What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Quesadilla Apple Bacon Cheese! Your “go-to” snack just got even better. Take a hayride through the apple orchard where farm-to-table treats are as common as animal cloud shapes in the sky. Choose a nice juicy red apple; something to sink your teeth into like Gala, Fuji, or Delicious. The cheese could be American, but I prefer extra sharp cheddar. Go meatless or go crazy and add a couple slices of Applewood Smoked Bacon, with enough crunch to match the crispy tartness of sliced apples. Get the picture? Nibble, nibble.
QUESADILLA APPLE BACON CHEESE
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
2 flour tortillas
4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 strips Applewood Smoked Bacon, cooked until crisp
Sprinkle cheese on half a tortilla. Layer apple slices over cheese. Add more cheese. Lay two strips of bacon on top. Fold tortilla in half. Repeat process for second tortilla. Microwave quesadilla for 20 seconds on High setting, or until cheese is melted. Transfer quesadilla to a toaster oven for a crunchy crust that is golden brown. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Waffle Doodle-Doo! The million dollar question of the day is “Why are chicken and waffles so popular?” Could it be the crispy moist chicken tenders, or the fluffy golden-edge waffle, or the sweet creamy butter? Maybe. Perhaps it’s the robust taste of natural maple syrup. That’s good, too. Personally, I like the explosive kick of jalapeño and the bite of cilantro mixed in. Sliced apple sticks are a bonus. No matter your preference, it’s kind of a thing. Go the easy route like I did. Pick up an order of breaded chicken tenders from your favorite food joint. Since my husband is a master on the waffle iron, he does that part. Make extra waffles; they freeze well. You can thank me later. Pull it all together for a unique flavor that works for breakfast, weekend brunch, or late night craving.
4 chicken tenders, precooked
2 buttermilk or Belgian-style frozen waffles
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons jalapeño pepper jelly
1 Gala apple, cored and sliced into matchsticks
Butter, room temperature
Warm chicken tenders in a 350° oven while waffles are being made in the waffle iron or heated in a toaster to desired crispness. Combine maple syrup and jalapeño jelly in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on High in 15-second intervals. Stir together until jelly is melted and the flavors are blended. Core the apple, then slice into matchsticks. For presentation, cut waffles into triangles to form a “tent”. Brush waffles with softened butter. Drizzle with jalapeño maple syrup. Arrange chicken tenders. Add apples. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Endive Apple Salad! Have you noticed how bright and beautiful the produce is right now? Sometimes I marvel at all the farm fresh fruits and vegetables imagining the flavors I can pair on a plate. It’s a good thing my husband is open to trying new things. A juicy sweet slice of red ripe apple nestled between curly-edged leaves of rich green endive become pleasing to the eye long before the first crunch is heard. Add Bleu cheese crumbles with praline pecans drizzled in a balsamic reduction sauce. Together it adds deliciousness that is unsurpassed, in my opinion.
ENDIVE APPLE SALAD
1 large Gala apple
1/4 lemon juice
1 bunch curly endive
1 small head napa cabbage
1/2 cup praline pecan halves
1/4 cup bacon pieces
1/4 cup Bleu cheese crumbles
Balsamic reduction sauce*
Pour lemon juice into a shallow bowl. Cut the apple in half. Take one portion and place cut side down in lemon juice. This keeps the apple from turning brown. Remove the apple and set aside for garnish. For the remaining apple half, core and remove seeds. Slice apple into 7 equal-size wedges; dip both sides of apples into lemon juice to coat. Meanwhile, arrange napa cabbage leaves and endive on a decorative platter, alternating for bursts of color. Place the apple half in the center and nestle one apple wedge inside a cabbage leaf, creating a pinwheel effect. Add praline pecans, bacon pieces, and Bleu cheese crumbles. Drizzle with balsamic reduction glaze.
*For my quick and easy homemade version, follow the link to
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Allspice Apple Butter! Nothing makes your house smell better than warm bakery spices filling the air. Apples are in abundant supply at every turn, whether it’s a nearby orchard, farmers market, co-op center, or local grocery store. This easy-to-follow recipe gives you a jumpstart on making two small jars of homemade apple butter. Share one with a friend and keep the other for yourself. Win! Win!
