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
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
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.
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
1 cup pecans, chopped
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
2 large fresh peaches, halved and pitted
1-2 tablespoons lemon olive oil
1/3 cup Bleu cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons pecan bits
Lemon Olive Oil to taste
Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar to taste
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Cantaloupe Chicken Salad! Indiana Cantaloupe is a popular fruit these days. Some even dub it a “labor of love”. As a sweet and fragrant melon, it quickly becomes a perfect alternative to the summer watermelon. Wonderfully rich and appealing in color, the cantaloupe becomes an ideal serving vessel. One scoop and the seeds are gone. Fill half with a savory chicken salad and save the other for vanilla ice cream later on. Win, Win!
CANTALOUPE CHICKEN SALAD
1 cantaloupe, cut in half or quarters, seeds removed
10-ounce can premium chicken breast, chunk in water; drained
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
10 seedless green grapes, halved
1 tablespoon pecan pieces
1/8 teaspoon fresh Mexican tarragon, chopped
One cantaloupe serves four. Cut the cantaloupe in half; using a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Tip to remove any juice. Slice each half into a quarter wedge. Place each wedge into a luncheon plate. Set aside. In a large bowl, add drained chicken chunks. Shred chunks slightly, using two forks. Sprinkle with celery seed. Add mayonnaise and mix well. Fold in green grapes and pecan pieces. Stir to blend together. Divide chicken salad equally over each cantaloupe wedge. Garnish with chopped tarragon. Serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: French Toast Bananas Foster! For that daily dose of potassium you get in bananas, think French Toast for breakfast. With an added twist of Bananas Foster, you may feel as though you’re dining on a private balcony overlooking the French Quarter in New Orleans. It’s that good! For starters, I used Hawaiian sweet bread for its unique fluffy texture. By soaking the slices in a custard-style egg mixture and browning them in a buttered iron skillet, the results were luscious.
FRENCH TOAST BANANAS FOSTER
Ingredients for Sauce:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons dark rum
3-4 bananas, cut into thick slices
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 smidgen nutmeg
Melt butter in a small saucepan. Do not scorch. Add brown sugar; stir. Gradually bring to boil and add cream, stirring constantly. Cook until thick, about 4 minutes. Turn heat to lowest setting. Add maple syrup and dark rum. Stir until smooth. Add sliced bananas, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cook until tender.
Ingredients for French Toast:
4 slices Hawaiian sweet bread, sliced thick
3 whole eggs, beaten
1/2 cup half and half cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons butter
Mini chocolate chips
Whisk together eggs, half and half cream, and vanilla extract. In a shallow dish place 4 slices of Hawaiian bread, single layer. Pour custard egg mixture over bread; turn bread to coat both sides completely. Let moistened bread rest to soak up liquid. In an iron skillet, melt one tablespoon of butter on medium-low heat. Transfer the soaked bread to the skillet. Cook until golden brown, approximately 3 minutes per side. Add butter as needed. If cooking in batches, transfer browned French toast to a wire rack on a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200° oven. To serve, place a piece of French toast on a plate. Cover with banana sauce and dollop of whipped cream. Top with a second slice of French toast. Add more banana sauce. Garnish with whipped cream, chocolate chips, and pecan pieces.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Norwegian Jarlsberg Cheese Spread! Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. Jarlsberg cheese originated in Norway as a buttery mild cow’s milk cheese with a sweet nutty flavor. In some photos it may appear similar to Swiss cheese, full of holes, but in essence it is much smoother and richer. Don’t believe me? Order a grilled cheese sandwich made with semi-soft imported Jarlsberg cheese sometime and try not to faint when you are asked to pay a much higher price for this gooey better-than-generic extravagance.
NORWEGIAN JARLSBERG CHEESE SPREAD
4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese
4 ounces Jarlsberg cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red onion, chopped
1 can (4 ounce size) stuffed green olives, sliced
Sea salt, to taste
Cracked black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chives, chopped
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
Mix together Neufchâtel cheese, Jarlsberg cheese, and mayonnaise until well blended. Stir in red onion and green olives. Add sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Form into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour. Roll cheese ball in chopped chives and pecans bits before serving. Spread into crackers or bagel chips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Unrivaled Chocolate Caramel Treats! Do you get weak in the knees over chocolate? You may be tempted once you taste this salty sweet confection. One little piece will have you rolling your eyes in delirium. The crust keeps this bar crunchy, kinda like a shortbread cookie. And the sea salt crystals form a balance that is unrivaled! This recipe has a few shortcuts, so it can be thrown together in a matter of minutes. No baking is required. Don’t hate me!
UNRIVALED CHOCOLATE CARAMEL TREATS
Club crackers, whole
1 cup crushed Club crackers
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup coconut, flaked
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
16-ounce can of Chocolate Fudge Frosting
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt crystals
Put one layer of whole Club crackers on the bottom of a 7″X11″ pan. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, coconut, milk, and melted butter. Boil ingredients for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; let cool. Form a layer of caramel mixture over crackers. Put another layer of Club crackers on top. Frost with canned frosting, sprinkle with pecans and sea salt crystals. Store in the refrigerator.