Almond-Vanilla Popovers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Almond-Vanilla Popovers! What if I told you it was possible to eat a serving of bread, but without all the preservatives? It is. And then, what would you say if I told you the outside was golden brown and the inside was hollow? That’s right. Hollow. These light and airy popovers of pancake-like batter puff up into delectable buttery crowns that leave you singing their praises and clapping your hands. It’s like you just witnessed a bit of magic in your very own kitchen.

ALMOND-VANILLA POPOVERS

Ingredients:

6 large eggs

2 cups light cream

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons sugar

2 cups flour

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Move the oven rack one setting below the middle row. Grease a 12-count bouchon pan. In a food processor, combine eggs, light cream, butter, almond extract, vanilla extract, sea salt, sugar, and flour. Blend until no lumps remain and batter is light yellow and frothy, approximately one minute. Fill each bouchon cup 2/3 full. Do not overfill. (Refrigerate leftover batter until ready to make the next batch. At that time, use a whisk to vigorously stir the batter.) Place bouchon pan in the oven; bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Do not open the oven door during baking or the popovers will deflate. When golden brown, remove from the oven. After 2 minutes in the pan, remove and transfer popovers to a wire rack. Do not allow them to cool in the pan or they may turn soggy. Serve warm as is or with a dollop of honey, jam, or butter.

No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream! Years ago my best friend was a specialty brand of Turkish coffee ice cream. I was working two jobs, averaging mostly 70-hour work weeks, seven days nonstop to support myself, and help my kids through college. I also admit I was hiding out from “Life”. Many evenings I’d come home, crash on the sofa, and open a pint of the creamiest concoction laced with butterscotch topping I’d ever tasted. It was bliss. Since then, the company stopped making it in favor of more popular flavors like banana chocolate chunk and coconut almond chip. Seriously? Oh well, that left me with no recourse but to make it myself. Between you and me…I think I knocked it out of the park!*

NO-CHURN COFFEE ICE CREAM

Ingredients:

2 1/2 tablespoons espresso instant coffee

2 tablespoons warm water

2 cups heavy cream

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup dark chocolate covered espresso beans, chopped

Butterscotch Ice Cream Topping

Instructions:

In a small bowl, dissolve instant coffee in warm water. Stir well. Set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat the heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla extract on High speed for 4 minutes until smooth and thick. Reduce speed to Low. Add the prepared coffee; continue until blended. Fold in chopped espresso beans. Spoon ice cream into a loaf pan. Cover tightly and freeze overnight. Scoop into bowls and sprinkle with espresso before serving. Drizzle with butterscotch topping, to taste.

*The secret to my success was chilling the utensils overnight in the freezer and making sure all the ingredients were refrigerator cold.

Watermelon Waffle Wedges

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Watermelon Waffle Wedges! Bring back childhood memories of lazy summer days leaning against the back porch chomping on a mouthwatering slice of watermelon. As the juice runs down your chin, a swipe of the shirt sleeve doubles as a napkin. Your mischievous brother takes aim at your bare feet, shooting tiny black seeds as if his mouth is a pea shooter. You squeal with delight and sometimes run away. Those were the days. Now we think about nutrition. That’s okay. Watermelon, with its juicy red flesh, is high in lycopene which makes it heart-healthy. Chomp away.

WATERMELON WAFFLE WEDGES

Ingredients:

2 large eggs, beaten

2 cups flour

1 3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 slices watermelon, cut in wedges

Maple syrup, to taste

Butter, to taste

Strawberries, cherries, almonds, powdered sugar, mint sprig for Garnish

Instructions:

Preheat waffle iron. Place eggs in a bowl and beat on medium-high using a hand mixer. Eggs will get fluffy. Slowly add flour, milk, vegetable oil, sugar, baking powder, sea salt, and vanilla extract. Beat just until smooth. Brush waffle iron with vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray. Pour mix into waffle iron. Cook until golden brown. Serve warm with watermelon wedges, strawberries, cherries, almond slices. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Garnish with fresh mint.

Upscale Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Upscale Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse! Americans have this uncanny obsession with chocolate and peanut butter. Some even crave it often. It may be the creamy sweetness of cocoa blended with the saltiness of roasted peanuts. Who knows? Whatever the reason, the allure is undeniable. Throw in vanilla pudding and whipped cream showcased in a parfait glass for eye appeal. It all adds up to an easy, upscale dessert that makes an everyday experience extraordinary. I find small juice glasses an appealing portion-control guide.

