Walnut Brown Sugar Butter

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Walnut Brown Sugar Butter! Ahh, sweet butter. I don’t know if it’s the winter weather or the upcoming holidays that get me in the mood for bakery ideas. Who doesn’t appreciate aromatic cinnamon, sweet nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice? The smell of bread baking in the oven triggers all kinds of emotions. It can lift our mood and impact our behavior. Honestly, it would have been pretty easy to feature today’s compound butter all by itself. But tell me, isn’t it better to imagine slathering it all over those freshly-baked cinnamon rolls?

WALNUT BROWN SUGAR BUTTER

Ingredients:

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, combine unsalted butter, brown sugar, and sea salt until smooth. Fold in chopped walnuts. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto plastic wrap. Roll layer of plastic wrap over butter to form a log. Roll tight and place in refrigerator for one hour or until firm. Serve over toast, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, or muffins.

Piquant Pear Passion

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Piquant Pear Passion! Did you know a little bit of cheese and fruit make a great dessert at the end of a meal? Sure you did. The French have been doing it for years. Europeans, too. Bleu cheese, or its milder cousins Roquefort and Gorgonzola, is a perfect match with sweet ripe pears. Nuts provide that little extra crunch you crave. If making ahead, to keep the pears from turning brown, simply dip them in a wash of lemon juice and water. It works. If you wish to top off the dessert plate with subtle sweetness, drizzle some natural honey over the pears before serving. Obviously I threw in the greens as garnish. Habit, that’s for sure.

PIQUANT PEAR PASSION

Ingredients:

1-2 ripe pears, cored and sliced

4-ounces Bleu cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup walnut pieces

Arugula leaves, for garnish

Natural Honey, for drizzling (optional)

Instructions:

Arrange pear slices in a dessert dish. Add the bleu cheese crumbles. Sprinkle with walnut pieces. Garnish with arugula leaves. Drizzle pears with natural honey.

Keto Midday Snack

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Keto Midday Snack! The funny thing about the Keto diet is discovering I ate that way, but didn’t know it was a “thing”. I’d pack a lunch in the morning because I was one of those people who ate at my desk. Hence, finger food seemed the logical choice. Hard-boiled egg, cheese wrapped in meat, nuts, veggies, and fruit. It was easy to nibble on and never got cold when a phone call or visitor interrupted my break. I wonder how many other people go through the same thing. Now, by choice, I still like finger foods to nibble on. Imagine that.

KETO MIDDAY SNACK

Ingredients:

3 slices smoked ham

3 slices Swiss cheese

Garlic and onion chives

3 cherry tomatoes

2 dill pickle spears

1/4 cup walnut halves

Instructions:

Place the ham on a flat surface. Add a slice of Swiss cheese. Lay garlic chives horizontally over cheese. Roll the pieces tightly into a spiral. Wrap two or three strands of onion chives around each ham roll and tie in a knot. Repeat two more times. Serve with cherry tomatoes, pickle spears, and walnut halves.

Xenial Chunky Monkey Banana Muffins

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Xenial Chunky Monkey Banana Muffins! Nix the flour for old-fashioned oats for a healthier version of an old classic. Did you know oats can lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar control? It’s a fact we’re all getting older and from time to time need to make minor adjustments in our food consumption. I’m all for small plates. Portion sizes have become insane! When did it happen? As a collector of vintage dishes, modern day dinner plates are now the size of grandma’s meat platter. Did you know “in Europe, the average plate measures 9 inches while some American restaurants use plates that are around 13 inches in diameter. Research has shown that by switching to a 10-inch plate from a 12-inch plate you eat 22% less.”* Snack healthier.

XENIAL CHUNKY MONKEY BANANA MUFFINS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup shredded coconut

3 ripe bananas, mashed

3 cup old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups milk

2 eggs, whisked

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick oil. Spread shredded coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 2-3 minutes, until lightly golden and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine bananas, old-fashioned oats, cinnamon, milk, eggs, brown sugar, vegetable oil, baking powder, vanilla extract, and sea salt. Mix well. Fold in chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, and toasted coconut. Scoop mixture into 12 muffin cups, filling to the top. Bake 30-35 minutes, until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from muffin tin. Serve warm.

*How Big Are Your Dinner Plates And Why It Matters, by Penny Klatell, PhD, RN, May 2012. Eatouteatwell.com

Astoria Salad

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.

ASTORIA SALAD

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Cranberry Loaf!

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Cranberry Loaf! Like the magic of sugar plums dancing in your head, ordinary bitter-tasting cranberries are transformed into deliciously sweet quick breads simply by creaming butter and sugar together until smooth and fluffy. The sugar and vanilla extract enhance the flavor while the walnuts give it a nice crunch. If you prefer an orange glaze or dollop of cream cheese, be my guest. Once the Cranberry Loaf popped out of the oven, I slathered on a thick layer of French sea salt butter and forgot about anything else.

CRANBERRY LOAF

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 eggs, one at a time

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup light cream

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, slightly chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Grease and flour two loaf pans. Set aside. In a food processor, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, pulsing to mix. Add vanilla extract and pulse again. Stir together flour and baking soda. Beginning with flour mixture, gradually pulse into food processor with creamed butter, alternating with light cream. Repeat until combined, being careful not to over-beat. Fold in walnuts and cranberries. Spoon batter evenly into two loaf pans. Bake 60-70 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean. The loaves will have a rich, golden color.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter M

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. 

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Special Edition: Butterscotch Icebox Cookies!

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Special Edition: Butterscotch Icebox Cookies! Here’s an old-time favorite from the North Pole. Imagine Mrs. Claus, with her crew of kitchen elves up to their elbows in flour as the aroma of bakery items fill the air. Repeat after me: “Never substitute the butter with another oil.” It will completely change the outcome. Think about it for a minute. If you remove the “butter” from butterscotch, what will that leave? Trust me, you don’t want to find out. Go for the gold instead and reap the reward. Catch the spirit and watch your little helpers share the excitement, too. 
BUTTERSCOTCH ICEBOX COOKIES 
Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter

2 cups brown sugar 

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla 

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 1/2 cups flour

1 cup walnuts, chopped
Instructions:

Melt the butter. Stir in brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. In a medium bowl combine baking powder, sea salt, and flour. Pour the flour mixture into the sugar mixture, stirring to form a solid dough. Fold in walnuts. Shape dough into two long rolls. Wrap each log in wax paper. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. To bake, preheat oven to 375°. Slice dough thinly. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. 

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Special Edition: Crunch Compulsion!

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Special Edition: Crunch Compulsion! If you’ve always wanted to make toffee, but didn’t have the patience for standing at the stove waiting for the candy thermometer to reach its mark, think about an easy alternative. Crunch Compulsion has the rich buttery taste of toffee layered over a firm graham cracker base. With a finishing touch of pecans and walnuts, you can certainly see where the “crunch” comes in. 
CRUNCH COMPULSION 
Ingredients:

1 package graham crackers

1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon 
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. 

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the graham crackers in a single layer, completely covering the bottom of the baking sheet. Sprinkle pecans and walnuts over crackers. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine butter, brown sugar, white sugar, cream of tartar, and cinnamon. Stir constantly until mixture boils. Do not burn. Reduce heat to medium and let mixture boil for 3 minutes without stirring. Carefully pour mixture over graham crackers, allowing liquid to cover all. Bake 10 minutes. Cool completely. Break into pieces.