Lemon Garlic Hummus

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Lemon Garlic Hummus! If you go crazy over hummus and veggies, here’s a variation that adds flavorful notes of citrus. The use of pink-colored Himalayan salt equals an added bonus of less sodium than table salt plus trace elements of healthy minerals like iron, which translates to protein that maintains good body chemistry. But that’s the boring news. The best part, in my opinion, is the guilt-free buttery taste of hummus. Discover how one creamy spoonful practically melts in your mouth. Then scoop away with crisp and zesty radish slices. It’s finger food on steroids.

LEMON GARLIC HUMMUS

Ingredients:

15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained, hulls removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt

2 teaspoons sesame oil

Paprika, toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Radish slices, for serving

Instructions:

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, pink Himalayan salt, and sesame oil. Press Pulse to blend until very smooth. If necessary, add a tablespoon of water to create a smoother consistency. Transfer hummus to a serving bowl. Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika and toasted sesame seeds. Serve with sliced radishes.

Vegan Charcuterie Board

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Vegan Charcuterie Board! Here’s your solution to what to bring to the next holiday party. Choose popular garden veggies, distinct to the season. Arrange them on a charcuterie board with nuts and flavorful dips. Peruse the local farmers’ market or produce section of your nearest grocers. With a little effort, the Vegan Charcuterie Board can be the star attraction for office pitch-ins, family gatherings, and other festive occasions. Check it out!

VEGAN CHARCUTERIE BOARD

Ingredients:

Carrot sticks

Asparagus spears

Celery sticks

Cherry tomatoes

Mini cucumbers, sliced

Radishes, quartered

Yellow sweet peppers, sliced

Green olives, stuffed

Kalamata olives, pitted

Pistachios in shell

Assorted crackers

Ingredients for Hummus:

15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1/2 cup tahini paste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon lemon olive oil

1 tablespoon capers

Using a food processor, pulse chickpeas until smooth. Add tahini paste, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, cumin powder, and sea salt. Process until mixed. Transfer hummus to a shallow bowl. Drizzle with lemon olive oil. Garnish with capers.

Ingredients for Dill Dip:

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon dill weed

1 teaspoon capers

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

Combine Neufchâtel cheese and prepared horseradish. Stir until smooth. Fold in dill weed, capers, and chives. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Zinfandel Pairings

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Zinfandel Pairings! Just when I thought I’d seen it all, there in the produce department perched on the bottom shelf below its green and red cousins, was a small bin of larger-than-life black seedless grapes. Immediately I was intrigued. The hand-scribbled sign boasted sweet and tart beyond your wildest dreams. That’s it. Nothing more than “Product of USA” on the package. It didn’t matter. It was love-at-first-sight. I knew immediately that a Zinfandel wine and tangy cheese would join the impromptu Date Night that was forming in my mind. Later on, after I got home, I read all kinds of powerful benefits these precious little gems do for the body, mind, and soul. What a perfect prologue for guilt-free delicacies.

ZINFANDEL PAIRINGS

Ingredients:

1 pound black seedless grapes

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 ounces feta cheese, block

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup honeycomb

Multigrain French Bread slices, lightly toasted

Raw Honey, for drizzling

Lemon Thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. In a small dish, combine olive oil, sugar, kosher salt, and black pepper. Wash cluster of black grapes; pat dry. Place grapes on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, generously coat the grapes with the olive oil mixture. Roast for 30 minutes. Grapes will release juice and begin to wrinkle. Remove pan from oven to cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Break the feta cheese into rough chunks. Transfer to a baking dish sprayed with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon zest. Drizzle with raw honey. Bake for 15 minutes until softened. Broil until slightly golden. Watch carefully. To serve, spread warm cheese on toasted baguette slices. Top with a piece of honeycomb. Place a roasted grape over the cheese. Drizzle with raw honey. Garnish with lemon thyme. Serve with a slightly chilled glass of red Zinfandel.

Xmas Pizzelle Cookies

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Festive Food Gifts: Xmas Pizzelle Cookies! I’m obsessed with food that has eye appeal. That’s one reason I was drawn to pizzelles, a traditional Italian waffle cookie. I could make you crazy by telling you we’re going to make them from scratch, but hey, my time is in high demand just like yours. Besides, since I don’t own a pizzelle iron, sometimes it’s better to leave things to an expert. I’m here today to save you time when someone suggests a Holiday Cookie Exchange. Pick up a package of Classic Italian Pizzelles on your way home from work, dip the cookies in melted chocolate, and sprinkle with nuts. You can thank me later when you’re sitting back relaxing with a glass of wine.

XMAS PIZZELLE COOKIES

Ingredients:

7-ounce package Vanilla Flavored Pizzelle Cookies

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 ounces pistachios, chopped

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine semisweet chocolate chips and vegetable oil. Heat in microwave on 50% setting for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat in 30-second intervals until melted. Stir until smooth. Dip half of each pizzelle cookie into melted chocolate. Sprinkle both sides with chopped pistachios. Place on baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set.

