What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Broccoli Florets in Cashew Sauce! Are you one of those siblings who used to roll your eyes at the idea of being told to “eat your vegetables”? Isn’t it amazing how we outgrow childhood perceptions and turn them into a food-lover’s paradise? I know, right! Take broccoli, for instance. I remember sitting at the table until every tender green floret had been pushed around my plate, refusing to eat another bite. Nowadays, I practically cheer when the waitress says I can substitute broccoli in place of french fries.
BROCCOLI FLORETS IN CASHEW SAUCE
1 pound broccoli, cut up and stems removed
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons Golden Mountain sauce
2 teaspoons garlic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Herb and Garlic Blend
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup cashews, chopped
Cut the stalk off a head of broccoli with a sharp knife. As you cut through the thickness, the individual florets will fall away into smaller pieces. The crowns will feel tight and springy with the appearance of tight closed buds. Discard stems. Place the florets in a microwave safe covered dish. Add 2 tablespoons water. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Carefully remove from microwave oven; drain. In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar, Golden Mountain sauce, garlic vinegar, Mrs. Dash spices, and garlic cloves. Bring to a boil; stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat. Mix in the cashews. Ladle cashew sauce over broccoli florets and serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Wild, Wild Ramps! “We have become foragers!”, my daughter-in-law proudly proclaimed as they walked through the front door. My son extended his hands with a large bouquet of wild ramps, as though they were a dozen long stem roses. “You can eat the tender bulbs as well as the leafy greens!”, they said in unison. Imagine my surprise. Little did I know that every Spring, foodies as well as seasoned chefs embark on a quest to unearth this subterranean gem known as Wild Ramps. What I learned that day is that ramps are simply wild leeks. Their flavor mimics garlic and onion. The fleshy leaves are a savory delight when sautéed in olive oil and butter. I promptly washed and trimmed the precious globular buds before serving them with breakfast. How unexpectedly delicious! It was only later, while traveling, I discovered their value at a farm-to-table restaurant when the waiter boastfully announced Wild Ramps on the menu. My smile said it all.
WILD, WILD RAMPS
1 large bunch wild ramps, skins discarded, washed, and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Using an iron skillet, warm butter and olive oil over medium heat. Swirl 3-4 minutes until slightly browned and nutty. Do not burn. Add the wild ramps. Sauté until pieces are slightly charred and leaves are crispy, turning occasionally. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and black pepper. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Vichyssoise Cold Creamier Soup! Just hearing the word “soup” during the summer months can make someone rolls their eyes enough to make people pay no attention to what is being said. But hear me out. Let me remind you that the silky consistency of melted ice cream actually brings out the flavor more than its frozen counterpart. Right? Well, “vichyssoise” is a French word for velvety smooth potato and leek soup, usually served chilled. When eaten slightly cold, the sheer creaminess is truly divine. Leeks are mild fancy onions, so if you prefer to use yellow sweet onions, permission granted. Personally, for this recipe, I went all out and used both. I also chose Yukon potatoes for their sweet flavor and moist flesh making them fluffy in texture. Make sense? Obviously you can make modifications to suit your palate. Be creative and send me your thoughts.
VICHYSSOISE COLD CREAMIER SOUP
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 leeks, thoroughly rinsed and sliced; green and white parts only
2 Yukon potatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
14 ounces chicken broth
1/2 cup light cream
Fresh chives, for garnish
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm olive oil and butter over medium heat. Sauté the yellow onion for 2 minutes until translucent. Add the leeks and sauté 5 minutes longer until soft. Add the diced potatoes and sauté for 2-3 minutes longer. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to Simmer for 30 minutes until potatoes are tender. Carefully transfer small batches of soup to a blender. Purée until smooth. Repeat process until no lumps remain. Pour the smooth texture back into the saucepan. Heat to medium. Add light cream and stir. Soup will thicken within 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature and then chill for one hour before serving. Pour into bowls and garnish with chopped chives. Serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Killer Skillet S’Mores! You were probably wondering if I’d ever get around to satisfying your sweet tooth. Look no further than your favorite fire pit companion: sticky chocolaty marshmallow s’mores. Bring out the inner child who remembers camping trips with family members when you’d circled a crackling fire, balancing a roasting stick on your knee. Not too close to the flames or you’d end up with a charred gooey mess. Then again, those marshmallows were ones you got to gobble down before skewering another one. Fast-forward to the Present where you can recreate that same incredible taste in an iron skillet.
