What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Hawaiian Crunch PB Bars! When I asked my grandson what his favorite food was, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s easy, Nana. It’s peanut butter.” It was all I needed to know to head to my kitchen to prepare something special for him for the weekend. By twitching things up a bit with Hawaiian shortbread cookies, the results produced an amazing crunch that teamed well with the hazelnut spread frosting. How’s that for double coverage? His opinion, you wonder? Being a teenager, a thumb’s up was approval enough.
HAWAIIAN CRUNCH PB BARS
12 ounces Hawaiian banzai furikake shortbread cookies or vanilla wafers
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup natural peanut butter, chunky
2 cups powdered sugar
12 ounces mini semisweet chocolate chips
13 ounces hazelnut cocoa spread
1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts, chopped
Pulse cookies in a food processor until crumbly. Set aside. Spray a 9”x13” pan with nonstick oil. Combine butter and natural chunky peanut butter until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar until blended. Next fold in cookie crumbs and mini chocolate chips. Mix to combine. Spread evenly in the prepared pan. Warm hazelnut spread in a microwave until it is easy to spread. Cover the peanut butter layer completely. Sprinkle with chopped honey roasted peanuts. Refrigerate one hour. Cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Garlic Smashed Potatoes! Now you, too, can have the same potato side dish at home which you often choose in popular eateries. It’s so incredibly easy you’ll find yourself wondering why you didn’t think of it before now. My simple recipe requires only three key ingredients: Idaho Russet Potatoes, Boursin Garlic Cheese, and of course, French Butter with sea salt. A sprinkling of bacon bits and fresh cut chives for garnish merely enhances an already phenomenal taste. With the holidays on the horizon, be kind to yourself. Keep it simple and WOW your friends and family without spending endless hours in the kitchen. You deserve it.
GARLIC SMASHED POTATOES
2 large Idaho Russet Potatoes
5.2 ounces package Boursin Garlic and Herb Gournay cheese
2 tablespoons butter, salted
Bacon bits, for garnish
Fresh cut chives, for garnish
Peel potatoes and cut into chunks. Place potatoes in a 2-quart pan. Cover with cold water. Add about a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook potatoes for 15-18 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife. Empty pan of potatoes into a colander to remove water. Transfer potatoes back to the pan, add butter and Boursin garlic cheese. Cover for 2-3 minutes. Take a hand mixer and smash the ingredients together until slightly chunky. Potatoes will be stiff but creamy. Transfer potatoes to a serving dish. Top with bacon bits and fresh cut chives for garnish. Serve immediately with gravy, if desired.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Focaccia Herb Bread! I love bread. Don’t hate me. Besides, if the Italians and the French can make it a guilt-free pleasure, that’s good enough for me. Focaccia Bread is a flatter version than a loaf and actually resembles the texture of pizza dough and breadsticks. Are you with me now? At first glance you may think there is too much olive oil in this recipe. Not true. Actually, that is the secret to keeping the bread soft or preventing it from drying out. Feel free to begin imagining focaccia bread as an appetizer, sandwich bread, or healthy snack. Permission granted.
FOCACCIA HERB BREAD
1 cup water
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1-2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
Dipping Olive Oil
Using a bread machine, follow this order: add water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sea salt, bread flour, and sugar. Make a small well in the dry ingredients. Pour the active dry yeast in the well. Select Dough/Manual cycle. When cycle is complete, coat a 10”x15” baking pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil. This will make the bottom crispy. Press the dough into the pan, stretching it to fit the pan. Be sure to turn the dough over to coat both sides with olive oil. Once the dough is stretched, take a wooden spoon and press it, handle side down, to make impressions in the dough, similar to dimples. Be careful. DO NOT make holes in the dough. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in a warm area, free of drafts. Let the dough rise for one hour. Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the plastic wrap and discard. Sprinkle the top of the focaccia dough with rosemary leaves and parmesan cheese. Drizzle enough olive oil to pool in the indentations. Bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes. Remove the focaccia bread and let it cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Cut into squares. Serve with herbed olive oil or enjoy as is.
“Words today are like the shells
and rope of seaweed
which a child brings home
glistening from the beach
and which in an hour
have lost their luster.”
~ Cyril Connolly
not strength or intelligence,
is the key to
unlocking your potential.”
~ Winston Churchill
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Edamame Spicy Stix! You’ve probably been to a restaurant where the server placed a bowl of edamame on the table, in lieu of the bread basket. Next to it was an empty bowl for placing the discarded pods. If it was a first for you, no worries. Friends, this is one time you are allowed to eat with your fingers. Truth. Simply pick up one pod with your fingers and put it in your mouth, not letting go. Bite down with your teeth and slide the beans out as you pull the pod away. Tender green beans, about the size of peas, will drop onto your tongue. Chew and enjoy the flavor sensation. Easily toss the pod into the empty bowl and reach for another. Who would’ve thought eating edamame could be this much fun?
