Rainbow Fruit Cup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Rainbow Fruit Cup! As the seasons roll on, here’s a friendly reminder about buying fresh fruit. Most grocers feature fruits that are always in season, such as apples, bananas, and grapes. If you pay attention to the first ones you see as you walk in the door or in high traffic areas, most likely you’ll reap the savings. That’s one clue. If the store has an abundance of something on hand, they focus on “pushing” it through quickly, which translates BEFORE it becomes overripe. Consumers can take advantage of the prices while enjoying healthy options. Rainbow fruit simply means combining different colors for plate appeal. Keep in mind that canned fruit can be substituted at times. I like balancing out pineapple chunks or mandarin oranges along with fresh fruit. No worries. The citrus dressing will pull everything together nicely.

RAINBOW FRUIT CUP

1 cup strawberries, stems removed and quartered

1 cup blueberries

1 peach, sliced with skin removed

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons organic mango orange juice

2 tablespoons lemon olive oil

1 tablespoon raw acacia honey

1/2 teaspoon lemon citrus peel, granulated

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Instructions:

Combine sliced strawberries, blueberries, and peaches in a bowl. Toss lightly to mix. For dressing, combine lemon juice, mango orange juice, lemon olive oil, acacia honey, lemon citrus peel, kosher salt, and black pepper. Whisk together until blended. Pour over fruit salad. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

First Watch in Estero, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: First Watch in Estero, Florida! You can always tell breakfast is going to be good when you know the workers get up with the chickens, which means the crack of dawn. The oven heats up for freshly-baked pastries, the cage-free eggs get whipped for super-light lemon ricotta pancakes, and the smell of hardwood smoked bacon stimulates the appetite as succulent fruits and garden vegetables are chopped, sliced, or diced for the menu of the day. But that’s not all. Smell that coffee. Once you place the order, an aromatic pot of steaming coffee is set before you to drain at your leisure. This is how to enjoy the morning cuppa joe. As you can imagine, word has gotten out, so sometimes there’s a wait. No worries, it takes that long to decide what to choose. Besides, this is Florida and the weather brings a healthy disposition.

Zappy Mango Salsa Scoops

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Zappy Mango Scoops! Have you discovered how sweet and juicy the mango is? Like any other fruit, use your sense of smell to tell if it’s ripe. Sniff around the stem for a fragrant aroma. Because it has a natural sugar content, the mango will ferment on your kitchen counter for a couple days. It will be slightly soft to the touch, the same way an avocado feels when it’s time. Although the skin is edible, I prefer to peel it away. Just a note: the center stone is quite large and almost furry. Simply slice fruit chunks into a bowl and cut them into cubes. Mangoes go well with citrus fruits such as lemons and limes, spicy vegetables like jalapeños and peppers, and also protein-rich legumes like black beans. Now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. Mmmm.

ZAPPY MANGO SCOOPS

Ingredients:

3 ripe mangoes, peeled and cubed

15.25-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 red onion, diced

1/4 cup pickled jalapeños, chopped

1/4 cup jalapeño liquid from jar

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped

Scoop-style corn chips

Instructions:

In a large bowl, toss cubed mangoes and black beans with diced red onions. Fold in chopped jalapeños. Add jalapeño liquid, lime juice, sea salt, garlic powder, and chopped cilantro. Gently stir to combine. Serve with scoop-style corn chips.

Perfect Pot Roast

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Perfect Pot Roast! Today all chefs get the day off from cooking. Seriously. This one-pot meal will turn out perfectly, as long as you ignore it. Use a slow-cooker or a Dutch Baker in a low temperature oven. I actually begin with a frozen chuck roast and forget about it, that is until the savory aromas lightly waft throughout the house. The liquid turns into a pleasant au jus or can be thickened into gravy. Personally, I ladle the juice into a food storage container to use as a sauce for beef carnitas, but that’s another story. Leftovers promise delicious options.

PERFECT POT ROAST

Ingredients:

3-4 pound chuck roast, frozen

3/4 cup vinegar

3/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup kosher salt (or less)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon oregano

1 pound baby carrots

3-4 white potatoes, skin on, quartered

2-3 sprigs thyme

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 275°. Place frozen roast in Dutch Baker. Combine vinegar, orange juice, and melted butter. Pour over roast. Sprinkle roast with kosher salt, garlic powder, and oregano. Lay thyme sprigs across the top of the meat. Put the lid on the Dutch Baker and bake for 4 hours. Then add carrots and cut-up potatoes to the pot. Reduce oven temperature to 185°. Bake 4 hours longer. The roast is fall-apart tender and ready to serve.

Jicama Avocado Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Jicama Avocado Salad! Allow me to introduce you to the legume family. Jicama is a cousin to beans, peas, and lentils. It provides protein, which is important to everyone, whether you’re a vegetarian or not. Choosing foods that are beneficial to a healthy diet can keep a weekly menu from turning hum-drum and boring. Jicama can be prepared in any number of ways. Eating it raw is just one of them. Its taste slightly resembles a crispy red apple. Only recently I slathered peanut butter all over a slice as a variation from a celery stick. Jicama is also low-carb, if that’s important to you. Not a raw-veggie-kind-of-person? Slice ‘em up and make a batch of french fries. It works.

