What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Oregano Hasselback Sweet Potato! Have you ever stepped foot in a grocery store and been greeted by a warmer filled with foil-wrapped oven-baked sweet potatoes? The naturally sweet, earthy aromas trigger the tastebuds the same way rotisserie chicken and sizzling bacon do. You want it and gotta have it. Wait until you bite into the creamy texture infused with oregano and cinnamon. Sounds like a sensual adventure, doesn’t it?
OREGANO HASSELBACK SWEET POTATO
2 sweet potatoes, skin on
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon oregano, crushed
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°. Leaving skin on potatoes, wash thoroughly and pat dry. Put one potato on a cutting board. Beginning at one end, slice in strips, being careful to stop before slicing the bottom skin. Transfer to a shallow baking dish. Continue until both potatoes are sliced. In a small bowl, mix olive oil, crushed oregano, seasoned salt, and cinnamon. Brush each potato with olive oil mixture, separating slices to coat both sides. Drizzle remaining oil over all. Bake potatoes one hour until crispy, basting occasionally. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Coconut Sprinkled Fruit Cups! Whether you choose to enhance a hearty breakfast, compliment a light lunch, or serve as a healthy dessert, fresh fruit is always a good idea. Take a moment to look in the fridge. Perhaps you see an apple, a bunch of green grapes, a ripe banana, or a few stragglers from a berry basket. Combine them together for a surprising and colorful addition to any meal. Sprinkle on some coconut flakes to jazz things up. Drizzle with maple syrup, wildflower honey, or agave nectar. Just a touch. Then, for a nice finish, sprinkle on cinnamon, nutmeg, or citrusy cardamom. Dessert-lovers may add a dollop of whipped cream. The choices are endless. When building a fruit salad, think color, flavor, and presentation. The results may surprise you.
COCONUT SPRINKLED FRUIT CUPS
1 Cara Cara orange, divided into segments
1/2 cup pineapple, tidbits
2 tablespoons coconut, shredded
2 teaspoons agave nectar
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
Fill two fruit cups with orange segments and pineapple tidbits. Sprinkle shredded coconut over top. Drizzle with agave nectar. Garnish with ground nutmeg.
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
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup applesauce
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Papaya Banana Boat! When my son and daughter-in-law visited us in Kauai, I wanted to treat them to a special island breakfast. It was a perfect portion for them after greeting the sunrise sipping on macadamia nut coffee. Ripe papaya has such a naturally sweet flavor. It practically melts in your mouth with its creamy, butter-like texture. If you like cantaloupe, I promise you this: Papaya will take you “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. You may even hear the magical sounds of a ukulele strumming in the background.
PAPAYA BANANA BOAT
1 ripe papaya, cut in half with seeds removed
1 banana, sliced
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 dollops Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons granola
Drizzle of agave nectar
Split the papaya between two plates. Fill half the cavity with sliced bananas. Sprinkle cinnamon over banana slices. Fill the other half of the papaya with a generous dollop of Greek yogurt. Sprinkle granola over top of yogurt. Drizzle entire papaya boat with agave nectar.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Oatmeal Options! Some people tell me if they eat breakfast, they end up nibbling and snacking all day long. These same people tell me when they skip breakfast, they keep their diet in check. Who’s correct? Is it mind over matter? Studies show that skipping meals can be a trigger for migraines. Others show metabolism irregularities associated with hair loss and, ironically, unexpectedly weight gain can result from unstable choices. Now I don’t know about all that. I do know that maintaining a routine seems to reap optimum results for me. I’ve read that eating oatmeal regularly seems to prevent obesity and weight gain. Could it be due to the feeling of “sticking to your ribs”, so to speak? Makes sense to me.
1/2 cup whole grain oats
1 cup skim milk
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic reduction
1 tablespoon pecans, chopped
Fresh thyme, for garnish
Combine whole grain oats, skim milk, and cinnamon in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir well. Microwave on High 1 1/2-2 minutes. Stir. Sprinkle on brown sugar. Drizzle with balsamic reduction sauce. Add chopped pecans. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Kumquat Lollipops! I must admit discovering kumquats at the Farmers Market in Kauai was a thrill beyond imagination. My mind was spinning with all the possibilities. Don’t get me wrong, eating them out of my hand brought instant gratification. Yet, I wanted more. After making a batch of salsa*, I wanted to try something for dessert. That’s when I came up with my version of Kumquat Lollipops. It’s sugar and spice and citrusy nice. I hope you like it, too.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup filtered water
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 drops habanero pepper sauce
1 cup kumquats, washed and blemish-free skins
Bamboo party picks
1/4 cup sugar for rolling the lollipops
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine sugar, water, ground cinnamon, and habanero pepper sauce. Bring to a boil. Add kumquats. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer for 15-20 minutes. The skins will be knife tender. Remove saucepan from heat. Set aside until the simple syrup and kumquats are room temperature. This will take 2-4 hours. Remove the kumquats; set aside. Pierce each kumquat with a bamboo party pick. Roll each lollipop in sugar. Place on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate kumquat lollipops in an airtight container until ready to serve. The reserve simple syrup can be used to enhance beverages.
