Double Lemon Poppyseed Bread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Double Lemon Poppyseed Bread! Everyone has their favorite flavors and foods that remind them of happier times. A good friend of mine recently lost her husband, after challenging years with a slow-progressing disease. When I stopped by to visit her with a gift of food, it created an unexpected see-saw of emotion. At first, she was happy and delighted because it brought back memories of early morning get-togethers for Bible study at a local coffee shop. We’d laugh, chat, share, or reflect on scripture over coffee and pastries before heading off to work. It was a wonderful way to begin the day, often shifting gears from a trying mindset to a positive outlook. The emotional see-saw tipped from high to low that day when she realized how uncertain her future has become in consequence of widowhood magnified by isolation during a pandemic. Let us strive to remember the Golden Rule: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”

DOUBLE LEMON POPPYSEED BREAD

Ingredients for Bread:

16.25-ounce box white cake mix

3.5-ounce vanilla flavored instant pudding, powdered

4 eggs, room temperature

1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup hot water

1 tablespoon lemon citrus peel

2 tablespoons poppyseeds

Ingredients for Icing:

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-4 tablespoons light cream, slightly warmed

Lemon zest, for garnish

White nonpareil sprinkles, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two loaf pans with parchment paper. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine white cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, eggs, lemon juice, vegetable oil, and hot water. Beat on Low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl. Increase speed to Medium setting; beat 2 minutes longer. Fold in lemon citrus peel and poppyseeds. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool loaves in pans for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. To glaze, combine powdered sugar, softened butter, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Stir to blend. Slowly add the warmed cream, stirring constantly for a smooth consistency. Drizzle over Lemon Poppyseed Loaves. Garnish with lemon zest and nonpareil sprinkles.

White Chocolate Lavender Berry Scones

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: White Chocolate Lavender Berry Scones! Butter and Buttermilk, two main ingredients that lasso the moon. This is not your ordinary pastry. It’s not a doughnut. It’s not a muffin. It is a flavorful raised vessel for smearing on more butter. Granted, the American version may be filled with fresh fruit and chocolate chips, but hey, it’s all good. And since I was doing it my way, I went one step further and added a lavender glaze on top. There’s no way I’m going to be accused of making a dry-as-dust scone. I’m living with a man who conjures up that image whenever he hears the word “scone”. I believe for now, I’m okay with him thinking that way. More for me!

WHITE CHOCOLATE LAVENDER BERRY SCONES

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

4 tablespoons cold butter, grated

1 egg, room temperature

3 ounces buttermilk, plus more for brushing

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup fresh blackberries

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Ingredients for Lavender Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons dried lavender buds

Fresh mint, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and sea salt. Add the grated butter; toss with flour mixture. Add the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Stir just until combined. Do not over mix. Fold in blackberries and white chocolate chips. Turn the dough onto a floured surface; then pat into squares. Cut into equal triangles. Place formed dough 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Brush tops with buttermilk. Bake until golden brown, 15-18 minutes. Rotate baking sheets halfway through. Allow the scones to cool slightly. To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon dried lavender. Stir until smooth. Drizzle scones with lavender glaze. Garnish with remaining lavender buds and fresh mint leaves. Serve warm with butter.

Vanilla Bee Pollen Ice Cream

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Vanilla Bee Pollen Ice Cream! What’s all the “buzz” about? The jury is still out on the benefits of bee pollen. Some claim amazing health results while others blame it for side effects. Bee pollen is actually intensified plant pollen picked up by honeybees and brought back to the hive as a source of food for the colony. So obviously, its characteristics depend solely on the geographic location of where it is collected. Just like honey, some say if you struggle with seasonal allergies, the best way to combat that is to take a teaspoon of raw honey every day from the area where you live. Bee pollen is made up of carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You can certainly see why naturalists call it a superfood. As with any herbal supplement, contact your health care provider before beginning something new. Many foodies like to add a teaspoon of bee pollen to their morning smoothie. Here it is sprinkled over no-churn ice cream.

VANILLA BEE POLLEN ICE CREAM

Ingredients:

2 cups heavy cream

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 vanilla bean pod, sliced horizontally, seeds extracted

2 tablespoons raw honey

1 teaspoon bee pollen

Agave nectar, for drizzling

Lemon thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

Be sure the mixing bowl, whisk, and loaf pan are chilled before using. (I placed mine in the freezer overnight. If the ingredients are warm, the mixture won’t thicken to desired texture. I also put the can of sweetened condensed milk in the refrigerator the night before.) In the chilled bowl of the stand mixer, combine heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla bean seeds, and raw honey. Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to the chilled loaf pan. Freeze 6 hours or overnight. To serve, place three rounded ice cream scoops in a dish. Sprinkle bee pollen over top. Drizzle with agave nectar ribbons. Garnish with a sprig of lemon thyme.

