“X” Marks the Spot Toast

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food With Soul: “X” Marks the Spot Toast! Wake up your mornings with crunchy toast points slathered in guacamole. That’s what I do when I have a ripe avocado begging to be used. By adding the tomatoes, lime juice, and seasoning, it jumpstarts my day with zest and creaminess that makes me smile. If you’re a brave warrior, sprinkle on some red pepper flakes and slay the day!

“X” MARKS THE SPOT TOAST

Ingredients:

1 large ripe avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled

1 tomato, diced

1/2 teaspoon lime juice

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

4 slices wheat bread, toasted and cut into four points

Instructions:

In a shallow bowl, mash ripe avocado with a fork. Leave small chunks for flavor. Fold in diced tomatoes and lime juice. Season with sea salt and garlic powder. Gently mix. Divide the mashed avocado among the toast points. Arrange toast into an “X” on each plate. Serve immediately.

Kalamata Olive Oregano Loaf

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food With Soul: Kalamata Olive Oregano Loaf! Olive-Lovers rejoice. If olives are not in your wheelhouse, no worries. I’ll catch up with you later…….or you could simply substitute sun-dried tomatoes in this recipe. Just so you know, olives have heart-healthy fats. I’ve mentioned before how much I love bread. And in the World of Bread, there are so many options: whole wheat, multi-grain, sourdough, flax seed, rye, pumpernickel, focaccia, pretzel, and more. Focus today on the taste of Mediterranean culture where savory bread can be made without yeast. Talk about instant gratification for a weeknight treat. Don’t forget the bread dipping oil. It’s slurp-worthy.

KALAMATA OLIVE OREGANO LOAF

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 egg whites, room temperature

1/4 cup Kalamata olive blend, pitted and chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick oil. Line with parchment paper. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Make a well in the center. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, melted butter, and egg whites. Add liquid mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in chopped olives and dried oregano. Spread batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove loaf from pan. Serve slightly warm with seasoned olive oil.

Smoked Salmon Dill Spread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Delicious Holiday Foods: Smoked Salmon Dill Spread with Crudités! For those who appreciate a healthy choice while socializing, this one is for the books! Munch on crisp vegetable crudités. Add an assortment of baked bagel chips for a salty crunchy finish. Party On!


SMOKED SALMON DILL SPREAD


Ingredients:

8 ounces of Neufchâtel cheese 

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish 

2 tablespoons fresh Dill, chopped 

Dash of White Pepper 

1/4 pound Smoked Salmon, chopped


Instructions:

Mix all ingredients together, form into a log, and refrigerate at least one hour. Serve with your favorite raw vegetables cut into bite-size pieces to create a crudité platter.

Almond-Vanilla Popovers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Delicious Holiday Foods: Almond-Vanilla Popovers! What if I told you it was possible to eat a serving of bread, but without all the preservatives? It is. And then, what would you say if I told you the outside was golden brown and the inside was hollow? That’s right. Hollow. These light and airy popovers of pancake-like batter puff up into delectable buttery crowns that leave you singing their praises and clapping your hands. It’s like you just witnessed a bit of magic in your very own kitchen.

ALMOND-VANILLA POPOVERS

Ingredients:

6 large eggs

2 cups light cream

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons sugar

2 cups flour

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Move the oven rack one setting below the middle row. Grease a 12-count bouchon pan. In a food processor, combine eggs, light cream, butter, almond extract, vanilla extract, sea salt, sugar, and flour. Blend until no lumps remain and batter is light yellow and frothy, approximately one minute. Fill each bouchon cup 2/3 full. Do not overfill. (Refrigerate leftover batter until ready to make the next batch. At that time, use a whisk to vigorously stir the batter.) Place bouchon pan in the oven; bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Do not open the oven door during baking or the popovers will deflate. When golden brown, remove from the oven. After 2 minutes in the pan, remove and transfer popovers to a wire rack. Do not allow them to cool in the pan or they may turn soggy. Serve warm as is or with a dollop of honey, jam, or butter.

Autumn Spice Banana Bread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Autumn Spice Banana Bread! Whenever people want to give me a gift of a scented candle, I always choose bakery aromas over floral ones. Buttery Caramel Corn, Pumpkin Pecan Waffles, Vanilla Frosted Cupcake, to name a few. I confess, I could have a love affair with cinnamon, maple, ginger, or cardamom. My knees grow weak just thinking about it. Perhaps that is one reason Autumn spices make me crazy while throwing caution to the wind and willpower out the door. I scrape the bowl leaving just enough batter to taste in a teaspoon. It’s how you know the results will be amazing; at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

AUTUMN SPICE BANANA BREAD

Ingredients:

3 bananas, peeled and mashed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 egg

1 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup coconut, flaked

1/2 cup carrots, peeled and shredded

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Set aside. In a bowl, combine mashed bananas, mayonnaise, and egg. Mix well. In another bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and sea salt. Stir in the banana mixture, just until moistened. Fold in flaked coconut and shredded carrots. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake 55-60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Rest for 10 minutes. Remove banana bread from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Ingredients for Frosting:

2 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted, softened

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

2-3 tablespoons light cream

Roasted pumpkin seeds and crushed pecans, for garnish

Instructions for Frosting:

In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and unsalted butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar and sea salt. Whisk in 2-3 tablespoons light cream. Frosting will be thick, but spreadable. Spread the frosting over the completely cooled banana bread. Sprinkle generously with roasted pumpkin seeds and crushed pecans.

