Walnut Brown Sugar Butter

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Walnut Brown Sugar Butter! Ahh, sweet butter. I don’t know if it’s the winter weather or the upcoming holidays that get me in the mood for bakery ideas. Who doesn’t appreciate aromatic cinnamon, sweet nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice? The smell of bread baking in the oven triggers all kinds of emotions. It can lift our mood and impact our behavior. Honestly, it would have been pretty easy to feature today’s compound butter all by itself. But tell me, isn’t it better to imagine slathering it all over those freshly-baked cinnamon rolls?

WALNUT BROWN SUGAR BUTTER

Ingredients:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, combine unsalted butter, brown sugar, and sea salt until smooth. Fold in chopped walnuts. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto plastic wrap. Roll layer of plastic wrap over butter to form a log. Roll tight and place in refrigerator for one hour or until firm. Serve over toast, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, or muffins.

Veggie Pot Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Veggie Pot Pie! Do you like to make pie dough? What if it’s not flaky? Are you okay with that? How do you keep the bottom crust from being soggy? Is it necessary to have a top crust? All very good questions, I assure you. Forget them for now and come with me into the land of phyllo dough where tissue-thin layers of unleavened dough are brushed with melted butter creating a crispy golden crunch. Expert bakers took the time and skill to make our lives easier by rolling and stretching the dough multiple times so we don’t have to. The result is a product as close as our neighborhood grocer. With pre-made phyllo dough as your starting point, anyone can be a gourmet chef. No dough-making required.

VEGGIE POT PIE

Ingredients:

7-ounce box antioxidant blend frozen vegetables, thawed

1 cup pearl onions

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/2 cup frozen green beans, thawed

1 sweet potato, skin on

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces fresh mushrooms, cut-up

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed in the refrigerator overnight

6 tablespoons butter, melted

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

Keep phyllo dough chilled until ready to use. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine antioxidant vegetable blend, pearl onions, corn, peas, and green beans. Gently toss to keep vegetables from mashing. Wash skin of sweet potato. Pierce with a knife. Microwave on High setting for 3 minutes. Let sweet potato cool enough to handle before cutting into cubes. Gently toss into vegetable mixture. Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushroom pieces. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Cook, stirring occasionally until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl of mixed vegetables. Add parmesan cheese. Mix beaten egg into vegetables. Sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Butter a 9” iron skillet. Unroll the phyllo sheets and lay them on a flat surface. Immediately cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. This prevents the dough from drying out. Keep phyllo covered after removing each sheet. Fit one phyllo sheet into the skillet, allowing the edges to hang over the sides. Brush lightly with melted butter. Continue working quickly by placing one phyllo sheet in the skillet at a time. Turn skillet a quarter-turn, then top with a second sheet; brush lightly with butter. Repeat with remaining sheets and butter. When finished there should be about a tablespoon of butter left. Spoon vegetable mixture evenly over phyllo layers. Sprinkle goat cheese over top. Fold edges of phyllo dough up and over the filling toward the center, overlapping slightly. Center will be exposed. Brush the top of the phyllo with remaining butter. Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown. Transfer iron skillet to a wire rack. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. The flavor of roasted vegetables intensifies at room temperature. Serve warm. (Leftovers may be reheated in the iron skillet with the crust remaining crisp.)

Traditional English Toffee

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Traditional English Toffee! So often we have those cherished childhood memories of homemade candy and cookies that accompanied holiday celebrations. They stick with us for life. I can remember being in eighth grade and determined to replicate a batch of my mother’s English Toffee. I waited for her to go into town and then pulled out her secret recipe. You know, the ones scratched on a 3.5”x5” card. More often than not, they showed a list of ingredients with instructions that simply said, “Bake at 350° for 30 minutes”. Let’s face it, that’s pretty vague compared to what we explain nowadays. As you can imagine, I melted the butter along with the brown sugar and stirred. And stirred. And stirred. So how come it wasn’t turning into this crisp crunchy texture of rich golden butter that fueled my addiction? What could I possibly be doing wrong? There was nothing written on the card to correct this runny, gooey mess. Alas, I scraped it all into the trash, washed the pan, and plopped myself at the kitchen table with my Algebra book. She walked in, smiled, and never said a word.

