Upscale Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Upscale Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse! Americans have this uncanny obsession with chocolate and peanut butter. Some even crave it often. It may be the creamy sweetness of cocoa blended with the saltiness of roasted peanuts. Who knows? Whatever the reason, the allure is undeniable. Throw in vanilla pudding and whipped cream showcased in a parfait glass for eye appeal. It all adds up to an easy, upscale dessert that makes an everyday experience extraordinary. I find small juice glasses an appealing portion-control guide.

UPSCALE CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER MOUSSE

Ingredients:

16-20 Miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, wrappers removed and candy chopped

1/3 cup peanuts

1/2 cup chocolate fudge sauce

1 3.4-ounce package Vanilla Instant Pudding and Pie Filling Mix

1 3/4 cups light cream

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup whipped topping

1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

Choose 4-6 glasses or cups, depending on portion preferred. Divide peanuts equally between glasses. Layer with 1-2 dollops of chocolate fudge sauce. Set aside. In a chilled bowl, empty contents of pudding mix. Gradually add 1/2 cup light cream, beating on low speed with a hand mixer. Mix until well blended. Add peanut butter and beat until creamy. Gradually add remaining 1 1/4 cups of light cream. Beat on low, increasing speed as it incorporates. Continue beating for 3 minutes. Pudding will thicken. Gently fold in whipped topping to create air bubbles. Next, fold in chopped candy, reserving a few pieces to use as garnish. Spoon pudding into glasses, layering over fudge sauce. Garnish with candy chunks and mini chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Traditional Plum Pudding

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Traditional Plum Pudding! Everyone remembers Little Jack Horner’s fame from a childhood nursery rhyme: “He stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum.” It’s hard to resist that urge while eating these sweet, fruity, luscious plums. To pull this off, do like my Gramma used to say, “Honey, just dump everything in the pan, stir a little bit, and bake.” Sometimes we try to make things too difficult.

TRADITIONAL PLUM PUDDING

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/2 cup milk

4 cups ripe plums, pits removed, skin on, and sliced

1 cup natural honey

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 2-quart ovenproof baking dish with nonstick oil. Combine flour, sugar, sea salt, and baking powder in the prepared dish. Whisk together. Add melted butter and milk. Stir well. Spread evenly across the bottom of the baking dish. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sliced plums and honey. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and carefully pour over the pudding batter. Do not stir. Bake for 35-40 minutes until pudding is bubbly and golden brown. Remove from oven and serve warm with whipped cream.

Mango Rice Pudding

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Mango Rice Pudding! One of my fondest childhood memories is eating cinnamon sugared rice pudding warm from the stove. It’s funny how we associate traditional recipes with comfort food. Being a child of the ‘50s, it was the norm to have dessert with supper every night. ‘Course we also played outside till after dark. Sometimes it was “Kick the Can”, “Capture the Flag”, “Red Rover”, or “Spud”. I think my favorite was the neighborhood themed, “Boys Chase the Girls”. Being a tomboy who could run like the wind, I never did get caught. After all, who wants to be kissed by one of their brothers?!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup sweet rice

1 1/2 cups half milk and half cream

1 cup whole milk

1 cup water

1/4 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cinnamon sticks

3 mangoes; peeled, diced, and cubed

Zest of 1 lime

Pinch ground nutmeg

Cinnamon sugar, to taste

Instructions:

Using a rice cooker, add sweet rice, half and half, whole milk, water, evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon sticks to the removable pot. Close and lock the lid. Set to risotto function. Regulator knob must be set to “pressure”. Cook 18 minutes. Once the function is complete, use the natural release method to release pressure. Open the lid. Stir until the ingredients are all mixed together. Fold in half the chopped mangoes. To serve, spoon rice pudding into dessert bowls. Top with reserve mangoes and lime zest. Garnish with a sprinkling of nutmeg and cinnamon sugar.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter E

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Elderflower Lemon Cake! In honor of the royal wedding, I treated my friends to an unofficial version of Harry and Meghan’s delicious inspiration. It lends to the warm floral notes of Spring with just enough citrus and vanilla to make a moist and fluffy cake. Notice the luscious cream cheese icing drizzling down the sides like a cascading satin gown. Petite flowers, crushed pistachios, and lemon segments produce a sensational finish. Sounds like a royal pairing of Love and Happiness, doesn’t it?

