Merry Rice Krispie Treats Christmas

My grandson Eli, holding his trove of Cranberry Rice Krispie Treats.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

This holiday missive is less about cooking but more about connecting with our loved ones through food, and in this case dessert.

Who doesn’t love desserts?

My six-year-old grandson Elijah loves a sweet treat. And more than that, he loves hanging out with me in the kitchen because he knows he will get a chance to pour ingredients into a mixing bowl or better yet, stir a pot on the stove top.

Simple ingredients make these treats easy to make. Not show vanilla and salt.

Mixing it up with Eli

Our time is the kitchen is magical. We talk, giggle, make messes and always end up with something amazing to eat. Like Rice Krispie Treats with cranberries.

Why cranberries? Because they are one of Eli’s favorite snacks when he visits me. So when I asked him what special ingredient he wanted to mix into his Rice Krispie Treats, the answer was so obvious – cranberries!

But you might ask, did I anticipate he’d say cranberries? Yup I did and had been working on the recipe before he pulled a step stool up to the kitchen counter.

Eli calls these Cranberry Rice Krispie Treats “happy bars.”

The happiest bars on earth

The cranberries are such a tasty and delightful addition to these gooey, chewy, marshmallow bars.   To make the bars a bit more festive, I dusted the top with rainbow sugar sprinkles.

“They look like happy bars,” said Eli.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because when you see them they make you smile and they taste really good!” said Eli.

I think the real happiness is in making them together and inviting his creativity into the mix, literally.

Happy holidays my foodie friends. May your Cranberry Rice Krispie Treats bring you as much joy when you make them with your children or grandchildren as they have brought Eli and I.

Cranberry Rice Krispie Treats

  • Servings: 16 bars
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Enjoy these happy bars.


Ingredients


6 tablespoons unsalted butter
16-ounce package of mini marshmallows
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 cups Rice Krispie cereal
½ cup dried cranberries
salt
Rainbow sugar sprinkles

Directions

  1. Line a 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. In a large, non-stick saucepan or non-stick Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat.
  3. Once the butter is melted, add the marshmallows.
  4. Reduce heat to low and stir mixture with a heat-resistant spatula until the marshmallows are completely melted.
  5. Remove pan from heat and stir in the vanilla and a pinch of salt.
  6. Add the cereal and mix well. Then mix in the cranberries.
  7. Pour mixture into a parchment lined baking dish.
  8. Wet your hand with water and with your fingertips press the mixture into the pan until completely spread out.
  9. Dust the top with rainbow sugar sprinkles. Be generous!
  10. Cover baking dish with plastic wrap. Allow to set about 2 hours. Cut into 16 squares.

Spactchcock that bird!

A spatchcocked, 12-pound turkey with backbone removed.

Spatchcock.

What an odd word. If you didn’t know what it meant, your imagination would lace up and take off running. Before that happens let me break it down for you.

What is it?

Spatchcock:  a method of preparing poultry for cooking. The method involves removing the backbone from tail to neck so that the bird can be opened out flat (also referred to as butterflying). When oven roasting a bird, this method results in a shorter cooking time.

Butterflying – that’s essentially what spatchcock means. With the backbone removed and the bird pressed out flat, it creates the perfect condition to roast a bird that cooks more evenly and allows the breast to cook in about the same time as the leg and thigh.

It’s a technique that is widely used in preparing chicken and is said to date back to the 18th century. The results have been quite succulent. If you are not a fan of breast meat because it tends to be dry, this process might change your mind.

My Thanksgiving mission

Every Thanksgiving I look for a way to zhuzh up my turkey game. Building a better bird is a perpetual pilgrimage for me and I would dare say for many Thanksgiving turkey preparers.   No one wants a dry bird. Moisture is queen. The spatchcock method seems to be king in making a more moist and succulent bird. I’ve tried the technique for chicken with excellent results.  This year I tired the technique on my Thanksgiving bird. The results? An amazingly moist and flavorful turkey.

Za’atar and Sumac gifted to me by the folks at Yes Chef

A bit of umami

I upped the flavor of my bird by using an herb butter I made with fresh chopped flat leaf parsley, chopped garlic, fresh orange zest and ground Za’atar spice from the folks at Yes Chef.  Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that includes ingredients such as ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, cumin and coriander. It is so aromatic and reminiscent of many of the spices I use during Thanksgiving, I decided to give it a go.  And the simple addition of orange zest to the herb butter was just the umami twist I was looking for.  By the way, you can find Za’atar at most markets and organic food stores. Thanks Chef Nancy Silverton for the inspiration!

