Egg and Sweet Potato Boats

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Egg & Sweet Potato Boats! Breakfast just got more interesting. And so did you. Because today, this Paleo breakfast may leave you feeling like a superhero, “able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”. It not only gives you a nutrient-rich vegetable, it also provides protein in the animal form of bacon and eggs! That fact alone ups your intake of vitamins and minerals without leaving you feeling meh and bloated. Digestion improves as energy levels rise, which leaves me asking one final question: Which superhero are you?

EGG & SWEET POTATO BOATS

Ingredients:

1 large sweet potato, halved, washed and patted dry

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 large eggs

2 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

Sriracha, to taste

Fresh oregano, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Once the sweet potatoes have been washed and patted dry, rub skins with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and place cut side down in a shallow pan that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Bake for about one hour, or until tender. Remove sweet potatoes from oven. With tongs, flip sweet potatoes over so skin side is down. Using a spoon, carefully scoop out the center to form a well for one egg. Crack an egg into each sweet potato boat. Return pan to oven; bake 20 minutes, or until eggs are set. Remove from oven. Crumble bacon over top. Drizzle with sriracha sauce. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves. Serve warm.

Double Lemon Poppyseed Bread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Double Lemon Poppyseed Bread! Everyone has their favorite flavors and foods that remind them of happier times. A good friend of mine recently lost her husband, after challenging years with a slow-progressing disease. When I stopped by to visit her with a gift of food, it created an unexpected see-saw of emotion. At first, she was happy and delighted because it brought back memories of early morning get-togethers for Bible study at a local coffee shop. We’d laugh, chat, share, or reflect on scripture over coffee and pastries before heading off to work. It was a wonderful way to begin the day, often shifting gears from a trying mindset to a positive outlook. The emotional see-saw tipped from high to low that day when she realized how uncertain her future has become in consequence of widowhood magnified by isolation during a pandemic. Let us strive to remember the Golden Rule: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”

DOUBLE LEMON POPPYSEED BREAD

Ingredients for Bread:

16.25-ounce box white cake mix

3.5-ounce vanilla flavored instant pudding, powdered

4 eggs, room temperature

1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 cup hot water

1 tablespoon lemon citrus peel

2 tablespoons poppyseeds

Ingredients for Icing:

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-4 tablespoons light cream, slightly warmed

Lemon zest, for garnish

White nonpareil sprinkles, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two loaf pans with parchment paper. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine white cake mix, vanilla pudding mix, eggs, lemon juice, vegetable oil, and hot water. Beat on Low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl. Increase speed to Medium setting; beat 2 minutes longer. Fold in lemon citrus peel and poppyseeds. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool loaves in pans for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. To glaze, combine powdered sugar, softened butter, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Stir to blend. Slowly add the warmed cream, stirring constantly for a smooth consistency. Drizzle over Lemon Poppyseed Loaves. Garnish with lemon zest and nonpareil sprinkles.

Zucchini ‘Nana Bread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Zucchini ‘Nana Bread! This isn’t your usual old-fashioned banana bread. And if you’ve been hesitant to try zucchini bread, well…just because, then I implore you to give it one more chance. You honestly cannot taste the zucchini. What you will notice, though, is that the bread is incredibly moist, not gummy. And the cinnamon streusel topping is a winning combination worth shouting about. Remember to only stir the batter until it is mixed. The more you stir, the more gluten comes into play. While gluten is crucial in bread-baking, it is not your friend in quick breads. The results could be dense and rubbery. After all, the purpose of baking is to share with others. Slather on the butter or cream cheese…and Enjoy!

ZUCCHINI ‘NANA BREAD

Ingredients:

1 medium zucchini, shredded

1 ripe banana, mashed

2 eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for Cinnamon Topping:

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Set aside. Peel zucchini. If there are seeds, remove them with a spoon; discard. Shred zucchini and set aside. Mash banana and set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, and vegetable oil until combined. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, sea salt, and vanilla extract. Stir only until incorporated. Fold in shredded zucchini and mashed bananas. Stir slightly until blended. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Whisk together sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the batter. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow bread to cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Cool Zucchini ‘Nana Bread on a wire rack before slicing.

