Lemon Garlic Hummus

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Country Casual Cravings: Lemon Garlic Hummus! If you go crazy over hummus and veggies, here’s a variation that adds flavorful notes of citrus. The use of pink-colored Himalayan salt equals an added bonus of less sodium than table salt plus trace elements of healthy minerals like iron, which translates to protein that maintains good body chemistry. But that’s the boring news. The best part, in my opinion, is the guilt-free buttery taste of hummus. Discover how one creamy spoonful practically melts in your mouth. Then scoop away with crisp and zesty radish slices. It’s finger food on steroids.

LEMON GARLIC HUMMUS

Ingredients:

15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained, hulls removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt

2 teaspoons sesame oil

Paprika, toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Radish slices, for serving

Instructions:

In a food processor, combine chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, pink Himalayan salt, and sesame oil. Press Pulse to blend until very smooth. If necessary, add a tablespoon of water to create a smoother consistency. Transfer hummus to a serving bowl. Garnish with a sprinkling of paprika and toasted sesame seeds. Serve with sliced radishes.

Neufchâtel Nibblets

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Holiday Food Gifts: 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.

Pickled Banana Peppers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Pickled Banana Peppers! Harvesting a vegetable garden has its advantages: convenience, great taste, chemical-free, and healthy. We’ve pretty much been of the theory, “Plant it and it will grow.” A little neglect will only make it thrive, right? So why in the world does my husband go overboard with so many plants? They all act like they’re on steroids in some kind of competitive race, so I end up with produce bursting off the vines. In any event, I often shrug my shoulders, come up with creative recipes, and make the best of it. A gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do.

PICKLED BANANA PEPPERS

Ingredients:

1 cup vinegar

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

2 garlic cloves, whole

1/2 pound banana peppers, seeded and sliced

Instructions:

In a 2-quart pan over medium heat, combine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sugar, celery seeds, and garlic cloves. Bring to a rolling boil. Add the banana peppers. Keep them submerged under the pickling liquids. Remove the pan from heat. Let sit for 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the banana peppers and garlic to a clean jar. Ladle the pickling juices to fill the jar within 1/2” of the top. Wipe off the rim and add the lid. Store in the refrigerator.

Original Marinara Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Original Marinara Sauce! Marinara isn’t just a fancy name for spaghetti sauce, it actually lacks one key ingredient that sets it apart. You guessed it: MEAT. Basically, marinara is a tomato-based sauce infused with herbs and spices. It can be prepared very easily in less than half an hour. Personally, I find it perfect for a meatless meal. I like chunks of tomatoes, the hint of garlic, and a slight kick of red pepper spice. Look again at the snapshot. Perhaps it’s time to make marinara at your house.

ORIGINAL MARINARA SAUCE

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

28-ounce can Italian Roma tomatoes, diced with sauce

2 tablespoons fresh oregano

1/4 cup basil, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm olive oil. Add minced garlic; sauté for one minute until slightly brown, stirring occasionally. Add diced Roma tomatoes with sauce, fresh oregano, chopped basil, sea salt, marjoram, agave nectar, and red pepper flakes. Simmer sauce until thickened, approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Marinara sauce will be chunky and thick. Serve with cooked pasta.

Lime Cilantro Dressing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Lime Cilantro Dressing! The first time I tasted this unique dressing with a southwestern kick, I wanted to put down my fork and literally guzzle it by the spoonful. Then again, I’m a fan of fresh cilantro. It’s one of those herbs, I’ve discovered, people either love it or hate it. If you can’t handle it….well, I’ll see you tomorrow when I bake something sweet and decadent. For those who choose to remain, grab a spoon and hang on!

LIME CILANTRO DRESSING

Ingredients:

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and cut in quarters

1 garlic clove

3/4 teaspoon fresh ginger root

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1/3 cup natural honey

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, packed

1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions:

Combine the jalapeño pepper, garlic clove, and ginger root into a mini chopper. Pulse until finely chopped. Add lime juice, natural honey, balsamic vinegar, and sea salt. Pulse to mix. Add cilantro leaves. Pulse a little longer to blend. With the mini chopper on Low, slowly drizzle the olive oil into the dressing until it is completely blended. It is now ready to serve.

Ketchup From Scratch

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Ketchup From Scratch! Many gourmet burger joints are joining the health revolution by opting out with in-house condiments. For those who truly appreciate knowing exactly what’s in the food they eat, here is a novel recipe for homemade ketchup without high fructose corn syrup and extra preservatives. It’s incredibly simple to make and can be prepared in about 30 minutes. The taste, you ask? OMG! I never thought I’d actually consider ketchup a veggie, but now I do. Enough said.

