Incredible Ham Potato Casserole

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Incredible Ham Potato Casserole! As the days grow shorter and the night chill sets in, gather around the table for this hearty harvest meal. It can be made ahead and popped in the oven at a moment’s notice. When it comes out with the cheese bubbly and the topping crisp, serve it in the same vessel to keep it hot. By adding smoky Virginia ham chunks and chopped vegetables, this main dish is easy-to-follow and goes a long way. The crunchy topping gives it a nice finish. Plus, leftovers are a bonus!

INCREDIBLE HAM POTATO CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

3 cups ham chunks

1 green pepper, chopped

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 tablespoon pimento, diced

30-32 ounces frozen southern-style hash brown potatoes, thawed

2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup cream of chicken soup, condensed

16 ounces sour cream

1/2 cup butter, melted

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine all ingredients. Mix well and pour into a greased 9″x13″ casserole dish. Add topping.

Topping Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 cups corn flakes

Instructions:

Gently mix corn flakes with butter and spread over top of casserole. Bake in oven for one hour. Serve family-style.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter G

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Home Cooking: Green Pepper Dip! Nothing says “presentation” like a vegetable dip served in a green pepper. If you don’t believe me, try this for your next gathering. People practically “oooh” and “aaah” when you enter the room with it. The best part is a subtle flavor of the pepper blends into the dip. Hint: Do your homework at the produce aisle. Make sure you buy a pepper that will sit straight on the serving dish.

GREEN PEPPER DIP

Ingredients:

1 Large Green Bell Pepper

1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup Greek yogurt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon dill weed

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

Instructions:

Cut top off green pepper. Carefully scoop out all seeds and the four ribs. Rinse and pat dry. Combine all remaining ingredients. Mix well. Gently fill the pepper with dip, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least one hour. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese and bacon bits. Serve with crudités and crackers.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter F

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Home Cooking: First-Class Fajitas! Grilling is always in season and what better way to prepare a smorgasbord of flavor. I prefer shrimp, my husband prefers steak, and we both like chicken. So we blend it all together and make this fabulous main course. Throw in the sides, salsa, and cheese, and everyone is happy!

FIRST-CLASS FAJITAS

Ingredients:

1-pound of shrimp

2 chicken breasts, boneless

1 pound of sirloin steak

Marinate each meat/shrimp in the following: (x3)

2 teaspoons olive oil

1/4 cup tequila

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Sea salt to taste

1 Vidalia onion

1 green pepper

4 romaine leaves, gently torn

1 tomato, chopped

2 green onions, snipped

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup salsa

1/2 cup sliced jalapeños

1/2 cup cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro

4 flour tortillas

Instructions:

In three shallow dishes, place steak, chicken and shrimp in their own marinade. Let stand for one hour. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Drain marinade and discard. Place meats and shrimp on grill.* Cook through until done. (Chicken will take about 7 minutes per side.)

(Steak will take 4 minutes per side for medium-rare.)

(Shrimp will take 2 minutes per side.)

(Grill the vegetables until tender, about 10 minutes total.)

Meanwhile toss romaine leaves, tomatoes, and green onions to blend in a bowl. Fill tortillas with your favorite meats, veggies, and toppings. Serve with chips, salsa, and sour cream. Olé!

*For easy cooking on the grill, use one grill pan for the shrimp as well as one for the vegetables.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter Z

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Zingy Weeknight Pasta! Don’t you love it when everything you need for a quick meal is right at your fingertips? Well, I do. This was one of those nights when everything in the fridge “must-go” simply because we were leaving on a trip the next day. I already had a jar of homemade marinara sauce, but feel free to substitute a store bought variety you probably keep in your pantry, next to the package of spaghetti. The chicken strips are frozen, grilled, and precooked. Don’t judge me. It works. Oh, and I actually served freshly grated parmesan cheese as a garnish, but we sprinkled it on at the table. 
ZINGY WEEKNIGHT PASTA
Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 green pepper, chopped 

1 small onion, chopped 

1 clove garlic, minced

3 cups prepared marinara 

2 cups precooked grilled chicken strips, cut into chunks

1/2 pound sliced salami, cut into pieces

4 ounces spaghetti, cooked

Parmesan cheese for garnish 
Instructions:

In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped green pepper, chopped onion, and minced garlic. Sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer and add marinara sauce. Meanwhile, microwave frozen chicken to thaw. Cut into chunks. Add chicken and salami to sauce. Stir to mix. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, but remove the pasta 4 minutes earlier than directed since we are going to add the spaghetti to the sauce to finish cooking. Once the spaghetti is prepared to that point, ladle some of the pasta water into the sauce, about 1/3 cup. This will add wonderful flavor and help thicken the sauce nicely. Now drain the spaghetti and add it to the sauce mixture, without rinsing. Let the spaghetti finish cooking until it is al dente. Serve in pasta bowls. Garnish with parmesan cheese. (Freeze any leftovers to serve when you return from a day of travel.)