White Chocolate Lavender Berry Scones

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: White Chocolate Lavender Berry Scones! Butter and Buttermilk, two main ingredients that lasso the moon. This is not your ordinary pastry. It’s not a doughnut. It’s not a muffin. It is a flavorful raised vessel for smearing on more butter. Granted, the American version may be filled with fresh fruit and chocolate chips, but hey, it’s all good. And since I was doing it my way, I went one step further and added a lavender glaze on top. There’s no way I’m going to be accused of making a dry-as-dust scone. I’m living with a man who conjures up that image whenever he hears the word “scone”. I believe for now, I’m okay with him thinking that way. More for me!

WHITE CHOCOLATE LAVENDER BERRY SCONES

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

4 tablespoons cold butter, grated

1 egg, room temperature

3 ounces buttermilk, plus more for brushing

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3/4 cup fresh blackberries

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Ingredients for Lavender Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons dried lavender buds

Fresh mint, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and sea salt. Add the grated butter; toss with flour mixture. Add the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. Stir just until combined. Do not over mix. Fold in blackberries and white chocolate chips. Turn the dough onto a floured surface; then pat into squares. Cut into equal triangles. Place formed dough 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Brush tops with buttermilk. Bake until golden brown, 15-18 minutes. Rotate baking sheets halfway through. Allow the scones to cool slightly. To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon dried lavender. Stir until smooth. Drizzle scones with lavender glaze. Garnish with remaining lavender buds and fresh mint leaves. Serve warm with butter.

Underground Chile Chocolate Bread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Underground Chile Chocolate Bread! Don’t you hate it when you’re in the mood to bake something delicious and then find yourself short one key ingredient? That happens to me whenever I find “buttermilk” listed on a recipe. Truth-be-told, I seldom buy it. Thankfully there are two ways to transform ordinary milk into buttermilk. You can use white vinegar, or you can use lemon juice. It’s the acidity that works like magic. Now you’re probably wondering why we want buttermilk in the first place. Well, other than the rich creamy taste, buttermilk helps breads to rise with more body and a softer texture. Is it any wonder pancakes, mashed potatoes, and even fried chicken taste better bathed in buttermilk. Keep that under your hat.

UNDERGROUND CHILE CHOCOLATE BREAD

Ingredients:

3/4 cup milk, mixed with 2 teaspoons vinegar

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 2/3 cups flour

1/4 cup cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 2/3 cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Set aside. Pour vinegar into a measuring cup, then fill with milk until you reach the 3/4 mark. Let sit for five minutes to thicken, then whisk. This is a substitute for buttermilk. In a large bowl, combine chili powder, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, and “buttermilk”. Mix until just evenly combined. Do not over stir. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for one hour, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool bread on a wire rack before removing from loaf pan. Slice and serve.

Ramping Up Breakfast

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Ramping Up Breakfast! For a hearty and satisfying way to jumpstart your morning, think outside the box with sautéed ramps. Prepared in minutes with hardly anytime at the stove, you’ll be serving up a “green” feast fit for a king. If you live in the country where farm fresh eggs are as plentiful as the next roadside produce stand, even better. Treat yourself to a scrumptious weekend meal on the back porch in true farmhouse style.

RAMPING UP BREAKFAST

Ingredients:

1/4 pound wild ramps

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 eggs

2 smoked sausage links

2 pieces artisan bread, toasted

Crushed oregano, for garnish

Instructions:

Wash thoroughly every crevice and leaf stem of each ramp. Cut off and discard bulb roots. Rinse again. Gently pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. Warm olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Transfer ramps to the skillet. Cook until tender and crispy, gently turning. After 10 minutes, divide ramps between two plates. Cook eggs according to personal preference. Add to each plate. Heat smoked sausage, slicing open to sear. Arrange on plates. Butter toast to complete each breakfast plate. Garnish ramps and eggs with crushed oregano. Serve immediately.

