Alpine Cheese Crisps

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Alpine Cheese Crisps! If you ever get the munchies but want a low-carb snack, here’s something you can make at home in a matter of minutes. Not only that, it saves you the cost of paying for the prepackaged varieties available in the deli department of your favorite grocery store. Go to the refrigerator because you can take an ordinary slice of Swiss cheese and transform it into a thin crunchy chip, simply by using the microwave. No kidding. Add a sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese plus a smidgen of garlic and rosemary for a gourmet finish. The secret? Be sure to use parchment paper.

ALPINE CHEESE CRISPS

Ingredients:

8 ounces Alpine Swiss cheese, sliced

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 smidgen garlic powder

1 teaspoon rosemary leaves

Instructions:

In a small bowl, mix parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and rosemary leaves. Set aside. Trim a piece of parchment paper to the size of a microwave-safe plate. Break one slice of Swiss cheese into small pieces over the parchment paper, forming a pile. Sprinkle parmesan cheese mixture on top. All microwave ovens cook differently so begin with 1 1/2 minutes on full power. Then microwave 20-30 seconds longer until the cheese is crisp and golden. Remove plate from oven and allow cheese crisp to cool to the touch. Carefully transfer cheese crisp to a wire rack. Reuse parchment paper. Repeat process until all cheese is used. Store at room temperature.

Jell-O Shots with Sugared Cranberries

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Jell-O Shots With Sugared Cranberries! The holidays ring in the cheer with festive activities, enticing food, and snappy beverages. Make things awesome with dressed up Jell-O shots that cap off any occasion. Not only do they have an elegant look, but they satisfy the sweet tooth as a miniature dessert. By creating a garnish of fresh fruit with the sugared cranberries, it’s a classy finish with a gourmet twist!

JELL-O SHOTS WITH SUGARED CRANBERRIES

For Make-Ahead Sugared Cranberries:

2 cups sugar, divided

1/2 cup filtered water

12-ounce bag fresh cranberries

1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions:

Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup filtered water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved, about 3-5 minutes. Add cranberries. To prevent cranberries from bursting, do not boil. Stir until well coated. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cranberries to a wire rack. Let dry for one hour. Working in batches, roll cranberries in remaining sugar until well coated. Refrigerate for one hour or overnight. Store in airtight container.

Ingredients for Jell-o Shots:

3-ounce package raspberry gelatin

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup amaretto liqueur

1/2 cup ice water

Sugared cranberries Rosemary sprigs

Instructions:

Empty contents of raspberry gelatin packet into a mixing bowl. Add boiling water. Stir until completely dissolved, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add iced water and amaretto liqueur and iced water. Stir well. Pour into shot glasses. Refrigerate until set, 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with sugared cranberries and rosemary sprigs just before serving.

Unbelievable Egg Nog Cake

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Unbelievable Egg Nog Cake! Did you know you can freeze eggnog for up to six months? You can. And isn’t it a relief to know that you won’t be pouring money down the drain? Too much of anything can take away the joy. We all get caught up in holiday indulgences, thinking it’s the only time of year to appreciate our favorite treats. No more. Rather than feeling like a glutton for punishment, followed by waves of guilt, here’s a way to stretch the cheer throughout the winter months. When the nights are dark and the fire warms your feet, snuggle up with a slice of nostalgia. You deserve it.

UNBELIEVABLE EGG NOG CAKE

Ingredients:

16.5-ounce yellow cake mix

3-ounce vanilla instant pudding mix

1 cup eggnog

4 eggs

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for Glaze:

1/4 cup butter, warmed

1/4 cup eggnog

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon rum

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups powdered sugar

Garnish with rosemary sprigs and pomegranate arils

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a bundt pan (or 8 mini bundt pans) with nonstick oil containing flour. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine yellow cake mix, dry vanilla pudding mix, eggnog, eggs, vegetable oil, nutmeg, water, and vanilla extract. Beat with a mixer for 2 minutes until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour batter into pan(s). Bake 50 minutes for large, or 25 minutes for small bundt cakes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven to cool for 10 minutes before inverting on a wire rack. Allow to cool 10 minutes longer before transferring to a cake plate. While cakes are cooling make the glazed icing. In a bowl, whisk together butter, eggnog, vanilla extract, rum, and nutmeg until smooth. Sprinkle in powdered sugar, stirring with a spoon, until smooth. Drizzle glaze over cake. Garnish with rosemary sprigs and pomegranate arils for a festive finish.

