Autumn Spice Banana Bread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Autumn Spice Banana Bread! Whenever people want to give me a gift of a scented candle, I always choose bakery aromas over floral ones. Buttery Caramel Corn, Pumpkin Pecan Waffles, Vanilla Frosted Cupcake, to name a few. I confess, I could have a love affair with cinnamon, maple, ginger, or cardamom. My knees grow weak just thinking about it. Perhaps that is one reason Autumn spices make me crazy while throwing caution to the wind and willpower out the door. I scrape the bowl leaving just enough batter to taste in a teaspoon. It’s how you know the results will be amazing; at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

AUTUMN SPICE BANANA BREAD

Ingredients:

3 bananas, peeled and mashed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 egg

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup coconut, flaked

1/2 cup carrots, peeled and shredded

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Set aside. In a bowl, combine mashed bananas, mayonnaise, and egg. Mix well. In another bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and sea salt. Stir in the banana mixture, just until moistened. Fold in flaked coconut and shredded carrots. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake 55-60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Rest for 10 minutes. Remove banana bread from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Ingredients for Frosting:

2 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

2-3 tablespoons light cream

Roasted pumpkin seeds and crushed pecans, for garnish

Instructions for Frosting:

In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and unsalted butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar and sea salt. Whisk in 2-3 tablespoons light cream. Frosting will be thick, but spreadable. Spread the frosting over the completely cooled banana bread. Sprinkle generously with roasted pumpkin seeds and crushed pecans.

Irish Apple Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Irish Apple Cake! I can practically hear your first question: How is this cake different from a traditional one? Well, as you mix the ingredients, you may notice the batter is pretty thick and dense. It’s not pourable like a cake mix, that’s for sure. I guess you could compare it somewhat to a sponge cake…..with apples. Plus topping. Streusel is what makes it extra-special, if you know what I mean. When it’s all said and done, you can definitely justify eating it as an early breakfast, a midday brunch, an afternoon pick-me-up, or a late night dessert. If you were at my house, you’d see my husband keeps a spoon propped inside the cake dome. Because, sometimes…you know, you just can’t resist one bite.

IRISH APPLE CAKE

Ingredients for Streusel Topping:

3/4 cup flour

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

6 tablespoons butter, cold

Instructions for Streusel Topping:

In a medium bowl, combine flour, rolled oats, sugar, and sea salt. Mix well. Add the cold butter, using a fork. Blend the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Set bowl aside in the refrigerator.

Ingredients for Irish Apple Cake

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons milk

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin

Instructions for Irish Apple Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and line a 9” round baking dish. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract. Beat eggs, one at a time, and add to creamed mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and sea salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Gradually add milk while mixing as the batter forms. Transfer batter to the prepared baking dish. Arrange a single layer of sliced apples over batter. Cover the apples with the streusel topping. Bake 60-65 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Apple Dumpling Dreams

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Apple Dumpling Dreams! There’s something special about an apple dumpling, don’t you think? Perhaps it reminds you of the changing seasons. Perhaps it conjures up childhood memories. Perhaps the earthy spices and syrupy sweetness crank up your comfort level. No matter the hypnotic effect, apple dumpling dreams can reflect the way we look at our lives. Do we deny sweets or do we nourish our bodies? “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. It’s all about perspective, moderation, and control. Thank goodness we have freedom of choice. When it comes to apple dumplings, especially now, dreams really do come true.

APPLE DUMPLING DREAMS

Ingredients:

4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored

1 package refrigerated pie crusts

4 star anise pieces

Ingredients for Syrup:

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons butter

Ingredients for Apple Filling:

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly grease a 9” square baking dish; set aside. To make the syrup, combine sugar, water, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons butter. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine ingredients for apple filling. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter until consistency is crumbled. Cut each pie crust in half. Form each half into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll into 8-inch circles. To assemble, place an apple in the center of a dough circle. Fill the empty core with crumb filling. Fold the dough over the apple, pinching at the top to seal. Transfer apple dumplings to the baking dish. Drizzle with syrup. Place a star anise on each apple. Bake for 40-45 minutes until crust is golden brown. Tent with foil, if necessary, to prevent over browning. Serve warm.

