Zested Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Zested Lemon Blueberry Pancakes! If you’re a “regular” customer at the same restaurant, it’s perfectly natural to become good friends with the owners and staff. Kind of like an extended family. You learn their personalities as they become accustomed to your quirks, humor, and mannerisms. Before long, you may even exchange cell numbers so you can text the restaurant when you’re on your way. It benefits both parties. In turn, if I’m kinda crazy about a certain dish, I may get a nonchalant “secret” ingredient hint dropped my way. The rest is up to me. Now I don’t claim to make menu items as well as a restaurant, but in a pinch it satisfies a craving that will suffice until I return.

ZESTED LEMON BLUEBERRY PANCAKES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon granulated lemon peel

1 cup cottage cheese, small curd

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

1/2 pint blueberries

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

10-ounce jar lemon curd, to taste

Powdered sugar, garnish

Instructions:

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, mix agave nectar, lemon zest, and granulated lemon peel. Add cottage cheese, eggs, vanilla extract, and lemon extract. Whisk until almost smooth. The cottage cheese will continue to have small lumps. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients. Stir to combine. The batter will be a little bit lumpy. Fold in a few blueberries, about 1/4 cup. Warm an iron skillet over medium heat. Brush the skillet with vegetable oil. Add a 1/4 cup of pancake batter to the skillet. Cook for a couple minutes until small bubbles appear. Carefully flip and cook the remaining side until golden, about 2 minutes longer. Brush the skillet with more vegetable oil and repeat the process until all the batter is gone. Serve the pancakes with remaining fresh blueberries and a dollop of lemon curd. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Mediterranean Baked Tilapia

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Mediterranean Baked Tilapia! Do you ever experiment with different spice combinations? Salt and pepper can only go so far, especially if you try to reduce your salt intake. Spices, on the other hand, can turn an ordinary meal into a savory one. They can also add color, flavor, and aroma. If you’re like me, when a recipe calls for a spice you don’t stock in your pantry, you go out and buy a jar. Then what? Do you use it once and shove it back into the corner of your cupboard? What if you experiment a little instead? When you use cumin, think about partnering it with coriander for results that can add warmth as well as a tinge of sweetness.

MEDITERRANEAN BAKED TILAPIA

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon butter, melted

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tilapia fillets

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

Fresh parsley, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400° in a shallow bowl, combine lemon juice, butter, and olive oil. Mix well. Set aside. On a sheet of waxed paper, combine flour, ground coriander, ground cumin, paprika, sea salt, and pepper. Pat tilapia fillets dry. Dip fish in lemon juice mixture before coating with flour coating. Repeat for second tilapia fillet. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish fillets. After a minute or so, flip fillets over to sear the both sides. Remove skillet from heat. Add minced garlic to remaining lemon juice mixture. Drizzle over fish. Bake 7-9 minutes in preheated oven. Remove from heat. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve with broccoli and cous cous.

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.

Quick Savory Butter

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Quick Savory Butter! For some time now we’ve gotten pretty spoiled by restaurants, bistros, and cafés serving compound butter with the artisan bread basket. You almost hear us clapping our hands as we sink our teeth into the savory herbs or sweet concoctions. I know it makes me feel special. Chefs have been creating compound butters for years, though. It’s one of the ways they save time and add a level of sophistication for the customer. In my own kitchen, I found it’s best to begin with unsalted butter. That way I can add just enough sea salt to tease the palate. Lemon, believe it or not, adds a hint of flavor that embellishes steak or seafood. I see you nodding your head in agreement. Although I began smearing this combination on rolls and crackers, I couldn’t resist warming it to pour over a bowl of freshly popped popcorn. Talk about gourmet!

QUICK SAVORY BUTTER

Ingredients:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, cream butter with lemon juice. Add garlic powder and sea salt; stir. Fold in fresh rosemary and parsley leaves. Mix until combined. Place a sheet of waxed paper on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto sheet. Roll the waxed paper over butter to form a log. Roll tight and twist both ends. Refrigerate one hour or until firm.

