Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter X

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Xiangjiao Banana Bread! How’s this for a fancy word? For those who haven’t a clue, “xiangjiao” is actually Chinese for banana. And who doesn’t love bananas? A few years ago my grandson came to my house for a sleepover. I had been to the grocery store to get some of his favorite foods, in addition to a couple of new choices. Imagine my surprise when I presented him with a half-peeled yellow banana. He got a puzzled look on his face as he eagerly grabbed it and said, “Nana. Ba-Nana?” I smiled and gave him a giant hug before the air exploded into peals of laughter. There’s nothing sweeter than a toddler’s giggle.

XIANGJIAO BANANA BREAD

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 ripe bananas, peeled and crushed

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Topping: (optional)

1 ripe banana, sliced lengthwise

1 tablespoon chopped pecans

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a loaf pan with a nonstick oil containing flour. Set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, Greek yogurt, vanilla extract, and crushed bananas. Mix well. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Add to the creamed mixture. Stir just until batter is combined. Do not over mix. Fold in chopped pecans. Pour into prepared pan. For topping, place the two halves of a ripe banana on top of the batter. Sprinkle with remaining chopped pecans. Bake one hour or until tester comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes and then remove banana bread from loaf pan. Cool longer on a wire rack.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter W

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Worcestershire Onion Dip! Add a little drama to ordinary chip dip. Choose pan-fried sweet onions infused with agave nectar for that luscious caramel taste we adore so much. Pair it with a splash of Worcestershire sauce for spice and pizazz. Blend everything together for the most satisfying oniony taste. Refrigerate an hour and get the party started.

WORCESTERSHIRE ONION DIP

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 sweet onions, chopped

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 green onion, chopped

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil and butter. Stir in chopped onions, sea salt, and black pepper. Stir to coat. Cover and cook until onions are deep golden, about 30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes to keep from scorching. Stir in agave nectar and garlic powder. Reduce to low heat and cook 15 minutes longer. Reserve one tablespoon of onion mixture for garnish. Set aside. Transfer caramelized onions to a food processor. Purée until only slightly chunky. Add Worcestershire sauce, Neufchâtel cheese, and Greek yogurt. Pulse until combined. Scoop into a bowl. Top with remaining tablespoon of caramelized onions and green onion snips. Refrigerate one hour before serving. Serve with chips, crackers, or pretzels.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter V

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Vanilla Pineapple Jam! I learn so much by following other foodies. My friend, Lathiya, featured this aromatic recipe on her blog recently. I never thought of adding vanilla to pineapple. The results are amazing! Shout out to her for more photos at http://www.lathiskitchen.org/2018/02/23 and a tasty fruit combination to smear on your morning toast or Greek yogurt. It’s Yumolicious!

VANILLA PINEAPPLE JAM

Ingredients:

2 cups pineapple chunks, drain juice if using canned

3/4 cup sugar

3 discs sugared ginger, finely chopped

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch sea salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Instructions:

Using a 9-inch saucepan, combine pineapple chunks and sugar over medium-high heat to boil. Reduce to low and continue cooking. Gently mash the chunks with a fork as pineapple softens. Add sugared ginger, vanilla extract, and sea salt. Cook until mixture becomes jam, about 20 minutes. Add lemon juice; stir and cook 10 minutes longer. Jam will begin to thicken. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes before transferring to a jar. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter U

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Unleavened Bread! Nothing is more appetizing than the aroma of fresh bread baking in the oven, in my opinion. Unleavened Bread is a quick and easy flatbread made with flour, salt, olive oil, and water. No yeast needed. Choose between a crispy texture, like I have here for that luscious golden color, or shorten the baking time for softer, more chewy results. Eat it plain, slather it with French butter, or turn it into a personal-size pizza flatbread. You can thank me later.

UNLEAVENED BREAD

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup water

Dill weed for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush a baking sheet with olive oil. Set aside. Combine flour and salt in a food processor. Pulse to mix. Gradually drizzle in the oil on Low speed. Dough will resemble crumbs. Continuing on Low speed, gradually add water until dough forms a ball. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until dough is elastic and smooth, but not sticky. Divide into 6 equal balls. Pat each ball into a circle, using a rolling pin or your hands. Transfer flattened dough onto prepared baking sheet. Do not crowd. Bake in two steps, if necessary. Use a fork to lightly prick the dough. Brush each flatbread round with olive oil and sprinkle with dill weed. Bake 15 minutes until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter T

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Tortellini Soup! No matter the weather, a classic Italian soup is always a good idea. Make it a budget-friendly weeknight meal with all the flavor of a Tuscan countryside, without the cost of an airline ticket. Common ingredients like garden veggies, rich plum tomatoes, sweet aromatic herbs and zesty spices blend together to enhance the dish. I love the mushroom-stuffed tortellini pasta. It’s curly ring-shape is very gourmet. When it all comes together at the table, you’ll think you created a masterpiece. Well done!

