Nutella Strawberry Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Nutella Strawberry Dip! Here’s a match made in Heaven for chocolate-lovers and strawberries. Try it at home and then think about something new for the next social gathering where you’re asked to bring something yummy to share. It’s so Strawberrylicious, my first word of advice is…double the recipe. You’ll have the ingredients on hand, so go for it. It’s easy to make, kid-friendly, healthy, and sweet. Next stop: Book Club, Girls Night Out, Birthday Celebration, Family Picnic, Block Party. The list goes on and on and on.

NUTELLA STRAWBERRY DIP

Ingredients:

3/4 cup Nutella Hazelnut Spread*

1/3 cup powdered sugar

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1 cup Cool Whip, regular or light*

1 cup mini chocolate chips, for garnish

Fresh Strawberries, sliced in half

Instructions:

Combine Nutella, powdered sugar, and Neufchâtel cheese in a bowl. Using a hand mixer, mix on Low until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip topping. Blend well. Pour into covered bowl. Kept refrigerated until ready to serve. Arrange sliced strawberries on a platter. Pour dip into a serving bowl. Garnish with mini chocolate chips.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Mango Rice Pudding

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Mango Rice Pudding! One of my fondest childhood memories is eating cinnamon sugared rice pudding warm from the stove. It’s funny how we associate traditional recipes with comfort food. Being a child of the ‘50s, it was the norm to have dessert with supper every night. ‘Course we also played outside till after dark. Sometimes it was “Kick the Can”, “Capture the Flag”, “Red Rover”, or “Spud”. I think my favorite was the neighborhood themed, “Boys Chase the Girls”. Being a tomboy who could run like the wind, I never did get caught. After all, who wants to be kissed by one of their brothers?!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup sweet rice

1 1/2 cups half milk and half cream

1 cup whole milk

1 cup water

1/4 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cinnamon sticks

3 mangoes; peeled, diced, and cubed

Zest of 1 lime

Pinch ground nutmeg

Cinnamon sugar, to taste

Instructions:

Using a rice cooker, add sweet rice, half and half, whole milk, water, evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon sticks to the removable pot. Close and lock the lid. Set to risotto function. Regulator knob must be set to “pressure”. Cook 18 minutes. Once the function is complete, use the natural release method to release pressure. Open the lid. Stir until the ingredients are all mixed together. Fold in half the chopped mangoes. To serve, spoon rice pudding into dessert bowls. Top with reserve mangoes and lime zest. Garnish with a sprinkling of nutmeg and cinnamon sugar.

Yum Yum Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Yum Yum Sauce! Although I got a little creative with the recipe, I’m seriously not making up the name, Yum Yum Sauce. Many of you already know it as the popular condiment found in Japanese hibachi restaurants. With a little tweaking, you now have permission to bathe dinner in it. By pairing it with tilapia fish and adding creamy spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, it literally had me licking my fork after every bite. I suppose you could add a side dish of rice or noodles, but honestly, I never got that far.

YUM YUM SAUCE

Ingredients:

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2-3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, diced

1 teaspoon corn starch

1 cup heavy cream

10-ounce package frozen creamed spinach

3 tilapia fillets

2 tablespoons Italian-style bread crumbs

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

Instructions:

Combine mayonnaise, melted butter, tomato paste, agave nectar, seasoned salt, and rice vinegar in a bowl. Whisk thoroughly to blend. Fold in sun-dried tomatoes. Whisk together corn starch and heavy cream. Add to sauce. Mix well. Set aside. Microwave creamed spinach according to package directions. Set aside. To prepare tilapia fillets, dust both sides with Italian-style bread crumbs. Warm 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon butter in an iron skillet over medium heat. Fry seasoned fillets until golden brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined platter. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring Yum Yum Sauce to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cook 5 minutes until thickened and heated through, stirring occasionally. Add creamed spinach. Stir well. To serve, spoon enhanced Yum Yum Sauce onto a plate. Top with tilapia fillets.

