Bacon Bit Sweet Potato Bisque

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Bacon Bit Sweet Potato Bisque! My pantry is sometimes filled with good intentions. I envision a nutritious meal and then get sidelined by other ingredients, especially in the Produce Department of the local grocery. I mean, just look at the bin overflowing with organic sweet potatoes. Medium-sized, smooth skin, pretty color, and screaming “Pick me. I’m healthy.” Soon after I get home, I store them out of sight in a cool, dark area only to discover them three weeks later. Thank goodness, sweet potatoes are very forgiving. Their shelf life is easily 5 weeks. If you ever wondered how to tell if it’s time to toss them out, press the skin. If it’s soft, discolored, or has an unpleasant odor, throw them out and promise yourself you’ll do better next time.

BACON BIT SWEET POTATO BISQUE

Ingredients:

2 large sweet potatoes, cut in half

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup yellow onion, diced

1/4 cup celery, diced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Green onion snips, for garnish

Bacon bits, for garnish

Dollop Greek yogurt, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush olive oil over the skins of the sweet potatoes. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Scoop the sweet potatoes into a bowl and thoroughly mash. Discard peels. Warm butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not scorch. Add diced onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with garlic powder, oregano, ground ginger, cumin powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute longer. Add chicken broth; reduce heat to simmer. Transfer sweet potatoes to a food processor and Pulse until consistency is smooth. Whisk sweet potatoes into broth until heated through. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with green onion snips, bacon bits, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Velvety Seafood Chowder

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Velvety Seafood Chowder! Everyone who has enrolled a child or grandchild in preschool is probably familiar with the folk tale known as “Stone Soup”. The story goes, a bunch of starving strangers enter a small village to convince the townspeople to share one ingredient from their root cellars to make a fantastic meal. The strangers produce a magic “stone”, which they place into a large cauldron filled with water. As the pot is cooking over a wood fire, one by one, the curious residents walk by. They are told the soup is almost ready but needs a “little of this or a pinch of that”. The villagers happily agree to throw in everything from carrots and onions to meat and potatoes to enhance the flavor. By the time the medley is fully cooked, the stone is removed and the hearty soup is shared among them. What a wonderful tradition.

VELVETY SEAFOOD CHOWDER

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 sweet onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning*

1/8 teaspoon thyme

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 stalk celery, sliced

1/2 carrot, chopped

1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/4 cup corn

5 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup crabmeat, flaked

6 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined

6.5-ounce can clams, drained and chopped

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley

Instructions:

In a heavy pan over medium heat, warm butter. Add diced onion. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add Old Bay seasoning, thyme, and flour. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sliced celery, chopped carrots, cubed potatoes, corn, chicken broth, and white wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add flaked crabmeat, peeled shrimp, chopped clams, and heavy cream. Cook until seafood is fully cooked, heated through, and potatoes are tender, approximately 8-10 minutes. Ladle into bowls; garnish with fresh parsley.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

April’s Potato Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: April’s Potato Salad! For years whenever I made a six-hour road trip to visit my best friend, April, I would request her famous potato salad. Upon arrival, between hugs and laughter, we’d eventually meander to the front porch with a couple of ham sandwiches and a plate of homemade potato salad. As we’d sit there gazing out over cornfields at sunset, I’d inhale the intoxicating scent of juicy sweet corn, the pleasant odor of dewy stalks, humid green earth, and maybe even a touch of honey from waning wildflowers. I probably said the same thing over and over every year, “Life doesn’t get any better than this.”

APRIL’S POTATO SALAD

Ingredients:

7 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

5 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup celery, chopped

1/2 cup onion, chopped

Instructions:

Boil potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Set aside. Combine mayonnaise, vinegar, yellow mustard, sea salt, and black pepper. Mix well. In a large bowl, add cooked potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, chopped celery, and chopped onions. Toss to combine. Pour mayonnaise mixture over all. Coat well. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Strawberries Stuffed With Chicken Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Strawberries Stuffed with Chicken Salad! Has anyone noticed the ginormous strawberries lately? I was beginning to wonder if I fell asleep for a few years, like Rip Van Winkle, and awoke to discover that gigantic plants have overrun the earth. Ordinarily I’d serve chicken salad on a cantaloupe wedge, but guess who has competition now. May the better fruit win.

STRAWBERRIES STUFFED WITH CHICKEN SALAD

Ingredients:

2 romaine lettuce leaves, washed

2 extra-large strawberries, washed

1/2 cup cooked chicken, shredded

2 tablespoons celery, finely chopped

1 tablespoon almonds, chopped

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Mint leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Place romaine lettuce leaves on two salad plates. Set aside. Carefully slice strawberries, creating a pinwheel, without cutting through the bottom. Transfer each strawberry to the prepared salad plate. In a bowl, combine shredded chicken, chopped celery, almond pieces, and mayonnaise. Mix well. Fill each strawberry pinwheel with chicken salad. Garnish with mint leaves. Serve chilled.

Neufchâtel Nibblets

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Neufchâtel Nibblets! Instead of serving the traditional large cheese ball at your next group gathering, think about individual portions. As a centerpiece on a buffet table, a cheeseball makes a great focal point until someone digs in. Then it immediately loses its form. On the other hand, nibblets remain appealing. Finger food is always a good idea, in my opinion. Not only are they fun to eat, they make things easier for walking around the edge of a party. Grab a few crackers and nibble away.

