What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Jamba Juice Copycat Smoothie! Everyone gets excited with a copycat version of a well-known brand. Some knockoffs make it, others fall short. I have the advantage of living with a food critic in my own home, my husband. So when I asked him to taste my version of the Caribbean Passion Smoothie, he was very accommodating. Afterward, my favorite question to ask was, “Would you have this again if I made it?” Sometimes the truth hurts, but this time his smile said it all. Here’s a helpful hint: frozen fruit can be thawed slightly and substituted for fresh. Caution: Take it easy. If you slurp it too fast, prepare for a “brain freeze”.
JAMBA JUICE COPYCAT SMOOTHIE
1 cup organic apricot mango juice
1 cup fresh strawberries, tops removed and cut-up
1/2 heaping cup peach slices, if frozen slightly thawed
1 cup orange sherbet
1/2 cup ice
Combine apricot mango juice, cut-up strawberries, sliced peaches, orange sherbet, and ice cubes together in a blender. Pulse to purée, then blend on High until smooth. If necessary, turn off blender to scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Resume. Mixture should be slushy. Pour into glasses. Serve immediately.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Festive Foods: Mincemeat Cookies! When my friend, Ray, “gifted” me with a batch of his time-honored traditional homemade mincemeat, I felt as though I had received a portion of the Holy Grail. Could this secret from the past hold special powers? Would one bite provide happiness, eternal youth, and food in infinite abundance? You tell me. Ray carefully coached me on how to “season” the mixture by adding flavored brandy (I chose apricot) over a three-week period, stirring it occasionally in a covered clay crock. I was an awestruck student following his instructions to the letter. The results were phenomenal and elegant. Don’t let anyone tell you mincemeat is awful. When prepared correctly, some things are worth the wait.
Ingredients for Cookies:
2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup mincemeat*
2 cups flour
1 cup pecans, chopped
Pecan halves for garnish
Ingredients for Icing:
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon apricot brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons warm milk, as needed
Preheat oven to 375°. Cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add eggs and mincemeat. Gradually stir in the flour. Fold in chopped pecans. Drop by spoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until tops of cookies are dry and set. Bottoms will be slightly golden. Remove from oven. Transfer to a wired rack. Frost while slightly warm. Top each cookie with a pecan half before frosting sets.
Instructions for Icing:
In a medium bowl gently mix powdered sugar and butter until smooth. Add brandy and vanilla. Stir well. As needed, add warm milk to create a thick consistency. Place a dollop of icing on each cookie. Garnish with pecan half.
*The “Elegant Homemade Mincemeat” recipe can be found in the 1972 Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, page 371.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: “Xingzi” Apricot and Fruit Tarts! Three bites. That’s all. Three bites. Someone once told me portion control is all about savoring the taste. I agree. Discover a guilt-free way to float through the holiday parties. When you are asked to bring a dish to share, mini tarts can be prepared in a few minutes leaving you plenty of time for a rejuvenating bubble bath. These adorable sweet and savory tarts are exactly three bites. Put them to the test.
“XINGZI” APRICOT CAMEMBERT TARTS
15-count package Mini Fillo Shells, thawed
1/4 cup apricot jam; or assorted flavors
Wheel of Brie or Camembert cheese
1 teaspoon almonds, finely chopped
1 teaspoon pecans, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Blueberries for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Place the Fillo shells into a mini muffin tin. Remove skin from cheese. Discard. Cut the Brie or Camembert cheese into a small cube to place into the bottom of each Fillo shell. Gently drop a dollop of jam on top of each cube of cheese. Sprinkle with finely chopped nuts, red pepper flakes, or a blueberry. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the jam begins to caramelize. Remove from oven and serve at room temperature.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Home Cooking: Old-Fashioned Blueberry Peach Galette! For a rustic dessert that is sure to please, this classic French pastry is a perfect blend of natural fruit sweetness complimented by a flaky butter crust. No need for a pie plate, it is oven baked on a sheet pan. *Note: Be sure to prep the pan as directed. Otherwise, you may need to replace it.