KILLER SKILLET S’MORES
3/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup chocolate chips, divided
1 cup mini marshmallows
1 graham cracker, broken into chunks
1 milk chocolate bar, broken into pieces
8 large marshmallows, cut in half
Preheat oven to 375°. Combine melted butter, sugar, brown sugar, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract. Beat mixture for 30 seconds. Let rest 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times. In another bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Slowly add the butter mixture. Fold in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of mini marshmallows. Press mixture into the bottom of a 10” iron skillet. Top with remaining chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, graham cracker chunks, and chocolate bar pieces. Bake 18-20 minutes. Remove hot skillet and carefully arrange the large marshmallows around the edge of the cookie. Return pan to the oven and continue baking until the marshmallows turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow cookie to cool 15 minutes before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Culinary Cauliflower! Not everyone is a fan of cauliflower. I get that. It might be because of the way it’s prepared. Or smells. Or possibly because it looks bland and boring. Meh. Well, here’s my solution if you promise to give it one more chance. Smother it in cheese. Good cheese, like smoky Gouda. Then take buttery garlic croutons and sprinkle them over the top. Get the picture? Sooo, if the family turns up their noses at the idea of eating cauliflower, simply shrug your shoulders, kick off your shoes, and curl up on the sofa with the entire bowl yourself.
1 head cauliflower
1 cup water
1/2 cup smoky bacon Gouda cheese, sliced thin
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup garlic croutons, coarsely crushed
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Fresh parsley for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Warm water over medium heat in a saucepan with a steamer basket. Cut off stem of cauliflower, removing the leaves. Make an “x” in the core with a sharp knife. Once the water is boiling, reduce it to a simmer, place cauliflower in the steamer basket. Cover and steam for 15 minutes until tender. Drain. Cut cauliflower into florets. Transfer to an ovenproof bowl. Combine sliced Gouda cheese and milk in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave on Low (30%) in 30-second intervals. Stir until smooth as it melts. Pour over cauliflower. Sprinkle red pepper flakes on top. Bake 5-10 minutes until golden and bubbly. Warm butter in a pan over medium heat. Add crushed garlic croutons. Stir occasionally until brown. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over melted cheese. Garnish with chopped parsley.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Watermelon Waffle Wedges! Bring back childhood memories of lazy summer days leaning against the back porch chomping on a mouthwatering slice of watermelon. As the juice runs down your chin, a swipe of the shirt sleeve doubles as a napkin. Your mischievous brother takes aim at your bare feet, shooting tiny black seeds as if his mouth is a pea shooter. You squeal with delight and sometimes run away. Those were the days. Now we think about nutrition. That’s okay. Watermelon, with its juicy red flesh, is high in lycopene which makes it heart-healthy. Chomp away.
WATERMELON WAFFLE WEDGES
2 large eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 slices watermelon, cut in wedges
Maple syrup, to taste
Butter, to taste
Strawberries, cherries, almonds, powdered sugar, mint sprig for Garnish
Preheat waffle iron. Place eggs in a bowl and beat on medium-high using a hand mixer. Eggs will get fluffy. Slowly add flour, milk, vegetable oil, sugar, baking powder, sea salt, and vanilla extract. Beat just until smooth. Brush waffle iron with vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray. Pour mix into waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. Serve warm with watermelon wedges, strawberries, cherries, almond slices. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Garnish with fresh mint.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Upscale Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse! Americans have this uncanny obsession with chocolate and peanut butter. Some even crave it often. It may be the creamy sweetness of cocoa blended with the saltiness of roasted peanuts. Who knows? Whatever the reason, the allure is undeniable. Throw in vanilla pudding and whipped cream showcased in a parfait glass for eye appeal. It all adds up to an easy, upscale dessert that makes an everyday experience extraordinary. I find small juice glasses an appealing portion-control guide.