Okinawan Sweet Potato Medley

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Okinawan Sweet Potato Medley! Way back when I was in middle school, my home economics teacher actually graded us on how colorful the foods looked on the plate. Her thoughts were “If it tempts your eyes, your stomach will want it.” I never forgot that message. She was pretty adamant about food presentation. So having mashed potatoes, rolls, and cauliflower was kind of a no-no when meal planning. That’s one of the reasons I was intrigued by Okinawan sweet potatoes when visiting Kauai. They are buff-skinned on the outside with a violet-purple flesh inside. It’s not as sweet as the orange variety I’m accustomed to, but nonetheless, it’s pretty tasty. And as you can see, it passes the color test.

OKINAWAN SWEET POTATO MEDLEY

Ingredients:

1 large Okinawan sweet potato, skin on, washed and sliced

1 medium sweet onion, sliced

2 each of mini sweet peppers in red, yellow, and orange; stems and seeds removed, cut in wedges

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons butter

Instructions:

Spray a sheet of heavy aluminum foil with nonstick oil. Arrange Okinawan sweet potatoes on foil. Add sweet onion slices and mini sweet pepper wedges. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, oregano, and cinnamon. Dot with pats of butter. Place another sheet of heavy aluminum foil over top of vegetables. Fold sides twice to seal. Fold ends twice to seal. Avoid puncturing foil. Place packet on a 425° preheated grill. Close lid. Cook 25 minutes, or until vegetables are fork tender. Remove from grill. Carefully open one corner of foil packet to release steam. Then remove top layer of foil. Transfer sweet potatoes and vegetables in the herbed butter to a platter. Serve immediately.

Your Grandma’s Molasses Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Your Grandma’s Molasses Cookies! For years I was on a quest to bake soft, chewy cookies. No matter what I did, it seemed as soon as the cookies cooled, they turned crunchy rather than chewy. Don’t get me wrong, they still disappeared in my house because…well, kids seem to love homemade cookies no matter how they turn out. Then, the other day I was rifling through a stack of recipes scribbled on random slips of paper tucked away in a ziplock bag. I came across the familiar handwriting of my beloved Grandma Frieda. I remembered visiting her in the summertime when she’d bring out the Game of Cootie for us to play. Afterwards, she serve a plate of sugary molasses cookies with a glass of milk. Those are good memories, that’s for sure.

YOUR GRANDMA’S MOLASSES COOKIES

Ingredients:

4 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground 

1 teaspoon cloves, ground 

1 teaspoon ginger, ground 

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 cups butter, softened 

2 cups sugar plus 1/2 cup

1/2 cup molasses 

2 eggs

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375°. Line baking sheet with a silicone baking mat and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and 2 cups sugar until combined. Add in the molasses and eggs and mix well. Slowly add the flour mixture to the ingredients of the stand mixer and mix until all is combined. Fill a small bowl with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Form teaspoon-size dough into balls then gently roll them in the granulated sugar. Place onto baking sheet, two inches apart. Repeat until all the cookie dough has been used. Bake only 10 minutes for soft and chewy results. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Xmas Pear Pupus

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Xmas Pear Pupus! A popular Polynesian appetizer, served hot or cold, comes from the Hawaiian word “pūpū”. It can be anything from a buffet table of skewered meat, tempura veggies, raw fish, and other finger foods to simple cold trays of tropical fruits, deviled eggs, edamame, and smoked salmon. Remember to make everything bite-size when planning an informal gathering. Because pear trees live such a long time, their fruit is very symbolic during the holiday season. The pear often represents immortality, wisdom, and health; a treat fit for royalty. By creating a pear pupu platter, you’re giving your guests a gift of intangibles they may treasure for years to come. Get the conversation started. Serve freshly sliced ripe pears and cinnamon dusted pear chips with a wheel of warm Brie. How festive!

