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.

Original Pistachio Party Ball

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: 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.

Vegan Charcuterie Board

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Vegan Charcuterie Board! Here’s your solution to what to bring to the next holiday party. Choose popular garden veggies, distinct to the season. Arrange them on a charcuterie board with nuts and flavorful dips. Peruse the local farmers’ market or produce section of your nearest grocers. With a little effort, the Vegan Charcuterie Board can be the star attraction for office pitch-ins, family gatherings, and other festive occasions. Check it out!

VEGAN CHARCUTERIE BOARD

Ingredients:

Carrot sticks

Asparagus spears

Celery sticks

Cherry tomatoes

Mini cucumbers, sliced

Radishes, quartered

Yellow sweet peppers, sliced

Green olives, stuffed

Kalamata olives, pitted

Pistachios in shell

Assorted crackers

Ingredients for Hummus:

15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1/2 cup tahini paste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon lemon olive oil

1 tablespoon capers

Using a food processor, pulse chickpeas until smooth. Add tahini paste, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, cumin powder, and sea salt. Process until mixed. Transfer hummus to a shallow bowl. Drizzle with lemon olive oil. Garnish with capers.

Ingredients for Dill Dip:

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon dill weed

1 teaspoon capers

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

Combine Neufchâtel cheese and prepared horseradish. Stir until smooth. Fold in dill weed, capers, and chives. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Xmas Pizzelle Cookies

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Festive Food Gifts: 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.

Fennel Honeydew Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Fennel Honeydew Salad! One final “hurrah” before you leave warm weather behind may be this tangy fruit salad sprinkled with niblets of sweet corn and a hint of anise. Are you intrigued? Ripe honeydew, in my opinion, emits a gloriously sweet fragrance that practically makes my mouth water. Once I cut into it, I find myself wandering back to the refrigerator for tidbits the way a bird eats at a feeder. One bite, close the door, visit a blog, get up, return for another snack, check Twitter, meander back, and peck at it again. Finally I surrender my willpower and stand at the kitchen sink taking in small bits until another wedge is gone. What’s a girl to do?

FENNEL HONEYDEW SALAD

Ingredients:

1 cup lettuce, shredded

1/4 section ripe honeydew, rind and seeds removed, then sliced

3-4 fennel stalks, cut into 2” pieces with ends split

1/4 cup fresh sweet corn

1/4 cup pistachios, chopped

Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste

1/4 cup cilantro dressing

Fennel fronds, for garnish

Instructions:

Divide lettuce between salad bowls. Arrange sliced honeydew melon over lettuce. Tuck fennel stalks around fruit. Sprinkle fresh sweet corn kernels over all. Top with chopped pistachios. Give it a dash of Everything But Bagel seasoning. Drizzle cilantro dressing over salad. Garnish with fennel fronds. Serve chilled.

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.

Xmas Pizzelle Cookies

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.

Ginger-Orange Salmon Lettuce Cups

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Ginger-Orange Salmon Lettuce Cups! Is it an Appetizer or an Entrée? Both. Ginger paired with orange creates amazing flavor, not to mention health benefits galore. Adding grilled salmon for omega-3s is a bonus. But enough about that and back to the lettuce cup popularity. Anytime you cut down on calories, carbs, and gluten it adds up to guilt-free options. Mix things up with seasonal fruits, garden veggies, grilled seafood, and roasted meat for creative favorites. Anything goes!

GINGER-ORANGE SALMON LETTUCE CUPS

Ingredients:

1 cup grilled orange-ginger grilled salmon, flaked

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese

1 tablespoon horseradish

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

1 teaspoon capers

1 green onion, chopped

1/3 cup mandarin oranges

Bibb lettuce leaves

Fresh chives, for garnish

Ground Pistachio nuts, for garnish

Instructions:

Grill ginger-orange salmon according to package directions. Flake salmon; set aside to cool. In a small bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese and horseradish until smooth. Gently fold in chopped dill, capers, and green onion. Spread onto Bibb lettuce leaves. Equally divide salmon over cream cheese mixture. Add mandarin orange slices. Garnish with fresh chives and pistachios. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Frozen Strawberry Yogurt Bark

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Frozen Strawberry Yogurt Bark! When my stepdaughter, Brandi, passed along this healthy summer frozen yogurt idea, I just had to give it a try. One bite and my mouth did a “Happy Dance”!With a plain non-fat yogurt base, practically any fruit can be used. Think about it: raspberries, peaches, blueberries, or bananas. Choose sprinkles or nuts for added crunch, like I have here. The possibilities are endless. Frozen Strawberry Yogurt Bark is cold, it’s refreshing, and it disappears before you know it. Just beware of the eager-eater. You may be witness to a brain-freeze!

FROZEN STRAWBERRY YOGURT BARK

Ingredients:

2 cups Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons natural honey

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 cup white chocolate chips

2 tablespoons crushed pistachios, separated

5 fresh strawberries, stems removed and sliced

2-3 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

1 teaspoon toasted coconut

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine Greek yogurt, natural honey, and almond extract. Mix well. Fold in white chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon crushed pistachios. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spread the yogurt mixture evenly to keep the bark 1/2″ thick. Arrange the strawberry slices on top. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips, the toasted coconut, and remaining crushed pistachios. Place baking sheet in the freezer 4 hours or overnight. Remove frozen strawberry bark and break into pieces. Store in a covered container in the freezer.