Diablo Pepper Poppers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Diablo Pepper Poppers! Sometimes you need an appetizer that doesn’t come across as a flame thrower sending your guests to the nearest source of water to put out the fire. I have discovered mini sweet peppers are a great stand-in for their high intensity cousin, the jalapeño. These little jewels are a colorful sight and taste even better than they look, which is pretty appealing. The green, orange, red, and yellow “pops” of color are bursting with flavor as well. No fire extinguisher needed.

DIABLO PEPPER POPPERS

Ingredients:

12 mini sweet peppers

2 tablespoons garlic olive oil

1/8 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

1/8 teaspoon seasoning salt

3 green onions, snipped

7 Pepper Jack string cheese sticks

3 ounces prosciutto, deli sliced

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray a wire rack with nonstick spray and place on the pan. Set aside. Wash the sweet peppers. Pat dry. Slice the top of each pepper vertically, removing a small portion to create a well. Remove any seeds. Brush each pepper with the garlic olive oil. Sprinkle on seasonings. Place peppers on the wire rack with cut side down. Bake 10 minutes; then set the broiler to High and broil for 2-3 minutes until the peppers are slightly charred. Remove from oven. Cool slightly. Using a tongs, flip them over. Divide the green onion snips into the bottom of each pepper well. Using a kitchen shears, cut the string cheese to fit each pepper. Take each deli portion of prosciutto and slice it in half lengthwise. Carefully wrap the prosciutto around each filled sweet pepper and place upright on wire rack. Broil on High another 2-3 minutes or until the prosciutto gets crispy. Remove pan from oven and let cool slightly. Taking a cake tester, pierce each pepper from one side to another to make an opening. Insert a wooden pick in the opening. Now you have a finger food appetizer. Serve with herbed yogurt for dipping.

Mushroom Beef Tips

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Mushroom Beef Tips! The biggest challenge you’ll have today is deciding if you’re going to serve this over buttery egg noodles or garlic mashed potatoes! I know, right? Some days I take the way of least resistance and use a slow-cook method, but this recipe can certainly be pulled together in minutes as well. I really enjoy using my French Le Creuset cast-iron Dutch oven because it seals in the juices the way a crockpot enhances results. It just goes to show you how creative cooking can be.

MUSHROOM BEEF TIPS

Ingredients:

1 pound sirloin steak, boneless, cut into 1-inch pieces

10-ounce can beef consommé

1/4 cup red wine

1/4 cup Lea and Perrins sauce

1 tablespoon French Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon tarragon

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons water

Instructions:

Place beef tips in a covered roaster. Add beef consommé, wine, Lea and Perrins sauce, mustard, tarragon, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Place sliced mushrooms over all. Cover and bake at 275° for 6-8 hours. Then To mix water and flour in a small bowl, to thicken sauce, and stir into beef mixture. Cover and cook another half hour until thickened. Serve over noodles or potatoes.

Irish Soda Bread with Whiskey Glaze

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Irish Soda Bread with Whiskey Sauce! In honor of an Irish tradition, this classic staple is made with simple ingredients. The hard crust and dense center is very filling and meant to be eaten often with meals. The sign of the cross on top symbolized protection of the family. Since yeast is not used, preparation comes easily and on short notice for unexpected guests who pop in. Make this bread today and the aromas linger to keep your home smelling nice in the days ahead.

IRISH SODA BREAD WITH WHISKEY GLAZE

Ingredients:

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup Irish Whiskey, or water

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2 1/2 cups flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup buttermilk

Irish Whiskey Glaze:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon butter, softened

3 teaspoons Irish Whiskey*

*For nonalcoholic glaze, substitute with 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and 2 1/2 teaspoons milk.

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Grease baking sheet. In a small saucepan, combine raisins, Irish whiskey or water, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and then reduce to a simmer until the raisins are plump and the liquid is almost evaporated. Remove from heat. Do not drain. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles fine crumbs. Add raisins plus liquid. Stir to blend. Gradually stir in buttermilk until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead 2 minutes until smooth. Shape into a round loaf. Transfer to baking sheet. Cut an “X” in the top before baking. Bake 35 minutes or until golden brown. While the bread is is in the oven, combine powdered sugar, butter, and Irish whiskey. Stir until creamy. When the bread is finished, brush with glaze. Serve warm.

Haricot Vert

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Haricot Vert! From the French countryside to your spacious farm table, this international string bean (haricot vert) is an all-time favorite side dish that is worth the effort. The first savory bite will have you craving for a second one. Watch this specialty disappear.

HARICOT VERT

Ingredients:

1 pound green beans, fresh

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup yellow onion, chopped

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons pimento, diced

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Instructions:

Snap the ends of the green beans. Discard. In a medium skillet over low heat, combine butter and olive oil. Increase the heat to medium setting. Add garlic and onions. Cook one minute. Add green beans and cook one minute longer until they turn bright green. Immediately add chicken broth, pimento, seasoned salt, and pepper. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Leave the lid cracked to allow steam to escape. Cook for 25 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. The beans should be soft, yet slightly crisp. Bon Appétit!

Guacamole-Stuffed Tomatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Guacamole-Stuffed Tomatoes! Avocados are so convenient to use as a modern salad alternative. Adding fresh lime, tomatoes, and herb seasonings make it a winning combination for more than a Super Bowl Party or Cinco de Mayo celebration. Whether the results are chunky or smooth, once the dish is made it needs to be eaten before the natural exposure to oxygen turns the guacamole sauce brown. The lime juice slows down the process a bit, but this is definitely not a “do ahead” recipe. Make fresh and eat fresh!

