Lemon Berry Cheesecake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Lemon Berry Cheesecake! There’s something about lemon that makes your head spin, especially on a hot summer day. It might be the refreshing burst of citrus that seems to hydrate the senses. Or it could be the charm of living in the South that makes it incredibly desirable. Perhaps you’re just a sweet-tart kinda soul. Whatever the reason, add a little berry to the mix and it feels like a party. Because time may be a factor, I began with a prepared cake mix. The rest is pure magic.

LEMON BERRY CHEESECAKE

Ingredients:

16-ounce box of yellow cake mix

1/2 cup butter, melted

3 eggs

1/2 cup strawberry preserves

1 pound powdered sugar

8 ounce block Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract

Sliced strawberries, garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Combine cake mix, melted butter, and one egg. Press crust into the bottom of a greased and floured 10” deep dish pie plate. Spread a thin layer of strawberry preserves over crust. Mix powdered sugar, 2 eggs, Neufchâtel cheese and lemon extract until smooth. No lumps should remain. Slowly pour cream cheese mixture over the layer of strawberry preserves. Bake 50-60 minutes. Cool and cut into wedges. Garnish with fresh strawberry slices. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Xmas Crinkle Cookies

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Xmas Crinkle Cookies! Shortcuts are the key to success for that next cookie-exchange the kids forgot to tell you about. “Oh yeah, Mom, sorry.” No worries. Head to the kitchen to clang some pans around, preheat the oven, and dust a little powdered sugar on your nose. They’ll be none the wiser. By the time the house begins to smell like a neighborhood bakery, you’ll have rows of cookies lined up ready to be boxed. And if you’re one of those organized parents, just so you know, these cookies freeze well. Arrange them in a freezer gallon bag, layered between squares of waxed paper. I have literally taken these crinkle cookies out of the freezer and handed them to a little girl to eat. Other than being slightly chilled, they retain a chewiness that makes them simply delicious. You deserve a pat on the back. You’re welcome.

XMAS CRINKLE COOKIES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup powdered sugar, for dusting

15.25-ounce box strawberry cake mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs, room temperature

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place powdered sugar in a shallow dish. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine strawberry cake mix, vegetable oil, and eggs. Stir until a dough forms. Chill dough for 20 minutes. Shape dough into 1” balls. Roll in powdered sugar and place 2” apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes, or until center is just set. Remove pan from oven; cool for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack. Dust with more powdered sugar.

Itty Bitty Pumpkin Cake

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Itty Bitty Pumpkin Cake! Do you have a love affair with pumpkin spice? You know, that delectable blend of bakery spices recognized as nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Perhaps they remind you of autumn. The days are still warm as the evenings turn chilly enough to gather around the fire pit in a thick cozy sweater. Childhood memories conjure up bumpy hayrides through apple orchards, jack-o-lanterns on the front porch, and disheveled piles of newly-raked leaves. Plus there’s all things pumpkin: pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin roll, pumpkin latte, and now this.

ITTY BITTY PUMPKIN CAKE

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon pumpkin spice

1/4 tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

3/4 cup pumpkin purée

1/3 cup buttermilk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Fresh strawberries, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray six mini bundt pans with nonstick oil containing flour. Place pans on a baking sheet. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, sea salt, baking powder, pumpkin spice, and cinnamon. Set aside. In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Beat on High setting with a hand mixer for 2 minutes. Add egg and beat two minutes longer. Set aside. In a third bowl, combine the pumpkin purée, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Mix well. Gradually pour half the pumpkin mixture and half the flour mixture into the egg mixture. Mix well, scraping the sides down as needed. Add the remaining ingredients; stirring only until combined. Do not over stir. Fill each prepared mini bundt pan 3/4 full. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow cakes to cool 5 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack. Once cool, dust with powdered sugar. Garnish with a fresh strawberry before serving.

Vinaigrette Vendetta

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?

VINAIGRETTE VENDETTA

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Strawberry Shortcake

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!

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 pint strawberries, sliced

Whipped cream

Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Instructions:

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.

