Pan-Seared Tilapia

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Pan-Seared Tilapia! I don’t often “fry” foods, but once in awhile nothing else will do. The secret to pan-searing fish involves five key steps. First, make sure the skillet is nonstick or a trustworthy cast iron skillet. Secondly, choose a neutral-flavored oil which has a higher smoke point. You won’t need much, so it’s crucial to make sure the oil is not going to turn black from high heat. The third point, and this is just as important, make sure moisture is removed from the fish. If not, there is guaranteed to be steam-created soggy fish or dangerous grease splatters. Step Four: When the fish is placed in the pan, do not overcrowd it. The pieces should not touch each other at all. Finally, allow the fish to sear without moving it. This is how you get that beautiful crispy surface. Use a timer. Once the fillets are carefully flipped over, you’re almost done. By this time everyone in the house will be heading to the kitchen to discover what smells so incredibly good. Well Done, Grasshopper.

PAN-SEARED TILAPIA

Ingredients:

2 frozen tilapia fillets, thawed

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 lime, juice and zest

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pat butter, divided

Fresh dill, for garnish

Instructions:

Defrost fish fillets overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from package, pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. In a shallow dish, combine brown sugar, chili powder, kosher salt, garlic powder, and lime zest. Mix well. Warm vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Rub both sides of each fillet with the spice mixture. Cook tilapia fillets for 4 minutes. Carefully flip them over. Squeeze lime juice over fish in pan. Divide a pat of butter over the top of each fillet. Cook 3 minutes longer, or until opaque and flaky. Transfer pan-seared tilapia fillets to a platter. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh dill. Serve immediately.

Original Pistachio Party Ball

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Original Pistachio Party Ball! Nothing says par-tay like a holiday cheese ball. Instead of picking one up at the grocery store this year, why not surprise the family and make something a little different. Pistachios tend to be shoved aside in favor of walnuts and pecans, mostly due to their cost. But I guarantee you, people will sit up and take notice of them embedded in this party cheese ball. A little goes a long way, especially when rolled on the outside of the cheese ball. For those who enjoy the experience of cracking the shell to pluck out the pistachio, you not only get to nibble as you crack, you also justify the savings involved over the cost of pistachios without shells. Now there’s a thought worth considering.

ORIGINAL PISTACHIO PARTY BALL

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon zesty Italian salad dressing dry mix

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

Instructions:

In a bowl, cream together Neufchâtel cheese and unsalted butter until smooth. Sprinkle in zesty Italian dry mix. Mix well. Add Worcestershire sauce and red pepper flakes. Fold in sharp cheddar cheese. Stir until well combined. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Layer with chopped pistachio nuts. Transfer cheese mixture onto the nuts. Wearing disposable gloves, form the cheese mixture into a ball, turning to cover each side with chopped nuts. When completely covered, wrap the pistachio cheese ball in a clean piece of plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour to intensify flavors. Serve with assorted crackers.

No-Bake Lime Coconut Truffles

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: No-Bake Lime Coconut Truffles! Here’s a festive treat that satisfies the desire for something sweet enough without the overkill. This time white chocolate becomes the confectionery of choice. Instead of nuts, candied ginger and lime zest become key ingredients to complement the tropical tones of coconut. One might suggest these truffles resemble tiny snowballs, if not for the lime zest. To serve, simply place each truffle in a fluted foil or paper candy cup and arrange on a decorative platter. It promises to bring “Oohs” and “Ahhs” as a crowd-pleaser.

NO-BAKE LIME COCONUT TRUFFLES

Ingredients:

1 cup white chocolate chips

2 cups sweetened coconut, shredded

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoon lime zest, grated

1 1/2 teaspoon lime juice

Lime zest, for garnish

Instructions:

Melt white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl on 50% for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat until completely smooth. Mix in sweetened shredded coconut. Fold in crystallized ginger and lime zest. Add lime juice to the mixture. Form into 16 small mounds. Garnish with more lime zest. Chill until set.

