Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter U

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Unbelievable Bacon Jam! Your morning just got better. Everyone loves bacon, right? And coffee is often casually referred to as a “cup of morning joe”. Know what you get when you mix the two together, along with a few other items from the food pantry? You guessed it: Bacon Jam that can be slathered on buttered toast or added later to a Charcuterie Board. Tested on guests at Gail’s Kitchen, this recipe is spot on. Give it a try and see for yourself. You can thank me later. 
UNBELIEVABLE BACON JAM
Ingredients:

9 slices Applewood Smoked Bacon, sliced thick

4 tablespoons bacon grease

1 large red onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar 

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup pure maple syrup 

3/4 cup brewed coffee 

1/4 cup pickled jalapeños, diced

1 teaspoon smoked sea salt

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Instructions:

Cook the bacon until brown and slightly crispy. It should be chewy. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces. In a medium skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons bacon grease. Add diced red onion. Turn to coat. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Sauté until onions are cooked, stirring frequently. Set aside. In a medium sauce pan, combine apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, remaining bacon grease, brewed coffee, pickled jalapeños, smoked sea salt, Dijon mustard, and bacon pieces. Add cooked onions. Stir well. Bring the bacon jam to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 45 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the jam is thick. The bacon jam should appear chunky. Refrigerate in an airtight container. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter T

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Tequila Tacos! Do you follow any of the chef’s on the Food Network? It seems they are always thinking outside the box when it comes to expanding our palates. Take Guy Fieri and his famous hamburgers. Anyone who has had the opportunity to visit Guy’s Burger Joint can see how he very casually broke the mold when it comes to men in the kitchen. Anything Goes! Today’s “nod” of adding silver tequila to ordinary tacos definitely gets the party started! 
TEQUILA TACOS
1 pound lean ground beef

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder 

1 teaspoon cumin powder 

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper 

1/3 cup tequila, silver

8 flour tortillas 

1/4 cup butter, melted 

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded 

1 romaine lettuce heart, torn

1 tomato, chopped 

2 green onions, chopped 

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup salsa

1 cup Greek yogurt 

1/4 cup black olives, sliced
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium skillet, brown ground beef until cooked and crumbled. Drain. Stir in garlic powder, cumin powder, sea salt, black pepper, and tequila. Reduce heat to simmer on low until liquid is absorbed. Stir occasionally. Set aside. Brush one side of tortillas with melted butter. Spoon about 1/4 cup crumbled meat mixture onto center of unbuttered side. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Fold in half; place on a baking sheet. Repeat until all tortillas are filled and meat is evenly divided between them. Bake in oven 10-15 minutes or until tortilla shells are crisp. Remove from oven and serve with lettuce, tomato, green onions, and cilantro. Spoon salsa over top; add a dollop of Greek yogurt. Garnish with black olive slices. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter S

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Spiced Pear Blueberry Cobbler! For a truly gourmet experience, this dessert is spot on. You may notice a very distinct flavor, but can’t quite put your finger on it. Not only is it different, it’s alluring and extraordinary. I’m here to tell you, the secret ingredient is cardamom. Not only is it a key ingredient in the spiced pear combination, but if you scroll down to the bottom, you’ll find it’s the grande finale and the perfect compliment for this exotic cobbler. Cardamom sprinkled on ice cream that has been drizzled with honey is practically like eating two desserts…in one. Bonus points!
SPICED PEAR BLUEBERRY COBBLER 
Ingredients for Filling:

1 cup blueberries 

1 tablespoon cornstarch 

3 pears, peeled, cored, and chopped

1/4 cup orange marmalade 

1 tablespoon agave nectar 

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon cardamom 

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon 
Instructions:

In a shallow bowl, place blueberries. Sprinkle with corn starch. Turn to coat. Set aside. In a medium bowl, toss pears with orange marmalade, agave nectar, and lemon juice. Add ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon. Gently fold in blueberries. 
Ingredients for Batter:

1 cup sugar 

3/4 cup butter 

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon sea salt 

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon 

1/3 cup brown sugar

1/4 cups almonds, sliced
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9″x13″ pan with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cream together sugar and butter. Mix flour, sea salt, and baking soda together. Add dry ingredients. Batter will be crumbly. Spread 3/4 batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Layer fruit filling, spreading to edges. Crumble remaining batter on top. Sprinkle with brown sugar and sliced almonds. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Serve warm, a la mode with vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with natural honey and sprinkled with cardamom. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter R

