Zippy Olive Pesto

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Zippy Olive Pesto! Your last visit to the doctor may have been one where you received a good report, yet were advised to lean more toward a Mediterranean diet. What does that mean exactly, you wonder. In layman’s terms it simply suggests making a couple of substitutions in food choices to maintain a healthy weight, prevent heart disease, live longer, and travel often. “The healthy fats in olives are extracted to produce olive oil, one of the key components of the incredibly healthy Mediterranean diet”, according to Healthline, a provider of health information.* For many this may not be the advice you wish to hear, but for an olive-lover, like me, it is the Best.News.Ever.

ZIPPY OLIVE PESTO

Ingredients:

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 bunch parsley, leaves only

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

5 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup organic green olives, chopped

3 tablespoons water (optional)

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions:

In a skillet over medium-high heat, toast pine nuts turning occasionally until slightly golden, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a food processor, combine parsley leaves, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until almost smooth. Add toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Pulse slightly. With the machine running on low, drizzle in the olive oil until combined. Transfer pesto to a bowl. Fold in the chopped green olives. Add water, if needed. Season with kosher salt. Serve over toasted bread.

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Yogurt Black Raspberry Smoothie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Yogurt Black Raspberry Smoothie! Blackberries and black raspberries. They’re both the same, right? Guess again. Blackberries are the larger of the two, in cell structure as well as actual size of a single berry. They also have a glossy finish. Blackberries are seen more often at grocery stores as well. Black raspberries, on the other hand, are as coveted as morel mushrooms. Growers typically save them for themselves and very close friends. Their flavor is more unique, not nearly as tart and very fruity. Some consider them the healthiest berries on the planet with three times the antioxidants as other berries. You can recognize black raspberries by their tiny protective hairs. The centers are hollow making them effortless for picking. Black raspberries are popular for cobblers, pies, jams, ice cream toppings, and of course smoothies. Is it any wonder I love you more.

YOGURT BLACK RASPBERRY SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

3/4 cup black raspberries

3/4 cup blueberries, frozen

1 banana, sliced and frozen

1 teaspoon natural honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 cup skim milk

Fresh mint

Instructions:

In a blender, combine black raspberries, frozen blueberries, frozen banana slices, natural honey, vanilla extract, Greek yogurt, and skim milk. Pulse for one minute to chop fruit. Stir, purée until smooth and creamy. Pour into glasses. Garnish with fresh mint. Serve immediately.

X-tra Cheese, Please, Appetizer

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: X-Tra Cheese, Please, Appetizer! Ever since I visited a popular Las Vegas restaurant, I’ve been looking for a cheese appetizer like this one. It’s not the traditional gooey soupy cheese dip you swipe tortilla chips through before gobbling down. The waiter set the iron skillet in front of us and said, “This is a cheese you need to use a knife and fork with. It’s not going to jump onto the chip.” Come to find out it was flambéed over an open fire in the kitchen. Wow! And they used tequila to ignite it. I wish I could tell you that’s what I did here, but sorry, “no comprendo”. Instead I baked it at a high temperature and dredged it through a spicy honey. Show compassion. I tried.

X-TRA CHEESE, PLEASE, APPETIZER

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter, unsalted

1 yellow onion, diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 cup raw Tupelo honey

1 teaspoon sriracha

1 teaspoon garlic habanero sauce

2 tablespoons ranch dressing

Chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 475°. Using a 10” iron skillet, warm butter over medium heat. Add diced onion and kosher salt. Sauté for 5-8 minutes, or until onions are soft and golden brown. Add Monterey Jack cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Mix thoroughly with onions. To make the spicy honey, in a microwave-safe dish combine raw Tupelo honey, sriracha, and garlic habanero sauce. Stir well. Microwave on High for 30 seconds. Stir again. Set aside. Transfer cheese-filled iron skillet to the oven. Bake 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Turn oven setting to High on Broil. Allow dark spots to appear on the surface, about 1-2 minutes. Watch carefully as this happens very quickly. Remove skillet from oven. Drizzle with spicy honey and ranch dressing. Garnish with chopped chives. Serve with tortilla chips.

Walnut Mango Granola

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Vegetarian Bread ‘n Butter Pudding

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Vegetarian Bread ‘n Butter Pudding! If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times. One of the privileges of being part of the blogosphere is benefiting from the vast friendships beyond my little corner of the world. Not only is it a creative outlet for expressing my love of food, it also challenges me to stretch my palate and try new things. Today’s recipe comes from Corrie, a Brit, who thrives on a vegetarian diet. She has a fabulous blog entitled http://corriesrabbitfood.com where food looks so amazing it makes you forget about being a meat-lover. To clear up any confusion, “bread pudding” is more commonly known as a dessert. But “bread and butter pudding” is made by buttering the bread before adding any liquid. Now you see the difference, which is why this makes a fabulous breakfast dish. Are you ready to eat more? Then let’s get started.

