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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Endive Apple Salad! Have you noticed how bright and beautiful the produce is right now? Sometimes I marvel at all the farm fresh fruits and vegetables imagining the flavors I can pair on a plate. It’s a good thing my husband is open to trying new things. A juicy sweet slice of red ripe apple nestled between curly-edged leaves of rich green endive become pleasing to the eye long before the first crunch is heard. Add Bleu cheese crumbles with praline pecans drizzled in a balsamic reduction sauce. Together it adds deliciousness that is unsurpassed, in my opinion.
ENDIVE APPLE SALAD
1 large Gala apple
1/4 lemon juice
1 bunch curly endive
1 small head napa cabbage
1/2 cup praline pecan halves
1/4 cup bacon pieces
1/4 cup Bleu cheese crumbles
Balsamic reduction sauce*
Pour lemon juice into a shallow bowl. Cut the apple in half. Take one portion and place cut side down in lemon juice. This keeps the apple from turning brown. Remove the apple and set aside for garnish. For the remaining apple half, core and remove seeds. Slice apple into 7 equal-size wedges; dip both sides of apples into lemon juice to coat. Meanwhile, arrange napa cabbage leaves and endive on a decorative platter, alternating for bursts of color. Place the apple half in the center and nestle one apple wedge inside a cabbage leaf, creating a pinwheel effect. Add praline pecans, bacon pieces, and Bleu cheese crumbles. Drizzle with balsamic reduction glaze.
*For my quick and easy homemade version, follow the link to
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Festive Foods: Yams Topped with Pecan Streusel! One of the advantages of being married is the blending of traditions, especially when it comes to family recipes. “My mama always put marshmallows on our sweet potatoes,” my husband volunteered as I sat planning my holiday menu. I’d heard of it, but had no idea why people raved about it. ‘Til now. OMG! This yam dish is about as close as you can get to eating dessert throughout the meal. Seconds, please.
YAMS TOPPED WITH PECAN STREUSEL
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 1/2 pound can of yams; drained, cut into 1″ cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup natural honey
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup glazed pecans, chopped*
1 3/4 cups miniature marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9″ round casserole dish with one tablespoon unsalted butter. Arrange cut yams evenly. Drizzle the yams with olive oil, natural honey, and pure maple syrup. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon, sea salt, and white pepper. In a small bowl combine brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Mix well. Add melted butter. Stir until the liquid is absorbed and topping resembles small peas. Spread over the top of the yams. Sprinkle pecans over all. Bake 25 minutes. Remove and carefully arrange miniature marshmallows around the perimeter of the casserole dish. Return to the oven and additional 5 minutes until marshmallows appear toasted. Watch carefully. Serve warm.
*Glazed Pecans can be referenced at the following link.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Festive Foods: Mincemeat Cookies! When my friend, Ray, “gifted” me with a batch of his time-honored traditional homemade mincemeat, I felt as though I had received a portion of the Holy Grail. Could this secret from the past hold special powers? Would one bite provide happiness, eternal youth, and food in infinite abundance? You tell me. Ray carefully coached me on how to “season” the mixture by adding flavored brandy (I chose apricot) over a three-week period, stirring it occasionally in a covered clay crock. I was an awestruck student following his instructions to the letter. The results were phenomenal and elegant. Don’t let anyone tell you mincemeat is awful. When prepared correctly, some things are worth the wait.
Ingredients for Cookies:
2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup mincemeat*
2 cups flour
1 cup pecans, chopped
Pecan halves for garnish
Ingredients for Icing:
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon apricot brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons warm milk, as needed
Preheat oven to 375°. Cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add eggs and mincemeat. Gradually stir in the flour. Fold in chopped pecans. Drop by spoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until tops of cookies are dry and set. Bottoms will be slightly golden. Remove from oven. Transfer to a wired rack. Frost while slightly warm. Top each cookie with a pecan half before frosting sets.
Instructions for Icing:
In a medium bowl gently mix powdered sugar and butter until smooth. Add brandy and vanilla. Stir well. As needed, add warm milk to create a thick consistency. Place a dollop of icing on each cookie. Garnish with pecan half.
*The “Elegant Homemade Mincemeat” recipe can be found in the 1972 Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, page 371.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: 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
1 pound pecan halves
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water
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.