My notes

Should you spatchcock your Thanksgiving turkey? As one home cook to another, you should totally go for it.  Here are a few notes from my experience:

  • My bird was just over 12-pounds and was about the maximum size my small, built-in oven could handle.
  • Spatchcocking requires the turkey to be on a surface large enough in dimensions to contain the entire bird. I didn’t have a roasting pan large enough. Instead I used a large baking sheet I covered with 18-inch wide heavy duty foil that was long enough to fold up the edges around the bird to create a little cooking container.
  • Spatchcocking is said to reduce the cooking time. My 12-pound foil covered turkey took two hours to roast in an oven set at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. The final minutes of cooking I removed the foil tent to allow it to brown.
  • No matter how long it takes to roast, when the turkey breast meat reaches a temperature of 155 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the oven and cover with foil and it will continue to cook outside the oven. Don’t rely on the pop up thermometer that may come with your bird. Relying on that as an indicator will result in a bird that is overcooked. Invest in a food thermometer for best results. I purchased mine from my local market in the food gadget section.

Now, go forth and spatchcock that bird!

Spatchcock Turkey

  • Servings: 8 to 10
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

Spatchcock turkey cut, sliced, plated and ready to serve.

Ingredients

For turkey
1 12-pound turkey (fresh, natural turkey used here)
Sea salt
Garlic powder
Ground pepper

For herb butter
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons Za’atar spice (I put the spice in a coffee grinder to blend the sesame seeds)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 clove finely chopped garlic
Zest from one large orange

Directions

Herb butter

  • In a medium bowl, add butter, chopped parsley, Za’atar spice, salt, finely chopped garlic, and zest from one large orange.
  • Blend with a fork to thoroughly incorporate all ingredients. Set aside.

Turkey Preparation

Spatchcock turkey with herbed butter, in foil ready for the oven. Note how foil is folded up along the edges to form a cooking container.

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the neck and giblets from the turkey. You can reserve for soup or gravy.
  • Place the turkey breast side down on a work surface. With a sturdy pair of poultry sheers, cut out the backbone of the turkey by cutting along both sides of the spine. You could possibly do this with a really sharp knife.
  • Spread the turkey’s legs apart and flip it over so it’s breast side up.
  • Press down firmly on the turkey’s breastbone until you hear a crack—that’s the wishbone breaking – you can also remove the wishbone by cutting it out with a paring knife. If you don’t have enough strength to firmly press down on the breastbone, use a rubber mallet or perhaps a rolling pen as I did.
  • Season generously the inside and outside of the turkey with salt, garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • Tuck the wings behind the breasts. Transfer the turkey to a large baking sheet covered with 18-inch heavy duty foil breast side up. Make sure the foil is long enough to fold up the edges around the bird to create a little cooking container.
  • Spread the herb butter under the skin, concentrating on the breast and down into the legs, thighs and over the outside of the bird.

In the oven

  • Place turkey in heated oven uncovered. After 30 minutes of roasting, baste bird and loosely tent turkey with foil.
  • Cook another hour, basting at least two more times.
  • Remove foil and check temperature of thickest part of breast meat. If it has reached a temperature of 155 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, allow the bird to brown uncovered. Keep any eye on it. It may take 15 minutes or perhaps more.
  • Remove from oven once you achieve the desired brownness. Loosely cover with foil and let it rest. It will remain cooking.  This will take about 30 minutes.
  • If it the breast meat has not reached a temperature of 155 to160 degrees Fahrenheit, cover the turkey and cook until it does, perhaps up to 30 more minutes. Then remove foil and allow to the bird to brown about 15 minutes or until you achieve the desired brownness. Remove from the oven,  cover and let it rest.

When turkey is done

Spatchcock turkey hot out of the oven.

  • Transfer the turkey to a cutting board after resting 30 minutes. Carefully pour pan drippings into a heat resistant cup or container. Use to make gravy or pour over plated turkey if you like.
  • Carve the turkey by removing the legs and splitting the thighs from the drumsticks.
  • Remove the wings from the breast.
  • Split the breast into two halves, and remove the breast meat from each lobe. Slice the breast meat of each lobe into your desired thickness.
  • Place turkey pieces on a large serving platter. Garnish with fresh herbs, orange slices and serve.

