Bleu Cheese Ball

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Bleu Cheese Ball! I’ll never forget my first taste of bleu cheese. I was having dinner with my father in a charming restaurant nestled along the Mississippi River in the heart of Nauvoo, Illinois. The waiter came over and offered us a complimentary tasting of their claim to fame, bleu cheese. It was aged in the local wine cellars, he boasted, while pouring a taste of wine for the perfect pairing. One bite, one sip and I was in love. My father, on the other hand, wrinkled his nose and said the cheese tasted like old socks. Needless to say, I finished his portion.

BLEU CHEESE BALL

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

4 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Green onion snips

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, bleu cheese crumbles, shredded cheddar cheese, and Worcestershire sauce. Form into a ball. Roll in green onion snips. Refrigerate for one hour. Serve with crackers, pretzel sticks, and smoked almonds.

Apple Dumpling Dreams

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Apple Dumpling Dreams! There’s something special about an apple dumpling, don’t you think? Perhaps it reminds you of the changing seasons. Perhaps it conjures up childhood memories. Perhaps the earthy spices and syrupy sweetness crank up your comfort level. No matter the hypnotic effect, apple dumpling dreams can reflect the way we look at our lives. Do we deny sweets or do we nourish our bodies? “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. It’s all about perspective, moderation, and control. Thank goodness we have freedom of choice. When it comes to apple dumplings, especially now, dreams really do come true.

APPLE DUMPLING DREAMS

Ingredients:

4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored

1 package refrigerated pie crusts

4 star anise pieces

Ingredients for Syrup:

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons butter

Ingredients for Apple Filling:

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly grease a 9” square baking dish; set aside. To make the syrup, combine sugar, water, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons butter. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine ingredients for apple filling. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter until consistency is crumbled. Cut each pie crust in half. Form each half into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll into 8-inch circles. To assemble, place an apple in the center of a dough circle. Fill the empty core with crumb filling. Fold the dough over the apple, pinching at the top to seal. Transfer apple dumplings to the baking dish. Drizzle with syrup. Place a star anise on each apple. Bake for 40-45 minutes until crust is golden brown. Tent with foil, if necessary, to prevent over browning. Serve warm.

Bright Ideas

Some days it may seem as though we have too many choices and not enough ideas. Ever run to the grocery store to buy a bottle of ketchup? Once upon a time, you had two choices: name brand or store brand. Pretty simple. Then we started reading the list of ingredients. Now you have to choose between Sugar or Sugar-Free. Low Carb versus Fat and Calories. Sea Salt or Low Sodium. Artificial coloring. Natural Spices. Preservatives. Wheat. Nuts. And the list goes on. Is it any wonder it takes forever to buy groceries? It can be exhausting. Perhaps that’s another reason people use Instacart® and DoorDash®. When you cook at home, in your own kitchen, you are in charge. So many foods and ingredients can be substituted to appeal to your lifestyle and palate. It’s all about your ideas and balance. I encourage you to make substitutions in the recipes I offer without sacrificing taste. I do it all the time; you can, too.

Some of my posts have been favored by the “Food Network” on Twitter (Snapshotsincursive @DornaGail) as well as Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa, on Instagram (gail _dorna). You can even find me on Pinterest at Gail Dorna. I’d love to connect with you there as well. I also met Chef Michelle Tribble of Hell’s Kitchen reality cooking show. Fun times. Experience different flavors and textures one bite at a time. Catch a glimpse of “Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Bright Ideas!” This remarkable journey of the palate is unique because it gives me a few moments with you. Thanks very much to all of my guests and followers on http://snapshotsincursive.com for the uplifting support, award nominations, and moving words of encouragement.

Zested Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Zested Lemon Blueberry Pancakes! If you’re a “regular” customer at the same restaurant, it’s perfectly natural to become good friends with the owners and staff. Kind of like an extended family. You learn their personalities as they become accustomed to your quirks, humor, and mannerisms. Before long, you may even exchange cell numbers so you can text the restaurant when you’re on your way. It benefits both parties. In turn, if I’m kinda crazy about a certain dish, I may get a nonchalant “secret” ingredient hint dropped my way. The rest is up to me. Now I don’t claim to make menu items as well as a restaurant, but in a pinch it satisfies a craving that will suffice until I return.

