Zesty Butter-Baked Crackers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Zesty Butter-Baked Crackers! When you are looking for a crunchy snack and really have no interest in leaving the house, fancy crackers satisfy. More than likely, you have all the ingredients on hand. I think you’ll be surprised. In a few minutes, the kitchen will draw curiosity-seekers who put down their electronic devices to see what smells so good. Then go one step further, serve them with a slather of cream cheese, cocktail sauce, and baby shrimp. It can transform these buttery snacks into a culinary appetizer your family will remember. Better make more and hide them in the freezer.

ZESTY BUTTER-BAKED CRACKERS

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon dill weed

1 sleeve saltine crackers

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly mist a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a microwave-safe bowl, warm butter on Low setting for 20 seconds. Add olive oil, onion powder, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, and dill weed. Stir to mix thoroughly. Take one cracker at a time, dip into the butter mixture to coat both sides, and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat until all crackers and butter are used. Arrange the crackers in a single layer by rows. Bake 10 minutes; turn over and bake 10 minutes longer. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container.

White Chicken Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: White Chicken Flatbread! Nowadays I look for any excuse to have pizza, or a close second. All I have to do is go to my freezer to decide what ingredients to use. In there is often naan flatbread, precooked grilled chicken strips, and previously oven-baked bacon. In lieu of marinara sauce, creamy ranch dressing makes a tasty sauce. People know cheese is always my friend, along with fresh veggies, herbs, and spices. Throw it all together and boom; 20 minutes later it’s ready to eat. I think I deserve a star for that.

WHITE CHICKEN FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 Naan flatbread

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/2 cup prepared ranch dressing

4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced

1 cup precooked, grilled chicken chunks

1/4 cup precooked bacon, crumbled

2 tablespoons sweet onions, chopped

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush the bottom side of the naan flatbread with olive oil; dust with cornmeal. Transfer to a pizza stone. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven and assemble the ingredients. Spread the ranch dressing onto the top crust. Layer, in order, the fresh mozzarella slices, grilled chicken chunks, bacon crumbles, and sweet onions. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and Italian seasoning. Top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden. Serve immediately.

Quirky Clean Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Quirky Clean Salad! We’ve all heard the word “clean” when referring to food. Once upon a time, it meant wash the vegetables before eating them. Now it seems to have multiple meanings. Some of those phrases include “unprocessed foods, organically grown, no preservatives, low carbs, gluten-free, free-range, or no high fructose corn syrup.” Basically, it translates to what is clean for YOU. My unwritten rule is, if I have a craving for it, I’m eating it. Perhaps that’s why I added the word “Quirky” to the title. You do what is right for you. Are we good?

QUIRKY CLEAN SALAD

Ingredients:

1 head broccoli, florets only and chopped

1 green apple, peeled, cored, and diced

1/4 cup almonds, chopped

1/4 cup green olives, sliced

1/4 cup raisins

5 pitted dates, chopped

2 slices bacon, crispy cooked and crumbled

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 tablespoon garlic wine vinegar

1 tablespoon natural honey

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan salt

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon rosemary, chopped

Instructions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine broccoli florets, diced apples, chopped almonds, sliced green olives, raisins, chopped dates, and crumbled bacon. Gently toss to mix. In another bowl, whisk together lime juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic wine vinegar, natural honey, Himalayan salt, cracked black pepper, and chopped rosemary. Pour the vinaigrette over the broccoli salad; mix thoroughly. Serve immediately.

Nosh Crostini and Oranges

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Nosh Crostini and Oranges! When you’re not exactly hungry, but could use a snack between meals or to satisfy a late night craving for “something”….crostini fits the bill, so to speak. Crostini adds the crunch of potato chips and the flavor of croutons, only better. Fresh mozzarella melts incredibly well because it contains less moisture. You can thank fresh mozzarella for those ah-mazing cheese pulls that become gooey strands of seductiveness. Uh-huh, I see you nodding your head in total agreement. Better grab a napkin.

NOSH CROSTINI AND ORANGES

Ingredients:

1 large tomato, diced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/2 loaf baguette bread, sliced

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

6 slices fresh mozzarella cheese

1 navel orange, peeled with each segment cut in half

Fresh basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Arrange diced tomatoes in a single layer on the cutting board. Sprinkle with kosher salt and oregano. Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place baguette slices on a baking sheet. Brush each slice with olive oil. Sprinkle garlic powder on top. Place one slice of fresh mozzarella on each piece of baguette. Spoon diced tomatoes over cheese. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven. Garnish crostini with fresh basil. Serve with navel orange segments.

Angus Beef Burger

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Angus Beef Burger! Anyone who is a beef-eater understands that when meat has a high level of marbling, it keeps it moist for longer when cooking. Why is marbling important, you wonder? Because the fat ratio is scattered throughout creating juicy, tender, and more flavorful results. Long story, short, angus beef means better burger. No one wants a hockey puck for a hamburger. Right? Although it may cost a little more per pound, the end results are worth it.

ANGUS BEEF BURGER

Ingredients:

1 pound Angus beef, ground

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 hamburger buns, split and toasted

Lettuce, tomato, bacon and condiments as desired

Instructions:

Preheat a gas grill on High temperature. Form the ground beef into four equal portions. Season both sides of each patty with sea salt and black pepper. Brush the burgers with olive oil. Grill the burgers for 3 minutes until brown and slightly charred. Flip over. Do not press down to release juices! Cook 4 minutes longer, for medium rare, until golden and charred. Grill longer for desired results. Assemble the burgers on toasted buns. Add fixings and condiments to taste. Serve immediately.

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.

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 combatting 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.

Xtra Healthy Turkey Spaghetti

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Xtra Healthy Turkey Spaghetti! It’s true you can limit your weekly intake of meat by choosing vegetarian recipes and meatless meals. On the other hand, by making a simple substitution of turkey over beef, you’re getting a leaner, less fatty meat without sacrificing taste. But the debate continues. Some report that nowadays leaner beef choices still make beef the winner when it comes to fat, sodium, and cholesterol. To be honest, I already had baked turkey on hand, so I took advantage of it and went for something a little different. Variety, in my kitchen, is the spice of Life.

XTRA HEALTHY TURKEY SPAGHETTI

Ingredients:

1 pound of shredded turkey, precooked

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 poblano pepper, chopped

1 green pepper, cut into strips

1/3 cup onion, chopped

15-ounces prepared marinara sauce or spaghetti sauce

6 ounces angel hair pasta

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Grated parmesan cheese, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray four individual casserole pans with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add poblano pepper, green pepper, and chopped onions. Sauté until tender. Stir in the shredded turkey and marinara sauce. Turn heat off and set aside. Prepare angel hair spaghetti according to package directions. Drain thoroughly. Add cooked pasta to sauce. Stir to mix. Transfer turkey spaghetti to individual casseroles. Divide mozzarella cheese between them. Bake 20-25 minutes until cheese is golden and melted. Garnish with parmesan cheese before serving.