Zero-Guilt Honey & Nut Date Bites

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Zero-Guilt Honey & Nut Date Bites! Goodness knows we carry around enough guilt these days between the gourmet coffee addiction and the lack of gym time workouts. So here’s a logical snack that not only provides protein, carbs, and fiber, it feels like a treat! Honestly, anything with natural honey gets my stamp of approval. The fruit, nuts, and coconut are an added bonus, in my opinion. Go ahead, make up a batch and see how rewarding it is.

ZERO-GUILT HONEY & NUT DATE BITES

Ingredients:

3/4 cup dates, chopped

1/4 cup raisins

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup natural peanut butter, crunchy

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon sea salt crystals

3/4 cup walnuts, chopped

3/4 cup pecans, chopped

1 cup coconut, flaked

Instructions:

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine dates, raisins, eggs, honey, and peanut butter. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly for 4 minutes. The eggs need to cook thoroughly, but not scramble. Do not scorch. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla extract and sea salt crystals. Fold in chopped walnuts and pecans. Mix well. Form into small bite-size balls, uniform in shape. Roll each ball in coconut flakes. Refrigerate an hour or until firm. Store in an air-tight container.

Vegan Banana Maple Muffins

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Vegan Banana-Maple Muffins! For breakfast on the run, mid-morning snack, or late night munchie, these banana maple muffins are a welcome sight. Made with overripe bananas and coconut milk, they provide nutritional benefits that fuel the body as well as satisfy hunger pangs. Between the first crunch of nuts and the last taste of maple cream icing, you may find yourself reaching for a tall glass of cold milk wondering how you lived so long without trying these before.

VEGAN BANANA-MAPLE MUFFINS

Ingredients for Muffins:

2 small bananas, peeled and mashed

2/3 cup coconut milk

1/3 vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/4 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to. 350°. Line a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside. In a bowl, mash overripe bananas with a fork. Whisk together bananas, coconut milk, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt. Mix well. Gradually add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Gently fold in chopped pecans. Fill each muffin cup 2/3 full. Do not overfill. Bake 18-20 minutes or until tops spring back and cake tester comes out clean. Transfer muffins to wire rack to cool completely before adding icing.

Ingredients for Maple Icing:

2 cups powdered sugar

2 tablespoons margarine, softened

2 tablespoons coconut milk, slightly warmed

2 teaspoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Pinch cinnamon

Pinch nutmeg

Pinch sea salt

12 pecan halves for garnish

Instructions:

Beat together the powdered sugar, margarine, coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sea salt until the icing is smooth and creamy. Drop one or two dollops of icing on each muffin. Garnish with pecan half.

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.

Delicious Dill Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Delicious Dill Dip! “Remember to eat your veggies.” We’ve all ignored that inner voice that tends to remind us not to reach for a second cookie. So today we’re going to make eating vegetables FUN! This dip is so yummy, you can scoop it up with cucumber spears, celery sticks, baby carrots, snow peas, cherry tomatoes, or cauliflower. But don’t stop there. The fresh dill even complements a toasted bagel, which you’ll see later on.

DELICIOUS DILL DIP

Ingredients:

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1 tablespoon celery flakes

1 tablespoon onion, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh dill

Instructions:

Mix thoroughly yogurt and mayonnaise. Add sea salt, celery seed, onion powder, celery flakes, and chopped onion; blend well. Fold in fresh dill. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Food Junkie Favorites

Hello, my name is Gail and I’m a Food Junkie. I confess that I eat to live and enjoy the ride. I like fresh ingredients, garden herbs, rich chocolate, and French butter…to name just a few. But I’m in good company. Some of my posts have been favored by the “Food Network” on Twitter as well as Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) on Instagram. Come along with me for “Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Food Junkie Favorites! This remarkable journey of the palate is special because it gives me a few moments with you. Thanks very much to all of my guests and followers on http://snapshotsincursive.com for the uplifting support, award nominations, and moving words of encouragement. What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? It’s as simple as reciting your A-B-Cs. One of my passions is being at home in my own country kitchen. I love to cook, and my husband loves that I do it often. Now more than ever, since I am retired, I relish the thought of creating something delicious from scratch. I adore time-honored traditions using tried-and-true recipes. Yet, I often never think twice about tweaking old favorites or modifying others to suit the inner craving of the moment. Most of the recipes serve 2-4 people, but can be altered in any direction. The leftovers are golden morsels to be eaten again later or shared with others. And I love to share. To me, seeing a smile in gratitude is thanks enough. The recipes you will find here in the next several weeks can be prepared very easily. Feel free to contact me with questions. Now take a deep breath, inhale the aromas, and join me on a tasteful journey entitled, “EATING MY WAY THROUGH THE ALPHABET: FOOD JUNKIE FAVORITES!”

