Picnic Pork and Beans

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Picnic Pork and Beans! Tradition speaks loud and clear at family gatherings and picnics, especially in the summer. No matter the cookout, barbecue, or pitch-in, certain foods are expected on the buffet table. One of them is the coveted baked beans. Usually the unmarried auntie or the matriarch is the keeper of the cherished recipes. The “grande dame” knows all the ingredients, especially the heavily-guarded secret ones. It might be a dab of this or a pinch of that. My advice? Time, patience, and integrity. After all, there’s a lot of responsibility in carrying on the Secret Family Recipes. In the end, it’s all worth it!

PICNIC PORK AND BEANS

Ingredients:

3 slices uncured bacon, thick

1/4 cup sweet onion, sliced

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

28-ounce can pork and beans

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons pimento, diced

1/4 cup barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Fry bacon in a large skillet until partially cooked. Remove bacon from pan and dab on paper towels. Let cool and then break into pieces. Discard all but one tablespoon bacon drippings. Add sweet onion to pan; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Combine sweet onion, pork and beans, seasoned salt, red pepper flakes, diced pimento, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard. Mix well. Transfer to an ovenproof dish. Top with bacon pieces. Bake uncovered for one hour, or until beans are bubbly and sauce is thick. Let stand 10 minutes for sauce to thicken slightly. Serve warm.

Onion Broccoli Florets

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Onion Broccoli Florets! Sweet onions, whether they are Vidalias grown in Georgia or Walla Wallas grown in Washington, are mild-tasting onions that fans wait all year to magically appear in the produce aisle. Combine them with the natural sweetness of raisins, the crunch of honey-roasted sunflower seeds, the earthiness of broccoli florets, and the smoky taste of bacon. Then watch it totally disappear at the next family reunion.

ONION BROCCOLI FLORETS

Ingredients:

1 stalk broccoli

2.5 ounce package real bacon bits

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1/2 cup raisins

3/4 cup honey roasted sunflower seeds

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

Instructions:

Cut the stalk off a head of broccoli high enough so the florets fall away. Discard stalk. Cut each floret in half or quarters. In a large bowl, combine florets, real bacon bits, sweet onion, raisins, and honey-roasted sunflower seeds. Mix well. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, and sugar until blended. Add dressing to broccoli salad one hour before serving.

Jalapeño Spiced Green Beans

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Jalapeño Spiced Green Beans! I must admit, the first time I tasted these incredible green beans, it was as a garnish in a Canadian Caesar Cocktail (a seafood version of America’s Bloody Mary). Talk about a natural kick of spice! Oh. My. Gosh! If you don’t mind a little kick of heat and like green beans, you must try these. Toss them into a garden salad, layer them inside a grilled cheese sandwich, top them on deviled eggs, pair them with shrimp cocktail. Do you see where this is going? It’s extreme, it’s appetizing, and it’s a party in your mouth.

JALAPEÑO SPICED GREEN BEANS

Ingredients:

2 garlic cloves

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup water

1 tablespoon agave nectar

2 tablespoons kosher salt

5 jalapeño peppers, sliced and stems discarded

1 pound fresh green beans, stems snipped and snapped to fit in the jars.

Instructions:

In a medium saucepan, combine garlic cloves, apple cider vinegar, water, agave nectar, and kosher salt. Heat to boiling. Stir until dissolved. As it continues boiling, add the slices jalapeños. Keep them submerged under the pickling liquid. Remove the pan from the heat. Set aside for 10-15 minutes. Have ready 1-2 clean, sterilized pint jars. Fill a large saucepan with water; bring to a boil. Add the green beans. Cook until the beans begin to turn bright green, 3-4 minutes. Drain the pan. Rinse immediately with cold water; place green beans in an ice bath for 10 minutes. Drain well. Divide the green beans between the jars. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the jalapeños and garlic cloves to the green beans. Ladle the pickling juices over top until the jars are filled. Discard any leftover brine. Let cool at room temperature before securing lids. Store in refrigerator at least 24 hours before serving. Store in refrigerator.

