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.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Jamaican Jerk Chicken! I admit, I tend to take the path of least resistance. By the time I decided I was making this dish for dinner, all I had on hand was frozen chicken. Solution: Slow-cooker to the rescue. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my crockpot? Honestly, some days I’d be lost without it. Not only is the chicken tender and moist, but the citrusy-sweet-spicy glaze made it a perfect accompaniment for steamed sticky rice. Win! Win!

JAMAICAN JERK CHICKEN

Ingredients:

2-3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks

12 ounces nonalcoholic beer

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/4 cup puréed Habanero peppers

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons thyme

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons agave nectar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons natural honey

2 tablespoons olive oil, for frying

Instructions:

Place frozen chicken in crockpot. In a measuring cup add nonalcoholic beer, orange juice, lime juice, and Habanero purée. Stir to combine. Pour over chicken. Sprinkle with cinnamon, allspice, thyme, and garlic powder. Add soy sauce, agave nectar, kosher salt, and olive oil. Pour over meat. Cover and cook 4 hours on High setting. After chicken is cooked, using a tongs, carefully transfer meat to a platter. Chicken will be very tender. Transfer drippings to a heatproof bowl. Add red pepper flakes and honey. Mix well. On the stovetop, heat an iron skillet on medium-high. Add olive oil. Transfer the chicken to the skillet. Add half the marinade to the skillet. Cook until the skin is crispy and deep brown or charred in places. Turn chicken over and repeat, adding more marinade. Reduce heat and simmer the sauce to thicken, about 5 minutes longer. Brush over the chicken as it thickens.

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.

Vodka Jello Shots

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Vodka Jello Shots! As a child of the ’60s, one of my favorite desserts was fruit-flavored gelatin. Sometimes it would have sliced bananas, strawberries, carrots, or fruit cocktail mixed in. The recipe was pretty simple. Add water and stir. Nowadays, substituting part of the water for a popular distilled spirit turns a childhood dessert into a slurpable cocktail. Drink responsibly.

VODKA JELLO SHOTS

Ingredients:

3-ounce package orange gelatin

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup iced water

1/2 cup vodka

Fresh mint leaves

Instructions:

Empty contents of orange gelatin packet into a large bowl. Add boiling water. Stir until completely dissolved, approximately 2-3 minutes. Add iced water and vodka. Stir well. Pour into shot glasses. Refrigerate four hours or until set. Garnish with fresh mint before serving.

Fabulous Fruit Dip

Experience the Holidays: Fabulous Fruit Dip! Recently I served a delightful fruit cup for breakfast when family came to visit. Because it is made with Greek yogurt and nutmeg, it’s an impressive alternative to ordinary yogurt. Think of it as Summer-in-a-Cup. Whether you decide to arrange a generous fruit platter for a crowd or scale it down to individual portions, the results are the same: heavenly delicious!

FABULOUS FRUIT DIP

Ingredients:

1 large orange*

8 ounces of Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

4 ounces marshmallow Creme

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon orange extract

1/8 teaspoon orange zest

Smidgen nutmeg

Assorted fresh fruits

Mint Sprig for Garnish

Instructions:

Cut 1/3 off the top of the orange to create a “bowl”. Carefully run a sharp knife around the inside. Do not cut through the peel. Gently scoop out the fruit. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together Neufchâtel cheese and marshmallow creme. Beat until smooth. Fold in Greek yogurt. Make the zest by using the top portion of the orange peel. Add orange extract, zest, and nutmeg. Blend thoroughly. Chill one hour. Scoop into the orange “bowl” before serving. Garnish with fresh mint sprig. Place on a serving platter surrounded by fresh fruit.

* For individual servings, choose four small navel oranges.

Thyme Tomato Toss

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Thyme Tomato Toss! Hop aboard the yellow tomato bus for a ride that will take you down a two-lane country road. These golden nuggets, about the size of a cherry, are often less acidic and milder than their popular red cousins. I find them a touch sweeter as well. Their colors can range from pale yellow to sunny gold to bright orange, which makes for a stunning combo in marinated tomatoes or tasty fresh salsa. Just so you know, the skins are pretty tender, if that’s ever been an issue for you. With all that being said, now sit back, and enjoy the ride.

THYME TOMATO TOSS

Ingredients:

8 ounces yellow and red cherry tomatoes, cut into halves

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic wine vinegar

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon basil

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Place yellow and red cherry tomatoes is a bowl. Set aside. In a measure cup, whisk together olive oil, garlic wine vinegar, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, marjoram, sea salt, basil, and sugar. Sprinkle in thyme leaves. Drizzle over tomatoes. Gently toss to coat. Serve immediately. Garnish with thyme sprigs.

Heart-Healthy Honey Cakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Heart-Healthy Honey Cakes! Way down south, in the Florida panhandle, grows an unusual tree that produces the “Cadillac” of all honey varieties known as raw Tupelo. The tree blossoms are short-lived and delicate, creating a nectar that is nothing short of superbly exquisite. The finespun flavor is buttery, highly distinctive, and almost magical. If you happen to put your hands on a jar of Tupelo honey, first unscrew the lid and place a couple droplets on your tongue. You owe yourself a genuine taste of the liquid amber gold before adding it to your culinary portfolio. Then, by all means, elevate everyday favorites.

HEART-HEALTHY HONEY CAKES

Ingredients:

1 cup flour plus 2 tablespoons

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup Tupelo raw honey, reserving 1 1/2 tablespoons for drizzling over the batter

1/2 cup sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup coffee

2 1/2 tablespoons orange juice

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Generously grease six mini bundt pans with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Mix well. Add vegetable oil, raw honey, sugar, brown sugar, egg, vanilla extract, coffee, and orange juice. Mix thoroughly until no lumps remain. Pour batter into prepared mini bundt pans, filling each just over halfway. Do not overfill. Drizzle reserved raw honey over batter. Bake 30 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven. Cool 10 minutes, then invert pans to remove honey cakes. Cool on wire rack. Garnish with fresh lemon thyme.

Kickin’ Leg of Lamb

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Kickin’ Leg of Lamb! Autumn is a popular time to take advantage of the availability of lamb as a meat option. Most farmers raise lambs in their natural environment, simply because it is economically feasible. Think about it. Whenever you come across a bucolic scene, a herd of sheep are casually grazing along the rugged hillside feasting on grass. They are one of the original foragers. They appear to roam free in the fresh air without a care in the world. My husband used to laugh when he’d say, “I think I’m going to get a couple lambs so I no longer need to mow the grounds.” I’d simply look him in the eye and respond, “I’m sure the wildlife predators would like that, too.”

KICKIN’ LEG OF LAMB

Ingredients:

1 pound leg of lamb steak

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup orange marmalade

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Season the leg of lamb steak with sea salt, black pepper, and rosemary leaves. Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the lamb. Cook for 4 minutes per side. Remove the lamb and transfer to a platter. Wipe the oil from the skillet. Add butter, orange marmalade, Dijon mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper. Mix thoroughly over medium heat. Place the leg of lamb steak back into the skillet. Cover with the orange glaze. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Rest for 3 minutes before transferring lamb and glaze to a serving platter. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.