  6. Add shrimp and toss until coated with the pan flavors.
  7. Pour in coconut milk and broth, mix well and raise heat bring to a boil.
  8. Add sweet potato, lime juice and chiles.  Stir.
  9. Taste and add salt if needed.
  10. Serve in large bowls over cooked rice or noodles.

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