Insanely Delish Chocolate PB Truffles

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Insanely Delish Chocolate PB Truffles! Now here is a dessert that will bring raves from friends and family. Some swear these truffles are filled with crunchy toffee. Others insist it contains chunks of Butterfingers. This is when you just smile demurely and ask, “Do you like it?”. (Don’t worry, you can tell by the way they lick their fingers.) This is one time I wish I could magically snap my fingers and send each one of my readers an insanely delicious sample!

INSANELY DELISH CHOCOLATE PB TRUFFLES

Ingredients:

2 cups natural peanut butter, crunchy

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 gluten-free pretzels, crushed with broken bits

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

2 12-ounce bags semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Crushed pretzels for garnish

Instructions:

Combine peanut butter, butter, and vanilla extract in a food processor. Pulse until mixed and creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar until well combined. Transfer dough to a large bowl. Fold in crushed pretzel bits and mini morsels of chocolate to make a cookie dough consistency. Chill 10 minutes. Using a melon ball scoop, take dough and form into a ball. Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Repeat until all dough is used. Caution: Do not taste the dough. You may find yourself nibbling on it too often. lol. Refrigerate dough balls for 30 minutes. As they are being chilled, combine semi-sweet chocolate chips and vegetable oil in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on High one minute. Stir and repeat until microwaved chocolate is smooth. Do not overcook in microwave. Using a spoon, dip one ball at a time in the melted chocolate. Coat entirely. Place the truffle back on the baking sheet. Repeat. Dust with crushed pretzels. Refrigerate the truffles for 30 minutes, or until chocolate is firm. Share and Enjoy!

Moroccan Stuffed Dates

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Moroccan Stuffed Dates! The next time you throw together a Charcuterie Board, surprise everyone with an elegant delicacy of royal ancestors. Their natural sweet flavor and crunchy texture make pitted dates ideal for snacking. And who doesn’t love finger-food? When stuffed with an amazing almond paste, and a sprinkling of rose water, a superior appetizer is born. Impress yourself by turning ordinary into absolutely delicious.

MOROCCAN STUFFED DATES

Ingredients:

8 ounces pitted dates

3/4 cup natural almonds

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

dash of cinnamon

1 teaspoon rose water

1 teaspoon almond extract

1-2 teaspoons water

12-16 walnut halves

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Instructions:

Pulse almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Add powdered sugar and cinnamon; mix well. Add rose water, almond extract, and one teaspoon of water. Pulse until mixture becomes a paste, adding another teaspoon of water if necessary. Fill each date with the almond mixture, using a demitasse spoon. You want the paste to form a slight bulge over the top of the slit. Repeat until all dates are filled. Place the stuffed dates on a serving platter. Garnish with a walnut half and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Financier Almond Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Financier Almond Cake! Not everyone lives around the corner from the best pastry shops in Paris. So we manage by baking at home. My son, Johnny, and his wife, Katie, treated me to their gluten-free version of a popular French sweet. Know what you get when you combine ground natural almonds, luscious brown butter, and airy egg whites? Clue: It’s a French pastry chef’s dream! By choosing a small cupcake mold or ramekin, this springy honey-sweet dessert becomes a star attraction at the end of a meal. Drizzle it with a lightly sweetened St~Germaine glaze, top it with a fresh raspberry crown, and you’re bound to feel a tiny bit Parisienne. Ooh-la-la!

FINANCIER ALMOND CAKE

Ingredients for Cake:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup sliced almonds

1/4 cup coconut flour

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 egg whites

1 tablespoon natural honey

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter 2 ramekins or coat a 6-count muffin tin with butter or nonstick oil. Set aside. Melt the butter over medium heat. Do not burn. Simmer until brown bits begin to form. Lower heat and simmer, stirring frequently to scrape the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until butter turns dark brown, not burnt, for about 6 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile pulse the sliced almonds and coconut flour in a food processor until nuts are finely ground. Transfer flour mixture to a medium bowl. Whisk in the powdered sugar. Fold in the egg whites, mixing until smooth. Gently stir in the honey. Finally, fold in the cooled brown butter. Stir until batter is smooth. Spoon into the greased ramekins or muffin pan. Spread batter evenly. Bake 25-30 minutes until the edges are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. If using a muffin pan, invert after 5 minutes to remove mini-cakes from pan.