*Click the link below for Kumquat Cilantro Salsa.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Ice Cream Grilled Pineapple! If you’ve decided it’s better to unplug with a “staycation” this year, there’s no need to give up guilty pleasures. Minimizing expenses with less stress is smart living. Take advantage of the leisure activities and points of interest in your own community. When was the last time you popped in to the local Welcome Center or Chamber of Commerce? You may see things through a fresh pair of eyes. Others do. Make a tropical dessert that will transport you to your very own private island. Dress it up with colorful parasol party picks.
ICE CREAM GRILLED PINEAPPLE
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4-6 fresh pineapple rings
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Maraschino Cherry, for garnish
Preheat a gas grill to medium-high temperature. Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a shallow dish. Mix well. Rub both sides of pineapple rings with brown sugar mixture. Transfer to a large baking dish for 10 minutes. Using a heat-proof brush, lightly grease the grill with vegetable oil. Place pineapple slices directly on grill, leaving space between fruit slices. Cook 1-2 minutes per side to sear the pineapple rings. You should see grill marks. The pineapple will turn a golden yellow. Remove from grill. Allow pineapple rings to cool before adding a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Garnish with maraschino cherry. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Walnut Mango Granola! Have you noticed how versatile granola has become? It’s no wonder it has turned into a convenient substitute for breakfast when you’re on the run. Oats are full of iron and fiber, which the nutritionists keep drumming into our heads. It keeps us full, energizes the body, and detours junk food cravings. Nuts and seeds have heart-hearty benefits, which everyone wants, right? Personally, I prefer the crumbled version to sprinkle over my morning yogurt. Others prefer the chewy granola bars I find look too much like a candy bar. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy peanut butter and chocolate chips as much as the next guy. I get it, but always check the sugar content because basically that’s what holds everything together. Talk about unwanted calories. No thanks. In the end do what is right for you. Meanwhile, if you want to make your own, this recipe is as easy as pie.
WALNUT MANGO GRANOLA
1 cup walnut halves, chopped
1/4 cup coconut flakes
2 tablespoons pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
1 cup oats
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup dried mango, chopped
1/4 cup dates, chopped
Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss chopped walnuts, coconut flakes, pistachio nuts, oats, and chia seeds. Thoroughly combine; set aside. In another bowl, mix cinnamon, coconut sugar, sea salt, vegetable oil, and maple syrup. Drizzle over walnut mixture and toss to coat granola. Spread granola mixture onto baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes; turn for even browning and bake 10 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven. Carefully stir in dried mango and chopped dates. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove granola from the oven and allow to cool completely. Transfer crumbled granola to an airtight container.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Inside Out Bagel Grilled Ham ‘n Cheese! My world has always been part of the bagel craze. Think about it. It’s a quick breakfast smeared with cream cheese, it’s mobile for on-the-go travels, compact for a bento box, and incredibly satisfying as a lunch buddy. And then there’s the varieties: blueberry or strawberry, sun-dried tomato, cinnamon raisin, garlic and onion, plus everything seasoning on a wheat, rye, or sourdough bagel. There’s usually at least three kinds of cream cheese spreads to choose from, unless you make your own. Building a sandwich includes fresh vegetable sides of tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, and avocados. It can be exhausting. The list goes on and on, that’s for sure. I think when it all comes down to it, a bagel is simply my comfort food. And that is exactly why I turned it into a grilled cheese sammie. Spread the love.
INSIDE OUT BAGEL GRILLED HAM ‘N CHEESE
1 cinnamon raisin bagel, halved
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 slices smoky provolone cheese
3 deli slices cherrywood smoked ham
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 350°. Lay the bagel slices with the inside halves open. Smear mayonnaise on each half. Warm an iron skillet over medium-low heat. Place the mayonnaise side down in the skillet. Layer the cheese over the bagel, then arrange the cherrywood smoked ham on top. Place the remaining bagel half, mayonnaise side up, over the sandwich. Press down with a spatula. Cook until the bagel turns golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Then carefully flip the sandwich over. Bake 3 minutes longer. Transfer the bagel sandwich to the oven for the cheese to continue melting and the bagel to turn crisp. Add Dijon mustard, if desired. Serve warm.