Furikake Party Mix

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Apple Butter Bars

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Apple Butter Bars! What if I told you there was no “butter” in apple butter? Would you wrinkle your brow and say, “Whaaat?” It’s true. Apple butter is made by slow-cooking apples a long time until the sugar content caramelizes, giving it a deep brown color. I skipped the homemade process by choosing to purchase an organic brand made by one of my favorite country restaurants. You can, too, by visiting local farmers who are more than willing to share their bounty this time of year. It’s Applelicious!

APPLE BUTTER BARS

Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 cups natural apple butter

1 gala apple, peeled and chopped

1/3 cup peanuts, chopped

1/4 cup brown sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9”x13” pan. Set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Mix flour, sea salt, and baking soda together. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture. Spread 3/4 of batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon. Spread apple butter on top. Layer chopped apple pieces over all. Fill in with chopped peanuts. Crumble remaining batter on top. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake 30-35 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into 24 squares.

Taffy Apple Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Taffy Apple Salad! Wait a minute….is this allowed?! I can’t resist a sweet caramel apple this time of year. Or two. So to balance the blend of flavors ranging from sweet to tart to salty, I threw in some healthy greens, cheese, and cinnamon. Make sense? The old fashioned taste of ooey-chewy caramel turns an ordinary salad into an autumn festival. Join the party.

TAFFY APPLE SALAD

Ingredients:

Leaves of Romaine lettuce

1 caramel apple with nuts

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, finely shredded

1/4 cup Spanish peanuts

Cinnamon to taste

Instructions:

Gently tear romaine lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Cut the caramel apple into wedges to remove the stick and eliminate the seeds. Add to the salad. Top with Parmesan cheese and Spanish peanuts. Sprinkle cinnamon over apples.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter H

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Hawaiian Crunch PB Bars! When I asked my grandson what his favorite food was, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s easy, Nana. It’s peanut butter.” It was all I needed to know to head to my kitchen to prepare something special for him for the weekend. By twitching things up a bit with Hawaiian shortbread cookies, the results produced an amazing crunch that teamed well with the hazelnut spread frosting. How’s that for double coverage? His opinion, you wonder? Being a teenager, a thumb’s up was approval enough. 
HAWAIIAN CRUNCH PB BARS
Ingredients:

12 ounces Hawaiian banzai furikake shortbread cookies or vanilla wafers

1 cup butter, room temperature 

1 cup natural peanut butter, chunky

2 cups powdered sugar

12 ounces mini semisweet chocolate chips

13 ounces hazelnut cocoa spread

1/2 cup honey roasted peanuts, chopped 
Instructions:

Pulse cookies in a food processor until crumbly. Set aside. Spray a 9”x13” pan with nonstick oil. Combine butter and natural chunky peanut butter until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar until blended. Next fold in cookie crumbs and mini chocolate chips. Mix to combine. Spread evenly in the prepared pan. Warm hazelnut spread in a microwave until it is easy to spread. Cover the peanut butter layer completely. Sprinkle with chopped honey roasted peanuts. Refrigerate one hour. Cut into squares. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter Z

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Zero Candy Bar Cookies! White chocolate fudge has been popular since it was introduced in a candy bar a hundred years ago. At that time it was called the Double Zero Bar due to its “chilling” snowy white color, reminding the public of an ice cube. To this day it is sold in a trademark cool silver wrapper. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, they say. Today’s cookies are nothing short of heavenly. 
ZERO CANDY BAR COOKIES
Ingredients: 

1 cup butter, softened 

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla 

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 sea salt

1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups peanuts, chopped

3.4 ounce Zero Candy Bar, chopped
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar until creamy. Add vanilla and almond extracts. Beat well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well mixed. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture. Stir until blended. Fold in white chocolate chips, mini chocolate chips, peanuts, and Zero Candy Bar pieces. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Drop cookie dough, using a melon ball scoop, onto the baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool for 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining dough. Yield: 6 dozen. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter K