UPSCALE CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER MOUSSE

Ingredients:

16-20 Miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, wrappers removed and candy chopped

1/3 cup peanuts

1/2 cup chocolate fudge sauce

1 3.4-ounce package Vanilla Instant Pudding and Pie Filling Mix

1 3/4 cups light cream

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup whipped topping

1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

Choose 4-6 glasses or cups, depending on portion preferred. Divide peanuts equally between glasses. Layer with 1-2 dollops of chocolate fudge sauce. Set aside. In a chilled bowl, empty contents of pudding mix. Gradually add 1/2 cup light cream, beating on low speed with a hand mixer. Mix until well blended. Add peanut butter and beat until creamy. Gradually add remaining 1 1/4 cups of light cream. Beat on low, increasing speed as it incorporates. Continue beating for 3 minutes. Pudding will thicken. Gently fold in whipped topping to create air bubbles. Next, fold in chopped candy, reserving a few pieces to use as garnish. Spoon pudding into glasses, layering over fudge sauce. Garnish with candy chunks and mini chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Rum Raisin Cookies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Rum Raisin Cookies! Before you turn the page, let me clarify…you can choose to omit the rum in this recipe and substitute with water and opt for rum extract instead. Either way, if you’re a raisin-lover, this version puts the “plump” in raisin to make them moist and chewy. In the time it takes to preheat the oven and assemble the remaining ingredients, the raisins are ready to use. Trust me, everyone will thank you!

RUM RAISIN COOKIES

Ingredients:

2 cups raisins

1 cup dark rum

3 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 cup butter, softened

1 3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup almonds, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium saucepan, combine raisins and rum. Bring to a boil; boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the alcohol has evaporated. Set aside; do not drain. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside. Cream butter. Gradually add sugar, mixing until creamy. Add the slightly beaten eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Gradually add the flour mixture, stopping occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl. Mix thoroughly before folding in the raisins and chopped almonds. Drop with a tablespoon 2″ apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake 12-13 minutes. Cool on wired rack.

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.

Belgian Waffles

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Belgian Waffles! Call me crazy, or call me lazy, but truth be told sometimes you need to take a shortcut in preparing a meal. Just because you’re short on time doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste. Here’s a perfect example: Belgian Waffles made from starter pancake mix in a box. Add a few extras like pure vanilla and fresh fruit to turn an ordinary waffle into a spectacular one. Make a batch for breakfast, brunch, or dinner. Let the cheers begin!

BELGIAN WAFFLES

Ingredients:

2 cups Log Cabin All Natural Pancake Mix

4 tablespoons oil

2 eggs

1 1/3 cups milk

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

Preheat waffle iron. Combine pancake mix, oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla in a blender. Blend 30 seconds until lumps are removed. Let batter rest for a few minutes. Grease waffle iron if necessary. Pour batter by scant cupfuls onto center of hot waffle iron. Bake 3-5 minutes or until steaming slows and waffle is golden brown. Carefully remove. Serving suggestions: Fresh fruit, melted butter, dark amber maple syrup, pecans, whipped cream, and a side of bacon.

Bourbon Balls

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Festive Foods: Bourbon Balls! Remember the scene from “The Grinch Stole Christmas” where the adults in Whoville are throwing a key party? Well, I’m convinced they may have been nibbling on holiday Bourbon Balls based on the way they were flirting and having a crazy-fun time. Be forewarned. This recipe does contain chocolate and alcohol. You may want to mention it.

BOURBON BALLS

Ingredients:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels

3 tablespoons corn syrup

1/2 cup bourbon

2 1/2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 cup pecans, finely chopped

Granulated sugar

Instructions:

Pulse vanilla wafers in a food processor to make crumbs. Set aside. Over hot (not boiling) water, melt chocolate morsels; remove from heat. Blend in corn syrup and bourbon. In a large bowl, combine vanilla wafer crumbs, powdered sugar, and nuts. Add chocolate mixture. Blend well. Chill 30 minutes. Using a melon ball utensil, scoop dough into 1″ balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Store in covered container for several days to season flavor.

Judy’s Pumpkin Sea Salt Caramel Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Judy’s Pumpkin Sea Salt Caramel Sauce! I always get excited when I receive the gift of food. My friend, Judy, thrilled me beyond measure when she shared this treat from her kitchen. It’s the perfect combination of sea salt caramel and pumpkin purée. It not only transforms a cup of coffee into a pumpkin spice addiction, but it also tastes incredible on a breakfast muffin. If you ask my husband, he’ll say you can eat it over ice cream by the spoonful.

JUDY’S PUMPKIN SEA SALT CARAMEL SAUCE

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon water

3/4 cup heavy cream, room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup pumpkin purée

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

In a 2-quart heavy-bottomed pan over medium-low heat, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring often to avoid scorching. Continue cooking until sugar turns light amber in color and all sugar crystals have dissolved, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter and mix well. Change utensils to a heat-resistant whisk and quickly whisk in the cream and pumpkin. Lastly, add cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt, and vanilla. Whisk until smooth, removing all lumps. Transfer to a jar. Cool at room temperature, seal, and store in the refrigerator.