Veggie Pot Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Veggie Pot Pie! Do you like to make pie dough? What if it’s not flaky? Are you okay with that? How do you keep the bottom crust from being soggy? Is it necessary to have a top crust? All very good questions, I assure you. Forget them for now and come with me into the land of phyllo dough where tissue-thin layers of unleavened dough are brushed with melted butter creating a crispy golden crunch. Expert bakers took the time and skill to make our lives easier by rolling and stretching the dough multiple times so we don’t have to. The result is a product as close as our neighborhood grocer. With pre-made phyllo dough as your starting point, anyone can be a gourmet chef. No dough-making required.

VEGGIE POT PIE

Ingredients:

7-ounce box antioxidant blend frozen vegetables, thawed

1 cup pearl onions

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/2 cup frozen green beans, thawed

1 sweet potato, skin on

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 ounces fresh mushrooms, cut-up

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

12 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed in the refrigerator overnight

6 tablespoons butter, melted

2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

Keep phyllo dough chilled until ready to use. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine antioxidant vegetable blend, pearl onions, corn, peas, and green beans. Gently toss to keep vegetables from mashing. Wash skin of sweet potato. Pierce with a knife. Microwave on High setting for 3 minutes. Let sweet potato cool enough to handle before cutting into cubes. Gently toss into vegetable mixture. Warm olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushroom pieces. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Cook, stirring occasionally until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl of mixed vegetables. Add parmesan cheese. Mix beaten egg into vegetables. Sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Butter a 9” iron skillet. Unroll the phyllo sheets and lay them on a flat surface. Immediately cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel. This prevents the dough from drying out. Keep phyllo covered after removing each sheet. Fit one phyllo sheet into the skillet, allowing the edges to hang over the sides. Brush lightly with melted butter. Continue working quickly by placing one phyllo sheet in the skillet at a time. Turn skillet a quarter-turn, then top with a second sheet; brush lightly with butter. Repeat with remaining sheets and butter. When finished there should be about a tablespoon of butter left. Spoon vegetable mixture evenly over phyllo layers. Sprinkle goat cheese over top. Fold edges of phyllo dough up and over the filling toward the center, overlapping slightly. Center will be exposed. Brush the top of the phyllo with remaining butter. Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown. Transfer iron skillet to a wire rack. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. The flavor of roasted vegetables intensifies at room temperature. Serve warm. (Leftovers may be reheated in the iron skillet with the crust remaining crisp.)

Feta Morning Fried Egg

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Feta Morning Fried Egg! Thank goodness this is a healthy way to begin my day. Honestly, I think I might be seriously addicted to it. Remember when your kids were little and could go days eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches? We’d roll our eyes as the pediatrician assured us they would be fine. “It’s a phase”, he’d say, “You’ll see.” And he was right. My kids grew up to be healthy, active teens, and so on. But I’m an adult. And I’ve been making this breakfast for 3 weeks now. Granted, the avocados are in abundance along with the price of eggs being so affordable I feel as though the grocery store is practically paying me to take them home. Do me a favor, try this recipe yourself and give me your feedback. I’d like to know it’s just not me going through a midlife crisis.

FETA MORNING FRIED EGG

Ingredients: (Serves two)

2 slices quinoa multigrain bread, toasted and buttered

1 avocado, pitted and sliced

2 eggs, sunny side up

1 tablespoon butter, melted (optional)

2 tablespoons herbed feta cheese, crumbled

1 Roma tomato, sliced

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Green onion, for garnish

Instructions:

While quinoa bread is toasting, cook two eggs in melted butter or nonstick oil, over medium heat, according to taste. Set aside. Butter toast. Divide avocado slices between toast. Slide cooked egg onto avocado toast. Sprinkle with herbed feta cheese. Garnish with green onion strips. Serve with sliced Roma tomatoes sprinkled with Italian seasoning.

Date Chile Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Date Chile Salad! One of the best kept secrets in cooking is infused olives oils. It kicks things up a notch. The flavors intensify ordinary ingredients by beginning with organic and aromatic extra virgin olive oils, which in turn, are infused with delightful natural flavors. Some oils contain the essence of herbs, while others may be crushed with fresh citrus or toasted seeds. Be adventurous. Visit a specialty store where premium olive oils and balsamic vinegars are sold. Most stores offer samples to encourage “taste testing”. One of my favorites is Lime Olive Oil and Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar. Another is Sicilian Lemon Olive Oil paired with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar. Recently I added an Italian Black Truffle Oil to my collection. I was told it tastes divine drizzled over popcorn or as a finishing oil on pizza. I can’t wait!

