Kielbasa Grilled Romaine

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Kielbasa Grilled Romaine! When the sun comes out and the wind dies down, it’s not unusual to see Northerners uncover the gas grill for a momentary glimpse of Summer. Everyone needs a reprieve from the winter doldrums, right? Nothing works better than a protein-rich complex carbohydrate meal, in my opinion. And grilled foods definitely lift the mood like a breath of fresh air. Sound painless? It pretty much is. Even the birds are chirping louder than usual.

KIELBASA GRILLED ROMAINE

Ingredients:

1 pound kielbasa sausage link

2 romaine hearts

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

4 ounces parmesan cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

Remove kielbasa sausage link from package. Rinse and pat dry. Transfer to a platter. Rinse romaine lettuce hearts. Pat dry. Trim the end stalks, leaving enough to keep the bunches intact. Transfer to a platter. In a small dish, combine olive oil, seasoned salt, garlic and herb seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Using a silicone brush, coat the leaves of the romaine hearts, inside and out with the olive mixture. Halve the cherry tomatoes; place in a serving bowl. Preheat the outdoor grill on High setting. Using tongs, transfer the seasoned romaine lettuce hearts directly to the grill. Repeat with kielbasa sausage link. Grill for 3 minutes. Flip the romaine lettuce and grill 2 minutes longer. Rotate the kielbasa sausage for even browning. Remove all to clean platters. To serve, place charred romaine lettuce hearts on a dinner plate. Divide the kielbasa sausage between plates. Add cherry tomato halves. Top with crumbled parmesan cheese. Drizzle with remaining olive oil mixture. Serve immediately.

Jiggers of Apple Cider Jello Shots

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Jiggers of Apple Cider Jello Shots! It’s a chilly winter’s evening where the crackling flames encompass the fireplace logs. My husband and I are snuggling under woolen blanket throws as we binge-watch another series on Netflix. I think we’re addicted. No judgement, please. Outside the windows, the ground takes on a blueish tint as the snow and ice reflect the elusive rays of fading daylight. From time to time, gusts of air beguile the wind chimes into dancing around in synchronized motion. It’s times like these where I slip my toes into sherpa-lined slippers and pad my way to the kitchen for a sinfully delicious elixir of life. You may, too. For adults only.

JIGGERS OF APPLE CIDER JELLO SHOTS

Ingredients for Jello Shots:

1 cup bourbon

2 cinnamon sticks

1 cup apple cider

1/4 cup sugar

2 packets gelatin

Ingredients for Serving:

1 cup sugar

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Lemon wedge

Whipped cream, for garnish

Star anise, for garnish

Instructions:

In a glass jar, combine bourbon and cinnamon sticks. Cover. Infuse flavor for two days; remove cinnamon sticks and discard. Set aside. Lightly spray 10-12 shot glasses with nonstick oil. Wipe away excess. In a saucepan, combine apple cider and sugar. Sprinkle gelatin over top. Allow to sit for 3 minutes, or until surface has a wrinkled appearance. Warm mixture on medium heat until sugar and gelatin have dissolved, about 2 minutes. Mixture will be smooth. Stir in spiced bourbon. Pour into prepared shot glasses. Refrigerate until firm, about 4 hours. To finish, combine sugar and ground cinnamon. Transfer mixture to a plate. Rub the lemon wedge around the rim of the shot glass. Dip into the cinnamon sugar topping. Place shot glass on a tray. Repeat with remaining desserts. Keep refrigerated. To serve, add a dollop of whipped cream and a star anise. Serve chilled.

Infused-Garlic Olive Oil

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Infused-Garlic Olive Oil! If you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit a specialty store that sells infused olive oils and flavored vinegars, you understand the value of the tasting bar within. Tasting is believing, in my opinion, especially when it’s difficult to narrow down the choices. My favorites so far are lemon extra virgin olive oil and strawberry balsamic vinegar or extra virgin lime infused olive oil and pomegranate balsamic vinegar. Of course, Italian balsamic vinegar and garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil are staples in my kitchen. Think about it a minute. Garlic tastes wonderful on crusty breads, drizzled over roasted vegetables, marinated in meats, and stirred into homemade sauces. When making your own infused olive oil, repeat after me, “Always use extra virgin olive oil.” EVOO is made from pure, cold-pressed olives without adding processed oils. The test is proven when olive oil is refrigerated. It will solidify like butter. If it doesn’t, it is unrefined and will remain liquid. Don’t be fooled.

INFUSED-GARLIC OLIVE OIL

Ingredients:

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled

Instructions:

Sterilize a glass jar, with airtight lid, and set aside. Warm olive oil, in a small saucepan, over low heat only. Remove from heat when the oil is barely warm to the touch. Do not boil. Add garlic cloves. Set aside for 24 hours. At that time, pour the olive oil through a fine strainer into the sterilized jar. Discard garlic cloves. Seal the jar. Store infused oil in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Half-Baked Skillet Pizza Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Half-Baked Skillet Pizza Dip! Who likes bread dough? I do, I do. Who keeps a bag of frozen bread dough rolls in their freezer? Me, too. Whether you’re making this amazing pizza dip as an afternoon snack, midday appetizer, or late-night dinner, you will impress yourself with the chewy bread dough base. That is, until the mouthwatering moment you feast your eyes on the gooey strands of pizza cheese. Melted mozzarella cheese pulls can stretch from the iron skillet to your mouth like a tightrope stretched across Niagara Falls. Either snap it off in one bite or twirl it around your index finger for satisfying nibbling. Did I fail to mention the layers of deliciousness? Read on to see what I mean.

