Quark Raspberry Swirl

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Quark Raspberry Swirl! Quark, quark, quark. Yep…it’s a real thing. Probably the easiest way to explain what quark is would be to say, “Think about a cross between sour cream and greek yogurt”. It has the smoothness of both when mixed with veggies or fruit. Obviously when using raspberries, a little sugar makes it super-delicious. I like the fresh pleasant zing of lime juice mixed in, too. And what can I say? The coconut flavor just makes the dessert that much better.

QUARK RASPBERRY SWIRL

Ingredients:

2 cups quark

I teaspoon coconut extract

1/4 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons lime juice

8 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed

Lime Zest, for garnish

Instructions:

Reserve several whole raspberries for garnish. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine quark, coconut extract, powdered sugar, and lime juice. Mix well. Fold in thawed raspberries, gently swirling until they leave pink streaks. Scoop into dessert cups. Top each with a whole raspberry. Garnish with lime zest.

Raspberry Pistachio Brie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Raspberry Pistachio Brie! If you need a reason to make an appetizer, read on. It works beautifully as Brie for brunch, a romantic “date night” for two, or a festive dessert while sipping on espresso. Think about it. The cheese itself is so creamy, with a slight robust flavor. The skin can be chewy. Either you like it or you don’t. The raspberry jam has a remarkable sweetness that pairs well with the nuttiness of pistachios. Everyone wins.

RASPBERRY PISTACHIO BRIE

Ingredients:

8-ounce wheel of Brie cheese

1 tablespoon sea salt butter, softened

1/4 cup raspberry jam

1/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Unwrap the Brie wheel. Lightly score the top so the skin can absorb the ingredients. Transfer the wheel to an ovenproof dish. Spread the sea salt butter over the top of the cheese. Layer with dollops of raspberry jam. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and gooey. Remove baked Brie from the oven. Serve warm with slices of lightly buttered baguette toast.

Irish Apple Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Irish Apple Cake! I can practically hear your first question: How is this cake different from a traditional one? Well, as you mix the ingredients, you may notice the batter is pretty thick and dense. It’s not pourable like a cake mix, that’s for sure. I guess you could compare it somewhat to a sponge cake…..with apples. Plus topping. Streusel is what makes it extra-special, if you know what I mean. When it’s all said and done, you can definitely justify eating it as an early breakfast, a midday brunch, an afternoon pick-me-up, or a late night dessert. If you were at my house, you’d see my husband keeps a spoon propped inside the cake dome. Because, sometimes…you know, you just can’t resist one bite.

IRISH APPLE CAKE

Ingredients for Streusel Topping:

3/4 cup flour

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

6 tablespoons butter, cold

Instructions for Streusel Topping:

In a medium bowl, combine flour, rolled oats, sugar, and sea salt. Mix well. Add the cold butter, using a fork. Blend the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Set bowl aside in the refrigerator.

Ingredients for Irish Apple Cake

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons milk

3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin

Instructions for Irish Apple Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and line a 9” round baking dish. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract. Beat eggs, one at a time, and add to creamed mixture. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and sea salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Gradually add milk while mixing as the batter forms. Transfer batter to the prepared baking dish. Arrange a single layer of sliced apples over batter. Cover the apples with the streusel topping. Bake 60-65 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Apple Dumpling Dreams

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Apple Dumpling Dreams! There’s something special about an apple dumpling, don’t you think? Perhaps it reminds you of the changing seasons. Perhaps it conjures up childhood memories. Perhaps the earthy spices and syrupy sweetness crank up your comfort level. No matter the hypnotic effect, apple dumpling dreams can reflect the way we look at our lives. Do we deny sweets or do we nourish our bodies? “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. It’s all about perspective, moderation, and control. Thank goodness we have freedom of choice. When it comes to apple dumplings, especially now, dreams really do come true.