Rhubarb Strawberry Galette

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Xmas Crinkle Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Xmas Crinkle Cookies! Shortcuts are the key to success for that next cookie-exchange the kids forgot to tell you about. “Oh yeah, Mom, sorry.” No worries. Head to the kitchen to clang some pans around, preheat the oven, and dust a little powdered sugar on your nose. They’ll be none the wiser. By the time the house begins to smell like a neighborhood bakery, you’ll have rows of cookies lined up ready to be boxed. And if you’re one of those organized parents, just so you know, these cookies freeze well. Arrange them in a freezer gallon bag, layered between squares of waxed paper. I have literally taken these crinkle cookies out of the freezer and handed them to a little girl to eat. Other than being slightly chilled, they retain a chewiness that makes them simply delicious. You deserve a pat on the back. You’re welcome.

XMAS CRINKLE COOKIES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup powdered sugar, for dusting

15.25-ounce box strawberry cake mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs, room temperature

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place powdered sugar in a shallow dish. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine strawberry cake mix, vegetable oil, and eggs. Stir until a dough forms. Chill dough for 20 minutes. Shape dough into 1” balls. Roll in powdered sugar and place 2” apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 7-9 minutes, or until center is just set. Remove pan from oven; cool for 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack. Dust with more powdered sugar.

Donut Strawberry Shortcake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Donut Strawberry Shortcake! Whether you celebrate your own version of “Doughnut Day” or stick to the declared ones on the national calendar twice a year, here is one more reason to indulge yourself. Transform an ordinary glazed donut into a strawberry shortcake. Begin with a delicious deep-fried glazed doughnut, bakery-fresh. Slice it horizontally to remove the top. Ladle on the ripe and juicy strawberries. The fruit filling is nothing but fresh strawberries mixed with a little sugar. For a thicker sauce simply warm a spoonful or two of strawberry jam and stir. Cover the strawberry layer with a luscious blanket of whipped cream. Replace the top and add more berries, if desired. Perhaps now you, like me, see no reason to wait until the declared holidays roll around.

DONUT STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

Ingredients:

4 glazed cake donuts, split lengthwise

1 pound fresh strawberries, chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1-2 tablespoons strawberry jam, warmed

1 cup heavy cream, cold

1/2 cup Greek yogurt, cold

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

In a bowl, combine chopped strawberries, sugar, lemon zest, and warmed jam. Partially mash some of the berries. Gently stir; rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer, make whipped cream. Combine heavy cream and Greek yogurt. Whip 4-5 minutes until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Whip 1 minute longer until fluffy. Place each donut on a dessert plate. Remove top. Fill with strawberry mixture, then whipped cream. Replace top; spoon additional strawberries over donut hole. Serve immediately.

Jello Strawberry Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Jello Strawberry Cake! Take advantage of the price of strawberries when the opportunity arises. Whether it be a local Farmer’s Market, grocery store featured item, or pick-your-own berry field celebrating years of family history, run don’t walk to fill your basket without plans to what comes next. Everyone loves strawberries. The sun-kissed fruit kindles childhood memories of joyous occasions when we would eat our weight in berries as juice ran down our chins. Never mind the red stained fingers or dewy rows from early morning fog. In a week or so, strawberries need to be eaten, canned, or frozen. Anything goes.

JELLO STRAWBERRY CAKE

Ingredients:

16.25 ounce box of yellow cake mix

1 1/4 cups water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

3 ounces strawberry gelatin mix

1 1/2 cups water, divided

8 ounces whipped topping

2 cups strawberries, sliced

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9”x13” cake pan. Set aside. Combine cake mix, water, vegetable oil, and eggs. Mix well. Pour batter into prepared cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove pan from oven and allow cake to cool at room temperature. Using a fork, poke many holes in the cake. This will allow the liquid jello to fill the gaps creating a ribbon effect. Bring one cup of water to boiling. Remove from heat. Add gelatin mix. Stir 2 minutes to completely dissolve flavoring. Add 1/2 cup ice water to mixture. Stir. Slowly pour the liquid strawberry jello into the holes on the top of the cake. Cover the cake and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Once chilled, “frost” the cake with whipped topping. Garnish with sliced strawberries. Serve. Refrigerate any leftovers.