Vermicelli Pasta Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Vermicelli Pasta Salad! A little advance planning goes a long way whether you choose to make this a side dish or a main course. Plus, you get bonus points if it becomes your Midweek Meatless Meal. It’s easy, it’s versatile, and it’s made with fiber-filled veggies for extra crunch and flavor. Substitute ingredients to match your family’s personal cravings. On the go? Pack it in single serving jars for fuss-free options.

VERMICELLI PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

1 pound vermicelli

1 1/2 tablespoons Accent seasoning

2 tablespoons seasoned salt

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup green pepper, chopped

3/4 cup onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups broccoli/carrot/red cabbage slaw

1 cup black olives, sliced

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 cup mayonnaise

Instructions:

Cook vermicelli as directed on package. Rinse in cold water. Drain. Place in large bowl. Make a marinade of Accent seasoning, seasoned salt, lemon juice, and vegetable oil. Pour over vermicelli; mix well. Cover and marinate for two days, stirring once or twice. Add green pepper, onion, cut-up broccoli/carrot/cabbage slaw, black olives, poppy seeds, and mayonnaise. Mix well. Marinate overnight. Serve chilled.

Olive Tapenade

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Olive Tapenade! Here’s a nice prelude to an evening meal. Forego the usual focaccia bread and herbed olive oil for a southern France hors d’oeuvre instead. By using an exotic mixture of olives and spices, it creates a versatile condiment for crackers, bread, cheese, and vegetables. Later on, serve it over pasta or fish as another option. Whatever you choose, seek adventure. You won’t be disappointed in the mellow salty garlic flavor lingering long into the night.

OLIVE TAPENADE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup green olives with pimentos

1/2 cup black olives, pitted

1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted

2 tablespoons capers

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients. Pulse in a food processor for several minutes. Scrape sides and repeat. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for one hour. Serve with crusty artisan bread or pita chips. Tastes great spread over cream cheese for party flavor.

Easy Empanadas

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Easy Empanadas! Imagine this: a light, flaky, buttery pastry pocket filled with tender savory meat. Now add a kick of spice and a finish of pimento-stuffed olives. Mmmm. Sure you can add cheese or go completely vegetarian. That’s the beauty of cooking at home. Make it to suit your personal taste. Either way, in three bites, you’re ready for seconds. Don’t forget the dipping sauce.

EASY EMPANADAS

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 pound ground beef, lean

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup pimento-stuffed olives, chopped

1 egg, whisked

1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry sheets

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. Warm olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add oregano, sweet paprika, cumin powder, and cayenne pepper. Mix well. Add ground beef. Stir and cook until meat is crumbly. Season with kosher salt and black pepper. Remove from heat. Fold in pimento-stuffed olives. Cool meat mixture completely, about two hours in the refrigerator. Cut pastry sheets into 4” rounds. Place 2 tablespoons of filling into the center of each round. Brush water around the outer edge of each round. Fold round in half. Press to seal. Using fork tines, press down on edges. Carefully transfer empanadas to the parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing 1” apart. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to prevent leakage while baking. Brush empanadas with whisked egg. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce or salsa.

Ravishing Radish Sandwich

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Ravishing Radish Sandwich! There’s something a little French about nibbling on a radish sandwich. And you can pull it off without raising your pinky finger into the air. Choose an artisan bread such as a crusty baguette or toasted sesame loaf. All you really need is a little butter and sea salt. However, I went one step further and used a creamy Neufchâtel cheese blended with pimento-filled green olives. Can you say, “Oooh, La La”?

RAVISHING RADISH SANDWICH

Ingredients:

1 bunch of radishes, washed, stalks removed, and thinly sliced

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1/4 cup green olives, chopped

1 loaf artisan bread

1/4 teaspoon Chia seeds

Instructions:

In a small bowl, mix Neufchâtel cheese and green olives until combined. Slice bread evenly on a cutting board and then toast lightly. Slather each slice of bread with cheese spread. Layer radishes on top, randomly squeezing on as many pieces as possible. Sprinkle with chia seeds to garnish. Voilá!

Mediterranean Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Mediterranean Salad! I was asked to provide a salad on short notice for a gathering recently, so it seemed like a no-brainer to share the bounty of my garden. The abundance of ripe tomatoes practically transformed my platter into a work of art. Anyone can do the same. All you need is a few ingredients and two different size platters.

MEDITERRANEAN SALAD

Ingredients:

4-5 medium tomatoes, sliced

3-4 small tomatoes, sliced

1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced

1/3 cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon dried basil

1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano

2 mozzarella sticks string cheese, sliced

1 small green pepper

1/2 cup pitted black olives

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

2-3 tablespoons balsamic reduction sauce

Instructions:

Choose tomatoes that are uniform in size. This will enhance the pinwheel effect when complete. Slice the tomatoes, discarding the end pieces. Place on paper towels to avoid too much juice on the platter. In a shallow dish combine sliced mozzarella, olive oil, dried basil, oregano, and marjoram. Try to coat the cheese evenly. Set aside to marinate. Meanwhile, take the green pepper and cut across the top to remove the stem portion. Hollow out the pepper and rinse. Turn upside down so no water remains inside. This pepper will be placed in the center as the focal point to hold the black olives. To assemble platter, begin by placing the smaller plate inside the platter. Place the green pepper in the center of the small plate. Arrange the small tomatoes and sliced string cheese around the green pepper. Next take the medium tomato slices and alternate with the marinated mozzarella slices until the outer area of the large platter is filled. Take the fresh basil and arrange the leaves throughout. Some may remain whole while others may be snips of basil. Drizzle reserve olive oil being careful not to drench. You may not need much. Drizzle balsamic reduction sauce over all. Garnish olives with colorful picks.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter L

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Layered Taco Dip! Wait no longer for a great appetizer. Set the tone for a social gathering with foods that say, “Let’s get this party started!”. A creamy dense layer of Mexican spices over a base of refried beans make the perfect foundation to hold the remaining ingredients. Not a fan of black olives? Simply choose green peppers or mushrooms instead. After all it’s your kitchen, so own it!

LAYERED TACO DIP

16-ounce can refried beans, traditional

16-ounce carton sour cream

8-ounce block cream cheese, room temperature

1 taco seasoning packet

1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped

1 large tomato, diced

3 green onions, chopped

1 1/2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

2.25-ounce can sliced black olives, drained

Tortilla chips or corn chips

Instructions:

Spread refried beans on the bottom layer of a serving platter. Combine sour cream, cream cheese, and taco seasoning packet in a bowl. Mix until smooth. Spread over refried beans. Divide romaine lettuce evenly over cream cheese layer. Top with diced tomatoes and green onion snips. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese followed by Monterey Jack cheese over all. Finish with black olive slices. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate dip for at least one hour. Serve with tortilla chips or corn chips.

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Vegan Charcuterie Board!

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Vegan Charcuterie Board! Here’s your solution to what to bring to the next holiday party. Choose popular garden veggies, distinct to the season. Arrange them on a charcuterie board with nuts and flavorful dips. Peruse the local farmers’ market or produce section of your nearest grocers. With a little effort, the Vegan Charcuterie Board can be the star attraction for office pitch-ins, family gatherings, and other festive occasions. Check it out!

VEGAN CHARCUTERIE BOARD

Ingredients:

Carrot sticks

Asparagus spears

Celery sticks

Cherry tomatoes

Mini cucumbers, sliced

Radishes, quartered

Yellow sweet peppers, sliced

Green olives, stuffed

Kalamata olives, pitted

Pistachios in shell

Assorted crackers

Ingredients for Hummus:

15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1/2 cup tahini paste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon lemon olive oil

1 tablespoon capers

Using a food processor, pulse chickpeas until smooth. Add tahini paste, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, cumin powder, and sea salt. Process until mixed. Transfer hummus to a shallow bowl. Drizzle with lemon olive oil. Garnish with capers.

Ingredients for Dill Dip:

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon dill weed

1 teaspoon capers

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

Combine Neufchâtel cheese and prepared horseradish. Stir until smooth. Fold in dill weed, capers, and chives. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Norwegian Jarlsburg Cheese Spread!

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Yuletide Favs: Norwegian Jarlsberg Cheese Spread! Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. Jarlsberg cheese originated in Norway as a buttery mild cow’s milk cheese with a sweet nutty flavor. In some photos it may appear similar to Swiss cheese, full of holes, but in essence it is much smoother and richer. Don’t believe me? Order a grilled cheese sandwich made with semi-soft imported Jarlsberg cheese sometime and try not to faint when you are asked to pay a much higher price for this gooey better-than-generic extravagance.

NORWEGIAN JARLSBERG CHEESE SPREAD

Ingredients:

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese

4 ounces Jarlsberg cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoons red onion, chopped

1 can (4 ounce size) stuffed green olives, sliced

Sea salt, to taste

Cracked black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup chives, chopped

1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

Instructions:

Mix together Neufchâtel cheese, Jarlsberg cheese, and mayonnaise until well blended. Stir in red onion and green olives. Add sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Form into a log. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour. Roll cheese ball in chopped chives and pecans bits before serving. Spread into crackers or bagel chips.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter R

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Relish Charcuterie! Everyone knows the best defense is a good offense, especially when it comes to group gatherings and holiday parties. Low-calorie items are always a wise choice. Keep it healthy with a nice assortment of raw veggies packed with nutrients and fiber. Besides, they’re colorful and festive. By filling a plate with appealing choices like these, you can splurge later on with a sampling of dessert. 
RELISH CHARCUTERIE 
Ingredients:

1 head celery, with stalks and ribs 

3 large carrots, cut into strips

7 ounces pimento stuffed queen olives

10 ounces grape tomatoes

1 pint sweet gherkins 

8 ounces wild caper berries 

6 ounces Kalamata olives, pitted

12 ounces imported pepperoncinis 

1 bunch garden radishes

1 red onion, thinly sliced

Pickled garlic
Instructions:

Wash all fresh vegetables in cold water. Pat dry on paper towels. Chop and slice as needed in unique shapes. Use small dip bowls for height and color. Arrange ingredients on a nice platter so designs are appealing to the eye. It is better to keep it looking full by switching around shapes and color. Small plates and toothpicks or skewers encourage snacking.