What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Ultra Charcuterie Board! Feel gourmet at home by creating your own charcuterie board the next time you want to serve appetizers. Choose any smoked, dry-cured, or cooked meat to accompany a couple of mellow cheese selections. I like the Edam cheese for its sweet, nutty flavor. It’s nice to have fruit in the form of fresh, dried, or even preserves to balance out the saltiness of the meats. Don’t forget the pickles or olives, which provide a little tang to the palate. Keep the crackers or bread as plain as possible. You want everyone to focus on the flavor explosion going on in every bite. You can go all out and add chocolate morsels and nuts for nibbling. The best part is everyone wins! People pick and choose their own combinations and give you high praise for being such a genius!
ULTRA CHARCUTERIE BOARD
5 ounces Old World pepperoni, sliced
3 ounces Old World prosciutto, sliced
7 ounce wheel of Edam cheese
8 ounces dried pitted dates
6 ounces mixed olives
10 ounces smoked almonds
1 bag of multi grain baguette slices
Arrange everything on one or two charcuterie boards. The pairing is up to each guest. As long as it is appealing, it definitely promotes conversation. Depending on how large a group you have will determine the number of options you choose. For larger groups I suggest crackers, jam, and spreadable cheeses as a nice complement to smoked meats and fresh fruit. Be creative. Garnish with a few sprigs of fresh herbs.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Fabulous Fruit Dip! Recently I served a delightful fruit cup for breakfast when family came to visit. Because it is made with Greek yogurt and nutmeg, it’s an impressive alternative to ordinary yogurt. Think of it as Summer-in-a-Cup. Whether you decide to arrange a generous fruit platter for a crowd or scale it down to individual portions, the results are the same: heavenly delicious!
FABULOUS FRUIT DIP
1 large orange*
8 ounces of Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
4 ounces marshmallow Creme
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon orange extract
1/8 teaspoon orange zest
Assorted fresh fruits
Mint Sprig for Garnish
Cut 1/3 off the top of the orange to create a “bowl”. Carefully run a sharp knife around the inside. Do not cut through the peel. Gently scoop out the fruit. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together Neufchâtel cheese and marshmallow creme. Beat until smooth. Fold in Greek yogurt. Make the zest by using the top portion of the orange peel. Add orange extract, zest, and nutmeg. Blend thoroughly. Chill one hour. Scoop into the orange “bowl” before serving. Garnish with fresh mint sprig. Place on a serving platter surrounded by fresh fruit.
* For individual servings, choose four small navel oranges.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Quick-Set Party Cheesecakes! You’re stopping by a friend’s house later on and were asked to bring something delish. These miniature cheesecakes are super-easy and can be whipped up in a few minutes first thing in the morning. They refrigerate while you’re at work or the gym, so no worries there. Top with fresh fruit, seedless jam, chocolate bits, or candied ginger. Dust with powdered sugar for a professional finish. Another one-bite wonderful dessert can be found in the Fruit Tart recipe at the following link.
QUICK-SET PARTY CHEESECAKES
24 mini cupcake liners
24 Nilla wafers
2 8-ounce packages Neufchâtel cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Fresh Fruit, Chocolate Chips, or Candied Ginger
Preheat oven to 350°. Beat Neufchâtel cheese and sugar. Add eggs, beating well. Fold in lemon juice and vanilla extract. Beat until light and fluffy. Place cupcake liners in muffin tin. Put 1 Nilla wafer in each. Fill with 1 heaping tablespoon of cheese mixture. Bake 15 minutes. Cool. Refrigerate 3 hours. Garnish with assorted toppings.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Belgian Waffles! Call me crazy, or call me lazy, but truth be told sometimes you need to take a shortcut in preparing a meal. Just because you’re short on time doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste. Here’s a perfect example: Belgian Waffles made from starter pancake mix in a box. Add a few extras like pure vanilla and fresh fruit to turn an ordinary waffle into a spectacular one. Make a batch for breakfast, brunch, or dinner. Let the cheers begin!
