Zinfandel Pairings

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Zinfandel Pairings! Just when I thought I’d seen it all, there in the produce department perched on the bottom shelf below its green and red cousins, was a small bin of larger-than-life black seedless grapes. Immediately I was intrigued. The hand-scribbled sign boasted sweet and tart beyond your wildest dreams. That’s it. Nothing more than “Product of USA” on the package. It didn’t matter. It was love-at-first-sight. I knew immediately that a Zinfandel wine and tangy cheese would join the impromptu Date Night that was forming in my mind. Later on, after I got home, I read all kinds of powerful benefits these precious little gems do for the body, mind, and soul. What a perfect prologue for guilt-free delicacies.

ZINFANDEL PAIRINGS

Ingredients:

1 pound black seedless grapes

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 ounces feta cheese, block

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup honeycomb

Multigrain French Bread slices, lightly toasted

Raw Honey, for drizzling

Lemon Thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. In a small dish, combine olive oil, sugar, kosher salt, and black pepper. Wash cluster of black grapes; pat dry. Place grapes on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, generously coat the grapes with the olive oil mixture. Roast for 30 minutes. Grapes will release juice and begin to wrinkle. Remove pan from oven to cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Break the feta cheese into rough chunks. Transfer to a baking dish sprayed with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon zest. Drizzle with raw honey. Bake for 15 minutes until softened. Broil until slightly golden. Watch carefully. To serve, spread warm cheese on toasted baguette slices. Top with a piece of honeycomb. Place a roasted grape over the cheese. Drizzle with raw honey. Garnish with lemon thyme. Serve with a slightly chilled glass of red Zinfandel.

Walnut Mango Granola

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Walnut Mango Granola! Have you noticed how versatile granola has become? It’s no wonder it has turned into a convenient substitute for breakfast when you’re on the run. Oats are full of iron and fiber, which the nutritionists keep drumming into our heads. It keeps us full, energizes the body, and detours junk food cravings. Nuts and seeds have heart-hearty benefits, which everyone wants, right? Personally, I prefer the crumbled version to sprinkle over my morning yogurt. Others prefer the chewy granola bars I find look too much like a candy bar. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy peanut butter and chocolate chips as much as the next guy. I get it, but always check the sugar content because basically that’s what holds everything together. Talk about unwanted calories. No thanks. In the end do what is right for you. Meanwhile, if you want to make your own, this recipe is as easy as pie.

WALNUT MANGO GRANOLA

Ingredients:

1 cup walnut halves, chopped

1/4 cup coconut flakes

2 tablespoons pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

1 cup oats

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon coconut sugar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 cup dried mango, chopped

1/4 cup dates, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss chopped walnuts, coconut flakes, pistachio nuts, oats, and chia seeds. Thoroughly combine; set aside. In another bowl, mix cinnamon, coconut sugar, sea salt, vegetable oil, and maple syrup. Drizzle over walnut mixture and toss to coat granola. Spread granola mixture onto baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes; turn for even browning and bake 10 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven. Carefully stir in dried mango and chopped dates. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove granola from the oven and allow to cool completely. Transfer crumbled granola to an airtight container.

Date Bread with Walnuts

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Date Bread with Walnuts! Treat yourself to remarkable flavors leaning toward exotic ingredients with a gourmet twist. Naturally dried dates have this amazing quality of satisfying a sweet tooth that needs a bit of nurturing any time of day. By adding the salty crunch of walnuts combined in a loaf pan, the results are more cake than bread. Perhaps it’s the splash of cognac that makes all the difference.

DATE BREAD WITH WALNUTS

Ingredients:

2 eggs, room temperature; beaten

1 cup boiling water

1 tablespoon cognac

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

8 ounces pitted dates, finely chopped

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Slowly combine beaten eggs with boiling water, stirring constantly. Add cognac, baking soda, and chopped dates. Mix well. Set aside for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cream together butter and sugar. Blend with date mixture. Mix flour and baking powder. Stir into date mixture. Fold in chopped walnuts. Pour into a greased and floured loaf pan. Bake for one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Zero-Guilt Honey & Nut Date Bites

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Zero-Guilt Honey & Nut Date Bites! Goodness knows we carry around enough guilt these days between the gourmet coffee addiction and the lack of gym time workouts. So here’s a logical snack that not only provides protein, carbs, and fiber, it feels like a treat! Honestly, anything with natural honey gets my stamp of approval. The fruit, nuts, and coconut are an added bonus, in my opinion. Go ahead, make up a batch and see how rewarding it is.

ZERO-GUILT HONEY & NUT DATE BITES

Ingredients:

3/4 cup dates, chopped

1/4 cup raisins

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup natural peanut butter, crunchy

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon sea salt crystals

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

3/4 cup pecans, chopped

1 cup coconut, flaked

Instructions:

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine dates, raisins, eggs, honey, and peanut butter. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly for 4 minutes. The eggs need to cook thoroughly, but not scramble. Do not scorch. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract and sea salt crystals. Fold in chopped walnuts and pecans. Mix well. Form into small bite-size balls, uniform in shape. Roll each ball in coconut flakes. Refrigerate an hour or until firm. Store in an air-tight container.

Dining Outside the Home: Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada

Dining Outside the Home: Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada! There’s nowhere more romantic than a table for two on the eleventh floor of the Eiffel Tower, in my opinion. As the sun dips below the horizon, a light show of the marvelous Bellagio fountains sway to the beat of Paris music. It’s nothing short of magical. At the beginning of the night, be sure to order dessert: a light, decadent soufflé that bakes while you dine. Grand Marnier is my favorite. You can thank me later. Whether it’s a special occasion, honored celebration, or date night, any meal in the plush dining room becomes extraordinary. Pamper yourself. Gaze at the glittering lights of the Las Vegas skyline. Sip on French champagne. Hold hands. Nibble on chocolate. At the end of the night you will have experienced “The Eiffel Affair”, without the airfare to France.