Habanero Hot Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Habanero Hot Sauce! Let’s kick things up a notch or two with one of the hottest known chili peppers legally sold in grocery stores. And I mean REALLY hot, compared to the average pepperoncini. The adorable orange lantern with its sweet-looking dimples can be deceiving. Its sting may feel as strong as a viper while simultaneously releasing an endorphin rush that’ll knock you off your feet. This is my fourth batch from the garden harvest. I’m hooked! However, it comes with a few words of caution: Wear gloves and avoid the juices near your face and eyes. While oven roasting, set the exhaust fan on High. When taste-testing, keep a wedge of white cheese nearby. It actually cuts the heat almost instantly. Be brave, my Peeps. Heed these simple rules. Then and only then, will you become the master of your own domain.

HABANERO HOT SAUCE

Ingredients:

16-20 habanero peppers, halved, stems, and seeds removed

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons grapefruit juice

1/8 teaspoon lime juice

Sea salt to taste

Instructions:

Place habanero pepper halves, skin side up in a single layer, on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick oil. Roast habanero peppers on High for 10 minutes, or until black spots appear. Remove. Using tongs, transfer habanero peppers to a covered bowl and allow to steam for 15 minutes. Using gloves, remove any loose skins; discard. Add peppers to a food processor. Pulse to a slightly coarse texture. Add minced garlic, orange juice, grapefruit juice, and lime juice. Pulse until desired consistency. Season with sea salt. Store in a jar in the refrigerator. Serve in dips, as a condiment, paired with ripe fruits in salsas, or on grilled meats.

Candied Orange Peel

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Candied Orange Peel! Anything with the word “candy” grabs my attention this time of year. And the fact that I’m a fan of oranges makes it that much better. Wait a minute, you think, are you talking about actually eating the peel of the oranges? I am. Of course there are a few secrets to making them delectable. We all know, from childhood, that orange peelings can be a trifle bitter. First of all, take a clean kitchen scrubbie and run it over the outer skin. This can eliminate the shiny look that makes it attractive in the produce aisle. Some places put a thin coat of wax on produce to make fruit enticing to the consumer. Secondly, remove as much of the white pith on the inside of the peel. Otherwise the orange peel might taste bitter, even with copious amounts of sugar. That being said, shall we begin?

CANDIED ORANGE PEEL

Ingredients:

2 oranges

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

Sugar, for rolling

Instructions:

Remove the skin from the oranges. You can do this by scoring the skin into 4 vertical portions. Cut each section into strips. Set aside. Reserve the oranges for another use. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once the sugar is dissolved, reduce heat to a simmer. Add orange peel strips. Cook for 15 minutes. Drain well. Allow peels to cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle sugar into a shallow bowl. One at a time, roll an orange peel strip in the sugar. Transfer candied orange peel to a wire rack to dry. Repeat until all are coated. Store in an airtight container.

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.

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.

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.

Jamba Juice Copycat Smoothie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Jamba Juice Copycat Smoothie! Everyone gets excited with a copycat version of a well-known brand. Some knockoffs make it, others fall short. I have the advantage of living with a food critic in my own home, my husband. So when I asked him to taste my version of the Caribbean Passion Smoothie, he was very accommodating. Afterward, my favorite question to ask was, “Would you have this again if I made it?” Sometimes the truth hurts, but this time his smile said it all. Here’s a helpful hint: frozen fruit can be thawed slightly and substituted for fresh. Caution: Take it easy. If you slurp it too fast, prepare for a “brain freeze”.

JAMBA JUICE COPYCAT SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

1 cup organic apricot mango juice

1 cup fresh strawberries, tops removed and cut-up

1/2 heaping cup peach slices, if frozen slightly thawed

1 cup orange sherbet

1/2 cup ice

Instructions:

Combine apricot mango juice, cut-up strawberries, sliced peaches, orange sherbet, and ice cubes together in a blender. Pulse to purée, then blend on High until smooth. If necessary, turn off blender to scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Resume. Mixture should be slushy. Pour into glasses. Serve immediately.

Mandarin Orange Side Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Mandarin Orange Side Salad! Whenever I serve this colorful side salad to my guests, they rave about the dressing. I create my own version of infused garlic oil, but it can be purchased at your local grocery. Dark, leafy watercress can also be found at the area Farmers Market this time of year. A little bit goes a long way in adding a surprisingly light peppery taste. When partnered with oranges and tomatoes, it refreshes the palate for the next course. If you like a tastier and fresher alternative to an ordinary garden salad, give this one a whirl.

MANDARIN ORANGE SIDE SALAD

Ingredients:

1/2 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces

1/2 cup watercress

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

18 mandarin orange segments

1/4 cup bacon pieces

1/4 cup almonds, sliced

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Instructions:

Divide the romaine lettuce, watercress, cherry tomatoes, mandarin oranges, bacon, almonds, and cheese evenly between 6 salad bowls. Serve chilled with dressing. (See dressing recipe below.)

Dressing Ingredients:

1/2 cup garlic vegetable oil

3 tablespoons wine vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 cup red onion, chopped

Instructions:

Combine garlic vegetable oil, wine vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, sea salt, dry mustard, and onion. Whisk well until blended. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Fabulous Fruit Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: 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.