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Refried Beans Restaurant-Style! Copycat recipes are so much fun to share with the family, especially when tweaked to express your own personal taste. If you’ve been to more than one Mexican restaurant, which most of us have, you’ve probably noticed an order of refried beans can be extra-creamy, smooth or chunky, blah or spicy. No worries. If you like the earthy taste, substitute black beans for the pinto beans. The same goes for a slightly smoky taste. That effect comes from bacon drippings instead of olive oil. For authentic results you may even choose to begin from scratch. I was pretty pleased with the results featured here. 
REFRIED BEANS RESTAURANT-STYLE
Ingredients:

16-ounce can refried beans, traditional 

16-ounce can pinto beans, drained 

1 tablespoon bacon drippings 

1 small onion, chopped 

1/8 teaspoon cumin powder 

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded 

2-3 jalapeño peppers, pickled and sliced
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a skillet over medium heat, add bacon drippings. Sauté chopped onions until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Stir in cumin powder, garlic powder, and sea salt. Add refried beans. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Fold in pinto beans. Reduce heat. Warm until bubbly, stirring occasionally. Spoon mixture into individual ovenproof bowls. Place bowls. on a baking sheet. Top each with Monterey Jack cheese. Bake 5-8 minutes until cheese is melted and beans are bubbly. Carefully remove baking sheet from oven. Garnish with jalapeño slices. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter Q

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Quartered Chicken with Oranges! If you are fortunate enough to be the recipient of a Fruit-of-the-Month Club, you will not only have premium fresh fruit delivered to your door, but tucked inside the box is a recipe card with serving suggestions. Thanks go out to the families of Brandi and Jennifer! Today’s special features the Cara Cara Orange, which is a sweet seedless variety with interesting undertones of cherry and blackberry. The delightful taste is less acidic than ordinary oranges. And the pinkish-red flesh reminded me of its distant cousin, the blood orange. My compliments to Harry & David.* 
QUARTERED CHICKEN WITH ORANGES
Ingredients:

2 sections of quartered chicken, leg and thigh portion

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 Cara Cara oranges, quartered 

1/2 onion, chopped in chunks

2 cloves garlic, chopped 

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence 

2 sprigs fresh thyme
Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 350°. Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. Place chicken in an iron skillet. Surround it with oranges, onion, and garlic. Rub the chicken well with olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary leaves and Herbes de Provence. Tuck two sprigs of thyme in between chicken. Bake one hour until golden and internal temperature is 165°. 
*I receive no recompense for featuring Harry & David Fruit-of-the-Month. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter P

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Pan-Seared Pork Carnitas! What if I told you this recipe will give you the crunch of bacon and the tenderness of a roast? And what if I also told you there’s no shame in eating a plate of tender, super-crispy meat without tortillas and refried beans on the side? (It’s true. I actually had these pork carnitas for breakfast one day.) If you’ve ever ordered this house special in a Mexican restaurant, I challenge you to give it a try. I simply threw all the ingredients together before I went to bed and let the slow cooker do its magic overnight. The next morning, the aromas will drive you crazy! Be creative. Have tacos, tostadas, nachos, or simply eat them as is. I did, without regrets. Mmmmm. 
PAN-SEARED PORK CARNITAS 
Ingredients:

7-pound pork shoulder, bone-in

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon oregano 

2 teaspoons cumin powder

1 tablespoon Hawaiian Rub*

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt 

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 onion, chopped

1/4 cup pickled jalapeño peppers, sliced

3/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup vinegar

Fresh lime

Fresh cilantro 
Instructions:

Rinse and dry pork shoulder. Pat dry. Cover with olive oil. Rub in oregano, cumin powder, Hawaiian Rub, garlic powder, kosher salt, and black pepper. Place the pork shoulder, fatty side up, in a slow-cooker. Add chopped onion and jalapeño slices. Mix together orange juice and vinegar. Pour over all. Cover. Cook on Low for 10 hours. When done, the meat will be very tender. Remove the roast from the slow cooker. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Shred the meat using two forks, allowing some pieces to remain in bite-size chunks. Strain the juices into a medium size saucepan. Discard solids. Warm the drippings over medium heat to skim off the fat. Set aside. To serve, warm an iron skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Place shredded pork in the skillet and drizzle in a ladle of juices. Avoid overcrowding. Use a screen lid cover to eliminate splatters. Let the juices evaporate for 2-3 minutes so the bottom of the pork appears charred and crusty. Carefully turn over the pork pieces to cook golden brown. Overcooking will reduce tenderness and juiciness. Remove pork from skillet. Take a lime wedge and squeeze fresh lime juice over all. Garnish with cilantro. Leftovers may be divided into storage containers. Pour the juice equally over the pulled pork in each container. Freezing is also an option. 
*Available through Salty Wahine Gourmet Hawaiian Sea Salts. I receive no recompense for promoting their product.