Urban Lemon Curd French Toast

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Urban Lemon Curd French Toast! Shortcuts, gotta love them. Just because you’re preparing food at home doesn’t mean everything has to be made from scratch. Betty Crocker, an American cultural icon, is proof of that. I used a store-bought lemon curd instead of making it from scratch. And if you want to take this recipe one step closer to simplifying your life, merely substitute the fresh berry compote with frozen strawberries in syrup, thawed of course. After all, the main attraction is the lemony rich oven-baked French toast sprinkled with vanilla bean and nutmeg. Everything is prepared the night before so all that’s needed is baking time the next morning. See? Simple isn’t so bad.

URBAN LEMON CURD FRENCH TOAST

Ingredients:

4 eggs

2 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved

10-ounce jar lemon curd

1 loaf Hawaiian Sweet Bread, sliced

1/2 cup blueberries

1/2 cup cherries

1/2 cup mulberries

1/2 cup cranberries

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar, garnish

Instructions:

To make the French toast, butter an oval baking dish. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, heavy cream, and vanilla bean seeds. Fold in the lemon curd. Stir well. Arrange the Hawaiian Sweet Bread slices evenly in the prepared dish, slightly overlapping them. Pour egg mixture over bread. Spoon to coat all slices. Cover and refrigerate overnight. To make the fruit compote, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine blueberries, cherries, mulberries, cranberries, and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the fruit breaks down, about 15 minutes. As the juices are released, the fruit will thicken. Remove from heat, cover, and refrigerate. Warm in the microwave the next day before serving. The next day, to bake the French toast, preheat oven to 350°. Let the French toast stand at room temperature 15 minutes before placing in the oven. Remove lid. Bake 45-50 minutes. To make the whipped topping, chill the mixing bowl and beaters beforehand. Place the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract in the mixer bowl. Beat on medium speed until the cream begins to thicken, about 4-6 minutes. The whipped cream will double in volume and form soft peaks. Remove the French toast from the oven. Let it cool for 10 minutes. Top with warm berry compote, whipped cream, and dusting of powdered sugar. Serve warm.

Strawberry Shortcake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Strawberry Shortcake! Nix the store-bought angel food dessert cups for a sweet lighter-than-air shortcake made in your own kitchen. It’s quick. It’s simple. And it makes everyone smile. Bake in a square cake pan or muffin tin. I like the option of using ramekins for pillowy results. Simply invert them upside down before drizzling with juicy sliced strawberries that practically melt in your mouth. How’s that for an all-American favorite dessert? I find it Strawberrylicious!

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 pint strawberries, sliced

Whipped cream

Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease 6 ramekins. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar until mixture is light and fluffy. Add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Stir well. Sift together flour, sea salt, and baking powder. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix to combine until batter is smooth and no lumps remain. Pour into prepared ramekins. Transfer to oven on a baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes until cake springs back and cake tester comes out clean. Invert ramekins on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Wash, hull, and slice strawberries. Arrange berries on each shortcake. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and mint leaf garnish.

Manicotti Pasta Bowl

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Manicotti Pasta Bowl! Comfort food. We all have our favorites. Some include melted cheese, rich chocolate, home made soups, or peanut butter sandwiches. And then there’s pasta; guardian of the energy boost. Not only is pasta a healthy option, it satisfies by keeping hunger pangs at bay. Being affordable, versatile, and nutritious make it even more enjoyable. And a little pasta goes a long way. We all know that. Sure, pasta is a carb…but in a good way. It partners well with low fat protein and veggies. Go, Team Pasta!

MANICOTTI PASTA BOWL

Ingredients:

6 manicotti shells

3/4 pound lean ground beef

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

3 cups prepared spaghetti sauce, chunky

1 ounce cream cheese, softened

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh basil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook manicotti shells according to package directions. Drain shells; rinse in cold water. Set aside. In a large skillet, brown ground beef until cooked and crumbled. Remove from heat. Drain liquid. Add sea salt, oregano, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder. Pour prepared spaghetti sauce over meat. Mix well. Spoon 1/3 of meat mixture into the bottom of two single-serving casserole dishes. Add softened creamed cheese and mozzarella cheese to the remaining meat mixture. Stuff each shell with filling. Arrange three filled manicotti shells in a row over sauce. Repeat in second casserole dish. Spread remaining filling over the tops of the stuffed shells. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 minutes longer until cheese is melted. Remove from oven; serve in casserole dish. Garnish with fresh basil.