TRADITIONAL ENGLISH TOFFEE

Ingredients:

1 cup pecans, chopped

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

Butter a baking sheet. Spread pecans in a single layer in the center. Heat butter and brown sugar to boiling in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly. Boil over Medium heat, stirring constantly, for 7 minutes. Immediately spread mixture over pecans on baking sheet. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot mixture. Place a cookie sheet over pan until chocolate chips are melted. Spread melted chocolate over candy. Refrigerate until firm. Break toffee into pieces.

Kid-Friendly Breadsticks & Knots

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Kid-Friendly Breadsticks & Knots! Here’s a treat that will get your kids involved in cooking for a tasty after school snack. I learned a long time ago, when the kids get cooking, they get pretty excited about the results. By choosing a prepared pizza crust from the dairy section of the grocery store, there’s no time needed for the dough to rise. Plus, moms and dads can be particular about the ingredients. I chose a European bakery-style dough that had no artificial flavors or colors, no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, and no bleach flour. It was made with olive oil and suitable for vegetarians. It even came with parchment paper for baking. Now you’re talking!

KID-FRIENDLY BREADSTICKS & KNOTS

Ingredients:

14-ounce package of refrigerated classic pizza dough, family-style crust

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

1 teaspoon dill weed

1-2 tablespoons butter, melted

3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with a silpat mat or parchment paper. Unroll pizza dough. Cut into 12 strips. Twist the dough into ropes before laying them on the baking sheet. If you prefer knots, tie the dough as you would a pretzel; over, under, and through. Place them on the baking sheet. Lightly brush breadsticks and knots with olive oil. Sprinkle on Everything But Bagel seasoning and dill weed. Bake 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over all. Serve warm.

Feta Morning Fried Egg

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Feta Morning Fried Egg! Thank goodness this is a healthy way to begin my day. Honestly, I think I might be seriously addicted to it. Remember when your kids were little and could go days eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches? We’d roll our eyes as the pediatrician assured us they would be fine. “It’s a phase”, he’d say, “You’ll see.” And he was right. My kids grew up to be healthy, active teens, and so on. But I’m an adult. And I’ve been making this breakfast for 3 weeks now. Granted, the avocados are in abundance along with the price of eggs being so affordable I feel as though the grocery store is practically paying me to take them home. Do me a favor, try this recipe yourself and give me your feedback. I’d like to know it’s just not me going through a midlife crisis.

FETA MORNING FRIED EGG

Ingredients: (Serves two)

2 slices quinoa multigrain bread, toasted and buttered

1 avocado, pitted and sliced

2 eggs, sunny side up

1 tablespoon butter, melted (optional)

2 tablespoons herbed feta cheese, crumbled

1 Roma tomato, sliced

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Green onion, for garnish

Instructions:

While quinoa bread is toasting, cook two eggs in melted butter or nonstick oil, over medium heat, according to taste. Set aside. Butter toast. Divide avocado slices between toast. Slide cooked egg onto avocado toast. Sprinkle with herbed feta cheese. Garnish with green onion strips. Serve with sliced Roma tomatoes sprinkled with Italian seasoning.

Dang Good Mac & Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Dang Good Mac & Cheese! I just cranked up this all-time favorite dish a notch, maybe two. Cheddar cheesy? It’s in there. Mozzarella madness? Oh, yeah. Palatable parmesan? Absolutely. Sooo, what’s the big deal, you wonder. Well…I kinda switched out the macaroni pasta noodles for gnocchi’s pillow-like tender dumplings that swaddle themselves in a blanket of creamy cheese sauce. Hold on. Then I topped it all with a buttery crunch topping of panko and Italian bread crumbs. Mmmwah! Life doesn’t get any better that this.

