Iced Peach Spritzers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Iced Peach Spritzers! Ripe peaches are succulent and running-down-your-chin juicy. When you have an abundance of them, think peach cocktails. By adding a sparkling mixer, such as seltzer water or Prosecco, you’ll feel as though every meal is as special as dining out. The blend of flavors and textures is far from ho-hum. Both versions are suitable for mixed company. Go completely non-alcoholic or throw together a grown-up concoction made with a nice white wine and garnished with a sprig of fresh mint.

ICED PEACH SPRITZERS

Ingredients:

4 ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced into 8 wedges each

1/4 cup sugar

1 bottle white wine, chilled

12 ounces seltzer water

Instructions:

Layer peach wedges on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight. To serve, place 3-4 frozen peach wedges into a stemmed glass. Add 3 ounces of white wine. Pour 1 1/2 ounces of seltzer water over top. Stir. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.

Apple Orchard Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Apple Orchard Pie! Nothing conjures up autumnal nostalgia like a slice of apple pie, still warm enough from the oven to soften a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Inhale the aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. It’s delectable, isn’t it? I realize making pies may not be on the top of the list for everyone who loves it. So, I’m telling you today, it’s okay to begin with a prepared pie crust. There are some pretty decent brands out there for you to try. Some refrigerated brands are made to unroll and crimp the edges; others are frozen and meant to be thawed. Some are buttery, super-flaky, and even taste as good as homemade. That’s where you’ll need the help of an assistant, or taste-tester, so to speak. Just remember, pie doesn’t have to be picture perfect to taste spot on. It’s dessert, after all.

APPLE ORCHARD PIE

Ingredients:

1 prepared pie crust, 9”

4-5 large sweet apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

4 large tart apples, peeled, cored, and sliced

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons butter

Ingredients for Crumb Topping:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Form prepared pie crust into a pie plate that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Crimp edges. Set aside. Combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and sea salt. Sprinkle about a quarter cup of mixture over the bottom of the pie crust. In a large bowl, toss the apple slices with the remaining sugar mixture. Coat well. Transfer apples to the pie plate, forming a mound in the center. Dot with 2 tablespoons of butter. Bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine flour, brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon for crumb topping. It should resemble small peas when mixed. Carefully add the topping to the apple pie. Bake 30 minutes longer. If necessary, cover the pie with foil to prevent burning.

Icy Limoncello Slushie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Icy Limoncello Slushie! Talk about refreshing. Imagine yourself strolling along the Amalfi Coast of southern Italy. Pause a moment near the rugged shoreline to allow the cool breezes to caress your skin. Admire the sheer cliffs where coastal roads hug towering rock formations. Pay attention to the landscaped vineyards and lemon groves winding down the slope that practically appear to plunge into the sea. This is home to Limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur produced in the region. It is enjoyed as an aperitif or a digestive around evening mealtime, due to its pleasing effect on the palate. What better time to gratify your taste buds.

ICY LIMONCELLO SLUSHIE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon zest

3 cups ice cubes

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup Limoncello liqueur

Lemon and Limes, for garnish

Instructions:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water. Heat 3 minutes, or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat. Add lemon zest. Allow mixture to cool for 30 minutes. Strain sugar mixture, using a sieve to remove solids. Pour simple syrup into a blender. Add ice cubes, lemon juice, and Limoncello liqueur. Process until smooth and ice chunks no longer remain. Pour slushie into glasses. Garnish with fresh lemon slices.

Furikake Party Mix

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Furikake Party Mix! Popular in the Hawaiian Islands, furikake is a seasoning with leanings toward seaweed, sesame seeds, sea salt, and a pinch of sugar. It can be sprinkled on anything from popcorn to tuna. By taking a classic snack mix and adding a candied Japanese twist, you may leave the former far behind for awhile. To prove a point, I gave out jars of Furikake Party Mix to some friends of mine for taste-testing. After one bite, they eagerly devoured its contents within a couple days and then asked for more. Proof positive as far as I’m concerned.

FURIKAKE PARTY MIX

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons organic soy sauce

6 cups Crispix cereal

5 cups gluten-free pretzel twists

2 cups honey roasted peanuts

2 cups wasabi peas

1/2 cup furikake seasoning

2 tablespoons red pepper flakes

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 225°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Melt the butter and sugar over medium-low heat, about 3 minutes. When the sugar is melted, remove pan from stove and add vegetable oil, pure maple syrup, and organic soy sauce. Mix well. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine Crispix cereal, gluten-free pretzel twists, honey roasted peanuts, and wasabi peas. Slowly pour the butter mixture over all; gently turning the ingredients to coat well. Sprinkle on the furikake seasoning and red pepper flakes. Toss again to mix things up equally. Divide the cereal mixture between the two baking sheets. Bake for one hour, turning every 15 minutes to keep from scorching. (It may be necessary to alternate the pans between upper and lower oven racks for even browning.) The cereal will begin to dry as it bakes. After one hour, allow the Furikake Party Mix to cool before storing in airtight jars or containers.

Mandarin Orange Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Mandarin Orange Cake! For all those gloomy days out there, a taste of sunshine comes to greet you in a naturally sweet cake. Did you realize mandarin oranges don’t only come in a can? Actually, you know them by other names in the produce department: “Halos” and “Cuties”. Sometimes people refer to mandarin oranges as clementines or tangerines. Small world, huh? Whatever you choose to call them, their pretty color and ease in peeling make them a popular choice. This cake recipe is versatile enough to be baked in a muffin tin, miniature bundt molds, or as a single-layer coffeecake. Something else to think about. The sugary glaze tops it all.

