Overstuffed Pineapple Boat

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Overstuffed Pineapple Boat! If you’re looking for the WOW-factor for the next social gathering, bookmark this recipe for a standing ovation. It’s that good! Not only does it satisfy the meat and seafood lover in all of us, it also has “healthy” written all over it. You gotta admit, the pineapple presentation is a show-stopper. And the best part is, with a little planning, anyone can pull it off.

OVERSTUFFED PINEAPPLE BOAT

Ingredients:

1 whole ripe pineapple

1 pound frozen cooked shrimp; thawed, tails removed

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon Chesapeake Bay Style seafood seasoning

1/4 teaspoon dill

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 cup butter

1 cup instant rice, brown or white

1 1/2 cups fine home style noodles

10-ounce can chunk chicken breast, drained

14-ounce chicken broth

4 green onions, chopped

8-ounce can of slivered water chestnuts, drained

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup soybean seasoning sauce

Instructions:

Cut pineapple lengthwise; cut around the inside, following the edge to create a “boat”. Do not pierce the underside. Cut the pineapple flesh into chunks. Scoop out and place in a bowl. Set pineapple aside. In a deep skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add seafood seasoning, dill, and lime juice. Cook 1-2 minutes, turning once. Remove sautéed shrimp and place on paper towel-lined plate. Melt butter in the same skillet. Do not burn. Add white rice and thin noodles. Coat well. Cook them over medium heat 3-5 minutes, turning often until golden brown. Stir in chicken broth and chicken chunks. Cover. Simmer 15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Add chopped green onion with tops, water chestnuts, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, and soybean seasoning sauce. Mix well. Gently fold in sautéed shrimp and pineapple chunks, to taste. Refrigerate leftover pineapple in a covered container. Fill pineapple boats. Serve on platters. Garnish with cilantro leaf.

Nutella Fudge Brownies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Nutella Fudge Brownies! If you haven’t been introduced to Nutella lately, allow me to take a moment to introduce you. Nutella is a distant cousin to peanut butter, the difference being its two main ingredients of heart-healthy hazelnuts and nutritious cocoa chocolate. Like peanut butter, portion control is key. That being said, love it or leave it. A little Nutella goes a long way, in my opinion. I topped a batch of fudge brownies with Nutella frosting and crushed salted pretzels for a super-yummy dessert. I have grandkids, after all, and my job is to spoil them silly.

NUTELLA FUDGE BROWNIES

Ingredients for Pretzel Crust:

1 1/2 cup pretzels

1/3 cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray an 8″x8″ square pan with nonstick oil. Set aside. Using a food processor, pulse pretzels into small pieces. Add brown sugar and pulse until mixed. Pour in melted butter and continue until mixed. Press pretzel mixture into prepared pan. Bake 12-14 minutes until crust is firm. Remove and set aside.

Ingredients for Fudge Brownies:

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup Nutella Hazelnut Spread

Ingredients for Frosting:

1/3-1/2 cup Nutella Hazelnut Spread

Crushed pretzels for garnish

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Instructions:

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and sea salt. Set aside. In a larger mixing bowl, combine sugar and melted butter, stirring thoroughly. Add one egg. Mix well. Repeat with second egg. Add vanilla extract and 1/3 cup Nutella Hazelnut Spread. Stir until smooth. Slowly add dry ingredients, mixing well. Pour batter onto prepared crust. Spread evenly. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow fudge brownies to cool 30 minutes. Frost with Nutella Hazelnut Spread, according to taste. Garnish with crushed pretzel pieces and sea salt.

Financier Almond Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Financier Almond Cake! Not everyone lives around the corner from the best pastry shops in Paris. So we manage by baking at home. My son, Johnny, and his wife, Katie, treated me to their gluten-free version of a popular French sweet. Know what you get when you combine ground natural almonds, luscious brown butter, and airy egg whites? Clue: It’s a French pastry chef’s dream! By choosing a small cupcake mold or ramekin, this springy honey-sweet dessert becomes a star attraction at the end of a meal. Drizzle it with a lightly sweetened St~Germaine glaze, top it with a fresh raspberry crown, and you’re bound to feel a tiny bit Parisienne. Ooh-la-la!

FINANCIER ALMOND CAKE

Ingredients for Cake:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup coconut flour

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon natural honey

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter 2 ramekins or coat a 6-count muffin tin with butter or nonstick oil. Set aside. Melt the butter over medium heat. Do not burn. Simmer until brown bits begin to form. Lower heat and simmer, stirring frequently to scrape the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until butter turns dark brown, not burnt, for about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile pulse the sliced almonds and coconut flour in a food processor until nuts are finely ground. Transfer flour mixture to a medium bowl. Whisk in the powdered sugar. Fold in the egg whites, mixing until smooth. Gently stir in the honey. Finally, fold in the cooled brown butter. Stir until batter is smooth. Spoon into the greased ramekins or muffin pan. Spread batter evenly. Bake 25-30 minutes until the edges are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. If using a muffin pan, invert after 5 minutes to remove mini-cakes from pan.

