Experience the Holidays! This year things will be a little different. Unsettling times of chaos and confusion can still accompany satisfying food. Some people will gather virtually, others behind plastic shields, window panes, and face masks. Christmas cards, letters, texts, and phone calls are especially important right now. It is critical to stay connected. Every family has its favorites from the past. Some indulge in time-worn traditions while others enjoy modern classics. As you embrace the holidays with limited companionship, sentimental yearnings, enjoyable food, or jubilant festivities, celebrate the spirit of the season. In the next few weeks, join me as I share festive foods as well as healthy options. Experience the holidays with gifts that never go out of style: Faith, Hope, Joy, and Love. These are the things worth sharing.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Mincemeat Quick Bread! Don’t look at me that way. I know what you’re thinking. “If this recipe has mincemeat in it, I’m not eating it.” But hold on a sec. There are plenty of foods with names that sound downright gross. Think about it: head cheese, tripe, mung beans, and blood sausage to name a few. I’m here to tell you mincemeat is a sweet and savory filling that basically contains dried fruits, citrus, spices, and brandy. Ahhh. Now I have your attention. This particular recipe has about 1/4 cup apricot brandy in it. Just know if you do choose to add brandy or rum to a jar of prepared mincemeat, be sure to allow it to marinate in the refrigerator at least 8 hours before using. Now you can understand why some people eat it straight out of the jar.
MINCEMEAT QUICK BREAD
1 egg, room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 cups prepared mincemeat pie filling (with 1/4 cup apricot brandy, optional)
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9”x5” loaf pan. Set aside. Combine egg, vegetable oil, orange zest, orange juice, and mincemeat pie filling. Stir until well blended. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring just until combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Check loaf with a cake tester to make sure center is done. Remove from oven. Cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve.
“The smallest seed of faith
is better than the largest
fruit of happiness.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Coconut Sprinkled Fruit Cups! Whether you choose to enhance a hearty breakfast, compliment a light lunch, or serve as a healthy dessert, fresh fruit is always a good idea. Take a moment to look in the fridge. Perhaps you see an apple, a bunch of green grapes, a ripe banana, or a few stragglers from a berry basket. Combine them together for a surprising and colorful addition to any meal. Sprinkle on some coconut flakes to jazz things up. Drizzle with maple syrup, wildflower honey, or agave nectar. Just a touch. Then, for a nice finish, sprinkle on cinnamon, nutmeg, or citrusy cardamom. Dessert-lovers may add a dollop of whipped cream. The choices are endless. When building a fruit salad, think color, flavor, and presentation. The results may surprise you.
COCONUT SPRINKLED FRUIT CUPS
1 Cara Cara orange, divided into segments
1/2 cup pineapple, tidbits
2 tablespoons coconut, shredded
2 teaspoons agave nectar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
Fill two fruit cups with orange segments and pineapple tidbits. Sprinkle shredded coconut over top. Drizzle with agave nectar. Garnish with ground nutmeg.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Oatmeal Options! Some people tell me if they eat breakfast, they end up nibbling and snacking all day long. These same people tell me when they skip breakfast, they keep their diet in check. Who’s correct? Is it mind over matter? Studies show that skipping meals can be a trigger for migraines. Others show metabolism irregularities associated with hair loss and, ironically, unexpectedly weight gain can result from unstable choices. Now I don’t know about all that. I do know that maintaining a routine seems to reap optimum results for me. I’ve read that eating oatmeal regularly seems to prevent obesity and weight gain. Could it be due to the feeling of “sticking to your ribs”, so to speak? Makes sense to me.
1/2 cup whole grain oats
1 cup skim milk
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic reduction
1 tablespoon pecans, chopped
Fresh thyme, for garnish
Combine whole grain oats, skim milk, and cinnamon in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir well. Microwave on High 1 1/2-2 minutes. Stir. Sprinkle on brown sugar. Drizzle with balsamic reduction sauce. Add chopped pecans. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves. Serve immediately.
“Be a pineapple:
wear a crown, and
be sweet on the inside.”
~ Katherine Gaskin
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Bored With Cheese? Anyone who has perused a deli market understands how confusing the cheese categories have become. The choices appear endless. Cheese can be aged for months, hand-rubbed with robust Italian spices, shelf-cured for optimal quality, or made with passion from a local dairy. Who knew? I recently picked up a “cheese flight” of three Wisconsin varieties. I loved the description detailing the best pairing options for fruits, nuts, and beverages. Not only is it a great way to try mild or robust cheeses, it turns a charcuterie board into a win, win for the night.
BORED WITH CHEESE?
3.5-ounce wedge Tuscan-rubbed fontina cheese
3-ounce wedge parmesan cheese
1.5-ounce edge bleu cheese
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced
1/2 cup walnut halves
Crackers and baguette slices
Arrange cheeses, apple slices, and walnut halves on a cutting board. Serve with crackers, sliced baguette, beer, and wine.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Yogurt Tropical Breeze! Breakfast never tasted so good. Elevate an ordinary yogurt serving to something extraordinary by switching to tropical fruits like juicy ripe pineapple and buttery sweet papaya. Instead of granola, sprinkle on toasted coconut for a refreshing taste that will transport you like a summer breeze on a tropical island.
YOGURT TROPICAL BREEZE
16 ounces Greek yogurt
15.25 ounce can tropical mixed fruit; pineapple, red and yellow papaya*
1 small seedless orange, separated into segments
3 strawberries, sliced
2-3 tablespoons toasted coconut
Fresh mint for garnish
Drain fruit, save reserve juice for later. Divide Greek yogurt into serving dishes. Add topical fruit, orange segments, and strawberry slices. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Garnish with sprig of fresh mint.
*Kroger brand Tropical Mixed Fruit in fruit nectar, 15.25 oz can. I receive no recompense for recommending this product.
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
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
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.