Bacon and Egg Mac ‘n Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Bacon and Egg Mac’n Cheese! Grab onto your seat because this dish is going to leave you shouting to the rooftops like a kid on a tire swing. Remember how everyone in the neighborhood would congregate around the sturdy oak, count to three, and then pile on the tire like a bunch of monkeys? The biggest guy was always left behind to spin it around like a giant top before grabbing the rope and jumping aboard. The peals of laughter echoed around the block and seemed to go on forever. It’s a wonder the branch didn’t break, or worse.

BACON AND EGG MAC ‘N CHEESE

Ingredients:

1 cup bow tie pasta

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup skim milk

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

3 slices American cheese

1/4 cup feta cheese

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated

4 strips precooked bacon, crumbled

2 tablespoons red peppers, chopped

2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 eggs, fried according to preference

2 green onions, snipped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 2 individual casserole pans with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook pasta in salted water, according to package directions. Drain and set aside. In a medium saucepan, warm the butter over medium-low heat. Add the drained pasta and skim milk. Stir. Add cheddar cheese, American cheese, feta cheese, and parmesan cheese. Stir occasionally until completely melted. Fold in crumbled bacon and chopped red peppers. Divide between the two casserole pans. In a small dish, combine panko seasoned bread crumbs and olive oil. Stir to moisten. Sprinkle over top. Bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fry the eggs, according to preference. Remove the casserole pans from the oven. Place one fried egg on top of each. Garnish with chopped green onions. Serve immediately.

Risotto Tomato Basil

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Risotto Tomato Basil! When the rice cooker is on the fritz, and you’re still craving risotto, try the next best thing. There’s no shame in using a boxed version as a foundation for a meal in-a-bowl. After all, these tried and true products are on the shelf for a reason. Most have perfected the art of imitation to the point where one might ask which is better. True, the homemade version does involve a certain finesse for stirring at a crucial time, exerting more energy than otherwise, but who’s the wiser? In the end, let your stomach be the judge.

RISOTTO TOMATO BASIL

Ingredients:

5.5 ounce box Garlic Primavera Risotto, gluten-free

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

2 1/2 cups water

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated

8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 teaspoon oregano

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, sauté rice in olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add water and contents of seasoning packet. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender. Stir in grated parmesan cheese. Transfer to bowls. Arrange cut tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with crushed oregano. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately.

Brazen Broccoli Bites

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Brazen Broccoli Bites! Do you roast vegetables in your oven? Of course, you do. Who doesn’t? It’s simple, appealing, tasty, and healthy. It also makes the kitchen smell wonderful, like a woodsmoke fire on a pleasant afternoon in autumn. Herbs and spices enhance the flavor. Olive oil makes them sizzle, while giving veggies visibly charred edges. After a few minutes, fresh produce becomes fork-tender and ready-to-serve. But wait, this is only supposed to be a side dish.

BRAZEN BROCCOLI BITES

Ingredients:

3/4 pound broccoli crowns

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons sliced almonds

1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, shaved

Lemon slices, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Wash the broccoli; dry thoroughly. Cut the broccoli florets from the stalks, slicing some lengthwise. In a bowl, whisk together olive oil, minced garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, and kosher salt. Add broccoli; toss to coat. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Arrange in a single layer; avoid crowding. Roast broccoli for 10-12 minutes. Flip and bake 10 minutes longer. Sprinkle almond slices over all. Roast 10 minutes longer until broccoli is evenly caramelized. The almonds will be toasted and golden. Transfer to a platter. Gently toss with lemon juice. Top with shaved parmesan cheese. Garnish with lemon slices. Serve immediately.

Jollof Spaghetti

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Jollof Spaghetti! Just when you thought you’ve heard of everything, along comes another version of spaghetti night that just made your life a little easier. Gone is the method of boiling water to cook the pasta, worrying about how to keep the starch from building up, or the fact that oil makes the sauce slide right off. Sound familiar? Been there, done that. With this technique, the spaghetti cooks slowly in the marinara sauce. No advanced parboiling required. The results are moist, definitely al dente, and paired with the meatballs…out of this world. I see this in your future.

JOLLOF SPAGHETTI

Ingredients:

28-ounce can Roma tomatoes in basil sauce, cut-up

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped

8 ounces spaghetti

1 pound frozen large Italian-style meatballs, precooked and thawed

Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine Roma tomatoes in sauce, oregano, garlic powder, basil, marjoram, olive oil, agave nectar, kosher salt, and red pepper flakes. Mix well. In a microwave-safe dish, combine sweet onion and green peppers. Microwave on High for 2 minutes. