Dining Outside the Home: Key Lime Pie Bakery! Key limes are as popular in the Florida Keys as conch shells on the beach. If you’ve never tasted one, imagine this: Key limes are more aromatic as well as a bit smaller than regular limes, thus making them less acidic and more tart. By adding sugar, eggs, and a graham cracker crust, the results are a tangy, sweet, light, and creamy dessert that may or may not cry out for a delicious dollop of whipped cream. Merengue is definitely not out of the question either. Drop in for a single slice or an entire pie. It’s convenient enough to make a second trip.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Cheesy Burrata! For those of you who are unfamiliar with Burrata cheese, allow me to tell you a little bit about it. Imagine a soft delicate layer of mozzarella cheese stretched thin like a piece of hand-formed pie dough. It is placed into a bowl so the center can be filled like a porcelain white water balloon. Inside is heavy cream as rich as butter and luscious cheese curds. The pouch is then tightly tied at the top to ensure maximum freshness. The taste is extraordinary. It’s enough to make you roll your eyes and swoon.
8 ounce Burrata cheese
Cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
Herbs de Provence
Sea salt to taste
Place the Burrata cheese on a platter surrounded by fresh basil and cherry tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Add a sprinkling of Herbs de Provence and sea salt to taste. Serve with crusty artisan breads or crackers.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Kolachy Wedding Cookies! The beauty of this wedding delicacy, popular in Central Europe, transforms every bite into a puff of pastry. Taste the splendor. Choose one or more of your favorite fruit toppings, sprinkle with a few chocolate morsels, and let the celebration begin! I made mine into Cherry Chocolate Chip Kolachys!
KOLACHY WEDDING COOKIES
1 cup butter
1 8-ounce package Neufchâtel cheese
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg yolk, beaten
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 can pie filling, any flavor
1/2 cups semi-sweet mini chocolate morsels
Powdered sugar for dusting
Cream together butter, Neufchâtel cheese, milk, and sugar. Add beaten egg yolk. Sift together flour and baking powder. Add to the creamed mixture and blend well. Refrigerate until the dough is thoroughly chilled (4 hours or overnight). Preheat oven to 400°. Roll out dough to 1/4″ thick on well-floured board. Cut with a 2″ round cookie cutter, or small glass. Place cut-outs on an ungreased cookie sheet. Make a depression with the back of a spoon in the center of each round. Fill the center with a dollop of fruit filling. Sprinkle chocolate morsels on top. Bake 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Quazy Carrot Cake! “What’s up, Doc?” is something we’ve all heard Bugs Bunny say more than once. You may find yourself asking the same question when you take a bite of this tasty version of Carrot Cake. It’s loaded with fresh carrots, pineapple tidbits, and chopped pecans. The crowning moment comes when you smack your lips together over the wonderful cream cheese icing. I have seen expressions of jubilation over this award-winning dessert. Treat yourself to something special this weekend.
QUAZY CARROT CAKE
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 cups carrots, grated
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup pecans, chopped
Ingredients for Icing:
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9″x13″ pan with nonstick oil. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Mix well. Add oil, eggs, carrots, pineapple, and nuts. Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Transfer to baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until done. Meanwhile, cream together the butter and Neufchâtel cheese. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy. When cake is cool, top with cream cheese icing. Garnish with a pecan half.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Pumpkin Roll! Announcing a festive cake that looks as though you stopped by the bakery. Anyone can feel like a professional pastry chef with this holiday specialty. In a few simple steps, the rich pumpkin flavor is enhanced by the velvety cream filling. Afterwards all you have to do is sit back and bask in the accolades.
Ingredients for Pumpkin Roll:
2/3 cup pumpkin purée
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup chopped pecans
Ingredients for Velvet Filling:
8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 375°. Grease and line a 10″x15″ jelly roll pan with waxed paper. For pumpkin roll combine eggs, pumpkin purée, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and flour. Mix until well blended. Pour into jelly roll pan and spread evenly to edges. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Bake 12-15 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove from oven. Sprinkle powdered sugar on a tea towel, turn cake onto towel, and remove the waxed paper. Starting at one end, roll the cake up, and refrigerate for one hour. Meanwhile, combine Neufchâtel cheese, vanilla, butter, and powdered sugar. Mix together until smooth and velvety. After one hour, unroll cake and spread the filling all the way to the edges. Reroll cake and refrigerate two hours longer. Dust with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Rich Ricotta Cannoli! For those of you like me, who can’t run down to the Italian bakery, try this recipe on for size. It’s perfect for the holidays and won’t leave you wringing your hands for something gourmet. By splurging on store bought cannoli shells, you can focus on the delectable filling instead. The results are astounding! Applause, applause!
RICH RICOTTA CANNOLI
15 ounces ricotta cheese, whole milk
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
12 miniature cannoli shells, ready-to-fill
Powdered sugar for dusting
In a medium bowl, using a hand mixer on low speed, whisk the ricotta cheese and almond extract until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar and nutmeg. Mix well. Refrigerate for one hour. To fill the cannoli shells, pipe the ricotta mixture into both ends of the shell, allowing the cream to fill the center. Garnish with mini chocolate chips. Dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately. Prepared cannoli may be stored in the refrigerator in a covered container up to three days.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: 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: Holiday Party, Book Club, Girls Night Out, Birthday Celebration, Family Gathering, Block Party. The list goes on and on and on.
NUTELLA STRAWBERRY DIP
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
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Zucchini Zoup! Here’s a delicious way to warm your tummy as the days turn cooler and leaves begin to fall. Try this savory thick and hearty soup made with zucchini. It’s a one-pot meal filled with nutrition. But that’s not all. It can be made from scratch in a matter of minutes. You have the option of a smooth flavorful finish, or allowing chunks of vegetables here and there. I puréed about 3/4 of it so I could still spoon bits of zucchini, onions, and garlic in my mouth to savor. If you like to crumble crackers in the soup, be my guest. From time to time, that’s the only way that’ll do.
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, stem removed and roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large zucchini squash, ends cut but skin on, then chopped
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/4-1/2 cup light cream
Colby Jack cheese, grated for garnish
In a large saucepan, warm olive oil. Sauté sweet onion, jalapeño pepper, garlic cloves, and zucchini squash over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Cover and allow vegetables to cook down until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Using a mini chopper, purée mixture in batches, returning soup to the pan. Over low heat, add chopped cilantro and light cream, stirring constantly until heated through. For a thinner soup, add more light cream. Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle with grated Colby Jack cheese. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Wacho Nachos! What do you get when you mix sweet potato waffle fries and savory nacho toppings? Wacho Nachos! The grilled chicken, vine-ripe tomatoes, and spicy jalapeños provide a familiar face, but it’s all about the base. By choosing a healthy serving of sweet potato waffle fries, the crispy crunch offers an appealing meal instead of a junk food snack. Step aside tortilla chips, waffle fries are taking center stage!
19-ounce bag frozen sweet potato fries
2 cups precooked grilled chicken strips, cut into chunks
2 cups Colby and Monterey Jack Cheese, finely shredded
1 large vine-ripe tomato, chopped
1/4 cup sliced jalapeños
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup green onion snips
Bake the waffle fries according to package directions. Arrange individual casserole dishes with a single layer of crispy sweet potato waffle fries, lining the edges to hold in the toppings. Divide the grilled chicken chunks and shredded cheese equally. Top with tomatoes and jalapeño slices. Return to the oven until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes. Remove casseroles from the oven. Top with Greek yogurt and green onions. Serve immediately.