NEUFCHÂTEL NIBBLETS

Ingredients:

8 tablespoons Neufchâtel cheese, softened

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/3 cup Swiss cheese, shredded

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

Carrot sticks, cut 3 inches long

Celery sticks, cut 3 inches long

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. In a mixing bowl combine Neufchâtel cheese, softened butter, Swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and smoked paprika. Mix well. Using a cookie scoop, form mixture into balls, transfer to prepared baking sheet, and refrigerate one hour or until balls are firm. In a shallow dish, combine fresh chives and chopped pecans. Gently press chilled cheeseballs in nut mixture. Insert vegetable stick into each cheeseball. Arrange a platter and serve.

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.

Zesty Citrus Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Zesty Citrus Salad! “If you build it, they will come.” That familiar quote may spark a flicker of remembrance from a popular movie years ago, Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner was the actor who had an idea and went with it. Cooking is like that, in my opinion. For example, build a better salad. It’s pretty simple, actually. Choose garden greens for the foundation, layer on fruits or vegetables for flavor, toss in some crunchy nuts, and slather on the sauce to dress it up. Of course, you can include cheese, meat, and eggs to bulk it up into a meal if you’d like. May as well go ahead and make your own salad dressings. There’s no comparison; being naturally better than bottled, they serve nicely as dips if you have any leftover. No promises on that note, because they’re that good.

ZESTY CITRUS SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups lettuce, gently torn

1/4 cup celery leaves

1 naval orange, segments cut into thirds

6 strawberries, quartered

2 tablespoons red onion, sliced

2 tablespoons almonds, sliced

Ingredients for Dressing:

1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons Tupelo honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Dash sriracha

Instructions:

Place torn lettuce into salad bowls. Divide celery leaves between them. Arrange the orange segments, quartered strawberries, and red onion slices. Scatter almonds over all. Set aside to chill in the refrigerator. To combine dressing, whisk together garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, Tupelo honey, Dijon mustard, toasted sesame seeds, and dash of sriracha sauce. Mix well. Drizzle over salad before serving.

Radish Chive Egg Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Radish Chive Egg Salad! Meatless meals do not have to be boring, that’s for sure. I find it fun to put together interesting combinations of fresh veggies with egg salad. You can, too. If you like a hint of celery seed, think of feathery green celery leaves instead. Or if you usually add chopped shallots, what about snipped chives this time? Instead of tomatoes, add the crunch of radish slices. Bread doesn’t have to be humdrum either. Ditch the bland white open-faced for rye, pumpernickel, or honey wheat. Do you see where this is heading? Anything goes.

RADISH CHIVE EGG SALAD

Ingredients:

6 hard-boiled eggs, shells removed and halved

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons chives, chopped

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

2 slices honey wheat bread, toasted

12 celery leaves, washed

2 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced

Chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Place the peeled eggs in a bowl. Roughly chop into pieces. Add mayonnaise, chopped chives, Dijon mustard, sea salt, white pepper, turmeric, and ground ginger. Mix the ingredients together until combined. Cut the toast into diagonal quarters. Arrange on a platter. Dollop a portion of the egg salad onto each piece of bread. Tuck celery leaves around egg salad. Top with thinly sliced radishes. Using a kitchen shears, snip the chives over all for garnish.

Knee-Jerk Chicken Wings

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Knee-Jerk Chicken Wings! Look ahead for a weekend meal that is Mmm Mmm Good. It takes a minute of advanced planning, but is, oh, so worth it. As with any marinade, its main purpose is to tenderize the chicken while bathing it with flavor and moisture. In the end you have chicken wings so juicy you won’t be able to put them down. As always, store the marinated chicken in the refrigerator. I don’t recommend reusing the marinade once you transfer the meat to a baking pan. As a general rule, any sauces that come into contact with uncooked meat should be disposed of properly to prevent harmful bacteria exposure. I’m good with that. In most cases an extra sauce or dressing can be offered instead.

KNEE-JERK CHICKEN WINGS

Ingredients:

1/4 cup vinegar

1 tablespoon dark rum

2 habanero peppers, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

1/2 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons nutmeg

2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon molasses

2 pounds chicken wings

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 cup ketchup

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon spicy honey

Chives, for garnish

Instructions:

To make the jerk paste marinade, combine vinegar, dark rum, habanero peppers, red onion, green onions, thyme, olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and molasses in a blender. Pulse to mix until smooth. Place the chicken in a baking dish. Pour lime juice over chicken to coat on both sides. Wearing gloves, rub the jerk paste over both sides of the chicken wings, covering well. Transfer chicken to a gallon freezer bag. Use a rubber spatula to transfer all the marinade to the bag. Seal the bag and refrigerate overnight. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400°. Spray a rimmed baking pan with nonstick oil. Place chicken wings in a single layer, skin side up. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes, then flip to bake for another 20 minutes. Combine ketchup, soy sauce, and spicy honey in a small bowl. Mix well. Turn the chicken back over so the skin side is up. Brush with ketchup sauce. Bake 10 minutes longer. When chicken is done, transfer to a platter. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve with celery sticks and bleu cheese dressing.