Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup! Not only is this soup perfect for those chilly evenings ahead, but it is also more fun to eat simply because instead of saltine crackers, fresh popcorn is used. That’s right, you heard me…popcorn. It really doesn’t matter if you use the air-popped variety, microwave movie popcorn, or slightly sweet kettle-style popcorn. I know, right!?! More and more you may discover this quirky dish on a restaurant menu, even outside the state of Wisconsin. It actually dates back to when German immigrants came to America. Beer was readily available and often used in soup. Over time, more veggies, spices, and cheese were added turning supper time soup into the comfort meal it is today. If you’re up for an adventure, read on.

WISCONSIN BEER CHEESE SOUP

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped

1 yellow onion, diced

1 rib celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup flour

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard

2 cups light cream or milk, warmed

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

16 ounces beer

Popcorn for garnish

Instructions:

In a large skillet, warm olive oil. Add chopped carrots, diced onions, chopped celery, and minced garlic. Sauté until vegetables are tender, approximately 8-10 minutes. In a 4-quart pan, melt butter on low heat. Do not burn. Increase heat to medium-high and sprinkle in flour. Stir constantly while cooking. The flour mixture will turn a light brown. Add red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, sea salt, black pepper, and dry mustard. Mix well. Gradually pour in warmed milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps or scorching. It will thicken nicely. Add Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce. Sprinkle in shredded cheese, stirring constantly to melt the cheese. Slowly add beer and bring to a boil. Stir until foam disappears. Reduce heat to low setting. Add vegetable mixture to the cheese soup. Simmer 10 minutes. Serve with popcorn garnish.

Corn Fritter Flapjacks

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Corn Fritter Flapjacks! Add variety to your meals now that hearty comfort soups are on the menu as we stroll leisurely into Autumn. Old-fashioned corn fritters can be as simple as baked or pan fried cornbread. For variety, add sweet corn niblets, dried herbs and spices, or even shredded cheese. You may even be bold and cover them in maple syrup. As always, the key to great taste is in using natural and organic ingredients. I pulled out the old reliable cast iron skillet for frying simply because it maintains a more even heat exchange. Since it is already seasoned, the results mean no sticking and less oil is needed. Get cooking. Try something new tonight!

CORN FRITTER FLAPJACKS

Ingredients:

3/4 cup cornmeal

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 egg

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup sweet corn kernels

Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix well. Set aside. Pour milk into a small bowl; add white vinegar. Whisk the two together. Set aside for a few minutes to allow the milk to thicken. Add egg and olive oil. Whisk to blend wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir just until batter is moistened. Fold in sweet corn. Warm an iron skillet on the stovetop over medium heat. Brush the bottom with vegetable oil. Drop batter by spoonfuls onto the greased skillet. Cook until bubbles form around the edges, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat slightly, if necessary. Flip the flapjacks to cook the other side. Cook about 2 minutes longer so the outsides are crispy and the insides are fluffy. The corn fritters should be golden-to deep brown without burning. Repeat with remaining batter. Apply more oil as needed. Keep warm until ready to serve. Makes one dozen fritters.

Thai Peanut Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Thai Peanut Sauce! Known as a popular condiment for skewered meat or seafood in East Asian cuisine, peanut dipping sauce gets all the attention. Homemade Pad Thai is one example. After all, it’s no secret anyone can get addicted to peanut butter. Think about it. We add spicy chili peppers for heat, exotic curry for an earthy taste, coconut milk for authenticity. And depending on the day, there is no substitute for peanut butter and chocolate. Just saying.

THAI PEANUT SAUCE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup natural peanut butter, creamy

3/4 cup coconut milk, unsweetened

1/4 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

In a food processor, combine peanut butter, coconut milk, agave nectar, fresh lime juice, soy sauce, garlic powder, ground ginger, kosher salt, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour into a jar. Store in the refrigerator.

*Serving Suggestion: Skewered Shrimp with orange wedges and cilantro.

Zucchini Cornbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Zucchini Cornbread! Jazz up the breadbasket with homemade cornbread that has been enhanced with garden-fresh chopped zucchini and jalapeño peppers. Mix it together in a blend of cornmeal and cheddar cheese before popping it in the oven. Thirty minutes later the aromas rev up your appetite. Can you say “Yum”? Zucchini Cornbread goes especially well with grilled barbecue meats and seafood. Now this is how we kick off the summertime months.

ZUCCHINI CORNBREAD

Ingredients:

1 zucchini, chopped

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/4 cup skim milk

2-3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

For garnish, reserve a few zucchini slices, jalapeño pepper slices, and shredded cheese for topping

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a nonstick ovenproof dish or iron skillet with nonstick oil. Mix together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Set aside. Blend beaten eggs, vegetable oil, and skim milk. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients. Sir just until blended. Fold in chopped zucchini, chopped jalapeño peppers, red pepper flakes, and cheddar cheese. Pour into prepared iron skillet. If you prefer a garnish, place a couple zucchini slices and jalapeño pepper slices on top. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake 30-35 minutes until center is set and edges are crisp.

