Xiangjiao Banana Bread

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.

Vanilla Laced French Toast

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Vanilla Laced French Toast! Here’s a twist on ordinary French toast. If you prefer the outside to be crispy, don’t be ashamed to coat the bread with crushed cracker crumbs before dropping it into the buttered skillet. It not only seals in the flavor, but also produces a “to-die-for” custard filling. Forget soggy bread, go instead for a golden brown crunch drizzled in dark maple syrup and topped with the rich flavor of vanilla glazed pears. Have I got your attention?

VANILLA LACED FRENCH TOAST

Ingredients:

2 eggs

1/2 cup light cream

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup Ritz crackers, crushed*

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1-2 tablespoons butter

6 slices Hawaiian sweet bread

Glazed Pear Topping, if desired**

Powdered sugar, sprinkling

Pecan halves, as garnish

Instructions:

Whisk eggs, light cream, sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon in a shallow bowl. Set aside. On a sheet of waxed paper, combine crushed crackers, cinnamon, and nutmeg with a fork. Melt butter on low heat in an iron skillet. Do not burn. Increase heat to medium. Dip bread slices in egg mixture, coat both sides in cracker crumbs, and place in the skillet. Cook 3 minutes until brown. Turn. Cook 3 minutes longer. Remove to a platter. Repeat until all slices are used. Serve with butter, maple syrup, and fruit, if desired. Garnish with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and pecans.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning Ritz Crackers.

**Recipe for Cinnamon Glazed Pears can be found at this link.

https://snapshotsincursive.com/2015/12/28

Naked Belgian Waffles

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Naked Belgian Waffles! Doesn’t this sound sinfully decadent? Imagine fluffy discs of indented lattice, with slightly crisp edges, exuding a seductive vanilla essence. The deep indentations of golden batter cake are perfect vessels for whatever your heart desires. Might it be rich, creamy butter or hand-tapped pure maple syrup? What about toasted pecan halves and powdered sugar? Or perhaps even a smearing of hazelnut spread with fresh red raspberries. Whatever your craving, do yourself a favor. Make a double batch of waffles to store in the freezer. Then pop one in the toaster for a great way to start the day. Romance is in the air.

NAKED BELGIAN WAFFLES

Ingredients:

1 3/4 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 eggs, room temperature

2 cups buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Slowly add liquid mixture to dry ingredients. Stir just until moistened. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Do not over-mix. Spray waffle iron with nonstick oil. Pour 3/4 cup of batter into preheated waffle iron. Close lid. Do not open until golden brown. Repeat until batter is gone. Serve warm with softened butter, maple syrup, pecan halves, powdered sugar, or fruit toppings.

Glorious Glazed Pecans

Experience the Holidays: 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.

Bourbon Balls

Experience the Holidays: Bourbon Balls! Remember the scene from “The Grinch Stole Christmas” where the adults in Whoville are throwing a key party? Well, I’m convinced they may have been nibbling on holiday Bourbon Balls based on the way they were flirting and having a crazy-fun time. Be forewarned. This recipe does contain chocolate and alcohol. You may want to mention it.

BOURBON BALLS

Ingredients:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

3 tablespoons corn syrup

1/2 cup bourbon

2 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

Granulated sugar

Instructions:

Pulse vanilla wafers in a food processor to make crumbs. Set aside. Over hot (not boiling) water, melt chocolate morsels; remove from heat. Blend in corn syrup and bourbon. In a large bowl, combine vanilla wafer crumbs, powdered sugar, and nuts. Add chocolate mixture. Blend well. Chill 30 minutes. Using a melon ball utensil, scoop dough into 1″ balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Store in covered container for several days to season flavor.

Chocolate Chip Candied Cheese Ball

Experience the Holidays: Chocolate Chip Candied Cheese Ball! The most amazing surprise appears at first bite. Dark chocolate blended with sweetened cream cheese presents itself as a first class cheeseball that leaves everyone smacking their lips in satisfaction. The fun of swiping a cinnamon graham cracker cookie transforms this dessert in a mouth-watering finger food. Make this holiday surprise the happiest one yet.

CHOCOLATE CHIP CANDIED CHEESE BALL

Ingredients:

1 8-ounce block of cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup mini chocolate chips

1 cup sugared pecans, crushed

Graham cracker sticks

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the brown sugar and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Slowly add powdered sugar. Mix until smooth and completely incorporated. Fold in mini chocolate chips. Chill two hours. On a sheet of waxed paper, sprinkle crushed sugared pecans. Form chilled mixture into a ball. Roll in pecan coating. Chill overnight. Serve with honey graham cracker sticks or cinnamon graham cracker sticks.

Traditional English Toffee

Experience the Holidays: 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.

Eagle Brand Magic Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Eagle Brand Magic Cookies! One definition of the word magic is “wonderful; exciting”. That’s what these quick and easy holiday cookies are all about. The magic ingredient is the sweetened condensed milk. It may not be something you use everyday, but special occasions call for special ingredients. Homemade cookies are chocked full of sweetness in chocolate morsels, flaked coconut, and chopped pecans. How delightful and different. That’s what I call exciting. Create your own magical moment for the next festive gathering, after school snack, or weekend party-for-two.

EAGLE BRAND MAGIC COOKIES

Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

7 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

1/4 cup butterscotch chips

3 tablespoons sweetened coconut flakes

2 tablespoons pecans, finely chopped

Sugar, for dusting

Instructions:

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and sea salt. Set aside. Using a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the sweetened condensed milk. Beat until combined. Slowly add the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Fold in the mini chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, flaked coconut, and chopped pecans. Cover dough and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take a heaping teaspoon of cookie dough, roll into a ball, and place on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat. Bake 8-10 minutes; cool 2 minutes. Dust cookies with sugar and transfer to a wire rack. Enjoy!

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.