TORTELLINI SOUP

Ingredients:

1 pound chorizo sausage, ground

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped

1/3 cup green pepper, diced

28-ounce can Roma tomatoes, crushed

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

14 ounces vegetable broth

8.8 ounce package porcini mushroom tortellini

1 cup fresh spinach leaves, torn

Parmesan cheese for garnish

Instructions:

Brown chorizo sausage until fully cooked. Meat will be crumbly. Drain well. Set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine olive oil, chopped onions, and diced green peppers. Cook until soft. Add crumbled chorizo. Stir. Add Roma tomatoes, garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, oregano, basil, and marjoram. Stir well to mix ingredients. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes. Gently fold in tortellini and spinach. Cover and simmer 10 minutes longer until tortellini is tender. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with shredded parmesan cheese. Serve with crostini.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter S

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Sensational Stuffing Balls! Two words: OMG, YUM! Seriously, this is the answer to a prayer when asked, “What is a good side dish to serve with meat?” Personally, I like the make-ahead option of having a bag of Stuffing Balls on hand in the freezer. I guess you could even serve them as an appetizer for your next gathering. They’re that tasty. As usual, you can opt out of the shortcut version provided here and make your own stuffing with 5 cups of cubed cornbread, wheat bread, or day-old white bread crumbs. You decide. Go crazy with garden herbs, diced apples, or skip the meat completely. I chose golf ball-size over baseball-size, but that’s totally up to you. After all, you’re the one who will reap the accolades.

SENSATIONAL STUFFING BALLS

Ingredients:

1/3 cup butter

1/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup celery, finely chopped

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1 egg, well beaten

1/4 cup chicken broth

12.5 ounce can cooked chicken breast, drained and flaked

6-ounce box chicken stuffing mix

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking sheet with foil that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Do not scorch. Add chopped onion and celery. Sauté until soft. Add chopped parsley, black pepper, sea salt, poultry seasoning, beaten egg, chicken broth, flaked chicken, and dry stuffing mix. Stir well to combine. Shape into golf ball-size portions. Place stuffing balls on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes until set.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter R

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Roasted Chickpeas! If you’re like me, some days instead of three squares, you graze your way through the day. It helps to have a high-protein snack on hand when the cravings kick in for something crisp and crunchy. Sure, potato chips might be handy, but would you really feel good after downing an entire bag while perusing the internet? I think not. Seasoned chickpeas can be just as satisfying with their naturally nutty flavor and fiber-filling benefits. Season them with maple syrup for sweetness, a kick of cayenne for spice, garlic for pizazz, or savory ranch flavoring. The best part is you get to choose. Just remember the basic rules: drain, pat dry, peel the skins, and bake. “Bada-bing bada-boom!”

ROASTED CHICKPEAS

Instructions:

30-ounces canned chickpeas, drained and patted dry. Skins removed.

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine olive oil, melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, and garlic powder. Mix well. Drain chickpeas. Transfer to a clean tea towel. Cover and rub gently over the chickpeas. This will loosen the skins so you can easily peel them away and discard. When dry, place the chickpeas in a ziplock gallon bag. Pour olive oil seasoning mixture over chickpeas. Seal bag, squeeze out the air, and toss bag to coat the chickpeas all over. Transfer seasoned chickpeas to the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. Adjust time, if necessary. They should appear browned and crunchy. Do not burn. Cool 10 minutes.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter Q

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Quick-Mix Cheesy Grits! Step away from the usual breakfast smoothie for an occasional southern meal of cheesy grits, eggs-over-easy, and crispy applewood bacon. Grits are not only quick and easy, they’re delicious and filling. This fail-safe method is spot on and can be whipped up in no time at all. It’s packed with enough protein to keep hunger pangs at bay. Save the weekends when you have more time for making grits from scratch.

QUICK-MIX CHEESY GRITS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup instant grits

2 cups water

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Pat of butter, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine instant grits, water, and sea salt in a quart microwave-safe measuring cup or bowl. Stir. Microwave on HIGH 3 minutes or until thickened when stirred. Add cheese; stir. Cook 1 minute longer or until cheese melts into a creamy texture. Spoon cheesy grits into individual bowls and add a pat of butter to each bowl. Serves 4.