Apple Cinnamon Slab Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Apple Cinnamon Slab Pie! For those who were lucky enough to be gifted with one of the spectacular supermarket fruit baskets and are now wondering how to eat everything before it spoils, think outside the box. Citrus fruits can be refrigerated, as long as you don’t forget about them out-of-sight in the crisper drawer. And we all know what happens to bananas in the fridge. Ugh. Not a pretty sight. But today we’re going to talk about everyone’s favorite fruit, the mouth-watering juicy apple. In reality, slab pies are the grown-up version of a pop tart, only better. The apple filling is honest-to-goodness fruit instead of a smearing of sugary jam. And the crust is more than a pastry shell of dry dough. Its layers of flaky goodness and buttery deliciousness are magically separated by pockets of air.

APPLE CINNAMON SLAB PIE

Ingredients:

2 9-inch pie crusts, refrigerated dough

8 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon warm milk, if needed

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Set aside. Place sliced apples in a large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Gently toss. In another bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, sea salt, and nutmeg. Mix well. Pour over sliced apples. Toss to coat. Roll one prepared pie crust to fit the baking sheet. Trim the dough to only fit the bottom of the pan. If necessary, use the extra dough to fill in the corners. Spread apple filling over bottom crust. Roll out second pie crust. Place over the apple filling. Pierce top of dough with a fork in several places. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired. Bake 35-40 minutes. To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Stir until smooth. For a slightly thinner consistency, add the warm milk. Remove Apple Cinnamon Slab Pie from oven when the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbly. Cool slab pie on a wire rack for 10 minutes before pouring glaze over top. Spread to edges. When pie is cool, slice to serve.

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.

School Cafeteria Peanut Butter Bars

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: School Cafeteria Peanut Butter Bars! Remember the good old days when the grade school menu would come out and we’d peruse it like the Sears and Roebuck Christmas Catalog? We’d jump for joy when we saw Fish Sticks, Baked Meatloaf, Apple Crisp, Chocolate Cake, and Pizza Squares. On the other hand, Creamed Spinach made us wince and turn up our noses. Back then you had two options, buy a hot lunch ticket or bring a sack lunch from home. No in-betweens. As a general rule, the good canceled out the bad, especially in the category of scrumptious desserts. The “Lunchroom Ladies” really knew their business when it came down to sweets. Nobody could layer on the frosting like they could. And it was always homemade right there. I wonder who got to lick the spoon.

SCHOOL CAFETERIA PEANUT BUTTER BARS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup peanut butter, creamy

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 eggs, room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup flour

Ingredients for Icing:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, melted

2 tablespoons hot water

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9”x9” square baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside. Melt butter and peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl on 50% for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat, if necessary. Set aside to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, sift together sugar, brown sugar, and kosher salt. Whisk in one egg at a time until combined. Add vanilla extract. Whisk in peanut butter mixture until combined. Sift in flour; mix until flour disappears. Do not over mix. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until cake tester comes out with tiny moist crumbs. Cool pan on a wire rack. Once the pan has cooled, remove the cake from pan and transfer on the parchment paper to a rimmed baking sheet. Combine powdered sugar, creamy peanut butter, and hot water. Stir until frosting has a smooth consistency. Drizzle over dessert. Allow icing to set up before cutting into individual bars.

Eagle Brand Magic Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Eagle Brand Magic Cookies! One definition of the word magic is “wonderful; exciting”. That’s what these quick and easy holiday cookies are all about. The magic ingredient is the sweetened condensed milk. It may not be something you use everyday, but special occasions call for special ingredients. Homemade cookies are chocked full of sweetness in chocolate morsels, flaked coconut, and chopped pecans. How delightful and different. That’s what I call exciting. Create your own magical moment for the next festive gathering, after school snack, or weekend party-for-two.

EAGLE BRAND MAGIC COOKIES

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

7 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1/4 cup butterscotch chips

3 tablespoons sweetened coconut flakes

2 tablespoons pecans, finely chopped

Sugar, for dusting

Instructions:

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and sea salt. Set aside. Using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the sweetened condensed milk. Beat until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Fold in the mini chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, flaked coconut, and chopped pecans. Cover dough and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take a heaping teaspoon of cookie dough, roll into a ball, and place on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat. Bake 8-10 minutes; cool 2 minutes. Dust cookies with sugar and transfer to a wire rack. Enjoy!

Cereal Milk Smoothie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Cereal Milk Smoothie! After yesterday’s post, it’s only fair to give the kids equal time on a delicious treat. Grown-ups, simply tap your heels together to be transported back to a time where you started your day at the kitchen table with a bowl of your favorite cereal. Remember how the sugary sweet morsels crunched their way to mushy softness leaving the milk at the bottom of the bowl tasting like syrup? At that point my brother would put down his spoon and lift the bowl to his mouth to slurp up the remaining goodness. Of course Mother never saw it, as she was usually standing at the counter buttering toast with her back to us. Well nowadays, the nostalgic flavor of cereal milk smoothies are a thing. Anyone with a sugar addiction is jumping for joy. And why shouldn’t they? It brings out the inner child in all of us.

CEREAL MILK SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

1 cup Crispix* cereal

1/2 cup skim milk

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 banana, sliced and frozen

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons agave nectar, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sprinkles, for garnish

Instructions:

In a blender, combine cereal, skim milk, Greek yogurt, frozen banana slices, cinnamon, nutmeg, and one tablespoon agave nectar. Pulse until smooth. On a sheet of waxed paper, crush a few cereal pieces until almost fine. Add sprinkles; mix together. With the remaining agave nectar, apply to the rim of a glass. Dip the glass into the topping to coat the rim. Fill with cereal milk smoothie. Add a paper straw. Serve immediately.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.