MANDARIN ORANGE CAKE

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of one orange

1/2 cup milk

Ingredients for Orange Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

Orange peel zest, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray miniature bundt molds with nonstick oil with added flour. Sift together flour and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside. Cream together sugar and butter in a medium bowl. Add egg; mixing well before adding orange extract, vanilla extract, and zest of one orange. Gently fold in flour mixture, alternating with milk. Stir until combined. Divide mixture into miniature bundt molds, filling 2/3 full. Bake 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Prepare orange glaze by combining powdered sugar and orange juice. Stir until smooth. When cakes are golden brown, remove from oven. Cool slightly before inverting molds onto a wire rack. Remove molds. Transfer cakes to a platter to finish cooling. Drizzle with orange glaze and garnish with orange zest. Serve warm.

Frangelico Fudge Topping

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Frangelico Fudge Topping! It may have been awhile, but the smooth taste of Frangelico Italian liqueur is not forgotten. Need I remind you it has the same hints of chocolate and toasted hazelnut you practically eat out of a jar? Think Nutella, silly. If it were a cocktail, it would go by this name, with an added punch of alcohol. And since we’re talking dessert, let’s move on to this amazing fudge topping that works on anything from ice cream to waffles. Now I’ve got your attention.

FRANGELICO FUDGE TOPPING

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

1/3 cup cocoa powder

3 cups sugar

12-ounces evaporated milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons Frangelico liqueur

Instructions:

Combine butter, cocoa powder, sugar, and evaporated milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla extract and Frangelico liqueur. Stir well. Serve immediately over desserts or waffles. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator.

Vidalia Onion Dressing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Vidalia Onion Dressing! Have you ever loved the taste of a homemade salad dressing so much you wish it could be more? Well, consider this. Marinades are like a secret step to making meat taste flavorful and tender. By planning a little bit in advance, you can pour this dressing over chicken breasts to marinate one hour before grilling or baking. The dressing actually saturates the meat in a way that benefits the flavoring with a sweet onion taste. When everyone gathers around the table and raves about the extraordinary taste of ordinary chicken, just shrug your shoulders and say, “Its my grandma’s family secret.”

VIDALIA ONION DRESSING

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon celery seed

1 medium Vidalia onion, grated

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup vinegar

Jalapeño sliced, pickled

Instructions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, sea salt, dry mustard, and celery seed. Stir. Add grated Vidalia onion, vegetable oil, and vinegar. Heat until sugar is melted, stirring constantly. Add jalapeño slices. Cool and refrigerate for one hour. Serve as a dressing over toasted salad.

Warm Potato Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Warm Potato Salad! The debate continues. Which is better? Potato salad made with mayonnaise and served cold or potato salad made with vinegar and served warm? One is creamy with hard-boiled eggs, celery, and pickles while the other is tangy with bacon, mustard, and sugar. What a dilemma. I guess it depends on the craving that drives your appetite on any given day. Whatever you choose, in my opinion, potato salad is not just for summer anymore.

WARM POTATO SALAD

Ingredients:

2 pounds potatoes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

12 ounces applewood smoked bacon

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon onions, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon celery seeds

Fresh parsley, for garnish

Instructions:

Scrub potatoes and cut into quarters. Place in a large pot. Cover potatoes with cold water and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender. Drain the water. Allow potatoes to air dry for a few minutes. Cut potatoes into bite-size pieces. Set aside. In another skillet over medium heat, cut bacon into 1-inch pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy. Transfer bacon, with a slotted spoon, to a paper towel-lined plate. Warm the reserve bacon drippings (about 1/4 cup) over Low heat. Slowly stir in apple cider vinegar, sugar, and Dijon mustard until combined. Add chopped onions and celery seeds. Cook for one minute longer. Remove the pan from heat and toss in the potatoes. Mix gently. Fold in the cooked bacon. Transfer the warm potato salad to a serving bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Nutella Espresso Rollups

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Nutella Espresso Rollups! French toast makes every day a wonderful day, doesn’t it? Now you can take a few basic ingredients, follow a super simple recipe, and create a treat that tastes like a chocolate-filled donut. Each sugar coated flute is perfect as a finger food for weekend breakfast, lazy day brunch, afternoon snack, or late night dessert. Ambitious cooks may choose to make more than one variation. I’m thinking flavored cream cheese and strawberry filling, for one. Peanut Butter Banana is another. Meat lovers may decide to use sausage links, then drizzle them with maple syrup. You’re thinking holiday buffet. I can see it in your eyes.

NUTELLA ESPRESSO ROLLUPS

Ingredients:

6 slices honey wheat bread

1/2 cup Nutella spread*

1/4 teaspoon espresso powder

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons fine sugar

2 tablespoons butter

Nutella, for drizzling

Powdered Sugar, for garnish

Instructions:

Trim the edges of the sliced bread and discard crusts. Flatten bread with a rolling pin. Spread 1-2 teaspoons of Nutella on each slice. Sprinkle with espresso powder. Roll up the bread tightly and place seam side down on a plate. In a shallow dish, whisk together egg, milk, vanilla extract, and sugar. Set aside. On a plate, combine cinnamon and fine sugar. Set aside. Warm butter over medium heat in a nonstick skillet. Do not scorch. Dip bread roll in the egg mixture, coating well. Place in the nonstick skillet, seam side down. Cook in batches until golden brown, turning often to brown all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove immediately and roll in cinnamon sugar. To serve, drizzle with Nutella and dust with powdered sugar.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.