Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter X

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: X-tra Virgin Olive Oil Dipping Sauce! It’s no secret I’m a bread-lover. Just like chocolate, wine, and cheese….the key is moderation. I look to the French culture for validation. Their motto seems to be “use quality ingredients and fresh foods” for the best flavor. And I believe it. During my visit to Paris and the south of France, I noticed open markets everywhere and held often. Preservatives are pretty much absent. Nutrition rules. Grow an herb garden. Crush dried herbs to release flavor. That being said, go ahead and reach for the bread basket, just don’t eat the whole thing!
X-TRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL DIPPING SAUCE
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper 

1/4 teaspoon parsley

1/4 teaspoon oregano 

1/4 teaspoon marjoram 

1/4 teaspoon basil 

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

1 tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar 

Bakery baguette, sliced
Instructions:

Pour olive oil into a measuring cup. Add garlic powder, black pepper, parsley, oregano, marjoram, basil, and kosher salt. Whisk to blend flavors. Add parmesan cheese. Stir. Marinate at room temperature for one hour to enhance flavors. Stir and pour onto a plate or shallow bowl. “Dot” oil with balsamic vinegar. Serve with baguette bread. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter W

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Whoopie Pies! Dip into your past for a childhood favorite that has been around since your parents and grandparents were kids. Some say it’s a cookie, others refer to it as a cake, but the name that seemed to stick more than any other is “Whoopie Pie”. No worries, one bite and it simply won’t matter. You’re hooked. Picture this: Sweet, creamy marshmallow fluff sandwiched between two chewy dark chocolate mounds. I know, right?!
WHOOPIE PIES
Ingredients:

8 tablespoons butter, softened 

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon molasses 

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 

7-ounce jar marshmallow creme 
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream together butter, vegetable oil, molasses, and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg. Add vanilla extract. Combine flour, baking soda, sea salt, and cocoa powder. Gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir until blended. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. (I baked 6 cookies per sheet to allow room for them to form a perfect circle.) Bake 8-10 minutes. Watch carefully. Cool for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. To fill, spread a generous dollop on the bottom half of the cookies. Top with remaining cookies. Wrap and chill 2 hours before serving. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter V

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Vegan Charcuterie Board! Here’s your solution to what to serve with grilled meats this summer. Choose popular garden veggies, distinct to the season. Arrange them on a charcuterie board with nuts and flavorful dips. Peruse the local farmers’ market or produce section of your nearest grocers. With a little effort, the Vegan Charcuterie Board can be the star attraction for holidays and picnic outings. Check it out!
VEGAN CHARCUTERIE BOARD
Ingredients:

Carrot sticks 

Asparagus spears

Celery sticks

Cherry tomatoes 

Mini cucumbers, sliced

Radishes, quartered

Yellow sweet peppers, sliced Green olives, stuffed

Kalamata olives, pitted

Pistachios in shell

Assorted crackers
Ingredients for Hummus:

15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1/2 cup tahini paste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder 

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon lemon olive oil

1 tablespoon capers
Using a food processor, pulse chickpeas until smooth. Add tahini paste, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, cumin powder, and sea salt. Process until mixed. Transfer hummus to a shallow bowl. Drizzle with lemon olive oil. Garnish with capers. 
Ingredients for Dill Dip:

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish 

1 tablespoon dill weed

1 teaspoon capers

1 tablespoon chives, chopped
Combine Neufchâtel cheese and prepared horseradish. Stir until smooth. Fold in dill weed, capers, and chives. Refrigerate one hour before serving. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter U

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Urban Taco Pizza! If you’re caught between the Taco/Pizza dilemma of what to have for dinner, simply combine the two for a taste extravaganza. Everyone wins. By using a prepared crust, taco seasoning packet, and bottled salsa, dinner can be ready in as fast as 30 minutes. For the cooking enthusiast, I know you already have all the homemade ingredients on hand. Either way, time is valuable in a life of constant motion. Do yourself a favor and prepare a healthy option at home. It’s easy, delicious, and most of all kid-friendly!
URBAN TACO PIZZA 
Ingredients:

1 prepared pizza crust, any variety 

1 tablespoon cornmeal 

1 pound lean ground beef

1-ounce packet taco seasoning mix

1 cup salsa plus more for topping

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 cup Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup Spring Mix salad greens

1-2 tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup slices black olives

Crushed tortilla chips
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a pizza pan with nonstick oil. Sprinkle cornmeal on pan. Cover with pizza dough. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. In a skillet, cook ground beef until crumbly. Add taco seasoning mix. Mix well. Cover pizza dough with 1 cup salsa. Layer ground beef mixture, spreading almost to the edge. Top with both cheeses. Bake 15-18 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is completely melted. Remove from oven. Top with mixed salad greens, chopped tomatoes, and sliced black olives. Spoon on more salsa, to taste. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter T

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Thyme for Brie! Serving baked cheese is always a good idea, in my book. It’s like granting permission to have an appetizer as a meal plus, you get to eat with your fingers. By adding fresh herbs and natural honey, suddenly cheese becomes an elegant appetizer that even has men succumbing to its allure and gooey texture. Grab a bottle of wine or sparkling beverage, ease onto the back porch, and watch the sun sink into the shadowy horizon. 
THYME FOR BRIE
Ingredients:

1 wheel of Brie 

2 tablespoons Savannah Bee raw acacia honey*, or natural honey

4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme

Sea salt crackers

Crispy Parmesan cheese rounds
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a nonstick ovenproof dish with nonstick oil. Slice the rind off the top of the wheel of Brie. Place the wheel in the dish with skin side down. Drizzle acacia honey over the top of the Brie. Place fresh thyme over honey. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cheese is gooey and completely melted. Serve immediately with any assortment of crackers. 
*I receive no recompense for recommending Savannah Bee raw acacia honey. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter S

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Spicy Salami Mozzarella Pizza! Whether you choose to use a homemade pizza crust or a store-bought variety, the best part about this Italian favorite is the naturally smoked spicy salami and thick gooey mozzarella rounds. I froze pizza dough when I made a batch of Neapolitan-style crust. You can do the same so it’s only a footstep away to the best pizza crust on the planet! By baking it in an iron skillet, the heat seals in the flavor while creating a crispy crunch that’ll have you rolling your eyes in ultimate satisfaction. 
SPICY SALAMI MOZZARELLA PIZZA
Ingredients:

1 Neapolitan pizza crust*

1/2 cup tomato sauce

2 ounces sliced Lipari Old Tyme Hard Salami**

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced rounds

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh basil leaves
Instructions:

Fold each slice of salami in half and then in half again to form a triangle. Set aside. Transfer one ball of dough to a medium bowl that has a handful of flour in it. Flip to coat. Pat off excess flour and transfer it to a floured surface. Gently stretch dough, with fingertips, into a circle. Pick it up and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. With one hand in the center of the dough round, use the other hand to stretch the edge outward without tearing, rotating as needed. Place the oven rack on its highest setting. You should still be able to place an iron skillet on it. If not, lower the rack. Preheat the Broiler on High. Dust the iron skillet with flour; tap out excess. Heat the empty skillet until it is smoking lightly, approximately 3 minutes. Transfer dough to the skillet. Moving quickly, top the dough with tomato sauce, mozzarella slices, and spicy salami triangles. Sprinkle with kosher salt and drizzle with olive oil. Transfer skillet back to the broiler and cook until pizza is puffed and charred in spots, up to 4 minutes. Watch carefully. Remove from oven. Snip fresh basil over all. Serve immediately. For more than one pizza, repeat process. 
*To make your own Neapolitan-style pizza crust, click the following link. 

https://snapshotsincursive.com/2017/04/05
**I receive no recompense for mentioning Lipari Old Tyme Hard Salami.