What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Warm Feta Spread! At first glance you may think the hot pepper mixture is too flaming hot to eat. Peppers, after all, can be pretty spicy. Removing the seeds is half the battle. Still, the skin of a hot pepper contains oils which ignite the heat sensors in the mouth. All true. However, cheese acts as a natural fire extinguisher to diminish the heat factor, while promoting the amazing taste of peppers. Feta cheese contains milk, which is another component in reducing heat. Trust me, all together it works.
WARM FETA SPREAD
8-ounce block feta cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 green hot pepper, sliced
1 habanero pepper, seeds removed and chopped
1 shallot, sliced
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 ripe tomato, diced
Fresh tarragon for garnish
Assorted bagel chips and crackers
Preheat oven to 350°. Place feta cheese block in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with crushed Herbes de Provence. Bake 15 minutes until cheese is soft. Meanwhile heat one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add green hot pepper slices, chopped habanero pepper, sliced shallots, and garlic powder. Cook until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove warmed feta cheese from oven. Top with diced tomatoes and hot pepper mixture. Garnish with fresh tarragon. Serve with assorted bagel chips and crackers.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Underwood Chicken Pâté! Sometimes you need a snack or an appetizer in a pinch for hungry grandkids, neighbors relaxing on the back porch, or late night munchies. A quick solution can be found in the kitchen pantry with premium quality canned meats. Simply add cheese, veggies, and spice for a people-pleasing dip that hits the spot. Adding a side of pepper jelly is a nice compliment to the creamy dip.
UNDERWOOD CHICKEN PÂTÉ
8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, extra-sharp, finely shredded
2 tablespoons red onion, diced
1/3 cup celery, chopped
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4.25 ounce can Underwood Chicken Spread
1 sprig of tarragon
Cilantro for garnish
In a medium mixing bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, cheddar cheese, red onion, chopped celery, celery seed, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Mix well. Fold in Chicken Spread and fresh tarragon leaves. Chill until ready to serve. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with toasted baguette slices or assorted crackers.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Banana Toffee Pops! It’s no secret kids love bananas. Adults do, too. With the dog days of summer upon us, make a treat with frozen bananas. Turn them into tasty pops covered in sprinkles or throw them in the blender for a refreshing smoothie. Can’t make up your mind? Do both! 🐵Question: How do you get a monkey down the stairs? 🐒Answer: Have it slide down the banana-ster! 🍌🍌🍌Have a great day!
BANANA TOFFEE POPS
3 firm bananas, peeled and cut in half
6 popsicle sticks
8 ounces Greek yogurt
1/3 cup toffee pieces, slightly crushed
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
Place a sheet of wax paper on a baking sheet. Set aside. Combine toffee pieces and mini chocolate chips. Sprinkle onto a sheet of wax paper. Once the banana is coated in yogurt, you will roll the banana in the toppings before placing on the wax paper-lined baking sheet. Peel bananas. Slice each banana in half. Insert one stick into the bottom end of a banana segment. Working one at a time, spread yogurt all over the banana until it is completely covered. Coat in candy pieces. Place on the baking sheet. Repeat. When all six are complete, place baking sheet in the freezer. Freeze 4 hours or overnight. Keep treats frozen in storage bags until ready to serve.*
*Serving Suggestion: For smaller portions, slice bananas into 2″ chunks.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: USA Happy Snack! Did I ever tell you I spent my childhood surrounded by apple trees? It’s one of my favorite memories, growing up in the Midwest. If I was in a feisty mood, I’d nibble on sour green apples. Forget that my impatience may have caused a tart pursing of the lips and a slight ache in the stomach. As the apples ripened, I’d pluck the prettiest one off the tree, rub it against my knee for a mirrored sheen, and admire its beauty. Sometimes I’d twist the stem until it broke, reciting my ABCs. Whatever letter I was on when the stem splintered away became the name of my next boyfriend. But not if it matched my brothers’ names. That didn’t count. Here’s to all-American healthy food wrapped up in a little nostalgia.