Xmas Crinkle Cookies

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Xmas Crinkle Cookies! Shortcuts are the key to success for that next cookie-exchange the kids forgot to tell you about. “Oh yeah, Mom, sorry.” No worries. Head to the kitchen to clang some pans around, preheat the oven, and dust a little powdered sugar on your nose. They’ll be none the wiser. By the time the house begins to smell like a neighborhood bakery, you’ll have rows of cookies lined up ready to be boxed. And if you’re one of those organized parents, just so you know, these cookies freeze well. Arrange them in a freezer gallon bag, layered between squares of waxed paper. I have literally taken these crinkle cookies out of the freezer and handed them to a little girl to eat. Other than being slightly chilled, they retain a chewiness that makes them simply delicious. You deserve a pat on the back. You’re welcome.

XMAS CRINKLE COOKIES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup powdered sugar, for dusting

15.25-ounce box strawberry cake mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs, room temperature

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place powdered sugar in a shallow dish. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine strawberry cake mix, vegetable oil, and eggs. Stir until a dough forms. Chill dough for 20 minutes. Shape dough into 1” balls. Roll in powdered sugar and place 2” apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes, or until center is just set. Remove pan from oven; cool for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack. Dust with more powdered sugar.

Mincemeat Quick Bread

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Mincemeat Quick Bread! Don’t look at me that way. I know what you’re thinking. “If this recipe has mincemeat in it, I’m not eating it.” But hold on a sec. There are plenty of foods with names that sound downright gross. Think about it: head cheese, tripe, mung beans, and blood sausage to name a few. I’m here to tell you mincemeat is a sweet and savory filling that basically contains dried fruits, citrus, spices, and brandy. Ahhh. Now I have your attention. This particular recipe has about 1/4 cup apricot brandy in it. Just know if you do choose to add brandy or rum to a jar of prepared mincemeat, be sure to allow it to marinate in the refrigerator at least 8 hours before using. Now you can understand why some people eat it straight out of the jar.

MINCEMEAT QUICK BREAD

Ingredients:

1 egg, room temperature

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon orange zest

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 cups prepared mincemeat pie filling (with 1/4 cup apricot brandy, optional)

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9”x5” loaf pan. Set aside. Combine egg, vegetable oil, orange zest, orange juice, and mincemeat pie filling. Stir until well blended. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring just until combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Check loaf with a cake tester to make sure center is done. Remove from oven. Cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve.

New Asparagus Spears

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: New Asparagus Spears! Every once in awhile I have an “Ah-ha” moment when I come across fresh produce that I haven’t seen in awhile. This was one of those times. New asparagus smells clean and earthy. It also looks incredibly bright green with splashes of purple on the tips, which should be tightly closed. Make sure the stalks are firm and straight. If they seem to bend quite easily, they’ve already begun to wilt. Put them back. Personally, I prefer the thinner stalks simply because they cook much faster.

NEW ASPARAGUS SPEARS

Ingredients:

15-16 asparagus spears

1/2 red onion, sliced

1/2 cup caper berries, halved

2 tablespoons olive oil

Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste

Fennel stalks, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Wash and trim asparagus spears. Place into an iron skillet. Arrange the red onion slices and caper berries. Brush generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, or until slightly charred. Remove from oven and garnish with fennel stalks. Serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Stacks

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Sweet Potato Stacks! Bring gourmet taste, with a quirk of presentation, to the dinner table tonight. It’s not rocket science. In fact, you may find yourself giggling at how ridiculously simple this is to make. When I pierced each stack with a rosemary sprig, my husband nearly fell out of his chair in amusement. (It’s not at all necessary. The sweet potato stacks stand upright on their own.) Roasted in a muffin tin, and drizzled with pure maple syrup are two trade secrets you can share with others. Or keep to yourself. Either way, it’s a tower of Yum.

SWEET POTATO STACKS

Ingredients:

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick oil. In a bowl, mix together olive oil, rosemary leaves, and garlic powder. Coat slices of sweet potatoes. Place a slice of sweet potato in each muffin cup. Top with parmesan cheese between layers of potato slices. Continue until the muffin cup is filled. Going above the top is okay since the cooked sweet potatoes will shrink a little. Repeat with remaining sweet potato slices. Drizzle maple syrup over each stack. Sprinkle extra parmesan cheese over all. Bake stacks 35-40 minutes until tender. Transfer to a serving plate. Spoon reserve maple syrup mixture over top. Garnish with fresh rosemary.

Grilled Romaine with Strawberries

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Grilled Romaine with Strawberries! I call this a lazy cook’s meal. After all, it’s pretty simple. More than likely, most ingredients are probably there in the fruit and vegetable crispers of the refrigerator. You know, those drawers down at the bottom that regulate humidity. (Quick tutorial: most fruits like LOW humidity, most vegetables like HIGH humidity. If set correctly, everything stays fresher and crisper longer.) Heat up the grill, sear the romaine, layer on ripe strawberries, red onion slices, and shaved parmesan cheese. Drizzle olive oil over all. You’re done. The hubs will think you planned the meal with attention to detail. Just nod your head and smile.

GRILLED ROMAINE WITH STRAWBERRIES

Ingredients:

1 romaine heart, cut lengthwise

Nonstick olive oil spray

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 pint strawberries, sliced in half, stems removed

1/4 red onion, sliced

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shaved

1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat grill to 400°. Spray both sides of romaine halves with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Place cut side down on the hot grill. Sear 3 minutes, until charred. Carefully flip over and sear 3 minutes longer until slightly wilted. Transfer to a platter. Layer with fresh strawberries and red onion slices. Drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.