Neufchâtel Nibblets

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: 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.

Oatmeal Options

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Oatmeal Options! Some people tell me if they eat breakfast, they end up nibbling and snacking all day long. These same people tell me when they skip breakfast, they keep their diet in check. Who’s correct? Is it mind over matter? Studies show that skipping meals can be a trigger for migraines. Others show metabolism irregularities associated with hair loss and, ironically, unexpectedly weight gain can result from unstable choices. Now I don’t know about all that. I do know that maintaining a routine seems to reap optimum results for me. I’ve read that eating oatmeal regularly seems to prevent obesity and weight gain. Could it be due to the feeling of “sticking to your ribs”, so to speak? Makes sense to me.

OATMEAL OPTIONS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup whole grain oats

1 cup skim milk

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic reduction

1 tablespoon pecans, chopped

Fresh thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine whole grain oats, skim milk, and cinnamon in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir well. Microwave on High 1 1/2-2 minutes. Stir. Sprinkle on brown sugar. Drizzle with balsamic reduction sauce. Add chopped pecans. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves. Serve immediately.

Yams Topped with Pecan Streusel

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: 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

Ingredients:

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

Streusel Topping:

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

Instructions:

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.

http://Snapshotsincursive.com/2015/11/18

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.