DATE CHILE SALAD

Ingredients:

2 navel oranges, pith and peel removed

1/3 cup dried dates, chopped

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 red or green jalapeño pepper, sliced into rings

1/2 serrano chile pepper, sliced into rings

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

1-2 tablespoons lime olive oil

Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Slice oranges into thin rounds. Arrange on two salad plates or bowls. Divide chopped dates between them. Sprinkle on crumbled feta cheese. Add jalapeño and serrano pepper rings. Tuck in mint leaves. Drizzle lime olive oil over salads. Season with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Serve.

Oven Spinach Frittata

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Oven Spinach Frittata! Frittata is a fancy word for an Italian omelet baked in the oven without a crust. It also cooks in half the time, making it less labor-intensive. Somehow that doesn’t sound near as exciting as a French quiche. Yet, it is because the filling ends up being light, fluffy, and savory. The feta cheese is a crowning point with its rich tangy flavor. And the next time you need something versatile for leftover lunch the next day, think frittata. Even at room temperature, it tastes amazing.

OVEN SPINACH FRITTATA

Ingredients:

4 eggs

1 tablespoon Greek yogurt

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 green onion, chopped

1 strip bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/2 cup cherrywood deli ham, sliced

1/4 cup baby spinach leaves

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Italian dried herbs, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, Greek yogurt, kosher salt, and red pepper flakes until combined. In an iron skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add the green onions; sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the cooked bacon, cherrywood ham, and baby spinach. Cook one minute, stirring gently. Pour the egg mixture into the pan. Place cubed feta cheese on top. Transfer the iron skillet to the preheated oven. Bake 25 minutes or until the eggs are puffy and slightly browned. Remove pan from oven. Garnish with a pinch of dried Italian herbs. Serve immediately.

Zinfandel Pairings

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Zinfandel Pairings! Just when I thought I’d seen it all, there in the produce department perched on the bottom shelf below its green and red cousins, was a small bin of larger-than-life black seedless grapes. Immediately I was intrigued. The hand-scribbled sign boasted sweet and tart beyond your wildest dreams. That’s it. Nothing more than “Product of USA” on the package. It didn’t matter. It was love-at-first-sight. I knew immediately that a Zinfandel wine and tangy cheese would join the impromptu Date Night that was forming in my mind. Later on, after I got home, I read all kinds of powerful benefits these precious little gems do for the body, mind, and soul. What a perfect prologue for guilt-free delicacies.

ZINFANDEL PAIRINGS

Ingredients:

1 pound black seedless grapes

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 ounces feta cheese, block

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup honeycomb

Multigrain French Bread slices, lightly toasted

Raw Honey, for drizzling

Lemon Thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. In a small dish, combine olive oil, sugar, kosher salt, and black pepper. Wash cluster of black grapes; pat dry. Place grapes on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, generously coat the grapes with the olive oil mixture. Roast for 30 minutes. Grapes will release juice and begin to wrinkle. Remove pan from oven to cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Break the feta cheese into rough chunks. Transfer to a baking dish sprayed with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon zest. Drizzle with raw honey. Bake for 15 minutes until softened. Broil until slightly golden. Watch carefully. To serve, spread warm cheese on toasted baguette slices. Top with a piece of honeycomb. Place a roasted grape over the cheese. Drizzle with raw honey. Garnish with lemon thyme. Serve with a slightly chilled glass of red Zinfandel.

Quest Fundido Poblano Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Quest Fundido Poblano Dip! When my garden harvested a nice crop of poblano peppers, I was already counting the days until I would take these mildly rich green peppers and transform them into an earthy Mexican favorite. Poblanos, you see, are a cross between a jalapeño and a bell pepper. Hot, but not a scorcher, if you know what I mean. You may be more familiar with them in a popular restaurant dish called a chile relleno or another known as chile poblano. Either way, they’re amazing.

QUEST FUNDIDO POBLANO DIP

Ingredients:

2-4 chili poblano peppers

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

4 ounces feta cheese

Corn tortilla chips

Instructions:

Heat an iron skillet on the stove over medium-high setting. Place poblano peppers into pan. Allow peppers to blister and blacken. Turn with tongs to allow even roasting. When the peppers are charred and soft, transfer them to a covered bowl to steam and cool, about 10-15 minutes. When able to handle, peel skins and discard. Cut poblano peppers into strips or chop into smaller pieces. Layer in the bottom of a casserole dish. Set aside. In a medium skillet, cook ground beef over medium-high heat. Break into small pieces, turning often until ground beef is browned and crumbled. Drain, if necessary. Add sea salt, cumin powder, garlic powder, and black pepper. Mix well. Layer crumbled ground beef over poblano peppers. Top with shredded Monterey Jack cheese and feta cheese crumbles. Broil until cheeses are melted and golden brown in spots. Serve warm with corn tortilla chips.