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter I

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Italian Stewed Tomatoes! Before the weather turns chilly, grab up all those garden tomatoes at the peak of ripeness. You’ll appreciate a little extra effort now for that rich intense flavor in the middle of winter. Slow-cooked and simmered to perfection, stewed tomatoes are the secret ingredient for tailgating chili, flavorful stews, and Italian pasta dishes. Go ahead, score big with the best-tasting slightly sweet firm texture of harvest stewed tomatoes. 
ITALIAN STEWED TOMATOES 
Ingredients:

19-20 Roma tomatoes 

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon agave nectar 

1/2 teaspoon parsley 

1/2 teaspoon oregano 

1/2 teaspoon basil 

1/2 teaspoon marjoram 

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder 

1 green pepper, chopped 
Instructions:

Make a small X in the stem end of each Roma tomato. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for one minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of ice water for an ice bath. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and discard. Chop the tomatoes, removing the core, and place tomatoes in a large skillet. Add kosher salt, agave nectar, parsley, oregano, basil, marjoram, garlic powder, and green pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve fresh or freeze for later. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet; Letter B

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Butternut Squash Bisque! You’ll know this squash by its half-dumbbell cylindrical shape. Its tan skin can be tough to peel, so exert caution in preparation. This is nothing like peeling potatoes. I worked in small sections. Once the hard rind has been removed, cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. From there, cutting into chunks is a breeze. As with anything, the first time can seem challenging, but once you’ve experienced the taste of the sweet buttery orange flesh, you’ll find yourself wanting more. 
BUTTERNUT SQUASH BISQUE 
Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut in 1″ chunks

1 onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped 

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper 

4-6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/2 teaspoon thyme 

14 ounces chicken broth 

2 tablespoons dry roasted sunflower seeds

Fresh thyme 
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. In a large bowl, combine butternut squash, onion, and green pepper. Add olive oil and garlic. Season with kosher salt, seasoned salt, and cracked black pepper. Gently toss to coat evenly. Transfer to the baking sheet. Arrange in a single layer. Bake 15 minutes, turn over and bake 15 minutes longer until tender. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Set aside. Working in batches, transfer cooked vegetables to a food processor. Pulse to puréed consistency. Transfer to a heavy bottomed 4-quart pan. Add thyme and chicken broth. Blend well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately. Garnish with bacon crumbles, sunflower seeds, and fresh thyme. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet; Letter R

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Roasted Corn Salad! Nothing tastes better than fresh corn. Shuck it off the cob to make a spectacular side dish that goes well with quesadillas, tacos, and grilled meats. This make-ahead roasted corn salad is another picnic basket favorite that travels well and satisfies a crowd. Simply modify the portions to match the event. It’s fresh, it’s spicy, and it’ll keep ’em coming back for more. 
ROASTED CORN SALAD
Ingredients:

3 ounces cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon water

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

3 ears bicolor corn, shucked off cob

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 cup black beans, drained

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning 

1 jalapeño pepper, chopped

1 ripe tomato, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
Instructions:

Combine the cider vinegar, water, olive oil, sugar, sea salt, and white pepper in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool at room temperature. In an iron skillet over medium-high heat, add vegetable oil. Drop the corn kernels into the skillet; stir to coat. Every few minutes, turn corn with a spatula. As the kernels begin to char, continue turning until corn is tender, about 6-7 minutes. It may be necessary to reduce heat. Place black beans in a large covered bowl. Transfer roasted corn to same bowl. Sprinkle with garlic powder, cumin powder, and Cajun seasoning. Add chopped jalapeño pepper, tomato, green pepper, celery, red onion, and cooled marinade. Mix thoroughly. Refrigerate overnight. Before serving, garnish with fresh cilantro.