HALF-BAKED SKILLET PIZZA DIP

Ingredients for Crust:

12 frozen dinner roll dough balls

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

Ingredients for Dip:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon zesty Italian salad dressing mix

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup provolone cheese, shredded

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup prepared pizza sauce

5 slices deli-style hard salami, cut into triangles (or mini pepperoni slices)

Fresh Parsley, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray an iron skillet with nonstick oil. Remove frozen bread dough rolls from the freezer. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, garlic powder, black pepper, sea salt, red pepper flakes, and parsley flakes. Mix well. Coat each frozen bread dough roll with butter mixture and arrange around the outside edge of the iron skillet. Cover pan with a tea towel, place in a warm area, and allow the dough to rise for 20 minutes for a half-baked doughy crust. Meanwhile, to prepare dip filling, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, Italian seasoning, and grated parmesan cheese. Mix well. Fold in shredded provolone cheese and 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese. Spoon half the filling into the center of the iron skillet. Add a layer of pizza sauce. Spoon the remaining cheese filling on top. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese over all. Arrange with salami or pepperoni slices. Place the iron skillet in the preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and pizza dip is bubbly. Remove from oven. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve warm.

Grill Pan Pork Loins

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Grill Pan Pork Loins! My latest kitchen essential is an enameled cast iron skinny grill that just happens to fit perfectly across two burners on my newly installed glass stovetop. As you can see, the vibrant red handles not only allow for attractive table service, but also make it easy to manage while cooking. Now I get that unique grilled taste all year long, no matter what the weather. The cast iron feature is the secret to even cooking. Plus, the nonstick finish makes cleanup a flash, in addition to enhanced seasoning qualities. I like the idea that foods, once grilled, show the little black grill marks. After all, it’s about the presentation, isn’t it? In addition, vegetables work out quite nicely. No more frustrating pieces falling through the grill grates. I can see you agree with me.

GRILL PAN PORK LOINS

Ingredients:

4 pork loins, boneless, and one-inch thick

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 red onion, sliced

1 cup broccoli florets

1/3 cup pineapple chunks

4 fingerling potatoes, halved

Instructions:

Preheat the stovetop grill pan on medium heat setting. Brush lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle the pork loins with sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Arrange on grill pan. Add red onion slices, broccoli florets, and pineapple chunks in a single layer. Pierce fingerling potatoes with a fork. Microwave on High setting for two minutes. Cut in half and add to grill pan. Cook pork loins until golden brown, about 7 minutes per side. Turn vegetables as needed to prevent scorching. When pork reaches 145° on a meat thermometer, transfer loins to a cutting board; tent with foil for 5 minutes. Turn stovetop setting to Off. Divide food into four portions. Serve warm.

Fried Cinnamon Sugar Pears

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Fried Cinnamon Sugar Pears! Impulse buys. We all get lambasted as soon as we step through the automated doors of the supermarket. The colorful array of succulent fruit and glistening vegetables appear as lush as if they were grown in the Garden of Eden. Before you know it, the grocery cart is overflowing with a mountain of luxuriant produce. In your mind, you’re already forming mental images of gastronomic creations where you spin around the kitchen like Julia Child waving a wooden spoon in the air. That is until you get home. The fruit is ripening faster than you can say, “go bananas”. Now two weeks in, you’ve already exhausted several different ways of consuming that box of winter pears. Allow me to offer a quick ‘n easy side dish. It goes especially well with pork loin or spiral ham. I promise you, your family will be singing your praises from now on.

FRIED CINNAMON SUGAR PEARS

Ingredients:

6 Oregon pears, peeled, cored, and sliced

2-3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup apple cider

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Fresh lemon thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

In an iron skillet over low heat, warm butter. Combine sugar, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon in a bowl. Mix well; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together apple cider and cornstarch. Set aside. Add sliced pears to melted butter. Coat well; increase heat to medium setting. Stir gently for about 3 minutes. Sprinkle sugar mixture over pears. Stir. Cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pears are fork tender. Pour apple cider liquid over pears, stirring constantly for 2 minutes longer. Remove iron skillet from heat. Allow fried pears to cool slightly and thicken. Ladle into small bowls. Serve warm.

Egg and Sweet Potato Boats

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Egg & Sweet Potato Boats! Breakfast just got more interesting. And so did you. Because today, this Paleo breakfast may leave you feeling like a superhero, “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”. It not only gives you a nutrient-rich vegetable, it also provides protein in the animal form of bacon and eggs! That fact alone ups your intake of vitamins and minerals without leaving you feeling meh and bloated. Digestion improves as energy levels rise, which leaves me asking one final question: Which superhero are you?

EGG & SWEET POTATO BOATS

Ingredients:

1 large sweet potato, halved, washed and patted dry

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 large eggs

2 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

Sriracha, to taste

Fresh oregano, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Once the sweet potatoes have been washed and patted dry, rub skins with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and place cut side down in a shallow pan that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Bake for about one hour, or until tender. Remove sweet potatoes from oven. With tongs, flip sweet potatoes over so skin side is down. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the center to form a well for one egg. Crack an egg into each sweet potato boat. Return pan to oven; bake 20 minutes, or until eggs are set. Remove from oven. Crumble bacon over top. Drizzle with sriracha sauce. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves. Serve warm.