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.

Yellow Cheddar Potato Rounds

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Yellow Cheddar Potato Rounds! Who likes potatoes? I do, I do. Buy a bag of potatoes and you’ll never go hungry, I always say. The versatile potato is a chef’s marvel. It can be baked, fried, mashed, hashed, creamed into soups, stirred into casseroles, and even eaten raw. Add a sharper-flavored cheese and you can reach a perfect combination that will make a strong soul swoon. This is why we cook at home, we remind ourselves. It’s simply rich and made fresh. Enjoy, my peeps.

YELLOW CHEDDAR POTATO ROUNDS

Ingredients:

1/2 pound russet potatoes, skin on, washed, and sliced 1/2” thick

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon rosemary leaves

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

3 chives, snipped

Rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss sliced potatoes with melted butter. Coat well. Arrange buttered potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with garlic and herb seasoning, sea salt, and rosemary leaves. Bake potatoes 20 minutes; flip and bake 10 minutes longer. Top potato rounds with shredded cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon. Bake 5 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with fresh chives and rosemary sprigs.

Unforgettable Wild Ramp Bacon Chowder

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Unforgettable Wild Ramp Bacon Chowder! For American hunter-gatherers, as well as European foragers of gourmet plants, wild ramps are as coveted as the elusive morel mushrooms. Since the leafy garlic bulbs are popular with curiosity seekers, in addition to critters of the woods, the quest for a fragrant “bouquet” becomes a challenge between man and beast. Who will get there first to reap the wild-growing delicacy? Perhaps both have their secret stomping grounds. I invite you to stick around awhile to sample the wide variety of ways to enjoy wild ramps.

UNFORGETTABLE WILD RAMP BACON CHOWDER

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

1/2 cup ramps roughly chopped, bulbs and greens

1 potato, skin on and diced

1 3/4 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

1 1/4 cups coconut milk

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Crumbled bacon, for garnish

Charred ramp greens, for garnish

Instructions:

In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, sauté ramps in bacon drippings until soft. Add diced potatoes, chicken broth, seasoned salt, and garlic and herb seasoning. Simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked thoroughly. Reduce heat to low. Add coconut milk, cheddar cheese, and red pepper flakes. Stir well to combine. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, but do not boil. Gently heat for 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes to thicken. Ladle into soup bowls; garnish with crumbled bacon and charred ramp greens.

Risotto Tomato Basil

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Risotto Tomato Basil! When the rice cooker is on the fritz, and you’re still craving risotto, try the next best thing. There’s no shame in using a boxed version as a foundation for a meal in-a-bowl. After all, these tried and true products are on the shelf for a reason. Most have perfected the art of imitation to the point where one might ask which is better. True, the homemade version does involve a certain finesse for stirring at a crucial time, exerting more energy than otherwise, but who’s the wiser? In the end, let your stomach be the judge.

RISOTTO TOMATO BASIL

Ingredients:

5.5 ounce box Garlic Primavera Risotto, gluten-free

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

2 1/2 cups water

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated

8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 teaspoon oregano

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, sauté rice in olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add water and contents of seasoning packet. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender. Stir in grated parmesan cheese. Transfer to bowls. Arrange cut tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with crushed oregano. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately.

Lemon Curd Tarts

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Lemon Curd Tarts! Attention all lemon lovers. There comes a time in every woman’s life when she is in dire need of a sweet-tasting dessert. I have a secret that will blow your mind. Go halfway down the bakery aisle at your favorite grocery store and keep your eyes wide open along the top row of jars. In between the maraschino cherries and the blueberry pie filling is a small jar of gourmet lemon curd. Grab it fast. If you need to glance at the list of ingredients, be my guest. You’ll find lemon, eggs, butter, sugar, and usually tapioca starch as a thickening agent. All good stuff, in my opinion. Buy it, refrigerate it, and guard it like the holy grail. Read on and you’ll understand why.

LEMON CURD TARTS

Ingredients:

15-count box frozen phyllo shells, thawed

10-ounce jar lemon curd

1/2 pint fresh blackberries

Mint leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove phyllo shells from packaging. Place empty shells on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake 3-5 minutes until crisp. Allow shells to cool before filling. Rinse blueberries and pat dry with a paper towel. Place a dollop of lemon curd in each phyllo shell. Add a blackberry. Garnish with a mint leaf. Place the pretty lemon curd tart on a serving tray. Repeat with remaining shells until all are filled. Serve immediately. Refrigerate any leftovers.