Lamb Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Lamb Flatbread! I think I could eat my weight in flatbread simply because of the endless combination of ingredients. When I’m in the mood for something with a Greek twist, I turn to lamb meat permeated with ethnic spices such as oregano, dill, parsley, and coriander. A sprinkling of crumbled feta cheese is nice, especially when it melts around Kalamata olives grown under Grecian sunshine. At least, that’s what I imagine. Maybe you will, too.

LAMB FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 pound organic lamb, ground

1/2 cup water

1-2 beef bouillon cubes

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/4 teaspoons coriander

1 1/4 teaspoons cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/2 cup prepared ranch dressing

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 teaspoon dill weed

2 baby cucumbers, chopped

1 garlic flatbread

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded

4-5 cherry tomatoes, sliced

1 shallot, sliced

3-4 Kalamata olives, sliced

1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Fresh arugula leaves

1/8 teaspoon oregano

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. In a large skillet, combine ground lamb, water, bouillon cubes, sea salt, coriander, cumin powder, garlic powder, and dried parsley. Bring to boiling, crumbling meat with a fork to cook thoroughly. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until all moisture is absorbed and meat is browned. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix ranch dressing, Greek yogurt, and dill weed. Stir until smooth. Brush bottom of garlic flatbread with one tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread half the ranch dressing mixture over the flatbread. Add the chopped cucumbers to the remaining sauce. Set aside. Top flatbread with mozzarella cheese, crumbled lamb mixture (you will have extra to use later on), cherry tomatoes, sliced shallot, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, arugula leaves, and oregano. Bake 10 minutes longer. Remove from oven, slice accordingly, and use reserve cucumber dip as side condiment.

Warm Feta Spread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Warm Feta Spread! At first glance you may think the hot pepper mixture is too flaming hot to eat. Peppers, after all, can be pretty spicy. Removing the seeds is half the battle. Still, the skin of a hot pepper contains oils which ignite the heat sensors in the mouth. All true. However, cheese acts as a natural fire extinguisher to diminish the heat factor, while promoting the amazing taste of peppers. Feta cheese contains milk, which is another component in reducing heat. Trust me, all together it works.

WARM FETA SPREAD

Ingredients:

8-ounce block feta cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, crushed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 green hot pepper, sliced

1 habanero pepper, seeds removed and chopped

1 shallot, sliced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 ripe tomato, diced

Fresh tarragon for garnish

Assorted bagel chips and crackers

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place feta cheese block in an ovenproof dish. Drizzle with one tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with crushed Herbes de Provence. Bake 15 minutes until cheese is soft. Meanwhile heat one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add green hot pepper slices, chopped habanero pepper, sliced shallots, and garlic powder. Cook until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove warmed feta cheese from oven. Top with diced tomatoes and hot pepper mixture. Garnish with fresh tarragon. Serve with assorted bagel chips and crackers.

Zinfandel Pairings

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Zinfandel Pairings! Just when I thought I’d seen it all, there in the produce department perched on the bottom shelf below its green and red cousins, was a small bin of larger-than-life black seedless grapes. Immediately I was intrigued. The hand-scribbled sign boasted sweet and tart beyond your wildest dreams. That’s it. Nothing more than “Product of USA” on the package. It didn’t matter. It was love-at-first-sight. I knew immediately that a Zinfandel wine and tangy cheese would join the impromptu Date Night that was forming in my mind. Later on, after I got home, I read all kinds of powerful benefits these precious little gems do for the body, mind, and soul. What a perfect prologue for guilt-free delicacies.

ZINFANDEL PAIRINGS

Ingredients:

1 pound black seedless grapes

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

4 ounces feta cheese, block

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1/4 cup honeycomb

Multigrain French Bread slices, lightly toasted

Raw Honey, for drizzling

Lemon Thyme, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. In a small dish, combine olive oil, sugar, kosher salt, and black pepper. Wash cluster of black grapes; pat dry. Place grapes on the prepared baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, generously coat the grapes with the olive oil mixture. Roast for 30 minutes. Grapes will release juice and begin to wrinkle. Remove pan from oven to cool on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Break the feta cheese into rough chunks. Transfer to a baking dish sprayed with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon zest. Drizzle with raw honey. Bake for 15 minutes until softened. Broil until slightly golden. Watch carefully. To serve, spread warm cheese on toasted baguette slices. Top with a piece of honeycomb. Place a roasted grape over the cheese. Drizzle with raw honey. Garnish with lemon thyme. Serve with a slightly chilled glass of red Zinfandel.