Outrageous Oatmeal Fudgies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Outrageous Oatmeal Fudgies! Who doesn’t love No-Bake cookies? Forget about spending hours in the kitchen. This kid-friendly favorite can be ready in a flash. The toughest part is deciding if you want to top them off with a piece of candy corn, a walnut half, a maraschino cherry, or leave them plain. Either way, they won’t hang around long because…..(repeat after me)…Everyone loves peanut butter and chocolate!

OUTRAGEOUS OATMEAL FUDGIES

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup milk

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

Dash sea salt

1/2 cup natural peanut butter, crunchy

2 cups whole grain oats

1 teaspoon vanilla

Candy corn

Instructions:

Combine butter, sugar, milk, cocoa powder, and dash of salt in a 4-quart pan. Bring to boil over medium-high temperature. Stirring occasionally, boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Quickly add crunchy peanut butter, whole grain oats, and vanilla. Mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Top with one piece of candy corn. Let stand until cool. Store in a covered container.

Lemon Curd French Toast

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Lemon Curd French Toast! Shortcuts, gotta love them. Just because you’re preparing food at home doesn’t mean everything has to be made from scratch. Betty Crocker, an American cultural icon, is proof of that. I used a store-bought lemon curd instead of making it from scratch. And if you want to take this recipe one step closer to simplifying your life, merely substitute the fresh berry compote with frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed of course. After all, the main attraction is the lemony rich oven-baked French toast sprinkled with vanilla bean and nutmeg. Everything is prepared the night before so all that’s needed is baking time the next morning. See? Simple isn’t so bad.

LEMON CURD FRENCH TOAST

Ingredients:

4 eggs

2 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved

10-ounce jar lemon curd

1 loaf Hawaiian Sweet Bread, sliced

1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 cup cherries

1/2 cup mulberries

1/2 cup cranberries

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar, garnish

Instructions:

To make the French toast, butter an oval baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, heavy cream, and vanilla bean seeds. Fold in the lemon curd. Stir well. Arrange the Hawaiian Sweet Bread slices evenly in the prepared dish, slightly overlapping them. Pour egg mixture over bread. Spoon to coat all slices. Cover and refrigerate overnight. To make the fruit compote, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine blueberries, cherries, mulberries, cranberries, and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit breaks down, about 15 minutes. As the juices are released, the fruit will thicken. Remove from heat, cover, and refrigerate. Warm in the microwave the next day before serving. The next day, to bake the French toast, preheat oven to 350°. Let the French toast stand at room temperature 15 minutes before placing in the oven. Remove lid. Bake 45-50 minutes. To make the whipped topping, chill the mixing bowl and beaters beforehand. Place the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in the mixer bowl. Beat on medium speed until the cream begins to thicken, about 4-6 minutes. The whipped cream will double in volume and form soft peaks. Remove the French toast from the oven. Let it cool for 10 minutes. Top with warm berry compote, whipped cream, and dusting of powdered sugar. Serve warm.

Ole Smoky Cherry Drops

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Ole Smoky Cherry Drops! For those who think this is a strange name for something sweet, allow me to explain. The Great Smoky Mountains form one of the most beautiful mountain ranges along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Nestled in “The Holler” is a distillery made famous by its 100-year-old recipe base for signature flavors of moonshine. Can you see where this is going? Stick with me. From the fermenting grains of the moonshine stills come the most extraordinary combinations you can ever imagine. Bottled in quart jars are what appear to be a dozen or more moonshine variations that go by names like Apple Pie, Hunch Punch, Blue Flame, Lemon Drop, Dill Pickles, and Moonshine Cherries. Since I found a jar in my pantry, I thought going into the holidays, this might present an interesting dessert opportunity. It definitely passed the “flame test” in my house.

OLE SMOKY CHERRY DROPS

Ingredients:

1 quart jar Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries*

12-ounce bag white chocolate chips

4.6-ounce jar rainbow sprinkles

5.2-ounce jar sanding sugar

14-ounce bag sweetened coconut flakes

Party Picks

Instructions:

Several steps are necessary to prepare your workspace. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove maraschino cherries from jar. Reserve moonshine for another use. Gently pat dry each cherry and set aside. This is important before coating them in white chocolate. Place each topping (rainbow sprinkles, sanding sugar, and coconut flakes) in a separate dish. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Set aside. To melt white chocolate, place half a bag of chips in a microwave-proof bowl. Warm at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval. Repeat until the white chocolate is smooth and no lumps remain. Working quickly, pierce a cherry with a cake tester. Coat it halfway in the white chocolate, then dip it in one of the toppings. Place decorated cherry on the waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all cherries are decorated. Chill to set. Two things: As the white chocolate cools, gently warm and stir. When it becomes necessary to use the remaining white chocolate chips, begin with a clean bowl. This will eliminate waste. Cherry Drops should be stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve with party picks.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries.

Bowlful of Cherries

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Bowlful of Cherries! Aren’t they lovely? Ripe cherries are an ideal snack, by the handful. For some, it’s so simple to remove the pit with your teeth. I knew a guy once who could tie the cherry stem into a bow. (I think he did it to impress his wife.) Ripe cherries pair well with Goat cheese, Camembert cheese, or Bleu cheese garnished with a sprig of thyme, basil, or mint. Their ruby-red color is as appealing as their natural sweetness. The possibilities are endless. Add chocolate pieces for a dessert charcuterie board if you like a relaxed atmosphere at the end of a meal. Whatever you choose, get a pound of cherries before they’re gone. And don’t forget a nice bottle of Chardonnay.