Elderflower Lemon Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Elderflower Lemon Cake! In honor of the royal wedding, I treated my friends to an unofficial version of Harry and Meghan’s delicious inspiration. It lends to the warm floral notes of Spring with just enough citrus and vanilla to make a moist and fluffy cake. Notice the luscious cream cheese icing drizzling down the sides like a cascading satin gown. Petite flowers, crushed pistachios, and lemon segments produce a sensational finish. Sounds like a royal pairing of Love and Happiness, doesn’t it?

ELDERFLOWER LEMON CAKE

Ingredients:

4 eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon citrus peel, granulated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons elderflower liqueur

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 small box lemon pudding mix, instant

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

4 tablespoons natural golden honey

1 tablespoon elderflower liqueur

1 tablespoon pistachios, crushed

Fresh lemon slices, cut into segments

Fresh flowers

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Set aside. In a stand mixer, combine eggs and sugar. Beat on High for 3 minutes. Turn to Low setting; drizzle in olive oil and melted butter. Continue beating one minute longer. Fold in citrus peel, vanilla extract, and elderflower liqueur. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, lemon pudding mix, and sea salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet batter, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour cake batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake 55-60 minutes until cake is golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Remove pan from oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto a cake plate to unmold. To make icing, combine cream cheese, natural honey, and elderflower liqueur. Beat until light and fluffy. Drizzle over cooled cake. Sprinkle with crushed pistachios. Garnish with lemon segments and tiny fresh flowers.

Worcestershire Onion Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Worcestershire Onion Dip! Add a little drama to ordinary chip dip. Choose pan-fried sweet onions infused with agave nectar for that luscious caramel taste we adore so much. Pair it with a splash of Worcestershire sauce for spice and pizazz. Blend everything together for the most satisfying oniony taste. Refrigerate an hour and get the party started.

WORCESTERSHIRE ONION DIP

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 sweet onions, chopped

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 green onion, chopped

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil and butter. Stir in chopped onions, sea salt, and black pepper. Stir to coat. Cover and cook until onions are deep golden, about 30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes to keep from scorching. Stir in agave nectar and garlic powder. Reduce to low heat and cook 15 minutes longer. Reserve one tablespoon of onion mixture for garnish. Set aside. Transfer caramelized onions to a food processor. Purée until only slightly chunky. Add Worcestershire sauce, Neufchâtel cheese, and Greek yogurt. Pulse until combined. Scoop into a bowl. Top with remaining tablespoon of caramelized onions and green onion snips. Refrigerate one hour before serving. Serve with chips, crackers, or pretzels.

Normandy Vegetable Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Normandy Vegetable Soup! Take a stroll down a country lane where small-scale growers of local gardens nourish a family farm with adventurous dishes. Simple vegetable consumption combined with milk, butter, and cheese appeals to the taste buds. Perhaps it’s a throwback to our childhood where nothing went to waste. Or maybe it’s the fact that classic veggies are always a good idea. Normandy Vegetable Soup. Put a twist on your next meal-in-a-bowl.

NORMANDY VEGETABLE SOUP

Ingredients:

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 cups light cream

2 cups chicken broth

16-ounce bag Normandy vegetables, thawed*

4-6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions:

In a skillet over medium-high heat, add chopped sweet onion, herbs de Provence, and olive oil. Sauté 5 minutes or until soft. Set aside. In a 2-quart pan over medium-low heat, melt butter. Do not scorch. Add flour, sea salt, and pepper. Stir for 2-3 minutes to make a roux. Slowly add light cream, stirring often to remove lumps. Bring to a slow boil. Carefully add chicken broth, onions, Normandy vegetables. Bring mixture back to a boil. Reduce to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes until vegetables are tender. Stir in sharp cheddar cheese until cheese is melted. Ladle into bowls. Serve hot.

*Normandy vegetables are broccoli and cauliflower florets, sliced carrots, zucchini, and yellow squash. Some varieties include a few red pepper bits, green beans, and lima beans.