Original Pistachio Party Ball

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Original Pistachio Party Ball! Nothing says par-tay like a holiday cheese ball. Instead of picking one up at the grocery store this year, why not surprise the family and make something a little different. Pistachios tend to be shoved aside in favor of walnuts and pecans, mostly due to their cost. But I guarantee you, people will sit up and take notice of them embedded in this party cheese ball. A little goes a long way, especially when rolled on the outside of the cheese ball. For those who enjoy the experience of cracking the shell to pluck out the pistachio, you not only get to nibble as you crack, you also justify the savings involved over the cost of pistachios without shells. Now there’s a thought worth considering.

ORIGINAL PISTACHIO PARTY BALL

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon zesty Italian salad dressing dry mix

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

Instructions:

In a bowl, cream together Neufchâtel cheese and unsalted butter until smooth. Sprinkle in zesty Italian dry mix. Mix well. Add Worcestershire sauce and red pepper flakes. Fold in sharp cheddar cheese. Stir until well combined. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Layer with chopped pistachio nuts. Transfer cheese mixture onto the nuts. Wearing disposable gloves, form the cheese mixture into a ball, turning to cover each side with chopped nuts. When completely covered, wrap the pistachio cheese ball in a clean piece of plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour to intensify flavors. Serve with assorted crackers.

Frisée Blueberry Pistachio Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Frisée Blueberry Pistachio Salad! Have you tried frisée lately? This member of the lettuce family offers a slightly bitter bite, which is why it’s a good idea to pair it with some form of sweetened fruit. The appealing curlicue tendrils have a crunchy texture as well as upstanding hardiness. That factor alone is important since it translates to the ability to withstand a creamy dressing without turning it to mush. Should one desire, adding a robust bleu cheese, blackened bacon strip, or scattering salty capers among the sturdy leaves, permits a heavier dressing in short order. So you see, the question remains: to frisée or not to frisée.

FRISÉE BLUEBERRY PISTACHIO SALAD

Ingredients:

1 bunch frisée, stems trimmed, leaves gently torn

2-3 radishes, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon red onion, slivers

1/4 cup blueberries

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped

Instructions:

Divide salad plates with frisée. Arrange sliced radishes, red onion slivers, blueberries, and tarragon leaves around frisée leaves. In a small bowl, whisk together Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and sugar. Slowly, whisk in olive oil. Season with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Drizzle dressing over salads; tossing to coat. Sprinkle with chopped pistachio nuts. Serve chilled.

Walnut Mango Granola

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Walnut Mango Granola! Have you noticed how versatile granola has become? It’s no wonder it has turned into a convenient substitute for breakfast when you’re on the run. Oats are full of iron and fiber, which the nutritionists keep drumming into our heads. It keeps us full, energizes the body, and detours junk food cravings. Nuts and seeds have heart-hearty benefits, which everyone wants, right? Personally, I prefer the crumbled version to sprinkle over my morning yogurt. Others prefer the chewy granola bars I find look too much like a candy bar. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy peanut butter and chocolate chips as much as the next guy. I get it, but always check the sugar content because basically that’s what holds everything together. Talk about unwanted calories. No thanks. In the end do what is right for you. Meanwhile, if you want to make your own, this recipe is as easy as pie.

WALNUT MANGO GRANOLA

Ingredients:

1 cup walnut halves, chopped

1/4 cup coconut flakes

2 tablespoons pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

1 cup oats

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon coconut sugar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1/4 cup dried mango, chopped

1/4 cup dates, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss chopped walnuts, coconut flakes, pistachio nuts, oats, and chia seeds. Thoroughly combine; set aside. In another bowl, mix cinnamon, coconut sugar, sea salt, vegetable oil, and maple syrup. Drizzle over walnut mixture and toss to coat granola. Spread granola mixture onto baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes; turn for even browning and bake 10 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven. Carefully stir in dried mango and chopped dates. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove granola from the oven and allow to cool completely. Transfer crumbled granola to an airtight container.