OLD-FASHIONED BLUEBERRY PEACH GALETTE
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2-3 tablespoons ice water
3 cups peaches, sliced
1/2 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon apricot preserves, melted
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons almonds, sliced
Preheat oven to 425°. Cover a baking sheet with foil. Then line it with parchment paper. Make a 9-inch pie crust: cut butter into flour and salt until particles are the size of small peas. Sprinkle in water 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is moistened and pastry cleans the side of the bowl. Gather pastry into a ball; shape it into a flattened round on a lightly floured surface. Roll into a 9-inch crust and place on parchment paper. Combine sugar, blueberries, and sugar. Beginning in the center, arrange fruit into a fan, spiraling around the pie. Be sure to leave a border. Fold edges of dough toward the center, pressing gently to seal. The dough only partially covers the fruit. Brush the melted preserves over the fruit and along the edges of the dough. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350° but do not remove the galette. Bake an additional 40 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove the galette from the baking sheet by lifting it with the parchment paper. It needs to cool on a wire rack to keep the bottom from getting soggy. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Serve warm.
* Serving suggestion: Top with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Simple Sensations: Baked Brie! I typically serve this as an appetizer, with French preserves and almonds on top, but it also makes a wonderful dessert with a light fruity wine.
14 ounce wheel of Brie*
1/4 cup apricot preserves
2 tablespoons almonds, sliced
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
* Camembert is a milder substitute.
Preheat oven to 325°. Remove Brie wheel from package and slice off the top surface of the rind. Place the wheel in a small oven-proof dish. Lightly score the cheese. Spread the apricot preserves over the exposed cheese surface. Sprinkle with almonds. Pour the butter over all. Garnish with red pepper flakes on top. Bake the Brie uncovered for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is soft and heated through. Serve in the same dish to keep it warm.
Sliced fruit, deli crackers, and crusty baguettes make a nice compliment to the rich, creamy flavor.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Jellylike Jezebel Sauce! I first heard about this sassy southern sauce with a spicy kick from fellow blogger, Camellia.* She piqued my interest since I sometimes crave the heat of horseradish to liven up ordinary foods. Talk about eye-popping sizzle! Yes, Ma’am! Then recently my husband and I travelled to South Carolina where I had a first-hand opportunity to taste it at a waterfront restaurant there. One bite of Coconut Shrimp dipped in Jezebel Sauce aroused my taste buds and the rest was history. Bless your heart, Camellia!
JELLYLIKE JEZEBEL SAUCE
18-ounce apple jelly
13-ounce jar apricot preserves
8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
8-ounce jar creamy horseradish, double strength
2 tablespoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons black cracked pepper
Warm apple jelly in microwave for 30 seconds. Combine apple juice, apricot preserves, crushed pineapple, Creamy horseradish, dry mustard, and cracked black pepper. Stir to blend well. Pour into jars. Chill one hour to enhance flavors. Store in the refrigerator.
*Please visit Camellia for her variation of Jezebel Sauce.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Apricot-Orange Crumble Bars! Who doesn’t love this saucy little fruit? Apricots add an exotic touch of class to everything from appetizers to dessert. Try a dollop of jam on a round of baked Camembert cheese sometime. It is decadent! My recipe today serves as a breakfast food, an afternoon snack, or a delicate dessert option.
APRICOT-ORANGE CRUMBLE BARS
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
Cream together sugar and butter. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together. Add dry ingredients together. Spread 3/4 of batter into a 9×13 greased dish. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Spread 12 ounce dollops of Bonne Maman Apricot Preserves* on top. Slice dried apricot pieces over jam mixture. Fill in with a tablespoon or two of Bonne Maman Orange Marmalade*. Crumble remaining batter on top. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup brown sugar. Bake 350* for 30-35 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into 24 squares.
* Bonne Maman is a product of France.