Bacon and Egg Mac ‘n Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Bacon and Egg Mac’n Cheese! Grab onto your seat because this dish is going to leave you shouting to the rooftops like a kid on a tire swing. Remember how everyone in the neighborhood would congregate around the sturdy oak, count to three, and then pile on the tire like a bunch of monkeys? The biggest guy was always left behind to spin it around like a giant top before grabbing the rope and jumping aboard. The peals of laughter echoed around the block and seemed to go on forever. It’s a wonder the branch didn’t break, or worse.

BACON AND EGG MAC ‘N CHEESE

Ingredients:

1 cup bow tie pasta

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup skim milk

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

3 slices American cheese

1/4 cup feta cheese

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated

4 strips precooked bacon, crumbled

2 tablespoons red peppers, chopped

2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 eggs, fried according to preference

2 green onions, snipped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 2 individual casserole pans with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook pasta in salted water, according to package directions. Drain and set aside. In a medium saucepan, warm the butter over medium-low heat. Add the drained pasta and skim milk. Stir. Add cheddar cheese, American cheese, feta cheese, and parmesan cheese. Stir occasionally until completely melted. Fold in crumbled bacon and chopped red peppers. Divide between the two casserole pans. In a small dish, combine panko seasoned bread crumbs and olive oil. Stir to moisten. Sprinkle over top. Bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the eggs, according to preference. Remove the casserole pans from the oven. Place one fried egg on top of each. Garnish with chopped green onions. Serve immediately.

Instant Dutch Baby

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Instant Dutch Baby! Be innovative. When my Hawaiian friend, Dillyn, sent me a care package of unique foods from the island, I knew I would make something special to show her. I began with the popular chocolate macadamia nut pancake mix, tweaked it a little, and transformed it into a festive weekend breakfast for two. Everything tastes better with chocolate, doesn’t it? With mini morsels in the batter as well as a sprinkling on top, the flavor was ribboned throughout making one forget about the need for extra syrup. A final dusting of powdered sugar provided a tempting image to share long distance. She approved with glee and open delight. Mahalo!

INSTANT DUTCH BABY

Ingredients:

6 ounces chocolate macadamia nut pancake mix

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup mini chocolate chips, plus 1 tablespoon for topping

Powdered sugar, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a one-quart ovenproof baking dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Combine pancake mix, egg, and milk in a bowl. Using a wire whisk, mix until the large lumps are gone. Fold in 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips. Pour batter into the prepared dish. Sprinkle remaining mini chocolate chips on top. Bake 25 minutes until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar. Serve warm.

Umami Bomb Chorizo Grits

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Umami Bomb Chorizo Grits! Say whaaat? Somebody needs to tell me what that word means. Umami. Evidently it is the taste bud beyond the famous four: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Oh yeah, taste buds we’ve been familiar with since we first began to put food in our mouths. This “umami” envelopes earthy, meaty, and savory. Examples of foods that reflect this are soy sauce, tomatoes, cheeses, anchovies, and cured pork products. Chorizo falls into the latter category, you probably concluded. Sooo, are we good?

UMAMI BOMB CHORIZO GRITS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup grits, uncooked

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2 chorizo sausage links, casing removed

1 tablespoon red pepper, diced

1 tablespoon green pepper, diced

1 tablespoon red onion, sliced

1 tablespoon frozen corn, thawed

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, crumbled

1 hard-boiled egg

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Prepare grits according to package directions. Stir in cheddar cheese. Set aside. Remove the casing of the chorizo. Spray a skillet with nonstick oil. Add chorizo. Sauté over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Crumble the meat with a fork as it cooks. Add red pepper, green pepper, red onion, and corn. Continue cooking until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. To serve, transfer cheesy grits to a shallow dish. Add chorizo and sautéed vegetables. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve with a hard-boiled egg. Garnish with cayenne pepper, to taste.