Limoncello Upside-Down Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Limoncello Upside-Down Cake! I love everything lemon, so imagine my excitement at trying this exquisite dessert with limoncello lemon liqueur. Limoncello is produced mainly along Italy’s scenic Amalfi Coast. Every sip transports you to the rugged hillsides along the deep blue cerulean waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Imagine the lemon trees engorged with ripe fruit. You can almost smell the heady scent of natural citrus wafting from the arbors. Now that I have your complete and undivided attention, read on.

LIMONCELLO UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

Ingredients:

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided

6 thin lemon slices, seeds removed

3 tablespoons olive oil

Zest of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1 egg, room temperature

2 tablespoons limoncello lemon liqueur

1/2 cup flour plus 2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray ramekins with nonstick oil. Cut 6 parchment paper circles to fit ramekins. Place a circle in the bottom of each. Set aside. Bring brown sugar, 1/4 cup sugar, and water to a simmer in a saucepan. Cook until reduced and sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat. Submerge lemon slices in syrup. Let sit until rind and pith are translucent, 20-30 minutes. Using a hand mixer on medium speed, beat olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla extract, sea salt, egg, remaining sugar, and limoncello just until blended. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl. Gradually add wet mixture, beating just until blended. Pour one tablespoon syrup from lemon slices into each ramekin. Using tongs, gently place a lemon slice in each ramekin. Reserve remaining syrup. Place ramekins on a baking sheet. Evenly divide batter between them. Bake 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the cake before inverting onto a platter. Remove parchment paper circles. Brush with remaining syrup. Dust with powdered sugar.

Za’atar Avocado Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Za’atar Avocado Salad! Za’atar is one of those words that sounds mystical and magical to me, like “Abracadabra” or “Shazaam”. Sprinkling this Middle Eastern spice on fresh salads, meat dishes, or even homemade hummus guarantees to mysteriously transport you to faraway lands. Open the jar and sprinkle a little bit onto the palm of your hand. Dip your tongue into the blend of spices. Taste that earthiness? It’s cumin and toasted sesame. You already detect the savory flavors of oregano, marjoram, and thyme. But what is that unexpected tanginess? Can you guess? It’s sumac, the secret ingredient. Za’atar is a one-spice wonder you may want to sprinkle into olive oil to slather onto focaccia bread. Do it. Once you try it, watch it disappear. It’s that good.

ZA’ATAR AVOCADO SALAD

Ingredients:

1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon lime juice

3 hearts of palm, cut into thin rounds

1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed

2 radishes, sliced thin

1 tablespoon za’atar seasoning

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon raw honey

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Grated zest of lemon, for garnish

Instructions:

Arrange the avocado slices in a single layer on a platter. Drizzle lemon juice over slices. Scatter the hearts of palm over the avocados. Top with shelled edamame. Insert sliced radishes throughout. Sprinkle za’atar seasoning over all. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, rice vinegar, and raw honey until blended. Season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Spoon the dressing over the salad. Garnish with lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Lavender Lemon Meltaways

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Lavender Lemon Meltaways! Are you still on the fence about tasting the flavor of lavender? Is it possible you believe it’s way too close to air freshener or bath soap? Think about this a moment…one of the most popular cooking staples in France is dried herbes de Provence. Lavender is in there. It’s a distant cousin to rosemary, which is one reason the leaves can appear similar in young plants. The taste of lavender has a slight undertone of fresh mint, making it a perfect partner for lemon in homemade cakes, creamy frostings, and sprinkled on ice cream. Now I see I have your full attention.

LAVENDER LEMON MELTAWAYS

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon citrus peel

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 eggs

Lavender Glaze Ingredients:

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon lavender extract

2 tablespoons lemon zest

Lavender buds, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9”x9” square baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside. Combine flour and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside. Using a hand mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, lemon citrus peel, and lemon juice until light and fluffy. One at a time, beat in eggs. Gradually add the dry ingredients; mix until combined. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out with moist crumbs. Do not over bake. Allow cake to cool completely on a wire rack. To make the lavender glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Add lavender extract and lemon zest. Stir until smooth. Pour the glaze over the lemon cake and spread evenly. Sprinkle with lavender buds. Allow glaze to harden before cutting into bars.

