The Chow Down

“Chowing Down”, what a charming expression. We’re all familiar with its meaning: to eat, especially at mealtime. It’s no secret I get great satisfaction from food, whether it’s an afternoon snack, evening appetizer, or late night sweet. Nowadays with the flux of farm-to-table and organic options, is it any wonder the allure of food is so enticing? Mealtime then becomes an all-star event. And speaking of stars…Some of my posts have received a nod from Le Cordon Bleu as well as the “Food Network” on Twitter (Snapshotsincursive@DornaGail). Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa, spotted me on Instagram @gail_dorna. This continuous journey of the palate gives me time 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. I love to cook, and my husband loves that I do it often. Most recipes serve 2-4 people, but can be easily modified. Leftovers are golden morsels to be eaten later or shared with others. Seeing a smile of gratitude keeps me going. Now take a deep breath, inhale the aromas, and join me on a tasteful journey entitled, “EATING MY WAY THROUGH THE ALPHABET: THE CHOW DOWN!”

Zero Candy Bar Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Zero Candy Bar Cookies! White chocolate fudge has been popular since it was introduced in a candy bar a hundred years ago. At that time it was called the Double Zero Bar due to its “chilling” snowy white color, reminding the public of an ice cube. To this day it is sold in a trademark cool silver wrapper. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, they say. Today’s cookies are nothing short of heavenly.

ZERO CANDY BAR COOKIES

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 sea salt

1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups peanuts, chopped

3.4 ounce Zero Candy Bar, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar until creamy. Add vanilla and almond extracts. Beat well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well mixed. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture. Stir until blended. Fold in white chocolate chips, mini chocolate chips, peanuts, and Zero Candy Bar pieces. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Drop cookie dough, using a melon ball scoop, onto the baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool for 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Yield: 6 dozen.

Yam Streusel Boats

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Yam Streusel Boats! Root vegetables are our friends. Yams, also known as sweet potatoes, contain more healthy fiber and Vitamin A than white potatoes. Plus they are lower in calories. Granted today’s recipe has a streusel topping, but think about it. When you eat a baked (white) potato, do you add butter, sour cream, and crumbled bacon? I know, right! Obviously portion-control is part of the equation in making healthy choices. With the holidays on the horizon, think warm, comfort foods containing root vegetables.

YAM STREUSEL BOATS

Ingredients for Yams:

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 pinch cinnamon

1 pinch chipotle chili powder

Ingredients for Chipotle Pumpkin Seeds:

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8 teaspoon raspberry chipotle rub

3/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Ingredients for Streusel Topping:

1 tablespoon flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1/4 cup chipotle pumpkin seeds, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Rub sweet potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Pierce the top with a knife. Place potatoes directly on the oven rack. Bake one hour. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop the flesh into a mixing bowl. Place potato shells on a baking sheet. Slightly mash the sweet potato flesh. Add butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, and chipotle chili powder. Whisk until smooth. Spoon mixture equally into yam shells. For seasoned pumpkin seeds, combine butter, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, and raspberry chipotle rub. Whisk well. Put pumpkin seeds in a ziplock bag. Pour butter mixture over all. Seal and shake to coat. Transfer seeds to a baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Toss and bake 5 minutes longer. Cool. Chop 1/4 cup of seasoned pumpkin seeds for topping. For streusel topping, use a medium bowl. Combine flour, brown sugar, and butter. Mix well. Topping should be crumbly. Fold in chopped pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle streusel topping over mashed sweet potatoes. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.

Xingzi Apricot Tartlets

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Xingzi Apricot Tartlets! Apricots have a way of turning simple desserts into gourmet treats. Their rich flavor is similar to a peach, but with a more tender outer skin. The juicy tang blends well with spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom for a warm flavorful finish. The buttery dough of puff pastry makes the tartlets as light as air. Guaranteed to impress, and delicious to eat.

XINGZI APRICOT TARTLETS

Ingredients:

1 sheet prepared puff pastry, thawed

14-ounce can apricots, halved in syrup

2 tablespoons apricot jam, warmed

Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and Cardamom to taste

1 vanilla bean pod, slivered

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Unroll the puff pastry and cut it into small rectangles. Place on a nonstick baking sheet. Arrange apricot halves on each pastry strip. Brush with apricot jam. Sprinkle with nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom to taste. Bake 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Garnish with slivers of vanilla bean before serving.

Warm Feta Spread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Warm Feta Spread! At first glance you may think the hot pepper mixture is too flaming hot to eat. Peppers, after all, can be pretty spicy. Removing the seeds is half the battle. Still, the skin of a hot pepper contains oils which ignite the heat sensors in the mouth. All true. However, cheese acts as a natural fire extinguisher to diminish the heat factor, while promoting the amazing taste of peppers. Feta cheese contains milk, which is another component in reducing heat. Trust me, all together it works.

WARM FETA SPREAD

Ingredients:

8-ounce block feta cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, crushed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 green hot pepper, sliced

1 habanero pepper, seeds removed and chopped

1 shallot, sliced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 ripe tomato, diced

Fresh tarragon for garnish

Assorted bagel chips and crackers

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place feta cheese block in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with crushed Herbes de Provence. Bake 15 minutes until cheese is soft. Meanwhile heat one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add green hot pepper slices, chopped habanero pepper, sliced shallots, and garlic powder. Cook until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove warmed feta cheese from oven. Top with diced tomatoes and hot pepper mixture. Garnish with fresh tarragon. Serve with assorted bagel chips and crackers.

Vegan Black Bean Stew

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Vegan Black Bean Stew! Autumn has arrived. And with it comes all the comfort we crave in foods that warm our toes and fill our tummies. You don’t have to be a meat-lover to appreciate a heaping bowl of hearty stew. Choose vegetable medleys and aromatic spices instead. Combine them all together in the slow cooker for savory results. Go meatless!

VEGAN BLACK BEAN STEW

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, sliced

1 sweet onion, diced

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoon cumin

3 cups vegetable broth

45 ounces black beans, with liquid

1 cup sweet corn

Bell Pepper rings

Fresh Cilantro

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add chopped carrots, sliced celery, and sweet onion. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and black pepper. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste, garlic powder, and cumin. Cook 2 minutes longer until tomato paste turns brownish. Add 1/2 cup vegetable broth. Stir to combine. Transfer skillet mixture to a crockpot. Add black beans, sweet corn, and remaining vegetable broth. Stir well. Cover and cook on High for 4 hours or Low for 6 hours. Serve heaping bowls with bell pepper rings and cilantro to garnish.

Underwood Chicken Pâté

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Underwood Chicken Pâté! Sometimes you need a snack or an appetizer in a pinch for hungry grandkids, neighbors relaxing on the back porch, or late night munchies. A quick solution can be found in the kitchen pantry with premium quality canned meats. Simply add cheese, veggies, and spice for a people-pleasing dip that hits the spot. Adding a side of pepper jelly is a nice compliment to the creamy dip.

UNDERWOOD CHICKEN PÂTÉ

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, extra-sharp, finely shredded

2 tablespoons red onion, diced

1/3 cup celery, chopped

1/8 teaspoon celery seed

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4.25 ounce can Underwood Chicken Spread

1 sprig of tarragon

Cilantro for garnish

Instructions:

In a medium mixing bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, cheddar cheese, red onion, chopped celery, celery seed, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Mix well. Fold in Chicken Spread and fresh tarragon leaves. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with toasted baguette slices or assorted crackers.