Sweet Celebrations

Eating My Way Through the Holidays: Sweet Celebrations! Good times naturally accompany good food. Every family has its favorites. Some indulge in time-worn traditions while others enjoy modern classics. As you embrace the holidays with companionship, nostalgia, fusion food, or festivities, celebrate the spirit of the season. In the next few weeks, join me as I share sweet dishes as well as inspiring ideas. Bring it home for the holidays with Sweet Celebrations from Gail’s Kitchen!

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Quick Savory Butter

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Quick Savory Butter! For some time now we’ve gotten pretty spoiled by restaurants, bistros, and cafés serving compound butter with the artisan bread basket. You almost hear us clapping our hands as we sink our teeth into the savory herbs or sweet concoctions. I know it makes me feel special. Chefs have been creating compound butters for years, though. It’s one of the ways they save time and add a level of sophistication for the customer. In my own kitchen, I found it’s best to begin with unsalted butter. That way I can add just enough sea salt to tease the palate. Lemon, believe it or not, adds a hint of flavor that embellishes steak or seafood. I see you nodding your head in agreement. Although I began smearing this combination on rolls and crackers, I couldn’t resist warming it to pour over a bowl of freshly popped popcorn. Talk about gourmet!

QUICK SAVORY BUTTER

Ingredients:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, cream butter with lemon juice. Add garlic powder and sea salt; stir. Fold in fresh rosemary and parsley leaves. Mix until combined. Place a sheet of waxed paper on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto sheet. Roll the waxed paper over butter to form a log. Roll tight and twist both ends. Refrigerate one hour or until firm.

Furikake Party Mix

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Furikake Party Mix! Popular in the Hawaiian Islands, furikake is a seasoning with leanings toward seaweed, sesame seeds, sea salt, and a pinch of sugar. It can be sprinkled on anything from popcorn to tuna. By taking a classic snack mix and adding a candied Japanese twist, you may leave the former far behind for awhile. To prove a point, I gave out jars of Furikake Party Mix to some friends of mine for taste-testing. After one bite, they eagerly devoured its contents within a couple days and then asked for more. Proof positive as far as I’m concerned.

FURIKAKE PARTY MIX

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons organic soy sauce

6 cups Crispix cereal

5 cups gluten-free pretzel twists

2 cups honey roasted peanuts

2 cups wasabi peas

1/2 cup furikake seasoning

2 tablespoons red pepper flakes

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 225°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Melt the butter and sugar over medium-low heat, about 3 minutes. When the sugar is melted, remove pan from stove and add vegetable oil, pure maple syrup, and organic soy sauce. Mix well. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine Crispix cereal, gluten-free pretzel twists, honey roasted peanuts, and wasabi peas. Slowly pour the butter mixture over all; gently turning the ingredients to coat well. Sprinkle on the furikake seasoning and red pepper flakes. Toss again to mix things up equally. Divide the cereal mixture between the two baking sheets. Bake for one hour, turning every 15 minutes to keep from scorching. (It may be necessary to alternate the pans between upper and lower oven racks for even browning.) The cereal will begin to dry as it bakes. After one hour, allow the Furikake Party Mix to cool before storing in airtight jars or containers.

Glorious Glazed Pecans

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: 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.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet; Letter C

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Daily Special: Caramel-Bacon Spice Cake! For the sweet and savory child inside all of us, this recipe takes the cake. It is a combination of salty, sugary, and spicy…in every bite. Your mouth will think you’re at the circus being stimulated by all the contrasting flavors! Amazingly, they come together with moist results. Hop on board and take a ride with this incredible treat. 
CARAMEL-BACON SPICE CAKE
Ingredients for Cake:

1 1/4 cups flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon all spice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla 

1/3 cup butter
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside. In a medium bowl beat eggs, milk, and vanilla until blended. Set aside. Using a mixer, cream butter until light and fluffy. On low speed, slowly alternate the egg mixture and the dry mixture until well blended. Pour batter into a greased 9″x13″ pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until a pick comes out clean. 
Bacon-Caramel Frosting:

1 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups powdered sugar

2 ounces bacon bits 
In a medium saucepan, mix brown sugar, milk, and butter. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Let cool for 15 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add powdered sugar and beat until creamy. It should be thick enough to spread on the cake. Top with crisp, crumbled bacon.