Zen Himalayan Plate

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Zen Himalayan Plate! Go above ordinary ingredients and transform your palate with a meal on the Himalayan salt plate. Foods pick up a delicate saltiness that transcends the flavor and leaves behind monotony. By creating bite-size pieces of fish, shellfish, and cucumber sushi, nourishment balances out the inner peace from within. Good for health-crazed affenciados as well as those soul-searching for expression.

ZEN HIMALAYAN PLATE

Ingredients:

3.75-ounce tin Wild Caught Sardines, in olive oil

1 lemon, sliced and quartered

3.75-ounce tin smoked oysters

Fresh lemon thyme

7-ounces prepared crab dip

4 mini cucumbers, seedless

Fresh dill

Assorted crackers

Instructions:

Arrange sardines on a Himalayan salt plate. Drizzle with olive oil from the tin. Place lemon wedges on fish and garnish with fresh lemon thyme. Smoked oysters may be served in individual sea shells. Drizzle with sauce from the tin. Oysters may also be served on a cracker. To assemble the cucumber sushi, slice mini cucumbers into thick rolls. To remove the inside portion of each disc, place the cucumber on a cutting board, use a sharp knife, and rotate the cuke until the center is cut out. Make sure the walls remain. Discard fleshy pulp. Place the cucumber “rings” on the Himalayan salt plate. Spoon prepared crabmeat dip into each ring. Press gently to fill the sushi roll. Garnish with dill.

USA Happy Snack

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: USA Happy Snack! Did I ever tell you I spent my childhood surrounded by apple trees? It’s one of my favorite memories, growing up in the Midwest. If I was in a feisty mood, I’d nibble on sour green apples. Forget that my impatience may have caused a tart pursing of the lips and a slight ache in the stomach. As the apples ripened, I’d pluck the prettiest one off the tree, rub it against my knee for a mirrored sheen, and admire its beauty. Sometimes I’d twist the stem until it broke, reciting my ABCs. Whatever letter I was on when the stem splintered away became the name of my next boyfriend. But not if it matched my brothers’ names. That didn’t count. Here’s to all-American healthy food wrapped up in a little nostalgia.

USA HAPPY SNACK

Ingredients:

1 Gala apple, cored and sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 slices smoked Virginia ham

4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thick

Fresh mint

Instructions:

Brush the sliced apples with lemon juice to prevent browning. Cut the ham slices in half. Take one apple slice and place it on top of a piece of cheddar cheese. Wrap them with one piece of ham, seam side down. Tuck a sprig of fresh mint into the snack. Enjoy!

Vegan Charcuterie Board

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Vegan Charcuterie Board! Here’s your solution to what to serve with grilled meats this summer. Choose popular garden veggies, distinct to the season. Arrange them on a charcuterie board with nuts and flavorful dips. Peruse the local farmers’ market or produce section of your nearest grocers. With a little effort, the Vegan Charcuterie Board can be the star attraction for holidays and picnic outings. Check it out!

VEGAN CHARCUTERIE BOARD

Ingredients:

Carrot sticks

Asparagus spears

Celery sticks

Cherry tomatoes

Mini cucumbers, sliced

Radishes, quartered

Yellow sweet peppers, sliced Green olives, stuffed

Kalamata olives, pitted

Pistachios in shell

Assorted crackers

Ingredients for Hummus:

15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1/2 cup tahini paste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon lemon olive oil

1 tablespoon capers

Using a food processor, pulse chickpeas until smooth. Add tahini paste, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, cumin powder, and sea salt. Process until mixed. Transfer hummus to a shallow bowl. Drizzle with lemon olive oil. Garnish with capers.

Ingredients for Dill Dip:

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon dill weed

1 teaspoon capers

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

Combine Neufchâtel cheese and prepared horseradish. Stir until smooth. Fold in dill weed, capers, and chives. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Thyme for Brie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Thyme for Brie! Serving baked cheese is always a good idea, in my book. It’s like granting permission to have an appetizer as a meal, plus you get to eat with your fingers. By adding fresh herbs and natural honey, suddenly cheese becomes an elegant appetizer that even has men succumbing to its allure and gooey texture. Grab a bottle of wine or sparkling beverage, ease onto the back porch, and watch the sun sink into the shadowy horizon.

THYME FOR BRIE

Ingredients:

1 wheel of Brie

2 tablespoons Savannah Bee raw acacia honey*, or natural honey

4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme

Sea salt crackers

Crispy Parmesan cheese rounds

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a nonstick ovenproof dish with nonstick oil. Slice the rind off the top of the wheel of Brie. Place the wheel in the dish with skin side down. Drizzle acacia honey over the top of the Brie. Place fresh thyme over honey. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cheese is gooey and completely melted. Serve immediately with any assortment of crackers.

*I receive no recompense for recommending Savannah Bee raw acacia honey.

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.