“I had seen birth and death
but had thought they were different.”
~ T.S. Eliot
“I had seen birth and death
but had thought they were different.”
~ T.S. Eliot
“Let me recommend the best medicine
in the world: a long journey,
at a mild season, through a pleasant
country, in easy stages.”
~ James Madison
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Turtle Cheesecake Cupcakes! Every so often I succumb to my sweet tooth. At those times I admit, I throw caution to the wind. If I’m going to splurge on something sweet, I pull out all the stops. Hence, today’s feature includes a caramel pecan cookie dough crust, a sensuously satisfying vanilla cheesecake center, and a spectacular topping of sea salt caramel, chocolate chips, and sugared pecans that says, “Go all the way, you’re worth it!” Now you can be pampered as well.
TURTLE CHEESECAKE CUPCAKES
16-ounce package refrigerated Pecan Turtle Cookie Dough, room temperature
16 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate morsels
1/2 cup sugared pecans, chopped
1/3 cup caramel butterscotch ice cream topping
Coarse sea salt, for garnish
Preheat oven to 325°. Line muffin tins with cupcake papers to make 24 cupcakes. Cut each square portion of cookie in half. Place one section of dough in the bottom of each paper-lined muffin cup. Bake 12 minutes. Meanwhile, using a hand mixer and a medium-sized bowl, beat the Neufchâtel cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, vanilla extract, and sea salt for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides as needed. Spoon 3 tablespoons of cheesecake mixture over each cookie crust. Bake 18 minutes longer. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack. Refrigerate Turtle Cheesecake Cupcakes for one hour. Before serving, top each with mini chocolate chips and sugared pecans. Drizzle caramel butterscotch sauce over all. Garnish with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Sweet Potato Stacks! Bring gourmet taste, with a quirk of presentation, to the dinner table tonight. It’s not rocket science. In fact, you may find yourself giggling at how ridiculously simple this is to make. When I pierced each stack with a rosemary sprig, my husband nearly fell out of his chair in amusement. (It’s not at all necessary. The sweet potato stacks stand upright on their own.) Roasted in a muffin tin, and drizzled with pure maple syrup are two trade secrets you can share with others. Or keep to yourself. Either way, it’s a tower of Yum.
SWEET POTATO STACKS
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick oil. In a bowl, mix together olive oil, rosemary leaves, and garlic powder. Coat slices of sweet potatoes. Place a slice of sweet potato in each muffin cup. Top with parmesan cheese between layers of potato slices. Continue until the muffin cup is filled. Going above the top is okay since the cooked sweet potatoes will shrink a little. Repeat with remaining sweet potato slices. Drizzle maple syrup over each stack. Sprinkle extra parmesan cheese over all. Bake stacks 35-40 minutes until tender. Transfer to a serving plate. Spoon reserve maple syrup mixture over top. Garnish with fresh rosemary.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Ramen Noodle Shrimp and Egg! So often, in college, a regular diet may consist of ramen noodles in lieu of the standardized meal plan. I remember buying ramen noodles by the case for my son during his freshman and sophomore years. Sure, it stretches the budget for other essentials, but in the long run if you can ditch the salt-laden seasoning packet and add a few veggies, it’ll hike the nutritional value with a burst of flavor as well. Try sautéed shrimp and leeks. (Frozen vegetables are also a cheap option because a little goes a long way.) Add red pepper flakes for spice and toasted sesame seeds for crunch. It transforms the dish into a main course meal.
RAMEN NOODLE SHRIMP AND EGG
6-10 frozen precooked jumbo shrimp, thawed
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1/2 cup leeks, sliced
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 package ramen noodles, discard seasoning packet
2 eggs, soft-boiled and cut in half
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Sesame oil, to taste
Garlic and onion chives, for garnish
Warm one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add jumbo shrimp. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Turn to coat both sides. Sauté shrimp 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Warm one more tablespoon olive oil in skillet. Add minced garlic, minced ginger, and sliced leeks. Stir for one minute. Add chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add ramen noodles. Using a fork, break noodles apart after 2 minutes. When done, transfer noodles to two soup bowls. Divide the broth mixture between them. Add sautéed shrimp and sift-boiled eggs. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Drizzle with sesame oil. Garnish with garlic and onion chives. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Quality Lemon Butter! Is it a thick custard to be eaten plain? Is it creamy butter for freshly baked bread? Or is it frosting for a scone? You decide. I smothered a blueberry muffin with this citrusy spread. But then again, I also topped my morning yogurt with it. Talk about versatility. You can improvise with this luscious lemon butter in just about anything. Well, except broiled lobster or corn on the cob. That might be disappointing simply because this particular lemon butter has a sweetness to it that makes it more like a dessert than a condiment. Think lemon curd and you’ll be on the right track. Now let’s get started.
QUALITY LEMON BUTTER
1 egg yolk
1 cup sugar
2 lemons, grated peeling and juice
1/2 cup butter, melted
In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, combine eggs, egg yolk, and sugar. Stirring constantly, cook until mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow mixture to boil as it will curdle. When mixture is thick, remove from heat. Add grated lemon peel, lemon juice, and melted butter. Stir well. Pour warm lemon butter into jars. Cover tightly and store in refrigerator.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Pretzel Nuggets! Anyone who has been to an outlet mall, movie theater complex, or shopping center may have been seduced by the tantalizing aroma of freshly baked pretzels. How about those wonderful travel cups of soft buttery nuggets speared with a wooden pick? Who can resist? Especially with a side of gooey molten cheese? Here’s a shortcut to making a batch at home in your own kitchen. It’s all about portion control to keep it real. The next time you’re at the grocery, pick up a tube of refrigerated biscuit dough. You can thank me later.
1 tube refrigerated biscuit dough, 8-count
1/4 cup baking soda
1 egg, beaten
1-2 teaspoons Everything But Bagel Seasoning*
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut each biscuit slice into quarters. Roll each quarter into a ball. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a 2 1/2 quart pan. Slowly stir in baking soda. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Drop the biscuit dough rounds into the water. Avoid overcrowding by working in batches. Cook dough for one minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg to assist browning. Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Finish with coarse sea salt. Bake 15-20 minutes until pretzel nuggets are golden brown. Repeat with remaining dough. Cool pretzel nuggets on a wire rack. Serve with cheese dip.
*To make your own Everything But Bagel Seasoning, click the link below.
“The woods are lovely,
dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
and miles to go before I sleep.”
~ Robert Frost
“Being deeply loved by someone
gives you strength,
while loving someone deeply
gives you courage.”
~ Lao Tzu