What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Instant Dutch Baby! Be innovative. When my Hawaiian friend, Dillyn, sent me a care package of unique foods from the island, I knew I would make something special to show her. I began with the popular chocolate macadamia nut pancake mix, tweaked it a little, and transformed it into a festive weekend breakfast for two. Everything tastes better with chocolate, doesn’t it? With mini morsels in the batter as well as a sprinkling on top, the flavor was ribboned throughout making one forget about the need for extra syrup. A final dusting of powdered sugar provided a tempting image to share long distance. She approved with glee and open delight. Mahalo!
INSTANT DUTCH BABY
6 ounces chocolate macadamia nut pancake mix
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips, plus 1 tablespoon for topping
Powdered sugar, for garnish
Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a one-quart ovenproof baking dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Combine pancake mix, egg, and milk in a bowl. Using a wire whisk, mix until the large lumps are gone. Fold in 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips. Pour batter into the prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining mini chocolate chips on top. Bake 25 minutes until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Zippy Olive Pesto! Your last visit to the doctor may have been one where you received a good report, yet were advised to lean more toward a Mediterranean diet. What does that mean exactly, you wonder. In layman’s terms it simply suggests making a couple of substitutions in food choices to maintain a healthy weight, prevent heart disease, live longer, and travel often. “The healthy fats in olives are extracted to produce olive oil, one of the key components of the incredibly healthy Mediterranean diet”, according to Healthline, a provider of health information.* For many this may not be the advice you wish to hear, but for an olive-lover, like me, it is the Best.News.Ever.
ZIPPY OLIVE PESTO
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 bunch parsley, leaves only
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup organic green olives, chopped
3 tablespoons water (optional)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
In a skillet over medium-high heat, toast pine nuts turning occasionally until slightly golden, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a food processor, combine parsley leaves, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until almost smooth. Add toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Pulse slightly. With the machine running on low, drizzle in the olive oil until combined. Transfer pesto to a bowl. Fold in the chopped green olives. Add water, if needed. Season with kosher salt. Serve over toasted bread.
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What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Bored With Cheese? Anyone who has perused a deli market understands how confusing the cheese categories have become. The choices appear endless. Cheese can be aged for months, hand-rubbed with robust Italian spices, shelf-cured for optimal quality, or made with passion from a local dairy. Who knew? I recently picked up a “cheese flight” of three Wisconsin varieties. I loved the description detailing the best pairing options for fruits, nuts, and beverages. Not only is it a great way to try mild or robust cheeses, it turns a charcuterie board into a win, win for the night.
BORED WITH CHEESE?
3.5-ounce wedge Tuscan-rubbed fontina cheese
3-ounce wedge parmesan cheese
1.5-ounce edge bleu cheese
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced
1/2 cup walnut halves
Crackers and baguette slices
Arrange cheeses, apple slices, and walnut halves on a cutting board. Serve with crackers, sliced baguette, beer, and wine.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Outrageous Oatmeal Fudgies! Who doesn’t love No-Bake cookies? Forget about spending hours in the kitchen. This kid-friendly favorite can be ready in a flash. The toughest part is deciding if you want to top them off with a piece of candy corn, a walnut half, a maraschino cherry, or leave them plain. Either way, they won’t hang around long because…..(repeat after me)…Everyone loves peanut butter and chocolate!
OUTRAGEOUS OATMEAL FUDGIES
1/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
Dash sea salt
1/2 cup natural peanut butter, crunchy
2 cups whole grain oats
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine butter, sugar, milk, cocoa powder, and dash of salt in a 4-quart pan. Bring to boil over medium-high temperature. Stirring occasionally, boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Quickly add crunchy peanut butter, whole grain oats, and vanilla. Mix well. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Top with one piece of candy corn. Let stand until cool. Store in a covered container.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Kulfi with Pistachios and Lavender Buds! Kulfi is a type of homemade ice cream popular in Southeast Asia and India. This “instant” version can be made in your very own kitchen without the cost or hassle of an ice cream maker. Flavored with pistachio nuts and a hint of lavender make it a delectable frozen dessert worth crowing about.