GUACAMOLE-STUFFED TOMATOES

Ingredients:

2 romaine lettuce leaves

2 medium size tomatoes

1 ripe avocado

1 teaspoon lime juice

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon chia seeds

Fresh cilantro

Instructions:

Place one romaine lettuce leaf on a small luncheon plate. Take one whole tomato; remove top stem; score tomato into 8 sections leaving the bottom intact. Transfer to luncheon plate, atop romaine lettuce leaf, opening tomato to form a serving well. Scoop the flesh from the avocado and place in a mini chopper. Add lime juice, garlic powder, and sea salt. Pulse to thicken. Fill tomato centers. Top with red pepper flakes, green onion snips, and chia seeds. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Frijoles Negros Stew

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Frijoles Negros Stew! The popular dish of Cuba and Latin America translates to “black beans”. This highly nutritious legume is catching on around my household, especially following a day of slow-cooker roast pork. I like the smoky flavor to balance out the onions, peppers, and spices. Read on to see how simple it is to indulge in a thick, hearty stew for your next nutritious meal.

FRIJOLES NEGROS STEW

Ingredients:

2-15 ounce cans of black beans, with sauce

1 can beef consommé

1 cup onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups shredded pork

1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions:

In a 2-quart saucepan, pour one can of black beans with liquid. Mash beans to a thick paste. Add the other can of black beans with liquid plus the beef consommé. Blend well. Microwave the chopped onion 2 minutes on high. Add to the stew. Add shredded pork, liquid smoke, cumin powder, red pepper flakes, and garlic powder. Stir until combined. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Garnish with cheddar cheese, green onions, and salsa. Serve piping hot.

Garlic Clove Little Smokies

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Festive Foods: Garlic Clove Little Smokies! I know people often wait for the holidays to serve this spicy little appetizer, but I recently discovered its popularity as a lunch box companion. By making it ahead of time and storing it in a jar, it travels well. Add dill pickle chunks, bite-size cheese cubes, vegetable skewers, fresh fruit, chips, salsa, and double chocolate brownies. You’ll have the perfect portable party food for any occasion. Doesn’t everyone love finger foods?

GARLIC CLOVE LITTLE SMOKIES

Ingredients:

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup catsup

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds

14 ounces little smokies cocktail wieners

Fresh chives for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250°. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, honey, catsup, soy sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes, and roasted sesame seeds. Mix well. Add cocktail wieners. Coat evenly. Transfer to a covered casserole dish. Bake for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Garnish with roasted sesame seeds and fresh chives before serving.

White Chocolate Cranberry Spice Bars

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Festive Foods: White Chocolate Cranberry Spice Bars! Like snowdrops over a country field, the white chocolate bits add a sweet creaminess to the crumb bars offsetting the tart tangy taste of cranberry sauce. You may notice a warm sweet-heat every once in awhile. It’s the candied baby ginger infused throughout. I use all-natural crystallized ginger slices and chop them up for added zing. For the merriest of holidays, make a batch of these bite-sized guilty pleasures. Perfect for a cookie exchange.

WHITE CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY SPICE BARS

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups chunky cranberry sauce

1/4 cup crystallized ginger

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream together sugar and butter. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together. Add dry ingredients together. Spread 3/4 of batter into a 9″x13″ greased dish. Gently press down with a spoon to level. Divide cranberry sauce over top. Sprinkle white chocolate chips over cranberry mixture. Fill in with chopped crystallized ginger. Crumble remaining batter on top. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into squares or triangles. To make glaze, mix powdered sugar with milk, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over bars.

Misunderstood Mincemeat Cookies

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Festive Foods: Mincemeat Cookies! When my friend, Ray, “gifted” me with a batch of his time-honored traditional homemade mincemeat, I felt as though I had received a portion of the Holy Grail. Could this secret from the past hold special powers? Would one bite provide happiness, eternal youth, and food in infinite abundance? You tell me. Ray carefully coached me on how to “season” the mixture by adding flavored brandy (I chose apricot) over a three-week period, stirring it occasionally in a covered clay crock. I was an awestruck student following his instructions to the letter. The results were phenomenal and elegant. Don’t let anyone tell you mincemeat is awful. When prepared correctly, some things are worth the wait.

MINCEMEAT COOKIES

Ingredients for Cookies:

2/3 cup butter, softened

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

1 cup mincemeat*

2 cups flour

1 cup pecans, chopped

Pecan halves for garnish

Ingredients for Icing:

3 cups powdered sugar

3 tablespoons butter, softened

1 tablespoon apricot brandy

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 tablespoons warm milk, as needed

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add eggs and mincemeat. Gradually stir in the flour. Fold in chopped pecans. Drop by spoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until tops of cookies are dry and set. Bottoms will be slightly golden. Remove from oven. Transfer to a wired rack. Frost while slightly warm. Top each cookie with a pecan half before frosting sets.

Instructions for Icing:

In a medium bowl gently mix powdered sugar and butter until smooth. Add brandy and vanilla. Stir well. As needed, add warm milk to create a thick consistency. Place a dollop of icing on each cookie. Garnish with pecan half.

*The “Elegant Homemade Mincemeat” recipe can be found in the 1972 Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, page 371.