Chocolate Chip Candied Cheese Ball

Experience the Holidays: Chocolate Chip Candied Cheese Ball! The most amazing surprise appears at first bite. Dark chocolate blended with sweetened cream cheese presents itself as a first class cheeseball that leaves everyone smacking their lips in satisfaction. The fun of swiping a cinnamon graham cracker cookie transforms this dessert in a mouth-watering finger food. Make this holiday surprise the happiest one yet.

CHOCOLATE CHIP CANDIED CHEESE BALL

Ingredients:

1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup mini chocolate chips

1 cup sugared pecans, crushed

Graham cracker sticks

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Slowly add powdered sugar. Mix until smooth and completely incorporated. Fold in mini chocolate chips. Chill two hours. On a sheet of waxed paper, sprinkle crushed sugared pecans. Form chilled mixture into a ball. Roll in pecan coating. Chill overnight. Serve with honey graham cracker sticks or cinnamon graham cracker sticks.

Original Pistachio Party Ball

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Original Pistachio Party Ball! Nothing says par-tay like a holiday cheese ball. Instead of picking one up at the grocery store this year, why not surprise the family and make something a little different. Pistachios tend to be shoved aside in favor of walnuts and pecans, mostly due to their cost. But I guarantee you, people will sit up and take notice of them embedded in this party cheese ball. A little goes a long way, especially when rolled on the outside of the cheese ball. For those who enjoy the experience of cracking the shell to pluck out the pistachio, you not only get to nibble as you crack, you also justify the savings involved over the cost of pistachios without shells. Now there’s a thought worth considering.

ORIGINAL PISTACHIO PARTY BALL

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon zesty Italian salad dressing dry mix

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

Instructions:

In a bowl, cream together Neufchâtel cheese and unsalted butter until smooth. Sprinkle in zesty Italian dry mix. Mix well. Add Worcestershire sauce and red pepper flakes. Fold in sharp cheddar cheese. Stir until well combined. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Layer with chopped pistachio nuts. Transfer cheese mixture onto the nuts. Wearing disposable gloves, form the cheese mixture into a ball, turning to cover each side with chopped nuts. When completely covered, wrap the pistachio cheese ball in a clean piece of plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour to intensify flavors. Serve with assorted crackers.

Wheel of Camembert

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Wheel of Camembert! To eat or not to eat the rind, that is the question. The answer? It’s totally up to you. As a general rule, the natural rinds of soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert are safe to eat. Some people can’t get past the idea that the rind looks “moldy”, simply because it appears white and fluffy. That essence is called “bloomy”, which sounds much more appealing in my opinion. If you’re a mushroom-lover, you may detect an earthy aroma that delivers a lusty taste. Bottom line: if it weren’t for the rind, the interior wouldn’t be nearly as creamy and buttery as it is. My advice for first-timers? Give it a try. With the luscious fruit, crunchy nuts, and raw honey you may find yourself giving it a fair chance.

WHEEL OF CAMEMBERT

Ingredients:

1 wheel of Camembert cheese, with wrapping removed and discarded

1-2 tablespoons raspberry jam, warmed

1/2 cup red raspberries

2 tablespoons Tupelo raw honey

2 tablespoons pistachios, roughly chopped

Multigrain baked crackers

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the wheel of Camembert cheese onto prepared pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the top and sides of the rind feel soft to the touch. Another sign is when areas of gooey cheese begin to ooze through the rind. Meanwhile, warm the raspberry jam 30 seconds in a microwave-safe dish. Stir. Gently add the raspberries; toss to coat. Transfer the baked Camembert cheese to a rimmed plate. Top the cheese wheel with raspberry compote. Drizzle raw honey over all. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Serve warm with multigrain crackers.

Upgraded Lunch Break

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Upgraded Lunch Break! For those original gamers from the 1980’s, today’s snapshot may detect a slight resemblance to a popular video game character known as Pac-Man. I assure you, that was not my intention. My kids played that harmless game all the time, staring at a screen that literally ate its way to a high score. Then again, I seem to remember them requesting pizza delivery more often as a result of it. At least nowadays I can choose a healthier alternative with multigrain baked crackers that have wheat, corn, and oats. Plus it won’t cost me a roll of quarters.

UPGRADED LUNCH BREAK

Ingredients:

6 multigrain baked crackers

3 slices cherrywood smoked ham, deli-style

1 golden delicious apple, sliced in wedges

Fresh chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Arrange multigrain crackers on a platter. Cut each slice of ham in half. Form into an accordion shape to create “wells”. Secure one end with two strands of fresh chives. Tie securely. Place the ham onto a multigrain cracker, fanning out the hills and valleys. Insert apple wedges where possible, allowing them to stand upright. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Mint Black ‘n Bleu Snack

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Mint Black ‘n Bleu Snack! When you’re needing a simple, yet exotic appetizer or dessert, nothing satisfies the palate like naturally sweet fresh blackberries complimented by creamy bleu cheese. The subtle crunch of a multigrain cracker topped with sesame and poppyseeds makes a wonderful platform. A touch of raw honey serves to tickle the tongue while the fresh mint leaf provides a tangy finish. Together, they pair extremely well with a glass of white wine or after dinner espresso. Perhaps you see this in your future.

MINT BLACK ‘N BLEU SNACK

Ingredients:

8.3 ounces multigrain baked crackers

4-6 ounce wedge Danish bleu cheese

8 ounces fresh blackberries, wash and pat dry

1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey

Fresh mint leaves

Instructions:

On a serving platter, arrange a single layer of multigrain crackers. Shave thin layers of Danish bleu cheese slices to cover the crackers. Add blackberries in random order. Drizzle with Tupelo honey. Garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serve.

Kentucky Benedictine Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Kentucky Benedictine Dip! Each State seems to have its claim-to-fame. Kentucky is no exception. Around the turn of the 20th century, a Louisville chef came up with a tasty alternative to the club sandwich. By combining crisp cucumbers, softened cheese, and a few other subtle ingredients, the freshly sweet cucumber sandwich was born. I imagine in the beginning the bread crusts were eliminated creating bite-size “finger” sandwiches served with afternoon tea. As time wore on, vegetable dips became the rage making it less work and more appealing. After all, who doesn’t love eating with their hands? Graze through your next gathering with the cool refreshing taste of cucumbers.

KENTUCKY BENEDICTINE DIP

Ingredients:

1 large cucumber, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 tablespoons sweet onion, grated

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

Instructions:

Grate the cucumber with a food processor. Add softened cream cheese, grated onion, sea salt, black pepper, and mayonnaise. Pulse until mixture is well blended and smooth. Refrigerate one hour. Serve with fresh vegetables and multigrain crackers.

Egg Noodle Chicken Casserole

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Egg Noodle Chicken Casserole! Do you ever become territorial with your food, perhaps hiding it in secret places no one ever looks? I do. In fact I keep a very unique bag of Iowa potato chips in the freezer to nibble on whenever I get the urge. Yes, you can freeze potato chips, but that’s another story. Comfort food also means having your very own individual crock in order to savor every bite, like today’s version of chicken casserole. It especially means the buttery cracker topping is all yours, to save until the very end or to mix into every bite. The choice is yours.

EGG NOODLE CHICKEN CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

1 cup egg noodles

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 cup frozen grilled chicken chunks, fully cooked and thawed

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

For the topping:

1/2 cup Ritz* crackers, crushed

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease two individual casserole dishes with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and set aside. In a skillet over medium-high heat, warm butter. Add diced onion and celery. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine egg noodles, onions, celery, chicken chunks, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, and chopped parsley. Mix well. Divide between the two prepared casserole dishes. In a small bowl, stir together cracker crumbs, melted butter, and cheddar cheese. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the casseroles. Bake 20 minutes until golden brown. Let rest 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Utmost Prosciutto Plate

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Utmost Prosciutto Plate! Treat yourself right by going the extra mile in gourmet treats. Something so simple, yet sublime, can change a mood from sour to exciting. We all need something to look forward to. Am I right? Fresh mozzarella is usually sold in a brine or water solution to retain its moisture, texture, and soft shape. Let it drain for a few minutes on paper towels; then dab dry and slice. By drizzling a rich olive oil over the mozzarella to enhance that delicate milky flavor, the buttery essence peeks through. Add a leaf or two of fresh basil to enrich the nutritive value. As you sit there nibbling on a slice of prosciutto, pat yourself on the back for enduring the tough times we’ve been through recently. Our home is a safe haven and we can get through whatever storm is next.

UTMOST PROSCIUTTO PLATE

Ingredients:

4 ounces fresh mozzarella, room temperature

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon dried basil

3 ounces old world prosciutto, sliced

7 ounces rustic crostini crackers

4 ounces organic green olives, pitted

Instructions:

Drain mozzarella cheese for a few minutes on paper towels; then dab dry and slice. Transfer to a platter. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with dried basil. Arrange sliced prosciutto and crostini crackers around cheese. Add pitted green olives. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve with Pinot Grigio.

Ham Salad Spread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Ham Salad Spread! Tired of ho-hum tuna salad or egg salad sandwiches? Think all-natural applewood smoked ham with no artificial ingredients. When you begin with quality, the results are astounding. Add sweet pickle relish, chopped celery, and fresh horseradish. The biggest challenge is deciding if you wish to smear it on rye bread, add a dollop over wheat crackers, or simply scoop it onto a Bibb lettuce leaf. Skip the Deli-made and crank out a batch at home. It’s easier than you think. In no time at all, you’ll have a party favorite or lunchtime energy boost.

HAM SALAD SPREAD

Ingredients:

2 cups applewood smoked ham chunks

4 stalks celery, chopped

2 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped

3 green onions, snipped

3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish

1 teaspoon creamy horseradish

1/2 cup mayonnaise

Instructions:

Place ham chunks in a food processor. Pulse in batches until finely chopped. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Place celery in the food processor and Pulse until chopped. Add to bowl. Repeat with hard-boiled eggs. Add to bowl. Stir to mix. Add green onion snips, sweet pickle relish, horseradish, and mayonnaise. Mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.