KULFI WITH PISTACHIOS AND LAVENDER BUDS
10 ounces evaporated milk
1 cup heavy cream
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons cardamom
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1 teaspoon lavender buds, crushed
1 teaspoon lavender extract
Combine evaporated milk, heavy cream, and sweetened condensed milk. Blend until smooth. Add cardamom, pistachios, lavender buds, and lavender extract. Stir. Pour into bouchon molds, fluted pan, or popsicle molds. Freeze overnight. Before serving, dip the molds in warm water. Invert kulfi onto a dessert plate. Garnish with crushed pistachios.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Chef’s Plate! Pull together a party-friendly charcuterie platter where finger foods rule. Make it as elaborate as you choose, depending on the size of the guest list. Obviously for an intimate dinner for two, something like this is a perfect balance of contrasting flavors. Keep the bread crunchy and the jam or jelly sweet. It offsets the fatty, salty meat by cutting through the richness of the buttery cheese. The tartness of gherkins is a classic choice for nibbling in between. Be creative. Anything goes.
Jalapeño Pepper Jelly
Summer Sausage Sticks
Aged Bleu Cheese
Bite-size Dry Salami
Fill small condiment bowls with pepper jelly, baby gherkins, and assorted mixed nuts. Slice baguette. Rub with olive oil and bake in a 350° oven for 10 minutes. Turn over and bake 5 minutes longer. Place on a chef’s board or in a bread basket. Arrange cured hard sausages around the wedge of Bleu cheese. Slices red onion and “fan” near the bread. Once the food is arranged, open a bottle of wine, and enjoy the experience of grazing.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Butternut Squash Bisque! You’ll know this squash by its half-dumbbell cylindrical shape. Its tan skin can be tough to peel, so exert caution in preparation. This is nothing like peeling potatoes. I worked in small sections. Once the hard rind has been removed, cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. From there, cutting into chunks is a breeze. As with anything, the first time can seem challenging, but once you’ve experienced the taste of the sweet buttery orange flesh, you’ll find yourself wanting more.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH BISQUE
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut in 1″ chunks
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
4-6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 teaspoon thyme
14 ounces chicken broth
2 tablespoons dry roasted sunflower seeds
Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. In a large bowl, combine butternut squash, onion, and green pepper. Add olive oil and garlic. Season with kosher salt, seasoned salt, and cracked black pepper. Gently toss to coat evenly. Transfer to the baking sheet. Arrange in a single layer. Bake 15 minutes, turn over and bake 15 minutes longer until tender. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Set aside. Working in batches, transfer cooked vegetables to a food processor. Pulse to puréed consistency. Transfer to a heavy bottomed 4-quart pan. Add thyme and chicken broth. Blend well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately. Garnish with bacon crumbles, sunflower seeds, and fresh thyme.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Pumpkin Roll! Announcing a festive cake that looks as though you stopped by the bakery. Anyone can feel like a professional pastry chef with this holiday specialty. In a few simple steps, the rich pumpkin flavor is enhanced by the velvety cream filling. Afterwards all you have to do is sit back and bask in the accolades.
Ingredients for Pumpkin Roll:
2/3 cup pumpkin purée
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup chopped pecans
Ingredients for Velvet Filling:
8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 375°. Grease and line a 10″x15″ jelly roll pan with waxed paper. For pumpkin roll combine eggs, pumpkin purée, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and flour. Mix until well blended. Pour into jelly roll pan and spread evenly to edges. Sprinkle with chopped pecans. Bake 12-15 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove from oven. Sprinkle powdered sugar on a tea towel, turn cake onto towel, and remove the waxed paper. Starting at one end, roll the cake up, and refrigerate for one hour. Meanwhile, combine Neufchâtel cheese, vanilla, butter, and powdered sugar. Mix together until smooth and velvety. After one hour, unroll cake and spread the filling all the way to the edges. Reroll cake and refrigerate two hours longer. Dust with powdered sugar. Slice and serve.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Chocolate Chip Candied Cheese Ball! The most amazing surprise appears at first bite. Dark chocolate blended with sweetened cream cheese presents itself as a first class cheeseball that leaves everyone smacking their lips in satisfaction. The fun of swiping a cinnamon graham cracker cookie transforms this dessert in a mouth-watering finger food. Make this holiday surprise the happiest one yet.
CHOCOLATE CHIP CANDIED CHEESE BALL
1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup sugared pecans, crushed
Graham cracker sticks
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Slowly add powdered sugar. Mix until smooth and completely incorporated. Fold in mini chocolate chips. Chill two hours. On a sheet of waxed paper, sprinkle crushed sugared pecans. Form chilled mixture into a ball. Roll in pecan coating. Chill overnight. Serve with honey graham cracker sticks or cinnamon graham cracker sticks.