Ole Smoky Cherry Drops

Experience the Holidays: 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.

No-Bake Lime Coconut Truffles

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: No-Bake Lime Coconut Truffles! Here’s a festive treat that satisfies the desire for something sweet enough without the overkill. This time white chocolate becomes the confectionery of choice. Instead of nuts, candied ginger and lime zest become key ingredients to complement the tropical tones of coconut. One might suggest these truffles resemble tiny snowballs, if not for the lime zest. To serve, simply place each truffle in a fluted foil or paper candy cup and arrange on a decorative platter. It promises to bring “Oohs” and “Ahhs” as a crowd-pleaser.

NO-BAKE LIME COCONUT TRUFFLES

Ingredients:

1 cup white chocolate chips

2 cups sweetened coconut, shredded

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoon lime zest, grated

1 1/2 teaspoon lime juice

Lime zest, for garnish

Instructions:

Melt white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl on 50% for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat until completely smooth. Mix in sweetened shredded coconut. Fold in crystallized ginger and lime zest. Add lime juice to the mixture. Form into 16 small mounds. Garnish with more lime zest. Chill until set.

Kiwi Dessert Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Kiwi Dessert Pizza! What do you get when you cross a bakery crust with a sweet and creamy fruit topping? At first glance, it appears as though frosting is smeared over the mini flatbread crust. It kinda is. The secret is cream cheese with a hint of sweetened coconut. The rest is simply fresh fruit…until you detect the toasted coconut flakes. Now it’s tough to decide if this dessert is a cookie or a fruit tart. Either way, it’s a delightful change from traditional pies or standard cakes. Not too sweet, not too bland. It’s just right.

KIWI DESSERT PIZZA

Ingredients:

2 mini naan prepared flatbreads

4 ounces cream cheese

2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon coconut syrup

2 strawberries, tops removed and quartered

1 kiwi, peeled, sliced, and quartered

3 sliced peaches, cubed

10 blueberries, divided

Toasted coconut, for garnish

Lemon thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

Remove naan from packaging. Spritz with water before heating. Place in toaster on medium setting. Transfer to a platter. In a bowl, combine cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, and coconut syrup. Stir until smooth. Spread over surface of the naan. Arrange strawberries, kiwi, peaches, and blueberries. Garnish with toasted coconut and lemon thyme.

Eagle Brand Magic Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Eagle Brand Magic Cookies! One definition of the word magic is “wonderful; exciting”. That’s what these quick and easy holiday cookies are all about. The magic ingredient is the sweetened condensed milk. It may not be something you use everyday, but special occasions call for special ingredients. Homemade cookies are chocked full of sweetness in chocolate morsels, flaked coconut, and chopped pecans. How delightful and different. That’s what I call exciting. Create your own magical moment for the next festive gathering, after school snack, or weekend party-for-two.

EAGLE BRAND MAGIC COOKIES

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

7 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1/4 cup butterscotch chips

3 tablespoons sweetened coconut flakes

2 tablespoons pecans, finely chopped

Sugar, for dusting

Instructions:

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and sea salt. Set aside. Using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the sweetened condensed milk. Beat until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Fold in the mini chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, flaked coconut, and chopped pecans. Cover dough and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take a heaping teaspoon of cookie dough, roll into a ball, and place on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat. Bake 8-10 minutes; cool 2 minutes. Dust cookies with sugar and transfer to a wire rack. Enjoy!

Unforgettable Wild Ramp Bacon Chowder

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Unforgettable Wild Ramp Bacon Chowder! For American hunter-gatherers, as well as European foragers of gourmet plants, wild ramps are as coveted as the elusive morel mushrooms. Since the leafy garlic bulbs are popular with curiosity seekers, in addition to critters of the woods, the quest for a fragrant “bouquet” becomes a challenge between man and beast. Who will get there first to reap the wild-growing delicacy? Perhaps both have their secret stomping grounds. I invite you to stick around awhile to sample the wide variety of ways to enjoy wild ramps.

UNFORGETTABLE WILD RAMP BACON CHOWDER

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

1/2 cup ramps roughly chopped, bulbs and greens

1 potato, skin on and diced

1 3/4 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

1 1/4 cups coconut milk

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Crumbled bacon, for garnish

Charred ramp greens, for garnish

Instructions:

In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, sauté ramps in bacon drippings until soft. Add diced potatoes, chicken broth, seasoned salt, and garlic and herb seasoning. Simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked thoroughly. Reduce heat to low. Add coconut milk, cheddar cheese, and red pepper flakes. Stir well to combine. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, but do not boil. Gently heat for 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes to thicken. Ladle into soup bowls; garnish with crumbled bacon and charred ramp greens.