Urban Grilled Egg Salad Sammie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Urban Grilled Egg Salad Sammie! Making dietary changes, however slight, can move the needle in a positive direction without sacrificing taste. Organic multigrain bread with flax seed and quinoa provides a nice crunch, whether toasted with butter, grilled in an iron skillet, or eaten plain with sliced tomatoes. Sometimes things need to be experienced to be believed. Because I had a bowl of hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator, I thought….hey, I wonder how an egg salad sandwich would taste if it was warmed like a grilled cheese sandwich? Long story, short. Curiosity can create new meals. Perhaps you may wonder enough to find out for yourself.

URBAN GRILLED EGG SALAD SAMMIE

Ingredients:

6 hard boiled eggs, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon red onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon jalapeño pickle juice

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature

4 slices organic quinoa multigrain bread

Instructions:

In a bowl, combine hard boiled eggs and red onion with mayonnaise. Mix well. Sprinkle in parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and black pepper. Stir until blended. Add Dijon mustard and jalapeño pickle juice. Stir well. Butter one side of each slice of quinoa bread. Warm an iron skillet over medium heat. Place 2 slices of bread, butter side down, into skillet. Divide egg salad between sandwiches. Top with remaining 2 slices of bread, butter side up. Carefully turn the sandwiches over when the bottoms are golden, after 3-4 minutes. When the underside is golden, transfer sandwiches to a plate. Serve with a dill pickle spear.

Dang Good Mac & Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Dang Good Mac & Cheese! I just cranked up this all-time favorite dish a notch, maybe two. Cheddar cheesy? It’s in there. Mozzarella madness? Oh, yeah. Palatable parmesan? Absolutely. Sooo, what’s the big deal, you wonder. Well…I kinda switched out the macaroni pasta noodles for gnocchi’s pillow-like tender dumplings that swaddle themselves in a blanket of creamy cheese sauce. Hold on. Then I topped it all with a buttery crunch topping of panko and Italian bread crumbs. Mmmwah! Life doesn’t get any better that this.

DANG GOOD MAC & CHEESE

Ingredients:

1-pound package gnocchi

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 cup milk, warmed

3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup panko and Italian bread crumbs

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Parsley, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook the gnocchi, according to package directions. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, and set aside. Whisk together cornstarch and chicken broth in a measuring cup until completely dissolved. Set aside. Warm olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic. Sauté 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Slowly add cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly to make a light brown roux. Add warm milk, stirring until smooth as the mixture reaches a low boil. Remove pan from heat; stir in mozzarella, cheddar, and parmesan cheeses until melted and smooth. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Pour the cheese sauce over the gnocchi until evenly coated. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Combine panko and Italian seasoned breadcrumbs with the melted butter. Sprinkle over the cheesy gnocchi. Bake 15 minutes to brown the topping. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

Caffé Milano in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Caffé Milano in Naples, Florida! First impressions go a long way in my book. From the moment you choose an outdoor table along Fifth Avenue, the server greets you with marinated mixed olives from Italy and homemade ciabatta bread slices. If you’re Italian, you know how important bread is at a meal. Sink your teeth into the earthy goodness and make a mental note to buy a loaf to take home for later. Caffè Milano pretty much serves food all day long. Since I was there for a brunch-style meal, the natural choice that day was Eggs Benedict. Just so you know, the Hollandaise is ah-mazing! Relax and enjoy the activity along the boulevard. You may see luxury import cars to high fashion statements made by those strolling by, so appreciate the perfect vantage point for delicious food and current activity.

Underrated Summertime Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Underrated Summertime Supper! Does anyone have a Himalayan Salt Block besides me? Well, one of the things I like about it is, it can take the guesswork out of adding seasoning to food. It’s a block of pink salt, after all. When serving cold foods like salads, fruits, and cheeses, refrigerate the salt block overnight before using. This helps to keep foods chilled for hours when you need it. Simply arrange the ingredients directly on the block, drizzle on the dressing, and you’re good-to-go. Clean up is easy. Never use soap; salt is naturally antibacterial. Remove food residue with a damp cloth or sponge. Rinse it with a clean swipe, then dab dry. Allow the salt block to air-dry before next use. You’re done.

UNDERRATED SUMMERTIME SUPPER

Ingredients:

4 ounces goat’s milk cheese, plain

1 teaspoon Italian dry mix spice blend

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

8 ounces mixed greens, washed

1 Roma tomato, chopped

4 assorted mini sweet peppers, stems and seeds removed, sliced into rings

2 radishes, sliced very thin

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

Balsamic Reduction Sauce

Crusty Artisan Bread

Instructions:

On a sheet of waxed paper, sprinkle Italian dry mix spice blend and red pepper flakes. Form the goat’s milk cheese into a ball. Roll it in the spice mix to cover all sides. Place cheese ball on the chilled Himalayan salt block. Next, arrange mixed greens in a single layer. Arrange Roma tomatoes, mini sweet peppers, radish slices, and red onion rings. Sprinkle Herbes de Provence over top. Drizzle balsamic reduction sauce over salad. Serve with crusty artisan bread.