Jalapeño Cherry Smoothie Bowl

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Jalapeño Cherry Smoothie Bowl! Get ready to eat well. This morning’s smoothie bowl will energize your body as well as your mind. Feel the easygoing ingredients stimulate your senses with a kick of sass right between the eyes. I mean, just look at the brightness real cherries can make. Begin with frozen fruit. Did you know if you freeze a cut-up banana it doesn’t turn brown? Truth. Each ziplock bag contains an entire sliced banana. Make sure they freeze in a single layer, though. When it’s time to blend the frozen fruit, the smoothie is chilled so there’s no need to add ice cubes. Now to address the elephant in the room, so to speak. Jalapeños. Don’t worry. Their bold flavor is invigorating. It actually adds a nice balance between the sweet and creamy, not to mention the extra vitamins. But don’t take my word for it.

JALAPEÑO CHERRY SMOOTHIE BOWL

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen cherries

1 sliced and frozen banana

3-5 slices of pickled jalapeño peppers, seeds removed and finely chopped

1/4 cup pistachios, chopped

1 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon coconut sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

Cherries, pistachios, and jalapeños for garnish

Instructions:

In a blender combine frozen cherries, frozen banana, chopped jalapeños, chopped pistachios, orange juice, sherry vinegar, and Greek yogurt. Pulse to process. Add coconut sugar, vanilla extract, and Himalayan pink salt. Blend until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Transfer smoothie to a bowl. Garnish with cherries, pistachios, and jalapeños.

Zakarian Chocolate Pudding

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Zakarian Chocolate Pudding! Sometimes you look to a celebrity chef for inspiration. Today’s feature recipe is brought to you by “Iron Chef”, Geoffrey Zakarian. Although it is filed under Dark Chocolate Pudding, its decadent taste and smooth consistency remind me more of a French Silk Pie. Do I have your undivided attention? Can you hear me now? This is most definitely a chocolate-lovers dream! By serving it in shot glasses, you control the portion and everyone gets a taste. Mr. Zakarian serves it with whipped sour cream. I modified it a bit by adding crushed pistachios and a slice of strawberry.

ZAKARIAN CHOCOLATE PUDDING

Ingredients:

6 ounces semisweet baking chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup light cream

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pinch sea salt

4 large egg yolks

Whipped sour cream, optional

Strawberries for garnish

Pistachios for garnish

Instructions:

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream and light cream to a bare simmer. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, vanilla extract, sea salt, and egg yolks. Slowly pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture to temper it, whisking all the while. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over low heat until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk until smooth. Pour into glasses or custard cups. Refrigerate until chief and set, about 3 hours. Serve with whipped sour cream, if desired. Garnish with fresh strawberry slice and chopped pistachios.

Kulfi with Pistachios and Lavender

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Kulfi with Pistachios and Lavender Buds! Kulfi is a type of homemade ice cream popular in Southeast Asia and India. This “instant” version can be made in your very own kitchen without the cost or hassle of an ice cream maker. Flavored with pistachio nuts and a hint of lavender make it a delectable frozen dessert worth crowing about.

KULFI WITH PISTACHIOS AND LAVENDER BUDS

Ingredients:

10 ounces evaporated milk

1 cup heavy cream

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk

2 teaspoons cardamom

1/2 cup pistachios, chopped

1 teaspoon lavender buds, crushed

1 teaspoon lavender extract

Instructions:

Combine evaporated milk, heavy cream, and sweetened condensed milk. Blend until smooth. Add cardamom, pistachios, lavender buds, and lavender extract. Stir. Pour into bouchon molds, fluted pan, or popsicle molds. Freeze overnight. Before serving, dip the molds in warm water. Invert kulfi onto a dessert plate. Garnish with crushed pistachios.