ZESTED LEMON BLUEBERRY PANCAKES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon granulated lemon peel

1 cup cottage cheese, small curd

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

1/2 pint blueberries

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

10-ounce jar lemon curd, to taste

Powdered sugar, garnish

Instructions:

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, mix agave nectar, lemon zest, and granulated lemon peel. Add cottage cheese, eggs, vanilla extract, and lemon extract. Whisk until almost smooth. The cottage cheese will continue to have small lumps. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients. Stir to combine. The batter will be a little bit lumpy. Fold in a few blueberries, about 1/4 cup. Warm an iron skillet over medium heat. Brush the skillet with vegetable oil. Add a 1/4 cup of pancake batter to the skillet. Cook for a couple minutes until small bubbles appear. Carefully flip and cook the remaining side until golden, about 2 minutes longer. Brush the skillet with more vegetable oil and repeat the process until all the batter is gone. Serve the pancakes with remaining fresh blueberries and a dollop of lemon curd. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Yogurt-Dipped Waffles

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Yogurt-Dipped Waffles! How many of you were told, as a child, not to play with your food? I know I was, especially when I was supposed to clean my plate of something I didn’t want to eat. But that’s a lot different than finger food. Now you are allowed to take slightly toasted waffles and dip them in flavored yogurt. Since my tastes change from day to day, I prefer to add flavors to Greek yogurt, but you may certainly purchase flavored yogurts to save time. In addition, I make extra waffles on the weekend to serve during the week. If you have toaster waffles on hand, you’re in good shape.

YOGURT-DIPPED WAFFLES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon coconut syrup

2-3 prepared waffles, separated into wedges

Fresh strawberries, sliced

Fresh blueberries

Fresh black raspberries

Nutmeg, for sprinkling

Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

Powdered sugar, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine Greek yogurt and coconut syrup. Mix well. Set aside. Using a toaster on low setting, warm waffle wedges. Remove waffles to a plate. In a bowl, combine strawberries, blueberries, and black raspberries. Gently toss. To serve, dip waffle wedges into Greek yogurt. Spoon fresh fruit over yogurt. Sprinkle with nutmeg and powdered sugar. Garnish with mint leaves. Enjoy!

X-Treme Everything Deviled Eggs

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: X-treme Everything Deviled Eggs! When it comes to deviled eggs, you hear a plethora of descriptions ranging from “world’s best” to “million dollar” to “dangerously good” deviled eggs. But here’s the catch: Everyone has a different number of taste buds. They extend beyond your tongue to include the roof of your mouth as well as the inner cheeks and throat. What you find appealing may not interest me in the least. Here’s a good example. Everything But Bagel Seasoning contains garlic, onion, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds. While it may make your heart flutter sprinkled all over a freshly baked bagel, it may sound completely gross mixed in a deviled egg. On the other hand, when I topped the deviled egg with a clump of newly grown alfalfa sprouts, my taste buds did something similar to a TikTok dance. Just saying.

X-TREME EVERYTHING DEVILED EGGS

Ingredients:

6 hard-boiled eggs

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons cream cheese, room temperature

1 tablespoon Everything But Bagel Seasoning

Alfalfa sprouts, for garnish

Instructions:

Peel the prepared hard-boiled eggs. Slice in half horizontally. Carefully remove the solid yolks and transfer to a small bowl. Place the egg whites on a serving platter. Using a fork, mash the egg yolks into a fine crumble. Add mayonnaise and softened cream cheese. Mix until smooth and creamy. Fold in Everything But Bagel Seasoning. Spoon the yolk filling into the egg whites. Sprinkle more seasoning on top, if desired. Garnish deviled eggs with a crown of fresh alfalfa sprouts.

Wing Beans Shoyu

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Wing Beans Shoyu! Have you ever seen a four-angled bean? It actually has four corners. The rough texture looks a little odd, all jagged and such. Since they grow in tropical climates where there is plenty of humidity, rainfall, and warmth, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t find them at your local grocery store. However, they are readily available at Farmers Markets in the Hawaiian Islands, which is where I got these delectable little jewels. They taste similar to a snow pea with a slightly sweet crunch. Then there’s the sauce. YUM!

WING BEANS SHOYU

Ingredients:

1/2 pound wing beans, washed, ends trimmed, and cut into bite-size pieces

1/4 cup soy sauce, Japanese-style

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 strip bacon, cooked and crumbled

Instructions:

Place prepared wing beans in a covered casserole dish. Add 2 tablespoons water. Microwave on High setting for 3 minutes until crisp-tender. Do not cook until mushy. Drain. Add crumbled bacon. Combine soy sauce, agave nectar, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Whisk to blend flavors. Drizzle over wing bean mixture. Toss to coat. Serve warm.