Quinoa BLTE Sandwich

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Quinoa BLTE Sandwich! What exactly is quinoa; does anyone know for sure? I took a trip down Wikipedia Lane and discovered “it is an experimental crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration human occupied space flights.” It’s also gluten-free and easy to digest. That’s pretty important stuff in my book. Oh yeah, it’s been around for human consumption for at least 3,000 years. Maybe it’s time to give it a whirl.

QUINOA BLTE SANDWICH

Ingredients:

2 slices organic quinoa multigrain bread, toasted

1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 slices tomato

2 romaine lettuce leaves

2-4 slices thick bacon, cooked crisp

1 large egg, cooked over-easy

Pinch seasoned salt

Black pepper to taste

Garnish with parsley

Instructions:

Microwave bacon on paper-towel-lined plate for 5 minutes on High or until crisp. Set aside. In a small skillet sprayed with nonstick oil, crack an egg over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with seasoned salt and black pepper. Fry until set, then carefully flip over. Turn off heat. Continue cooking until white is set, but yolk is still runny. To assemble sandwich, slather both pieces of quinoa toast with mayonnaise. Layer ripe tomatoes, romaine lettuce leaves, and bacon strips on one slice. Slide the fried egg onto the bacon. Top the sandwich with the remaining slice of quinoa toast. Garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

Ginger-Orange Salmon Lettuce Cups

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Ginger-Orange Salmon Lettuce Cups! Is it an Appetizer or an Entrée? Both. Ginger paired with orange creates amazing flavor, not to mention health benefits galore. Adding grilled salmon for omega-3s is a bonus. But enough about that and back to the lettuce cup popularity. Anytime you cut down on calories, carbs, and gluten it adds up to guilt-free options. Mix things up with seasonal fruits, garden veggies, grilled seafood, and roasted meat for creative favorites. Anything goes!

GINGER-ORANGE SALMON LETTUCE CUPS

Ingredients:

1 cup grilled orange-ginger grilled salmon, flaked

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese

1 tablespoon horseradish

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

1 teaspoon capers

1 green onion, chopped

1/3 cup mandarin oranges

Bibb lettuce leaves

Fresh chives, for garnish

Ground Pistachio nuts, for garnish

Instructions:

Grill ginger-orange salmon according to package directions. Flake salmon; set aside to cool. In a small bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese and horseradish until smooth. Gently fold in chopped dill, capers, and green onion. Spread onto Bibb lettuce leaves. Equally divide salmon over cream cheese mixture. Add mandarin orange slices. Garnish with fresh chives and pistachios. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Arugula Cherry Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Arugula Cherry Salad! Handpicked cherries, at the peak of ripeness, set the stage for an appealing salad that is sure to be delightful. Don’t have an orchard nearby? No worries. Check the local Farmer’s Market, fruit stand, or supermarket for the season’s bounty. Timing is everything. You’ll want to have enough ripe cherries on hand to pair later with wine and perhaps a little chocolate. Spoiler Alert: I’ve set aside a portion of juicy red cherries to feature in a decadent dessert. Stay tuned.

ARUGULA CHERRY SALAD

Ingredients:

6 ounces baby arugula

16 ripe cherries, stems removed and pitted

1/4 cup almonds, sliced

1 tablespoon tarragon, leaves only

1 tablespoon sherry cooking wine

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Cracked black pepper to taste

4 ounces Bleu cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

After the pits are removed, cut the cherries in half. Combine arugula, cherries, almonds, and tarragon in a large bowl. Toss gently. In a small bowl, whisk together sherry cooking wine, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper. Drizzle over salad and gently toss. Divide into serving bowls. Finish with Bleu cheese crumbles over top. Serve immediately.

Hand-Packed Burgers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Hand-Packed Burgers! For a hamburger worthy of a gourmet chef, begin with a low-fat lean meat. Divide the ground beef or sirloin into four equal portions. Form each one a little wider than the bottom bun to allow for shrinkage during grilling. Press your thumb into the center to create a small well, or dimple. If you’re a perfectionist, choose a jar lid slightly larger than the hamburger bun. Line the lid with plastic wrap, press the meat into the shape, flip the patty, and continue on to the next one. That’s way cheaper than buying a hamburger press. The secret’s out. Now you choose.

HAND-PACKED BURGERS

Ingredients:

1 pound ground sirloin or lean ground beef

1 beef bouillon cube

1-2 tablespoons water

1/8 teaspoon steak seasoning mix

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sesame Seed Buns

Cheese of choice

Toppings

Condiments

Instructions:

Heat water to boiling. Add beef bouillon cube. Stir to dissolve. Fold into ground beef. Sprinkle steak seasoning into meat. With clean hands, mix gently until all ingredients are combined. Divide into quarter-pounders. Hand-pack ground beef into equal size patties. Rub both sides with olive oil. Refrigerate one hour before grilling. To cook, preheat gas grill on High heat. Place burgers directly on grate; cook for 4-5 minutes; flip and cook 4 minutes longer for medium doneness. Do not press on burger to flatten because it will release all those flavorful juices. Transfer to a platter. Immediately top with cheese of choice. Add sliced onions, tomatoes, and romaine lettuce leaves. Dress up with ketchup, mustard, and mayo. You’ve just made the best backyard burger!

