Acorn Squash with Wild Rice

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Acorn Squash with Wild Rice! When you talk about love at first bite, or rather, first sight, acorn squash sets the bar in the gourd family. With its rich jewel tones of Autumn, it looks as majestic on a dinner plate as it tastes. The sweet mellow flavor needs little or no seasoning. The biggest challenge I found was cutting the acorn squash in half. It is not for the weak-hearted. The rind to so hard, it is necessary to use a serrated knife and forcefully cut lengthwise in small slits until you have circled the entire squash. At that point you can connect the cuts to slice the squash until it splits. Go slow and take your time, lest you suffer from impatience with a minor injury. With that being said, go forth and partake in this gorgeous vegetable off-the-vine.

ACORN SQUASH WITH WILD RICE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

2 acorn squash, halved and seeded

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons onion, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup wild rice

1/2 cup brown rice

1 3/4 cups water

1/8 teaspoon sage

1/4 teaspoon thyme

2 teaspoons parsley flakes

1/2 cup dried cranberries

2-4 strips smoked bacon, crispy and crumbled

2 green onions, snipped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spread pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast for 5 minutes until brown. Remove from oven to cool. Carefully cut each squash in half crosswise. Scoop out seeds. Brush flesh sides of squash with olive oil. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Place flesh side down on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick oil. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Flesh will be soft when pierced with a fork. Meanwhile, sauté onions in olive oil a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook and stir until tender. Add wild rice and brown rice. Cook one minute. Do not burn. Add water, sage, thyme, parsley flakes, and dried cranberries. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 40-45 minutes until tender. Add pecans and crumbled bacon. Toss gently. Fill each squash cavity with wild rice mixture. Garnish with green onion snips and serve immediately.

Wine Lovers Vineyard Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Wine Lovers Vineyard Cake! Every once in awhile a special occasion rolls around where you need a dessert that’s outside the box. By substituting some of the liquid with a sweet wine, such as peach, blackberry, or elderflower, you create an unique taste that intensifies the flavor. I chose a peach passion for this particular recipe. With subtle hints of orange extract, it transformed the rich moist bundt cake into a delectable version of a fuzzy navel. The photo reflects a powdered sugar dusting, but you may certainly opt for a glaze finish instead.

WINE LOVERS VINEYARD CAKE

Ingredients for Cake:

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

2 3/4 cup flour

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 small box vanilla pudding, instant

3/4 cup white wine

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon orange extract

1/4 cup water

4 eggs

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Arrange pecans in the bottom of the pan. Using a mixer on low speed, blend the flour, sugar, baking powder, sea salt, vanilla pudding mix, white wine, vegetable oil, orange extract, water, eggs, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Scrape sides, as needed. Pour batter into bundt pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes, until a pick comes out clean and cake is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. To unmold, place a cake plate on top of the bundt pan. Holding tightly, invert.

Ingredients for Glaze:

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1-2 tablespoons white wine, slightly warmed

Instructions:

To make glaze, cream together the butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Add vanilla extract and white wine. Drizzle over warm cake.

Mint Leaf Peach Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Mint Leaf Peach Salad! Sliced peaches with creamy goat cheese medallions, OMG! This delightful salad is ideal for a light lunch, an afternoon brunch, or an early dinner. Indulging in the sweet tangy taste of a ripe, plump peach mixed with the nutty crunch of sugared pecans wrapped around medallions of earthy herbed goat cheese is like taking a bath in a tub of dairy rich cream. At first bite, you won’t mind being pampered. The fresh mint leaf garnish is like icing on a cake.

MINT LEAF PEACH SALAD

Ingredients:

1 ripe peach, sliced with pit removed

4-6 cherry tomatoes; halved

2 ounces creamy goat cheese

1/4 cup sugared pecans, crushed

Fresh mint leaves

Instructions:

Cut ripe peach into 7-8 slices. Arrange in a pinwheel design on a salad plate. Cut cherry tomatoes and place seed side up around the peach slices. Crush sugared pecans on a sheet of waxed paper. Take a goat cheese slice and roll in nut mixture to coat; repeat. Arrange medallions on salad plate around the peaches. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Quazy Carrot Cake

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: 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.

Xmas Pear Pupus

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Xmas Pear Pupus! A popular Polynesian appetizer, served hot or cold, comes from the Hawaiian word “pūpū”. It can be anything from a buffet table of skewered meat, tempura veggies, raw fish, and other finger foods to simple cold trays of tropical fruits, deviled eggs, edamame, and smoked salmon. Remember to make everything bite-size when planning an informal gathering. Because pear trees live such a long time, their fruit is very symbolic during the holiday season. The pear often represents immortality, wisdom, and health; a treat fit for royalty. By creating a pear pupu platter, you’re giving your guests a gift of intangibles they may treasure for years to come. Get the conversation started. Serve freshly sliced ripe pears and cinnamon dusted pear chips with a wheel of warm Brie. How festive!