KETCHUP FROM SCRATCH

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon ginger, peeled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

28-ounce can whole Italian Roma tomatoes in juice

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Warm olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions. Cook until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add chopped garlic, chopped ginger, red pepper flakes, and allspice. Cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste; stir for 2 minutes. Add the Italian Roma tomatoes in juice, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and black pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The ketchup will thicken and appear shiny. Remove from heat. Blend until smooth. Cool to room temperature and then store in the refrigerator.

Garlic Roasted Thyme Tomatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Garlic Roasted Thyme Tomatoes! Turn ordinary tomatoes into a savory side dish with earthy vigor. Have you experienced roasted garlic lately? Don’t hate me if I describe it as smooth and sweet as a dab of butter. Having said that, I can tell by the look in your eye, you’re gonna roast more garlic cloves than I pictured here. Go for it. By quick-roasting vegetables on high heat in the oven, you’ll notice a natural hint of smokiness that satisfies the palate. Although they turn from shiny smooth to a dull luster when finished, the taste is what will win you over. I promise you this, here’s a down-home recipe that will not disappoint.

GARLIC ROASTED THYME TOMATOES

Ingredients:

6 medium tomatoes

6 cloves garlic, peeled

5 sprigs fresh thyme

1/2 cup olive oil

Kosher salt

Cracked black pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Rub tomatoes with olive oil and place in a baking pan. Add garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Season, to taste, with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Bake 25-30 minutes, occasionally brushing tomatoes with olive oil from the pan. Skins may split. Remove from oven. Spoon tomatoes, garlic, and thyme into serving bowls. Drizzle with pan juices. Serve warm.

X-Quisite Caesar Salad Dressing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: X-quisite Caesar Salad Dressing! Ever wonder why restaurants add an upcharge when customers order a Caesar Salad? One of the reasons is the time involved. Fine restaurants will have the server make it table-side for presentation. That’s pretty cool. Another reason is the high quality of ingredients required, especially if you don’t cut corners. Romaine is the lettuce of choice, not iceberg. Anchovies are also a key ingredient, not sardines. Do you see a pattern here? Plus olive oil, parmesan cheese, and homemade croutons are in there. I see you nodding your head in agreement. Naturally, this all adds up for the restaurant so they need to pass it along to you. That’s why I’m here to offer you a tasty alternative. Just like cooking at home is less expensive than eating out, every once in awhile you get the urge to satisfy that food craving right where you live. Make sense?

X-QUISITE CAESAR SALAD DRESSING

Ingredients:

1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 anchovies

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

Romaine lettuce, gently torn

Buttered croutons*

Parmesan cheese, shaved

Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste

Instructions:

Combine grated parmesan cheese, minced garlic, lemon juice, anchovies, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce in a food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides. Run on Low speed. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil another 30 seconds until thick and creamy. Divide the torn romaine lettuce between salad plates. Add buttered croutons. Drizzle Caesar Salad Dressing over all. Top with shaved parmesan cheese. Garnish with a sprinkling of Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste. Serve immediately.

*To make buttered croutons, warm 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce in a medium skillet. Add 3 cups of day-old artisan bread cubes or sliced bagel pieces. Cook over medium heat, gently tossing to coat, until croutons are golden brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towel-lined platter. Lightly season with Everything But Bagel seasoning.

Ramen Noodle Shrimp and Egg

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Ramen Noodle Shrimp and Egg! So often, in college, a regular diet may consist of ramen noodles in lieu of the standardized meal plan. I remember buying ramen noodles by the case for my son during his freshman and sophomore years. Sure, it stretches the budget for other essentials, but in the long run if you can ditch the salt-laden seasoning packet and add a few veggies, it’ll hike the nutritional value with a burst of flavor as well. Try sautéed shrimp and leeks. (Frozen vegetables are also a cheap option because a little goes a long way.) Add red pepper flakes for spice and toasted sesame seeds for crunch. It transforms the dish into a main course meal.

RAMEN NOODLE SHRIMP AND EGG

Ingredients:

6-10 frozen precooked jumbo shrimp, thawed

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ginger, minced

1/2 cup leeks, sliced

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 package ramen noodles, discard seasoning packet

2 eggs, soft-boiled and cut in half

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Sesame oil, to taste

Garlic and onion chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Warm one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add jumbo shrimp. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Turn to coat both sides. Sauté shrimp 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Warm one more tablespoon olive oil in skillet. Add minced garlic, minced ginger, and sliced leeks. Stir for one minute. Add chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add ramen noodles. Using a fork, break noodles apart after 2 minutes. When done, transfer noodles to two soup bowls. Divide the broth mixture between them. Add sautéed shrimp and sift-boiled eggs. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Drizzle with sesame oil. Garnish with garlic and onion chives. Serve immediately.