APPLE DUMPLING DREAMS

Ingredients:

4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored

1 package refrigerated pie crusts

4 star anise pieces

Ingredients for Syrup:

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup water

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons butter

Ingredients for Apple Filling:

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly grease a 9” square baking dish; set aside. To make the syrup, combine sugar, water, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons butter. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine ingredients for apple filling. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter until consistency is crumbled. Cut each pie crust in half. Form each half into a ball and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll into 8-inch circles. To assemble, place an apple in the center of a dough circle. Fill the empty core with crumb filling. Fold the dough over the apple, pinching at the top to seal. Transfer apple dumplings to the baking dish. Drizzle with syrup. Place a star anise on each apple. Bake for 40-45 minutes until crust is golden brown. Tent with foil, if necessary, to prevent over browning. Serve warm.

Traditional English Toffee

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Traditional English Toffee! So often we have those cherished childhood memories of homemade candy and cookies that accompanied holiday celebrations. They stick with us for life. I can remember being in eighth grade and determined to replicate a batch of my mother’s English Toffee. I waited for her to go into town and then pulled out her secret recipe. You know, the ones scratched on a 3.5”x5” card. More often than not, they showed a list of ingredients with instructions that simply said, “Bake at 350° for 30 minutes”. Let’s face it, that’s pretty vague compared to what we explain nowadays. As you can imagine, I melted the butter along with the brown sugar and stirred. And stirred. And stirred. So how come it wasn’t turning into this crisp crunchy texture of rich golden butter that fueled my addiction? What could I possibly be doing wrong? There was nothing written on the card to correct this runny, gooey mess. Alas, I scraped it all into the trash, washed the pan, and plopped myself at the kitchen table with my Algebra book. She walked in, smiled, and never said a word.

TRADITIONAL ENGLISH TOFFEE

Ingredients:

1 cup pecans, chopped

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

Butter a baking sheet. Spread pecans in a single layer in the center. Heat butter and brown sugar to boiling in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly. Boil over Medium heat, stirring constantly, for 7 minutes. Immediately spread mixture over pecans on baking sheet. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot mixture. Place a cookie sheet over pan until chocolate chips are melted. Spread melted chocolate over candy. Refrigerate until firm. Break toffee into pieces.

Piquant Pear Passion

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Piquant Pear Passion! Did you know a little bit of cheese and fruit make a great dessert at the end of a meal? Sure you did. The French have been doing it for years. Europeans, too. Bleu cheese, or its milder cousins Roquefort and Gorgonzola, is a perfect match with sweet ripe pears. Nuts provide that little extra crunch you crave. If making ahead, to keep the pears from turning brown, simply dip them in a wash of lemon juice and water. It works. If you wish to top off the dessert plate with subtle sweetness, drizzle some natural honey over the pears before serving. Obviously I threw in the greens as garnish. Habit, that’s for sure.

PIQUANT PEAR PASSION

Ingredients:

1-2 ripe pears, cored and sliced

4-ounces Bleu cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup walnut pieces

Arugula leaves, for garnish

Natural Honey, for drizzling (optional)

Instructions:

Arrange pear slices in a dessert dish. Add the bleu cheese crumbles. Sprinkle with walnut pieces. Garnish with arugula leaves. Drizzle pears with natural honey.

Ole Smoky Cherry Drops

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Ole Smoky Cherry Drops! For those who think this is a strange name for something sweet, allow me to explain. The Great Smoky Mountains form one of the most beautiful mountain ranges along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Nestled in “The Holler” is a distillery made famous by its 100-year-old recipe base for signature flavors of moonshine. Can you see where this is going? Stick with me. From the fermenting grains of the moonshine stills come the most extraordinary combinations you can ever imagine. Bottled in quart jars are what appear to be a dozen or more moonshine variations that go by names like Apple Pie, Hunch Punch, Blue Flame, Lemon Drop, Dill Pickles, and Moonshine Cherries. Since I found a jar in my pantry, I thought going into the holidays, this might present an interesting dessert opportunity. It definitely passed the “flame test” in my house.

