Thai Peanut Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Thai Peanut Sauce! Known as a popular condiment for skewered meat or seafood in East Asian cuisine, peanut dipping sauce gets all the attention. Homemade Pad Thai is one example. After all, it’s no secret anyone can get addicted to peanut butter. Think about it. We add spicy chili peppers for heat, exotic curry for an earthy taste, coconut milk for authenticity. And depending on the day, there is no substitute for peanut butter and chocolate. Just saying.

THAI PEANUT SAUCE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup natural peanut butter, creamy

3/4 cup coconut milk, unsweetened

1/4 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

In a food processor, combine peanut butter, coconut milk, agave nectar, fresh lime juice, soy sauce, garlic powder, ground ginger, kosher salt, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour into a jar. Store in the refrigerator.

*Serving Suggestion: Skewered Shrimp with orange wedges and cilantro.

Versatile Fig-Glazed Cornish Hen

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Versatile Fig-Glazed Cornish Hen! When an evening meal becomes a dinner date for two, make it extra-special by choosing something out of the ordinary. A luxury, so to speak. Cornish hens are an individual serving, which makes them that much more appealing on the dinner plate. Typically they run in size around 1 1/2 pounds, which is perfect. The meat is quite tender and moist with a subtle chicken flavor. Whether it’s a romantic celebration or just because, turn on some music, open a bottle of wine, gaze into each other’s eyes, and enjoy the ambiance. Candlelight is purely optional.

VERSATILE FIG-GLAZED CORNISH HEN

Ingredients for Cornish Hens:

20-ounce each Cornish hens, twin pack, frozen and thawed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Ingredients for Fig Glaze:

1/4 cup chili-fig jam

1/4 cup port wine

1/4 cup balsamic reduction

1/4 cup unsalted butter

Freshly squeezed lemon juice, quarter lemon

Pinch of kosher salt

Cracked black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a dutch oven with nonstick oil. Set aside. Wash the Cornish hens; pat dry. Season the cavities with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Place a rosemary sprig inside. Secure the legs and wings with cooking twine. Transfer birds to the dutch oven. Dot the top of each Cornish hen with butter. Bake 45 minutes. While the hens are roasting, make the fig glaze. Place a small pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add chili-fig jam, port wine, balsamic reduction, butter, lemon juice, kosher salt, and black pepper. Stir well to combine. Allow mixture to reduce to a syrupy consistency, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Baste the birds with the fig sauce during the last 10 minutes of roasting. The Cornish hens are done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 165°, and juices run clear. The skin should be golden brown and crispy. Remove pan from oven. Tent the pan with aluminum foil to keep warm. Allow the birds to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Pan-Seared Tilapia

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Pan-Seared Tilapia! I don’t often “fry” foods, but once in awhile nothing else will do. The secret to pan-searing fish involves five key steps. First, make sure the skillet is nonstick or a trustworthy cast iron skillet. Secondly, choose a neutral-flavored oil which has a higher smoke point. You won’t need much, so it’s crucial to make sure the oil is not going to turn black from high heat. The third point, and this is just as important, make sure moisture is removed from the fish. If not, there is guaranteed to be steam-created soggy fish or dangerous grease splatters. Step Four: When the fish is placed in the pan, do not overcrowd it. The pieces should not touch each other at all. Finally, allow the fish to sear without moving it. This is how you get that beautiful crispy surface. Use a timer. Once the fillets are carefully flipped over, you’re almost done. By this time everyone in the house will be heading to the kitchen to discover what smells so incredibly good. Well Done, Grasshopper.

PAN-SEARED TILAPIA

Ingredients:

2 frozen tilapia fillets, thawed

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 lime, juice and zest

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 pat butter, divided

Fresh dill, for garnish

Instructions:

Defrost fish fillets overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from package, pat dry with paper towels. Set aside. In a shallow dish, combine brown sugar, chili powder, kosher salt, garlic powder, and lime zest. Mix well. Warm vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Rub both sides of each fillet with the spice mixture. Cook tilapia fillets for 4 minutes. Carefully flip them over. Squeeze lime juice over fish in pan. Divide a pat of butter over the top of each fillet. Cook 3 minutes longer, or until opaque and flaky. Transfer pan-seared tilapia fillets to a platter. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh dill. Serve immediately.

Hot Sauce Tex-Mex Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Hot Sauce Tex-Mex Dip! Nothing screams “party” like a flavorful Mexican dip loaded with cheese, beans, chorizo, and chips. This do-ahead recipe is perfect for advance planners. Pull it all together and refrigerate overnight. When you’re ready, simply allow it to stand at room temperature half an hour before you need to bake it. Add 10 minutes to the time it is covered in the oven for melting the ooey gooey cheese. If you’re going to make this Tex-Mex Dip, may as well get lost in the tug-of-war between chili lime seasoning and garlicky hot sauce. It’s everything you love. Just add cocktails.

