What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Itty Bitty Pumpkin Cake! Do you have a love affair with pumpkin spice? You know, that delectable blend of bakery spices recognized as nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Perhaps they remind you of autumn. The days are still warm as the evenings turn chilly enough to gather around the fire pit in a thick cozy sweater. Childhood memories conjure up bumpy hayrides through apple orchards, jack-o-lanterns on the front porch, and disheveled piles of newly-raked leaves. Plus there’s all things pumpkin: pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin roll, pumpkin latte, and now this.
ITTY BITTY PUMPKIN CAKE
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon pumpkin spice
1/4 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Fresh strawberries, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray six mini bundt pans with nonstick oil containing flour. Place pans on a baking sheet. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, sea salt, baking powder, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon. Set aside. In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat on High setting with a hand mixer for 2 minutes. Add egg and beat two minutes longer. Set aside. In a third bowl, combine the pumpkin purée, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Mix well. Gradually pour half the pumpkin mixture and half the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Mix well, scraping the sides down as needed. Add the remaining ingredients; stirring only until combined. Do not over stir. Fill each prepared mini bundt pan 3/4 full. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack. Once cool, dust with powdered sugar. Garnish with a fresh strawberry before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Egg Roll in a Bowl! For once in my life I’m taking the easy route to an old favorite. Making eggs rolls, using store bought wrappers, can be quite a labor-intensive ordeal. There’s the cutting of vegetables, marinating of meat, separating the wrappers and covering them with a moist towel, then heating the oil for deep-fried results. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I just wasn’t up to the task when what I really wanted was more of the amazing filling to devour. Don’t get me wrong, I still drizzled on the duck sauce, probably more than was necessary. But it’s all a matter of individual taste. Lean in and I’ll tell you a secret. I’d do it again.
EGG ROLL IN A BOWL
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound shredded pork, precooked
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sriracha sauce
14-ounce bag coleslaw mix
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Drizzle of sriracha
Green onions, for garnish
Duck Sauce, if desired
Warm the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Sauté until the onions are translucent and the garlic is fragrant. Add the shredded pork, ginger, sea salt, black pepper, and sriracha sauce. Mix well. Cook until the pork is heated through. Add the coleslaw mix, soy sauce, and rice vinegar. Sauté until the coleslaw is slightly tender. Divide into serving bowls. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, drizzle of sriracha, and chopped green onions. Spoon prepared Duck Sauce over top, if desired.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Thai Curry Compound Butter! Flavor your favorite meats or slather it on crusty breads and crackers. Thai spices Rock! Maybe you can’t exactly put your finger on it. Thai seasoning is that unique. It appeals to the senses. Not only are the spices aromatic, but their diverse array of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty sashay around the room in a rhythmic dance to a different drum. Is it any wonder we are magically drawn to the earthy quality in Thai food? The colors and texture can be mesmerizing without overpowering the intensity of a dish. Now perhaps you may feel as though I am simply trying to butter you up, but tasting is believing.
THAI CURRY COMPOUND BUTTER
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt, finely ground
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons Thai curry paste
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon sriracha
Cilantro, for garnish
In a mixing bowl, combine unsalted butter, Himalayan pink salt, cracked black pepper, Thai curry paste, ground ginger, and sriracha. Stir until smooth. Place a sheet of waxed paper on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto waxed paper. Roll layer of waxed paper over butter to form a log. Roll tight; twist ends. Refrigerate for one hour or until firm. Serve on crackers with cilantro over vegetables, in soups, meats, and noodle dishes.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Rum-Topped Ginger Beer Float! I gotta tell you, there are some fantastic-tasting nonalcoholic ginger beers on the market right now. One of my absolute favorites is made with organic agave and extracts of chili pepper, coriander, cardamom, lime, and orange. Don’t get me wrong, ginger is still the star attraction. These flavors go extremely well in a Mexican Mule with chile pepper-infused tequila. But that’s another story. I went with a much lighter version of ginger beer for a refreshingly light twist on an old favorite. Granted, with a dark rum floater, it definitely has a boozy punch. Obviously, this is an adult beverage and should not be served to anyone under the age of 21.