DANG GOOD MAC & CHEESE

Ingredients:

1-pound package gnocchi

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 cup milk, warmed

3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup panko and Italian bread crumbs

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Parsley, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook the gnocchi, according to package directions. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, and set aside. Whisk together cornstarch and chicken broth in a measuring cup until completely dissolved. Set aside. Warm olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic. Sauté 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Slowly add cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly to make a light brown roux. Add warm milk, stirring until smooth as the mixture reaches a low boil. Remove pan from heat; stir in mozzarella, cheddar, and parmesan cheeses until melted and smooth. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Pour the cheese sauce over the gnocchi until evenly coated. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Combine panko and Italian seasoned breadcrumbs with the melted butter. Sprinkle over the cheesy gnocchi. Bake 15 minutes to brown the topping. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

Yams in Pecan Glaze

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Yams in Pecan Glaze! Oh. My. Gosh. You have got to make this recipe. There’s still plenty of time before the holidays to switch back to your traditional family favorite if you don’t like it, but think about this a moment. By using canned yams, or sweet potatoes, preparation is a snap. Who knows? You could end up making both. Remember what I said about “Start Smart”? Sometimes that means taking advantage of the numerous products that eliminate the extra leg work. Sugared pecans are such a gourmet treat. Pick up a package of those to add to the decadent pure maple syrup sauce. Read on if you’re curious.

YAMS IN PECAN GLAZE

Ingredients:

29-ounce can cut sweet potatoes in syrup

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon sage, finely chopped

1 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Fresh thyme sprigs, for garnish

For Pecan Glaze:

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup sugared pecans

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Drain liquid from sweet potatoes into a saucepan. Carefully slice and arrange yams in a casserole dish. Set aside. Boil the liquid over medium heat until only 1/4” covers the bottom of the saucepan. Add butter, sage, thyme, cinnamon, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Mix well. Pour over sweet potatoes. Bake 15 minutes. While potatoes are baking, make the pecan glaze. Add butter to a skillet over medium heat. Add sugared pecans. Toss to coat. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add pure maple syrup. Cook 5 minutes longer, or until the pecans are caramelized and syrupy. Pour over sweet potatoes. Return casserole to the oven and bake 5 minutes longer, or until the glaze becomes thick. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs before serving.

Quick Savory Butter

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Quick Savory Butter! For some time now we’ve gotten pretty spoiled by restaurants, bistros, and cafés serving compound butter with the artisan bread basket. You almost hear us clapping our hands as we sink our teeth into the savory herbs or sweet concoctions. I know it makes me feel special. Chefs have been creating compound butters for years, though. It’s one of the ways they save time and add a level of sophistication for the customer. In my own kitchen, I found it’s best to begin with unsalted butter. That way I can add just enough sea salt to tease the palate. Lemon, believe it or not, adds a hint of flavor that embellishes steak or seafood. I see you nodding your head in agreement. Although I began smearing this combination on rolls and crackers, I couldn’t resist warming it to pour over a bowl of freshly popped popcorn. Talk about gourmet!

QUICK SAVORY BUTTER

Ingredients:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, cream butter with lemon juice. Add garlic powder and sea salt; stir. Fold in fresh rosemary and parsley leaves. Mix until combined. Place a sheet of waxed paper on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto sheet. Roll the waxed paper over butter to form a log. Roll tight and twist both ends. Refrigerate one hour or until firm.

Oven-Roasted Golden Peaches

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Oven-Roasted Golden Peaches! Forget about cleanup of baking sheets by utilizing a perfect nonstick solution. Parchment paper. Never confuse it with wax paper, though, which will smoke in the oven. That’s a big mistake. Parchment paper is made to withstand oven temperatures during the baking or roasting process. Not only that, parchment paper contains a release agent that prevents foods from sticking to it. Bonus points, in my opinion. Because we’re covering the sliced peaches with pure maple syrup, you can imagine how difficult that would be to scrape off the pan once it’s baked in. May as well throw the pan away and buy another. Or…you could do what I did the first time I baked a galette. My husband took his sander tool and ground the petrified sugar off. Hey, don’t judge me. It was my favorite baking sheet. Still is.

OVEN-ROASTED GOLDEN PEACHES

Ingredients:

3-4 ripe peaches, pitted and sliced

2-3 tablespoons butter, melted

2-3 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 425°. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place sliced peaches in a single layer, without touching. Drizzle with melted butter and maple syrup. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake 15 minutes, then flip peaches over. Spoon excess sauce over peaches. Bake 10 minutes longer. Serve warm with sea salt caramel ice cream.