Basil Pesto Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Basil Pesto Pasta! I’m tired. And I’m hungry. What in the world can I cook for dinner that doesn’t take forever? But I want the taste to make me feel like I’m someone special. First of all, go over to the wine rack and open a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Pour a little into a stemmed glass. Swirl and take a sip. This will put you in the mood. The wonderfully sweet herbal notes of the fresh basil will complement the flavor of the wine. Plus, the olive oil and parmesan cheese in the pesto sauce enhance the richness of fruit in the Cab. Take another sip. Now let’s get started. (Footnote: Obviously if you already have a jar of your favorite Basil Pesto in the kitchen pantry, you’re one step ahead.)

BASIL PESTO PASTA

Ingredients:

10.5 ounce package of cherry tomatoes

12 large basil leaves

1/3 cup almonds, slightly toasted

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup olive oil

1 pound spaghetti

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, toasted almonds, garlic clove, and kosher salt in a food processor. Pulse to blend into a fine purée. Scrape the sides and turn the processor on Low setting. Slowly pour the olive oil into the mixture in a continuous stream. The pesto will thicken nicely. Set aside. Cook the spaghetti in salted water, according to package directions. Drain well. Transfer spaghetti to a bowl. Quickly toss with pesto sauce. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over all. Garnish with basil leaves.

X-ceptional Sesame Slaw

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: X-ceptional Sesame Slaw! Get set for a roller coaster ride of flavor. Asian-style coleslaw is a lighter alternative for your next potluck or picnic outing. No mayo! It has a distinct taste of pineapple, ginger, sesame, and soy with just a slight kick of red pepper. The recipe has some shortcuts so you can leave the kitchen behind and get on with summertime fun. Throw it together in a flash and watch it become a crowd-pleaser.

X-CEPTIONAL SESAME SLAW

Ingredients:

16 ounces cole slaw mix, green cabbage and carrots

3 green onions, snipped

1 cup Sesame Asian dressing

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce

1/4 cup almonds, sliced

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Instructions:

Combine cole slaw mix and green onions into a large bowl. Whisk together Sesame Asian dressing, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and sriracha hot sauce. Toss cabbage/carrots mixture with dressing to coat. Cover and chill one hour. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds and almond slices over all before serving.

Mandarin Orange Side Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Mandarin Orange Side Salad! Whenever I serve this colorful side salad to my guests, they rave about the dressing. I create my own version of infused garlic oil, but it can be purchased at your local grocery. Dark, leafy watercress can also be found at the area Farmers Market this time of year. A little bit goes a long way in adding a surprisingly light peppery taste. When partnered with oranges and tomatoes, it refreshes the palate for the next course. If you like a tastier and fresher alternative to an ordinary garden salad, give this one a whirl.

MANDARIN ORANGE SIDE SALAD

Ingredients:

1/2 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup watercress

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

18 mandarin orange segments

1/4 cup bacon pieces

1/4 cup almonds, sliced

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Instructions:

Divide the romaine lettuce, watercress, cherry tomatoes, mandarin oranges, bacon, almonds, and cheese evenly between 6 salad bowls. Serve chilled with dressing. (See dressing recipe below.)

Dressing Ingredients:

1/2 cup garlic vegetable oil

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 cup red onion, chopped

Instructions:

Combine garlic vegetable oil, wine vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, sea salt, dry mustard, and onion. Whisk well until blended. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake! You know you love chocolate. Who doesn’t? If you find yourself avoiding baked goods due to its wheat content, worry no more. This cake is completely flourless. The results are rich, chocolaty, and extremely satisfying for any sweet tooth craving. Dust it with powdered sugar and garnish each slice with fresh strawberries for a gourmet finish. Hurray for Chocolate!

GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CAKE

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

15-ounce can organic garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

4 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon almond extract

1 tablespoon powdered sugar, for dusting

1/4 cup almond slices (optional)

Whipped cream

Fresh strawberries, garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9″ round cake pan. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl for 2 minutes on high. Stir after 1 minute. Repeat until chocolate is melted and smooth. In a food processor, combine garbanzo beans and eggs. Blend until smooth, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and baking powder. Pulse to mix. Pour in melted chocolate and almond extract. Blend until smooth, scraping sides as needed. Transfer batter to the cake pan. Bake 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar. Sprinkle with almond slices. Garnish with whipped cream and strawberries.

Quaker Oat Breakfast Companions

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Quaker Oat Breakfast Companions! I must confess, some days a cup of Italian espresso and a crispy wafer roll is enough to get my engine up and running. But on those mornings when I wake up ravenous, I turn to a hearty bowl of Quaker Oats with all the trimmings: pomegranate arils, orange slices, almonds, cinnamon, and brown sugar. I appreciate the fiber, fruit, and nuts for healthy living. Topped with a bit of honey and milk in lieu of brown sugar, and I’m left feeling full for longer periods of time. Plus, it’s a good source of fiber and iron. Switch things up now and then by choosing a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.