EDAMAME SPICY STIX
12-ounce bag frozen Edamame with sea salt
2 tablespoons butter, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
Microwave edamame according to package directions. Let stand for one minute. Open package and set aside. In a cast iron skillet, melt one tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add minced garlic cloves, seasoned salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and add cooked edamame. Transfer to a serving bowl. Fit with remaining butter. Drizzle with sriracha sauce. Serve immediately. Remove shells before eating. Do not consume pods.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Dill Pickle Bacon Spears! If you’ve ever drooled over the thought of a dill pickle appetizer, be prepared to reward yourself with this amazing recipe you can make at home. For the perfect zing of flavor, choose zesty garlic dill pickle spears. I recommend visiting the butcher department at your favorite grocers to buy a pound of thick sliced hickory-smoked bacon. You only need a half a pound for these appetizers, but trust me, you’ll finish it later on. Not only is the flavor unsurpassed, but the mere texture of thick bacon combined with the garlic pickles is highly addictive. Go ahead, slather them in creamy buttermilk ranch dressing for an unbeatable combination. You’re Welcome!
DILL PICKLE BACON SPEARS
12 dill pickle spears, zesty garlic
6 slices thick bacon, cut in half lengthwise
1/3 cup buttermilk ranch dressing
Chives for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange the 12 bacon strips on a wire rack that is placed on a foiled-lined baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool until easy to handle. Wrap each dill pickle spear with one strip of bacon, seam side down. Secure with 1-2 toothpicks. Return dill pickles to wire rack and bake 25-30 minutes longer until bacon is crisp. Remove from oven and arrange on a platter. Pour buttermilk ranch dressing into a dip bowl. Garnish with fresh chives. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Corn Fritter Flapjacks! Add variety to your meals now that hearty comfort soups are on the menu as we stroll leisurely into Autumn. Old-fashioned corn fritters can be as simple as baked or pan fried cornbread. For variety, add sweet corn niblets, dried herbs and spices, or even shredded cheese. You may even be bold and cover them in maple syrup. As always, the key to great taste is in using natural and organic ingredients. I pulled out the old reliable cast iron skillet for frying simply because it maintains a more even heat exchange. Since it is already seasoned, the results mean no sticking and less oil is needed. Get cooking. Try something new tonight!
CORN FRITTER FLAPJACKS
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sweet corn kernels
Vegetable oil for frying
In a large mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix well. Set aside. Pour milk into a small bowl; add white vinegar. Whisk the two together. Set aside for a few minutes to allow the milk to thicken. Add egg and olive oil. Whisk to blend wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir just until batter is moistened. Fold in sweet corn. Warm an iron skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Brush the bottom with vegetable oil. Drop batter by spoonfuls onto the greased skillet. Cook until bubbles form around the edges, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat slightly, if necessary. Flip the flapjacks to cook the other side. Cook about 2 minutes longer so the outsides are crispy and the insides are fluffy. The corn fritters should be golden-to deep brown without burning. Repeat with remaining batter. Apply more oil as needed. Keep warm until ready to serve. Makes one dozen fritters.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Buttered Plum Galette! You don’t have to be a perfectionist to create the perfect galette. The whole idea is to make it appear rustic and charming. By forming an irregular pie crust, it conjures images of the bucolic countryside we often yearn for in an unpolished way. This is how plain country kitchens capture that homey feeling. You can, too. Indeed, the Buttered Plum Galette is as delicious as it sounds.
BUTTERED PLUM GALETTE
Ingredients for Crust:
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, cold
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons ice water
Ingredients for Plum Filling:
4 medium-size plums, stone removed and sliced thin
1/3-1/2 cup mulberries, or blackberries
Scant lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/3 cup plum jam, slightly warmed
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg yolk
Recipe makes two individual galettes. Preheat oven to 425°. Using a food processor, pulse cold butter, flour, and salt to the size of small peas. Sprinkle in ice water one tablespoon at a time until dough forms a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1/2 hour. Remove wrap and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut in half. Roll each half into an 8” circle. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Beginning in the center, spiral plums like a fan. Be sure to leave a border. Top with berries. Fold edges of dough toward the center, creating a rustic crust. Press gently to seal. Repeat for second galette. Sprinkle fruit with lemon juice. Cover fruit with sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom. Spread plum jam over fruit. Dot with butter. Whisk together egg yolk and a little water. Brush the egg wash along the edges of the dough. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° but do not remove galettes. Bake an additional 45 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer the buttered plum galettes from the baking sheet by lifting with the parchment paper. Cool on wire rack to keep the bottoms from getting soggy. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Avocado Breakfast Toast! Nothing looks more appealing in the morning than an open face breakfast sandwich, in my opinion. Avocado and salmon step things up a notch when paired with a nice yolk-drenched piece of artisan toast. I love French butter, but if you choose to omit slathering the toast with it, I’ll understand. My husband and I don’t mind a little taste sensuality in the morning. You choose.
AVOCADO BREAKFAST TOAST
2 slices artisan bread, toasted
1-2 tablespoons sea salt butter
1 avocado; halved, pitted, peeled, and chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 eggs, cooked over easy or poached
1/2 cup grilled salmon, flaked
1 teaspoon capers
Pinch Herbes de Provence
Fresh thyme for garnish
Take the chopped avocado and mash it until chunky. Fold in the lemon juice and garlic powder. Set aside. Toast bread as desired. Spread with sea salt butter and keep warm. Cook the eggs over easy so the yolks are still runny. Place one piece of buttered toast on a plate. Spoon a thick layer of avocado over toast. Next divide flaked salmon between the two servings. Sprinkle with capers. Place one egg on top. Garnish with Herbes de Provence and fresh tarragon.