HOT SAUCE TEX-MEX DIP

Ingredients:

4-ounces cream cheese, room temperature

15-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed, drained, and divided

3/4 tablespoon fresh lime juice, divided

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/2 cup chorizo, cooked and crumbled

2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped

2 tablespoons red pepper, finely chopped

1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix

4 ounces Mexican Cheese Blend, shredded and divided

1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons pickled jalapeño, diced

Tortilla chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. In a food processor, combine cream cheese, 1/2 cup black-eyed peas, 1 teaspoon lime juice, hot sauce, and 1/8 teaspoon sea salt. Pulse until smooth and creamy. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir remaining black-eyed peas, chorizo, scallions, red pepper, taco seasoning mix, and 1/2 cup Mexican Cheese Blend into the cream cheese mixture. Mix thoroughly. Spread into the bottom of a lightly greased deep dish pie plate. Sprinkle with remaining Mexican Cheese Blend. Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil, and bake 15 minutes longer until hot and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir together in a bowl chopped tomatoes, chopped cilantro, olive oil, diced jalapeño, remaining lime juice, and remaining sea salt. Using a slotted spoon, top dip with tomato mixture. Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Black Beans ‘n Rice Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Black Beans ‘n Rice Soup! At first glance, this appears to be a meatless meal. It can be with one minor change. Just don’t add meat. And yet, if you appreciate a dish you can sink your teeth into, I invite you to read on. This flavorsome recipe gets down to earth as a stick-to-the-ribs dinner. We all know brown rice is a good source of fiber as well as an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Black beans support good heart health and could help lower cholesterol. Pork provides protein. Last time I checked, 1+1+1=3. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

BLACK BEANS ‘N RICE SOUP

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon red chili garlic sauce

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon oregano

10.5-ounce can beef consommé

1/2 cup instant brown rice

15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup seasoned pork, precooked and shredded

1/2 cup water, if needed

2 tablespoons red pepper, diced

Cilantro, for garnish

Instructions:

Warm olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and minced garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until onions are soft and clear. Add red chili garlic sauce, cumin, and oregano. Cook 2 minutes longer. Add beef consommé and brown rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add black beans and seasoned pork. Stir to combine. Add water, if needed to ensure everything is covered. Replace lid and simmer for 10 minutes longer. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with diced red peppers and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Paniolo Santa Maria-Style BBQ in Kapaa, Kauai

Dining Outside the Home: Paniolo Santa Maria-Style BBQ in Kapaa, Kauai! Everyone loves a barbecue whether it’s the blaze of fire or the smell of the wood. Perhaps it’s the fiery outdoor cooking. Either way, the smoky taste is amazing. The owners and staff of Paniolo understand that attraction for personal enjoyment. Eating at picnic tables adds to the allure. Top it off with live entertainment and you’ve got a reason to gather together. People want to savor and enjoy food. Look no further than Paniolo Santa Maria-Style BBQ. Check out their menu online. Many items are served with homemade chili, fresh garden salad, and grilled garlic bread.

Kung Pao Chicken

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Kung Pao Chicken! When I promise savory, I deliver. Combine sweet and sour, garlic and spice, with the crunch of peanuts, to pull off this do-it-yourself version of a Chinese restaurant favorite. By making it at home, you may have it faster than takeout. One bite and you’ll love it, but remember to share. Add a few red chili peppers for a dynamic taste experience, if you dare.

KUNG PAO CHICKEN

Ingredients:

2 cups boneless chicken breasts, cut into chunks

2 tablespoons sherry cooking wine

2 tablespoons soybean sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons chili paste

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon garlic powder

4 green onions, snipped

8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped

1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

Instructions for Marinade:

Mix together 1 tablespoon sherry cooking wine, 1 tablespoon soybean sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon water. Stir until smooth. Place chicken chunks in a glass dish. Pour in marinade. Toss to coat. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Instructions for Sauce:

Combine in a glass bowl 1 tablespoon sherry cooking wine, 1 tablespoon soybean sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon water. Mix until smooth. Add chili paste, vinegar, honey, brown sugar, and garlic. Stir. Gradually fold in green onions, water chestnuts, and chopped peanuts. Transfer to a medium skillet. Cook on low/medium heat until aromatic, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, remove chicken from marinade. Discard marinade. Sauté chicken chunks in a large skillet until meat is white and juices run clear. As the sauce becomes aromatic, add in sautéed chicken chunks. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. Serve over noodles or rice.

Tex-Mex Tortilla Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Tex-Mex Tortilla Soup! One thing I love about Fall is the convenience of crockpot meals. Throw all the ingredients together, stir, and then forget about it for a few hours. Do something fun……and I don’t mean raking leaves or shelling walnuts. Take a nature walk, visit an apple orchard, choose a mum plant for your front door, photograph colorful pumpkins and gourds. You get the idea. Don’t let the season pass you by. Autumn is in full swing and Mother Earth has splattered the landscape with vibrant colors.

TEX-MEX TORTILLA SOUP

Ingredients:

1 pound lean ground beef

20-ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies, mild flavor

10-ounce can diced tomatoes, zesty flavor

15-ounce can black beans, organic

15-ounce can corn, drained

15-ounce can kidney beans, drained

4-ounce packet taco seasoning mix

4-ounce packet ranch seasoning mix

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

3 green onions, snipped

1/3 cup sliced jalapeño peppers

Instructions:

Brown ground beef. Drain any liquid. Place ground beef, tomatoes (juice included), black beans, corn, kidney beans, taco dry seasoning mix, and ranch dry seasoning mix in a slow-cooker. Mix well. Cover and cook on High for 3-4 hours OR on Low for 6-8 hours. Uncover. Ladle Tex-Mex Tortilla Soup into bowl and garnish with Monterey Jack cheese, a dollop of Greek yogurt, onion snips, and jalapeño pepper rings. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

Firehouse BBQ and Blues in Richmond, Indiana

Dining Outside the Home: Firehouse BBQ and Blues in Richmond, Indiana. The “All American City” has hit the mark with slow-roasted barbecue, live blues music, and awesome drinks in a restored 1860s firehouse in the Depot District. Hand-painted murals simple add to the allure and charm of the cozy atmosphere. Not looking for a heavy meal? Choose Firehouse Chili. You know it’s tried and true. Swirl the cheddar cheese and onions into the thick savory soup. Crumble jalapeño cornbread in for a extra spice. Next time you’ll want the pulled pork barbecue or the hickory smoked beef brisket. After all, it’s what they’re famous for.