Pumpkin Spice Pie

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Sweet Celebrations: Pumpkin Spice Pie! It wouldn’t be a feast without family traditions, whether it’s a circle of loved ones, heirloom tableware, aromatic side dishes, or pumpkin spice pie. No matter how stuffed we are from the bountiful spread, there’s always room for dessert. Am I right? Indeed! Besides, who can resist a touch of creamy custard sweetness surrounded by a golden, buttery crust, even if it is prepared by someone else.

PUMPKIN SPICE PIE

Ingredients:

1 prepared 9” pie crust

15-ounce can puréed pumpkin

2 eggs

15-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Whipped Cream for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Place prepared pie dough in an ungreased pie plate. Crimp edges as desired. Set aside. Combine puréed pumpkin, eggs, sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and sea salt. Beat until smooth. Pour into prepared pie crust. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue baking 40-50 minutes until center is firm. If necessary, cover the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil to avoid over browning. A knife inserted will come out clean. Remove from oven. Cool. Garnish with whipped cream, as desired.

Instant Plum Brekkie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Instant Plum Brekkie! Sooo, I went in for my annual health assessment, and learned I’m not eating enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains each day. I reported 3-4 servings of each and learned those numbers need to be bumped up to 5 servings a day. Seriously??? You’d never know it by the foods I post on my blog. Let me be clear, I do prepare and eat EVERYTHING you see from Gail’s Kitchen. Granted, I am getting older. But in my defense, I simply cannot eat as much as I did when I was younger. My metabolism won’t allow it. I need to think about the stress and strain extra weight can put on the heart, back, joints, and feet. That being said, my BMI (body mass index) is within a healthy range, which is good. If you need to make substitutions of ingredients to meet your own personal goals, please do what is right for you.

INSTANT PLUM BREKKIE

Ingredients:

2 slices quinoa multigrain bread

1-2 tablespoons Neufchâtel cheese

1 plum, pit removed and sliced

1 teaspoon granola

Dusting of ground cinnamon and nutmeg

Instructions:

In a toaster oven, lightly brown bread on both sides. Spread Neufchâtel cheese on each piece of toast. Arrange sliced plums over creamed cheese layer. Add the granola-topper. Sprinkle with a light dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Yams in Pecan Glaze

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Yams in Pecan Glaze! Oh. My. Gosh. You have got to make this recipe. There’s still plenty of time before the holidays to switch back to your traditional family favorite if you don’t like it, but think about this a moment. By using canned yams, or sweet potatoes, preparation is a snap. Who knows? You could end up making both. Remember what I said about “Start Smart”? Sometimes that means taking advantage of the numerous products that eliminate the extra leg work. Sugared pecans are such a gourmet treat. Pick up a package of those to add to the decadent pure maple syrup sauce. Read on if you’re curious.

YAMS IN PECAN GLAZE

Ingredients:

29-ounce can cut sweet potatoes in syrup

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon sage, finely chopped

1 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Fresh thyme sprigs, for garnish

For Pecan Glaze:

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup sugared pecans

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Drain liquid from sweet potatoes into a saucepan. Carefully slice and arrange yams in a casserole dish. Set aside. Boil the liquid over medium heat until only 1/4” covers the bottom of the saucepan. Add butter, sage, thyme, cinnamon, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Mix well. Pour over sweet potatoes. Bake 15 minutes. While potatoes are baking, make the pecan glaze. Add butter to a skillet over medium heat. Add sugared pecans. Toss to coat. Sauté for 2 minutes. Add pure maple syrup. Cook 5 minutes longer, or until the pecans are caramelized and syrupy. Pour over sweet potatoes. Return casserole to the oven and bake 5 minutes longer, or until the glaze becomes thick. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs before serving.

Lentil Rotini Pizza Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Lentil Rotini Pizza Pasta! Going organic, especially with red lentils, doesn’t necessarily mean the meal has to be completely plant-based. Sure, you still get the protein and fiber you need, but think about making it appealing to your family as well. By adding cheese and pepperoni slices, you can turn the rotini spirals into an Italian favorite. Pizza Pasta. Spice things up with red pepper flakes, garlic, and oregano. Now you’re talking. Serve in individual baking dishes for extra special treatment. You may even have the kids asking for it again.

LENTIL ROTINI PIZZA PASTA

Ingredients:

12-ounce box of organic red lentil rotini

1 1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 cup pepperoni slices, divided

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Crushed basil for garnish

Instructions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add rotini. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes. Caution: Watch carefully as the lentils will foam up to overflowing. You may have to reduce heat to a Simmer. Drain well. In a large bowl, combine marinara sauce, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and oregano. Add rotini; stir to coat. Fold in 3/4 of the pepperoni and half the mozzarella cheese. Divide into individual broiler-proof baking dishes. Top with remaining pepperoni and shredded mozzarella cheese. Adjust oven rack to at least 4” away from broiler coils. Preheat broiler on High setting. Arrange individual casseroles on a baking sheet. Transfer sheet to oven. Cook until cheese is melted and slightly brown. Garnish with crushed basil. Serve with garlic bread.

Xinjiang Mini Cukes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Xinjiang Mini Cukes! Has anyone else noticed the adorable mini cucumbers in the produce department of the grocery store? I mean, they’re really cute; the size of an index finger. And they’re seedless! What a great addition to a relish plate. Today’s Chinese version of marinated cucumbers will kick-start any meal. It offers enough heat and spice from chile peppers along with the full-bodied taste of fried garlic to transport you to a country in Southeast Asia. No worries, the rice vinegar and natural honey make it easier on the stomach.