2 cups Log Cabin All Natural Pancake Mix
4 tablespoons oil
1 1/3 cups milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat waffle iron. Combine pancake mix, oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla in a blender. Blend 30 seconds until lumps are removed. Let batter rest for a few minutes. Grease waffle iron if necessary. Pour batter by scant cupfuls onto center of hot waffle iron. Bake 3-5 minutes or until steaming slows and waffle is golden brown. Carefully remove. Serving suggestions: Fresh fruit, melted butter, dark amber maple syrup, pecans, whipped cream, and a side of bacon.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: “Xingzi” Apricot and Fruit Tarts! Three bites. That’s all. Three bites. Someone once told me portion control is all about savoring the taste. I agree. Discover a guilt-free way to float through the holiday parties. When you are asked to bring a dish to share, mini tarts can be prepared in a few minutes leaving you plenty of time for a rejuvenating bubble bath. These adorable sweet and savory tarts are exactly three bites. Put them to the test.
“XINGZI” APRICOT CAMEMBERT TARTS
15-count package Mini Fillo Shells, thawed
1/4 cup apricot jam; or assorted flavors
Wheel of Brie or Camembert cheese
1 teaspoon almonds, finely chopped
1 teaspoon pecans, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Blueberries for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Place the Fillo shells into a mini muffin tin. Remove skin from cheese. Discard. Cut the Brie or Camembert cheese into a small cube to place into the bottom of each Fillo shell. Gently drop a dollop of jam on top of each cube of cheese. Sprinkle with finely chopped nuts, red pepper flakes, or a blueberry. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and the jam begins to caramelize. Remove from oven and serve at room temperature.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Juicy Peach Rose Tarts! With the holidays around the corner, take a moment to consider this star attraction on the dessert table. Talk about the “WOW” factor! Peach Rose Tarts work well for morning coffee, family pitch-ins, office parties, social gatherings, birthday celebrations, Date Night, and more. Since they are made in a muffin tin with a few simple ingredients, it’s practically effortless. Once again, the crust is made with prepared puff pastry. You choose the fruit: apples, peaches, plums, pears, or nectarines. No matter the season, no matter the occasion, you’ll come away feeling like a pastry chef.
JUICY PEACH ROSE TARTS
1 box puff pastry, thawed and each sheet cut lengthwise into strips, finishing with 6 strips per sheet
1/3 cup apricot jam
5-6 ripe peaches, thinly sliced into half moons with skin on
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick oil. Set aside. Slice the peaches as thin as possible. Transfer to a microwave-safe dish. Sprinkle with a few drops of water. Cover dish with plastic wrap. Microwave on High for 15 seconds. This makes the peaches flexible enough to roll. Take one strip of puffed pastry dough. Spread it with a thin layer of apricot jam. It acts as an adhesive. Layer peaches on left side of each strip, slightly overlapping with the skin edge off the pastry. It will resemble half moons. Fold the other side of the pastry to seal. Beginning at the bottom, tightly roll the stuffed peach pastry into a flower. Transfer to the prepared muffin tin. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly before dusting with powdered sugar.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Bleu Plate Special! As the day winds down, the kids are fed, and the sunset turns to burnt-sugar orange, take some time out for yourself. Make a delightful cheese plate filled with inviting textures balanced by a range of flavors from aged and smoky to salty and sweet. Pair with a glass of sweet wine (or fruity spritzer) for an amazing taste sensation. Sink back into a comfy chaise lounge and let soft music fill the room. Remind yourself this is a classic French dessert, and prepare to be pampered.
BLEU PLATE SPECIAL
Wedge of Bleu Cheese (or any aged cheese variety)
Bunch of Green Grapes (or any seasonal fruit)
Water Crackers (or crusty breads)
Choose a platter where all ingredients can be arranged in a simple way, leaving space between choices. Identify cheeses if offering more than one kind. Rule of thumb: Place one cheese knife or spreader for each type of cheese. Keep it simple.
“Love is a fruit in season
at all times, and within reach
of every hand.”
~ Mother Teresa