ALLSPICE APPLE BUTTER
23 ounces unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground
1/8 teaspoon ginger, ground
1/8 cloves, ground
1-2 sugared ginger discs, sliced (optional)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
Combine all ingredients in a reduction pan or medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Watch carefully. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Do not scorch. Remove from heat, cool and transfer to two small jars. Store in the refrigerator.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Apple Butter Bars! What if I told you there was no “butter” in apple butter? Would you wrinkle your brow and say, “Whaaat?” It’s true. Apple butter is made by slow-cooking apples a long time until the sugar content caramelizes, giving it a deep brown color. I skipped the homemade process by choosing to purchase an organic brand made by one of my favorite country restaurants. You can, too, by visiting local farmers who are more than willing to share their bounty this time of year. It’s Applelicious!
APPLE BUTTER BARS
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups natural apple butter
1 gala apple, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9”x13” pan. Set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Mix flour, sea salt, and baking soda together. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture. Spread 3/4 of batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Spread apple butter on top. Layer chopped apple pieces over all. Fill in with chopped peanuts. Crumble remaining batter on top. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake 30-35 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into 24 squares.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Taffy Apple Salad! Wait a minute….is this allowed?! I can’t resist a sweet caramel apple this time of year. Or two. So to balance the blend of flavors ranging from sweet to tart to salty, I threw in some healthy greens, cheese, and cinnamon. Make sense? The old fashioned taste of ooey-chewy caramel turns an ordinary salad into an autumn festival. Join the party.
TAFFY APPLE SALAD
Leaves of Romaine lettuce
1 caramel apple with nuts
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
1/4 cup Spanish peanuts
Cinnamon to taste
Gently tear romaine lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Cut the caramel apple into wedges to remove the stick and eliminate the seeds. Add to the salad. Top with Parmesan cheese and Spanish peanuts. Sprinkle cinnamon over apples.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Apple “Dew” Dumplings! Autumn brings with it the distinctive smell of woodsmoke on the wind, the crunch of vibrant-colored leaves underfoot, and the warm sweet taste of cinnamon apple dumplings as the nights cool down. Although this recipe offers short cuts in the kitchen, the rewards are anything but. Use it once and you’ll discover its value for the next soul-stirring family gathering.
APPLE “DEW” DUMPLINGS
Two tubes crescent rolls
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 8 wedges
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup pecans, chopped
12 ounces Mountain Dew
Preheat oven to 350°. Wrap each piece of apple in a crescent triangle. Arrange in a 9″x13″ glass baking dish or 10″ deep pie plate. Melt butter and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to boil and stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract. Pour over apple dumplings. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nuts. Without stirring, pour Mountain Dew over all. Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden brown. Do not over bake. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Peanut Butter Chocolate Hummus! You don’t have to be vegan to appreciate the benefits of hummus, especially this version. It’s more like a reward than a punishment. The peanut-ty taste combined with dark chocolate makes it only a few steps removed from eating a candy bar. But that’s where the dippers come in handy to turn it into a healthy appetizer or afternoon snack. Think celery, gluten-free pretzels, and juicy apple slices. I couldn’t resist a dollop of hummus between two shortbread cookies. Graham crackers would work just as well. Think of the fun you’ll have coming up with more ways to “spread the joy”!
PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE HUMMUS
15-ounce chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup natural peanut butter, creamy
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Once chickpeas are drained and rinsed well, add to a food processor. Pulse to mix. Combine remaining ingredients: natural peanut butter, pure maple syrup, milk, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract. Blend together until hummus is smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Transfer mixture to a covered dish. Refrigerate one hour. Serve with pretzel sticks, apple slices, shortbread cookies, and celery.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: USA Happy Snack! Did I ever tell you I spent my childhood surrounded by apple trees? It’s one of my favorite memories, growing up in the Midwest. If I was in a feisty mood, I’d nibble on sour green apples. Forget that my impatience may have caused a tart pursing of the lips and a slight ache in the stomach. As the apples ripened, I’d pluck the prettiest one off the tree, rub it against my knee for a mirrored sheen, and admire its beauty. Sometimes I’d twist the stem until it broke, reciting my ABCs. Whatever letter I was on when the stem splintered away became the name of my next boyfriend. But not if it matched my brothers’ names. That didn’t count. Here’s to all-American healthy food wrapped up in a little nostalgia.
USA HAPPY SNACK
1 Gala apple, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 slices smoked Virginia ham
4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thick
Brush the sliced apples with lemon juice to prevent browning. Cut the ham slices in half. Take one apple slice and place it on top of a piece of cheddar cheese. Wrap them with one piece of ham, seam side down. Tuck a sprig of fresh mint into the snack. Enjoy!