What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Furikake Party Mix! Popular in the Hawaiian Islands, furikake is a seasoning with leanings toward seaweed, sesame seeds, sea salt, and a pinch of sugar. It can be sprinkled on anything from popcorn to tuna. By taking a classic snack mix and adding a candied Japanese twist, you may leave the former far behind for awhile. To prove a point, I gave out jars of Furikake Party Mix to some friends of mine for taste-testing. After one bite, they eagerly devoured its contents within a couple days and then asked for more. Proof positive as far as I’m concerned.
FURIKAKE PARTY MIX
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons organic soy sauce
6 cups Crispix cereal
5 cups gluten-free pretzel twists
2 cups honey roasted peanuts
2 cups wasabi peas
1/2 cup furikake seasoning
2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
Preheat oven to 225°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Melt the butter and sugar over medium-low heat, about 3 minutes. When the sugar is melted, remove pan from stove and add vegetable oil, pure maple syrup, and organic soy sauce. Mix well. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine Crispix cereal, gluten-free pretzel twists, honey roasted peanuts, and wasabi peas. Slowly pour the butter mixture over all; gently turning the ingredients to coat well. Sprinkle on the furikake seasoning and red pepper flakes. Toss again to mix things up equally. Divide the cereal mixture between the two baking sheets. Bake for one hour, turning every 15 minutes to keep from scorching. (It may be necessary to alternate the pans between upper and lower oven racks for even browning.) The cereal will begin to dry as it bakes. After one hour, allow the Furikake Party Mix to cool before storing in airtight jars or containers.
“Spring is Nature’s way of saying,
~ Robin Williams
Festive Foods! Good times naturally accompany good food. Every family has its favorites. Some indulge in time-worn traditions while others enjoy modern classics. As you embrace the holidays with companionship, nostalgia, food, or festivities, celebrate the spirit of the season. In the next few weeks, join me as I share favorite foods as well as healthy options. Bring it home for the holidays with Festive Foods! Follow me on Instagram @gail_dorna or check in with me on Twitter @Snapshotsincursive.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Rum Raisin Cookies! Before you turn the page, let me clarify…you can choose to omit the rum in this recipe and substitute with water and opt for rum extract instead. Either way, if you’re a raisin-lover, this version puts the “plump” in raisin to make them moist and chewy. In the time it takes to preheat the oven and assemble the remaining ingredients, the raisins are ready to use. Trust me, everyone will thank you!
RUM RAISIN COOKIES
2 cups raisins
1 cup dark rum
3 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium saucepan, combine raisins and rum. Bring to a boil; boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the alcohol has evaporated. Set aside; do not drain. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside. Cream butter. Gradually add sugar, mixing until creamy. Add the slightly beaten eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Gradually add the flour mixture, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl. Mix thoroughly before folding in the raisins and chopped almonds. Drop with a tablespoon 2″ apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake 12-13 minutes. Cool on wired rack.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Relish Charcuterie! Everyone knows the best defense is a good offense, especially when it comes to group gatherings and holiday parties. Low-calorie items are always a wise choice. Keep it healthy with a nice assortment of raw veggies packed with nutrients and fiber. Besides, they’re colorful and festive. By filling a plate with appealing choices like these, you can splurge later on with a sampling of dessert.
1 head celery, with stalks and ribs
3 large carrots, cut into strips
7 ounces pimento stuffed queen olives
10 ounces grape tomatoes
1 pint sweet gherkins
8 ounces wild caper berries
6 ounces Kalamata olives, pitted
12 ounces imported pepperoncinis
1 bunch garden radishes
1 red onion, thinly sliced
Wash all fresh vegetables in cold water. Pat dry on paper towels. Chop and slice as needed in unique shapes. Use small dip bowls for height and color. Arrange ingredients on a nice platter so designs are appealing to the eye. It is better to keep it looking full by switching around shapes and color. Small plates and toothpicks or skewers encourage snacking.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Sipping Sangria! The weather is great, the weekend is here. Get ready to party. Psst. Wine lovers lean in. This crowd-pleasing punch can be thrown together beforehand since the flavor gets better with time. Choose your favorite dry red wine. No worries. It’ll sweeten up from the chopped fruit, juices, and agave nectar. Hold the fizziness until just before serving. The colors are not only festive but invigorating. Then sit back, cool off, and sip away.