OLE SMOKY CHERRY DROPS

Ingredients:

1 quart jar Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries*

12-ounce bag white chocolate chips

4.6-ounce jar rainbow sprinkles

5.2-ounce jar sanding sugar

14-ounce bag sweetened coconut flakes

Party Picks

Instructions:

Several steps are necessary to prepare your workspace. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove maraschino cherries from jar. Reserve moonshine for another use. Gently pat dry each cherry and set aside. This is important before coating them in white chocolate. Place each topping (rainbow sprinkles, sanding sugar, and coconut flakes) in a separate dish. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Set aside. To melt white chocolate, place half a bag of chips in a microwave-proof bowl. Warm at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval. Repeat until the white chocolate is smooth and no lumps remain. Working quickly, pierce a cherry with a cake tester. Coat it halfway in the white chocolate, then dip it in one of the toppings. Place decorated cherry on the waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all cherries are decorated. Chill to set. Two things: As the white chocolate cools, gently warm and stir. When it becomes necessary to use the remaining white chocolate chips, begin with a clean bowl. This will eliminate waste. Cherry Drops should be stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve with party picks.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries.

Lavender Creamed Honey Pears

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Lavender Creamed Honey Pears! Whenever pears come into season, I feel as though a festive dessert is in order. But then again, I’m spoiled. Family members “gift” us with a different fruit-of-the-month selection all year long. A box gets delivered to our doorstep with a little card that tells us about the delectables inside. Often there are serving suggestions as well as ripening and storage tips. Then my mind begins to wander as I plan different ways to come up with recipes. That is, unless I simply succumb to their aroma and eat them as they are. Here’s a festive dessert that will get you raves through the holidays.

LAVENDER CREAMED HONEY PEARS

Ingredients:

1 large pear, skin on, halved, and cored with a melon scooper

2 tablespoons sweet white wine

2 tablespoons creamed honey

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For Lavender Filling:

1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon creamed cheese, softened

2 drops lavender extract

1 smidgen dried lavender buds

1 drop lemon extract

1 nip granulated citrus peel

1 teaspoon granola, for garnish

Lavender buds, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. In a small baking dish, place pear halves upright. Pour sweet wine over them. Slightly warm creamed honey on Low setting in the microwave for 30 seconds. Drizzle honey over pears. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Dot each pear half with butter. Finish with vanilla extract. Bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Carefully remove dish from oven. Baste pears with the juice. Turn each pear over, skin side up. Bake 20 minutes longer until tender. Using a spoon, transfer each pear half, flipping over with skin side down, to a dessert dish. The sauce will thicken slightly as it cools. Spoon reserve sauce over pears. While pears are baking, make the Lavender Filling. Combine vanilla Greek yogurt and creamed cheese. Mix until smooth. Fold in lavender extract, dried lavender buds, lemon extract, and granulated citrus peel. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. To serve, place a heaping dollop of filling into each pear half. Sprinkle with granola. Garnish with lavender buds. Serve warm.

Autumn Plum Galette

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Autumn Plum Galette! Rustic pies are so forgiving, which is one of the reasons I gravitate to them more. Forget perfection. It just isn’t necessary. A galette is made without a pie plate. Same dough, but no primping and crimping needed. You honestly don’t really need as many fillings either, because there’s no need to pile ‘em high. In fact, you’ll know you’ve overfilled the galette when you see the juices running onto the baking sheet. No fun. And when you taste the galette, the crust may be mushy. So remember, stop yourself and it’ll turn out fine.

AUTUMN PLUM GALETTE

Ingredients:

1 prepared refrigerated pie crust

5 ripe plums, pit removed and sliced

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 pinch ginger

1 pinch cloves

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Ingredients for Almond Filling:

1/2 cup almond flour

5 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 egg, beaten

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375°. Fit parchment paper on a baking sheet. Unroll pie crust onto baking sheet. Place galette dough in the refrigerator to chill. Meanwhile, combine almond flour, sugar, flour, butter, and egg in a food processor. Mix until smooth and spreadable. Remove chilled galette from the refrigerator. Spread the almond filling onto the dough*, but stop short of the edges. Arrange plum slices in an overlapping design on top of the almond filling. Sprinkle plums with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and brown sugar. Roll the plain edges of the dough over the fruit. Brush the crust with melted butter. Bake for 35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Serve warm.

*I only used half the almond filling and reserved the remaining portion for second galette.