Double Chocolate Skillet Brownie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Double Chocolate Skillet Brownie! I love gooey brownies, especially right out of the oven. Maybe it’s the butter and brown sugar that makes them so delicious. Or it might be the smidgen of peanut butter mixed with real vanilla extract. Lest we not forget the main attraction: dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate for that rich delectable aftertaste once your teeth sink in. Mmmm. Pass me the milk, please.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE SKILLET BROWNIE

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1/3 cup crunchy natural peanut butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup flour

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt crystals

1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup white chocolate chips (optional), for garnish

2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 10″ iron skillet and set aside. In a stand mixer, combine butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar on low speed. Add egg and vanilla extract. Gradually mix in flour, cocoa, baking soda, and sea salt crystals. Fold in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to iron skillet. Spread evenly. Sprinkle with white chocolate chips and chopped walnuts. Bake until set in center and pulling away from sides, 20-24 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Cut into pie-shaped wedges. Serve warm.

Cantaloupe Chicken Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Cantaloupe Chicken Salad! Indiana Cantaloupe is a popular fruit these days. Some even dub it a “labor of love”. As a sweet and fragrant melon, it quickly becomes a perfect alternative to the summer watermelon. Wonderfully rich and appealing in color, the cantaloupe becomes an ideal serving vessel. One scoop and the seeds are gone. Fill half with a savory chicken salad and save the other for vanilla ice cream later on. Win, Win!

CANTALOUPE CHICKEN SALAD

Ingredients:

1 cantaloupe, cut in half or quarters, seeds removed

10-ounce can premium chicken breast, chunk in water; drained

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

1/4 cup mayonnaise

10 seedless green grapes, halved

1 tablespoon pecan pieces

1/8 teaspoon fresh Mexican tarragon, chopped

Instructions:

One cantaloupe serves four. Cut the cantaloupe in half; using a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Tip to remove any juice. Slice each half into a quarter wedge. Place each wedge into a luncheon plate. Set aside. In a large bowl, add drained chicken chunks. Shred chunks slightly, using two forks. Sprinkle with celery seed. Add mayonnaise and mix well. Fold in green grapes and pecan pieces. Stir to blend together. Divide chicken salad equally over each cantaloupe wedge. Garnish with chopped tarragon. Serve.

Broccoli Florets in Cashew Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Broccoli Florets in Cashew Sauce! Are you one of those siblings who used to roll your eyes at the idea of being told to “eat your vegetables”? Isn’t it amazing how we outgrow childhood perceptions and turn them into a food-lover’s paradise? I know, right! Take broccoli, for instance. I remember sitting at the table until every tender green floret had been pushed around my plate, refusing to eat another bite. Nowadays, I practically cheer when the waitress says I can substitute broccoli in place of french fries.

BROCCOLI FLORETS IN CASHEW SAUCE

Ingredients:

1 pound broccoli, cut up and stems removed

1/3 cup unsalted butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 tablespoons Golden Mountain sauce

2 teaspoons garlic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Herb and Garlic Blend

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup cashews, chopped

Instructions:

Cut the stalk off a head of broccoli with a sharp knife. As you cut through the thickness, the individual florets will fall away into smaller pieces. The crowns will feel tight and springy with the appearance of tight closed buds. Discard stems. Place the florets in a microwave safe covered dish. Add 2 tablespoons water. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Carefully remove from microwave oven; drain. In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar, Golden Mountain sauce, garlic vinegar, Mrs. Dash spices, and garlic cloves. Bring to a boil; stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat. Mix in the cashews. Ladle cashew sauce over broccoli florets and serve.

Almond-Vanilla Popovers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Almond-Vanilla Popovers! What if I told you it was possible to eat a serving of bread, but without all the preservatives? It is. And then, what would you say if I told you the outside was golden brown and the inside was hollow? That’s right. Hollow. These light and airy popovers of pancake-like batter puff up into delectable buttery crowns that leave you singing their praises and clapping your hands. It’s like you just witnessed a bit of magic in your very own kitchen.

ALMOND-VANILLA POPOVERS

Ingredients:

6 large eggs

2 cups light cream

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons sugar

2 cups flour

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Move the oven rack one setting below the middle row. Grease a 12-count bouchon pan. In a food processor, combine eggs, light cream, butter, almond extract, vanilla extract, sea salt, sugar, and flour. Blend until no lumps remain and batter is light yellow and frothy, approximately one minute. Fill each bouchon cup 2/3 full. Do not overfill. (Refrigerate leftover batter until ready to make the next batch. At that time, use a whisk to vigorously stir the batter.) Place bouchon pan in the oven; bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Do not open the oven door during baking or the popovers will deflate. When golden brown, remove from the oven. After 2 minutes in the pan, remove and transfer popovers to a wire rack. Do not allow them to cool in the pan or they may turn soggy. Serve warm as is or with a dollop of honey, jam, or butter.

Be Our Guest

Cross the threshold to my open kitchen. Not only will you feel welcome, pampered, and invited, you’ll catch a glimpse of something wonderful to take back home. I like fresh ingredients, garden herbs, rich chocolate, and French butter. And I’m in good company. Some of my recent 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). I’d love to connect with you there as well. Experience different flavors and textures one bite at a time. Catch a glimpse of “Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Be Our Guest!” 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. What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? It’s as simple as A-B-C. One of my passions is being at home in my own country kitchen. I love to cook, and my husband loves that I do it often. I adore time-honored traditions using tried-and-true recipes. Yet, I often never think twice about tweaking old favorites or modifying others to suit the inner craving of the moment. Most of the recipes serve 2-4 people, but can be altered in any direction. The leftovers are golden morsels to be eaten later or shared with others. And I love to share. To me, seeing a smile in gratitude is thanks enough. The recipes you find here in the next several weeks can be prepared very easily. Feel free to contact me with questions or comments. Now take a deep breath, inhale the aromas, and join me on a tasteful journey entitled, “EATING MY WAY THROUGH THE ALPHABET: BE OUR GUEST!”