USA HAPPY SNACK
1 Gala apple, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 slices smoked Virginia ham
4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, sliced thick
Brush the sliced apples with lemon juice to prevent browning. Cut the ham slices in half. Take one apple slice and place it on top of a piece of cheddar cheese. Wrap them with one piece of ham, seam side down. Tuck a sprig of fresh mint into the snack. Enjoy!
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Kabob Brownie Bites! This recipe seems like a no-brainer. It’s that simple. Strawberries + Marshmallow + Brownie Bites = Dessert Kabobs! Talk about a foodie’s favorite. This no-fuss festive platter will make a melody in your heart. If you like continuous joy, and a dessert that will draw raves, treat everyone to this explosion of sweetness. (As a time-saver, you may substitute package brownie bites instead of homemade.)
KABOB BROWNIE BITES
1 Fudge Brownie Mix
1 pound fresh strawberries
8 ounces large marshmallows
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Using a mini-muffin tin, prepare Fudge Brownie mix according to package directions. Bake. Cool on a wire rack. Clean and dry strawberries. Cut them in half to have a flat end. Beginning with a strawberry cap, skewer it so the greens are on the top. Add a marshmallow, one brownie, and the other half of the strawberry so the point is on the bottom of the kabob. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. For toasted marshmallows, use a kitchen torch. One at a time, carefully “roast the marshmallow” over a low flame. Do not burn. Return kabob to baking sheet. Repeat until all are toasted. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds on High. Stir and repeat until chocolate is completely melted. Transfer melted chocolate to a squeeze bottle or ziplock bag with the corner snipped off. Drizzle chocolate over the kabobs. Refrigerate until chocolate ready to serve.
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
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
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.
Experience the Holidays: 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
1 pound pecan halves
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Zucchini ‘Nana Bread! This isn’t your usual old-fashioned banana bread. And if you’ve been hesitant to try zucchini bread, well…just because, then I implore you to give it one more chance. You honestly cannot taste the zucchini. What you will notice, though, is that the bread is incredibly moist, not gummy. And the cinnamon streusel topping is a winning combination worth shouting about. Remember to only stir the batter until it is mixed. The more you stir, the more gluten comes into play. While gluten is crucial in bread-baking, it is not your friend in quick breads. The results could be dense and rubbery. After all, the purpose of baking is to share with others. Slather on the butter or cream cheese…and Enjoy!
ZUCCHINI ‘NANA BREAD
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Ingredients for Cinnamon Topping:
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Set aside. Peel zucchini. If there are seeds, remove them with a spoon; discard. Shred zucchini and set aside. Mash banana and set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and vegetable oil until combined. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, sea salt, and vanilla extract. Stir only until incorporated. Fold in shredded zucchini and mashed bananas. Stir slightly until blended. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Whisk together sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow bread to cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Cool Zucchini ‘Nana Bread on a wire rack before slicing.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Mint Black ‘n Bleu Snack! When you’re needing a simple, yet exotic appetizer or dessert, nothing satisfies the palate like naturally sweet fresh blackberries complimented by creamy bleu cheese. The subtle crunch of a multigrain cracker topped with sesame and poppyseeds makes a wonderful platform. A touch of raw honey serves to tickle the tongue while the fresh mint leaf provides a tangy finish. Together, they pair extremely well with a glass of white wine or after dinner espresso. Perhaps you see this in your future.
MINT BLACK ‘N BLEU SNACK
8.3 ounces multigrain baked crackers
4-6 ounce wedge Danish bleu cheese
8 ounces fresh blackberries, wash and pat dry
1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey
Fresh mint leaves
On a serving platter, arrange a single layer of multigrain crackers. Shave thin layers of Danish bleu cheese slices to cover the crackers. Add blackberries in random order. Drizzle with Tupelo honey. Garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serve.