Honey Butter Shrimp

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Honey Butter Shrimp! Here’s a different kind of main dish that creates a balance of sweet, salty, and a little bit of spice in every bite. Shrimp lovers will not be disappointed with the tender, incredibly mild, slightly creamy taste of ocean shrimp. It’s very good, according to my husband the taste tester. The firmness of each delicate morsel, curled into the C-shape when cooked, makes each bite a succulent delight for the palate. The aromatic ginger, when mixed with soy sauce and sticky sweet honey, will awaken the taste buds for a juicier finish. Done right, this shrimp becomes a labor of love that will surely bring raves.

HONEY BUTTER SHRIMP

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons butter

3 ounces coconut milk

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons raw honey

Zest and juice from one lime

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and white pepper. Warm olive oil in an iron skillet over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 minutes per side. Add minced garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, and butter. Cook the shrimp in the butter until the garlic caramelizes, about 2 minutes. Add coconut milk, soy sauce, and raw honey. Stir to combine. Simmer 2-3 minutes until completely warmed. Remove from heat. Stir in lime juice, zest, and cilantro. Serve warm over rice.

Garlic Bulbs Roasted

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Garlic Bulbs Roasted! Do you like the smell of garlic? Do you find it sweet, alluring, pleasant, pungent, or exciting? If garlic is your friend, get ready for a road trip you will long remember. Roasted garlic cloves could make you feel extra special. Especially slathered across a slice of crusty artisan bread. When garlic bulbs are slow-roasted in the oven, they become soft, caramelized, and almost sweet. The tantalizing aroma will practically drive you crazy. As you wait with anticipation, don’t be surprised if you find your mouth watering just a bit. Be patient. Once done, the tender golden cloves collapse and spread like butter. It is definitely worth the time spent in expectation.

GARLIC BULBS ROASTED

Ingredients:

3 garlic bulbs

3 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon rosemary leaves

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Peel away outside loose layers. Slice 1/4 off the top of each garlic bulb to expose the cloves. Place cut side up on a sheet of foil. Drizzle olive oil over each. Season with sea salt, cracked black pepper, and rosemary leaves. Fold foil overtop the garlic, and place in an ovenproof dish. Roast for 45 minutes. Cloves will begin to soften and turn golden in color. Remove from oven. Cool slightly. Gently squeeze the cloves to push them out or use a pointed butter knife. Spread mashed garlic on crusty artisan breads and crackers.

Egg Noodle Chicken Casserole

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Egg Noodle Chicken Casserole! Do you ever become territorial with your food, perhaps hiding it in secret places no one ever looks? I do. In fact I keep a very unique bag of Iowa potato chips in the freezer to nibble on whenever I get the urge. Yes, you can freeze potato chips, but that’s another story. Comfort food also means having your very own individual crock in order to savor every bite, like today’s version of chicken casserole. It especially means the buttery cracker topping is all yours, to save until the very end or to mix into every bite. The choice is yours.

EGG NOODLE CHICKEN CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

1 cup egg noodles

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 cup frozen grilled chicken chunks, fully cooked and thawed

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

For the topping:

1/2 cup Ritz* crackers, crushed

1 tablespoon butter, melted

1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease two individual casserole dishes with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and set aside. In a skillet over medium-high heat, warm butter. Add diced onion and celery. Cook until soft, about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine egg noodles, onions, celery, chicken chunks, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, and chopped parsley. Mix well. Divide between the two prepared casserole dishes. In a small bowl, stir together cracker crumbs, melted butter, and cheddar cheese. Sprinkle mixture evenly over the casseroles. Bake 20 minutes until golden brown. Let rest 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Applesauce Morning Muffins

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Applesauce Morning Muffins! I have always been a fan of fruity sweet apples. Growing up in an apple orchard, on a road called Orchard Lane, I never grew tired of picking the dark red and yellow-striped fruit off a low tree limb on my way home from school. I’d twist the stem, quietly reciting the alphabet until the stem snapped off. Whatever letter I was on told me the name of my next boyfriend. My heart would flip into a flutter as I whispered his name under my breath before sinking my teeth into its tasty core. Juice would run down my chin before I could swipe it away as I continued crunching. Did those wise and wonderful apples ever grant me a wish? I’ll never tell.

APPLESAUCE MORNING MUFFINS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup applesauce

1 3/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For topping:

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup butter, melted

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray a muffin pan with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Stir in applesauce. Combine flour, baking powder, and sea salt. Add to batter; stir just until moistened. Spoon batter into muffin tins, filling 2/3 full. Bake 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing muffins from pan. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish. Dip muffin tips into melted butter. Roll in cinnamon sugar. Serve warm.