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.

Layered Taco Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Layered Taco Dip! Wait no longer for a great appetizer. Set the tone for a social gathering with foods that say, “Let’s get this party started!”. A creamy dense layer of Mexican spices over a base of refried beans make the perfect foundation to hold the remaining ingredients. Not a fan of black olives? Simply choose green peppers or mushrooms instead. After all it’s your kitchen, so own it!

LAYERED TACO DIP

16-ounce can refried beans, traditional

16-ounce carton sour cream

8-ounce block cream cheese, room temperature

1 taco seasoning packet

1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped

1 large tomato, diced

3 green onions, chopped

1 1/2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

2.25-ounce can sliced black olives, drained

Tortilla chips or corn chips

Instructions:

Spread refried beans on the bottom layer of a serving platter. Combine sour cream, cream cheese, and taco seasoning packet in a bowl. Mix until smooth. Spread over refried beans. Divide romaine lettuce evenly over cream cheese layer. Top with diced tomatoes and green onion snips. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese followed by Monterey Jack cheese over all. Finish with black olive slices. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate dip for at least one hour. Serve with tortilla chips or corn chips.

Gluten-Free Crustless Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Gluten-Free Crustless Pizza! Are you ever tempted to just eat the toppings off a pizza? For those who require a gluten-free lifestyle or simply desire fewer carbs, here is a healthy alternative on pizza night. Eliminate the crust altogether. By substituting eggs and cheese for bread dough, it’s surprising how this turns into a delicious deep dish pizza.

GLUTEN-FREE CRUSTLESS PIZZA

Ingredients:

8-ounce cream cheese

2 eggs

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

1/2 cup pizza sauce

1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

4 ounces pepperoni, sliced

1/3 cup ham, chopped

1/3 cup chorizo sausage, cooked and crumbled

2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 10”-12” iron skillet with nonstick oil. Set aside. Combine cream cheese, eggs, black pepper, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese. Spread in a single layer in the prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes until light brown. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Spread pizza sauce over crust. Top with mozzarella cheese. Arrange pepperoni, ham, chorizo sausage, bacon, mushrooms, and chopped onion. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, and marjoram. Bake 15 minutes longer until cheese is melted. Cool 5 minutes before cutting into pizza slices.

Frozen Whipped Cream

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Frozen Whipped Cream! Now here’s an indulgence anyone can afford. Frozen whipped cream. Simply spread the prepared mixture into a loaf pan, freeze overnight, and cut into chunks. Store in ready-to-use ziplock freezer bags. Then let the fun begin. Replace the creamer in your morning cuppa joe with a block or two, swirl, and watch the magic happen. You can also substitute those stale hardened marshmallows with whipped cream cubes in your favorite hot cocoa beverage. What about fruit smoothies? Throw a few chunks of frozen whipped cream into the blender with fresh fruit for a satisfying snack. Mmmm. Whipped cream isn’t just for dessert any more.

FROZEN WHIPPED CREAM

1 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

Chill the mixer bowl and whisk attachment 15 minutes before using. Pour the heavy whipping cream into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Set speed to medium for 5 minutes. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat 3-4 minutes longer or until the cream takes on volume and forms stiff peaks. The cream will have doubled in size. Do not over-beat or the cream will turn buttery. Spread whipped cream into a parchment paper-lined loaf pan and freeze overnight. When mixture is frozen, remove from pan and cut into chunks or cubes. Store in a freezer bag and keep frozen until ready to use.