Mint Black ‘n Bleu Snack

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Mint Black ‘n Bleu Snack! When you’re needing a simple, yet exotic appetizer or dessert, nothing satisfies the palate like naturally sweet fresh blackberries complimented by creamy bleu cheese. The subtle crunch of a multigrain cracker topped with sesame and poppyseeds makes a wonderful platform. A touch of raw honey serves to tickle the tongue while the fresh mint leaf provides a tangy finish. Together, they pair extremely well with a glass of white wine or after dinner espresso. Perhaps you see this in your future.

MINT BLACK ‘N BLEU SNACK

Ingredients:

8.3 ounces multigrain baked crackers

4-6 ounce wedge Danish bleu cheese

8 ounces fresh blackberries, wash and pat dry

1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey

Fresh mint leaves

Instructions:

On a serving platter, arrange a single layer of multigrain crackers. Shave thin layers of Danish bleu cheese slices to cover the crackers. Add blackberries in random order. Drizzle with Tupelo honey. Garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serve.

Heart-Healthy Honey Cakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Heart-Healthy Honey Cakes! Way down south, in the Florida panhandle, grows an unusual tree that produces the “Cadillac” of all honey varieties known as raw Tupelo. The tree blossoms are short-lived and delicate, creating a nectar that is nothing short of superbly exquisite. The finespun flavor is buttery, highly distinctive, and almost magical. If you happen to put your hands on a jar of Tupelo honey, first unscrew the lid and place a couple droplets on your tongue. You owe yourself a genuine taste of the liquid amber gold before adding it to your culinary portfolio. Then, by all means, elevate everyday favorites.

HEART-HEALTHY HONEY CAKES

Ingredients:

1 cup flour plus 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup Tupelo raw honey, reserving 1 1/2 tablespoons for drizzling over the batter

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup coffee

2 1/2 tablespoons orange juice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Generously grease six mini bundt pans with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Mix well. Add vegetable oil, raw honey, sugar, brown sugar, egg, vanilla extract, coffee, and orange juice. Mix thoroughly until no lumps remain. Pour batter into prepared mini bundt pans, filling each just over halfway. Do not overfill. Drizzle reserved raw honey over batter. Bake 30 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven. Cool 10 minutes, then invert pans to remove honey cakes. Cool on wire rack. Garnish with fresh lemon thyme.

East-West Shrimp Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: East-West Shrimp Salad! Shrimp, on its own, is a star attraction for a special meal. That pretty much goes without saying. I like the idea that shrimp makes a main course look complex, or restaurant-worthy. By adding steamed mukimame, mandarin oranges, sesame seeds, and soy sauce, suddenly an everyday garden salad sings a different tune. The fusion of flavors becomes enlightening, like the eternal knowledge of an Eastern sunrise. Is it any wonder I heart shrimp?

EAST-WEST SHRIMP SALAD

Ingredients:

1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined, and cooked

1/2 cup mukimame, steamed

1/2 cup mandarin orange segments

1/2 cup baby cucumber, skin on and sliced

1/4 red pepper, cut into strips

Lettuce greens

Ingredients for Dressing:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons garlic wine vinegar

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning mix

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Instructions:

Prepare the shrimp according to package directions. Set aside. Arrange lettuce greens on a salad plate. Add steamed mukimame, mandarin orange segments, sliced cucumbers, and red pepper strips. In a bowl, combine olive oil, garlic wine vinegar, agave nectar, mayonnaise, Italian seasoning mix, soy sauce, ground ginger, and toasted sesame seeds. Mix well. Pour dressing over salads and toss to coat. Arrange shrimp on top to spotlight. Serve immediately.

Honey Butter Shrimp

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Honey Butter Shrimp! Here’s a different kind of main dish that creates a balance of sweet, salty, and a little bit of spice in every bite. Shrimp lovers will not be disappointed with the tender, incredibly mild, slightly creamy taste of ocean shrimp. It’s very good, according to my husband the taste tester. The firmness of each delicate morsel, curled into the C-shape when cooked, makes each bite a succulent delight for the palate. The aromatic ginger, when mixed with soy sauce and sticky sweet honey, will awaken the taste buds for a juicier finish. Done right, this shrimp becomes a labor of love that will surely bring raves.

HONEY BUTTER SHRIMP

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons butter

3 ounces coconut milk

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons raw honey

Zest and juice from one lime

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and white pepper. Warm olive oil in an iron skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 minutes per side. Add minced garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, and butter. Cook the shrimp in the butter until the garlic caramelizes, about 2 minutes. Add coconut milk, soy sauce, and raw honey. Stir to combine. Simmer 2-3 minutes until completely warmed. Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice, zest, and cilantro. Serve warm over rice.

Zesty Citrus Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Zesty Citrus Salad! “If you build it, they will come.” That familiar quote may spark a flicker of remembrance from a popular movie years ago, Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner was the actor who had an idea and went with it. Cooking is like that, in my opinion. For example, build a better salad. It’s pretty simple, actually. Choose garden greens for the foundation, layer on fruits or vegetables for flavor, toss in some crunchy nuts, and slather on the sauce to dress it up. Of course, you can include cheese, meat, and eggs to bulk it up into a meal if you’d like. May as well go ahead and make your own salad dressings. There’s no comparison; being naturally better than bottled, they serve nicely as dips if you have any leftover. No promises on that note, because they’re that good.