VEGETARIAN BREAD ‘N BUTTER PUDDING

Ingredients:

1/2 loaf baguette bread, sliced

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup red onion, sliced

3 gloves garlic, sliced

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

1/3 cup gruyère cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, shredded

3 eggs

1 cup skim milk

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, shredded

Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Butter a 5”x7” baking dish with softened butter. Set aside. Lightly butter both sides of a baguette slice, then place in the baking dish. Repeat until all pieces of baguette are buttered. When placing them in the baking dish, arrange in a zigzag pattern. This leaves room for the spaces to be filled in with ingredients. Next evenly divide the red onion slices and garlic pieces between the bread. Generously sprinkle the entire loaf with shredded parmesan, gruyère, and 2 tablespoons of cheddar cheese, with attention given to lightly packing the cheese in areas where spaces exist. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, skim milk, seasoned salt, basil, marjoram, and oregano. Slowly pour over the pudding, soaking each slice of bread. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven for 25-30, or until set Remove from oven. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs. Serve warm.

Utmost Prosciutto Plate

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Utmost Prosciutto Plate! Treat yourself right by going the extra mile in gourmet treats. Something so simple, yet sublime, can change a mood from sour to exciting. We all need something to look forward to. Am I right? Fresh mozzarella is usually sold in a brine or water solution to retain its moisture, texture, and soft shape. Let it drain for a few minutes on paper towels; then dab dry and slice. By drizzling a rich olive oil over the mozzarella to enhance that delicate milky flavor, the buttery essence peeks through. Add a leaf or two of fresh basil to enrich the nutritive value. As you sit there nibbling on a slice of prosciutto, pat yourself on the back for enduring the tough times we’ve been through recently. Our home is a safe haven and we can get through whatever storm is next.

UTMOST PROSCIUTTO PLATE

Ingredients:

4 ounces fresh mozzarella, room temperature

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon dried basil

3 ounces old world prosciutto, sliced

7 ounces rustic crostini crackers

4 ounces organic green olives, pitted

Instructions:

Drain mozzarella cheese for a few minutes on paper towels; then dab dry and slice. Transfer to a platter. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with dried basil. Arrange sliced prosciutto and crostini crackers around cheese. Add pitted green olives. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve with Pinot Grigio.

Thai Curry Compound Butter

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Thai Curry Compound Butter! Flavor your favorite meats or slather it on crusty breads and crackers. Thai spices Rock! Maybe you can’t exactly put your finger on it. Thai seasoning is that unique. It appeals to the senses. Not only are the spices aromatic, but their diverse array of sweet, sour, bitter, and salty sashay around the room in a rhythmic dance to a different drum. Is it any wonder we are magically drawn to the earthy quality in Thai food? The colors and texture can be mesmerizing without overpowering the intensity of a dish. Now perhaps you may feel as though I am simply trying to butter you up, but tasting is believing.

THAI CURRY COMPOUND BUTTER

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt, finely ground

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons Thai curry paste

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon sriracha

Cilantro, for garnish

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, combine unsalted butter, Himalayan pink salt, cracked black pepper, Thai curry paste, ground ginger, and sriracha. Stir until smooth. Place a sheet of waxed paper on the counter. Spoon compound butter onto waxed paper. Roll layer of waxed paper over butter to form a log. Roll tight; twist ends. Refrigerate for one hour or until firm. Serve on crackers with cilantro over vegetables, in soups, meats, and noodle dishes.

Smoky Gouda Fruit Plate

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Smoky Gouda Fruit Plate! What smells like bacon, is salty like bacon, and can be eaten at room temperature like bacon, but isn’t bacon? Give up? Smoky Gouda cheese. Here you have a mild, soft, slightly sweet-tasting cheese that practically gives you the same high as eating bacon. Seriously. The hickory smoked flavor practically makes your eyes roll back. Not to mention, the buttery smooth notes coat your tongue making it practically melt in your mouth. You realize the fruit is for show, don’t you? Just kidding.

SMOKY GOUDA CHEESE PLATE

Ingredients:

7-ounce wheel of Smoky Gouda cheese, wax removed

1 pint strawberries, washed and whole

1 bunch green grapes, seedless

Instructions:

Allow the cheese to come to room temperature. Remove the wax seal; cut cheese I nto bite-sized chunks. Arrange smoky gouda cheese, strawberries, and green grapes on a platter. Serve with crackers, if desired.

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.