JICAMA AVOCADO SALAD

Ingredients:

I large jicama

1 avocado, pitted and chopped

Zest of 2 limes

1 teaspoon Tajin seasoning

1/4 teaspoon smoky paprika

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Juice of 2 limes

Fresh cilantro

Instructions:

Using a chef’s knife, slowly peel the thick skin of the jicama. Cut a thin slice at the top and bottom so the vegetable can keep from rolling. Working from top to bottom, slide the knife under the skin to remove the tough, fibrous outer covering. Rinse jicama and slice into matchsticks. Transfer to a bowl. Halve the avocado and remove pit. Scoop the flesh away from the skin. Chop avocado into bite-sized pieces. Add to the jicama sticks. Sprinkle with lime zest, Tajin seasoning, smoky paprika, and garlic powder. Squeeze lime juice over all. Add chopped cilantro leaves. Gently toss and serve.

Icy Limoncello Slushie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Icy Limoncello Slushie! Talk about refreshing. Imagine yourself strolling along the Amalfi Coast of southern Italy. Pause a moment near the rugged shoreline to allow the cool breezes to caress your skin. Admire the sheer cliffs where coastal roads hug towering rock formations. Pay attention to the landscaped vineyards and lemon groves winding down the slope that practically appear to plunge into the sea. This is home to Limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur produced in the region. It is enjoyed as an aperitif or a digestive around evening mealtime, due to its pleasing effect on the palate. What better time to gratify your taste buds.

ICY LIMONCELLO SLUSHIE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon zest

3 cups ice cubes

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup Limoncello liqueur

Lemon and Limes, for garnish

Instructions:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water. Heat 3 minutes, or until sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat. Add lemon zest. Allow mixture to cool for 30 minutes. Strain sugar mixture, using a sieve to remove solids. Pour simple syrup into a blender. Add ice cubes, lemon juice, and Limoncello liqueur. Process until smooth and ice chunks no longer remain. Pour slushie into glasses. Garnish with fresh lemon slices.

Herbed Watercress Pistachio Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Herbed Watercress Pistachio Salad! Everyone knows leafy greens can supercharge your diet. But not everyone is crazy about kale and arugula. Ask my husband. The strong pungent flavors of the former can step aside, as far as I’m concerned. Watercress is the new sheriff in town. Its delicate leaves reveal a slight hint of horseradish or wasabi, but with a crispier texture. To combat the bitter tang, simply add a nice citrus fruit along with the ancient royal pistachio nut. Did you know the Queen of Sheba found pistachios so delightful, she declared it was forbidden for commoners to harvest pistachio nuts for themselves? Alas, I digress. Watercress is the star attraction. Rich in vitamins, iron, calcium, and folic acid, its roots thrive in creek bottoms where clear running water encourages natural growth. Most farmers cultivate it in very wet ground providing constant moisture. Ask around at the Farmers Markets. It sells quickly to those who desire it.

HERBED WATERCRESS PISTACHIO SALAD

Ingredients:

1 bunch watercress, roots trimmed

8 leaves fresh basil

8-10 leaves fresh mint

20 leaves Mexican tarragon

1/2 cup mandarin orange slices

1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup pistachio nuts, lightly toasted

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 drop orange extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:

Arrange watercress, basil, mint, and Mexican tarragon on a platter. Tuck mandarin orange slices and red onion pieces throughout. Sprinkle toasted pistachio nuts over all. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, orange extract, sea salt, and pepper. Slowly add olive oil while continuing to whisk. Dressing will emulsify. Before serving, drizzle salad dressing evenly over salad.

Elbow Macaroni Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Elbow Macaroni Salad! I owe freshness to the farmer’s market. And so should you. After all, they are a great resource for locally grown produce, herbs, eggs, and meats. Without a doubt, they are popping up everywhere. However, it’s okay to ask a few questions when you’re chatting with the growers. An important one might be if there are pesticides used. “Organic” does not always mean pesticide-free. Soil quality may be another concern. GMO seeds, animal treatment, and ideas for food preparation are also topics of discussion. Once I am familiar with a grower, I glean ideas for ways to store and cook the products. Some days I even walk away with recipes. The bottom line is, support your community. We’re all in this together.

ELBOW MACARONI SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups elbow macaroni, cook according to package directions, then cool

2 tablespoons sweet onion, sliced

1/2 cup baby carrots, julienned

1/2 cup snow peas, sliced horizontally

4 radishes, thinly sliced

1/4 cup garlic vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon water

1 envelope Italian salad dressing dry mix

1/2 cup olive oil

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine cooked macaroni and sweet onion slices. Add julienned carrots, sliced snow peas, and radish discs. Gently toss. In a measuring cup, combine garlic vinegar, lemon juice, water, Italian seasoning packet, and olive oil. Whisk together until completely blended. Drizzle dressing over the macaroni salad. Gently toss to coat ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Jamba Juice Copycat Smoothie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Jamba Juice Copycat Smoothie! Everyone gets excited with a copycat version of a well-known brand. Some knockoffs make it, others fall short. I have the advantage of living with a food critic in my own home, my husband. So when I asked him to taste my version of the Caribbean Passion Smoothie, he was very accommodating. Afterward, my favorite question to ask was, “Would you have this again if I made it?” Sometimes the truth hurts, but this time his smile said it all. Here’s a helpful hint: frozen fruit can be thawed slightly and substituted for fresh. Caution: Take it easy. If you slurp it too fast, prepare for a “brain freeze”.

JAMBA JUICE COPYCAT SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

1 cup organic apricot mango juice

1 cup fresh strawberries, tops removed and cut-up

1/2 heaping cup peach slices, if frozen slightly thawed

1 cup mango sherbet

1/2 cup ice

Instructions:

Combine apricot mango juice, cut-up strawberries, sliced peaches, mango sherbet, and ice cubes together in a blender. Pulse to purée, then blend on High until smooth. If necessary, turn off blender to scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Resume. Mixture should be slushy. Pour into glasses. Serve immediately.