What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Salad on a Fork! Try something different the next time you throw a party. Instead of serving an ordinary relish tray, choose interesting veggies to spear on a salad fork. Your guests will be so intrigued, they won’t realize they’ve chosen a salad bite over a brownie. Cherry tomatoes, crunchy romaine, and garden green beans make preparation easy. Offer two or three salad dressings for topping things off. Portions are bite-sized to avoid waste. Forks stand upended in a bowl or a pitcher. I happened to have an antique ice bucket that worked out nicely. Variety creates a beautiful presentation, so include baby carrots, snow peas, and perhaps a piece of bacon. Just think of it as a “conversation starter”.
SALAD ON A FORK
1 bunch romaine lettuce
1 head iceberg lettuce
10.5 ounces cherry tomatoes
1/2 pound fresh green beans
Prepared salad dressings
Wash and pat dry lettuce, tomatoes, and green beans. Tear or cut lettuce leaves into bite-sized portions. Spear several leaves onto a salad fork. Add a green bean. Crown with a cherry tomato. Stand the forks upright in a bowl. Repeat steps until all the forks are used and the bowl is filled. Squeeze bottles of 2-3 prepared salad dressings make self-serve options available and entertaining.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Marinated Mozzarella Flatbread! You’re probably like everyone else right now and could go to the freezer to pull out a prepared flatbread for supper. Another shortcut is to use marinated mozzarella cheese which already comes sliced in a blend of herbs and olive oil. Oftentimes, I freeze a surplus of cooked meat as well. In this case I already had seasoned Italian sausage, but you could certainly switch things up with pepperoni or sun-dried tomatoes. That’s the beauty of cooking at home. The results bring satisfaction. Just be careful of those piping hot stretchy cheese pulls.
MARINATED MOZZARELLA FLATBREAD
1 prepared naan flatbread
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 cup cooked and crumbled Italian sausage
16 ounces marinated mozzarella slices
Crushed basil leaves
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Preheat oven to 400°. Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of the flatbread. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Carefully flip it over onto a pizza stone. Rub the remaining olive oil onto the top of the crust. Make a layer with the crumbled Italian sausage. Arrange marinated mozzarella slices over meat. Bake for 15 -20 minutes for a crispy crust. The longer it bakes, the more gooey the cheese becomes. When finished, remove from the oven and garnish with crushed basil and red pepper flakes.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Egg Veggie Tart! Take ordinary ingredients and spread them over a prepared puff pastry crust and I promise you, your family will eat anything you serve. It’s that good. I always keep a box of frozen puff pastry on hand because it is so versatile. From main courses to desserts, they all turn out like a culinary masterpiece. For everyone to take you seriously though, be sure to wear an apron. It makes you look like a chef who means business. I think I have at least five different styles, some with pockets, some without. And I’m always open for more. Today’s version of a breakfast tart incorporates vegetables and prosciutto that not only add color, but eye appeal. Without regrets, add this recipe to your list of easy-to-assemble meals.
EGG VEGGIE TART
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
4 ounces Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin
3 ounces prosciutto, cut into strips
1/4 pound green beans, cleaned and trimmed
3 eggs plus 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup baby peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons green onion snips
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place puff pastry on prepared baking sheet. Using a fork, pierce the dough evenly across surface, stopping about 1/2” from the edge. At the edges, roll dough once to form a crust. This will keep the ingredients from overflowing. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven to assemble remaining ingredients. Layer the Swiss cheese on the bottom of the crust. Arrange tomatoes, prosciutto, and green beans. Crack 3 eggs onto the dough. Try to place the eggs where the vegetables will “hold” them into place. Sprinkle tart with baby peas. Drizzle with olive oil. Divide grated parmesan cheese over all. Brush the crust all the way around the tart with the egg/water mixture. This gives the crust that beautiful golden color when baked. Bake 30 minutes, or until pastry is cooked through. Garnish with green onion snips. Cut into squares. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Unstuffed Green Pepper Bake! If you love the taste of stuffed green peppers, but really hate the extra steps of preparation, look no further. This “unstuffed” version can be served in individual casserole dishes or a family-style pan, thus eliminating the need for hollowed-out green peppers. Still yummy, still Spanish-flavor, still way back generational goodness like your grandma used to make. Be good to yourself when the week gets crazy busy. Make a batch of “unstuffed” green peppers and sit back with a glass of wine while the oven does all the work. You’re worth it.