Honey Butter Shrimp

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Honey Butter Shrimp! Here’s a different kind of main dish that creates a balance of sweet, salty, and a little bit of spice in every bite. Shrimp lovers will not be disappointed with the tender, incredibly mild, slightly creamy taste of ocean shrimp. It’s very good, according to my husband the taste tester. The firmness of each delicate morsel, curled into the C-shape when cooked, makes each bite a succulent delight for the palate. The aromatic ginger, when mixed with soy sauce and sticky sweet honey, will awaken the taste buds for a juicier finish. Done right, this shrimp becomes a labor of love that will surely bring raves.

HONEY BUTTER SHRIMP

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons butter

3 ounces coconut milk

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons raw honey

Zest and juice from one lime

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and white pepper. Warm olive oil in an iron skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 minutes per side. Add minced garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, and butter. Cook the shrimp in the butter until the garlic caramelizes, about 2 minutes. Add coconut milk, soy sauce, and raw honey. Stir to combine. Simmer 2-3 minutes until completely warmed. Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice, zest, and cilantro. Serve warm over rice.

Coconut Sprinkled Fruit Cups

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Coconut Sprinkled Fruit Cups! Whether you choose to enhance a hearty breakfast, compliment a light lunch, or serve as a healthy dessert, fresh fruit is always a good idea. Take a moment to look in the fridge. Perhaps you see an apple, a bunch of green grapes, a ripe banana, or a few stragglers from a berry basket. Combine them together for a surprising and colorful addition to any meal. Sprinkle on some coconut flakes to jazz things up. Drizzle with maple syrup, wildflower honey, or agave nectar. Just a touch. Then, for a nice finish, sprinkle on cinnamon, nutmeg, or citrusy cardamom. Dessert-lovers may add a dollop of whipped cream. The choices are endless. When building a fruit salad, think color, flavor, and presentation. The results may surprise you.

COCONUT SPRINKLED FRUIT CUPS

Ingredients:

1 Cara Cara orange, divided into segments

1/2 cup pineapple, tidbits

2 tablespoons coconut, shredded

2 teaspoons agave nectar

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, ground

Instructions:

Fill two fruit cups with orange segments and pineapple tidbits. Sprinkle shredded coconut over top. Drizzle with agave nectar. Garnish with ground nutmeg.

Dark Chocolate Mug Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Dark Chocolate Mug Cake! The first thing I want to tell you about this recipe is coconut flour can make a cake drier than all-purpose flour. True, it does make it a gluten-free alternative AND an excuse to add a scoop of ice cream, which I did. I would call the texture very dense, but my husband was painfully honest and used the word “dry”. I believe adding an extra egg white might alleviate that problem, but who knows? Perhaps you’ll try it and get back to me. The gist of the story is, when you’re really craving something sweet and don’t want to put a lot of time into it, this is a “piece of cake”. Two minutes in the microwave and you’ve got it. Just add fresh strawberries, sliced almonds, and a wicked scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. You can blame me.

DARK CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE

Ingredients:

1/4 cup coconut flour

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 large egg, room temperature

Powdered sugar, for sprinkling

Fresh strawberries, for garnish

Sliced almonds, for garnish

Instructions:

Rub the inside of a microwave-safe coffee mug with butter. Set aside. In a bowl, combine coconut flour, cocoa powder, maple syrup, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, almond extract, and a large egg. Mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared mug. Microwave on High for 1-2 minutes. Carefully remove the mug and let cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Add fresh strawberries and sliced almonds, for garnish.

Yogurt-Dipped Waffles

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Yogurt-Dipped Waffles! How many of you were told, as a child, not to play with your food? I know I was, especially when I was supposed to clean my plate of something I didn’t want to eat. But that’s a lot different than finger food. Now you are allowed to take slightly toasted waffles and dip them in flavored yogurt. Since my tastes change from day to day, I prefer to add flavors to Greek yogurt, but you may certainly purchase flavored yogurts to save time. In addition, I make extra waffles on the weekend to serve during the week. If you have toaster waffles on hand, you’re in good shape.

YOGURT-DIPPED WAFFLES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon coconut syrup

2-3 prepared waffles, separated into wedges

Fresh strawberries, sliced

Fresh blueberries

Fresh black raspberries

Nutmeg, for sprinkling

Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

Powdered sugar, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine Greek yogurt and coconut syrup. Mix well. Set aside. Using a toaster on low setting, warm waffle wedges. Remove waffles to a plate. In a bowl, combine strawberries, blueberries, and black raspberries. Gently toss. To serve, dip waffle wedges into Greek yogurt. Spoon fresh fruit over yogurt. Sprinkle with nutmeg and powdered sugar. Garnish with mint leaves. Enjoy!