What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Dang Good Mac & Cheese! I just cranked up this all-time favorite dish a notch, maybe two. Cheddar cheesy? It’s in there. Mozzarella madness? Oh, yeah. Palatable parmesan? Absolutely. Sooo, what’s the big deal, you wonder. Well…I kinda switched out the macaroni pasta noodles for gnocchi’s pillow-like tender dumplings that swaddle themselves in a blanket of creamy cheese sauce. Hold on. Then I topped it all with a buttery crunch topping of panko and Italian bread crumbs. Mmmwah! Life doesn’t get any better that this.
DANG GOOD MAC & CHEESE
1-pound package gnocchi
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup milk, warmed
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup panko and Italian bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Parsley, for garnish
Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook the gnocchi, according to package directions. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, and set aside. Whisk together cornstarch and chicken broth in a measuring cup until completely dissolved. Set aside. Warm olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic. Sauté 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Slowly add cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly to make a light brown roux. Add warm milk, stirring until smooth as the mixture reaches a low boil. Remove pan from heat; stir in mozzarella, cheddar, and parmesan cheeses until melted and smooth. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Pour the cheese sauce over the gnocchi until evenly coated. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Combine panko and Italian seasoned breadcrumbs with the melted butter. Sprinkle over the cheesy gnocchi. Bake 15 minutes to brown the topping. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Vietnamese Iced Coffee! It isn’t often I feature a beverage, but I realized from time to time you may have the desire to try something different there as well. Years ago my friend, Yen, shared her family recipe for incredible Vietnamese iced coffee. She went one step further and supplied me with everything I would need to make it, including the single serving Vietnamese coffee filter set. The results were glorious!
VIETNAMESE ICED COFFEE
2 tablespoons dark roast ground coffee (preferably Trung Nguyen Premium Blend and Café Du Monde Coffee with Chicory*)
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
Bring the water to a boil. Remove the top screen from filter. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons Vietnamese coffee grounds plus 1/2 tablespoon coffee with chicory. Screw on top screen. Place filter over a heatproof glass measuring cup. Begin with a splash of boiling water into the filter. Coffee grounds will bloom. As the coffee begins to drip through, fill boiling water to top of filter. Place lid on filter and let coffee drip for 4 minutes. If the dripping stops, gently loosen screw to relieve pressure. Stir in sweetened condensed milk. Pour over ice and serve.
* I receive no recompense for mentioning Trung Nguyen Premium Blend and Café Du Monde Coffee with Chicory.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Iced Coconut Milk Banana Smoothie! Try something new today. Rev up your morning routine with a nutritious alternative to steel-cut oats. Delight your senses with a sweet-tasting banana infused smoothie. The hint of dark chocolate bathed in tropical coconut creaminess makes it go down with a smile. What better way to include a serving of fresh fruit on a daily basis.
ICED COCONUT MILK BANANA SMOOTHIE
1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon dark chocolate syrup
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon natural honey
4-5 ice cubes
Nutmeg for garnish
Mini chocolate chips for garnish
In a blender, combine banana slices, chocolate syrup, coconut milk, vanilla extract, Greek yogurt, and honey. Pulse to chop bananas. Add ice cubes. Increase speed to liquefy smoothie. Pour into a glass. Sprinkle with nutmeg and mini chocolate chips. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Eagle Brand Caramel Rum Sauce! For caramel-lovers all over the world, this recipe can be your legacy. It’s rich, it’s thick, it’s buttery, and it’s laced with a hint of dark rum that gets the party started. Take a moment to tick off the countless ways you can drizzle caramel sauce over food. Spread it on toast, then sprinkle with cinnamon. Add it to coffee for a smooth latte. Turn it into an apple dip coated with salted peanuts. Whip it into pudding or smoothies. Top off a bowl of ice cream. You get the idea. If your imagination stalls out, simply dip a teaspoon into the jar and enjoy the caramel sauce all by itself.
EAGLE BRAND CARAMEL RUM SAUCE
14-ounce can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 425°. Pour sweetened condensed milk into a 9-inch pie plate. Cover with foil. Carefully place the pie plate into a shallow pan. Fill the larger pan with 1/2 inch hot water. It will surround the pie plate. Bake 2 hours or until sauce is thick and caramel in color. Remove larger pan from oven. Take the pie plate out; remove foil and pour caramel into a large bowl. Using a hand mixer, beat on LOW speed for one minute. Add dark rum and vanilla extract. Continue beating on LOW speed until liquid is blended. Increase speed to HIGH for one minute longer. Caramel will appear smooth and creamy. Cool 15 minutes before serving. Store in the refrigerator.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Yesterday’s Cucumber Soup. Here we go again with another cold soup option. It may sound like an oxymoron, but actually if I called it a Cucumber Smoothie, would you drink it? Perhaps. Tell me this, how many times have you been served ice water with a cucumber slice in it? Or grabbed a hydrating plant-based juice beverage at the corner convenience store? Get the picture. It’s all about the perspective. If you find it challenging to eat cold soup, or just plain WRONG…by all means, pour it into a glass and slurp away. To quote William Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Carry on.