Zappy Mango Salsa Scoops

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Zappy Mango Salsa Scoops! Have you discovered how sweet and juicy the mango is? Like any other fruit, use your sense of smell to tell if it’s ripe. Sniff around the stem for a fragrant aroma. Because it has a natural sugar content, the mango will ferment on your kitchen counter for a couple days. It will be slightly soft to the touch, the same way an avocado feels when it’s time. Although the skin is edible, I prefer to peel it away. Just a note: the center stone is quite large and almost furry. Simply slice fruit chunks into a bowl and cut them into cubes. Mangoes go well with citrus fruits such as lemons and limes, spicy vegetables like jalapeños and peppers, and also protein-rich legumes like black beans. Now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. Mmmm.

ZAPPY MANGO SALSA SCOOPS

Ingredients:

3 ripe mangoes, peeled and cubed

15.25-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 red onion, diced

1/4 cup pickled jalapeños, chopped

1/4 cup jalapeño liquid from jar

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Scoop-style corn chips

Instructions:

In a large bowl, toss cubed mangoes and black beans with diced red onions. Fold in chopped jalapeños. Add jalapeño liquid, lime juice, sea salt, garlic powder, and chopped cilantro. Gently stir to combine. Serve with scoop-style corn chips.

Yesterday’s Cucumber Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Yesterday’s Cucumber Soup. Here we go again with another cold soup option. It may sound like an oxymoron, but actually if I called it a Cucumber Smoothie, would you drink it? Perhaps. Tell me this, how many times have you been served ice water with a cucumber slice in it? Or grabbed a hydrating plant-based juice beverage at the corner convenience store? Get the picture. It’s all about the perspective. If you find it challenging to eat cold soup, or just plain WRONG…by all means, pour it into a glass and slurp away. To quote William Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Carry on.

YESTERDAY’S CUCUMBER SOUP

Ingredients:

4 mini seedless cucumbers, peeled and chopped

1 gala apple, peeled, cored, and chopped

1 green onion, chopped

2-3 basil leaves

1/4 cup almond milk, unsweetened

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon lime juice

Diced apple, tomato bits, chive snips, and basil leaf for garnish

Instructions:

Reserving garnish to taste, place all remaining I ngredients in a blender. Alternate between Pulse and Liquify settings to purée until smooth. Transfer cucumber mixture into a covered container. Refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight until chilled. Divide into shallow bowls. Serve garnished with apple chunks, diced tomatoes, chopped chives, and basil.

Xenial Chunky Monkey Banana Muffins

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Xenial Chunky Monkey Banana Muffins! Nix the flour for old-fashioned oats for a healthier version of an old classic. Did you know oats can lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar control? It’s a fact we’re all getting older and from time to time need to make minor adjustments in our food consumption. I’m all for small plates. Portion sizes have become insane! When did it happen? As a collector of vintage dishes, modern day dinner plates are now the size of grandma’s meat platter. Did you know “in Europe, the average plate measures 9 inches while some American restaurants use plates that are around 13 inches in diameter. Research has shown that by switching to a 10-inch plate from a 12-inch plate you eat 22% less.”* Snack healthier.

XENIAL CHUNKY MONKEY BANANA MUFFINS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup shredded coconut

3 ripe bananas, mashed

3 cup old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups milk

2 eggs, whisked

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick oil. Spread shredded coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 2-3 minutes, until lightly golden and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine bananas, old-fashioned oats, cinnamon, milk, eggs, brown sugar, vegetable oil, baking powder, vanilla extract, and sea salt. Mix well. Fold in chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, and toasted coconut. Scoop mixture into 12 muffin cups, filling to the top. Bake 30-35 minutes, until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from muffin tin. Serve warm.

*How Big Are Your Dinner Plates And Why It Matters, by Penny Klatell, PhD, RN, May 2012. Eatouteatwell.com

Wild, Wild Ramps

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Wild, Wild Ramps! “We have become foragers!”, my daughter-in-law proudly proclaimed as they walked through the front door. My son extended his hands with a large bouquet of wild ramps, as though they were a dozen long stem roses. “You can eat the tender bulbs as well as the leafy greens!”, they said in unison. Imagine my surprise. Little did I know that every Spring, foodies as well as seasoned chefs embark on a quest to unearth this subterranean gem known as Wild Ramps. What I learned that day is that ramps are simply wild leeks. Their flavor mimics garlic and onion. The fleshy leaves are a savory delight when sautéed in olive oil and butter. I promptly washed and trimmed the precious globular buds before serving them with breakfast. How unexpectedly delicious! It was only later, while traveling, I discovered their value at a farm-to-table restaurant when the waiter boastfully announced Wild Ramps on the menu. My smile said it all.

WILD, WILD RAMPS

1 large bunch wild ramps, skins discarded, washed, and chopped

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

Using an iron skillet, warm butter and olive oil over medium heat. Swirl 3-4 minutes until slightly browned and nutty. Do not burn. Add the wild ramps. Sauté until pieces are slightly charred and leaves are crispy, turning occasionally. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and black pepper. Serve warm.