Bacon Bit Sweet Potato Bisque

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Bacon Bit Sweet Potato Bisque! My pantry is sometimes filled with good intentions. I envision a nutritious meal and then get sidelined by other ingredients, especially in the Produce Department of the local grocery. I mean, just look at the bin overflowing with organic sweet potatoes. Medium-sized, smooth skin, pretty color, and screaming “Pick me. I’m healthy.” Soon after I get home, I store them out of sight in a cool, dark area only to discover them three weeks later. Thank goodness, sweet potatoes are very forgiving. Their shelf life is easily 5 weeks. If you ever wondered how to tell if it’s time to toss them out, press the skin. If it’s soft, discolored, or has an unpleasant odor, throw them out and promise yourself you’ll do better next time.

BACON BIT SWEET POTATO BISQUE

Ingredients:

2 large sweet potatoes, cut in half

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup yellow onion, diced

1/4 cup celery, diced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Green onion snips, for garnish

Bacon bits, for garnish

Dollop Greek yogurt, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush olive oil over the skins of the sweet potatoes. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Scoop the sweet potatoes into a bowl and thoroughly mash. Discard peels. Warm butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not scorch. Add diced onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with garlic powder, oregano, ground ginger, cumin powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute longer. Add chicken broth; reduce heat to simmer. Transfer sweet potatoes to a food processor and Pulse until consistency is smooth. Whisk sweet potatoes into broth until heated through. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with green onion snips, bacon bits, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Velvety Seafood Chowder

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Velvety Seafood Chowder! Everyone who has enrolled a child or grandchild in preschool is probably familiar with the folk tale known as “Stone Soup”. The story goes, a bunch of starving strangers enter a small village to convince the townspeople to share one ingredient from their root cellars to make a fantastic meal. The strangers produce a magic “stone”, which they place into a large cauldron filled with water. As the pot is cooking over a wood fire, one by one, the curious residents walk by. They are told the soup is almost ready but needs a “little of this or a pinch of that”. The villagers happily agree to throw in everything from carrots and onions to meat and potatoes to enhance the flavor. By the time the medley is fully cooked, the stone is removed and the hearty soup is shared among them. What a wonderful tradition.

VELVETY SEAFOOD CHOWDER

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 sweet onion, diced

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning*

1/8 teaspoon thyme

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 stalk celery, sliced

1/2 carrot, chopped

1/2 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/4 cup corn

5 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup crabmeat, flaked

6 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined

6.5-ounce can clams, drained and chopped

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 tablespoon fresh parsley

Instructions:

In a heavy pan over medium heat, warm butter. Add diced onion. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add Old Bay seasoning, thyme, and flour. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sliced celery, chopped carrots, cubed potatoes, corn, chicken broth, and white wine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add flaked crabmeat, peeled shrimp, chopped clams, and heavy cream. Cook until seafood is fully cooked, heated through, and potatoes are tender, approximately 8-10 minutes. Ladle into bowls; garnish with fresh parsley.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Thyme Tomato Toss

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Thyme Tomato Toss! Hop aboard the yellow tomato bus for a ride that will take you down a two-lane country road. These golden nuggets, about the size of a cherry, are often less acidic and milder than their popular red cousins. I find them a touch sweeter as well. Their colors can range from pale yellow to sunny gold to bright orange, which makes for a stunning combo in marinated tomatoes or tasty fresh salsa. Just so you know, the skins are pretty tender, if that’s ever been an issue for you. With all that being said, now sit back, and enjoy the ride.

THYME TOMATO TOSS

Ingredients:

8 ounces yellow and red cherry tomatoes, cut into halves

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Place yellow and red cherry tomatoes is a bowl. Set aside. In a measure cup, whisk together olive oil, garlic wine vinegar, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, marjoram, sea salt, basil, and sugar. Sprinkle in thyme leaves. Drizzle over tomatoes. Gently toss to coat. Serve immediately. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

Jacksonville Shrimp Boil

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Jacksonville Shrimp Boil! Whoever came up with a one-pot feast of seafood heaven is pure genius. Succulent shrimp, baby red potatoes, sweet corn on the cob, and smoky sausage. Throw everything into the biggest pot you have and let the flavors intermingle with fresh herbs and aromatic spices. The secret is to stagger the cooking process of the ingredients. After all, potatoes take longer to cook fork-tender than shrimp does. Don’t get impatient or you’ll end up with a bowl of slush. Whatever you do, don’t discard the broth. By adding butter, and serving it in small ramekins, it instantly becomes a great dipping sauce for drizzling over everything or sopping up with a crusty bread.

