Lilac, Sugar, Sugar

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Lilac, Sugar, Sugar! Here’s a way to capture the essence of an early Spring morning. By infusing lilacs into ordinary table sugar, any bakery item or tea beverage can be transformed into an European delight. The unique floral flavor of lilacs is amazing paired with lemon citrus or wild berries. Think scones, muffins, cookies, and ice cream. Or what about an aromatic herbal infusion to iced tea? I like mine fizzy with lemonade and sparkling water. How refreshing! In any event, the possibilities are endless. The next time the lilac blossoms come around, get picking. Your taste buds will thank you.

LILAC, SUGAR, SUGAR

Ingredients:

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup lilac petals

Instructions:

Rinse lilac flowers under running water. Let dry. Remove blossoms from stem with scissors. Discard stems. Alternate layers of sugar and lilac petals in a jar. Close lid. Place the jar in a dry dark cabinet. Every day, gently shake the jar to mix the sugar and break up any clumps. After one week, sift the sugar to separate the dried petals from the flavored sugar. Crush the petals or discard them. Spread the lilac sugar on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet to dry one week longer. Transfer lilac sugar to an airtight container for storage.

Unicorn Holiday Bark

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Unicorn Holiday Bark! Everyone remembers a childhood of mythical creatures, especially the unicorn which resembled a horse with a pointed horn spiraling out of its forehead. Some believed it had magical powers in addition to being a symbol of purity and grace. Only a virgin had the power to tame the unicorn, according to art from the Middle Ages now hanging on museum walls. Today the thought of unicorns make us happy. Perhaps they represent childhood dreams, or wishes, filled with hope for a future. It should be no surprise that pink swirls of white chocolate and candy glitter in sparkly hues appear in food to further those good feelings. Think of Unicorn Holiday Bark for your next festive occasion. Kid-friendly, husband-approved.

UNICORN HOLIDAY BARK

Ingredients:

2 pounds white chocolate chips

Food coloring of choice

1 tablespoon rainbow sprinkles

1 tablespoon glitter sprinkles

1 tablespoon candy pearls

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Depending on how many colors you choose (I used 3), place 1/3 cup white chocolate chips per color in separate microwave-safe bowls. Warm on Low setting for 15 second intervals in microwave, stirring often. Continue until chips are melted. Add food coloring to desired tint. Hint: One drop of red will produce a pastel pink. Prepare tinted chocolate first before finishing with the remaining plain white chocolate. Once the white chocolate is melted, spread it onto the baking sheet. Smooth into an even layer, approximately 1/4” thick. Working quickly, dot tinted colors over the white chocolate in a random pattern. Take a wooden skewer, or toothpick, and drag it through the colors creating swirls. Next, scatter the rainbow sprinkles, glitter sprinkles, and candy pearls on top. Refrigerate baking sheet for 30 minutes, or until firm. Once set, break the bark into pieces, reserving a curved edge for the unicorn’s horn. Let the magic begin!

Double Lemon Poppyseed Bread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Double Lemon Poppyseed Bread! Everyone has their favorite flavors and foods that remind them of happier times. A good friend of mine recently lost her husband, after challenging years with a slow-progressing disease. When I stopped by to visit her with a gift of food, it created an unexpected see-saw of emotion. At first, she was happy and delighted because it brought back memories of early morning get-togethers for Bible study at a local coffee shop. We’d laugh, chat, share, or reflect on scripture over coffee and pastries before heading off to work. It was a wonderful way to begin the day, often shifting gears from a trying mindset to a positive outlook. The emotional see-saw tipped from high to low that day when she realized how uncertain her future has become in consequence of widowhood magnified by isolation during a pandemic. Let us strive to remember the Golden Rule: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”

DOUBLE LEMON POPPYSEED BREAD

Ingredients for Bread:

16.25-ounce box white cake mix

3.5-ounce vanilla flavored instant pudding, powdered

4 eggs, room temperature

1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup hot water

1 tablespoon lemon citrus peel

2 tablespoons poppyseeds

Ingredients for Icing:

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-4 tablespoons light cream, slightly warmed

Lemon zest, for garnish

White nonpareil sprinkles, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two loaf pans with parchment paper. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine white cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, eggs, lemon juice, vegetable oil, and hot water. Beat on Low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl. Increase speed to Medium setting; beat 2 minutes longer. Fold in lemon citrus peel and poppyseeds. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool loaves in pans for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. To glaze, combine powdered sugar, softened butter, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Stir to blend. Slowly add the warmed cream, stirring constantly for a smooth consistency. Drizzle over Lemon Poppyseed Loaves. Garnish with lemon zest and nonpareil sprinkles.

Ole Smoky Cherry Drops

Experience the Holidays: Ole Smoky Cherry Drops! For those who think this is a strange name for something sweet, allow me to explain. The Great Smoky Mountains form one of the most beautiful mountain ranges along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Nestled in “The Holler” is a distillery made famous by its 100-year-old recipe base for signature flavors of moonshine. Can you see where this is going? Stick with me. From the fermenting grains of the moonshine stills come the most extraordinary combinations you can ever imagine. Bottled in quart jars are what appear to be a dozen or more moonshine variations that go by names like Apple Pie, Hunch Punch, Blue Flame, Lemon Drop, Dill Pickles, and Moonshine Cherries. Since I found a jar in my pantry, I thought going into the holidays, this might present an interesting dessert opportunity. It definitely passed the “flame test” in my house.

