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.

Date Chile Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Date Chile Salad! One of the best kept secrets in cooking is infused olives oils. It kicks things up a notch. The flavors intensify ordinary ingredients by beginning with organic and aromatic extra virgin olive oils, which in turn, are infused with delightful natural flavors. Some oils contain the essence of herbs, while others may be crushed with fresh citrus or toasted seeds. Be adventurous. Visit a specialty store where premium olive oils and balsamic vinegars are sold. Most stores offer samples to encourage “taste testing”. One of my favorites is Lime Olive Oil and Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar. Another is Sicilian Lemon Olive Oil paired with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar. Recently I added an Italian Black Truffle Oil to my collection. I was told it tastes divine drizzled over popcorn or as a finishing oil on pizza. I can’t wait!

DATE CHILE SALAD

Ingredients:

2 navel oranges, pith and peel removed

1/3 cup dried dates, chopped

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 red or green jalapeño pepper, sliced into rings

1/2 serrano chile pepper, sliced into rings

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

1-2 tablespoons lime olive oil

Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Slice oranges into thin rounds. Arrange on two salad plates or bowls. Divide chopped dates between them. Sprinkle on crumbled feta cheese. Add jalapeño and serrano pepper rings. Tuck in mint leaves. Drizzle lime olive oil over salads. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Serve.

Herbed Watercress Pistachio Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Herbed Watercress Pistachio Salad! Everyone knows leafy greens can supercharge your diet. But not everyone is crazy about kale and arugula. Ask my husband. The strong pungent flavors of the former can step aside, as far as I’m concerned. Watercress is the new sheriff in town. Its delicate leaves reveal a slight hint of horseradish or wasabi, but with a crispier texture. To combat the bitter tang, simply add a nice citrus fruit along with the ancient royal pistachio nut. Did you know the Queen of Sheba found pistachios so delightful, she declared it was forbidden for commoners to harvest pistachio nuts for themselves? Alas, I digress. Watercress is the star attraction. Rich in vitamins, iron, calcium, and folic acid, its roots thrive in creek bottoms where clear running water encourages natural growth. Most farmers cultivate it in very wet ground providing constant moisture. Ask around at the Farmers Markets. It sells quickly to those who desire it.

HERBED WATERCRESS PISTACHIO SALAD

Ingredients:

1 bunch watercress, roots trimmed

8 leaves fresh basil

8-10 leaves fresh mint

20 leaves Mexican tarragon

1/2 cup mandarin orange slices

1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup pistachio nuts, lightly toasted

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 drop orange extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:

Arrange watercress, basil, mint, and Mexican tarragon on a platter. Tuck mandarin orange slices and red onion pieces throughout. Sprinkle toasted pistachio nuts over all. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, orange extract, sea salt, and pepper. Slowly add olive oil while continuing to whisk. Dressing will emulsify. Before serving, drizzle salad dressing evenly over salad.

White Chocolate Lavender Berry Scones

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: 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.

Lemon Curd Tarts

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Holiday Food Gifts: 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.

Vodka Jello Shots

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Vodka Jello Shots! As a child of the ’60s, one of my favorite desserts was fruit-flavored gelatin. Sometimes it would have sliced bananas, strawberries, carrots, or fruit cocktail mixed in. The recipe was pretty simple. Add water and stir. Nowadays, substituting part of the water for a popular distilled spirit turns a childhood dessert into a slurpable cocktail. Drink responsibly.

VODKA JELLO SHOTS

Ingredients:

3-ounce package orange gelatin

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup iced water

1/2 cup vodka

Fresh mint leaves

Instructions:

Empty contents of orange gelatin packet into a large bowl. Add boiling water. Stir until completely dissolved, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add iced water and vodka. Stir well. Pour into shot glasses. Refrigerate four hours or until set. Garnish with fresh mint before serving.

USA Happy Snack

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: USA Happy Snack! Did I ever tell you I spent my childhood surrounded by apple trees? It’s one of my favorite memories, growing up in the Midwest. If I was in a feisty mood, I’d nibble on sour green apples. Forget that my impatience may have caused a tart pursing of the lips and a slight ache in the stomach. As the apples ripened, I’d pluck the prettiest one off the tree, rub it against my knee for a mirrored sheen, and admire its beauty. Sometimes I’d twist the stem until it broke, reciting my ABCs. Whatever letter I was on when the stem splintered away became the name of my next boyfriend. But not if it matched my brothers’ names. That didn’t count. Here’s to all-American healthy food wrapped up in a little nostalgia.

USA HAPPY SNACK

Ingredients:

1 Gala apple, cored and sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 slices smoked Virginia ham

4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thick

Fresh mint

Instructions:

Brush the sliced apples with lemon juice to prevent browning. Cut the ham slices in half. Take one apple slice and place it on top of a piece of cheddar cheese. Wrap them with one piece of ham, seam side down. Tuck a sprig of fresh mint into the snack. Enjoy!

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.

Blackberry Jam ‘n Bourbon Milkshake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Blackberry Jam ‘n Bourbon Milkshake! Grownups have all the fun, especially when it comes to boozy milkshakes. Every so often, alcohol plus ice cream equals a dessert worth noting. This particular concoction brings out the natural fruitiness of fresh blackberries when mixed with bourbon’s rich brown sugar flavor. Vanilla bean serves as an enhancement among the silky smooth ice cream. To keep from slugging it back like a jigger shot, use a paper straw for sipping. After all, there’s nothing worse than a triple-whammy alcoholic brain freeze. Drink responsibly. For Adults Only.

BLACKBERRY JAM ‘N BOURBON MILKSHAKE

Ingredients:

3 ounces bourbon

10 blackberries

2 teaspoons blackberry jam

2 ounces light cream

3 scoops vanilla bean ice cream

Fresh blackberries, for garnish

Fresh mint, for garnish

Instructions:

In a blender, combine bourbon, fresh blackberries, blackberry jam, light cream, and vanilla bean ice cream. Blend until smooth. Pour into vintage milk bottles or soda fountain glasses. Add a paper straw. Garnish with fresh berries and mint leaves.