5 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup apricot brandy
1/2 cup orange liqueur
1 1/2 cups blood orange juice
1/4 cup grenadine
1/4 cup agave nectar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 cups sparkling water or carbonated beverage
1 lime, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 orange, sliced
1 apple, cut in wedges
Grapes for garnish
In a large pitcher, combine dry red wine, apricot brandy, orange liqueur, blood orange juice, grenadine, agave nectar, fresh lemon juice, and fresh lime juice. Stir well. Add lime, lemon, orange slices and apple wedges. Refrigerate for one hour. Before serving, add sparkling water. Stir. Fill stemmed glasses with ice, add sangria, and garnish with fruit.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Goat Cheese Wonton Appetizers! If you want an amazing appetizer that can be made in a flash, look no further. We’re all pretty familiar with those tiny pastry cups located in the freezer section of the supermarket. But have you seen the price? It’s ridiculous. Back away and take a turn to the dairy aisle instead. Pick up a package of wonton wrappers, a roll of goat cheese, a block of cream cheese, and a jar of bacon jam.* In no time at all, these festive cuties will have “party” written all over them. Remember, you’re allowed one taste-test, but fight the urge to eat any more than that before the guests arrive.
GOAT CHEESE WONTON APPETIZERS
48 wonton wrappers, 12-ounce package
4-ounce goat cheese
4-ounce cream cheese
12-ounce jar bacon jam*
Preheat oven to 350°. Coat two 12-cup mini-muffin pans with nonstick oil. Cut corners off wonton wrappers to make an octagon shape. Using your fingers, gently press one wrapper into each cup. Press down without puncturing dough. Lightly spritz wrappers with cooking oil. Bake until golden brown, 8-9 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Transfer cups to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining wrappers. Meanwhile, combine goat cheese and cream cheese. Blend until smooth. Drop by scant spoonful in each wonton cup. Top with a dollop of bacon ham. Place the appetizers on a baking sheet. Bake filled wontons for 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Serve warm.
*To make your own Bacon Jam, use the following link.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Cocktail Shrimp Minis! Being a “grazer” can reap advantageous health benefits, in my opinion. Not only are the portions much smaller, but you get to eat every few hours which keeps hunger pangs under control. The rule of thumb is to choose foods high in nutrients and low in sugar, salt, and fat. The key to successful grazing is to prepare things ahead of time. That way when you open the refrigerator, you are drawn to easy choices. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?
COCKTAIL SHRIMP MINIS
1 dozen fresh shrimp, precooked
1 cup fresh salad greens
8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened
1/2 cup seafood cocktail sauce
1 tablespoon horseradish
Place salad greens in the bottom of a single serving glass. Divide the block of Neufchâtel cheese into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball. Place one cheese ball in each glass. Combine seafood cocktail sauce with horseradish. Drizzle sauce evenly over each cheese ball. Skewer one shrimp and insert into each glass, piercing the cheese ball. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Special Edition: Cross-Cross Party Loaf! Every buffet table should offer this yummy garlic cheese bread as a grande centerpiece. It commands attention by its savory aroma, golden crust, and strings of ooey-gooey cheese. Oh. My. Gosh. Choose any artisan bread: sesame, sourdough, rye, baguette, or round. No matter how many times you make it, you’ll be the hit of every gathering. Bread-lovers unite!
CRISS-CROSS PARTY LOAF
1 loaf artisan bread
6 ounces Havarti cheese, sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon marjoram
1/8 teaspoon basil
1-2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the artisan bread on the baking sheet. Cut the bread diagonally in a crisscross design, stopping near the base without cutting through. Combine olive oil, garlic powder, sea salt, oregano, marjoram, and basil. Mix well. Cut each slice of Harvarti cheese into strips. Separate each segment and brush with olive oil mixture. Place a strip of cheese in each crack. Repeat until the bread is saturated. Wrap bread in foil. Bake for 15 minutes until cheese is melted. Unwrap foil. Drizzle with melted butter; sprinkle with dill weed. Bake 5 minutes longer. Serve warm. Guests may pull apart crusty segments as needed.