OLE SMOKY CHERRY DROPS

Ingredients:

1 quart jar Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries*

12-ounce bag white chocolate chips

4.6-ounce jar rainbow sprinkles

5.2-ounce jar sanding sugar

14-ounce bag sweetened coconut flakes

Party Picks

Instructions:

Several steps are necessary to prepare your workspace. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove maraschino cherries from jar. Reserve moonshine for another use. Gently pat dry each cherry and set aside. This is important before coating them in white chocolate. Place each topping (rainbow sprinkles, sanding sugar, and coconut flakes) in a separate dish. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Set aside. To melt white chocolate, place half a bag of chips in a microwave-proof bowl. Warm at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval. Repeat until the white chocolate is smooth and no lumps remain. Working quickly, pierce a cherry with a cake tester. Coat it halfway in the white chocolate, then dip it in one of the toppings. Place decorated cherry on the waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all cherries are decorated. Chill to set. Two things: As the white chocolate cools, gently warm and stir. When it becomes necessary to use the remaining white chocolate chips, begin with a clean bowl. This will eliminate waste. Cherry Drops should be stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve with party picks.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries.

Unicorn Holiday Bark

Experience the Holidays: Unicorn Holiday Bark! Everyone remembers a childhood of mythical creatures, especially the unicorn which resembled a horse with a pointed horn spiraling out of its forehead. Some believed it had magical powers in addition to being a symbol of purity and grace. Only a virgin had the power to tame the unicorn, according to art from the Middle Ages now hanging on museum walls. Today the thought of unicorns make us happy. Perhaps they represent childhood dreams, or wishes, filled with hope for a future. It should be no surprise that pink swirls of white chocolate and candy glitter in sparkly hues appear in food to further those good feelings. Think of Unicorn Holiday Bark for your next festive occasion. Kid-friendly, husband-approved.

UNICORN HOLIDAY BARK

Ingredients:

2 pounds white chocolate chips

Food coloring of choice

1 tablespoon rainbow sprinkles

1 tablespoon glitter sprinkles

1 tablespoon candy pearls

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Depending on how many colors you choose (I used 3), place 1/3 cup white chocolate chips per color in separate microwave-safe bowls. Warm on Low setting for 15 second intervals in microwave, stirring often. Continue until chips are melted. Add food coloring to desired tint. Hint: One drop of red will produce a pastel pink. Prepare tinted chocolate first before finishing with the remaining plain white chocolate. Once the white chocolate is melted, spread it onto the baking sheet. Smooth into an even layer, approximately 1/4” thick. Working quickly, dot tinted colors over the white chocolate in a random pattern. Take a wooden skewer, or toothpick, and drag it through the colors creating swirls. Next, scatter the rainbow sprinkles, glitter sprinkles, and candy pearls on top. Refrigerate baking sheet for 30 minutes, or until firm. Once set, break the bark into pieces, reserving a curved edge for the unicorn’s horn. Let the magic begin!

Cereal Milk Smoothie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Cereal Milk Smoothie! After yesterday’s post, it’s only fair to give the kids equal time on a delicious treat. Grown-ups, simply tap your heels together to be transported back to a time where you started your day at the kitchen table with a bowl of your favorite cereal. Remember how the sugary sweet morsels crunched their way to mushy softness leaving the milk at the bottom of the bowl tasting like syrup? At that point my brother would put down his spoon and lift the bowl to his mouth to slurp up the remaining goodness. Of course Mother never saw it, as she was usually standing at the counter buttering toast with her back to us. Well nowadays, the nostalgic flavor of cereal milk smoothies are a thing. Anyone with a sugar addiction is jumping for joy. And why shouldn’t they? It brings out the inner child in all of us.

CEREAL MILK SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

1 cup Crispix* cereal

1/2 cup skim milk

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 banana, sliced and frozen

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons agave nectar, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sprinkles, for garnish

Instructions:

In a blender, combine cereal, skim milk, Greek yogurt, frozen banana slices, cinnamon, nutmeg, and one tablespoon agave nectar. Pulse until smooth. On a sheet of waxed paper, crush a few cereal pieces until almost fine. Add sprinkles; mix together. With the remaining agave nectar, apply to the rim of a glass. Dip the glass into the topping to coat the rim. Fill with cereal milk smoothie. Add a paper straw. Serve immediately.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Ole Smoky Cherry Drops

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Ole Smoky Cherry Drops! For those who think this is a strange name for something sweet, allow me to explain. The Great Smoky Mountains form one of the most beautiful mountain ranges along the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Nestled in “The Holler” is a distillery made famous by its 100-year-old recipe base for signature flavors of moonshine. Can you see where this is going? Stick with me. From the fermenting grains of the moonshine stills come the most extraordinary combinations you can ever imagine. Bottled in quart jars are what appear to be a dozen or more moonshine variations that go by names like Apple Pie, Hunch Punch, Blue Flame, Lemon Drop, Dill Pickles, and Moonshine Cherries. Since I found a jar in my pantry, I thought going into the holidays, this might present an interesting dessert opportunity. It definitely passed the “flame test” in my house.

