Peanut Butter Chocolate Hummus

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Sipping Sangria

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Sipping Sangria! The weather is great, the weekend is here. Get ready to party. Psst. Wine lovers lean in. This crowd-pleasing punch can be thrown together beforehand since the flavor gets better with time. Choose your favorite dry red wine. No worries. It’ll sweeten up from the chopped fruit, juices, and agave nectar. Hold the fizziness until just before serving. The colors are not only festive but invigorating. Then sit back, cool off, and sip away.

SIPPING SANGRIA

Ingredients:

5 cups dry red wine

1/2 cup apricot brandy

1/2 cup orange liqueur

1 1/2 cups blood orange juice

1/4 cup grenadine

1/4 cup agave nectar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3 cups sparkling water or carbonated beverage

1 lime, sliced

1 lemon, sliced

1 orange, sliced

1 apple, cut in wedges

Grapes for garnish

Instructions:

In a large pitcher, combine dry red wine, apricot brandy, orange liqueur, blood orange juice, grenadine, agave nectar, fresh lemon juice, and fresh lime juice. Stir well. Add lime, lemon, orange slices and apple wedges. Refrigerate for one hour. Before serving, add sparkling water. Stir. Fill stemmed glasses with ice, add sangria, and garnish with fruit.

Applesauce Morning Muffins

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Applesauce Morning Muffins! I have always been a fan of fruity sweet apples. Growing up in an apple orchard, on a road called Orchard Lane, I never grew tired of picking the dark red and yellow-striped fruit off a low tree limb on my way home from school. I’d twist the stem, quietly reciting the alphabet until the stem snapped off. Whatever letter I was on told me the name of my next boyfriend. My heart would flip into a flutter as I whispered his name under my breath before sinking my teeth into its tasty core. Juice would run down my chin before I could swipe it away as I continued crunching. Did those wise and wonderful apples ever grant me a wish? I’ll never tell.

APPLESAUCE MORNING MUFFINS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup applesauce

1 3/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For topping:

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup butter, melted

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray a muffin pan with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Stir in applesauce. Combine flour, baking powder, and sea salt. Add to batter; stir just until moistened. Spoon batter into muffin tins, filling 2/3 full. Bake 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing muffins from pan. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish. Dip muffin tips into melted butter. Roll in cinnamon sugar. Serve warm.

Uvetta Apple Chutney Grilled Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Uvetta Apple Chutney Grilled Cheese! When I was a kid, the word “chutney” meant something yucky with raisins and spices. That was before my taste buds matured and I acquired an exotic palate. Nowadays I appreciate the characteristics of fancy foods filled with specialized ingredients. By adding a spoonful of apple chutney to a grilled cheese sandwich, it transforms an ordinary meal into an extraordinary one. You should try it.

UVETTA APPLE CHUTNEY GRILLED CHEESE

Ingredients:

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped

1 candied ginger disc, chopped

2 teaspoons pineapple juice

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon cognac (optional)

2 tablespoons raisins

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon natural honey

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

Instructions:

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add olive oil, sweet onions, and candied ginger. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat. Add pineapple juice, apple cider vinegar, cognac, and raisins. Cook on low another 2 minutes. Stir in garlic powder, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin powder, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, and honey. Mix well. Add chopped apples. Coat with sauce. Simmer 10-15 minutes until apples are soft and sauce is like syrup. Remove from heat. Serve as a condiment on your favorite grilled cheese sandwich.

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.

Fabulous Fruit Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Fabulous Fruit Dip! Recently I served a delightful fruit cup for breakfast when family came to visit. Because it is made with Greek yogurt and nutmeg, it’s an impressive alternative to ordinary yogurt. Think of it as Summer-in-a-Cup. Whether you decide to arrange a generous fruit platter for a crowd or scale it down to individual portions, the results are the same: heavenly delicious!

FABULOUS FRUIT DIP

Ingredients:

1 large orange*

8 ounces of Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

4 ounces marshmallow Creme

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon orange extract

1/8 teaspoon orange zest

Smidgen nutmeg

Assorted fresh fruits

Mint Sprig for Garnish

Instructions:

Cut 1/3 off the top of the orange to create a “bowl”. Carefully run a sharp knife around the inside. Do not cut through the peel. Gently scoop out the fruit. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together Neufchâtel cheese and marshmallow creme. Beat until smooth. Fold in Greek yogurt. Make the zest by using the top portion of the orange peel. Add orange extract, zest, and nutmeg. Blend thoroughly. Chill one hour. Scoop into the orange “bowl” before serving. Garnish with fresh mint sprig. Place on a serving platter surrounded by fresh fruit.

* For individual servings, choose four small navel oranges.

Astoria Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Astoria Salad! A classic salad that never loses its popularity, made famous when served at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel over a hundred years ago, gives you the flexibility of turning it into a family favorite. Feel free to add sweet raisins or chopped celery. Some even use yogurt in lieu of a mayonnaise dressing. Be creative, be adventurous, or be satisfied and try my version first.

ASTORIA SALAD

Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sugar

2 red apples, cored and sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup green grapes, seedless and halved

1 cup walnuts, broken into pieces and toasted

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Romaine lettuce, torn

Instructions:

Whisk together mayonnaise and sugar until blended. Set aside. Core and slice red apples. Gently toss in lemon juice. Combine apple slices, green grapes, and toasted walnuts. Coat mixture with mayonnaise dressing. Serve on a bed of romaine lettuce. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter F

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fresh Fruit Salad! Apples, Peaches, Strawberries, Rainer Cherries. The health benefits are invaluable since most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. Munch on them together for an enticing sweet-tart explosion of delicate flavor. Partner the golden yellow-colored and red-blushed fruit for a distinctive taste experience with a smooth creamy yogurt dip. In a hurry? Grab a piece of fruit on-the-go and eat with an individually wrapped portion of string cheese. 
FRESH FRUIT SALAD
2 cups fresh strawberries

2 cups fresh Rainier Cherries

2 Gala apples

2 Georgia Peaches
In a large salad bowl, combine halved strawberries with tops removed, pitted cherries with stems removed, cored apple slices, and cut-up pieces of peach, pit removed.  
DIP
1 cup Greek Yogurt

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract
In a small bowl, combine Greek yogurt, lemon juice, brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. Stir until blended. Serve over fruit in parfait glasses or enjoy as a finger food.