Ginger Liqueur

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Ginger Liqueur! There’s nothing worse than enjoying a specialty crafted cocktail on a remote tropical island and then returning home with a craving to have it again. That happened to me about 4,500 miles ago. What’s a girl to do? “Why not make it yourself?” my husband quipped. “Sure…easy for you to say”, I responded. Well, long story short, as long as he agreed to help me as the “taste tester”, it was worth a shot. Between the two of us, I’m pretty sure we came up with a winning combination for my new fav, Ginger Liqueur Martini. Cheers!

GINGER LIQUEUR

Ingredients:

2 cups vodka

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup ginger root, diced

1/2 vanilla bean, sliced horizontally and seeds scraped

Orange peel

Instructions:

Take a quart-size jar. Combine vodka, sugar, ginger root, vanilla bean, and orange peel. Stir well to dissolve sugar. Place jar, away from sunlight, in a kitchen cabinet. Swirl the jar to stir the contents every morning and night for one week. Remove the vanilla bean. Repeat swirling twice a day for 3 more days. Strain solids through a fine wire mesh strainer. Filter remaining liquid again through two coffee filters until no solids remain. Bottle the ginger liqueur. Allow it to “mellow” for another day. Store away from sunlight.

Ginger Liqueur Martini:

4 ounces vodka, chilled

1 ounce ginger liqueur

Garnish with crystallized ginger

Instructions:

Place martini glass in the freezer to chill. Remove glass and add chilled vodka. Set aside. Fill a shaker with ice cubes. Pour in ginger liqueur. Allow it to chill for one minute. Shake. Strain the ginger liqueur over vodka into the martini glass. Garnish with crystallized ginger.

Perfect Pot Roast

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Perfect Pot Roast! Today all chefs get the day off from cooking. Seriously. This one-pot meal will turn out perfectly, as long as you ignore it. Use a slow-cooker or a Dutch Baker in a low temperature oven. I actually begin with a frozen chuck roast and forget about it, that is until the savory aromas lightly waft throughout the house. The liquid turns into a pleasant au jus or can be thickened into gravy. Personally, I ladle the juice into a food storage container to use as a sauce for beef carnitas, but that’s another story. Leftovers promise delicious options.

PERFECT POT ROAST

Ingredients:

3-4 pound chuck roast, frozen

3/4 cup vinegar

3/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup kosher salt (or less)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon oregano

1 pound baby carrots

3-4 white potatoes, skin on, quartered

2-3 sprigs thyme

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 275°. Place frozen roast in Dutch Baker. Combine vinegar, orange juice, and melted butter. Pour over roast. Sprinkle roast with kosher salt, garlic powder, and oregano. Lay thyme sprigs across the top of the meat. Put the lid on the Dutch Baker and bake for 4 hours. Then add carrots and cut-up potatoes to the pot. Reduce oven temperature to 185°. Bake 4 hours longer. The roast is fall-apart tender and ready to serve.

Texas Tony’s Rib & Brewhouse in Naples, Florida

Dining Outside the Home: Texas Tony’s Rib & Brewhouse in Naples, Florida! Look for the curls of woodsmoke arising from the barbecue smoker along Tamiami Trail. It’s mighty important to slow cook cuts of beef brisket and pork butts so the exterior is browned just right while the interior remains tender and juicy. Barbecuing is an art, after all. Follow the smoke signals to enter Texas Tony’s where the meat is cooked low and slow all day long to achieve perfection. Using orange tree wood seems to be the Floridian secret. Mild, but definitely delicious. Dinners are complemented by homemade corn bread or Texas toast, sweet coleslaw, baked potato, or cowboy beans. And the sauces: sweet, tangy, spicy. Go wild; mix and match. Everything gets washed down easily when drinks are 2 for 1 all day long. Better check out what you might be missing.

Mandarin Orange Cake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Mandarin Orange Cake! For all those gloomy days out there, a taste of sunshine comes to greet you in a naturally sweet cake. Did you realize mandarin oranges don’t only come in a can? Actually, you know them by other names in the produce department: “Halos” and “Cuties”. Sometimes people refer to mandarin oranges as clementines or tangerines. Small world, huh? Whatever you choose to call them, their pretty color and ease in peeling make them a popular choice. This cake recipe is versatile enough to be baked in a muffin tin, miniature bundt molds, or as a single-layer coffeecake. Something else to think about. The sugary glaze tops it all.

MANDARIN ORANGE CAKE

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon orange extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

zest of one orange

1/2 cup milk

Ingredients for Orange Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons orange juice

Orange peel zest, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray miniature bundt molds with nonstick oil with added flour. Sift together flour and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside. Cream together sugar and butter in a medium bowl. Add egg; mixing well before adding orange extract, vanilla extract, and zest of one orange. Gently fold in flour mixture, alternating with milk. Stir until combined. Divide mixture into miniature bundt molds, filling 2/3 full. Bake 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Prepare orange glaze by combining powdered sugar and orange juice. Stir until smooth. When cakes are golden brown, remove from oven. Cool slightly before inverting molds onto a wire rack. Remove molds. Transfer cakes to a platter to finish cooling. Drizzle with orange glaze and garnish with orange zest. Serve warm.

Zia Marianna’s Grilled Peppers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Zia Marianna’s Grilled Peppers! Did you know there are three ways to roast peppers? You can use a grill pan over a burner flame, a broiler for fast charring, or roast them in the oven. The results are amazing, compared to raw peppers sliced into a salad. The incredible flavor is so smoky and sweet you may wonder why you don’t take the time more often. Pay attention to your taste buds! This is how we add depth to any dish, I promise you that.

ZIA MARIANNA’S GRILLED PEPPERS

Ingredients:

10 mini sweet peppers, mix of red and orange

5 cloves garlic

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Celery leaves

Instructions:

Heat a grill pan on high heat until hot. Rinse the mini sweet peppers and garlic cloves; pat dry. Place the whole peppers and garlic cloves onto the grill pan, charring the skin completely on all sides until black on the outside and soft on the inside, 5-8 minutes per side. Remove and discard charred skin of peppers, seeds, and stems. Cut the peppers into thin slices about 1/4” thick. Transfer the charred pepper slices and garlic cloves into a container with a lid. Slightly wilt celery leaves on grill pan. Add to pepper mixture. Drizzle with vegetable oil. Add the seasoned salt and cracked black pepper. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Warm slightly before serving.

Mincemeat Quick Bread

Eating My Way Through the Holidays. Festive Food Gifts: Mincemeat Quick Bread! Don’t look at me that way. I know what you’re thinking. “If this recipe has mincemeat in it, I’m not eating it.” But hold on a sec. There are plenty of foods with names that sound downright gross. Think about it: head cheese, tripe, mung beans, and blood sausage to name a few. I’m here to tell you mincemeat is a sweet and savory filling that basically contains dried fruits, citrus, spices, and brandy. Ahhh. Now I have your attention. This particular recipe has about 1/4 cup apricot brandy in it. Just know if you do choose to add brandy or rum to a jar of prepared mincemeat, be sure to allow it to marinate in the refrigerator at least 8 hours before using. Now you can understand why some people eat it straight out of the jar.

MINCEMEAT QUICK BREAD

Ingredients:

1 egg, room temperature

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon orange zest

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 cups prepared mincemeat pie filling (with 1/4 cup apricot brandy, optional)

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour a 9”x5” loaf pan. Set aside. Combine egg, vegetable oil, orange zest, orange juice, and mincemeat pie filling. Stir until well blended. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, stirring just until combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Check loaf with a cake tester to make sure center is done. Remove from oven. Cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve.

Zucchini-Orange-Walnut Loaf

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Zucchini-Orange-Walnut Loaf! Do you have zucchini coming out of your ears? Take care. This relative of the squash family has fewer calories than a baked potato and more potassium than a banana. Plus, its versatility is a bonus. Zucchini is probably the most bland vegetable you can find. But that works to its advantage. You can pair it with just about anything. I promise you this, if I hadn’t told you there was shredded zucchini in this luscious loaf of quick-bread, you’d never know it from the taste. Nutrition is your friend. The moist, delicious orange and walnut combination make it seem as though you’re eating cake.