RUM-TOPPED GINGER BEER FLOAT
3 scoops vanilla bean ice cream
6.8-ounce bottle ginger beer, chilled
1.5 ounce spiced dark rum
Lime wedge, for garnish
Place ice cream in a glass or mason jar. Slowly pour ginger beer over ice cream. Squeeze a touch of lime juice into the glass. Top with a spiced dark rum floater. Garnish with lime wedge. Serve with a spoon. Cheers!
Dining Outside the Home: Oasis on the Beach in Kapaa, Kauai! No, the rooster isn’t the host…he just thinks he is. If he could speak, he would probably recommend the catch-of-the-day and lead you to a table outside where the view is simply mesmerizing. The staff at Oasis on the Beach focuses on quality of ingredients by using local growers and fishermen for diversity in cultures as well as flavor. For example, the Pork Wonton appetizer is complemented by a spicy ginger soy sauce for dipping. Pair it with the Okinawan Sweet Potato Wrap for something new and different. The roasted peppers and charred onions enhance the creamy texture of the Hawaiian sweet potato. You can’t get flavor like this on the mainland. Choose your next meal at a place that stays true to their mission statement of sustainability.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Ahi Tuna Appetizer! When you’re looking for something to serve that makes a great starter, choose an exotic appetizer that awakens the “wow” factor in your taste buds. It takes only minutes to prepare but your guests will long remember it after the evening is over.
AHI TUNA APPETIZER
2 ahi tuna steaks, 4-5 ounces each, skinless
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil or canola oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons aji nori furikake seasoning
1 teaspoon white toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon black toasted sesame seeds
Combine olive oil, vegetable oil, and sesame oil in a shallow dish. Sprinkle with furikake seasoning, white sesame seeds, and black sesame seeds. Marinate ahi tuna steaks ten minutes per side to coat evenly. Remove from marinade and set aside. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, warm the oil mixture. Cook steaks 2-3 minutes per side. The outer skin will appear seared while the center will remain rare. Remove from heat. Transfer ahi steaks to a cutting board and tent with foil for 10 minutes. Cut into 1/4″ thick slices. Arrange on a platter, overlapping the slices. Serve with pickled ginger, wasabi paste, and a Vietnamese dipping sauce.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: White Chocolate Cranberry Spice Bars! Like snowdrops over a country field, the white chocolate bits add a sweet creaminess to the crumb bars offsetting the tart tangy taste of cranberry sauce. You may notice a warm sweet-heat every once in awhile. It’s the candied baby ginger infused throughout. I use all-natural crystallized ginger slices and chop them up for added zing. For the merriest of holidays, make a batch of these bite-sized guilty pleasures. Perfect for a cookie exchange.
WHITE CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY SPICE BARS
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups chunky cranberry sauce
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 350°. Cream together sugar and butter. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together. Add dry ingredients together. Spread 3/4 of batter into a 9″x13″ greased dish. Gently press down with a spoon to level. Divide cranberry sauce over top. Sprinkle white chocolate chips over cranberry mixture. Fill in with chopped crystallized ginger. Crumble remaining batter on top. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into squares or triangles. To make glaze, mix powdered sugar with milk, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over bars.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Your Grandma’s Molasses Cookies! For years I was on a quest to bake soft, chewy cookies. No matter what I did, it seemed as soon as the cookies cooled, they turned crunchy rather than chewy. Don’t get me wrong, they still disappeared in my house because…well, kids seem to love homemade cookies no matter how they turn out. Then, the other day I was rifling through a stack of recipes scribbled on random slips of paper tucked away in a ziplock bag. I came across the familiar handwriting of my beloved Grandma Frieda. I remembered visiting her in the summertime when she’d bring out the Game of Cootie for us to play. Afterwards, she serve a plate of sugary molasses cookies with a glass of milk. Those are good memories, that’s for sure.
YOUR GRANDMA’S MOLASSES COOKIES
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon, ground
1 teaspoon cloves, ground
1 teaspoon ginger, ground
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar plus 1/2 cup
1/2 cup molasses
Preheat the oven to 375°. Line baking sheet with a silicone baking mat and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and 2 cups sugar until combined. Add in the molasses and eggs and mix well. Slowly add the flour mixture to the ingredients of the stand mixer and mix until all is combined. Fill a small bowl with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Form teaspoon-size dough into balls then gently roll them in the granulated sugar. Place onto baking sheet, two inches apart. Repeat until all the cookie dough has been used. Bake only 10 minutes for soft and chewy results. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
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
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
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.