Papaya Banana Boat

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Papaya Banana Boat! When my son and daughter-in-law visited us in Kauai, I wanted to treat them to a special island breakfast. It was a perfect portion for them after greeting the sunrise sipping on macadamia nut coffee. Ripe papaya has such a naturally sweet flavor. It practically melts in your mouth with its creamy, butter-like texture. If you like cantaloupe, I promise you this: Papaya will take you “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. You may even hear the magical sounds of a ukulele strumming in the background.

PAPAYA BANANA BOAT

Ingredients:

1 ripe papaya, cut in half with seeds removed

1 banana, sliced

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

2 dollops Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons granola

Drizzle of agave nectar

Instructions:

Split the papaya between two plates. Fill half the cavity with sliced bananas. Sprinkle cinnamon over banana slices. Fill the other half of the papaya with a generous dollop of Greek yogurt. Sprinkle granola over top of yogurt. Drizzle entire papaya boat with agave nectar.

Jollof Spaghetti

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Jollof Spaghetti! Just when you thought you’ve heard of everything, along comes another version of spaghetti night that just made your life a little easier. Gone is the method of boiling water to cook the pasta, worrying about how to keep the starch from building up, or the fact that oil makes the sauce slide right off. Sound familiar? Been there, done that. With this technique, the spaghetti cooks slowly in the marinara sauce. No advanced parboiling required. The results are moist, definitely al dente, and paired with the meatballs…out of this world. I see this in your future.

JOLLOF SPAGHETTI

Ingredients:

28-ounce can Roma tomatoes in basil sauce, cut-up

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped

8 ounces spaghetti

1 pound frozen large Italian-style meatballs, precooked and thawed

Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine Roma tomatoes in sauce, oregano, garlic powder, basil, marjoram, olive oil, agave nectar, kosher salt, and red pepper flakes. Mix well. In a microwave-safe dish, combine sweet onion and green peppers. Microwave on High for 2 minutes. Add to marinara sauce. Transfer mixture to a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add spaghetti; stir. Reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes or until spaghetti is cooked. Stir occasionally to separate pasta. In a microwave-safe dish, add the Italian-style meatballs. Cook on High setting, according to package directions. When cooked, add to the spaghetti mixture. Gently stir. Simmer 5 minutes longer to combine flavors, or keep warm until ready-to-serve. Spoon into bowls and garnish with parmesan cheese.

Zested Lemon Blueberry Pancakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Zested Lemon Blueberry Pancakes! If you’re a “regular” customer at the same restaurant, it’s perfectly natural to become good friends with the owners and staff. Kind of like an extended family. You learn their personalities as they become accustomed to your quirks, humor, and mannerisms. Before long, you may even exchange cell numbers so you can text the restaurant when you’re on your way. It benefits both parties. In turn, if I’m kinda crazy about a certain dish, I may get a nonchalant “secret” ingredient hint dropped my way. The rest is up to me. Now I don’t claim to make menu items as well as a restaurant, but in a pinch it satisfies a craving that will suffice until I return.

ZESTED LEMON BLUEBERRY PANCAKES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 teaspoon granulated lemon peel

1 cup cottage cheese, small curd

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon lemon extract

1/2 pint blueberries

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

10-ounce jar lemon curd, to taste

Powdered sugar, garnish

Instructions:

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt in a large bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, mix agave nectar, lemon zest, and granulated lemon peel. Add cottage cheese, eggs, vanilla extract, and lemon extract. Whisk until almost smooth. The cottage cheese will continue to have small lumps. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients. Stir to combine. The batter will be a little bit lumpy. Fold in a few blueberries, about 1/4 cup. Warm an iron skillet over medium heat. Brush the skillet with vegetable oil. Add a 1/4 cup of pancake batter to the skillet. Cook for a couple minutes until small bubbles appear. Carefully flip and cook the remaining side until golden, about 2 minutes longer. Brush the skillet with more vegetable oil and repeat the process until all the batter is gone. Serve the pancakes with remaining fresh blueberries and a dollop of lemon curd. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Wings Beans Shoyu

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Wing Beans Shoyu! Have you ever seen a four-angled bean? It actually has four corners. The rough texture looks a little odd, all jagged and such. Since they grow in tropical climates where there is plenty of humidity, rainfall, and warmth, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t find them at your local grocery store. However, they are readily available at Farmers Markets in the Hawaiian Islands, which is where I got these delectable little jewels. They taste similar to a snow pea with a slightly sweet crunch. Then there’s the sauce. YUM!

