Unrivaled Chocolate Caramel Treats

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Endive Apple Salad

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

Ingredients:

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*

Instructions:

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

https://snapshotsincursive.com/2015/08/26

Yams Topped with Pecan Streusel

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

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

Misunderstood Mincemeat Cookies

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.

MINCEMEAT COOKIES

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

2 eggs

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

Instructions:

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.

Glorious Glazed Pecans

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

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.

Danish Pumpkin Spice

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Danish Pumpkin Spice! The mere mention of pumpkin spice sends people into a tizzy. It could be simply because it signifies the turning of a new season and screams, “limited time only!”. The crisp Autumn leaves, smell of woodsmoke, and anticipation of holidays looming on the horizon resurrect desires of nostalgia. We can’t help it. Longings of yesteryear where childhood memories and romantic flashbacks are pause for distraction. Family traditions and customs return to life. This is us.

DANISH PUMPKIN SPICE

Ingredients:

2 tubes crescent rolls (8 count each)

3/4 cup pumpkin purée

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon allspice

1 egg, room temperature

1/3 cup pecans, chopped

2 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon chestnut praline syrup

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat. Unroll crescent rolls into a rectangular shape. Cut along the seam to separate into two equal rectangles. Each rectangle will container four crescent rolls. Press seams together, cutting each rectangle into four squares. When you do this, you will have 8 squares from each tube. Place squares on the silicone baking mat before filling. In a mixing bowl, combine pumpkin purée, sugar, vanilla extract, allspice, and egg. Whisk until smooth. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of pumpkin spice mixture into the center of each square. Fold the edges around, by rolling and crimping, to form the Danish. Sprinkle chopped pecans over all. Bake 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown. Cool before glazing. Repeat with remaining dough. To make the glaze, beat Neufchâtel cheese until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar. Stir gently. Add vanilla extract and chestnut praline syrup. Transfer glaze to a zipper sandwich bag. Snip off the tip of one corner. Squeeze bag to drizzle glaze in stripes over each Danish.

Turtle Cheesecake Cupcakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Turtle Cheesecake Cupcakes! Every so often I succumb to my sweet tooth. At those times I admit, I throw caution to the wind. If I’m going to splurge on something sweet, I pull out all the stops. Hence, today’s feature includes a caramel pecan cookie dough crust, a sensuously satisfying vanilla cheesecake center, and a spectacular topping of sea salt caramel, chocolate chips, and sugared pecans that says, “Go all the way, you’re worth it!” Now you can be pampered as well.

TURTLE CHEESECAKE CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

16-ounce package refrigerated Pecan Turtle Cookie Dough, room temperature

16 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate morsels

1/2 cup sugared pecans, chopped

1/3 cup caramel butterscotch ice cream topping

Coarse sea salt, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Line muffin tins with cupcake papers to make 24 cupcakes. Cut each square portion of cookie in half. Place one section of dough in the bottom of each paper-lined muffin cup. Bake 12 minutes. Meanwhile, using a hand mixer and a medium-sized bowl, beat the Neufchâtel cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, vanilla extract, and sea salt for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides as needed. Spoon 3 tablespoons of cheesecake mixture over each cookie crust. Bake 18 minutes longer. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack. Refrigerate Turtle Cheesecake Cupcakes for one hour. Before serving, top each with mini chocolate chips and sugared pecans. Drizzle caramel butterscotch sauce over all. Garnish with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.

Luscious Lavender Puff Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Luscious Lavender Puff Cookies! Before we begin, let me assure you, baking the cookies for 45 minutes per batch, IS NOT a misprint. Dried lavender buds as well as lavender extract can be found at farmers markets, organic health food stores, or your local co-op. (I went one step further and made my own lavender extract from dried buds, which took longer to ferment.) I also have the convenience of a nearby Amish community as a resource for dried herbs and spices. These cookies are definitely worth the effort. Put on a pot of coffee or tea…. and enjoy!

LUSCIOUS LAVENDER PUFF COOKIES

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

5 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon lavender buds

1 teaspoon lemon citrus peel, granulated

1 teaspoon lavender extract

1 teaspoon lemon extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3/4 cup pecans, chopped

2 cups flour

Powdered Sugar for rolling

Lavender buds for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300°. Beat butter until soft. Crush lavender buds in sugar using a mortar and pestle; then combine sugared lavender buds with butter. Blend until creamy. Mix in citrus peel, lavender extract, and lemon extract. Add pecans, flour, and salt to butter mixture. Combine thoroughly. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, then place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 45 minutes or until set, but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar to coat when cookies are still slightly warm. Sprinkle with dried lavender buds. Cool completely on wire rack.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter X

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Xiangjiao Banana Bread! How’s this for a fancy word? For those who haven’t a clue, “xiangjiao” is actually Chinese for banana. And who doesn’t love bananas? A few years ago my grandson came to my house for a sleepover. I had been to the grocery store to get some of his favorite foods, in addition to a couple of new choices. Imagine my surprise when I presented him with a half-peeled yellow banana. He got a puzzled look on his face as he eagerly grabbed it and said, “Nana. Ba-Nana?” I smiled and gave him a giant hug before the air exploded into peals of laughter. There’s nothing sweeter than a toddler’s giggle.

XIANGJIAO BANANA BREAD

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 ripe bananas, peeled and crushed

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Topping: (optional)

1 ripe banana, sliced lengthwise

1 tablespoon chopped pecans

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a loaf pan with a nonstick oil containing flour. Set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, Greek yogurt, vanilla extract, and crushed bananas. Mix well. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Add to the creamed mixture. Stir just until batter is combined. Do not over mix. Fold in chopped pecans. Pour into prepared pan. For topping, place the two halves of a ripe banana on top of the batter. Sprinkle with remaining chopped pecans. Bake one hour or until tester comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes and then remove banana bread from loaf pan. Cool longer on a wire rack.