UPSCALE CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER MOUSSE
16-20 Miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, wrappers removed and candy chopped
1/3 cup peanuts
1/2 cup chocolate fudge sauce
1 3.4-ounce package Vanilla Instant Pudding and Pie Filling Mix
1 3/4 cups light cream
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup whipped topping
1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips
Choose 4-6 glasses or cups, depending on portion preferred. Divide peanuts equally between glasses. Layer with 1-2 dollops of chocolate fudge sauce. Set aside. In a chilled bowl, empty contents of pudding mix. Gradually add 1/2 cup light cream, beating on low speed with a hand mixer. Mix until well blended. Add peanut butter and beat until creamy. Gradually add remaining 1 1/4 cups of light cream. Beat on low, increasing speed as it incorporates. Continue beating for 3 minutes. Pudding will thicken. Gently fold in whipped topping to create air bubbles. Next, fold in chopped candy, reserving a few pieces to use as garnish. Spoon pudding into glasses, layering over fudge sauce. Garnish with candy chunks and mini chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie! In a world of “super-size” portions, this one is really worth defending, especially on hot, summer days. The oven is on for less than half an hour with results that leave your home smelling like a bakery. Sometimes you just don’t have time to make several batches of cookies. By baking all the dough in an iron skillet, the end result will still yield enough for a crowd. Cut the giant cookie into pie-size portions with a scoop of ice cream on top or divide it into squares for finger-food munching.
OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP SKILLET COOKIE
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup peanut butter chips
1/4 cup chocolate and peanut butter chips, mixed
1/8 teaspoon sea salt crystals
Preheat oven to 375°. Grease a 10″ iron skillet. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla. Continue beating until creamy. In another bowl combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Whisk until blended. Slowly add dry mixture to wet ingredients until flour is incorporated. Add oatmeal to dough. Blend well. Fold in chocolate and peanut butter chips. Spread cookie dough into the greased skillet. Top with mixed blend of chocolate and peanut butter chips. Sprinkle with sea salt crystals. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown on top. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: French Toast Bananas Foster! For that daily dose of potassium you get in bananas, think French Toast for breakfast. With an added twist of Bananas Foster, you may feel as though you’re dining on a private balcony overlooking the French Quarter in New Orleans. It’s that good! For starters, I used Hawaiian sweet bread for its unique fluffy texture. By soaking the slices in a custard-style egg mixture and browning them in a buttered iron skillet, the results were luscious.
FRENCH TOAST BANANAS FOSTER
Ingredients for Sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons dark rum
3-4 bananas, cut into thick slices
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 smidgen nutmeg
Melt butter in a small saucepan. Do not scorch. Add brown sugar; stir. Gradually bring to boil and add cream, stirring constantly. Cook until thick, about 4 minutes. Turn heat to lowest setting. Add maple syrup and dark rum. Stir until smooth. Add sliced bananas, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook until tender.
Ingredients for French Toast:
4 slices Hawaiian sweet bread, sliced thick
3 whole eggs, beaten
1/2 cup half and half cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons butter
Mini chocolate chips
Whisk together eggs, half and half cream, and vanilla extract. In a shallow dish place 4 slices of Hawaiian bread, single layer. Pour custard egg mixture over bread; turn bread to coat both sides completely. Let moistened bread rest to soak up liquid. In an iron skillet, melt one tablespoon of butter on medium-low heat. Transfer the soaked bread to the skillet. Cook until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes per side. Add butter as needed. If cooking in batches, transfer browned French toast to a wire rack on a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200° oven. To serve, place a piece of French toast on a plate. Cover with banana sauce and dollop of whipped cream. Top with a second slice of French toast. Add more banana sauce. Garnish with whipped cream, chocolate chips, and pecan pieces.