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.

Three60 Market in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Three60 Market in Naples, Florida! Ever wonder how a business chooses its name? Word is, Three60 Market is the talk-of-the-town for “offering world class wine for sale by only marking up each bottle $3.60”. Their website confirms it. As if that isn’t enough of a reason to drop by, imagine this. As you pull into the parking lot, you are greeted by swaying palm fronds bordering a charming plantation-style cafe with a backdrop of Haldeman Creek. Freshly prepared meals can be enjoyed under shaded umbrellas on the open-air decks. Because who doesn’t love waterside dining? Might I suggest a pecan sticky bun to accompany your morning cuppa joe? The buttery cinnamon and brown sugar sweetness is perfect with the nutty crunch. Dress is casual in this cozy pet-friendly environment. Before you head out, better pick up some wine and cheese for later on. Island getaways are hard to find.

Dulce De Leche Turtle Bars

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Dulce de Leche Turtle Bars! So today we learn that Dulce de Leche is another name for slow-cooked caramelized milk. And before you scroll down, I assure you it’s one of the easiest toppings you’ll ever make, and certainly worth your time. It’s Heaven in a jar….lusciously sweet and creamy. However, if you make it too far in advance, the most difficult challenge will come when you get the urge to dip a spoon into the jar to drizzle the decadent sauce over a scoop of ice cream. I know what you’re thinking…..but, Gail, it’s only one spoonful. Amirite? Don’t do it. Otherwise you’ll need another can of sweetened condensed milk for these turtle bars.

DULCE DE LECHE TURTLE BARS

Ingredients for the Crust:

2 cups flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Ingredients for the Toppings:

1 1/4 cups Dulce de Leche*

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate morsels

3/4 cup pecans, chopped

*NOTE:

Dulce de Leche must be made in advance. Preheat oven to 425°. Pour a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk into a 9” pie pan. (This will equal 1 1/4 cups.) Cover with foil. Carefully place the pie pan into a larger shallow pan. Fill the larger pan with 1/2” hot water to surround the pie pan. Bake 2 hours or until sauce is thick and caramel in color. Remove larger pan from oven. Carefully remove the pie pan; set aside for 15 minutes to cool. Pour Dulce de Leche into a jar until ready to use. Store in the refrigerator, if made days in advance.

Instructions for the Crust:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9” square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving extra over the edges for easier removal of the dessert. Spray the parchment paper with nonstick oil. Set aside. Using a mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, butter, and sea salt. Stir well until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture into the bottom of prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven; allow to cool for 5 minutes.

Instructions for the Toppings:

In a mixing bowl, combine Dulce de Leche, heavy whipping cream, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Stir well; pour mixture over crust. Sprinkle chocolate morsels and chopped pecans over filling. Bake 20 minutes, or until set. Remove pan from oven. Cool completely before cutting onto bars.

Glorious Glazed Pecans

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Glorious Glazed Pecans! Go to any big city or farmers market and you’ll find street vendors roasting sweet and savory candied nuts. The bakery aroma practically has you walking on air. Now you can bring this enticing smell and sugary sweetness right into your very own kitchen. I’ve made it a tradition to bake a couple batches for holiday gift-giving. When mixed with an assortment of smoked almonds, wasabi peas, salty cashews, and honey roasted peanuts, these glazed pecans become a gourmet choice for absolutely anyone on your list. In fact, anticipation creates excitement followed by open delight and thanksgiving.

GLORIOUS GLAZED PECANS

Ingredients:

1 pound pecan halves

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg white, room temperature

1 tablespoon water

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. In a small bowl mix sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Stir well and set aside. In a large bowl beat egg white and water until frothy. Add one pound of pecans and coat well to cover. Pour sugar mixture over nuts. Stir completely to form a coating over pecans. Transfer nuts to the baking sheet. Form a single layer. Bake 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes to form a crystallized finish. Remove from oven. Let cool and then store in an airtight container.

Traditional English Toffee

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: 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.

Neufchâtel Nibblets

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Holiday Food Gifts: Neufchâtel Nibblets! Instead of serving the traditional large cheese ball at your next group gathering, think about individual portions. As a centerpiece on a buffet table, a cheeseball makes a great focal point until someone digs in. Then it immediately loses its form. On the other hand, nibblets remain appealing. Finger food is always a good idea, in my opinion. Not only are they fun to eat, they make things easier for walking around the edge of a party. Grab a few crackers and nibble away.

NEUFCHÂTEL NIBBLETS

Ingredients:

8 tablespoons Neufchâtel cheese, softened

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/3 cup Swiss cheese, shredded

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

Carrot sticks, cut 3 inches long

Celery sticks, cut 3 inches long

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. In a mixing bowl combine Neufchâtel cheese, softened butter, Swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and smoked paprika. Mix well. Using a cookie scoop, form mixture into balls, transfer to prepared baking sheet, and refrigerate one hour or until balls are firm. In a shallow dish, combine fresh chives and chopped pecans. Gently press chilled cheeseballs in nut mixture. Insert vegetable stick into each cheeseball. Arrange a platter and serve.

Monkey Cinnamon Bread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Monkey Cinnamon Bread! Cutting corners can be a good thing, especially on a lazy day when I gotta have a breakfast pastry and really don’t want all the fuss. I mean, I know I can make this from scratch and allow time for the dough to rise while scrolling through social media, but honestly…I don’t wanna. I’d rather sip my morning cuppa joe, talk to my husband, and inhale the bakery aromas that drift through the house. Maybe you would, too.

MONKEY CINNAMON BREAD

Ingredients:

3 (8-ounce) tubes of buttermilk biscuit dough

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a Bundt pan with butter. Set aside. In a bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Cut each biscuit into four equal pieces. Roll each piece in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat. Arrange in the prepared Bundt pan. Continue layering until all the dough is used. Transfer the excess cinnamon sugar (about 1/2 cup) to a medium saucepan. Add brown sugar and butter. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Immediately remove from heat. Drizzle the mixture over the dough in the Bundt pan. Bake 30 minutes or until the tops are crisp and turning golden brown. Remove from oven. Rest 5 minutes. Cover the Bundt pan with a large plate. Invert pan. Carefully, left the pan to expose the gooey sweet Monkey Cinnamon Bread.