Mandarin Orange Side Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Mandarin Orange Side Salad! Whenever I serve this colorful side salad to my guests, they rave about the dressing. I create my own version of infused garlic oil, but it can be purchased at your local grocery. Dark, leafy watercress can also be found at the area Farmers Market this time of year. A little bit goes a long way in adding a surprisingly light peppery taste. When partnered with oranges and tomatoes, it refreshes the palate for the next course. If you like a tastier and fresher alternative to an ordinary garden salad, give this one a whirl.

MANDARIN ORANGE SIDE SALAD

Ingredients:

1/2 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup watercress

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

18 mandarin orange segments

1/4 cup bacon pieces

1/4 cup almonds, sliced

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Instructions:

Divide the romaine lettuce, watercress, cherry tomatoes, mandarin oranges, bacon, almonds, and cheese evenly between 6 salad bowls. Serve chilled with dressing. (See dressing recipe below.)

Dressing Ingredients:

1/2 cup garlic vegetable oil

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 cup red onion, chopped

Instructions:

Combine garlic vegetable oil, wine vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, sea salt, dry mustard, and onion. Whisk well until blended. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Loaded Lettuce Cups

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Loaded Lettuce Cups! Eating with your fingers is so much fun! Here’s an idea for supper that is not only kid-friendly, but has an Asian flair that adults adore. By toasting the rice and noodles in butter, it gives the food a nice crunchy taste complimented by sesame and soybean undertones. Add chicken and water chestnuts for a healthy meal. The mere fact that it’s all wrapped up in the soft, buttery Boston lettuce leaves make it an all-star hit!

LOADED LETTUCE CUPS

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

1 cup instant white rice

1 1/2 cups fine home style noodles

10-ounce can chunk chicken breast, drained

14-ounce chicken broth

4 green onions, chopped

8-ounce can of slivered water chestnuts, drained

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup soybean seasoning sauce

Boston lettuce leaves

Instructions:

Melt butter in a deep skillet. Do not burn. Add white rice and thin noodles. Coat well. Cook them over medium heat 3-5 minutes, turning often until golden brown. Stir in chicken broth and chicken chunks. Cover. Simmer 15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Add chopped green onion with tops, water chestnuts, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, and soybean seasoning sauce. Mix well and serve in Boston lettuce cups.

X-Cellent Egg Salad Sliders

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: X-cellent Egg Salad Sliders! Have you noticed more and more farm-to-table cafés are featuring egg salad sandwiches on the menu? I get crazy happy when I discover it, as someone who loves home-cooking. Not only are there a dozen variations on egg salad, but each seems to add a unique twist. This recipe is pretty basic so you can get creative from here. Think avocado, dill, bacon, or red pepper flakes. Looks like I need to buy more eggs. Happy Boiling!

X-CELLENT EGG SALAD SLIDERS

Ingredients:

8 eggs, hard boiled and peeled

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup dill pickle relish

1 tablespoon red onion, diced

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

8 slider buns

4 romaine lettuce leaves

2 tomatoes, sliced

1 tablespoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

Instructions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, dill pickle relish, red onion, yellow mustard, and sea salt. Chop the eggs and add to the bowl. Stir gently until well blended. Cover and chill in the refrigerator one hour. Assemble sliders using the buns, egg salad, romaine lettuce leaves, and tomato slices. Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Serve.

Iceberg Lettuce Cranberry Pecan Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Iceberg Lettuce Cranberry Pecan Salad! Make today an easy day. Throw together a tossed salad that will satisfy hunger pangs with the crunch of lettuce, the natural sweetness of fruit, lean meat, the salty mix of pecans, protein-packed eggs, and heart-healthy bleu cheese. Bonus points include a natural source of fiber, weight control, plus super-convenience. Not only is salad a time-saver, it is also a money-saver. Most of all, you’re worth it.

ICEBERG LETTUCE CRANBERRY PECAN SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups iceberg lettuce, shredded

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1 cup mandarin orange slices

1/3 cup sugared pecans

1 cup grilled chicken, cut-up

1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese

2 soft-boiled eggs, halved

Balsamic vinaigrette, to taste

Instructions:

Divide iceberg lettuce between salad bowls. Top with dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, sugared pecans, cut-up grilled chicken, and bleu cheese crumbles. Place soft boiled egg half on top. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette, to taste.

Fennel Honeydew Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Fennel Honeydew Salad! One final “hurrah” before you leave warm weather behind may be this tangy fruit salad sprinkled with niblets of sweet corn and a hint of anise. Are you intrigued? Ripe honeydew, in my opinion, emits a gloriously sweet fragrance that practically makes my mouth water. Once I cut into it, I find myself wandering back to the refrigerator for tidbits the way a bird eats at a feeder. One bite, close the door, visit a blog, get up, return for another snack, check Twitter, meander back, and peck at it again. Finally I surrender my willpower and stand at the kitchen sink taking in small bits until another wedge is gone. What’s a girl to do?

FENNEL HONEYDEW SALAD

Ingredients:

1 cup lettuce, shredded

1/4 section ripe honeydew, rind and seeds removed, then sliced

3-4 fennel stalks, cut into 2” pieces with ends split

1/4 cup fresh sweet corn

1/4 cup pistachios, chopped

Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste

1/4 cup cilantro dressing

Fennel fronds, for garnish

Instructions:

Divide lettuce between salad bowls. Arrange sliced honeydew melon over lettuce. Tuck fennel stalks around fruit. Sprinkle fresh sweet corn kernels over all. Top with chopped pistachios. Give it a dash of Everything But Bagel seasoning. Drizzle cilantro dressing over salad. Garnish with fennel fronds. Serve chilled.