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Kung Pao Chicken! When I promise savory, I deliver. Combine sweet and sour, garlic and spice, with the crunch of peanuts, to pull off this do-it-yourself version of a Chinese restaurant favorite. By making it at home, you may have it faster than takeout. One bite and you’ll love it, but remember to share. Add a few red chili peppers for a dynamic taste experience, if you dare. 
KUNG PAO CHICKEN 
Ingredients:

2 cups boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks

2 tablespoons sherry cooking wine

2 tablespoons soybean sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons chili paste

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

4 green onions, snipped

8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped

1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
Instructions for Marinade:

Mix together 1 tablespoon sherry cooking wine, 1 tablespoon soybean sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon water. Stir until smooth. Place chicken chunks in a glass dish. Pour in marinade. Toss to coat. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes. 
Instructions for Sauce:

Combine in a glass bowl 1 tablespoon sherry cooking wine, 1 tablespoon soybean sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon water. Mix until smooth. Add chili paste, vinegar, honey, brown sugar, and garlic. Stir. Gradually fold in green onions, water chestnuts, and chopped peanuts. Transfer to a medium skillet. Cook on low/medium heat until aromatic, stirring occasionally. 
Meanwhile, remove chicken from marinade. Discard marinade. Sauté chicken chunks in a large skillet until meat is white and juices run clear. As the sauce becomes aromatic, add in sautéed chicken chunks. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. Serve over noodles or rice. 

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Special Edition: Rocky Road Candy!

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Special Edition: Rocky Road Candy! What do you get when you combine semisweet chocolate, honey-roasted peanuts, and puffy miniature marshmallows? You get a Willy Wonka version of Rocky Road Candy that is party-worthy. Whip up a batch for your next holiday gathering and get ready to tempt every sweet treat fan. 
ROCKY ROAD CANDY 
Ingredients:

12-ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate morsels

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups honey-roasted peanuts 

10 1/2-ounce package miniature marshmallows
Instructions:

In a heavy saucepan, over low heat, melt chocolate morsels with sweetened condensed milk, and butter. Remove from heat. In a large bowl combine honey-roasted peanuts and miniature marshmallows. Stir in chocolate mixture. Spread in a wax paper-lined 9″x13″ pan. Chill 2 hours or until firm. Remove from pan. Peel off wax paper; cut into squares. Store loosely covered at room temperature. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet; Letter U

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Upscale Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse! Americans have this uncanny obsession with chocolate and peanut butter. Some even crave it often. It may be the creamy sweetness of cocoa blended with the saltiness of roasted peanuts. Who knows? Whatever the reason, the allure is undeniable. Throw in vanilla pudding and whipped cream showcased in a parfait glass for eye appeal. It all adds up to an easy, upscale dessert that makes an everyday experience extraordinary. I find small juice glasses an appealing portion-control guide. 
UPSCALE CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER MOUSSE
Ingredients:

16-20 Miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, wrappers removed and candy chopped

1/3 cup peanuts

1/2 cup chocolate fudge sauce

1 3.4-ounce package Vanilla Instant Pudding and Pie Filling Mix

1 3/4 cups light cream

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup whipped topping

1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips
Instructions:

Choose 4-6 glasses or cups, depending on portion preferred. Divide peanuts equally between glasses. Layer with 1-2 dollops of chocolate fudge sauce. Set aside. In a chilled bowl, empty contents of pudding mix. Gradually add 1/2 cup light cream, beating on low speed with a hand mixer. Mix until well blended. Add peanut butter and beat until creamy. Gradually add remaining 1 1/4 cups of light cream. Beat on low, increasing speed as it incorporates. Continue beating for3 minutes. Pudding will thicken. Gently fold in whipped topping to create air bubbles. Next, fold in chopped candy, reserving a few pieces to use as garnish. Spoon pudding into glasses, layering over fudge sauce. Garnish with candy chunks and mini chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to serve.