ZESTY CITRUS SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups lettuce, gently torn

1/4 cup celery leaves

1 naval orange, segments cut into thirds

6 strawberries, quartered

2 tablespoons red onion, sliced

2 tablespoons almonds, sliced

Ingredients for Dressing:

1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons Tupelo honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Dash sriracha

Instructions:

Place torn lettuce into salad bowls. Divide celery leaves between them. Arrange the orange segments, quartered strawberries, and red onion slices. Scatter almonds over all. Set aside to chill in the refrigerator. To combine dressing, whisk together garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, Tupelo honey, Dijon mustard, toasted sesame seeds, and dash of sriracha sauce. Mix well. Drizzle over salad before serving.

DIY Barbecue Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: DIY Barbecue Sauce! Have you ever began preparations for a recipe and realized you were short one ingredient? It happens to me all the time. Since I live in the country, it’s easier for me to peruse my pantry for a do-it-yourself recipe than to run into town. Perhaps you feel the same way. For example, instead of tomato sauce and tomato paste, I substituted a jar of cocktail sauce. When I checked the ingredient list, the cocktail sauce contained both items plus a touch of horseradish. I love the zing that horseradish provides. Once you realize cooking is all about the flavors you like, the rest is a breeze.

DIY BARBECUE SAUCE

Ingredients:

12-ounces cocktail sauce

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup raw honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup molasses

2 tablespoons agave nectar

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon smoky sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions:

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cocktail sauce, apple cider vinegar, raw honey, Dijon mustard, molasses, agave nectar, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, smoky sea salt, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Sauce will slightly thicken. Transfer to a sealed container. Refrigerate up to one week.

Yogurt Black Raspberry Smoothie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Yogurt Black Raspberry Smoothie! Blackberries and black raspberries. They’re both the same, right? Guess again. Blackberries are the larger of the two, in cell structure as well as actual size of a single berry. They also have a glossy finish. Blackberries are seen more often at grocery stores as well. Black raspberries, on the other hand, are as coveted as morel mushrooms. Growers typically save them for themselves and very close friends. Their flavor is more unique, not nearly as tart and very fruity. Some consider them the healthiest berries on the planet with three times the antioxidants as other berries. You can recognize black raspberries by their tiny protective hairs. The centers are hollow making them effortless for picking. Black raspberries are popular for cobblers, pies, jams, ice cream toppings, and of course smoothies. Is it any wonder I love you more.

YOGURT BLACK RASPBERRY SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

3/4 cup black raspberries

3/4 cup blueberries, frozen

1 banana, sliced and frozen

1 teaspoon natural honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 cup skim milk

Fresh mint

Instructions:

In a blender, combine black raspberries, frozen blueberries, frozen banana slices, natural honey, vanilla extract, Greek yogurt, and skim milk. Pulse for one minute to chop fruit. Stir, purée until smooth and creamy. Pour into glasses. Garnish with fresh mint. Serve immediately.

X-tra Cheese, Please, Appetizer

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: X-Tra Cheese, Please, Appetizer! Ever since I visited a popular Las Vegas restaurant, I’ve been looking for a cheese appetizer like this one. It’s not the traditional gooey soupy cheese dip you swipe tortilla chips through before gobbling down. The waiter set the iron skillet in front of us and said, “This is a cheese you need to use a knife and fork with. It’s not going to jump onto the chip.” Come to find out it was flambéed over an open fire in the kitchen. Wow! And they used tequila to ignite it. I wish I could tell you that’s what I did here, but sorry, “no comprendo”. Instead I baked it at a high temperature and dredged it through a spicy honey. Show compassion. I tried.

X-TRA CHEESE, PLEASE, APPETIZER

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted

1 yellow onion, diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey

1 teaspoon sriracha

1 teaspoon garlic habanero sauce

2 tablespoons ranch dressing

Chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 475°. Using a 10” iron skillet, warm butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and kosher salt. Sauté for 5-8 minutes, or until onions are soft and golden brown. Add Monterey Jack cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Mix thoroughly with onions. To make the spicy honey, in a microwave-safe dish combine raw Tupelo honey, sriracha, and garlic habanero sauce. Stir well. Microwave on High for 30 seconds. Stir again. Set aside. Transfer cheese-filled iron skillet to the oven. Bake 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Turn oven setting to High on Broil. Allow dark spots to appear on the surface, about 1-2 minutes. Watch carefully as this happens very quickly. Remove skillet from oven. Drizzle with spicy honey and ranch dressing. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve with tortilla chips.

Walnut Mango Granola

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Walnut Mango Granola! Have you noticed how versatile granola has become? It’s no wonder it has turned into a convenient substitute for breakfast when you’re on the run. Oats are full of iron and fiber, which the nutritionists keep drumming into our heads. It keeps us full, energizes the body, and detours junk food cravings. Nuts and seeds have heart-hearty benefits, which everyone wants, right? Personally, I prefer the crumbled version to sprinkle over my morning yogurt. Others prefer the chewy granola bars I find look too much like a candy bar. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy peanut butter and chocolate chips as much as the next guy. I get it, but always check the sugar content because basically that’s what holds everything together. Talk about unwanted calories. No thanks. In the end do what is right for you. Meanwhile, if you want to make your own, this recipe is as easy as pie.

WALNUT MANGO GRANOLA

Ingredients:

1 cup walnut halves, chopped

1/4 cup coconut flakes

2 tablespoons pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

1 cup oats

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon coconut sugar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 cup dried mango, chopped

1/4 cup dates, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss chopped walnuts, coconut flakes, pistachio nuts, oats, and chia seeds. Thoroughly combine; set aside. In another bowl, mix cinnamon, coconut sugar, sea salt, vegetable oil, and maple syrup. Drizzle over walnut mixture and toss to coat granola. Spread granola mixture onto baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes; turn for even browning and bake 10 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven. Carefully stir in dried mango and chopped dates. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove granola from the oven and allow to cool completely. Transfer crumbled granola to an airtight container.