Ingredients for Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

3 tablespoons St~Germaine liqueur

Fresh raspberries for Garnish

1 teaspoon ground almonds for Garnish

Instructions:

Sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in St~Germaine liqueur until a smooth consistency is reached. Gently spoon the glaze over the top of the cakes. Garnish with fresh raspberries and a sprinkling of ground almonds.

Yummy Parmesan Alfredo Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Yummy Parmesan Alfredo Sauce! If ever there was a universal sauce, this is it. Alfredo sauce isn’t just for pasta any more. Pizzerias began using it to substitute the tomato base on pizzas, pairing it with bacon, spinach, artichokes, and chicken. It makes a creamy addition to grilled seafood, poultry, or pork dishes, as well. Some enthusiasts even slather alfredo sauce on baked potatoes. It’s pure genius to pour it into a freshly baked bread bowl for dipping crudités, if you’re into that sort of thing. No matter how you spin it…butter, cream, and cheese are the star attractions. These are the ways to a woman’s heart. That, and a bouquet of fresh flowers.

YUMMY PARMESAN ALFREDO SAUCE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, unsalted

1 1/2 cups light cream

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons Neufchâtel cheese, softened

2 cups parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm butter. Add light cream. Reduce heat and simmer over Low heat for 2 minutes, stirring gently. Whisk in minced garlic, Italian seasoning, sea salt, and black pepper. Add Neufchâtel cheese; stir to incorporate. Slowly add parmesan cheese; whisk until completely melted. Keep warm prior to serving.

Xtra Tender Crockpot Carrots

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Xtra Tender Crockpot Carrots! Take advantage of a favorite workhorse at your disposal for men and women alike. Some call it a crockpot (from the 1970s) while others refer to it as a modern-day slow cooker. It basically became popular because it was a handy appliance that could be filled with traditional stew ingredients left to cook slowly all day long. People plugged it in and trotted off to work. When they returned home, the entire house was filled with savory aromas that could make a macho man weep. The only thing missing was the synthesized beat of the disco hit by the Village People. Now I’m really dating myself.

XTRA TENDER CROCKPOT CARROTS

Instructions:

2 pounds whole carrots, washed and peeled

1/3 cup apricot jam

6 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons raw honey

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 tablespoons water

Instructions:

Trim carrots, as needed, to fit lengthwise in a crockpot or slow cooker. Remove all but an inch of the carrot tops. In a bowl, combine apricot jam, melted butter, raw honey, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, kosher salt, dried thyme, dry mustard, and black pepper. Stir until thoroughly mixed. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together cornstarch and water. Pour into the apricot sauce. Stir well. Drizzle apricot sauce over carrots. Cover crockpot. Cook on LOW setting for 5-6 hours, or until tender. Carrots are done when pierced easily with a fork. Serve immediately.

Wild Rice Sausage Stuffing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Wild Rice Sausage Stuffing! For those who really crave the taste of stuffing, here’s an idea for a meal-in-one-dish. Some people may call it a “casserole” since it contains crumbled pork sausage, mixed vegetables, bread stuffing, and wild rice grains. Either way, you’re going to want to bookmark and print this recipe. It’s that good. Of course, you can make the serving portions a little smaller and serve it as a side dish with roasted chicken, turkey, or a Cornish hen like I did. Wild Rice Sausage Stuffing can easily be made a day ahead of time and gently reheated when you need it. Leftovers can be frozen up to three months. I believe I just saw your face light up. Trust me, your family will thank you. They may even offer to load the dishwasher.

WILD RICE SAUSAGE STUFFING

Ingredients:

6-ounce package long grain and wild rice mix

1 pound bulk sausage

1/4 cup butter, cubed

1 cup yellow onion, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

4-ounce can mushrooms, stems and pieces, drained

6-ounce package chicken stuffing cubes

2 eggs, beaten

3 cups chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon seasoned pepper

1/8 teaspoon poultry seasoning

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9”x13” baking dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook wild rice according to package directions. Set aside. Brown sausage until cooked and crumbled; drain. Set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm butter. Sauté onion and celery pieces until tender, 4-5 minutes. Do not burn. In a large bowl, combine wild rice, sausage crumbles, sautéed onions/celery mixture, and mushrooms. Stir well. Fold in chicken stuffing cubes. Add beaten eggs, chicken broth, seasoned pepper and poultry seasoning. Stir thoroughly. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Bake 45 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160°. Serve warm.

