Zero-Guilt Honey & Nut Date Bites

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Zero-Guilt Honey & Nut Date Bites! Goodness knows we carry around enough guilt these days between the gourmet coffee addiction and the lack of gym time workouts. So here’s a logical snack that not only provides protein, carbs, and fiber, it feels like a treat! Honestly, anything with natural honey gets my stamp of approval. The fruit, nuts, and coconut are an added bonus, in my opinion. Go ahead, make up a batch and see how rewarding it is.

ZERO-GUILT HONEY & NUT DATE BITES

Ingredients:

3/4 cup dates, chopped

1/4 cup raisins

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup natural peanut butter, crunchy

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon sea salt crystals

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

3/4 cup pecans, chopped

1 cup coconut, flaked

Instructions:

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine dates, raisins, eggs, honey, and peanut butter. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly for 4 minutes. The eggs need to cook thoroughly, but not scramble. Do not scorch. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract and sea salt crystals. Fold in chopped walnuts and pecans. Mix well. Form into small bite-size balls, uniform in shape. Roll each ball in coconut flakes. Refrigerate an hour or until firm. Store in an air-tight container.

Vegan Banana Maple Muffins

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Vegan Banana-Maple Muffins! For breakfast on the run, mid-morning snack, or late night munchie, these banana maple muffins are a welcome sight. Made with overripe bananas and coconut milk, they provide nutritional benefits that fuel the body as well as satisfy hunger pangs. Between the first crunch of nuts and the last taste of maple cream icing, you may find yourself reaching for a tall glass of cold milk wondering how you lived so long without trying these before.

VEGAN BANANA-MAPLE MUFFINS

Ingredients for Muffins:

2 small bananas, peeled and mashed

2/3 cup coconut milk

1/3 vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/4 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to. 350°. Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside. In a bowl, mash overripe bananas with a fork. Whisk together bananas, coconut milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt. Mix well. Gradually add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Gently fold in chopped pecans. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full. Do not overfill. Bake 18-20 minutes or until tops spring back and cake tester comes out clean. Transfer muffins to wire rack to cool completely before adding icing.

Ingredients for Maple Icing:

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons margarine, softened

2 tablespoons coconut milk, slightly warmed

2 teaspoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Pinch cinnamon

Pinch nutmeg

Pinch sea salt

12 pecan halves for garnish

Instructions:

Beat together the powdered sugar, margarine, coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt until the icing is smooth and creamy. Drop one or two dollops of icing on each muffin. Garnish with pecan half.

Sweet Strawberry Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Sweet Strawberry Salad! Whenever you feel the need to change things up a bit from your ordinary salad, think strawberries! Did you know the strawberry is actually a cousin to the rose family? Truth. In history, they represent love, purity, and perfection. Hmmm. And of course, everyone knows how deliciously sweet they are. Okay, I’m in. Serve a strawberry salad and watch everyone’s face break into a smile. Think strawberries! 🍓

SWEET STRAWBERRY SALAD

Ingredients:

1 pound Spring Mix, gently torn

1 quart strawberries, caps removed and halved

4 green onions, snipped

1 cup harvarti cheese, grated

1/2 cup sugared pecans, chopped

1/3 cup bacon pieces

1/2 cup lemon olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic reduction

Instructions:

Combine Spring Mix salad greens, strawberries, and green onion snips in a large bowl. Gently add cheese to mix. Top with sugared pecans and bacon. Toss with lemon olive oil to coat. Drizzle balsamic reduction over all.

Quazy Carrot Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Quazy Carrot Cake! “What’s up, Doc?” is something we’ve all heard Bugs Bunny say more than once. You may find yourself asking the same question when you take a bite of this tasty version of Carrot Cake. It’s loaded with fresh carrots, pineapple tidbits, and chopped pecans. The crowning moment comes when you smack your lips together over the wonderful cream cheese icing. I have seen expressions of jubilation over this award-winning dessert. Treat yourself to something special this weekend.

QUAZY CARROT CAKE

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

4 eggs

3 cups carrots, grated

1 cup crushed pineapple, drained

1 cup pecans, chopped

Ingredients for Icing:

1/2 cup butter, softened

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9″x13″ pan with nonstick oil. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Mix well. Add oil, eggs, carrots, pineapple, and nuts. Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed. Transfer to baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes or until done. Meanwhile, cream together the butter and Neufchâtel cheese. Add powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth and creamy. When cake is cool, top with cream cheese icing. Garnish with a pecan half.