Herbed Watercress Pistachio Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Herbed Watercress Pistachio Salad! Everyone knows leafy greens can supercharge your diet. But not everyone is crazy about kale and arugula. Ask my husband. The strong pungent flavors of the former can step aside, as far as I’m concerned. Watercress is the new sheriff in town. Its delicate leaves reveal a slight hint of horseradish or wasabi, but with a crispier texture. To combat the bitter tang, simply add a nice citrus fruit along with the ancient royal pistachio nut. Did you know the Queen of Sheba found pistachios so delightful, she declared it was forbidden for commoners to harvest pistachio nuts for themselves? Alas, I digress. Watercress is the star attraction. Rich in vitamins, iron, calcium, and folic acid, its roots thrive in creek bottoms where clear running water encourages natural growth. Most farmers cultivate it in very wet ground providing constant moisture. Ask around at the Farmers Markets. It sells quickly to those who desire it.

HERBED WATERCRESS PISTACHIO SALAD

Ingredients:

1 bunch watercress, roots trimmed

8 leaves fresh basil

8-10 leaves fresh mint

20 leaves Mexican tarragon

1/2 cup mandarin orange slices

1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup pistachio nuts, lightly toasted

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 drop orange extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:

Arrange watercress, basil, mint, and Mexican tarragon on a platter. Tuck mandarin orange slices and red onion pieces throughout. Sprinkle toasted pistachio nuts over all. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, orange extract, sea salt, and pepper. Slowly add olive oil while continuing to whisk. Dressing will emulsify. Before serving, drizzle salad dressing evenly over salad.

Incredibly Delish Chocolate Bliss

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Incredibly Delish Chocolate Bliss! Is it a cake? Is it a confection? Who cares? It’s smooth, creamy dreamy chocolate and it is incredible. The fact that it is flourless is a plus for those who avoid desserts for that particular reason. The dark chocolate and butter combination is divinely rich, which is why a little bit goes a long way. I find a nice cuppa joe or herbal tea creates a balance that works. As always, share a little bliss with those around you. They’ll thank you for it.

INCREDIBLY DELISH CHOCOLATE BLISS

Ingredients:

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

6 tablespoons butter, cubed

2 eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon espresso powder

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

6 teaspoons chocolate hazelnut spread

Crushed pistachios for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Use paper muffin cups or buttered ramekins. Set aside. Combine bittersweet chocolate and butter in a microwave-proof bowl. Melt in microwave on high setting at 30-second intervals until melted and smooth. Stir occasionally. In a mixer bowl, combine eggs, sugar, espresso powder, and almond extract. Beat on medium-high speed for 5 minutes or until mixture is lightened. Reduce speed to low setting. Add melted chocolate/butter mixture until combined. Spoon into muffin cups or buttered ramekins. Add one half teaspoon of hazelnut spread in the center of each muffin cup batter. Bake 10 minutes until edges are set, but center is still soft. Do not over bake. Garnish with crushed pistachios. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter X

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Xmas Pizzelle Cookies! I’m obsessed with food that has eye appeal. That’s one reason I was drawn to pizzelles, a traditional Italian waffle cookie. I could make you crazy by telling you we’re going to make them from scratch, but hey, my time is in high demand just like yours. Besides, since I don’t own a pizzelle iron, sometimes it’s better to leave things to an expert. I’m here today to save you time when someone suggests a Holiday Cookie Exchange. Pick up a package of Classic Italian Pizzelles on your way home from work, dip the cookies in melted chocolate, and sprinkle with nuts. You can thank me later when you’re sitting back relaxing with a glass of wine. 
XMAS PIZZELLE COOKIES 
Ingredients:

7-ounce package Vanilla Flavored Pizzelle Cookies

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 ounces pistachios, chopped
Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine semisweet chocolate chips and vegetable oil. Heat in microwave on 50% setting for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat in 30-second intervals until melted. Stir until smooth. Dip half of each pizzelle cookie into melted chocolate. Sprinkle both sides with chopped pistachios. Place on baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until set.