Versatile Fig-Glazed Cornish Hen

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Versatile Fig-Glazed Cornish Hen! When an evening meal becomes a dinner date for two, make it extra-special by choosing something out of the ordinary. A luxury, so to speak. Cornish hens are an individual serving, which makes them that much more appealing on the dinner plate. Typically they run in size around 1 1/2 pounds, which is perfect. The meat is quite tender and moist with a subtle chicken flavor. Whether it’s a romantic celebration or just because, turn on some music, open a bottle of wine, gaze into each other’s eyes, and enjoy the ambiance. Candlelight is purely optional.

VERSATILE FIG-GLAZED CORNISH HEN

Ingredients for Cornish Hens:

20-ounce each Cornish hens, twin pack, frozen and thawed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Ingredients for Fig Glaze:

1/4 cup chili-fig jam

1/4 cup port wine

1/4 cup balsamic reduction

1/4 cup unsalted butter

Freshly squeezed lemon juice, quarter lemon

Pinch of kosher salt

Cracked black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a dutch oven with nonstick oil. Set aside. Wash the Cornish hens; pat dry. Season the cavities with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Place a rosemary sprig inside. Secure the legs and wings with cooking twine. Transfer birds to the dutch oven. Dot the top of each Cornish hen with butter. Bake 45 minutes. While the hens are roasting, make the fig glaze. Place a small pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add chili-fig jam, port wine, balsamic reduction, butter, lemon juice, kosher salt, and black pepper. Stir well to combine. Allow mixture to reduce to a syrupy consistency, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Baste the birds with the fig sauce during the last 10 minutes of roasting. The Cornish hens are done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°, and juices run clear. The skin should be golden brown and crispy. Remove pan from oven. Tent the pan with aluminum foil to keep warm. Allow the birds to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Unbelievable Eggnog Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Unbelievable Eggnog Cake! Did you know you can freeze eggnog for up to six months? You can. And isn’t it a relief to know that you won’t be pouring money down the drain? Too much of anything can take away the joy. We all get caught up in holiday indulgences, thinking it’s the only time of year to appreciate our favorite treats. No more. Rather than feeling like a glutton for punishment, followed by waves of guilt, here’s a way to stretch the cheer throughout the winter months. When the nights are dark and the fire warms your feet, snuggle up with a slice of nostalgia. You deserve it.

UNBELIEVABLE EGGNOG CAKE

Ingredients:

16.5-ounce yellow cake mix

3-ounce vanilla instant pudding mix

1 cup eggnog

4 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for Glaze:

1/4 cup butter, warmed

1/4 cup eggnog

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon rum

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups powdered sugar

Garnish with rosemary sprigs and pomegranate arils

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a bundt pan (or 8 mini bundt pans) with nonstick oil containing flour. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine yellow cake mix, dry vanilla pudding mix, eggnog, eggs, vegetable oil, nutmeg, water, and vanilla extract. Beat with a mixer for 2 minutes until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour batter into pan(s). Bake 50 minutes for large, or 25 minutes for small bundt cakes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven to cool for 10 minutes before inverting on a wire rack. Allow to cool 10 minutes longer before transferring to a cake plate. While cakes are cooling make the glazed icing. In a bowl, whisk together butter, eggnog, vanilla extract, rum, and nutmeg until smooth. Sprinkle in powdered sugar, stirring with a spoon, until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cake. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and pomegranate arils for a festive finish.

Tails of Maine Lobster

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Tails of Maine Lobster! There’s an upside to living through a pandemic. Practically everything is available to order from computer-to-doorstep. And that includes Maine hard shell lobsters, especially when you live in a state that is landlocked. Of course, you still have to do a little homework by reading reviews and asking questions on Live Chat websites. We found talking directly to a customer service representative can answer a lot of confusing questions and bring clarity. In turn, you never know when an actual salesperson of the company will offer an unexpected special to entice the purchase further. I guarantee you, it’s absolutely worth the time. The results are simply delicious.

TAILS OF MAINE LOBSTER

Ingredients:

2 6-ounce frozen lobster tails, thawed

2 tablespoons sea salt

1 cup unsalted butter

1 lemon, for zest

1 lemon, quartered for garnish

Instructions:

Before cooking the lobster tails, make the clarified butter. In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, warm the butter over medium-low heat. Do not stir. Allow the butter to melt without turning brown. Gradually a white foam will appear on the surface. Allow the melted butter to stand for 5 minutes. Tilt the saucepan to carefully spoon the white foam off the top. This may take several steps. Strain the clarified butter through a cheesecloth to remove any milk solids. This will discard any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Transfer clarified butter back to the saucepan to keep warm. Divide the lemon zest into single-serving dipping bowls. Set aside. To make the lobster tails, bring a pot of water to a boil. Reduce heat to a soft boil and add sea salt. Drop tails in one at a time. Cook the lobster for 5 minutes. Set a timer to avoid overcooking. The lobsters will be bright red when done. Using metal tongs and a large strainer, take the tails out of the boiling water. Transfer to two dinner plates. Pour the clarified butter over the lemon zest in the dipping bowls. Garnish with lemon wedge. Serve immediately.