Community Cooking Debut

My  debut at last!

I had an amazing time as a guest chef on the City of Torrance Cable show Community Cooking.

I want to give a big shout out to the production team and show host Kirk Leins for having me on the show and letting me introduce two of my family favorite dishes: Tarragon Panko Salmon and Mustard Greens Saute with Grilled Corn.

Look for me on upcoming episodes as well.

Now – all you have to do next is click on play and enjoy the show!

My East Coast epicurean excursion

Left to right: me(Veronica), my sister Roxanne, my niece Amanda

For those of you who follow me on Instagram @collardgreenscaviar, your heads where probably spinning from my  posts of my East Coast eating adventure last month.

For those of you who don’t follow me, you are in luck because I will take you on a visual walk down “Mmm-mmm Good” memory lane to get you up to speed.

Top left to right: National Constitution Center Liberty Bell; Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Bottom left to right: photo exhibit from National Museum of African American History and Culture; Statute of Liberty view from Staten Island Ferry.

My eight-day East Coast jaunt was a whirlwind of gastric and scenic proportions.  I visited Philadelphia, New Jersey, D.C., New York and a few other spots in between.  And like any tourist I visited the National Constitution Center, Central Park, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Atlantic City, New York City and  Staten Island – just to mention a few highlights. I  also dined out for eight consecutive days! For some, that’s par for the kitchen. For this home cooking enthusiastic, it was epic and unheard of.

I didn’t have a bad meal the entire time.  Here’s a few (not all by any means) fork-to-mouth highlights of my epicurean excursion:

Sabrina’s Café

Sabrina’s Café –  Collingwood, New Jersey
My sister, niece, nephew and I took the red eye from Los Angeles to Philly and arrived in the early morning. Our host and family member Karen Washington suggested we have breakfast and what a great breakfast we had at Sabrina’s Café. I ordered the Bella Vista Omelette. With this create-your-own omelet we added Provolone cheese, spinach, and  cherry-wood smoked bacon. The portion size was humongous,  so my sister and I shared it. This picture is a half serving plated with potatoes and toast.

Kelsey’s

Kelsey’s – Atlantic City, New Jersey
Kelsey’s is such a quaint restaurant whose food feed our souls. We enjoyed sharing this cornbread appetizer platter with butter. It had a lightly sweet, cake like texture.  I ordered the Chicken wing dinner which was accompanied with a side of collard greens and macaroni and cheese. My sister ordered the catfish dinner. It was comfort food at its best. And dining while listening to soulful, live music was such a bonus.

Whistlers Inn Bar and Pub

Whistlers Inn Bar and Pub – Cinnaminson, New Jersey
The food at this neighborhood pub was surprising good. Sometimes you just want good bar food and this place delivered. We ordered an array of foods to feed our hunger for something fried and crunchy. Featured here are a few goodies: fried appetizer basket of stuffed jalapenos, mushrooms and mozzarella sticks; nachos, fries and buffalo wings. They specialize in smoked ribs and I regret we didn’t try them, but like I said, I was craving fried and crunchy  food.

Bus Boys and Poets

Bus Boys and Poets – Washington, D.C.
This joint was dope. Yup I said that. It’s a restaurant, book store and community gathering place. It had a real cool vibe and we enjoyed some real cool food. I had the grilled Catfish served on top of a corn cake with collard greens topped with a lovely lemon butter sauce, finished with capers and chopped tomatoes. It was an OMG moment for my mouth. My sister enjoyed the Blackened Salmon which was served with wild rice, asparagus, roasted corn salsa, tomato, shallots, lemon butter sauce.

Frankie Boys Pizza

Frankie Boys Pizza, New York City, New York
The selections were mind blowing.  I decided on a slice of vegetarian pizza which is cool because in Los Angeles most pizza joints don’t sell it by the slice. But in New York, slices abound! This slice was the bit of heaven I had been craving. I even topped it with granulated garlic which I had not experienced in Los Angeles. It was so good and that additional zhuzh of granulated garlic was everything! Oh and a little side note: former NBA player Dennis Rodman ate there and his colorful food review/interview is on YouTube. Warning: it’s bit crude.

