Upgraded Lunch Break

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Upgraded Lunch Break! For those original gamers from the 1980’s, today’s snapshot may detect a slight resemblance to a popular video game character known as Pac-Man. I assure you, that was not my intention. My kids played that harmless game all the time, staring at a screen that literally ate its way to a high score. Then again, I seem to remember them requesting pizza delivery more often as a result of it. At least nowadays I can choose a healthier alternative with multigrain baked crackers that have wheat, corn, and oats. Plus it won’t cost me a roll of quarters.

UPGRADED LUNCH BREAK

Ingredients:

6 multigrain baked crackers

3 slices cherrywood smoked ham, deli-style

1 golden delicious apple, sliced in wedges

Fresh chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Arrange multigrain crackers on a platter. Cut each slice of ham in half. Form into an accordion shape to create “wells”. Secure one end with two strands of fresh chives. Tie securely. Place the ham onto a multigrain cracker, fanning out the hills and valleys. Insert apple wedges where possible, allowing them to stand upright. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

New Potatoes Smashed

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: New Potatoes Smashed! Is it a baked potato? A mashed potato? A fried potato? Or all three?! What it is, is freaking fantastic! Forget about dinner conversation. As soon as you place a platter of these tasty gems on the table, all bets are off. Don’t blame your partner or the kids, they don’t want to talk with their mouths full. These potatoes have a soft, earthy flavor surrounded by a crispy outer skin. Cheese and bacon make them downright irresistible. But don’t get carried away. Repeat after me: “This is meant to be a side dish.”

NEW POTATOES SMASHED

Ingredients:

1 pound new red potatoes, skin on

2 teaspoons, plus 1/8 teaspoon sea salt, divided

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

2 slices applewood bacon, cooked and crumbled

2 green onions, chopped

Instructions:

Put the red potatoes in a pot. Add enough water to cover by one inch. Add 2 teaspoons sea salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium and cook until potatoes pierce easily with a knife, about 20 minutes. While potatoes cook, preheat oven to 425°. Drizzle one tablespoon olive oil over a rimmed baking sheet. Drain potatoes; allow to cool for 5 minutes. Arrange the cooked potatoes on the prepared baking sheet. Carefully use a fork to gently “smash” the potatoes. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over potatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and cracked black pepper. Bake 30 minutes until potatoes are crispy. Remove from oven, add shredded cheddar cheese and bacon crumbles. Broil for one minute, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven. Garnish with chopped green onions. Serve warm.

Ham Salad Spread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Ham Salad Spread! Tired of ho-hum tuna salad or egg salad sandwiches? Think all-natural applewood smoked ham with no artificial ingredients. When you begin with quality, the results are astounding. Add sweet pickle relish, chopped celery, and fresh horseradish. The biggest challenge is deciding if you wish to smear it on rye bread, add a dollop over wheat crackers, or simply scoop it onto a Bibb lettuce leaf. Skip the Deli-made and crank out a batch at home. It’s easier than you think. In no time at all, you’ll have a party favorite or lunchtime energy boost.

HAM SALAD SPREAD

Ingredients:

2 cups applewood smoked ham chunks

4 stalks celery, chopped

2 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped

3 green onions, snipped

3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish

1 teaspoon creamy horseradish

1/2 cup mayonnaise

Instructions:

Place ham chunks in a food processor. Pulse in batches until finely chopped. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Place celery in the food processor and Pulse until chopped. Add to bowl. Repeat with hard-boiled eggs. Add to bowl. Stir to mix. Add green onion snips, sweet pickle relish, horseradish, and mayonnaise. Mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Fig and Pig Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Fig and Pig Flatbread! Make life easy tonight with an amazing twist on this sweet and salty sensation. Everyone loves bacon. I get it. And the fig preserves provide a sweet after taste that mingles with the natural crunch of crispy crust and salty meat. The gooey cheese is like the icing on a cake. With only a few ingredients, preparation is a snap leaving more time for settling in front of the television with a glass of wine and your favorite program. You can thank me later.

FIG AND PIG FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 prepared flatbread

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon corn meal

1/2 cup fig and muscat wine preserves

4 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush both sides of flatbread with olive oil. Sprinkle corn meal on the bottom side of the flatbread. Place onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Bake 5 minutes; remove from oven. Spread fig and muscat wine preserves evenly over flatbread, leaving a crust edge. Arrange crumbled bacon as next layer. Scatter mozzarella and feta cheese over top. Bake 10 minutes longer until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven. Cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve with a side salad.

Pig Candy Bacon

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Pig Candy Bacon! If you ever needed a reason to eat candy for breakfast, permission granted. This marriage of brown sugar, spices, and hickory smoked bacon is the best idea since sliced bread! You’ll want to choose thick bacon to hold all the seasonings. Line a pan with foil despite the fact a rack is used; it just makes clean up that much faster. If you don’t….well, let’s just say the other people in your house won’t be waiting around for you. Once the glazed sweetmeat is taken out of the oven, all bets are off. The line forms here.

PIG CANDY BACON

Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon wasabi powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons chili powder

8-10 slices bacon, thick cut

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix brown sugar, black pepper, wasabi powder, cayenne pepper, and chili powder in a deep baking dish. Add bacon, one strip at a time; toss to coat well. Line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean up. Place a wire rack on pan. Lay bacon strips on rack in a single layer without overlapping. Place baking sheet one setting below top rack in oven. Bake 30-45 minutes, or until crisp. There is no need to turn the bacon. Carefully remove pan from oven. Let caramelized bacon cool slightly before transferring with a tongs to parchment paper.* Serve as a breakfast companion, appetizer, or snack.

* The second time I made Pig Candy, I pierced them with bamboo skewers after they were baked and they were spot on!

Black Pepper Bacon

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Black Pepper Bacon! Bacon, bacon, bacon. Did someone mention Bacon? Nothing smells more amazing than the aroma of hickory-smoked maple bacon lightly wafting through the home. It has been known to make robust men weak in the knees and healthy women light-headed. By adding the spicy jolt of black pepper, it kicks the fragrance up a notch and awakens the taste buds.

BLACK PEPPER BACON

Ingredients:

1 pound hickory-smoked maple bacon, thick cut

1 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place bacon strips on a baking sheet lined with a wire rack. Sprinkle black pepper over all. Bake 40-45 minutes or until crisp. Carefully remove pan from oven, being careful not to spill the hot liquid. Drain bacon on paper towels. Serve warm.

Driving Dill Crazy on Cedar Plank Salmon

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Driving Dill Crazy on Cedar Plank Salmon! Tired of multi-tasking? Here’s a solution to the never-ending question of “What’s for Dinner?” This is the BEST way to grill salmon when you’re at the end of a day that seemed long and demanding. Simply thaw and grill. The supermarket was featuring delicately seasoned Atlantic salmon on a pre-soaked cedar plank. Not only does it taste amazing, but clean-up is a breeze. There’s even enough for a meal later on. Stay tuned.

DRIVING DILL CRAZY ON CEDAR PLANK SALMON

Ingredients:

1 24-ounce package of Cedar Bay Salmon, Applewood with Orange and Ginger seasoning

Instructions:

Preheat grill to 425°. Place the thawed salmon and plank directly on the middle rack. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Do not over cook. The flesh becomes flakey and pink in the center. Serve with your favorite salad or side dish.