Peanut Butter Chocolate Hummus

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Peanut Butter Chocolate Hummus! You don’t have to be vegan to appreciate the benefits of hummus, especially this version. It’s more like a reward than a punishment. The peanut-ty taste combined with dark chocolate makes it only a few steps removed from eating a candy bar. But that’s where the dippers come in handy to turn it into a healthy appetizer or afternoon snack. Think celery, gluten-free pretzels, and juicy apple slices. I couldn’t resist a dollop of hummus between two shortbread cookies. Graham crackers would work just as well. Think of the fun you’ll have coming up with more ways to “spread the joy”!

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE HUMMUS

Ingredients:

15-ounce chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup natural peanut butter, creamy

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

3 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions:

Once chickpeas are drained and rinsed well, add to a food processor. Pulse to mix. Combine remaining ingredients: natural peanut butter, pure maple syrup, milk, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract. Blend together until hummus is smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Transfer mixture to a covered dish. Refrigerate one hour. Serve with pretzel sticks, apple slices, shortbread cookies, and celery.

Brownie Cherry Bomb

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Brownie Cherry Bomb! Nothing taste more decadent than rich dark chocolate and naturally sweet cherries. Is it any wonder it’s a popular combination? What you won’t end up with is a dry chocolate cake-like dessert. Instead it’ll be dense, moist, and gooey. Sink your teeth into the glossy, crisp outer shell. Mmmm. You may even find yourself licking your fingers. This cherry fudge brownie truly is as good as it sounds. It’s the bomb!

BROWNIE CHERRY BOMB

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/8 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup cherries, halved

1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

Set oven rack on highest setting. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 8-inch square pan with nonstick oil. Line with parchment paper. Set aside. Combine melted butter, olive oil, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Stir well to combine. Add eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Beat one minute longer for best results. The color will change to a lighter color. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, and sea salt. Gently fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until combined. Fold in cut cherries. Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Top with mini chocolate chips. Bake for about 20 minutes until center is slightly set. Insert a toothpick into the center and it should still come out coated with chocolate. That’s okay. Remove from oven and cool for a couple hours on a wire rack. Lift and transfer the parchment paper to a cutting board. Cut into squares. Serve at room temperature.

Xmas Pizzelle Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Xmas Pizzelle Cookies! I’m obsessed with food that has eye appeal. That’s one reason I was drawn to pizzelles, a traditional Italian waffle cookie. I could make you crazy by telling you we’re going to make them from scratch, but hey, my time is in high demand just like yours. Besides, since I don’t own a pizzelle iron, sometimes it’s better to leave things to an expert. I’m here today to save you time when someone suggests a Holiday Cookie Exchange. Pick up a package of Classic Italian Pizzelles on your way home from work, dip the cookies in melted chocolate, and sprinkle with nuts. You can thank me later when you’re sitting back relaxing with a glass of wine.

XMAS PIZZELLE COOKIES

Ingredients:

7-ounce package Vanilla Flavored Pizzelle Cookies

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 ounces pistachios, chopped

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine semisweet chocolate chips and vegetable oil. Heat in microwave on 50% setting for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat in 30-second intervals until melted. Stir until smooth. Dip half of each pizzelle cookie into melted chocolate. Sprinkle both sides with chopped pistachios. Place on baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set.

Unicorn Holiday Bark

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Unicorn Holiday Bark! Everyone remembers a childhood of mythical creatures, especially the unicorn which resembled a horse with a pointed horn spiraling out of its forehead. Some believed it had magical powers in addition to being a symbol of purity and grace. Only a virgin had the power to tame the unicorn, according to art from the Middle Ages now hanging on museum walls. Today the thought of unicorns make us happy. Perhaps they represent childhood dreams, or wishes, filled with hope for a future. It should be no surprise that pink swirls of white chocolate and candy glitter in sparkly hues appear in food to further those good feelings. Think of Unicorn Holiday Bark for your next festive occasion. Kid-friendly, husband-approved.

UNICORN HOLIDAY BARK

Ingredients:

2 pounds white chocolate chips

Food coloring of choice

1 tablespoon rainbow sprinkles

1 tablespoon glitter sprinkles

1 tablespoon candy pearls

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Depending on how many colors you choose (I used 3), place 1/3 cup white chocolate chips per color in separate microwave-safe bowls. Warm on Low setting for 15 second intervals in microwave, stirring often. Continue until chips are melted. Add food coloring to desired tint. Hint: One drop of red will produce a pastel pink. Prepare tinted chocolate first before finishing with the remaining plain white chocolate. Once the white chocolate is melted, spread it onto the baking sheet. Smooth into an even layer, approximately 1/4” thick. Working quickly, dot tinted colors over the white chocolate in a random pattern. Take a wooden skewer, or toothpick, and drag it through the colors creating swirls. Next, scatter the rainbow sprinkles, glitter sprinkles, and candy pearls on top. Refrigerate baking sheet for 30 minutes, or until firm. Once set, break the bark into pieces, reserving a curved edge for the unicorn’s horn. Let the magic begin!

Marble Loaf Quick Bread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Marble Loaf Quick Bread! When I was a little girl one of my favorite memories was making marble cake from a box mix. Not necessarily the ease of preparation, but the fact that I could be very artistic with the chocolate and vanilla swirls. There’s no way to get it wrong. And it’s pretty. Today’s version is a buttery classic with a moist center using plain yogurt. Just remember to have the melted butter, eggs, and yogurt at room temperature. If not, they won’t blend properly and you may end up with slightly cooked eggs and chunky batter. Nobody wants that, especially the one who licks the bowl.