Lolo’s Seafood Shack

Lolo’s Seafood Shack – New York City, New York
Like Sylvia’s in Harlem, Lolo’s is a bit of a destination spot for tourists. We were tourists. But we were tourist who weren’t hungry  for fried seafood but hungry for a dining experience in Harlem. Lolo’s gave us that. The vibe was cool although it was just a bit too humid to dine in their open air picnic area. There were great alternatives to fried seafood and we enjoyed small plates of dirty rice, smoked wings, jerk  ribs, chilled broccoli salad and wok seared cauliflower that had a smokey flavor that kissed the roof of my mouth. Good eating folks! On my return visit I must try the crab cakes. They looked divine!

Carollo’s and Geno’s cheesesteak – oh and my brother Montie clutching his cheesesteak.

We couldn’t head back East without getting a Philly Cheesesteak either, right? I had a tasty one at Carollo’s in Pennsauken, New Jersey and in Philly we stopped into Geno’s Steaks to pick up a cheesesteak to take home to my brother. He was very happy.

Dinner for Centurion Aunt Edna

Another highlight of the trip was when the dials of two stove tops were handed over to me while in New Jersey. I was honored to prepare my signature grilled salmon, rice medley and sautéed savoy cabbage for a beloved family Centurion Aunt Edna. The sister Roxanne was a great sous chef!  Later in the trip, I prepared a vegetarian pasta for another lovely family member Karen Washington to thank her for being such a great East Coast tour guide.

Corn from Hunters Farm Market and Karen’s pasta

The pasta recipe I made for Karen is shared here. I call it Karen’s Vegetarian Pasta  simply because I made it specifically for her and as you’ve probably noted, she’s a vegetarian.  The star of the recipe is fresh, picked daily, sweet corn we got from Hunters Farm Market in Cinnaminson, New Jersey.

This pasta recipes features linguine noodles (but you can use any pasta shape you like) and is made with a mixed medley of cherry tomatoes and grilled asparagus. It’s a vegetarian delight.  You can certainly add some grilled or cooked protein, but honestly speaking, you don’t need it.

Karen's Vegetarian Pasta

  • Servings: 3 to 4
  • Difficulty: it takes some work but you can do it.
  • Print

A delicious vegetarian pasta.

Ingredients

2 pints cherry tomatoes,rinsed and halved
1 bundle asparagus, grilled and spears chopped in half
1 ear of corn, grilled and cut from cob
Fresh basil, chopped (eight to ten leaves will work nicely)
½ medium red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt, cracked pepper, red pepper flakes
½ pound linguine (organic used here)

Directions

To prepare asparagus

  1. Trim woody ends from asparagus by snapping off the ends, or cutting with a knife.
  2. Rinse and pat dry.
  3. Heat 1-2 tablespoon of olive oil in a  medium skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add asparagus. Cook, turning occasionally, until tender (5 to 9 minutes).
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove and place on cutting board. Cut each spear in half and set aside.

To prepare corn

  1. To that same skillet, add 1 more table of olive oil and cook the ear of corn, rotating it in the in pan until it is lightly browned (5-9 minutes).
  2. Remove from pan, set aside and once cooled, cut kernels from the cob.

To prepare pasta sauce

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet set at medium heat. Add chopped onion and saute until tender and translucent about 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or heat resistant spatula.
  2. Add chopped garlic and saute until fragrant, just under a minute.
  3. Add halved cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives and  1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Mix well.
  4. Turn up heat to bring mixture to a gentle boil. Then cover with a lid and reduce heat to a simmer.
  5. While sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to directions until al dente.
  6. After simmering sauce for 10 minutes,  carefully mash tomatoes with a potato masher or fork until they are all broken apart.
  7. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, cracked pepper and red pepper flakes (perhaps 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon) to taste and chopped basil to sauce. Let it continue simmering until the pasta is done, about 5 more minutes.
  8. Drain pasta when done,  but reserve 1/2 cup pasta water.
  9. Add cooked pasta to sauce and mix well. Fold in cooked corn, asparagus and add half of pasta water to loosen sauce. Add more in necessary.
  10. Serve with Parmesan cheese grated over the entire pan or grated on separate servings, if desired.