JACKSONVILLE SHRIMP BOIL

Ingredients:

2 lemons, halved plus wedges for serving

1/2 cup Old Bay Seasoning*

8 cloves garlic, smashed

1 red onion, quartered

6 sprigs lemon thyme

1 pound baby red potatoes, halved

4 ears corn, husked and snapped in half

1 pound smoked sausage, cut into chunks

1 1/4 pounds large shrimp, unpeeled

2 tablespoons butter

Hot sauce, for serving

Instructions:

Fill a large pot with 4 quarts water. Squeeze lemon juice into the water. Drop lemons into the pot. Add Old Bay Seasoning, smashed garlic, and red onion. Tie the lemon thyme sprigs with kitchen twine and drop into the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add red potatoes to the pot; cook just until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the corn and smoked sausage; cook 5 minutes. Finally, add the shrimp to the pot. Cover and cook until the shrimp curl and turn opaque in color, about 2-3 minutes, tops. Transfer the shrimp, sausage, and vegetables to a deep platter using a slotted spoon. Arrange lemon wedges. Ladle 1 cup broth into a serving bowl and add butter. Stir until well blended. Place in the center of the platter. Serve immediately with hot sauce, if desired.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Risotto Tomato Basil

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Risotto Tomato Basil! When the rice cooker is on the fritz, and you’re still craving risotto, try the next best thing. There’s no shame in using a boxed version as a foundation for a meal in-a-bowl. After all, these tried and true products are on the shelf for a reason. Most have perfected the art of imitation to the point where one might ask which is better. True, the homemade version does involve a certain finesse for stirring at a crucial time, exerting more energy than otherwise, but who’s the wiser? In the end, let your stomach be the judge.

RISOTTO TOMATO BASIL

Ingredients:

5.5 ounce box Garlic Primavera Risotto, gluten-free

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

2 1/2 cups water

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated

8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 teaspoon oregano

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, sauté rice in olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add water and contents of seasoning packet. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender. Stir in grated parmesan cheese. Transfer to bowls. Arrange cut tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with crushed oregano. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately.

Kickin’ Leg of Lamb

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Kickin’ Leg of Lamb! Autumn is a popular time to take advantage of the availability of lamb as a meat option. Most farmers raise lambs in their natural environment, simply because it is economically feasible. Think about it. Whenever you come across a bucolic scene, a herd of sheep are casually grazing along the rugged hillside feasting on grass. They are one of the original foragers. They appear to roam free in the fresh air without a care in the world. My husband used to laugh when he’d say, “I think I’m going to get a couple lambs so I no longer need to mow the grounds.” I’d simply look him in the eye and respond, “I’m sure the wildlife predators would like that, too.”

KICKIN’ LEG OF LAMB

Ingredients:

1 pound leg of lamb steak

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup orange marmalade

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Season the leg of lamb steak with sea salt, black pepper, and rosemary leaves. Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the lamb. Cook for 4 minutes per side. Remove the lamb and transfer to a platter. Wipe the oil from the skillet. Add butter, orange marmalade, Dijon mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper. Mix thoroughly over medium heat. Place the leg of lamb steak back into the skillet. Cover with the orange glaze. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Rest for 3 minutes before transferring lamb and glaze to a serving platter. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Vinaigrette Like the French

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Vinaigrette Like the French! I’m all about the creamier versions of salad dressings, yet sometimes I really must stick to a basic oil and vinegar one to appreciate the fabulous herbs the French adore. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, and sometimes lavender are the star attractions. These unique flavors are very typical of the southeastern part of France, known as Provence. As a Francophile, is it any wonder I grow these herbs at home in my garden herb bed? Once dried, they keep very well in a sealed jar. Their shelf life can be up to three years, but I have yet to make that happen. Because the flavor is so distinctive, herbes de Provence may be incorporated into meat or fish recipes, soups, breads, fries, salad dressings, and more. Substitute the need for salt next time with a virtual trip to the French countryside. C’est magnifique!

VINAIGRETTE LIKE THE FRENCH

Ingredients:

5 tablespoons garlic wine vinegar

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon herbes de Provence

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Instructions:

Whisk together garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, herbes de Provence, minced garlic, and cracked black pepper. Blend well. Let stand 10 minutes to infuse flavors. Whisk again before serving.

Jollof Spaghetti

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Jollof Spaghetti! Just when you thought you’ve heard of everything, along comes another version of spaghetti night that just made your life a little easier. Gone is the method of boiling water to cook the pasta, worrying about how to keep the starch from building up, or the fact that oil makes the sauce slide right off. Sound familiar? Been there, done that. With this technique, the spaghetti cooks slowly in the marinara sauce. No advanced parboiling required. The results are moist, definitely al dente, and paired with the meatballs…out of this world. I see this in your future.

JOLLOF SPAGHETTI

Ingredients:

28-ounce can Roma tomatoes in basil sauce, cut-up

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped

8 ounces spaghetti

1 pound frozen large Italian-style meatballs, precooked and thawed

Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine Roma tomatoes in sauce, oregano, garlic powder, basil, marjoram, olive oil, agave nectar, kosher salt, and red pepper flakes. Mix well. In a microwave-safe dish, combine sweet onion and green peppers. Microwave on High for 2 minutes. Add to marinara sauce. Transfer mixture to a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add spaghetti; stir. Reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes or until spaghetti is cooked. Stir occasionally to separate pasta. In a microwave-safe dish, add the Italian-style meatballs. Cook on High setting, according to package directions. When cooked, add to the spaghetti mixture. Gently stir. Simmer 5 minutes longer to combine flavors, or keep warm until ready-to-serve. Spoon into bowls and garnish with parmesan cheese.

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.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this website.