WING BEANS SHOYU

Ingredients:

1/2 pound wing beans, washed, ends trimmed, and cut into bite-size pieces

1/4 cup soy sauce, Japanese-style

2 tablespoons agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 strip bacon, cooked and crumbled

Instructions:

Place prepared wing beans in a covered casserole dish. Add 2 tablespoons water. Microwave on High setting for 3 minutes until crisp-tender. Do not cook until mushy. Drain. Add crumbled bacon. Combine soy sauce, agave nectar, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Whisk to blend flavors. Drizzle over wing bean mixture. Toss to coat. Serve warm.

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.

Dining Outside the Home: China Poblano in Las Vegas, Nevada

Dining Outside the Home: China Poblano in Las Vegas, Nevada! For a mid afternoon break, rest your feet at the Cosmopolitan and people-watch awhile. China Poblano is a place where the menu features a magnificent blend of Mexican and Asian cuisine. Honestly, it works. One starring attraction is chef José Andrés’ created cocktail known as the “Salt Air Margarita”. Basically, the salty rim is eliminated and replaced with a thick layer of sea salt foam over fresh lime, agave, and tequila. It’s almost like taking a plunge into the ocean on a tropical island. Remarkable, refreshing, and invigorating. Well done.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter I

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Italian Stewed Tomatoes! Before the weather turns chilly, grab up all those garden tomatoes at the peak of ripeness. You’ll appreciate a little extra effort now for that rich intense flavor in the middle of winter. Slow-cooked and simmered to perfection, stewed tomatoes are the secret ingredient for tailgating chili, flavorful stews, and Italian pasta dishes. Go ahead, score big with the best-tasting slightly sweet firm texture of harvest stewed tomatoes. 
ITALIAN STEWED TOMATOES 
Ingredients:

19-20 Roma tomatoes 

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon agave nectar 

1/2 teaspoon parsley 

1/2 teaspoon oregano 

1/2 teaspoon basil 

1/2 teaspoon marjoram 

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 

1 green pepper, chopped 
Instructions:

Make a small X in the stem end of each Roma tomato. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for one minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of ice water for an ice bath. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and discard. Chop the tomatoes, removing the core, and place tomatoes in a large skillet. Add kosher salt, agave nectar, parsley, oregano, basil, marjoram, garlic powder, and green pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve fresh or freeze for later. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter P

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Peachy Blueberry Parfait! Leave the velvety skin on, but remove the pit first or you’ll regret it later if you chip a tooth. Peaches are tropical and aromatic. Baby-soft, too. They remind you of a warm summer day followed by a romantic evening rendezvous. Pair the peach’s irresistible aroma with the tangy taste of blueberries for a jumpstart breakfast that will leave your friends and coworkers wondering how you mastered the art of true happiness. 
PEACHY BLUEBERRY PARFAIT 
Ingredients:

2 cups Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1 ripe peach, pit removed and sliced

1/3 cup fresh blueberries 

1/2 cup crunchy granola with oats, almonds, and coconut 
Instructions: 

Combine Greek yogurt and agave nectar. Mix well. Begin with a spoonful of granola in the bottom of 4 parfait glasses. Layer Greek yogurt on the granola. Top with fresh peach slices, blueberries, and the remaining granola. Chill until ready to serve. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter H

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Harvest Snap Beans! If you’ve ever planted a garden, you already know how easily and quickly green beans are to grow. They produce so well, even a novice takes pride in their bounty. When it’s time to harvest, choose smooth green (or yellow) pods. Lumps are a sign of an overripe bean, which means it could be dried out or damaged inside. Be particular. You can always tell how fresh it is by the “snap” sound it makes when broken. Perhaps that’s why my aunt on the farm used to call them “snap beans”. Taste is everything. 
HARVEST SNAP BEANS
Ingredients:

1 pound frozen yellow wax and green beans, thawed

6 slices bacon; cooked and broken into chunks

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Arrange yellow wax beans and green beans in an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle bacon pieces over beans. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, melted butter, soy sauce, garlic powder, and agave nectar. Mix well. Pour over green beans and bacon. Bake uncovered 40 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before serving.