Antipasto Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Antipasto Salad! This recipe is for those of you, like me, who choose a zesty salad every time they visit a Deli. In a few simple steps, you can throw this together and let it marinate in your own refrigerator. Make it the night before, or first thing in the morning. By the time you’re ready for the next meal, it’s done. The flavors blend so well when refrigerated, you’ll think it was store-bought instead. Be kind to yourself. Permission granted.

ANTIPASTO SALAD

Ingredients for Pasta:

1 cup dry rigatoni

1 Roma tomatoes, quartered

6 slices Italian salami, quartered

2 orange sweet mini-peppers, seeded and sliced

1/3 cup pimento-stuffed olives

4 pepperoncini, whole stemmed

3 basil leaves, chopped

For Dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning dry mix

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Bibb lettuce leaves

Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water, according to package directions. Drain pasta; rinse with cold water and set aside. Combine pasta, Roma tomatoes, Italian salami, sweet mini peppers, olives, pepperoncini, and basil. Toss to mix. In a measuring bowl, whisk together olive oil, Italian seasoning mix, grated Parmesan cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over pasta mixture. Spoon into Bibb lettuce leaves. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese.

Urban Taco Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Urban Taco Pizza! If you’re caught between the Taco/Pizza dilemma of what to have for dinner, simply combine the two for a taste extravaganza. Everyone wins. By using a prepared crust, taco seasoning packet, and bottled salsa, dinner can be ready in as fast as 30 minutes. For the cooking enthusiast, I know you already have all the homemade ingredients on hand. Either way, time is valuable in a life of constant motion. Do yourself a favor and prepare a healthy option at home. It’s easy, delicious, and most of all kid-friendly!

URBAN TACO PIZZA

Ingredients:

1 prepared pizza crust, any variety

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1 pound lean ground beef

1-ounce packet taco seasoning mix

1 cup salsa plus more for topping

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 cup Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup Spring Mix salad greens

1-2 tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup slices black olives

Crushed tortilla chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a pizza pan with nonstick oil. Sprinkle cornmeal on pan. Cover with pizza dough. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. In a skillet, cook ground beef until crumbly. Add taco seasoning mix. Mix well. Cover pizza dough with 1 cup salsa. Layer ground beef mixture, spreading almost to the edge. Top with both cheeses. Bake 15-18 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is completely melted. Remove from oven. Top with mixed salad greens, chopped tomatoes, and sliced black olives. Spoon on more salsa, to taste.

El Toreo Mexican Restaurant in Valdosta, Georgia

Dining Outside the Home: El Toreo Mexican Restaurant in Valdosta, Georgia! You know you’ve hit the jackpot when it’s BOGO on a Saturday night. That translates to buy one margarita, get one free, no matter what brand of tequila you choose. A nice Mexican tequila that is 100% pure de agave goes down smooth and perfect. The cocktail was crisp and citrusy from a squeeze of fresh lime, rather than green and sugar-laden. Perhaps that’s their secret. Being in the mood for a salad did not disappoint. The Grilled Shrimp Salad was, without a doubt, the best I’ve ever had. There must have been at least a dozen perfectly-seasoned grilled shrimp served in a crispy flour tortilla shell. Refried beans, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sliced avocado, cheese and sour cream turned this simple salad into a meal-in-a-bowl. Our waitress, Jasmin, was very accommodating in meeting our needs. Great food is a must, but customer service makes it memorable.

Pulled Pork Barbecue Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Pulled Pork BBQ Flatbread! I love prepared flatbreads. In fact, I always pick up a couple from my grocer’s deli to keep on hand. The possibilities are endless for a quick meal without scrambling for the fast-food drive-through. I freeze containers of leftover meats that were slow-cooked earlier, so as to have healthy options at home, such as today’s pork tenderloin. If need be, there are prepackaged resources at your local grocery store as well. Being flexible with time-saving choices is always a “Win”, in my opinion.

PULLED PORK BBQ FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 prepared flatbread

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/2 cup BBQ sauce, any variety

1 pound pork tenderloin, cooked and shredded

2 eggs

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

Dash of white pepper

1/2 cup Spring Mix, chopped

1 green onion, snipped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush flatbread with olive oil on both sides; sprinkle bottom with cornmeal. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Spoon BBQ sauce evenly over flatbread. Cover all with shredded pork. Create a “well” for each egg. Gently crack an egg into each “well”. Sprinkle eggs with seasoned salt and white pepper. Bake 8-10 minutes until eggs are set. If the crust becomes too brown, cover it with foil, leaving the egg portion uncovered. When eggs are cooked, remove from oven. Add chopped Spring Mix and green onion snips.

Cobb Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Sunshine Eats: Cobb Salad! Some days the dinner option is as plain as the nose on my face. Leftover rotisserie chicken becomes the star attraction. Using seven of your favorite ingredients, which you probably already have on hand, this time-saving classic is the perfect solution to that mundane question, “What’s for dinner?” Go easy on yourself and build a Cobb Salad on a platter for show-stopping presentation.

COBB SALAD

Ingredients:

Bag of Spring Mix Salad Greens

3 cups chicken, precooked and shredded

3 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped

6 slices bacon, crispy and crumbled

1-2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced

8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

3/4 cup Bleu cheese crumbles

Salad Dressings of choice

Instructions:

Choose individual salad plates or a serving platter. Arrange salad greens as the base. Working from the left side of the plate to the right, arrange shredded chicken from top to bottom. Next arrange chopped egg, crumbled bacon, diced avocado, and tomato halves, ending with Bleu cheese crumbles. Drizzle with salad dressing of choice and serve.