What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Smoky Gouda Fruit Plate! What smells like bacon, is salty like bacon, and can be eaten at room temperature like bacon, but isn’t bacon? Give up? Smoky Gouda cheese. Here you have a mild, soft, slightly sweet-tasting cheese that practically gives you the same high as eating bacon. Seriously. The hickory smoked flavor practically makes your eyes roll back. Not to mention, the buttery smooth notes coat your tongue making it practically melt in your mouth. You realize the fruit is for show, don’t you? Just kidding.
SMOKY GOUDA CHEESE PLATE
7-ounce wheel of Smoky Gouda cheese, wax removed
1 pint strawberries, washed and whole
1 bunch green grapes, seedless
Allow the cheese to come to room temperature. Remove the wax seal; cut cheese I nto bite-sized chunks. Arrange smoky gouda cheese, strawberries, and green grapes on a platter. Serve with crackers, if desired.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Delicious Holiday Foods: Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake! You know you love chocolate. Who doesn’t? If you find yourself avoiding baked goods due to its wheat content, worry no more. This cake is completely flourless. The results are rich, chocolaty, and extremely satisfying for any sweet tooth craving. Dust it with powdered sugar and garnish each slice with fresh strawberries for a gourmet finish. Hurray for Chocolate!
GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CAKE
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
15-ounce can organic garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon almond extract
1 tablespoon powdered sugar, for dusting
1/4 cup almond slices (optional)
Fresh strawberries, garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9″ round cake pan. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl for 2 minutes on high. Stir after 1 minute. Repeat until chocolate is melted and smooth. In a food processor, combine garbanzo beans and eggs. Blend until smooth, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and baking powder. Pulse to mix. Pour in melted chocolate and almond extract. Blend until smooth, scraping sides as needed. Transfer batter to the cake pan. Bake 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar. Sprinkle with almond slices. Garnish with whipped cream and strawberries.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Yogurt-Dipped Waffles! How many of you were told, as a child, not to play with your food? I know I was, especially when I was supposed to clean my plate of something I didn’t want to eat. But that’s a lot different than finger food. Now you are allowed to take slightly toasted waffles and dip them in flavored yogurt. Since my tastes change from day to day, I prefer to add flavors to Greek yogurt, but you may certainly purchase flavored yogurts to save time. In addition, I make extra waffles on the weekend to serve during the week. If you have toaster waffles on hand, you’re in good shape.
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon coconut syrup
2-3 prepared waffles, separated into wedges
Fresh strawberries, sliced
Fresh black raspberries
Nutmeg, for sprinkling
Fresh mint leaves, for garnish
Powdered sugar, for garnish
Combine Greek yogurt and coconut syrup. Mix well. Set aside. Using a toaster on low setting, warm waffle wedges. Remove waffles to a plate. In a bowl, combine strawberries, blueberries, and black raspberries. Gently toss. To serve, dip waffle wedges into Greek yogurt. Spoon fresh fruit over yogurt. Sprinkle with nutmeg and powdered sugar. Garnish with mint leaves. Enjoy!
Dining Outside the Home: Mango’s Dockside Bistro & Sushi Bar on Marco Island, Florida! It’s a tough decision when you need to think about sitting outside with a backdrop of the local marina or inside where you can watch exotic salt-water fish swim by in a huge aquarium. Try a tropical appetizer like the Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp Jalapeños. Spicy, with a touch of natural saltiness. It’s a nice starter along with the Yellowfin Tuna over Seaweed Salad. Quench your thirst with a crafted cocktail like the Key Lime Pie Martini. It’s more like a dessert for those who enjoy a touch of sublime sweetness. After all, isn’t that the reason you walk two miles along the beach every day? Eating out is fun and something everyone looks forward to for socialization. The Tropical Island Salad makes quite a statement served in a fresh pineapple boat over a bed of mixed greens. A scoop of Mango’s famous chicken salad takes center stage surrounded by juicy strawberries, crushed walnuts, and Gorgonzola crumbles. The menu goes on and on to satisfy every palate.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Jamba Juice Copycat Smoothie! Everyone gets excited with a copycat version of a well-known brand. Some knockoffs make it, others fall short. I have the advantage of living with a food critic in my own home, my husband. So when I asked him to taste my version of the Caribbean Passion Smoothie, he was very accommodating. Afterward, my favorite question to ask was, “Would you have this again if I made it?” Sometimes the truth hurts, but this time his smile said it all. Here’s a helpful hint: frozen fruit can be thawed slightly and substituted for fresh. Caution: Take it easy. If you slurp it too fast, prepare for a “brain freeze”.
JAMBA JUICE COPYCAT SMOOTHIE
1 cup organic apricot mango juice
1 cup fresh strawberries, tops removed and cut-up
1/2 heaping cup peach slices, if frozen slightly thawed
1 cup mango sherbet
1/2 cup ice
Combine apricot mango juice, cut-up strawberries, sliced peaches, mango sherbet, and ice cubes together in a blender. Pulse to purée, then blend on High until smooth. If necessary, turn off blender to scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Resume. Mixture should be slushy. Pour into glasses. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Nutella Strawberry Dip! Here’s a match made in Heaven for chocolate-lovers and strawberries. Try it at home and then think about something new for the next social gathering where you’re asked to bring something yummy to share. It’s so Strawberrylicious, my first word of advice is…double the recipe. You’ll have the ingredients on hand, so go for it. It’s easy to make, kid-friendly, healthy, and sweet. Next stop: Book Club, Girls Night Out, Birthday Celebration, Family Picnic, Block Party. The list goes on and on and on.
NUTELLA STRAWBERRY DIP
3/4 cup Nutella Hazelnut Spread*
1/3 cup powdered sugar
8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened
1 cup Cool Whip, regular or light*
1 cup mini chocolate chips, for garnish
Fresh Strawberries, sliced in half
Combine Nutella, powdered sugar, and Neufchâtel cheese in a bowl. Using a hand mixer, mix on Low until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip topping. Blend well. Pour into covered bowl. Kept refrigerated until ready to serve. Arrange sliced strawberries on a platter. Pour dip into a serving bowl. Garnish with mini chocolate chips.
*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Grilled Romaine with Strawberries! I call this a lazy cook’s meal. After all, it’s pretty simple. More than likely, most ingredients are probably there in the fruit and vegetable crispers of the refrigerator. You know, those drawers down at the bottom that regulate humidity. (Quick tutorial: most fruits like LOW humidity, most vegetables like HIGH humidity. If set correctly, everything stays fresher and crisper longer.) Heat up the grill, sear the romaine, layer on ripe strawberries, red onion slices, and shaved parmesan cheese. Drizzle olive oil over all. You’re done. The hubs will think you planned the meal with attention to detail. Just nod your head and smile.
GRILLED ROMAINE WITH STRAWBERRIES
1 romaine heart, cut lengthwise
Nonstick olive oil spray
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 pint strawberries, sliced in half, stems removed
1/4 red onion, sliced
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shaved
1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat grill to 400°. Spray both sides of romaine halves with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Place cut side down on the hot grill. Sear 3 minutes, until charred. Carefully flip over and sear 3 minutes longer until slightly wilted. Transfer to a platter. Layer with fresh strawberries and red onion slices. Drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
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.