BOWLFUL OF CHERRIES

1 pound ripe cherries, stems on

1/2 pound cheese of choice

Fresh herbs

Dark Chocolate candies

Instructions:

Fill a small bowl with sweet cherries. Set aside. Make available a plate of pitted cherries. To pit a cherry, place the fruit on a cutting board. Using a sharp paring knife, press down gently on one side of the stem. Firmly slice an incision from top to bottom until the cherry loosens the pit. Do not crush the cherry. Gently pull on either side to expose the pit. Remove it with your fingernail. One side will have the stem, the other will not. Provide colorful toothpicks for piercing.

Dump Cake with Cherries

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Dump Cake with Cherries! Allow me to explain what is a less appealing title for a cake recipe. Dump Cake, seriously? Before you head off in another direction, let me assure you this is literally the easiest cake recipe you’ll find today. It comes from one of those cookbooks put together by a group of church ladies in the early 1980s. And it is fantastic! After all, just “dump” the ingredients in a 9″x13″ pan and bake. Top it off with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or a dollop of sweetened whipped cream. Can I hear a “Hallelujah”? 🌟

DUMP CAKE WITH CHERRIES

Ingredients:

1 21-ounce can cherry pie filling

1 15-ounce can crushed pineapple

1 18-ounce box of yellow cake mix

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 smidgen nutmeg

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup almonds, sliced

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Dump cherry pie filling into the bottom of a 9″x13″ glass baking dish. Spread into a single layer. Dump crushed pineapple, with juice, on top of cherries. Spread to cover. Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over fruit layers. Top with cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Dot with slices of butter. Cover with sliced almonds. Bake for one hour, or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve warm.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter F

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Flaming Cherries Jubilee! Here’s a dessert that always leaves a nice impression. And why wouldn’t it? After all, it was specially prepared for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebration in the late 1800’s. Hence the name. Begin with the season’s plump and juicy cherries found at the local Farmer’s Market or neighborhood grocery. Gently warm them in a sweet simple syrup. Add brandy and ignite for an amazing presentation. Then serve over bowls of ice cream. Super-simple yet super-delish!
FLAMING CHERRIES JUBILEE 
Ingredients:

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar 

2 cinnamon sticks 

Lemon rind

1 cup cherries, stems and stones removed; halved

2 tablespoons brandy

Vanilla Ice Cream
Instructions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and lemon rind. Stir to dissolve sugar. Boil for 3-5 minutes until mixture thickens. Reduce heat to simmer, add cherries. Cook over low heat until fruit is softened. The syrup will turn color to match the cherries. Remove the lemon rind; discard. Add the brandy, but do not boil. Turn off stove. Flame the cherries with a kitchen torch. Using a spoon, baste cherries with liqueur and juices until the flames extinguish. Spoon over bowls of vanilla ice cream. Serve warm. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter A

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Arugula Cherry Salad! Handpicked cherries, at the peak of ripeness, set the stage for an appealing salad that is sure to be delightful. Don’t have an orchard nearby? No worries. Check the local Farmer’s Market, fruit stand, or supermarket for the season’s bounty. Timing is everything. You’ll want to have enough ripe cherries on hand to pair later with wine and perhaps a little chocolate. Spoiler Alert: I’ve set aside a portion of juicy red cherries to feature in a decadent dessert. Stay tuned.  
ARUGULA CHERRY SALAD
Ingredients:

6 ounces baby arugula 

16 ripe cherries, stems removed and pitted

1/4 cup almonds, sliced

1 tablespoon tarragon, leaves only

1 tablespoon sherry cooking wine 

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil 

Sea salt to taste

Cracked black pepper to taste

4 ounces Bleu cheese, crumbled
Instructions:

After the pits are removed, cut the cherries in half. Combine arugula, cherries, almonds, and tarragon in a large bowl. Toss gently. In a small bowl, whisk together sherry cooking wine, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Drizzle over salad and gently toss. Divide into serving bowls. Finish with Bleu cheese crumbles over top. Serve immediately. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter U

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Upside-Down Pineapple Bundt Cake! This light and easy alternative for dessert will satisfy your sweet tooth without packing on the pounds. The secret is the tropical taste of pineapple. 
UPSIDE-DOWN PINEAPPLE BUNDT CAKE
Ingredients:

1 box Angel Food Cake Mix

1 20-ounce can of Crushed Pineapple with Juice

1/2 cup brown sugar
Instructions:

Set oven rack to lowest setting. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray Bundt pan with non-stick cooking oil. Sprinkle brown sugar on the bottom of the pan. Mix the Angel Food Cake Mix with the Crushed Pineapple, including juice, by hand for one minute or until well blended. Pour into Bundt pan and place in oven on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 35-45 minutes until toothpick comes out clean and the cake is set. Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.
Option: Garnish with a sprig of tarragon and top with maraschino cherries, stems removed. 
Serving Suggestion

Mixed Berry Sauce:
1 pound of fresh blueberries 

1 pound of fresh mulberries 

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar
In a medium sauce pan add berries, water, lemon juice, and sugar. Cook on medium heat, while stirring until the berries reduce down. Change the heat to low setting and press the berries against the side of the pan to make them burst. Continue cooking for 30 minutes until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes. Add 2 drops of lemon extract while stirring with a spoon. Pour into jar and store in refrigerator. 

Hint: This is delicious on toast or pancakes or ice cream. 

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.