Jacksonville Shrimp Boil

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Jacksonville Shrimp Boil! Whoever came up with a one-pot feast of seafood heaven is pure genius. Succulent shrimp, baby red potatoes, sweet corn on the cob, and smoky sausage. Throw everything into the biggest pot you have and let the flavors intermingle with fresh herbs and aromatic spices. The secret is to stagger the cooking process of the ingredients. After all, potatoes take longer to cook fork-tender than shrimp does. Don’t get impatient or you’ll end up with a bowl of slush. Whatever you do, don’t discard the broth. By adding butter, and serving it in small ramekins, it instantly becomes a great dipping sauce for drizzling over everything or sopping up with a crusty bread.

JACKSONVILLE SHRIMP BOIL

Ingredients:

2 lemons, halved plus wedges for serving

1/2 cup Old Bay Seasoning*

8 cloves garlic, smashed

1 red onion, quartered

6 sprigs lemon thyme

1 pound baby red potatoes, halved

4 ears corn, husked and snapped in half

1 pound smoked sausage, cut into chunks

1 1/4 pounds large shrimp, unpeeled

2 tablespoons butter

Hot sauce, for serving

Instructions:

Fill a large pot with 4 quarts water. Squeeze lemon juice into the water. Drop lemons into the pot. Add Old Bay Seasoning, smashed garlic, and red onion. Tie the lemon thyme sprigs with kitchen twine and drop into the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add red potatoes to the pot; cook just until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the corn and smoked sausage; cook 5 minutes. Finally, add the shrimp to the pot. Cover and cook until the shrimp curl and turn opaque in color, about 2-3 minutes, tops. Transfer the shrimp, sausage, and vegetables to a deep platter using a slotted spoon. Arrange lemon wedges. Ladle 1 cup broth into a serving bowl and add butter. Stir until well blended. Place in the center of the platter. Serve immediately with hot sauce, if desired.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Xanadu Pasta Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Xanadu Pasta Salad! At first glance, this may appear as a five-minute throw-together meal. Think again. In actuality, the magic begins once half the ingredients are combined and tucked away in the refrigerator for a couple days to marinate. At this point, the pasta actually transforms into a gourmet dish you are likely to have tasted at a family-owned sandwich shoppe or small town deli. One forkful may leave you wondering if this is all a dream. Is that music I hear in the background? Xanadu. Quickly, store those thoughts in your memory bank. I have no doubt you’ll return there for more.

XANADU PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

16 ounces vermicelli spaghetti pasta

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons seasoned salt

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 pint red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

8 ounces small mozzarella balls, halved

1 teaspoon crushed oregano

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Cook vermicelli according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Combine cooked pasta, kosher salt, seasoned salt, lemon juice, and vegetable oil. Pour mixture into a gallon ziplock bag. Refrigerate for two days, turning a couple times to marinate flavors. Then pour seasoned pasta into a large bowl. Spoon in red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Add small mozzarella balls. Sprinkle with crushed oregano. Gently toss. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.

Lemon Curd Tarts

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Lemon Curd Tarts! Attention all lemon lovers. There comes a time in every woman’s life when she is in dire need of a sweet-tasting dessert. I have a secret that will blow your mind. Go halfway down the bakery aisle at your favorite grocery store and keep your eyes wide open along the top row of jars. In between the maraschino cherries and the blueberry pie filling is a small jar of gourmet lemon curd. Grab it fast. If you need to glance at the list of ingredients, be my guest. You’ll find lemon, eggs, butter, sugar, and usually tapioca starch as a thickening agent. All good stuff, in my opinion. Buy it, refrigerate it, and guard it like the holy grail. Read on and you’ll understand why.

LEMON CURD TARTS

Ingredients:

15-count box frozen phyllo shells, thawed

10-ounce jar lemon curd

1/2 pint fresh blackberries

Mint leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove phyllo shells from packaging. Place empty shells on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 3-5 minutes until crisp. Allow shells to cool before filling. Rinse blueberries and pat dry with a paper towel. Place a dollop of lemon curd in each phyllo shell. Add a blackberry. Garnish with a mint leaf. Place the pretty lemon curd tart on a serving tray. Repeat with remaining shells until all are filled. Serve immediately. Refrigerate any leftovers.