Zucchini Jammin’

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Zucchini Jammin’! Someone once told me that zucchini is like a chameleon; it can literally change a recipe into anything you want it to be. When I came across this old prairie cookbook, I was intrigued enough to put zucchini to the test. The results were astounding! Hint: The jam has a refreshing pineapple-orange finish and tastes wonderful on yogurt!

ZUCCHINI JAMMIN’

Ingredients:

3 cups zucchini, raw, peeled, and shredded

3 cups sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup crushed pineapple with juice

3 ounce package orange gelatin

Instructions:

Boil zucchini in enough water to keep covered for 6 minutes. Drain. Add sugar, lemon juice, and crushed pineapple with juice. Boil 6 minutes longer. Remove from heat. Add gelatin and stir until dissolved. Seal hot in jars.

“XINGZI” Apricot and Fruit Tarts

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Allspice Apple Butter

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Allspice Apple Butter! Nothing makes your house smell better than warm bakery spices filling the air. Apples are in abundant supply at every turn, whether it’s a nearby orchard, farmers market, co-op center, or local grocery store. This easy-to-follow recipe gives you a jumpstart on making two small jars of homemade apple butter. Share one with a friend and keep the other for yourself. Win! Win!

ALLSPICE APPLE BUTTER

Ingredients:

23 ounces unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground

1/4 teaspoon allspice, ground

1/8 teaspoon ginger, ground

1/8 cloves, ground

1-2 sugared ginger discs, sliced (optional)

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients in a reduction pan or medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Watch carefully. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Do not scorch. Remove from heat, cool and transfer to two small jars. Store in the refrigerator.

Juicy Peach Rose Tarts

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

PB&J Cupcakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: PB&J Cupcakes! Mention peanut butter and watch how childhood memories instill sentimental feelings of joy and laughter. Add a dollop of jelly and suddenly the yearning is real. Here is a way to turn the classic sandwich into a yummy dessert that will find you clapping your hands with glee. The fluffy peanut butter frosting will leave you craving “just one more cupcake”! Yes, please.

PB&J CUPCAKES

Ingredients for Cupcakes:

1/2 cup raspberry jam

1 1/4 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/3 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake papers. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer 1-2 minutes until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and continue beating. Stir in the flour mixture until no lumps remain. Pour a little in the bottom of the cupcake liners. Form a small well. Put a scant teaspoon of jelly in each well. Add more batter on top to cover. Do not fill cups past 2/3 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Ingredients for Icing:

1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy

1/2 cup butter, softened

3 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup milk

Fresh Raspberries for garnish

Instructions:

Cream the peanut butter and butter until smooth in a mixing bowl. Gradually add the powdered sugar alternating with the milk. Blend in the vanilla extract until smooth. Frost the cooled cupcakes and top with a fresh raspberry.

Jam Session

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Jam Session! This recipe guarantees to be music to your ears. For once, you can make a single jar of your favorite fruit jam without spending an entire day in the kitchen. Simply put: This recipe is an answer to a time-saving prayer. Adapt to whatever is in season. If your craving today is raspberry, or strawberry, or apricot, or peach, have a jam session in minutes.

JAM SESSION

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups fresh peaches; peeled, diced, and stone removed

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon white wine*

3 discs of spiced ginger, slivered

2 cinnamon sticks

1 lemon

Pinch of sea salt

*May be substituted for water.

Instructions:

Pulse half the peaches in a food processor to make the fruit chunky. Transfer to a 2-3 quart saucepan. Add remaining diced peaches, sugar, wine, ginger, and juice of half the lemon. Slice a section of the lemon with rind on, remove seeds, and drop it into the pan. You will fish it back out later. (The lemon is a natural thickening agent.) Add two cinnamon sticks. Mix well. Cook the peaches over medium-high heat at a boil. It should begin to thicken. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking until mixture becomes jam, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let it sit for 10 minutes. Before transferring to a jar, remove the cinnamon sticks and lemon wedge. Store in the refrigerator.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter V

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Vanilla Pineapple Jam! I learn so much by following other foodies. My friend, Lathiya, featured this aromatic recipe on her blog recently. I never thought of adding vanilla to pineapple. The results are amazing! Shout out to her for more photos at http://www.lathiskitchen.org/2018/02/23 and a tasty fruit combination to smear on your morning toast or Greek yogurt. It’s Yumolicious!

VANILLA PINEAPPLE JAM

Ingredients:

2 cups pineapple chunks, drain juice if using canned

3/4 cup sugar

3 discs sugared ginger, finely chopped

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch sea salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions:

Using a 9-inch saucepan, combine pineapple chunks and sugar over medium-high heat to boil. Reduce to low and continue cooking. Gently mash the chunks with a fork as pineapple softens. Add sugared ginger, vanilla extract, and sea salt. Cook until mixture becomes jam, about 20 minutes. Add lemon juice; stir and cook 10 minutes longer. Jam will begin to thicken. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes before transferring to a jar. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter B

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Buttered Plum Galette! You don’t have to be a perfectionist to create the perfect galette. The whole idea is to make it appear rustic and charming. By forming an irregular pie crust, it conjures images of the bucolic countryside we often yearn for in an unpolished way. This is how plain country kitchens capture that homey feeling. You can, too. Indeed, the Buttered Plum Galette is as delicious as it sounds. 
BUTTERED PLUM GALETTE 
Ingredients for Crust:

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, cold

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons ice water
Ingredients for Plum Filling:

4 medium-size plums, stone removed and sliced thin

1/3-1/2 cup mulberries, or blackberries 

Scant lemon juice

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 

1/8 teaspoon cardamom 

1/3 cup plum jam, slightly warmed

3 tablespoons butter

1 egg yolk
Instructions:

Recipe makes two individual galettes. Preheat oven to 425°. Using a food processor, pulse cold butter, flour, and salt to the size of small peas. Sprinkle in ice water one tablespoon at a time until dough forms a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1/2 hour. Remove wrap and place dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut in half. Roll each half into an 8” circle. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Beginning in the center, spiral plums like a fan. Be sure to leave a border. Top with berries. Fold edges of dough toward the center, creating a rustic crust. Press gently to seal. Repeat for second galette. Sprinkle fruit with lemon juice. Cover fruit with sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom. Spread plum jam over fruit. Dot with butter. Whisk together egg yolk and a little water. Brush the egg wash along the edges of the dough. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° but do not remove galettes. Bake an additional 45 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer the buttered plum galettes from the baking sheet by lifting with the parchment paper. Cool on wire rack to keep the bottoms from getting soggy. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter X

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Xingzi Apricot Tartlets! Apricots have a way of turning simple desserts into gourmet treats. Their rich flavor is similar to a peach, but with a more tender outer skin. The juicy tang blends well with spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom for a warm flavorful finish. The buttery dough of puff pastry makes the tartlets as light as air. Guaranteed to impress, and delicious to eat. 
XINGZI APRICOT TARTLETS
Ingredients:

1 sheet prepared puff pastry, thawed

14-ounce can apricots, halved in syrup

2 tablespoons apricot jam, warmed

Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and Cardamom to taste

1 vanilla bean pod, slivered
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Unroll the puff pastry and cut it into small rectangles. Place on a nonstick baking sheet. Arrange apricot halves on each pastry strip. Brush with apricot jam. Sprinkle with nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom to taste. Bake 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Garnish with slivers of vanilla bean before serving.