Oyster Snack Crackers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Oyster Snack Crackers! When you get that craving for something slightly salty partnered with a crunchy snack, turn to these little gems made from basic oyster crackers. Add seasonings and oil; bake and store in an airtight container. I literally sprinkle them on homemade soups, organic salads, and sometimes the palm of my hand. In a pinch, I’ve crushed them as a coating for baked chicken or fish. It’s all up to you.

OYSTER SNACK CRACKERS

Ingredients:

16-ounce package of oyster crackers

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/2 cup olive oil

1 envelope dry ranch dressing mix

1/2 teaspoon dill weed

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Take a one gallon ziplock bag. Pour oyster crackers into bag. In a glass measuring cup, combine butter, olive oil, ranch seasoning mix, dill weed, onion powder, and lemon pepper. Stir well. Pour over crackers. Seal the bag and toss to coat, alternating every 5 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Transfer to a baking sheet. Form single layer. Bake 10 minutes; toss and bake 10 minutes longer. Do not burn. Let cool and then store in an airtight container. Will keep for weeks.

Nori Sesame Popcorn

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Nori Sesame Popcorn! If you’ve never tasted dried edible seaweed, you’re really missing out. It wasn’t until recently that I gave it a whirl and I have to tell you, I kinda like it. Besides, it’s a great source of vitamins and minerals. Asian cultures have known this all along, so it’s like preaching to the choir when I rave about the natural health benefits. When nori is added to a batch of popcorn, seasoned with roasted sesame seeds and Oriental rice crackers, it transforms a typical snack into a sensational wholesome one. Prepare to grab a handful and nibble away.

NORI SESAME POPCORN

Ingredients:

1 packet microwave popcorn, any variety

8-ounces rice cracker blend, bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

.21 ounces dried seaweed sheets, cut into small strips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare the microwave popcorn according to package directions. Transfer to a large bowl. Discard any unpopped kernels. Add the rice cracker pieces. Toss with sesame oil, sesame seeds, seasoned salt, and nori strips. Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally to prevent burning. Cool five minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container.

Kale Chips

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Kale Chips! Mention the word “kale” and you can see the noses wrinkle. But, seriously, if you eat leafy vegetables anyway…what’s the big deal? I find kale quite versatile. Its rich dark leaves hold up well in salads, pasta dishes, and snacks. Once baked, with the right seasonings, they turn into a spicy guilt-free alternative.

KALE CHIPS

Ingredients:

2 cups baby Kale leaves

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Break off the stems of the kale leaves and discard. Gently wash each leaf and dry on a paper towel to eliminate all moisture. One by one, using your fingers, rub both sides of each leaf with olive oil. Place the kale on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer without overlapping. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake 10 minutes longer. The kale leaves will shrink and begin to curl. Do not over-bake! Remove baking sheet from oven and cool for 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Wonton Nachos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Wonton Nachos! Sounds strange, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought the first time I glanced around the restaurant where couples sat munching away on the mountain of gooey cheese and triangular chips. Fusion foods combine different cultures. There are no rules and this proves it. Take Asian wonton wrappers and blend them with Mexican seasonings and salsa for a perfect pairing. Because wonton wrappers are paper thin dough, they bake up in a matter of minutes. Don’t forget the sprinkling of sea salt. By the time the margaritas are mixed, everything is ready to be assembled onto a platter of spicy Wonton Nachos that encourage conversation. Now put down your cell phones and eat!

WONTON NACHOS

Ingredients:

12-ounce package of wonton wrappers

Nonstick oil

Sea salt

8-ounce package Mexican-style cheese, shredded

Toppings of choice

Salsa for dipping

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside. Cut each wonton wrapper in half diagonally, or quarters if you desire smaller chips. Place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Coat the tops with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake 10 minutes, or until crispy. Turn for even browning. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Repeat until all chips have been made. To make nachos, arrange chips in an ovenproof dish. Add Mexican cheese and toppings of choice. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with salsa.