YESTERDAY’S CUCUMBER SOUP
4 mini seedless cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1 gala apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 green onion, chopped
2-3 basil leaves
1/4 cup almond milk, unsweetened
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
Diced apple, tomato bits, chive snips, and basil leaf for garnish
Reserving garnish to taste, place all remaining I ngredients in a blender. Alternate between Pulse and Liquify settings to purée until smooth. Transfer cucumber mixture into a covered container. Refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight until chilled. Divide into shallow bowls. Serve garnished with apple chunks, diced tomatoes, chopped chives, and basil.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream! Years ago my best friend was a specialty brand of Turkish coffee ice cream. I was working two jobs, averaging mostly 70-hour work weeks, seven days nonstop to support myself, and help my kids through college. I also admit I was hiding out from “Life”. Many evenings I’d come home, crash on the sofa, and open a pint of the creamiest concoction laced with butterscotch topping I’d ever tasted. It was bliss. Since then, the company stopped making it in favor of more popular flavors like banana chocolate chunk and coconut almond chip. Seriously? Oh well, that left me with no recourse but to make it myself. Between you and me…I think I knocked it out of the park!*
NO-CHURN COFFEE ICE CREAM
2 1/2 tablespoons espresso instant coffee
2 tablespoons warm water
2 cups heavy cream
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dark chocolate covered espresso beans, chopped
Butterscotch Ice Cream Topping
In a small bowl, dissolve instant coffee in warm water. Stir well. Set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat the heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract on High speed for 4 minutes until smooth and thick. Reduce speed to Low. Add the prepared coffee; continue until blended. Fold in chopped espresso beans. Spoon ice cream into a loaf pan. Cover tightly and freeze overnight. Scoop into bowls and sprinkle with espresso before serving. Drizzle with butterscotch topping, to taste.
*The secret to my success was chilling the utensils overnight in the freezer and making sure all the ingredients were refrigerator cold.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Eagle Brand Chocolate Fudge Sauce! Have you had your chocolate “fix” today? This homemade sauce can be served over ice cream, banana splits, fresh fruit, pound cake, or even drizzled into your morning coffee. The secret ingredient, Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, is really no secret. It has been around since 1856. Truth. It was originally invented as a safe and wholesome milk product for the military. The fact that it provided nourishment for infants and children was a bonus. Besides, when Elsie the Cow became the spokes-cow at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, its popularity spread all over the globe. Every kitchen pantry should keep a can or two on the shelf.
EAGLE BRAND CHOCOLATE FUDGE SAUCE
1 14-ounce can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a 2-quart glass measuring cup, combine sweetened condensed milk, chocolate morsels, butter, and water. Microwave on High power for a total of 3 minutes, stirring at one-minute increments. Add almond extract and vanilla extract. Microwave 30 seconds longer. Stir until smooth. Serve warm. Pour extra sauce into a jar; cover, and refrigerate.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Frangelico Fudge Topping! It may have been awhile, but the smooth taste of Frangelico Italian liqueur is not forgotten. Need I remind you it has the same hints of chocolate and toasted hazelnut you practically eat out of a jar? Think Nutella, silly. If it were a cocktail, it would go by this name, with an added punch of alcohol. And since we’re talking dessert, let’s move on to this amazing fudge topping that works on anything from ice cream to waffles. Now I’ve got your attention.
FRANGELICO FUDGE TOPPING
1 cup butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3 cups sugar
12-ounces evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur
Combine butter, cocoa powder, sugar, and evaporated milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla extract and Frangelico liqueur. Stir well. Serve immediately over desserts or waffles. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Instant Mac ‘n Cheese! Face it. Every once in awhile the craving hits us to settle into a comfy chair with a warm bowl of Mac ‘n Cheese. Most pantries have all the ingredients you need to make it at home in a flash. Pasta, butter, milk, cheese, and seasonings. If you don’t have elbow macaroni, substitute ziti. If you’re low on cheddar cheese, use a couple slices of Velveeta instead. It’s all good. Sprinkle the gooey Mac ‘n Cheese with Cajun seasoning for extra zest. Oh, yeah!
INSTANT MAC ‘N CHEESE
4 ounces pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup milk
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Dash of Cajun seasoning
Cook pasta according to package directions. In medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour and sea salt. Stir until smooth. Raise heat to medium. Slowly add milk, stirring occasionally. Cook until bubbly. Add cheese and stir well until melted. Drain pasta. Blend with cheese sauce stirring to coat. Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning.