To Pineapple or Not To Pineapple, That is the Question!

The big debate nowadays is whether to put pineapple on a pizza or not. No offense to those Hawaiian pizzas with spam and pineapple, but I say NO to that. There is one exception, however! I will explain in a moment.

I love my Margarita pizza with pizza sauce, lots of mozzarella and basil, so I guess I am a traditional pizza lover. However, if we change the subject to dessert pizzas then that is a different story.

Picture pineapple on this glorious concoction:

A baked pizza crust fresh from the oven. Top it with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, drizzled (heavily) with chocolate sauce and then topped with all sorts of chopped fresh fruits such as: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and YES to fresh pineapple!!!

This dessert pizza is easy and simply DEVINE!!!

Try it sometime and get back to me about this pineapple “thing”.

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail



Customizing Desserts

I usually follow recipes unless I have a specific preference about one or more of the ingredients that I may wish to swap out. As long as you know the role that the specific ingredient plays in the recipe and replace it with a similar ingredient, you can customize your own desserts.

This is easily done in cooking, but can be tricky with baking. For example, if I wish to add scallions instead of shallots to a recipe for meatloaf the final dish will still work out. However, if I wish to swap eggs for applesauce in a baked good that may not work. Eggs give structure and thicken while applesauce has no protein to speak of.

My mother did this substituting thing frequently all through my childhood. That is the primary reason that I learned how to handle myself in the kitchen–self-preservation!!

The worst substitution she ever made was for Thanksgiving one year.  Gravy calls for a thickening agent like flour or cornstarch, right? Well, even though mom had neither of those, she did have baking powder. And like she told me,” it’s white and a powder, right??” Needless to say, the gravy exploded up and all over the ceiling!  This is a true story. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

I typically don’t buy buttermilk and just use thinned out Greek yogurt when I need a cultured, acidic dairy product to make pancakes or biscuits. Since I am swapping out one acidic dairy product for another it will work fine with no ill effects in the final baked good.

Substituting a light butter for a fully fatted butter works well too. It’s an easy swap out and works great if the recipe calls for the creaming method. The bonus is you are saving saturated fat calories, yet still maintaining the integrity of the original recipe.

The craziest substitution that I have ever made was using pureed tofu instead of eggs for a cookie recipe. And you know what? They were pretty good. So who would be nutty enough to do this? Perhaps someone with an egg allergy who still wishes to have their cookies and eat them too. Remember one of my past blog entries on black bean brownies??

So experiment and make workable substitutions to create baked goods that are customized to your families’ likes and needs.

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail

Sneaking a Kiss on Valentine’s Day

Every year I like to surprise family and friends with something special for Valentine’s Day. Since my birthday, which is Valentine’s Day, actually falls on Tuesday this year and I teach on Tuesdays, I thought I would make a special treat for my class.

This recipe is so simple anyone can make it. The recipe is for a Chocolate Dipped Marbleized Pink Meringue Kiss. Not only is it easy, it is also gluten free!

Here’s how to make it:

Beat 4 egg whites in an electric mixer on medium speed until very foamy. Add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (which will stabilize the meringue) and keep beating on medium speed.

Gradually add 1 cup granulated sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time. Once all of the sugar is added, stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Now go full throttle and beat the meringue at high speed for about 8 minutes. The meringue should look very stiff; almost like marshmallow fluff.

Remove the mixing bowl from the motor. Add a few drops of red food coloring and fold in the color, with a rubber spatula, until it is almost completely blended in. Now drop in several more drops of red food coloring, but this time, barely mix the color in, just until there are streaks and the mixture looks like pink marble.

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.

Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. Fill a pastry bag that has been fitted with a large plain tip half full of meringue, and pipe out “kiss-like” shapes allowing the top of the meringue to form a point before you release pressure on the pastry bag. Re-fill the bag ,using up the remaining meringue, and keep forming several more “kisses”.

Bake the “kisses” for 2 hours rotating the pans after 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. They should be firm, but not have any color to them. Note to self: the 2 hours the “kisses” dry out in the oven goes fast and it is unsupervised time. You can go about your business while they are doing their thing.

Now we dip:

Melt some dark chocolate and dip the bottoms of each “kiss” into the chocolate and place it back onto the same sheet pan. Chill the “kisses” in the fridge until the chocolate has hardened. If you use compound chocolate, which has no cocoa butter in it, you can keep the “kisses” at room temperature to harden. Either way, the chocolate hardens VERY quickly. That is why this such a GREAT last minute gift idea! You may even find yourself sneaking a few kisses before you even give them to anyone.

Place your “kisses ” in a clear bag and tie with a red ribbon. Give to the sweetie of your choice and watch how many kisses you get in return!!! Ooo LALA!!!

Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Baking!

Chef Gail


Proud as a Mother can be of My Quantity Foods Class

I teach a Quantity Foods class at a local college to Nutrition students who will become dietitians.  In this class, they need to get experience working with large quantities of food. You may wonder what the definition is of “large quantities”? Basically, it is being able to prepare food for at least 50 people.

This semester I am planning to have a Takeout meal for 100 people that my students will prepare in a large commercial kitchen at school. It just so happens to be the dining hall as well.

The students, working in small groups, are in charge of one aspect of the meal from costing the ingredients out, purchasing the food, preparing the food, boxing the finished meal in a sanitary and attractive manner, marketing and selling it to the school community, faculty, staff and students. For lack of a better term, it is a pop up catering event for just one day.

I forgot to mention that the meal is healthy AND scrumptious! I will give you a hint- the dessert is a yummy, healthy, dark chocolate oatmeal cookie that is to die for NOT from!

This project will give the students an idea of what it is like to deal with large amounts of food, and large pieces of kitchen equipment and tools. Some of the students may like it and some may not. Quantity Foods and its’ preparation are an acquired taste.

This world of “larger amounts” is key to working in an environment that caters to lots of people. For example, a hospital or nursing home, a school, college or a senior living community.

I am so proud of my students and their efforts towards making this project a success. The excitement is palpable. I guess I just needed to brag about “my kids” (that is how I refer to them). I really am a proud MOMMA!!

I will keep you posted on how the event, which is in April, pans out (pun intended), and let you know if we sell out all of our planned 100 meals.

Until then.

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail



The Butter in Butternut Squash

I teach food science to Nutrition students at a local college. In one of my favorite labs the students explore the role that ingredients play in a recipe for chocolate cake. Always striving for that perfect chocolate cake that tastes “oh so decadent” but in fact has half the fat calories, the students will change one ingredient to make healthier substitutions for specific ingredients within the original recipe. The goal is to see if these healthier substitutes are in fact as tasty as the original recipe.

The students substitute such ingredients as: light butter for the real thing, oil for the solid fat, sugar substitutes for granulated sugar, and whole wheat flour for all-purpose. One group makes the original recipe against which all of the others get judged. The resulting cakes look and taste VERY different than what you might expect.

Some of these so called healthier substitutes work nicely and you can’t really tell the recipe has been messed with. Others, on the other hand, look and taste awful.

Another healthier substitute for fat that I have found to work well is butternut squash. That’s right! That large orange vegetable makes a great fat substitute!

All you have to do is peel and seed a small portion of one of these veggies and boil it up in some water until a knife pierces it easily. Purée it up in a food processor and bake with it. I even pack 1/2 cup baggies of butternut squash and freeze them so I have them whenever I want to bake!

For a chocolate cake recipe that calls for 2 sticks or 1 cup of butter: I substitute 1/2 cup of butternut squash puree and 1 stick or 1/2 cup of real butter. You wouldn’t want to use ALL butternut squash as the fat source for your cake, because it would lack the taste and texture that everyone loves from cake. Oh and one other tip, only use butternut squash with a dark cake like a chocolate one or your white cake will be orange.

When you think about it, you cut the saturated fat by 50% while maintaining the moistness and texture of your cake. Try it and see for yourself. The taste is great and who can argue with a chocolate cake that tastes fantastic with vegetables, fiber, vitamins  and minerals?

Happy Baking!

Chef Gail