Mincemeat Quick Bread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Mincemeat Quick Bread! Don’t look at me that way. I know what you’re thinking. “If this recipe has mincemeat in it, I’m not eating it.” But hold on a sec. There are plenty of foods with names that sound downright gross. Think about it: head cheese, tripe, mung beans, and blood sausage to name a few. I’m here to tell you mincemeat is a sweet and savory filling that basically contains dried fruits, citrus, spices, and brandy. Ahhh. Now I have your attention. This particular recipe has about 1/4 cup apricot brandy in it. Just know if you do choose to add brandy or rum to a jar of prepared mincemeat, be sure to allow it to marinate in the refrigerator at least 8 hours before using. Now you can understand why some people eat it straight out of the jar.

MINCEMEAT QUICK BREAD

Ingredients:

1 egg, room temperature

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon orange zest

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 cups prepared mincemeat pie filling (with 1/4 cup apricot brandy, optional)

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9”x5” loaf pan. Set aside. Combine egg, vegetable oil, orange zest, orange juice, and mincemeat pie filling. Stir until well blended. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring just until combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Check loaf with a cake tester to make sure center is done. Remove from oven. Cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve.

Limoncello Upside-Down Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Limoncello Upside-Down Cake! I love everything lemon, so imagine my excitement at trying this exquisite dessert with limoncello lemon liqueur. Limoncello is produced mainly along Italy’s scenic Amalfi Coast. Every sip transports you to the rugged hillsides along the deep blue cerulean waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Imagine the lemon trees engorged with ripe fruit. You can almost smell the heady scent of natural citrus wafting from the arbors. Now that I have your complete and undivided attention, read on.

LIMONCELLO UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

Ingredients:

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided

6 thin lemon slices, seeds removed

3 tablespoons olive oil

Zest of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1 egg, room temperature

2 tablespoons limoncello lemon liqueur

1/2 cup flour plus 2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray ramekins with nonstick oil. Cut 6 parchment paper circles to fit ramekins. Place a circle in the bottom of each. Set aside. Bring brown sugar, 1/4 cup sugar, and water to a simmer in a saucepan. Cook until reduced and sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Submerge lemon slices in syrup. Let sit until rind and pith are translucent, 20-30 minutes. Using a hand mixer on medium speed, beat olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla extract, sea salt, egg, remaining sugar, and limoncello just until blended. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl. Gradually add wet mixture, beating just until blended. Pour one tablespoon syrup from lemon slices into each ramekin. Using tongs, gently place a lemon slice in each ramekin. Reserve remaining syrup. Place ramekins on a baking sheet. Evenly divide batter between them. Bake 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the cake before inverting onto a platter. Remove parchment paper circles. Brush with remaining syrup. Dust with powdered sugar.

Kiwi Dessert Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Kiwi Dessert Pizza! What do you get when you cross a bakery crust with a sweet and creamy fruit topping? At first glance, it appears as though frosting is smeared over the mini flatbread crust. It kinda is. The secret is cream cheese with a hint of sweetened coconut. The rest is simply fresh fruit…until you detect the toasted coconut flakes. Now it’s tough to decide if this dessert is a cookie or a fruit tart. Either way, it’s a delightful change from traditional pies or standard cakes. Not too sweet, not too bland. It’s just right.

KIWI DESSERT PIZZA

Ingredients:

2 mini naan prepared flatbreads

4 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon coconut syrup

2 strawberries, tops removed and quartered

1 kiwi, peeled, sliced, and quartered

3 sliced peaches, cubed

10 blueberries, divided

Toasted coconut, for garnish

Lemon thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

Remove naan from packaging. Spritz with water before heating. Place in toaster on medium setting. Transfer to a platter. In a bowl, combine cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, and coconut syrup. Stir until smooth. Spread over surface of the naan. Arrange strawberries, kiwi, peaches, and blueberries. Garnish with toasted coconut and lemon thyme.