Wrapped-in-Bacon Roasted Turkey

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Wrapped-in-Bacon Roast Turkey! Bacon-lovers unite. With the holidays looming on the horizon, this main dish is perfect for those who turn their nose up at Mr. Turkey. By wrapping applewood smoked bacon around the outside of the bird, the inside meat stays moist and a little bit salty while the outside gets crispy. No basting required. I was able to weave the bacon strips on a sheet of waxed paper therefore making it easier to cover the turkey breast. It sounds weird, but rub a little butter on the turkey skin first. It actually helps the bacon stay in place. As it bakes, the house begins to smell amazing. You know you want it.

WRAPPED-IN-BACON ROAST TURKEY

Ingredients:

7-8 pound turkey breast, thawed

1 pound thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, sliced

1 yellow onion, quartered

Butter for rubbing

Rosemary sprigs for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place turkey breast, breast-side up, in a shallow roasting pan. Tuck the onions quarters in the cavity of the breast. Brush turkey with butter. Add one cup water to the bottom of the pan. This keeps the bacon from shrinking while creating steam for a crispier skin. Place the woven bacon onto the turkey breast by flipping the waxed paper over it. Peel back and tuck the bacon edges around the breast to cover it evenly. The butter will help move it into place. Bake 3-3 1/2 hours. If the bacon becomes too golden-brown before the turkey is fully cooked, cover it with a loose tent of aluminum foil. Turkey is done when a meat thermometer registers at least 165° in the deepest part of the breast. Remove from oven and allow the cooked breast to stand 20-30 minutes. This allows the juices to settle and makes carving easier. To keep the bacon intact, cut through the bacon first before carving the breast beneath. Transfer to a platter with onions and rosemary sprigs.

Sweet Potato Stacks

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Sweet Potato Stacks! Bring gourmet taste, with a quirk of presentation, to the dinner table tonight. It’s not rocket science. In fact, you may find yourself giggling at how ridiculously simple this is to make. When I pierced each stack with a rosemary sprig, my husband nearly fell out of his chair in amusement. (It’s not at all necessary. The sweet potato stacks stand upright on their own.) Roasted in a muffin tin, and drizzled with pure maple syrup are two trade secrets you can share with others. Or keep to yourself. Either way, it’s a tower of Yum.

SWEET POTATO STACKS

Ingredients:

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick oil. In a bowl, mix together olive oil, rosemary leaves, and garlic powder. Coat slices of sweet potatoes. Place a slice of sweet potato in each muffin cup. Top with parmesan cheese between layers of potato slices. Continue until the muffin cup is filled. Going above the top is okay since the cooked sweet potatoes will shrink a little. Repeat with remaining sweet potato slices. Drizzle maple syrup over each stack. Sprinkle extra parmesan cheese over all. Bake stacks 35-40 minutes until tender. Transfer to a serving plate. Spoon reserve maple syrup mixture over top. Garnish with fresh rosemary.

Honeycomb Cheese Wheel

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Honeycomb Cheese Wheel! Remember when you were a kid and for fun you puckered up with those candy red wax lips? Me and my girlfriends would put them on, batt our eyes, sashay our hips, and laugh hysterically. Most often we’d find ourselves chewing on the sugary insides before spitting them out into tiny red blobs on our way home from school. I’m sure that made quite an impression on the neighborhood boys. Well today’s honeycomb is a distant cousin, twice-removed, to those artificial candy lips. Even better, raw honeycomb is completely safe to eat and naturally sweet. A little goes a long way simply because it is seeping with honey. Dress it up with a wheel of Camembert or Brie cheese, seasoned with a clove of garlic and a couple of sprigs from the herb garden. Spread it across baguette slices for an open-air treat.

HONEYCOMB CHEESE WHEEL

Ingredients:

1 wheel Camembert cheese

1 garlic clove, sliced

1 sprig rosemary

2 sprigs thyme

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Small section honeycomb

Instruction:

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove cheese from plastic wrap. Return cheese to its wooden box. Place box on a baking sheet. Take a knife and score a criss-cross pattern halfway through the cheese. Tuck garlic clove slices in the cuts. Sprinkle rosemary and thyme herbs over top. Drizzle butter over all. Bake, uncovered, 20 minutes until cheese is soft, bubbling, and fragrant. Serve immediately by spreading the golden cheese over toasted baguette slices. Then spoon the oozing honeycomb pieces over all. Garnish with fresh herbs.

