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.

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.

Rainbow Fruit Cup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Rainbow Fruit Cup! As the seasons roll on, here’s a friendly reminder about buying fresh fruit. Most grocers feature fruits that are always in season, such as apples, bananas, and grapes. If you pay attention to the first ones you see as you walk in the door or in high traffic areas, most likely you’ll reap the savings. That’s one clue. If the store has an abundance of something on hand, they focus on “pushing” it through quickly, which translates BEFORE it becomes overripe. Consumers can take advantage of the prices while enjoying healthy options. Rainbow fruit simply means combining different colors for plate appeal. Keep in mind that canned fruit can be substituted at times. I like balancing out pineapple chunks or mandarin oranges along with fresh fruit. No worries. The citrus dressing will pull everything together nicely.

RAINBOW FRUIT CUP

1 cup strawberries, stems removed and quartered

1 cup blueberries

1 peach, sliced with skin removed

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons organic mango orange juice

2 tablespoons lemon olive oil

1 tablespoon raw acacia honey

1/2 teaspoon lemon citrus peel, granulated

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Instructions:

Combine sliced strawberries, blueberries, and peaches in a bowl. Toss lightly to mix. For dressing, combine lemon juice, mango orange juice, lemon olive oil, acacia honey, lemon citrus peel, kosher salt, and black pepper. Whisk together until blended. Pour over fruit salad. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Ziti Green Bean Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Ziti Green Bean Salad! Citrusy and Refreshing, that’s how to describe this incredibly vibrant cold pasta salad. Thin and crunchy green beans are paired with luscious cherry tomatoes wrapped in highly fragrant minced parsley bits. Make-ahead options give you time to spend on leisure activities to maximize the final days of summer. Skip the mayonnaise and revel in the burst of lemon vinaigrette for a seasonal change. Life is good!

ZITI GREEN BEAN SALAD

Ingredients:

16 ounces whole wheat ziti pasta

8 ounces fresh green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

16 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

3/4 cup Lemon Citrus Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Instructions:

Cook pasta according to package directions, adding green beans to boiling water during the last two minutes of cooking time; drain. Rinse pasta mixture under cold running water until cool; drain again. Combine pasta mixture, tomatoes, and vinaigrette. Toss to coat. Cover and chill overnight. Just before serving, gently fold in minced parsley.

LEMON CITRUS VINAIGRETTE

Ingredients:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 minced shallot

1/2 cup olive oil

1/8 cup fresh parsley, minced

1/2 tablespoon natural honey

1/2 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard

Instructions:

Combine lemon juice and minced shallot. Set aside for 5 minutes. Add olive oil, fresh parsley, natural honey, and Dijon mustard. Whisk together to blend. Store in refrigerator.

Yogurt Frozen Fruit Pops

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Yogurt Frozen Fruit Pops! Take a look in the freezer and choose the berries you love the most. You are about to make a delicious fruit popsicle without high fructose corn syrup. By using only natural ingredients, with honey as a sweetener, the berry flavors are intensified with guilt-free results that make your heart swoon. The hardest part is waiting overnight for the pops to become firm. As a special indulgence, sprinkle them with mini chocolate chips and crushed nuts.

YOGURT FROZEN FRUIT POPS

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups strawberries, frozen

1 cup raspberries, frozen

1 tablespoon pomegranate arils, frozen

1/2 cup all natural Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons natural honey

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice

Mini chocolate chips, for garnish

Crushed pecan pieces, for garnish

Instructions:

Arrange 8 treat cups in the bottom of a loaf pan. Have 8 craft sticks set aside. Combine frozen strawberries, raspberries, and pomegranate arils in a food processor. Add Greek yogurt, natural honey, and lemon juice. Mix on HIGH until smooth and blended, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Pulse until smooth and creamy. Spoon frozen fruit yogurt into the treat cups. Insert one craft stick into each cup. Sprinkle tops with mini chocolate chips and nut mixture. Place in freezer overnight. Remove yogurt frozen fruit pops by tearing the paper cup and serve. Enjoy!

Iced Coconut Milk Banana Smoothie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Iced Coconut Milk Banana Smoothie! Try something new today. Rev up your morning routine with a nutritious alternative to steel-cut oats. Delight your senses with a sweet-tasting banana infused smoothie. The hint of dark chocolate bathed in tropical coconut creaminess makes it go down with a smile. What better way to include a serving of fresh fruit on a daily basis.

ICED COCONUT MILK BANANA SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon dark chocolate syrup

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon natural honey

4-5 ice cubes

Nutmeg for garnish

Mini chocolate chips for garnish

Instructions:

In a blender, combine banana slices, chocolate syrup, coconut milk, vanilla extract, Greek yogurt, and honey. Pulse to chop bananas. Add ice cubes. Increase speed to liquefy smoothie. Pour into a glass. Sprinkle with nutmeg and mini chocolate chips. Serve immediately.

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.

Creamed Honey on Toast

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Creamed Honey on Toast! Begin today at the Farmers Market on a quest for liquid gold. This version of natural honey is thicker in consistency, lighter in color, and creamier than ordinary honey varieties. For one, it does not contain the noticeable sugar crystals that can often leave a grainy aftertaste. Trained beekeepers put more effort into this little delicacy but, in my opinion, it is worth the extra time and effort. Pick up a couple jars this summer. Store them at room temperature and they will be good until you scrape the bottom of the jars.

CREAMED HONEY ON TOAST

Ingredients:

Artisan bread, sliced

Sea salt French butter

Creamed honey

Ground cinnamon

Instructions:

Choose a nice artisan bread for toasting. Slather on a tablespoon of sea salt French butter and watch it melt. Next, drizzle a generous swirl of creamed honey over the butter layer. Finally, top it off with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Quaker Oat Breakfast Companions

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Quaker Oat Breakfast Companions! I must confess, some days a cup of Italian espresso and a crispy wafer roll is enough to get my engine up and running. But on those mornings when I wake up ravenous, I turn to a hearty bowl of Quaker Oats with all the trimmings: pomegranate arils, orange slices, almonds, cinnamon, and brown sugar. I appreciate the fiber, fruit, and nuts for healthy living. Topped with a bit of honey and milk in lieu of brown sugar, and I’m left feeling full for longer periods of time. Plus, it’s a good source of fiber and iron. Switch things up now and then by choosing a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.

QUAKER OAT BREAKFAST COMPANIONS

Ingredients:

1 cup milk

1 dash sea salt

1 dash cinnamon

1/2 cup whole grain oats

1 mandarin orange, peeled

1 tablespoon almond slices

1 tablespoon pomegranate arils

1 teaspoon brown sugar or natural honey

Instructions:

Combine milk, salt, cinnamon, and oats in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on High 2 1/2-3 minutes. Remove and mix well. Top with oranges, almonds, arils, and honey.