Salad and Slice

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Salad and Slice! Now here’s a perfect combo that won’t set you back on the calorie-counter scale. One slice of pizza with a garden salad is a deliciously satisfying portion any time of day or night. Add a Greek peperoncino and a couple of olives for that burst of flavor and you’ll be patting yourself on the back for stirring up that wall of will power. Who says you can’t have your cake (or pizza) and eat it, too?

SALAD AND SLICE

Ingredients Single Serving Pizza:

1/2 cup bread flour

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup warm water

Pinch salt

Toppings of your choice

Instructions:

Get the oven warm and then turn it off. This helps the dough to rise. Combine flour, yeast, olive oil, and sugar. Gradually add the warm water and stir. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it forms a ball. Place the ball in a bowl, cover it loosely with plastic wrap and set it in the warm oven for 30 minutes. It will double in size. Remove from oven, flatten to the size of a plate, and add sauce and desired toppings. Bake on a pizza stone in a 400° oven for 12-15 minutes. Cut into 4 pieces for now and later.

Ingredients for Garden Salad:

1-2 Romaine leaves, gently torn

2 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese

2-3 crunchy croutons

Garlic Vinegar and Olive Oil, salad dressing

Instructions:

Mix together and serve.

Hacienda Taco Salad Bowls

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Hacienda Taco Salad Bowls! It’s okay to indulge in those fast-food cravings. Everyone does now and then. When I get the urge to succumb to the temptation, I begin to turn things around in my own kitchen. Take, for example, the glorious Taco Salad with the edible crispy flour shell bowl. It can be made for half the cost at home, leaving extra money in your wallet for something like…oh I don’t know…SHOES! Make this guilt-free version at home.

HACIENDA TACO SALAD BOWLS

Ingredients:

6 flour tortillas

1 pound lean ground beef

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

Romaine lettuce leaves, torn

2 tomatoes, diced

1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

2 green onions, snipped

1/4 cup black olives, sliced

1/4 cup jalapeño peppers, sliced

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 cup salsa

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Using nonstick spray oil, coat the inside of oven-safe bowls. Gently mold the flour tortilla inside to form a bowl. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and cool before transferring to wire rack. Meanwhile, brown ground beef and drain. Add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cumin. Mix well. Assemble hacienda bowls by filling with remaining ingredients, per taste. Top with Greek yogurt and salsa.

X-quisite Caesar Salad Dressing

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: X-quisite Caesar Salad Dressing! Ever wonder why restaurants add an upcharge when customers order a Caesar Salad? One of the reasons is the time involved. Fine restaurants will have the server make it table-side for presentation. That’s pretty cool. Another reason is the high quality of ingredients required, especially if you don’t cut corners. Romaine is the lettuce of choice, not iceberg. Anchovies are also a key ingredient, not sardines. Do you see a pattern here? Plus olive oil, parmesan cheese, and homemade croutons are in there. I see you nodding your head in agreement. Naturally, this all adds up for the restaurant so they need to pass it along to you. That’s why I’m here to offer you a tasty alternative. Just like cooking at home is less expensive than eating out, every once in awhile you get the urge to satisfy that food craving right where you live. Make sense?

X-QUISITE CAESAR SALAD DRESSING

Ingredients:

1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 anchovies

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

Romaine lettuce, gently torn

Buttered croutons*

Parmesan cheese, shaved

Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste

Instructions:

Combine grated parmesan cheese, minced garlic, lemon juice, anchovies, Dijon mustard, and Worcestershire sauce in a food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides. Run on Low speed. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil another 30 seconds until thick and creamy. Divide the torn romaine lettuce between salad plates. Add buttered croutons. Drizzle Caesar Salad Dressing over all. Top with shaved parmesan cheese. Garnish with a sprinkling of Everything But Bagel seasoning, to taste. Serve immediately.

*To make buttered croutons, warm 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce in a medium skillet. Add 3 cups of day-old artisan bread cubes or sliced bagel pieces. Cook over medium heat, gently tossing to coat, until croutons are golden brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towel-lined platter. Lightly season with Everything But Bagel seasoning.

Grilled Romaine with Strawberries

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Grilled Romaine with Strawberries! I call this a lazy cook’s meal. After all, it’s pretty simple. More than likely, most ingredients are probably there in the fruit and vegetable crispers of the refrigerator. You know, those drawers down at the bottom that regulate humidity. (Quick tutorial: most fruits like LOW humidity, most vegetables like HIGH humidity. If set correctly, everything stays fresher and crisper longer.) Heat up the grill, sear the romaine, layer on ripe strawberries, red onion slices, and shaved parmesan cheese. Drizzle olive oil over all. You’re done. The hubs will think you planned the meal with attention to detail. Just nod your head and smile.

GRILLED ROMAINE WITH STRAWBERRIES

Ingredients:

1 romaine heart, cut lengthwise

Nonstick olive oil spray

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 pint strawberries, sliced in half, stems removed

1/4 red onion, sliced

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shaved

1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions:

Preheat grill to 400°. Spray both sides of romaine halves with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Place cut side down on the hot grill. Sear 3 minutes, until charred. Carefully flip over and sear 3 minutes longer until slightly wilted. Transfer to a platter. Layer with fresh strawberries and red onion slices. Drizzle with olive oil. Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.