Juicy Roast Turkey

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Juicy Roast Turkey! There’s nothing worse than dry-as-dust turkey, around the holidays. Watch your guests if they keep asking you to pass the gravy. Today I’m going to give you a few tips to keep that from happening. You can thank me when it’s your turn to host the holiday meal. Number one: Truss loosely, or not at all. The secret is to allow heat to get to all sides of the legs. Cooking the turkey until the legs are done may result in overcooking the breast meat. Number two: Don’t overcook. The timetable on the package is an estimate. Always use a meat thermometer, even if the turkey comes with a pop-up version. Always. Number three: (and this one is the hardest for me) Let the turkey “rest” before carving. I’m talking 20-30 minutes. Evidently, during the roasting process, the oven heat forces all the juices to the center of the turkey. When you allow it to “rest”, after it’s done, the juices seep back into the cavities and make the turkey moist. It’s definitely worth the wait.

JUICY ROAST TURKEY

Ingredients:

10-15 pound turkey, thawed

1/2 cup butter

1 lemon, juiced and zested

1 teaspoon thyme

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Wash the turkey, pat dry, and transfer to a roasting pan with a roasting rack. Stuff the turkey as desired. Otherwise, salt and pepper the inside of the cavity. In a small saucepan, warm the butter over low heat. Add the lemon juice, zest, and thyme. Brush the outside of the turkey with the butter mixture. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh, avoiding the bone. Cover the roaster with the lid. Transfer pan to oven. Bake for two hours, basting the turkey every half hour. This insures even browning of the skin. Remove lid and roast turkey an additional 1 1/2 hours, continuing to baste at half hour intervals. When the meat thermometer reads 185°, remove the turkey from the oven. Transfer it to a cutting board; cover with foil. Let it rest for half an hour. This makes carving easier and produces a juicy roast turkey.

Orzo Shrimp Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Orzo Shrimp Salad! In case you did a double-take, this is not a rice dish. Orzo, for those who are new to its origin, is a rice-shaped pasta popular in Italy. Most often it is used in soups, chilled salads, and pasta recipes. It is not gluten-free, if that is important to you. Because of its unique texture, the flavor of orzo bonds wonderfully with olive oil or butter and fresh herbs. Make it early in the day or right before supper. Either way, the taste is incredible with garden fresh veggies and cocktail shrimp. A little orzo goes a long way.

ORZO SHRIMP SALAD

Ingredients:

1/4 cup lemon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup uncooked orzo

1/2 pound precooked jumbo cocktail shrimp

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dill

1/2 teaspoon tarragon leaves, chopped

4 ounces asparagus, sliced into 1-inch pieces

1/2 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed

1/2 cup frozen English peas, thawed

Lemon slices for garnish

Instructions:

For dressing, whisk together lemon olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, kosher salt, and black pepper. Set aside. Prepare orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Transfer to a platter and cool 10 minutes to room temperature. In a skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Remove shells from shrimp tails. Place shrimp in a single layer in the skillet. Sprinkle with dill and tarragon. Lightly brown, turning once. Reduce heat to keep from burning. Remove from stove. Let shrimp cool. Meanwhile, in a steamer basket, bring water to a boil. Add asparagus, sugar snap peas, and English peas. Cook 2 minutes until bright green and tender crisp. Immediately transfer vegetables to an ice bath. Drain. Toss together shrimp and vegetables with orzo. Drizzle with lemon dressing, to taste. Toss to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Garnish with lemon slices.

Mealtime Crab Cocottes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Mealtime Crab Cocottes! Seafood can be my obsession and I’m not afraid to be a glutton of it, especially if I’m visiting a locale that is a coastal destination. In my defense, how can anyone resist signs and billboards openly declaring “Best Seafood in Town!”? But eventually one returns home to a land-locked State where seafood is as scarce as hen’s teeth. So when the cravings continue, I head over to the local supermarket in search of a packaged substitute. Maybe it’s the succulent crabmeat or perhaps it’s the French butter, but I have to admit this recipe isn’t half bad.

MEALTIME CRAB COCOTTES

Ingredients:

1 cup mayonnaise

3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 1/4 teaspoon seafood seasoning

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces jumbo lump crabmeat

8 ounces imitation crabmeat, flaked

1 tablespoon pimento, diced

1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon ground paprika

1-2 tablespoons French butter, melted

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat bottoms and edges of two ramekins with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, seafood seasoning, garlic powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Mix well. Gently fold in lump crabmeat, imitation flaked crabmeat, and diced pimento. Divide crabmeat mixture evenly between ramekins. Top with Panko breadcrumbs. Sprinkle paprika over all. Drizzle melted butter on top. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned and bubbly. Serve with artisan bread and side salad.