What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Hibiscus Passion Tea Icing! If you ever get bored, take a stroll down the Tea Aisle at your nearby grocers. Choose from any assortment of gourmet blends; especially one containing full-leaf sachets. Read the label. In a few seconds, you will feel as though you have been transported to a magical land “bursting with life and tinged with the color of true love to make sure you never have to live a day without passion”.* And that’s only the beginning. Turn to the side panel for an invigorating adventure that awakens the senses as well as the imagination. After that when I decided to steep this delicacy to flavor buttercream icing, I knew it would be nothing short of fabulous. Perhaps you may think so, too.
HIBISCUS PASSION TEA ICING
2 1/2 tablespoons brewed hibiscus passion tea
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Garnish with loose tea leaves
Brew a cup of hibiscus passion tea, according to package directions. (Since you won’t need all of it, the reserve tea can be sipped over ice.) Refrigerate until slightly cool. In a medium bowl, cream together softened butter and powdered sugar. Add the hibiscus passion tea and almond extract. Stir until smooth. Spread a thin layer of icing over your favorite cake. I made a gluten-free chocolate cake.** Open a dry tea sachet and sprinkle the tea leaves over one side. When serving, place a dollop of extra icing on the side of the plate or on top of the cake. Either way, it will disappear, I promise you that.
*TAZO Passion Tea.
**For Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake, follow the link.
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
Dark Chocolate candies
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Yogurt Frozen Fruit Pops! Take a look in the freezer and choose the berries you love the most. You are about to make a delicious fruit popsicle without high fructose corn syrup. By using only natural ingredients, with honey as a sweetener, the berry flavors are intensified with guilt-free results that make your heart swoon. The hardest part is waiting overnight for the pops to become firm. As a special indulgence, sprinkle them with mini chocolate chips and crushed nuts.
YOGURT FROZEN FRUIT POPS
1 1/2 cups strawberries, frozen
1 cup raspberries, frozen
1 tablespoon pomegranate arils, frozen
1/2 cup all natural Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons natural honey
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
Mini chocolate chips, for garnish
Crushed pecan pieces, for garnish
Arrange 8 treat cups in the bottom of a loaf pan. Have 8 craft sticks set aside. Combine frozen strawberries, raspberries, and pomegranate arils in a food processor. Add Greek yogurt, natural honey, and lemon juice. Mix on HIGH until smooth and blended, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Pulse until smooth and creamy. Spoon frozen fruit yogurt into the treat cups. Insert one craft stick into each cup. Sprinkle tops with mini chocolate chips and nut mixture. Place in freezer overnight. Remove yogurt frozen fruit pops by tearing the paper cup and serve. Enjoy!
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Krispy ‘Mallow Bars! Remember when you were a kid and your lunchbox treats made all the other kids envious? Well, this quick and easy dessert bar has the same effect. Chocolate-lovers appreciate the crunch of miniature M&Ms as much as marshmallow-lovers crave the sugary sweetness. Some say it’s the best of both worlds.
KRISPY ‘MALLOW BARS
3/4 cup M&M miniature chocolate candies
3 tablespoons butter
7-ounce jar of marshmallow creme
6 cups of crispy rice cereal
Spray a 9″x13″ pan with nonstick oil. Set aside. Melt butter, over low heat, in a 2 1/2 quart pan. Do not burn add marshmallow creme. Stir until melted. Remove from heat. Working quickly, add rice cereal. Stir until rice is completely coated. With buttered hands, or wearing disposable gloves, press mixture, gently but firmly, over candy in pan. Cool. Cut into bars. Serve candy side up.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Iced Coconut Milk Banana Smoothie! Try something new today. Rev up your morning routine with a nutritious alternative to steel-cut oats. Delight your senses with a sweet-tasting banana infused smoothie. The hint of dark chocolate bathed in tropical coconut creaminess makes it go down with a smile. What better way to include a serving of fresh fruit on a daily basis.