ELDERFLOWER LEMON CAKE

Ingredients:

4 eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon citrus peel, granulated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons elderflower liqueur

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 small box lemon pudding mix, instant

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

4 tablespoons natural golden honey

1 tablespoon elderflower liqueur

1 tablespoon pistachios, crushed

Fresh lemon slices, cut into segments

Fresh flowers

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Set aside. In a stand mixer, combine eggs and sugar. Beat on High for 3 minutes. Turn to Low setting; drizzle in olive oil and melted butter. Continue beating one minute longer. Fold in citrus peel, vanilla extract, and elderflower liqueur. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, lemon pudding mix, and sea salt. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet batter, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour cake batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake 55-60 minutes until cake is golden brown and a tester comes out clean. Remove pan from oven and cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert onto a cake plate to unmold. To make icing, combine cream cheese, natural honey, and elderflower liqueur. Beat until light and fluffy. Drizzle over cooled cake. Sprinkle with crushed pistachios. Garnish with lemon segments and tiny fresh flowers.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter B

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Daily Special: Banana Bottom Parfaits! Three cheers for a dessert that is will make everyone smile. It’s light and creamy with a touch of sweetness, and a fruit finish that has you pushing back from the table and saying, “Ahhhhh!” Whether you choose a mini shot-glass portion or a stemmed goblet, the presentation on this dessert is rated 5-star, according to my husband.

BANANA BOTTOM PARFAITS

Ingredients:

Shortbread cookies, broken into pieces*

1 box 3.4 ounce Banana Cream Instant Pudding

2 cups cold milk

3/4 cup Cool Whip Whipped topping

2 bananas, peeled and sliced

Carmel Pecan Topping (see recipe below)

Toasted Coconut for Garnish

French Vanilla Cookie Straws

* I used Kauai Kookie Banzai bite-sized cookies.

Instructions:

Crush shortbread cookies into coarse crumbs. Using a hand mixer, beat pudding mix and milk in medium bowl for 2 minutes. Fold in whipped topping. Reserve 4 banana slices for garnish. Between the dessert dishes, layer a few banana slices in the bottom of each parfait glass. Add a spoonful of caramel sauce. Next layer the shortbread pieces. Carefully spoon in the banana pudding, making sure the layers remain separated. Repeat layers ending with pudding on top. Refrigerate 15 minutes or longer. Before serving, sprinkle with toasted coconut, garnish with one banana slice, and a cookie straw.

Hint: To prevent sliced bananas from turning brown, toss them with lemon juice. Pat bananas dry with paper towel before using.

Pecan Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 teaspoons Crown Royal

Pinch of sea salt

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients except pecans, in a 2-quart sauce pan over medium-low heat. Cook while gently stirring 5-7 minutes, or until thicker. Turn off heat. Add pecans. Pour into jar. Store in refrigerator.

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Wine Lovers Vineyard Cake!

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: 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.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter P

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Simple Sensations: Pina Colada Pie! Sometimes it’s necessary to serve your guests a dessert low in sugar. This one is perfect because it boasts tropical flavor with enough fruity sweetness to satisfy that sugar craving which follows at the end of a meal. Please note you may substitute a sugar-free graham cracker crust for the homemade cookie crust. 
PINA COLADA PIE
Ingredients for Homemade Cookie Crust:

2 cups Macadamia Nut Shortbread Cookies, crushed

1/4 cup butter, melted
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix crushed shortbread cookies and melted butter. Press crumb mixture into a pie plate sprayed with nonstick oil. Bake 10 minutes. Cool before filling. 
Ingredients for Filling:

2 8-ounce blocks of Neufchâtel cheese

1 small box Sugar Free/Fat Free Lemon Jello

1 small box Sugar Free/Fat Free Vanilla Instant Pudding 

4-ounce of Lite Cool Whip

1 8-ounce can crushed Pineapple in Natural Juices, do not drain

1 teaspoon Coconut flavor
Instructions:

Soften Neufchâtel cheese and add other ingredients. Stir until well blended. Pour into pie crust and chill for several hours or overnight. 
*Garnish: Toast 1/2 cup flake coconut in 350° oven for 4 minutes. Watch! Set aside to cool. Fresh strawberries also make an appealing garnish. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter Z

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. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet; Letter Y

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Yorkshire Pudding! Remember Sunday afternoons at grandma’s house for a traditional pot roast dinner and lively conversation? The rich beef gravy practically dribbled down your chin overflowing from the saturated yeast rolls or Yorkshire pudding. Recently, I was swept back in time when I ordered this savory dish at a charming little pub in the Canadian Rockies. It was at that moment I knew I had to bring a bit of nostalgia back home. As you can see, my version included shredded beef drippings, rich brown gravy, and assorted mixed vegetables for a pocket full of perfection. 
YORKSHIRE PUDDING 
Ingredients:

4 eggs

1 cup plus 2 teaspoons flour

3/4 cup milk

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons water

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup bacon drippings 
Instructions:

Combine eggs, flour, milk, water, and salt. Refrigerate batter overnight in an airtight container. The next day, remove batter to allow it to rest at room temperature while the oven is being preheated. Adjust oven rack to center position. Preheat oven to 450°. Place one teaspoon of bacon drippings into each well of the bouchon pan. Place pan in the oven while it is preheating, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Fill each well 3/4 full. Do not overfill. Return pan to oven. Bake 25 minutes until Yorkshire puddings quadruple in volume. Serve immediately with meat, vegetables, and gravy.