UNSTUFFED GREEN PEPPER BAKE
2 green peppers, coarsely chopped
24-ounce jar traditional pasta sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon basil
2 cups rotisserie chicken or turkey, shredded
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 1/2 cups Italian cheese blend, shredded
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 350°. Cook chopped green peppers in the microwave-safe dish for 2 minutes on High setting. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine pasta sauce, garlic powder, oregano, and basil. Mix well. Fold in shredded meat, brown rice, and 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Add green peppers. Transfer filling into prepared casserole dish(es). Top with remaining cheese. In a small bowl coat panko crumbs with olive oil. Mix well. Spoon crumbs over cheese. Baked 25 minutes or until heated through.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Hungry Man Potato Skins! Shrug off that old myth about ditching potato skins because they’re high in carbohydrates and low in nutrition. My grandma used to say “if you’re gonna eat the skin, you may as well eat a handful of dirt!”. Thank goodness times have changed and we’ve learned that the skin of the potato is loaded with calcium, iron, and fiber. When baking instead of frying, the nutritional value gets kicked up a notch. Now that you’re on a roll, go ahead and add toppings like fresh broccoli, bacon, and cheese. Whaaat? Hear me out. By choosing small russet potatoes, the calories are drastically reduced. One piece of bacon is divided over four skins, just enough for flavor. And reduced-fat cheddar cheese is a good choice, one you’ll barely notice in taste. When it’s all said and done, two potato skins are about 200 calories. Not bad.
HUNGRY MAN POTATO SKINS
2 small russet potatoes, washed and patted dry
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1 strip thick bacon, precooked
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup panko crumbs
Ranch dressing, for dipping sauce
Green onion, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Pierce each potato for steam to escape during baking. Lightly spray potatoes with nonstick oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Place them directly on the oven rack. Bake until tender, about one hour. Remove potatoes from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Place broccoli florets into a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle with droplets of water, and microwave on High for one minute. Set aside. If you need to cook bacon, place one strip of bacon on a paper towel-lined plate. Cover with another paper towel. Microwave on High for two minutes. Remove and set aside. When cool enough to handle, crumble into small pieces. For potato skins, cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out flesh leaving a shell 1/4” thick. Reserve potato flesh for another use. Brush around the rim of potato shells with olive oil. Place skins upright on a baking sheet. Broil in oven on High for one minute. Remove to fill. In a bowl, combine broccoli florets, cheddar cheese, and bacon crumbles. Divide broccoli mixture evenly between potato shells. In a small pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add panko crumbs, stirring often until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle over loaded potato skins. Return to oven and bake at 400° until cheese is bubbly and topping is crisp, about 15 minutes. Serve with ranch dressing garnished with green onion snips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Green Chile Soup! I was rushing through an airport recently and knew I wanted something to eat. The waitress at the Mexican restaurant recommended the full bodied taste of Green Chile Soup. It hit the spot. From the first tangy spoonful of mild green chiles to the gentle creaminess on my tongue, I knew this wasn’t your typical soup. It may have been a regional delicacy, but by making it at home, I saved myself a round trip ticket to Colorado.
GREEN CHILE SOUP
20 green chiles, large
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
Monterey Jack cheese and cilantro, for garnish
Place green chiles on a wire rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast on Broil until blistered and charred. Remove from oven. Cool. Discard stems and seeds. In a large pan, warm butter over medium heat. Add chopped onion. Sprinkle with sea salt and garlic powder. Cook until soft. Add roasted chiles and chicken broth. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Transfer mixture back to pan. Stir in cream and Greek yogurt. Gently warm mixture until soup is heated through. Serve with fresh cilantro and Monterey Jack cheese.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Sweet Potato Wedges! Mention the word sweet potato french fries and watch everyone’s eyes glaze over. Just the thought of a crispy outer skin surrounding a fluffy center sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Add homemade ketchup or sriracha mayo for dipping. Ahhh. Suddenly it’s a meal in itself……unless family members think you should share. Better make more.
SWEET POTATO WEDGES
2 sweet potatoes, skin on and cut into wedges
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons agave nectar
Green onion, snipped, for garnish
In a microwave-safe bowl, combine sweet potato wedges and olive oil. Toss to coat. Cover. Microwave on HIGH for 6 minutes or until tender when pierced with a knife, tossing and replacing lid after 3 minutes. Allow to cool 10 minutes. Add chili powder, coarse sea salt, and black pepper. Toss to coat. Preheat grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush with olive oil. Place sweet potato wedges on oiled grill pan. Cook 3 minutes per side until charred and tender. Remove from heat. Drizzle with agave nectar. Garnish with green onion snips. Serve immediately.
“The work an unknown good man
has done is like a vein of water
flowing hidden underground,
secretly making the ground green.”
~ Thomas Carlyle
“Green is the prime color
of the world, and that from which
its loveliness arises.”
~ Pedro Calderon de la Barca