OLE SMOKY CHERRY DROPS

Ingredients:

1 quart jar Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries*

12-ounce bag white chocolate chips

4.6-ounce jar rainbow sprinkles

5.2-ounce jar sanding sugar

14-ounce bag sweetened coconut flakes

Party Picks

Instructions:

Several steps are necessary to prepare your workspace. Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove maraschino cherries from jar. Reserve moonshine for another use. Gently pat dry each cherry and set aside. This is important before coating them in white chocolate. Place each topping (rainbow sprinkles, sanding sugar, and coconut flakes) in a separate dish. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Set aside. To melt white chocolate, place half a bag of chips in a microwave-proof bowl. Warm at 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval. Repeat until the white chocolate is smooth and no lumps remain. Working quickly, pierce a cherry with a cake tester. Coat it halfway in the white chocolate, then dip it in one of the toppings. Place decorated cherry on the waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all cherries are decorated. Chill to set. Two things: As the white chocolate cools, gently warm and stir. When it becomes necessary to use the remaining white chocolate chips, begin with a clean bowl. This will eliminate waste. Cherry Drops should be stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Serve with party picks.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning Ole Smoky Moonshine Cherries.

Unicorn Holiday Bark

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Festive Foods: Unicorn Holiday Bark! Everyone remembers a childhood of mythical creatures, especially the unicorn which resembled a horse with a pointed horn spiraling out of its forehead. Some believed it had magical powers in addition to being a symbol of purity and grace. Only a virgin had the power to tame the unicorn, according to art from the Middle Ages now hanging on museum walls. Today the thought of unicorns make us happy. Perhaps they represent childhood dreams, or wishes, filled with hope for a future. It should be no surprise that pink swirls of white chocolate and candy glitter in sparkly hues appear in food to further those good feelings. Think of Unicorn Holiday Bark for your next festive occasion. Kid-friendly, husband-approved.

UNICORN HOLIDAY BARK

Ingredients:

2 pounds white chocolate chips

Food coloring of choice

1 tablespoon rainbow sprinkles

1 tablespoon glitter sprinkles

1 tablespoon candy pearls

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Depending on how many colors you choose (I used 3), place 1/3 cup white chocolate chips per color in separate microwave-safe bowls. Warm on Low setting for 15 second intervals in microwave, stirring often. Continue until chips are melted. Add food coloring to desired tint. Hint: One drop of red will produce a pastel pink. Prepare tinted chocolate first before finishing with the remaining plain white chocolate. Once the white chocolate is melted, spread it onto the baking sheet. Smooth into an even layer, approximately 1/4” thick. Working quickly, dot tinted colors over the white chocolate in a random pattern. Take a wooden skewer, or toothpick, and drag it through the colors creating swirls. Next, scatter the rainbow sprinkles, glitter sprinkles, and candy pearls on top. Refrigerate baking sheet for 30 minutes, or until firm. Once set, break the bark into pieces, reserving a curved edge for the unicorn’s horn. Let the magic begin!

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter U

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Unicorn Holiday Bark! Everyone remembers a childhood of mythical creatures, especially the unicorn which resembled a horse with a pointed horn spiraling out of its forehead. Some believed it had magical powers in addition to being a symbol of purity and grace. Only a virgin had the power to tame the unicorn, according to art from the Middle Ages now hanging on museum walls. Today the thought of unicorns make us happy. Perhaps they represent childhood dreams, or wishes, filled with hope for a future. It should be no surprise that pink swirls of white chocolate and candy glitter in sparkly hues appear in food to further those good feelings. Think of Unicorn Holiday Bark for your next festive occasion. Kid-friendly, husband-approved. 
UNICORN HOLIDAY BARK
Ingredients:

2 pounds white chocolate chips

Food coloring of choice

1 tablespoon rainbow sprinkles

1 tablespoon glitter sprinkles 

1 tablespoon candy pearls
Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Depending on how many colors you choose (I used 3), place 1/3 cup white chocolate chips per color in separate microwave-safe bowls. Warm on Low setting for 15 second intervals in microwave, stirring often. Continue until chips are melted. Add food coloring to desired tint. Hint: One drop of red will produce a pastel pink. Prepare tinted chocolate first before finishing with the remaining plain white chocolate. Once the white chocolate is melted, spread it onto the baking sheet. Smooth into an even layer, approximately 1/4” thick. Working quickly, dot tinted colors over the white chocolate in a random pattern. Take a wooden skewer, or toothpick, and drag it through the colors creating swirls. Next, scatter the rainbow sprinkles, glitter sprinkles, and candy pearls on top. Refrigerate baking sheet for 30 minutes, or until firm. Once set, break the bark into pieces, reserving a curved edge for the unicorn’s horn. Let the magic begin!