ICED COCONUT MILK BANANA SMOOTHIE
1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon dark chocolate syrup
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon natural honey
4-5 ice cubes
Nutmeg for garnish
Mini chocolate chips for garnish
In a blender, combine banana slices, chocolate syrup, coconut milk, vanilla extract, Greek yogurt, and honey. Pulse to chop bananas. Add ice cubes. Increase speed to liquefy smoothie. Pour into a glass. Sprinkle with nutmeg and mini chocolate chips. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Double Chocolate Skillet Brownie! I love gooey brownies, especially right out of the oven. Maybe it’s the butter and brown sugar that makes them so delicious. Or it might be the smidgen of peanut butter mixed with real vanilla extract. Lest we not forget the main attraction: dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate for that rich delectable aftertaste once your teeth sink in. Mmmm. Pass me the milk, please.
DOUBLE CHOCOLATE SKILLET BROWNIE
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/3 cup crunchy natural peanut butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt crystals
1 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup white chocolate chips (optional), for garnish
2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 10″ iron skillet and set aside. In a stand mixer, combine butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar on low speed. Add egg and vanilla extract. Gradually mix in flour, cocoa, baking soda, and sea salt crystals. Fold in chocolate chips. Transfer batter to iron skillet. Spread evenly. Sprinkle with white chocolate chips and chopped walnuts. Bake until set in center and pulling away from sides, 20-24 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Cut into pie-shaped wedges. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Xenial Chunky Monkey Banana Muffins! Nix the flour for old-fashioned oats for a healthier version of an old classic. Did you know oats can lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar control? It’s a fact we’re all getting older and from time to time need to make minor adjustments in our food consumption. I’m all for small plates. Portion sizes have become insane! When did it happen? As a collector of vintage dishes, modern day dinner plates are now the size of grandma’s meat platter. Did you know “in Europe, the average plate measures 9 inches while some American restaurants use plates that are around 13 inches in diameter. Research has shown that by switching to a 10-inch plate from a 12-inch plate you eat 22% less.”* Snack healthier.
XENIAL CHUNKY MONKEY BANANA MUFFINS
1/2 cup shredded coconut
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, whisked
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick oil. Spread shredded coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 2-3 minutes, until lightly golden and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine bananas, old-fashioned oats, cinnamon, milk, eggs, brown sugar, vegetable oil, baking powder, vanilla extract, and sea salt. Mix well. Fold in chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, and toasted coconut. Scoop mixture into 12 muffin cups, filling to the top. Bake 30-35 minutes, until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from muffin tin. Serve warm.
*How Big Are Your Dinner Plates And Why It Matters, by Penny Klatell, PhD, RN, May 2012. Eatouteatwell.com
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream! Years ago my best friend was a specialty brand of Turkish coffee ice cream. I was working two jobs, averaging mostly 70-hour work weeks, seven days nonstop to support myself, and help my kids through college. I also admit I was hiding out from “Life”. Many evenings I’d come home, crash on the sofa, and open a pint of the creamiest concoction laced with butterscotch topping I’d ever tasted. It was bliss. Since then, the company stopped making it in favor of more popular flavors like banana chocolate chunk and coconut almond chip. Seriously? Oh well, that left me with no recourse but to make it myself. Between you and me…I think I knocked it out of the park!*
NO-CHURN COFFEE ICE CREAM
2 1/2 tablespoons espresso instant coffee
2 tablespoons warm water
2 cups heavy cream
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dark chocolate covered espresso beans, chopped
Butterscotch Ice Cream Topping
In a small bowl, dissolve instant coffee in warm water. Stir well. Set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat the heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract on High speed for 4 minutes until smooth and thick. Reduce speed to Low. Add the prepared coffee; continue until blended. Fold in chopped espresso beans. Spoon ice cream into a loaf pan. Cover tightly and freeze overnight. Scoop into bowls and sprinkle with espresso before serving. Drizzle with butterscotch topping, to taste.
*The secret to my success was chilling the utensils overnight in the freezer and making sure all the ingredients were refrigerator cold.
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.