Mustard Glazed Rainbow Carrots

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Mustard Glazed Rainbow Carrots! Have you noticed carrots now come in rainbow colors? How exciting is that?! It’s not only the color that catches your attention, it’s the difference in flavor. Traditional orange carrots have a certain sweet earthiness we’re all familiar with, whether you eat them raw or cooked. Others colors may range from a slightly peppery taste to mildly subtle one. Either way, the combination offers a range of nutrients linking benefits to eye health, better digestion, and possibly even cancer prevention. Refine your taste buds. Give rainbow carrots a try. Organic, of course.

MUSTARD GLAZED RAINBOW CARROTS

Ingredients:

12 ounces organic rainbow baby-cut carrots, cut lengthwise or left whole

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon natural honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Place carrots in a shallow dish. Combine olive oil, natural honey, Dijon mustard, rosemary leaves, garlic powder, sea salt, and white pepper. Mix well. Pour over carrots to coat. Transfer mixture to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 20-30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes for a roasted, golden glow. Serve immediately.

Focaccia Herb Bread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Focaccia Herb Bread! I love bread. Don’t hate me. Besides, if the Italians and the French can make it a guilt-free pleasure, that’s good enough for me. Focaccia Bread is a flatter version than a loaf and actually resembles the texture of pizza dough and breadsticks. Are you with me now? At first glance you may think there is too much olive oil in this recipe. Not true. Actually, that is the secret to keeping the bread soft or preventing it from drying out. Feel free to begin imagining focaccia bread as an appetizer, sandwich bread, or healthy snack. Permission granted.

FOCACCIA HERB BREAD

Ingredients:

1 cup water

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 cups bread flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1-2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated

Dipping Olive Oil

Instructions:

Using a bread machine, follow this order: add water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sea salt, bread flour, and sugar. Make a small well in the dry ingredients. Pour the active dry yeast in the well. Select Dough/Manual cycle. When cycle is complete, coat a 10”x15” baking pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil. This will make the bottom crispy. Press the dough into the pan, stretching it to fit the pan. Be sure to turn the dough over to coat both sides with olive oil. Once the dough is stretched, take a wooden spoon and press it, handle side down, to make impressions in the dough, similar to dimples. Be careful. DO NOT make holes in the dough. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in a warm area, free of drafts. Let the dough rise for one hour. Preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the plastic wrap and discard. Sprinkle the top of the focaccia dough with rosemary leaves and parmesan cheese. Drizzle enough olive oil to pool in the indentations. Bake until golden brown, 18-20 minutes. Remove the focaccia bread and let it cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Cut into squares. Serve with herbed olive oil or enjoy as is.

Versatile Fig-Glazed Cornish Hen

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Versatile Fig-Glazed Cornish Hen! When an evening meal becomes a dinner date for two, make it extra-special by choosing something out of the ordinary. A luxury, so to speak. Cornish hens are an individual serving, which makes them that much more appealing on the dinner plate. Typically they run in size around 1 1/2 pounds, which is perfect. The meat is quite tender and moist with a subtle chicken flavor. Whether it’s a romantic celebration or just because, turn on some music, open a bottle of wine, gaze into each other’s eyes, and enjoy the ambiance. Candlelight is purely optional.

VERSATILE FIG-GLAZED CORNISH HEN

Ingredients for Cornish Hens:

20-ounce each Cornish hens, twin pack, frozen and thawed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Ingredients for Fig Glaze:

1/4 cup chili-fig jam

1/4 cup port wine

1/4 cup balsamic reduction

1/4 cup unsalted butter

Freshly squeezed lemon juice, quarter lemon

Pinch of kosher salt

Cracked black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a dutch oven with nonstick oil. Set aside. Wash the Cornish hens; pat dry. Season the cavities with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Place a rosemary sprig inside. Secure the legs and wings with cooking twine. Transfer birds to the dutch oven. Dot the top of each Cornish hen with butter. Bake 45 minutes. While the hens are roasting, make the fig glaze. Place a small pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add chili-fig jam, port wine, balsamic reduction, butter, lemon juice, kosher salt, and black pepper. Stir well to combine. Allow mixture to reduce to a syrupy consistency, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Baste the birds with the fig sauce during the last 10 minutes of roasting. The Cornish hens are done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°, and juices run clear. The skin should be golden brown and crispy. Remove pan from oven. Tent the pan with aluminum foil to keep warm. Allow the birds to rest for 10 minutes before serving.