What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Xenial Chunky Monkey Banana Muffins! Nix the flour for old-fashioned oats for a healthier version of an old classic. Did you know oats can lower cholesterol and improve blood sugar control? It’s a fact we’re all getting older and from time to time need to make minor adjustments in our food consumption. I’m all for small plates. Portion sizes have become insane! When did it happen? As a collector of vintage dishes, modern day dinner plates are now the size of grandma’s meat platter. Did you know “in Europe, the average plate measures 9 inches while some American restaurants use plates that are around 13 inches in diameter. Research has shown that by switching to a 10-inch plate from a 12-inch plate you eat 22% less.”* Snack healthier.
XENIAL CHUNKY MONKEY BANANA MUFFINS
1/2 cup shredded coconut
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, whisked
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick oil. Spread shredded coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 2-3 minutes, until lightly golden and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine bananas, old-fashioned oats, cinnamon, milk, eggs, brown sugar, vegetable oil, baking powder, vanilla extract, and sea salt. Mix well. Fold in chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, and toasted coconut. Scoop mixture into 12 muffin cups, filling to the top. Bake 30-35 minutes, until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from muffin tin. Serve warm.
*How Big Are Your Dinner Plates And Why It Matters, by Penny Klatell, PhD, RN, May 2012. Eatouteatwell.com
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Unlimited Broccoli Tidbits! Here is a salad you can snack on over and over. It keeps for days in the refrigerator as the flavor intensifies. And because the broccoli is fresh, the crunch appeases the taste buds. By adding the sweetness of raisins and the saltiness of bacon, it soothes those unexpected cravings that sabotage even the strictest diet enthusiast. Go ahead, take a bite. Permission granted.
UNLIMITED BROCCOLI TIDBITS
2 heads broccoli, cut into florets and stems
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup bacon bits, fully cooked
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 envelope of Italian dry salad dressing mix
Combine broccoli tidbits, raisins, and bacon in a covered bowl. Whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, and Italian dry seasoning mix in a glass measuring cup until blended. Pour marinade over broccoli mixture. Gently stir to coat well. Cover and refrigerate salad for two hours. Spoon reserve marinade over salad before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Kale Chips! Mention the word “kale” and you can see the noses wrinkle. But, seriously, if you eat leafy vegetables anyway…what’s the big deal? I find kale quite versatile. Its rich dark leaves hold up well in salads, pasta dishes, and snacks. Once baked, with the right seasonings, they turn into a spicy guilt-free alternative.
2 cups baby Kale leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 300°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Break off the stems of the kale leaves and discard. Gently wash each leaf and dry on a paper towel to eliminate all moisture. One by one, using your fingers, rub both sides of each leaf with olive oil. Place the kale on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer without overlapping. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake 10 minutes longer. The kale leaves will shrink and begin to curl. Do not over-bake! Remove baking sheet from oven and cool for 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.
Dining Outside the Home: Art Café Hemingway in Kapaa, Kauai. Living life in true island-style comes easy as you step over the threshold into an atmosphere that is both rustic European and casual charm. Choose a cozy table for two on the edge of the room to appreciate the artistic ambience, natural light, and blend of pleasing aromas in the air. Natural ingredients, locally grown, make every dish unique. For breakfast order The Nest, for instance, served in a vintage bowl. Multigrain bread cubes fill the bottom. Then a layer of alfalfa sprouts cradle a poached egg smothered in hollandaise sauce. Appreciate its beauty before gently piercing the egg. Watch the thick yellow yolk ooze forth. Try not to drool. Now enjoy every bite. “Time is the least thing we have of,” said Ernest Hemingway long ago. Perhaps it is the secret of a good life.
Dining Outside the Home: The Lanai Restaurant And Bar in Koloa, Kauai. Avocado croquettes, sweet watermelon salad, crunchy sea salt macadamia nuts, grilled shrimp. If you strive for healthy options, local ingredients, and aloha flavor, rest easy at The Lanai. Escape to the garden isle where open-air ambience meets great tasting food. People-watching is a bonus, especially among gentle sea breezes. Adjacent to a gourmet market makes it a plus for top-notch quality. Take it slow, savor each bite. Then think about the next time you plan to come back.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Red Hot Chili Peppers! Hello. My name is Gail and I’m addicted to red pepper flakes. Seriously. Sometimes my husband has to ask me to scale back on the capsaicin factor. In that case, I simply place the jar next to my plate and sprinkle away. It wasn’t until recently I realized the health benefits of crushed red peppers. According to Healthy Eating*, “Red Peppers soothe upset stomach and ulcers, bolsters heart health, regulates diabetes, and fortifies the immune system.” That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS
1 pound red peppers, cayenne or chili with stem on.
Preheat oven to 175°. Wash red peppers; pat dry. Arrange peppers on a baking sheet in a single layer without touching. Bake overnight, or 10 hours. Snap off stems and crush dried peppers, using a mortar and pestle. Store in an airtight jar.
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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
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
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.
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
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
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Veggie Burger! For a quarter-pounder without all the fat, substitute red meat for black beans instead. Sound crazy? Actually, I conducted a little taste test on my husband recently. By using mashed black beans, onion, green pepper, egg, and bread crumbs, it seemed more like a meatloaf than a burger. It kinda did. The texture was the same and they fried up real nice in the iron skillet. By the time we added lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle, we practically did a double-take on the finished product. Go all out and slide it between a brioche bun. The veggie burger definitely crossed the finish line at the dinner table. Now that’s delicious.
16-ounce can organic black beans, drained and rinsed well
1/2 green pepper
1/2 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
3 drops sriracha sauce
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
Butter for frying
Brioche hamburger buns
Condiments, per taste
Using a food processor set on Pulse, mash black beans until thick and chunky. Transfer to a bowl. Next, combine green pepper, yellow onion, and minced garlic in the food processor. Chop into small pieces. Stir into the black beans. Add egg, chili powder, cumin, and sriracha sauce. Mix well. Add bread crumbs. Mix together with gloved hands until consistency is dense enough to form into patties. Melt butter in an iron skillet over medium heat. Place patties into skillet and cook about 7-8 minutes until a crispy outer edge is present. Flip and cook 7-8 minutes longer. Serve with condiments of choice on a brioche bun.