What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Quality Lemon Butter! Is it a thick custard to be eaten plain? Is it creamy butter for freshly baked bread? Or is it frosting for a scone? You decide. I smothered a blueberry muffin with this citrusy spread. But then again, I also topped my morning yogurt with it. Talk about versatility. You can improvise with this luscious lemon butter in just about anything. Well, except broiled lobster or corn on the cob. That might be disappointing simply because this particular lemon butter has a sweetness to it that makes it more like a dessert than a condiment. Think lemon curd and you’ll be on the right track. Now let’s get started.
QUALITY LEMON BUTTER
1 egg yolk
1 cup sugar
2 lemons, grated peeling and juice
1/2 cup butter, melted
In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, combine eggs, egg yolk, and sugar. Stirring constantly, cook until mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Do not allow mixture to boil as it will curdle. When mixture is thick, remove from heat. Add grated lemon peel, lemon juice, and melted butter. Stir well. Pour warm lemon butter into jars. Cover tightly and store in refrigerator.
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: Mango Rice Pudding! One of my fondest childhood memories is eating cinnamon sugared rice pudding warm from the stove. It’s funny how we associate traditional recipes with comfort food. Being a child of the ‘50s, it was the norm to have dessert with supper every night. ‘Course we also played outside till after dark. Sometimes it was “Kick the Can”, “Capture the Flag”, “Red Rover”, or “Spud”. I think my favorite was the neighborhood themed, “Boys Chase the Girls”. Being a tomboy who could run like the wind, I never did get caught. After all, who wants to be kissed by one of their brothers?!
1 cup sweet rice
1 1/2 cups half milk and half cream
1 cup whole milk
1 cup water
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cinnamon sticks
3 mangoes; peeled, diced, and cubed
Zest of 1 lime
Pinch ground nutmeg
Cinnamon sugar, to taste
Using a rice cooker, add sweet rice, half and half, whole milk, water, evaporated milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and cinnamon sticks to the removable pot. Close and lock the lid. Set to risotto function. Regulator knob must be set to “pressure”. Cook 18 minutes. Once the function is complete, use the natural release method to release pressure. Open the lid. Stir until the ingredients are all mixed together. Fold in half the chopped mangoes. To serve, spoon rice pudding into dessert bowls. Top with reserve mangoes and lime zest. Garnish with a sprinkling of nutmeg and cinnamon 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
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup lilac petals
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Incredibly Delish Chocolate Bliss! Is it a cake? Is it a confection? Who cares? It’s smooth, creamy dreamy chocolate and it is incredible. The fact that it is flourless is a plus for those who avoid desserts for that particular reason. The dark chocolate and butter combination is divinely rich, which is why a little bit goes a long way. I find a nice cuppa joe or herbal tea creates a balance that works. As always, share a little bliss with those around you. They’ll thank you for it.
INCREDIBLY DELISH CHOCOLATE BLISS
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons butter, cubed
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
6 teaspoons chocolate hazelnut spread
Crushed pistachios for garnish
Preheat oven to 375°. Use paper muffin cups or buttered ramekins. Set aside. Combine bittersweet chocolate and butter in a microwave-proof bowl. Melt in microwave on high setting at 30-second intervals until melted and smooth. Stir occasionally. In a mixer bowl, combine eggs, sugar, espresso powder, and almond extract. Beat on medium-high speed for 5 minutes or until mixture is lightened. Reduce speed to low setting. Add melted chocolate/butter mixture until combined. Spoon into muffin cups or buttered ramekins. Add one half teaspoon of hazelnut spread in the center of each muffin cup batter. Bake 10 minutes until edges are set, but center is still soft. Do not over bake. Garnish with crushed pistachios. Cool 5 minutes before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Devils on Horseback! The name itself is a conversation starter. I know, right. The colors themselves resemble the “dark side” of our personalities. The small savory dish is made with pitted dates, smoked almonds, and crispy bacon or prosciutto. It’s pretty simple to prepare and is often served as an appetizer at social gatherings. Popular as a finger food, this hors d’oeuvre is perfect for small conversation at backyard parties. Watch yourself. Eating too many may find you a little mischievous.
DEVILS ON HORSEBACK
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup brown sugar
24 pitted dates, whole
24 smoked almonds, whole
3-ounce package prosciutto, deli sliced and cut in half lengthwise or 12 slices thin bacon, cut in half width wise
Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a shallow bowl, combine soy sauce and ground ginger. Mix well. In a second dish, place brown sugar. Take a pitted date, open carefully, and stuff it with a smoked almond. Wrap the date with a half slice of prosciutto or half bacon slice. Dip it into the soy sauce mixture. Roll it in brown sugar and place seam side down into the prepared baking dish. Repeat until all dates are prepared. Bake in the preheated oven until the prosciutto or bacon is crisp, 15 to 25 minutes. Serve at room temperature.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Astoria Salad! A classic salad that never loses its popularity, made famous when served at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel over a hundred years ago, gives you the flexibility of turning it into a family favorite. Feel free to add sweet raisins or chopped celery. Some even use yogurt in lieu of a mayonnaise dressing. Be creative, be adventurous, or be satisfied and try my version first.
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sugar
2 red apples, cored and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup green grapes, seedless and halved
1 cup walnuts, broken into pieces and toasted
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Romaine lettuce, torn
Whisk together mayonnaise and sugar until blended. Set aside. Core and slice red apples. Gently toss in lemon juice. Combine apple slices, green grapes, and toasted walnuts. Coat mixture with mayonnaise dressing. Serve on a bed of romaine lettuce. Sprinkle with sea salt.
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.