XMAS PEAR PUPUS

Ingredients:

2 pears, thinly sliced for baking

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 wheel Brie cheese, warmed

2 tablespoons cranberry relish

2 tablespoons sugared pecans

2 pears, cut into wedges for eating

Instructions:

Cinnamon Dusted Pear Chips must be made in advance. Preheat oven to 225°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Pat dry sliced pears. Place them on the parchment paper in a single layer. Dust with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake 3 hours until dried and crisp. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

For Pear Pupus, warm a wheel of Brie cheese in a 350°oven for 5-10 minutes to soften. Spread cranberry relish over top. Sprinkle with sugared pecans and chopped pears. Serve with pear wedges and cinnamon dusted pear chips.

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.

Lavender Creamed Honey Pears

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Lavender Creamed Honey Pears! Whenever pears come into season, I feel as though a festive dessert is in order. But then again, I’m spoiled. Family members “gift” us with a different fruit-of-the-month selection all year long. A box gets delivered to our doorstep with a little card that tells us about the delectables inside. Often there are serving suggestions as well as ripening and storage tips. Then my mind begins to wander as I plan different ways to come up with recipes. That is, unless I simply succumb to their aroma and eat them as they are. Here’s a festive dessert that will get you raves through the holidays.

LAVENDER CREAMED HONEY PEARS

Ingredients:

1 large pear, skin on, halved, and cored with a melon scooper

2 tablespoons sweet white wine

2 tablespoons creamed honey

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Lavender Filling:

1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon creamed cheese, softened

2 drops lavender extract

1 smidgen dried lavender buds

1 drop lemon extract

1 nip granulated citrus peel

1 teaspoon granola, for garnish

Lavender buds, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. In a small baking dish, place pear halves upright. Pour sweet wine over them. Slightly warm creamed honey on Low setting in the microwave for 30 seconds. Drizzle honey over pears. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Dot each pear half with butter. Finish with vanilla extract. Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Carefully remove dish from oven. Baste pears with the juice. Turn each pear over, skin side up. Bake 20 minutes longer until tender. Using a spoon, transfer each pear half, flipping over with skin side down, to a dessert dish. The sauce will thicken slightly as it cools. Spoon reserve sauce over pears. While pears are baking, make the Lavender Filling. Combine vanilla Greek yogurt and creamed cheese. Mix until smooth. Fold in lavender extract, dried lavender buds, lemon extract, and granulated citrus peel. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. To serve, place a heaping dollop of filling into each pear half. Sprinkle with granola. Garnish with lavender buds. Serve warm.

Instant Plum Brekkie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Instant Plum Brekkie! Sooo, I went in for my annual health assessment, and learned I’m not eating enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains each day. I reported 3-4 servings of each and learned those numbers need to be bumped up to 5 servings a day. Seriously??? You’d never know it by the foods I post on my blog. Let me be clear, I do prepare and eat EVERYTHING you see from Gail’s Kitchen. Granted, I am getting older. But in my defense, I simply cannot eat as much as I did when I was younger. My metabolism won’t allow it. I need to think about the stress and strain extra weight can put on the heart, back, joints, and feet. That being said, my BMI (body mass index) is within a healthy range, which is good. If you need to make substitutions of ingredients to meet your own personal goals, please do what is right for you.

INSTANT PLUM BREKKIE

Ingredients:

2 slices quinoa multigrain bread

1-2 tablespoons Neufchâtel cheese

1 plum, pit removed and sliced

1 teaspoon granola

Dusting of ground cinnamon and nutmeg

Instructions:

In a toaster oven, lightly brown bread on both sides. Spread Neufchâtel cheese on each piece of toast. Arrange sliced plums over creamed cheese layer. Add the granola-topper. Sprinkle with a light dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg.