Splatter Pan Roasted Peppers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Splatter Pan Roasted Peppers! There’s something comforting about roasted vegetables. Perhaps it’s the amazing flavor as a result of dry oven heat. Ever notice that slightly caramelized texture? Sometimes it results in a toasted nutty-like flavor. Sweetness piques, especially in tomatoes. The soft brown garlic bulbs surprised me most of all. I mashed one against the roof of my mouth. The raw bitterness had been replaced with a savory sweetness that brought sheer pleasure to my taste buds. No wonder people say food can produce a seductive spark. Am I the last one to discover this about roasted garlic?

SPLATTER PAN ROASTED PEPPERS

Ingredients:

3 green bell peppers, seeded and halved lengthwise

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

24 ripe cherry tomatoes, halved

3 cloves garlic, halved

2 tablespoons capers

1 teaspoon basil, crushed

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a splatter pan with nonstick oil. Arrange green peppers, cut side up to fit. Brush the peppers, inside and out with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Divide mozzarella cheese between peppers. Arrange cherry tomatoes so they fill each pepper “boat” to overflowing. As they roast the tomatoes will shrink in size. Tuck garlic cloves in between the tomatoes. Finish with capers. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Sprinkle crushed basil over all. Bake 40-45 minutes. Allow roasted peppers to cool to room temperature before serving.

Kid-Friendly Breadsticks & Knots

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Kid-Friendly Breadsticks & Knots! Here’s a treat that will get your kids involved in cooking for a tasty after school snack. I learned a long time ago, when the kids get cooking, they get pretty excited about the results. By choosing a prepared pizza crust from the dairy section of the grocery store, there’s no time needed for the dough to rise. Plus, moms and dads can be particular about the ingredients. I chose a European bakery-style dough that had no artificial flavors or colors, no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, and no bleach flour. It was made with olive oil and suitable for vegetarians. It even came with parchment paper for baking. Now you’re talking!

KID-FRIENDLY BREADSTICKS & KNOTS

Ingredients:

14-ounce package of refrigerated classic pizza dough, family-style crust

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

1 teaspoon dill weed

1-2 tablespoons butter, melted

3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with a silpat mat or parchment paper. Unroll pizza dough. Cut into 12 strips. Twist the dough into ropes before laying them on the baking sheet. If you prefer knots, tie the dough as you would a pretzel; over, under, and through. Place them on the baking sheet. Lightly brush breadsticks and knots with olive oil. Sprinkle on Everything But Bagel seasoning and dill weed. Bake 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese over all. Serve warm.

End-of-Season Tomato Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: End-of-Season Tomato Salad! Going, going, gone. Ever wonder why homegrown, backyard, garden tomatoes taste so good? Is it because we invest our own blood, sweat, and tears fighting weeds and combating annoying insects? Surely not. Perhaps it’s because we allow them to ripen naturally on their own schedule, rather than picking them early to allow for transporting and packaging purposes. Whatever the reason, pat yourself on the back and enjoy. It’ll have to hold you til the next planting season rolls around again.

END-OF-SEASON TOMATO SALAD

Ingredients:

5/6 Roma tomatoes, sliced

6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup basil, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

Instructions:

Arrange sliced Roma tomatoes and halved cherry tomatoes on a shallow platter. Tuck red onion strips between layers. Top with fresh basil pieces. Drizzle olive oil over tomatoes. Repeat with balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle salad with kosher salt and Everything But Bagel seasoning. Serve immediately.

Basil Pesto Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Basil Pesto Pasta! I’m tired. And I’m hungry. What in the world can I cook for dinner that doesn’t take forever? But I want the taste to make me feel like I’m someone special. First of all, go over to the wine rack and open a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. Pour a little into a stemmed glass. Swirl and take a sip. This will put you in the mood. The wonderfully sweet herbal notes of the fresh basil will complement the flavor of the wine. Plus, the olive oil and parmesan cheese in the pesto sauce enhance the richness of fruit in the Cab. Take another sip. Now let’s get started. (Footnote: Obviously if you already have a jar of your favorite Basil Pesto in the kitchen pantry, you’re one step ahead.)

BASIL PESTO PASTA

Ingredients:

10.5 ounce package of cherry tomatoes

12 large basil leaves

1/3 cup almonds, slightly toasted

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup olive oil

1 pound spaghetti

1 tablespoon sea salt

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine cherry tomatoes, basil leaves, toasted almonds, garlic clove, and kosher salt in a food processor. Pulse to blend into a fine purée. Scrape the sides and turn the processor on Low setting. Slowly pour the olive oil into the mixture in a continuous stream. The pesto will thicken nicely. Set aside. Cook the spaghetti in salted water, according to package directions. Drain well. Transfer spaghetti to a bowl. Quickly toss with pesto sauce. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over all. Garnish with basil leaves.

Zucchini Zoup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Zucchini Zoup! Here’s a delicious way to warm your tummy as the days turn cooler and leaves begin to fall. Try this savory thick and hearty soup made with zucchini. It’s a one-pot meal filled with nutrition. But that’s not all. It can be made from scratch in a matter of minutes. You have the option of a smooth flavorful finish, or allowing chunks of vegetables here and there. I puréed about 3/4 of it so I could still spoon bits of zucchini, onions, and garlic in my mouth to savor. If you like to crumble crackers in the soup, be my guest. From time to time, that’s the only way that’ll do.

ZUCCHINI ZOUP

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 sweet onion, finely chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, stem removed and roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large zucchini squash, ends cut but skin on, then chopped

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1/4-1/2 cup light cream

Colby Jack cheese, grated for garnish

Instructions:

In a large saucepan, warm olive oil. Sauté sweet onion, jalapeño pepper, garlic cloves, and zucchini squash over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Cover and allow vegetables to cook down until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Using a mini chopper, purée mixture in batches, returning soup to the pan. Over low heat, add chopped cilantro and light cream, stirring constantly until heated through. For a thinner soup, add more light cream. Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle with grated Colby Jack cheese. Serve immediately.

Watermelon Firecracker Bites

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Watermelon Firecracker Bites! Who sprinkles salt on watermelon? Maybe you automatically did it as a child sitting on the back porch steps spewing seeds at your brother. If we saw mom with the salt shaker, everyone did it. Right? No judgment here. Actually, did you know watermelon can be naturally sour or bitter? Truth. By sprinkling it with salt, it brings out the sweetness of the melon. And salt just makes everything taste better. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

WATERMELON FIRECRACKER BITES

Ingredients:

2 cups watermelon, seedless and cut into bite-size cubes

1/2 cup peaches, peeled and chopped

1-2 jalapeño peppers, sliced

1/2 teaspoon raspberry chipotle seasoning

3 tablespoons lime juice

3 tablespoons lime olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Instructions:

Combine watermelon cubes, peach chunks, and jalapeño slices in a bowl. Toss lightly. Sprinkle raspberry chipotle seasoning over all. Whisk together lime juice, lime olive oil, and chopped cilantro. Pour dressing over the watermelon salad. Toss gently. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. When ready to serve, divide salad between four bowls. Drizzle marinade over all.

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.

Presto, Pesto

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Presto, Pesto! The garden went wild this year with an abundance of basil. I mean, you can only dry so much. Granted, I happen to like fresh basil with anything tomato, but not everyone agrees. So, this time I threw together a couple cups of basil leaves with my favorite pairing: parmesan cheese! Pesto freezes well, so it can be stored in an airtight container, or initially, ice cube trays. Once it’s frozen, transfer the cubes to airtight freezer bags for later on. Always defrost in advance. Pesto tastes best served at room temperature or only slightly warmed. Keep in mind, a little goes a long way. Mix it into salad dressing or guacamole; the olive oil creates a smooth texture. Add a dollop to your evening vegetables, pasta noodles, or meat dish. Get creative and go Pesto!

PRESTO, PESTO

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1/3 cup pine nuts, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/3 cup olive oil

Instructions:

In a mini chopper, combine basil leaves, chopped garlic, pine nuts, sea salt, black pepper, and parmesan cheese. Pulse to blend; approximately 30 seconds. Slowly pour the olive oil into the top of the lid while the blade is on the Low setting. The olive oil will drizzle through the little hole for smooth results. Remove the lid and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Stir. Transfer pesto to a covered jar. Store in the refrigerator.

Marinated Mozzarella Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Marinated Mozzarella Flatbread! You’re probably like everyone else right now and could go to the freezer to pull out a prepared flatbread for supper. Another shortcut is to use marinated mozzarella cheese which already comes sliced in a blend of herbs and olive oil. Oftentimes, I freeze a surplus of cooked meat as well. In this case I already had seasoned Italian sausage, but you could certainly switch things up with pepperoni or sun-dried tomatoes. That’s the beauty of cooking at home. The results bring satisfaction. Just be careful of those piping hot stretchy cheese pulls.

MARINATED MOZZARELLA FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 prepared naan flatbread

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1 cup cooked and crumbled Italian sausage

16 ounces marinated mozzarella slices

Crushed basil leaves

Red pepper flakes, to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of the flatbread. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Carefully flip it over onto a pizza stone. Rub the remaining olive oil onto the top of the crust. Make a layer with the crumbled Italian sausage. Arrange marinated mozzarella slices over meat. Bake for 15 -20 minutes for a crispy crust. The longer it bakes, the more gooey the cheese becomes. When finished, remove from the oven and garnish with crushed basil and red pepper flakes.