Iceberg Lettuce Cranberry Pecan Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Iceberg Lettuce Cranberry Pecan Salad! Make today an easy day. Throw together a tossed salad that will satisfy hunger pangs with the crunch of lettuce, the natural sweetness of fruit, lean meat, the salty mix of pecans, protein-packed eggs, and heart-healthy bleu cheese. Bonus points include a natural source of fiber, weight control, plus super-convenience. Not only is salad a time-saver, it is also a money-saver. Most of all, you’re worth it.

ICEBERG LETTUCE CRANBERRY PECAN SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups iceberg lettuce, shredded

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 cup mandarin orange slices

1/3 cup sugared pecans

1 cup grilled chicken, cut-up

1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese

2 soft-boiled eggs, halved

Balsamic vinaigrette, to taste

Instructions:

Divide iceberg lettuce between salad bowls. Top with dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, sugared pecans, cut-up grilled chicken, and bleu cheese crumbles. Place soft boiled egg half on top. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette, to taste.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter I

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Impromptu Pretzel Crust Pecan Pie! Sometimes a crunchy pie crust satisfies primal needs. After all, it’s second nature to crave foods that sound good when you bite into them. Admit it, we like different tastes. The desire for crispy and crunchy foods never seems to grow old. Because we associate tastes and aromas with feelings, our brain is already satisfied before the first bite. Combine sweet and salty for the ultimate dessert experience. Crunch away.

IMPROMPTU PRETZEL CRUST PECAN PIE

Ingredients for Crust:

1 1/4 cups pretzel crumbs

2 tablespoons corn starch

3 tablespoons sugar

7 tablespoons butter, melted

Ingredients for Filling:

6 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks

1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

1 cup light corn syrup

1 tablespoon sea salt

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups pecans, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine pretzel crumbs, corn starch, sugar, and melted butter in a medium bowl. Stir well. Press evenly into a 9” pie plate, making sure the sides and bottom are covered. Put pie plate on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes until crust is firm. To prepare filling, take a medium saucepan. Combine butter chunks, brown sugar, corn syrup, and sea salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool. Whisk in beaten eggs. Fold in chopped pecans. Pour mixture into pretzel crust. Bake 50 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter X

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Daily Special: Xylocarp Coconut Bars! Although it’s not typically a word in my vocabulary, I discovered the word xylocarp means “a fruit, such as a coconut, having a hard woody pericarp.” Bingo! It’s the answer to my alphabet challenge when I get to this letter. Everyone is already aware coconut has health benefits. Some even classify it as a superfood. Personally, I just like the taste of it. It can magically transport me to a tropical island with swaying palm trees and hypnotic reggae music. Ahhhhh.

XYLOCARP COCONUT BARS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1 1/3 cups of coconut, flaked

1 cup pecans, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9″x13″ baking pan lightly with nonstick oil. Pour butter in pan to cover the bottom. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs evenly over butter. Slowly pour the sweetened condensed milk to form another layer. Top evenly with chocolate morsels, coconut, and pecans. Press down firmly. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool thoroughly before cutting.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter D

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Simple Sensations: Delectable Derby Pie! The race may be over, but this slice of pie is a champion all year long. The spirit is kept alive in a southern tradition of semi-sweet chocolate, Kentucky bourbon, and crunchy pecans. Top it off with a dollop of whipped cream and you can find yourself cheering for this triple crown winner. 
DELECTABLE DERBY PIE
Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter 

1 cup sugar

3 eggs, beaten

3/4 cup white Karo syrup 

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla 

1 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

2 tablespoons bourbon

1 10″ unbaked deep dish pie shell
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Cream butter while gradually adding sugar. Add beaten eggs, Karo syrup, salt, flour, and vanilla. Add chocolate chips, nuts, and bourbon. Mix well. Pour into crust. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until set. Serve warm garnished with whipped cream. 
*TIP: Do not overfill pie crust. Extra filling may be baked in a ramekin for sampling later.