MARBLE LOAF QUICK BREAD

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 eggs, room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup Greek yogurt, room temperature

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick oil. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Mix well. Set aside. In another bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla extract, butter, and Greek yogurt. Whisk until blended. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir just until combined. Do not over mix. Pour half the batter into a medium bowl. Gently fold in cocoa powder until mixed. Alternate spoonfuls of plain batter and cocoa batter into the prepared loaf pan. Take a table knife and swirl the two mixtures together. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Do not burn. Remove from oven and cool slightly on a wire rack before removing from pan.

Java Chip Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Java Chip Cookies! Anyone will tell you the aroma of coffee triggers good feelings. If you don’t believe me, check out the neighborhood coffee shops and you’ll find a local place where people hang out. It’s not just the free Wi-Fi either. Coffee is one of the most popular beverages around, especially now with intense flavorings topped with a mound of whipped cream. Transform the blend of coffee and sugar into a cookie, charged with caffeine, and you’ll be as popular as the Pied Piper. People will follow you anywhere!

JAVA CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

3 tablespoons espresso instant coffee

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

3 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup toffee bits

1/4 cup chocolate covered espresso beans, roughly chopped

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. In a food processor beat butter, sugar, brown sugar, espresso instant coffee, and vanilla extract until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until blended. Combine flour, baking soda, and sea salt in a separate bowl. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture until it forms a dough. Fold in toffee bits, chopped espresso beans, and mini chocolate chips. Chill dough slightly. Using a melon ball scoop, drop cookie dough onto a baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. Do not burn. Remove from oven. Let cool for 2 minutes. Dredge java chip cookies in sugar, if desired, before transferring them to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Yield: 3 dozen, large cookies.

Hawaiian Crunch PB Bars

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Hawaiian Crunch PB Bars! When I asked my grandson what his favorite food was, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s easy, Nana. It’s peanut butter.” It was all I needed to know to head to my kitchen to prepare something special for him for the weekend. By switching things up a bit with Hawaiian shortbread cookies, the results produced an amazing crunch that teamed well with the hazelnut spread frosting. How’s that for double coverage? His opinion, you wonder? Being a teenager, a thumb’s up was approval enough.

HAWAIIAN CRUNCH PB BARS

Ingredients:

12 ounces Hawaiian banzai furikake shortbread cookies or vanilla wafers

1 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup natural peanut butter, chunky

2 cups powdered sugar

12 ounces mini semisweet chocolate chips

13 ounces hazelnut cocoa spread

1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts, chopped

Instructions:

Pulse cookies in a food processor until crumbly. Set aside. Spray a 9”x13” pan with nonstick oil. Combine butter and natural chunky peanut butter until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar until blended. Next fold in cookie crumbs and mini chocolate chips. Mix to combine. Spread evenly in the prepared pan. Warm hazelnut spread in a microwave until it is easy to spread. Cover the peanut butter layer completely. Sprinkle with chopped honey roasted peanuts. Refrigerate one hour. Cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Zero Candy Bar Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Zero Candy Bar Cookies! White chocolate fudge has been popular since it was introduced in a candy bar a hundred years ago. At that time it was called the Double Zero Bar due to its “chilling” snowy white color, reminding the public of an ice cube. To this day it is sold in a trademark cool silver wrapper. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, they say. Today’s cookies are nothing short of heavenly.

ZERO CANDY BAR COOKIES

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 sea salt

1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups peanuts, chopped

3.4 ounce Zero Candy Bar, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar until creamy. Add vanilla and almond extracts. Beat well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well mixed. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture. Stir until blended. Fold in white chocolate chips, mini chocolate chips, peanuts, and Zero Candy Bar pieces. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Drop cookie dough, using a melon ball scoop, onto the baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool for 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Yield: 6 dozen.

Banana Toffee Pops

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Banana Toffee Pops! It’s no secret kids love bananas. Adults do, too. With the dog days of summer upon us, make a treat with frozen bananas. Turn them into tasty pops covered in sprinkles or throw them in the blender for a refreshing smoothie. Can’t make up your mind? Do both! 🐵Question: How do you get a monkey down the stairs? 🐒Answer: Have it slide down the banana-ster! 🍌🍌🍌Have a great day!

BANANA TOFFEE POPS

Ingredients:

3 firm bananas, peeled and cut in half

6 popsicle sticks

8 ounces Greek yogurt

1/3 cup toffee pieces, slightly crushed

1/3 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

Place a sheet of wax paper on a baking sheet. Set aside. Combine toffee pieces and mini chocolate chips. Sprinkle onto a sheet of wax paper. Once the banana is coated in yogurt, you will roll the banana in the toppings before placing on the wax paper-lined baking sheet. Peel bananas. Slice each banana in half. Insert one stick into the bottom end of a banana segment. Working one at a time, spread yogurt all over the banana until it is completely covered. Coat in candy pieces. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat. When all six are complete, place baking sheet in the freezer. Freeze 4 hours or overnight. Keep treats frozen in storage bags until ready to serve.*

*Serving Suggestion: For smaller portions, slice bananas into 2″ chunks.