ZUCCHINI-ORANGE-WALNUT LOAF

Instructions:

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup orange juice

1 cup zucchini, shredded

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon orange rind, zested

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

Glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1-2 tablespoons orange juice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour the bottom of a loaf pan. Set aside. In a food processor, beat eggs until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar. Add vegetable oil, orange juice, and shredded zucchini. Pulse to mix. Slowly add flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, orange rind, cinnamon, and cloves. Scrape down sides, as needed. Fold in chopped walnuts. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pan. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. In a small bowl, blend powdered sugar, butter, and orange juice. Spread over warm loaf. Cool completely and slice.

Zwieback Crust Peach Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Zwieback Crust Peach Pie! Icebox dessert pies conjure up sweet memories of dog-day afternoons, sun-burned shoulders, and aluminum tumblers of cherry Kool-Aid that left a bright red mustache stain. Following a stifling afternoon of playing in the yard that made sweaty bangs plaster to my sticky forehead, my brothers and I would run inside, slamming the screen door for what probably seemed like the umpteenth time to Mother who rang the dinner bell. “Wash your hands before you sit down,” she coaxed. “Dessert is something special, if you clean your plate.” Those words alone were enough to turn youthful minds into obedient offspring. Dessert defined those adolescent years. Everyone enjoyed them, guilt-free. Ah, the good old days.

ZWIEBACK CRUST PEACH PIE

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups zwieback cracker crumbs

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup water

3 ounce-package orange gelatin

3 cups ripe peaches, peeled and sliced; stone removed

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine zwieback crumbs, 1/3 cup sugar, and melted butter. Stir well. Reserve one tablespoon for crumb garnish. Press remaining crumbs firmly over the bottom and up the sides of a 9”-inch pie plate. Bake 10 minutes. Cool. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and water until smooth. Cook until thick and bubbly, 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in flavored gelatin until dissolved. Cool. Arrange sliced peaches in crust. Pour filling over peaches. Sprinkle reserve crumbs on top. Chill for 2 hours, or until set. Serve cold.

X-tra Tender Marinated Chicken

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: X-tra Tender Marinated Chicken! Here is one recipe that definitely lives up to its name. Tender. And I mean “melt-in-your-mouth” tender. For variety, I have used the marinade ingredients but switched the meat between chicken and pork. Both with astounding results. Because I literally took the meat out of the freezer and popped it in the slow-cooker may be another reason the outcome was so effective. Do it first thing in the morning before you’re off and running. When you return home later on, the irresistible aromas will greet you at the door. For a finishing touch, flash fry the pieces (plus juices from the marinade) in an oiled iron skillet at high temperature for a minimal amount of time. The results will leave everyone singing your praises. You can thank me later.

X-TRA TENDER MARINATED CHICKEN

Ingredients:

2-3 pounds chicken

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup vinegar

1 cup orange juice

1/4 cup kosher salt

1 tablespoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Oil for frying

Lemon and capers for garnish

Instructions:

Place chicken in a slow-cooker. Combine melted butter, vinegar, orange juice, kosher salt, oregano, and garlic powder. Pour over meat. Cover. If meat is frozen, set timer for four hours on High, then four hours on Low. If meat is thawed, set timer for eight hours on Low. When finished, using a tongs, transfer chicken to a platter. Reserve marinade. To “flash fry”, warm an iron skillet with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil on medium heat. Add chicken. Do not overcrowd. Ladle a small portion of marinade juice over chicken. It will sizzle, so a screen lid is recommended. After 2-3 minutes gently turn juicy chicken to char the other side. Add oil to prevent meat from sticking. Repeat until all chicken is fried. This works well with boneless or shredded meat. Serve warm with assorted vegetables. Garnish with capers and lemon slices.