What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Cucumber Strawberry Sandwiches! Here’s a combination you will truly enjoy: crisp sliced cucumbers with juicy sweet strawberries. Together they come across as eye candy. Whip up a creamy spread of sea salt butter, Neufchâtel cheese, and Italian seasonings to slather across the top of a toasted slice of artisan rye bread. Add a sprig of dill, sprinkled with tiny thyme leaves to crown things off. The results may find you believing you embarked on a journey through the charming countryside of Tuscany.
CUCUMBER STRAWBERRY SANDWICH
8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons sea salt butter, softened
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1 large cucumber, sliced
1 pint strawberries, stems removed and halved
2-4 slices rye bread, toasted
Fresh dill sprig, for garnish
Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish
Cream together Neufchâtel cheese, butter, and yogurt until smooth. Fold in Italian seasoning and dill to blend. Refrigerate one hour. Slice cucumber; halve strawberries. Toast rye bread; slather with seasoned cheese spread. Top with cucumber slices and strawberries. Add dill sprig and thyme leaves for garnish.
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 orange sherbet
1/2 cup ice
Combine apricot mango juice, cut-up strawberries, sliced peaches, orange 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? All the Buzz: Sweet Strawberry Salad! Whenever you feel the need to change things up a bit from your ordinary salad, think strawberries! Did you know the strawberry is actually a cousin to the rose family? Truth. In history, they represent love, purity, and perfection. Hmmm. And of course, everyone knows how deliciously sweet they are. Okay, I’m in. Serve a strawberry salad and watch everyone’s face break into a smile. Think strawberries! 🍓
SWEET STRAWBERRY SALAD
1 pound Spring Mix, gently torn
1 quart strawberries, caps removed and halved
4 green onions, snipped
1 cup harvarti cheese, grated
1/2 cup sugared pecans, chopped
1/3 cup bacon pieces
1/2 cup lemon olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic reduction
Combine Spring Mix salad greens, strawberries, and green onion snips in a large bowl. Gently add cheese to mix. Top with sugared pecans and bacon. Toss with lemon olive oil to coat. Drizzle balsamic reduction over all.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Vinaigrette Vendetta! Every once in awhile it’s nice to step up your game at mealtime. So often we go out to a restaurant and then feel like everything at home is just humdrum and boring. Not true. By changing the ingredients, a completely different flavor is born. Take advantage of the olive oil gourmet shoppes popping up all over. Consultants are eager to have you taste flavored olive oils paired with specialty balsamic vinegars. They will astound you. Flavors like lemon with pomegranate or lime with strawberry are only the beginning. Think about bacon olive oil with maple balsamic. Mmmm. Have I piqued your curiosity?
1/4 cup lime olive oil
1/4 cup strawberry balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red onion, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons wildflower honey
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
Combine lime olive oil, strawberry balsamic vinegar, red onion, Dijon mustard, wildflower honey, minced garlic, kosher salt, and white pepper in a small bowl. Whisk together until mixed. Pour into a cruet with a stopper. Store in the refrigerator.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Strawberry Shortcake! Nix the store-bought angel food dessert cups for a sweet lighter-than-air shortcake made in your own kitchen. It’s quick. It’s simple. And it makes everyone smile. Bake in a square cake pan or muffin tin. I like the option of using ramekins for pillowy results. Simply invert them upside down before drizzling with juicy sliced strawberries that practically melt in your mouth. How’s that for an all-American favorite dessert? I find it Strawberrylicious!
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 pint strawberries, sliced
Fresh mint leaves for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease 6 ramekins. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar until mixture is light and fluffy. Add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Stir well. Sift together flour, sea salt, and baking powder. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix to combine until batter is smooth and no lumps remain. Pour into prepared ramekins. Transfer to oven on a baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes until cake springs back and cake tester comes out clean. Invert ramekins on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Wash, hull, and slice strawberries. Arrange berries on each shortcake. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and mint leaf garnish.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Rhubarb Strawberry Galette! It’s rhubarb season when the long slender reddish-green stalks shoot up from the garden soil. Rhubarb also appears at the Farmers Markets where it is snatched up with ferocity. When I was fortunate enough to snag a couple stalks myself, I already knew they would be paired with fresh-cut strawberries to create a buttery galette. My friend, Ray, must’ve sensed my intention. He promptly arrived at my doorstep as I pulled the piping hot rustic pastry out of the oven. The sugary brown crust and bubbling juices were invitation enough. After all, that’s what friends are for.
RHUBARB STRAWBERRY GALETTE
1 prepared pie crust
2-3 stalks rhubarb, discard leaves; cut stalks into batons
1 pint strawberries, hulled, washed, and sliced
2/3 cup sugar, divided
3 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons sanding sugar
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Line with parchment paper. Roll out pastry shell to form a circle. Set aside. In one bowl, combine rhubarb batons with 1/3 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch. Toss to coat. In the second bowl, combine sliced strawberries, 1/3 cup sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch. Toss gently to coat. Beginning with the rhubarb, arrange batons to form a circle leaving a 2-inch border. Finish with strawberries over top. Sprinkle with lemon zest. Fold the border over the filling, overlapping the dough where necessary. Press gently to seal the folds. Lightly brush the edge of the dough with the beaten egg. Sprinkle crust with sanding sugar. Bake galette for one hour or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Transfer galette on parchment paper to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm.
Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: 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? 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.
Springtime in New York City’s Central Park is filled with a rebirth of life, peace, hope, and nostalgia. Take, for example, Strawberry Fields. The Quiet Zone, across the street from the Dakota Apartments, is dedicated to the memory of former Beatle, John Lennon, whose life was tragically taken too soon. Named after the popular song, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, the landscaped area appropriately resembles the shape of a teardrop. A black and white mosaic is the focal point which draws tourists and music enthusiasts alike while boldly proclaiming the powerful message of peace: IMAGINE. Sit on a bench awhile and reflect on the peaceful surroundings. Then appreciate the tribute and take a little bit of easy living away with you while humming “Strawberry Fields Forever.” 🍓