What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Li Hing Pineapple! Talk to any adult who is native to Hawaii and you’ll discover a craze from their youth. It’s Li Hing Mui, a powdered flavoring that can be sprinkled on anything from fruit to candy to popcorn, and even rimming the glasses of adult cocktails. No kidding. So what exactly is this mysterious flavoring, you wonder. Li Hing is plum powder made from dried plums. It has a combination of sweet, salty, and tangy taste. Local children love it on sour gummy worms or shave ice. Anything goes. One taste and you’ll find yourself giggling like a kid.
LI HING PINEAPPLE
Li Hing powder
Peel and core fresh pineapple. Cut into chunks. Using a sifter, lightly dust the fresh pineapple chunks with Li Hing powder. Let rest for a minute. Serve.
Dining Outside the Home: Ainsley’s Café and Harbor Bar in Brookville, Indiana. It’s always a good sign when boat owners swarm to the marina basin to remove slip covers from their vessels. That means the weather is getting warmer and Spring Fever has struck. Ainsley’s Café offers the perfect sunny side view of Brookville Lake and all the activity the lake provides. In the distance you may see a golfer tee off at the nearby Harbor Links Golf Club. Or a pontoon boat leisurely coasting into open waters. Check out the jet skis criss-crossing like synchronized dancers. When you dine on the outdoor deck for a midday lunch or sunset dinner, you may need to pinch yourself as a reminder this is real. The food is as fresh as the air you breathe. Whether it’s a Girl’s Getaway, Date Night, or Family Outing, Ainsley’s Café on Brookville Lake is time well-spent.
Dining Outside the Home: Blue Point in San Diego, California. Slip into a cozy booth among white linen tablecloths, rich cherry wood, and black leather. One quick glance around the room reveals a nautical theme with impressive bar, a tropical fish aquarium, and raw oysters on the half shell. This supper club embodies old-world class, that’s for sure. Linger over cocktails, especially the Dean Martin-style Double Martini. How’s that for nostalgia. The extensive menu caters to a sophisticated palate from Soups and Greens to Hook, Line, Ranch, and Sinker specialties. For a top-notch evening on the corner of Fifth and Market, Blue Point is no fish story.
Dining Outside the Home: Hell’s Kitchen in Las Vegas, Nevada When it’s hot outside in Vegas, crank up the heat even more at Hell’s Kitchen with smoky cocktails and iced shrimp cocktail. The world-renowned celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsay, recreated the infamous studio set from the television show. Prepare to be amazed. The sleek contemporary restaurant also landed a view overlooking the Las Vegas Strip. But forget all that. Come to Hell’s Kitchen for the outstanding food, extraordinary cocktails, and the dining ambiance. Take your time. The Beef Wellington is unsurpassed, which is the reason for the HK Signature Prix Fixe Menu. The final culmination of a fabulous meal would be the Sticky Toffee Pudding. Don’t forget the coffee.
Dining Outside the Home: Trevi Italian Restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada. At the foot of a Romanesque fountain, so close you can hear the water splashing against the marble, tables for two make dining cozy on an indoor patio at Trevi Italian Restaurant. Feel free to take your time with a signature cocktail and tantalizingly delicious appetizer. Might I suggest the Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail. Grab one by the tail, swirl it in the tangy sauce, and then take a bite of the thick juicy flesh. Repeat. Finally, pinch the top and bottom of the shell until it cracks. The tail meat easily slides out so you can pierce it with a fork and slather it in more cocktail sauce. That’s amore.
Dining Outside the Home: Farmhouse Restaurant in Fair Oaks, Indiana! The best-kept secret of this rural farmstead is The Pub, situated on what is known as the back forty of the family-owned restaurant. Chrissy serves up a mean Baja Mule with just the right amount of tequila, lime, and ginger beer. It goes down smooth and easy as you nibble on the Cowboy Bites. Never heard of them, you say? It’s a savory appetizer of sweet corn, cream cheese, jalapeños, and bacon nestled in a lightly fried breaded nugget. Dip it in chipotle aioli for added spice. Watch out, these can be addictive. Choose a burger and share it with your partner. The half-pounder dry aged ribeye, topped with fresh arugula and Havarti habanero pepper cheese, will leave you with a mental note to stop over to the Cowfé to snag a pound of this diablo cheese for later on. Take your time. There’s no hurry. This is what country living is all about.
Dining Outside the Home: Kintaro Japanese Restaurant in Kapaa, Kauai! When the locals recommend a place to eat, pay attention, especially if they are making reservations for a private celebration behind shoji screens with tatami mat seating. Kintaro is that good. For others, it’s first-come, first-served whether you are seated at the exotic sushi bar, a table for two in the dining room, or family-style seating around the teppan yaki table grills. For starters a plate of complimentary crispy fried wontons were served by the friendly wait staff. They were so yummy, we ordered more. And because using chop sticks is part of the experience, the filet mignon and lobster tail combo were already cut into bite-sized cubes arranged on the plate. The rest is easy. Sit back, bask in the Asian decor, and enjoy the cuisine.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Cocktail Shrimp Minis! Being a “grazer” can reap advantageous health benefits, in my opinion. Not only are the portions much smaller, but you get to eat every few hours which keeps hunger pangs under control. The rule of thumb is to choose foods high in nutrients and low in sugar, salt, and fat. The key to successful grazing is to prepare things ahead of time. That way when you open the refrigerator, you are drawn to easy choices. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?
COCKTAIL SHRIMP MINIS
1 dozen fresh shrimp, precooked
1 cup fresh salad greens
8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened
1/2 cup seafood cocktail sauce
1 tablespoon horseradish
Place salad greens in the bottom of a single serving glass. Divide the block of Neufchâtel cheese into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball. Place one cheese ball in each glass. Combine seafood cocktail sauce with horseradish. Drizzle sauce evenly over each cheese ball. Skewer one shrimp and insert into each glass, piercing the cheese ball. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Garlic Clove Little Smokies! I know people often wait for the holidays to serve this spicy little appetizer, but I recently discovered its popularity as a lunch box companion. By making it ahead of time and storing it in a jar, it travels well. Add dill pickle chunks, bite-size cheese cubes, vegetable skewers, fresh fruit, chips, salsa, and double chocolate brownies. You’ll have the perfect portable party food for any occasion. Doesn’t everyone love finger foods?
GARLIC CLOVE LITTLE SMOKIES
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup catsup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds
14 ounces little smokies cocktail wieners
Fresh chives for garnish
Preheat oven to 250°. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, honey, catsup, soy sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes, and roasted sesame seeds. Mix well. Add cocktail wieners. Coat evenly. Transfer to a covered casserole dish. Bake for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Garnish with roasted sesame seeds and fresh chives before serving.