XMAS PEAR PUPUS

Ingredients:

2 pears, thinly sliced for baking

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 wheel Brie cheese, warmed

2 tablespoons cranberry relish

2 tablespoons sugared pecans

2 pears, cut into wedges for eating

Instructions:

Cinnamon Dusted Pear Chips must be made in advance. Preheat oven to 225°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Pat dry sliced pears. Place them on the parchment paper in a single layer. Dust with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake 3 hours until dried and crisp. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

For Pear Pupus, warm a wheel of Brie cheese in a 350°oven for 5-10 minutes to soften. Spread cranberry relish over top. Sprinkle with sugared pecans and chopped pears. Serve with pear wedges and cinnamon dusted pear chips.

Traditional English Toffee

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Traditional English Toffee! So often we have those cherished childhood memories of homemade candy and cookies that accompanied holiday celebrations. They stick with us for life. I can remember being in eighth grade and determined to replicate a batch of my mother’s English Toffee. I waited for her to go into town and then pulled out her secret recipe. You know, the ones scratched on a 3.5”x5” card. More often than not, they showed a list of ingredients with instructions that simply said, “Bake at 350° for 30 minutes”. Let’s face it, that’s pretty vague compared to what we explain nowadays. As you can imagine, I melted the butter along with the brown sugar and stirred. And stirred. And stirred. So how come it wasn’t turning into this crisp crunchy texture of rich golden butter that fueled my addiction? What could I possibly be doing wrong? There was nothing written on the card to correct this runny, gooey mess. Alas, I scraped it all into the trash, washed the pan, and plopped myself at the kitchen table with my Algebra book. She walked in, smiled, and never said a word.

TRADITIONAL ENGLISH TOFFEE

Ingredients:

1 cup pecans, chopped

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Instructions:

Butter a baking sheet. Spread pecans in a single layer in the center. Heat butter and brown sugar to boiling in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly. Boil over Medium heat, stirring constantly, for 7 minutes. Immediately spread mixture over pecans on baking sheet. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot mixture. Place a cookie sheet over pan until chocolate chips are melted. Spread melted chocolate over candy. Refrigerate until firm. Break toffee into pieces.

Yams in Pecan Glaze

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Yams in Pecan Glaze! Oh. My. Gosh. You have got to make this recipe. There’s still plenty of time before the holidays to switch back to your traditional family favorite if you don’t like it, but think about this a moment. By using canned yams, or sweet potatoes, preparation is a snap. Who knows? You could end up making both. Remember what I said about “Start Smart”? Sometimes that means taking advantage of the numerous products that eliminate the extra leg work. Sugared pecans are such a gourmet treat. Pick up a package of those to add to the decadent pure maple syrup sauce. Read on if you’re curious.

YAMS IN PECAN GLAZE

Ingredients:

29-ounce can cut sweet potatoes in syrup

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon sage, finely chopped

1 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Fresh thyme sprigs, for garnish

For Pecan Glaze:

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup sugared pecans

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Drain liquid from sweet potatoes into a saucepan. Carefully slice and arrange yams in a casserole dish. Set aside. Boil the liquid over medium heat until only 1/4” covers the bottom of the saucepan. Add butter, sage, thyme, cinnamon, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Mix well. Pour over sweet potatoes. Bake 15 minutes. While potatoes are baking, make the pecan glaze. Add butter to a skillet over medium heat. Add sugared pecans. Toss to coat. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add pure maple syrup. Cook 5 minutes longer, or until the pecans are caramelized and syrupy. Pour over sweet potatoes. Return casserole to the oven and bake 5 minutes longer, or until the glaze becomes thick. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs before serving.

Unconventional Peach Side Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Unconventional Peach Side Salad! What a blessing to partake in the abundance of plump and juicy peaches. The options are endless. For instance, I like to substitute tomatoes for fresh peaches in a side salad. By adding the buttery taste of Gorgonzola cheese, it creates a robust flavor that easily compliments the sweetness of the peach. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. Oh my!

UNCONVENTIONAL PEACH SIDE SALAD

Ingredients:

1-2 fresh peaches, washed and skin on

2 cups organic salad greens

1/3 cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons pecan bits

2 tablespoons lemon olive oil

2 tablespoons pomegranate balsamic reduction

Croutons for garnish

Instructions:

Cut peaches into wedges. Divide organic salad greens into shallow serving dishes. Distribute peach slices. Sprinkle with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese and pecan bits. Drizzle lemon olive oil and pomegranate balsamic reduction sauce over all. Garnish with toasted croutons.

Peaches Hot Off the Grill

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Peaches Hot Off the Grill! Need a salad tonight? Take the easy way out and throw a couple peaches on the grill. You can even leave the skin on, like I did. In a few minutes, you’ll be savoring their remarkable flavor on a bed of mixed greens. As the family claps their hands in delight, simply take a bow and chirp, “You’re welcome!”

PEACHES HOT OFF THE GRILL

Ingredients:

2 large fresh peaches, halved and pitted

1-2 tablespoons lemon olive oil

1/3 cup Bleu cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons pecan bits

Mixed Greens

Lemon Olive Oil to taste

Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar to taste

Instructions:

Preheat gas grill on medium-high heat. Brush cut side of each peach half with lemon olive oil. Place cut side down on grill. Cook for 5 minutes. Flesh will be slightly charred. Turn peaches over and cook 2 minutes longer. Meanwhile divide salad greens between individual plates. Transfer one peach half to each bed of greens. Sprinkle with crumbled Bleu cheese and pecan bits. Drizzle with additional lemon olive oil and pomegranate balsamic vinegar to taste.