XINJIANG MINI CUKES

Ingredients:

4-6 mini seedless cucumbers

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon fried garlic

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/2 tablespoon natural honey

1 tablespoon Golden Mountain sauce

1 tablespoon chili paste

Instructions:

Cut cucumbers in half lengthwise; then slice in half to make four quarters. Place cucumbers in a bowl and sprinkle with kosher salt. Set aside for 30 minutes. Drain excess water from cucumbers. Using a mortar and pestle, pumice red pepper flakes and fried garlic. Add rice vinegar, sesame oil, natural honey, Golden Mountain sauce, and chili paste. Mix well. Serve as a dipping sauce for mini cucumber appetizer OR pour over cucumbers; toss to coat and marinate in refrigerator for one hour or overnight.

Roasted Corn Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Roasted Corn Salad! Nothing tastes better than fresh corn. Shuck it off the cob to make a spectacular side dish that goes well with quesadillas, tacos, and grilled meats. This make-ahead roasted corn salad is another picnic basket favorite that travels well and satisfies a crowd. Simply modify the portions to match the event. It’s fresh, it’s spicy, and it’ll keep ’em coming back for more.

ROASTED CORN SALAD

Ingredients:

3 ounces cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon water

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

3 ears bicolor corn, shucked off cob

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup black beans, drained

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

1 jalapeño pepper, chopped

1 ripe tomato, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Combine the cider vinegar, water, olive oil, sugar, sea salt, and white pepper in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool at room temperature. In an iron skillet over medium-high heat, add vegetable oil. Drop the corn kernels into the skillet; stir to coat. Every few minutes, turn corn with a spatula. As the kernels begin to char, continue turning until corn is tender, about 6-7 minutes. It may be necessary to reduce heat. Place black beans in a large covered bowl. Transfer roasted corn to same bowl. Sprinkle with garlic powder, cumin powder, and Cajun seasoning. Add chopped jalapeño pepper, tomato, green pepper, celery, red onion, and cooled marinade. Mix thoroughly. Refrigerate overnight. Before serving, garnish with fresh cilantro.

Mini Caprese Skewers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Mini Caprese Skewers! Can you tell I’m trying to squeeze as many foods in my picnic basket as possible before Summer ends? For a quick veggie burst of flavor, these off-the-vine cherry tomatoes are a match made in heaven when paired with fresh basil. It doesn’t hurt that the marinated mozzarella balls are skewered together for lovely presentation. It’s all about the finger food.

MINI CAPRESE SKEWERS

Ingredients:

12 mozzarella balls

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon Italian spice blend

24 fresh basil leaves

12 cherry tomatoes, halved

12 black olives, sliced

Olive oil for drizzling

Instructions:

In a shallow bowl, place mozzarella balls. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with Italian spices. Toss cheese to cover well. Beginning with a cherry tomato half, thread tomato on a toothpick or skewer. Then place one basil leaf, followed by a marinated mozzarella ball. Finish with the remaining cherry tomato and another basil leaf. Repeat with remaining cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, and mozzarella balls. Thread black olives on separate skewers. Drizzle olive oil mixture over finished caprese skewers. Transport in jars or covered containers.

Liptauer Cheese Spread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Liptauer Cheese Spread! I love appetizers. Mostly because they give you permission to graze through a meal. Some say by eating smaller meals more frequently, it can lead to a longer, healthier life. So, around dinner time you could find me uncorking a bottle of nice red wine and nibbling on fruit, cheese, and crudités. This mellow cheese spread offers a blend of anchovy-stuffed green olives, sweet onions, salty capers, and spicy French Dijon mustard. Permission granted, my friends.

LIPTAUER CHEESE SPREAD

Ingredients:

8-ounce block of Neufchâtel cheese

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 tablespoons Vidalia onion, finely chopped

12 anchovy-stuffed green olives, finely chopped

1 teaspoon French Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon imported capers, chopped

1 teaspoon caraway seed

1 teaspoon paprika

Instructions:

Combine softened Neufchâtel cheese and butter. Mix until smooth. Add Vidalia onion, anchovy-stuffed green olives, French Dijon mustard, imported capers, caraway seed, and paprika. Mix well. Form into a ball. Chill for one hour. Garnish with parsley. Serve with toasted baguette slices and vegetable crudités.

Yesterday’s Cucumber Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Yesterday’s Cucumber Soup. Here we go again with another cold soup option. It may sound like an oxymoron, but actually if I called it a Cucumber Smoothie, would you drink it? Perhaps. Tell me this, how many times have you been served ice water with a cucumber slice in it? Or grabbed a hydrating plant-based juice beverage at the corner convenience store? Get the picture. It’s all about the perspective. If you find it challenging to eat cold soup, or just plain WRONG…by all means, pour it into a glass and slurp away. To quote William Shakespeare, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Carry on.

YESTERDAY’S CUCUMBER SOUP

Ingredients:

4 mini seedless cucumbers, peeled and chopped

1 gala apple, peeled, cored, and chopped

1 green onion, chopped

2-3 basil leaves

1/4 cup almond milk, unsweetened

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon lime juice

Diced apple, tomato bits, chive snips, and basil leaf for garnish

Instructions:

Reserving garnish to taste, place all remaining I ngredients in a blender. Alternate between Pulse and Liquify settings to purée until smooth. Transfer cucumber mixture into a covered container. Refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight until chilled. Divide into shallow bowls. Serve garnished with apple chunks, diced tomatoes, chopped chives, and basil.