QUAKER OAT BREAKFAST COMPANIONS

Ingredients:

1 cup milk

1 dash sea salt

1 dash cinnamon

1/2 cup whole grain oats

1 mandarin orange, peeled

1 tablespoon almond slices

1 tablespoon pomegranate arils

1 teaspoon brown sugar or natural honey

Instructions:

Combine milk, salt, cinnamon, and oats in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on High 2 1/2-3 minutes. Remove and mix well. Top with oranges, almonds, arils, and honey.

Ina Garten’s Fruit Crunch Sundae

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Ina Garten’s Fruit Crunch Sundae! The Barefoot Contessa is a familiar face on the Food Network these days. Not only does she offer great ideas for any meal, but she makes them seem incredibly simple. Today’s recipe comes from a recent episode where Ina wanted to serve up a special breakfast for her husband. I like the idea of taking everyday food and turning it into something extraordinary. By baking a batch of crunchy granola and storing it in an airtight container, single servings can be assembled in a flash. Use whatever fruit is on hand to make it unique.

INA GARTEN’S FRUIT CRUNCH SUNDAE

Ingredients:

1 cup old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup sliced almonds

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons pure honey

4 strawberries

1/4 cup blueberries

1/4 cup pineapple tidbits

1 cup Greek yogurt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Toss the oats, coconut, almonds, oil, and honey together in a large bowl until completely combined. Pour into a baking sheet and bake until mixture turns golden brown. Stir occasionally. Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool. Stir once. Combine the strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple in a bowl. Using stemmed glasses or parfait glasses, layer granola, yogurt, and fruit until full. You may alternate ingredients to repeat layers. Serve immediately.

Devils on Horseback

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Devils on Horseback! The name itself is a conversation starter. I know, right. The colors themselves resemble the “dark side” of our personalities. The small savory dish is made with pitted dates, smoked almonds, and crispy bacon or prosciutto. It’s pretty simple to prepare and is often served as an appetizer at social gatherings. Popular as a finger food, this hors d’oeuvre is perfect for small conversation at backyard parties. Watch yourself. Eating too many may find you a little mischievous.

DEVILS ON HORSEBACK

Ingredients:

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 cup brown sugar

24 pitted dates, whole

24 smoked almonds, whole

3-ounce package prosciutto, deli sliced and cut in half lengthwise or 12 slices thin bacon, cut in half width wise

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a shallow bowl, combine soy sauce and ground ginger. Mix well. In a second dish, place brown sugar. Take a pitted date, open carefully, and stuff it with a smoked almond. Wrap the date with a half slice of prosciutto or half bacon slice. Dip it into the soy sauce mixture. Roll it in brown sugar and place seam side down into the prepared baking dish. Repeat until all dates are prepared. Bake in the preheated oven until the prosciutto or bacon is crisp, 15 to 25 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter A

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Home Cooking: Asian Noodle Salad! Not only does this dish make a stunning presentation of color, it also boasts a crunchy taste of the Orient. The sesame and ginger dressing is so yummy, you’ll find yourself making excuses to eat this salad every week.

ASIAN NOODLE SALAD

Ingredients:

1 package ramen noodle soup mix, any flavor

1/4 cup butter

1/2 cup almonds, sliced

1 pound of shredded broccoli and carrot slaw mix

3/4 cup roasted Cardini’s Gourmet Asian Sesame Dressing*

2 green onions, sliced

Instructions:

Melt butter in a medium skillet over low heat. Remove noodles from soup mix. Discard seasoning mix. Break up uncooked noodles. Add to the skillet, along with the almonds. Stir to combine and brown until slightly toasted and brown. Do not burn. Remove from heat. In a large bowl add broccoli/carrot slaw and the noodle/almond mixture. Pour salad dressing over all and toss until combined. Garnish with green onion snips. Serve immediately. Leftovers may be refrigerated but the noodles will lose their crunch.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning Cardini’s Gourmet Asian Sesame Dressing.

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake!

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake! You know you love chocolate. Who doesn’t? If you find yourself avoiding baked goods due to its wheat content, worry no more. This cake is completely flourless. The results are rich, chocolaty, and extremely satisfying for any sweet tooth craving. Dust it with powdered sugar and garnish each slice with fresh strawberries for a gourmet finish. Hurray for Chocolate!

GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CAKE

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

15-ounce can organic garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

4 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon almond extract

1 tablespoon powdered sugar, for dusting

1/4 cup almond slices (optional)

Whipped cream

Fresh strawberries, garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9″ round cake pan. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl for 2 minutes on high. Stir after 1 minute. Repeat until chocolate is melted and smooth. In a food processor, combine garbanzo beans and eggs. Blend until smooth, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and baking powder. Pulse to mix. Pour in melted chocolate and almond extract. Blend until smooth, scraping sides as needed. Transfer batter to the cake pan. Bake 40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar. Sprinkle with almond slices. Garnish with whipped cream and strawberries.