What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Uber Hasselback Caprese Salad! Want to do something fancy-schmancy? Take ordinary garden Roma tomatoes (the oval kind) and cut them in such a way that they fan out a little bit like an accordion. Then, using your fingers, tuck slices of cheese and fresh herbs in between. It’s so simple, yet looks incredibly delish as a side salad. This is why we like food so much. It becomes a dining experience versus chowing down.
UBER HASSELBACK CAPRESE SALAD
3 Roma tomatoes
3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
13-16 fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette
Judging by the size of each tomato, make 4-5 slices, stopping before the knife cuts completely through. Transfer tomatoes to a serving dish. Fill each slit with a mozzarella slice. Tuck in spaces with fresh basil leaves. Sprinkle Everything But Bagel seasoning over all. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Traditional Plum Pudding! Everyone remembers Little Jack Horner’s fame from a childhood nursery rhyme: “He stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum.” It’s hard to resist that urge while eating these sweet, fruity, luscious plums. To pull this off, do like my Gramma used to say, “Honey, just dump everything in the pan, stir a little bit, and bake.” Sometimes we try to make things too difficult.
TRADITIONAL PLUM PUDDING
1 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
4 cups ripe plums, pits removed, skin on, and sliced
1 cup natural honey
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 2-quart ovenproof baking dish with nonstick oil. Combine flour, sugar, sea salt, and baking powder in the prepared dish. Whisk together. Add melted butter and milk. Stir well. Spread evenly across the bottom of the baking dish. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sliced plums and honey. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and carefully pour over the pudding batter. Do not stir. Bake for 35-40 minutes until pudding is bubbly and golden brown. Remove from oven and serve warm with whipped cream.
“Hope is like the sun, which,
as we journey toward it, casts
the shadow of our burden
~ Samuel Smiles
“No matter what your
heartache may be,
laughing helps you forget it
for a few seconds.”
~ Red Skelton
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Shepherd’s Pie! Chicken or Beef? That’s the biggest decision you need to make with this tasty comfort food recipe. If you follow tradition, no doubt you would choose beef. That’s fine. I, on the other hand, was in the mood for chicken. Either way the cheesy potato crust, over a savory blanket of gravy, is the star attraction. If you are searching for a great weeknight meal without all the fuss, warm up your kitchen, kick back, and relax.
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/4 pounds chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, and cut into chunks
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
16 ounces frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the cream of mushroom soup and water in a large bowl. Stir well. Set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add chicken chunks, black pepper, onion powder, and poultry seasoning. Cook until well browned. Transfer the chicken to the soup mixture. Add mixed vegetables. Stir to coat. Spoon chicken filling into a 2-quart casserole dish. Spread mashed potatoes over chicken layer. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Bake 40 minutes or until chicken filling is hot and bubbly.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Red Hot Chili Peppers! Hello. My name is Gail and I’m addicted to red pepper flakes. Seriously. Sometimes my husband has to ask me to scale back on the capsaicin factor. In that case, I simply place the jar next to my plate and sprinkle away. It wasn’t until recently I realized the health benefits of crushed red peppers. According to Healthy Eating*, “Red Peppers soothe upset stomach and ulcers, bolsters heart health, regulates diabetes, and fortifies the immune system.” That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
1 pound red peppers, cayenne or chili with stem on.
Preheat oven to 175°. Wash red peppers; pat dry. Arrange peppers on a baking sheet in a single layer without touching. Bake overnight, or 10 hours. Snap off stems and crush dried peppers, using a mortar and pestle. Store in an airtight jar.
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What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Quick-Fried Potatoes! My favorite breakfast consists of eggs-over-easy, pan-fried potatoes, and crispy bacon. I love it when the warm runny yolks gush over the buttery chunks of Idaho potatoes, seasoned just right. I learned a long time ago the secret to perfect hash browns. Begin with baked potatoes. My sister-in-law gleaned that little secret from a restaurant where she worked. Thankfully, anyone can bake a potato in five minutes by using the microwave. Just don’t forget to pierce it first.
1 baking potato, skin on
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Wash potato; pat dry. Pierce with a paring knife. Microwave on High for 4 minutes. Carefully remove from oven and cut into slices or chunks. Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add potatoes and onions. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Fry mixture until crispy, turning once or twice. Enjoy!
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Pickled Banana Peppers! Harvesting a vegetable garden has its advantages: convenience, great taste, chemical-free, and healthy. We’ve pretty much been of the theory, “Plant it and it will grow.” A little neglect will only make it thrive, right? So why in the world does my husband go overboard with so many plants? They all act like they’re on steroids in some kind of competitive race, so I end up with produce bursting off the vines. In any event, I often shrug my shoulders, come up with creative recipes, and make the best of it. A gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do.
PICKLED BANANA PEPPERS
1 cup vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
2 garlic cloves, whole
1/2 pound banana peppers, seeded and sliced
In a 2-quart pan over medium heat, combine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sugar, celery seeds, and garlic cloves. Bring to a rolling boil. Add the banana peppers. Keep them submerged under the pickling liquids. Remove the pan from heat. Let sit for 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the banana peppers and garlic to a clean jar. Ladle the pickling juices to fill the jar within 1/2” of the top. Wipe off the rim and add the lid. Store in the refrigerator.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Original Marinara Sauce! Marinara isn’t just a fancy name for spaghetti sauce, it actually lacks one key ingredient that sets it apart. You guessed it: MEAT. Basically, marinara is a tomato-based sauce infused with herbs and spices. It can be prepared very easily in less than half an hour. Personally, I find it perfect for a meatless meal. I like chunks of tomatoes, the hint of garlic, and a slight kick of red pepper spice. Look again at the snapshot. Perhaps it’s time to make marinara at your house.
ORIGINAL MARINARA SAUCE
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
28-ounce can Italian Roma tomatoes, diced with sauce
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon marjoram
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm olive oil. Add minced garlic; sauté for one minute until slightly brown, stirring occasionally. Add diced Roma tomatoes with sauce, fresh oregano, chopped basil, sea salt, marjoram, agave nectar, and red pepper flakes. Simmer sauce until thickened, approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Marinara sauce will be chunky and thick. Serve with cooked pasta.