Ingredients for Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

3 tablespoons St~Germaine liqueur

Fresh raspberries for Garnish

1 teaspoon ground almonds for Garnish

Instructions:

Sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. Whisk in St~Germaine liqueur until a smooth consistency is reached. Gently spoon the glaze over the top of the cakes. Garnish with fresh raspberries and a sprinkling of ground almonds.

Xtra Tender Crockpot Carrots

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Xtra Tender Crockpot Carrots! Take advantage of a favorite workhorse at your disposal for men and women alike. Some call it a crockpot (from the 1970s) while others refer to it as a modern-day slow cooker. It basically became popular because it was a handy appliance that could be filled with traditional stew ingredients left to cook slowly all day long. People plugged it in and trotted off to work. When they returned home, the entire house was filled with savory aromas that could make a macho man weep. The only thing missing was the synthesized beat of the disco hit by the Village People. Now I’m really dating myself.

XTRA TENDER CROCKPOT CARROTS

Instructions:

2 pounds whole carrots, washed and peeled

1/3 cup apricot jam

6 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons raw honey

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 1/2 tablespoons water

Instructions:

Trim carrots, as needed, to fit lengthwise in a crockpot or slow cooker. Remove all but an inch of the carrot tops. In a bowl, combine apricot jam, melted butter, raw honey, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, kosher salt, dried thyme, dry mustard, and black pepper. Stir until thoroughly mixed. In a glass measuring cup, whisk together cornstarch and water. Pour into the apricot sauce. Stir well. Drizzle apricot sauce over carrots. Cover crockpot. Cook on LOW setting for 5-6 hours, or until tender. Carrots are done when pierced easily with a fork. Serve immediately.

Snickerdoodle Chocolate Chip Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Snickerdoodle Chocolate Chip Cookies! When my 11-year old granddaughter came for a visit, one of the things we did together was bake homemade cookies. It was a wonderful way to build social skills for life, not to mention lasting memories. Conversation flowed easily while mixing cookie dough and then afterwards licking the bowl. Her technique for cracking an egg, without getting eggshells in the dough, was to hold it securely in the palm of her hand, above a custard cup…and squeeze. Don’t laugh. It worked. Surprisingly it takes a lot more uneven pressure to break it that way, but her reasoning was, “Nana, it’s easier than trying to get my thumbs in the opening and pulling it apart.” Priceless.

SNICKERDOODLE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Ingredients:

16.5-ounce box yellow cake mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine yellow cake mix, vegetable oil, and eggs. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Fold in chocolate chips. Chill dough 20 minutes. Whisk together sugar and ground cinnamon in a shallow dish. Set aside. Scoop teaspoon-sized balls of cookie dough; roll in cinnamon sugar. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet 2 minutes longer. Then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough. Store in an airtight container.

Plum Coffee Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Plum Coffee Cake! Plums have a way of making a person feel special. They’re not as plentiful as apples, but when they’re available I can’t wait to snag a few to plunk into a homemade coffee cake. The sweet flavor reminds me of stepping into a pastry shop where fruit-filled delicacies are placed front and center in the glass-domed showcase. From mini fruit tarts overflowing with ripe, juicy berries to cheesecakes smothered in exotic options. Turnovers become too tempting when a smidgen of filling seeps out. And just look at the succulent strudels and rustic galettes. But I digress. Today’s feature is all about the mouthwatering palatable pleasure of the plum.

PLUM COFFEE CAKE

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cardamom

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg, room temperature

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 pound plums, pitted and sliced

Powdered sugar, for dusting

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9” cake pan with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, baking powder, and sea salt. Set aside. In another bowl cream together butter and sugar, using an electric mixer, for 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and egg. Beat on Low speed until well mixed. Gradually add the flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk. Beat on Low speed until smooth. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Arrange sliced plums on top in a circular pattern. Bake for one hour until golden brown. Center is set when a cake tester comes out clean. Cool cake on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.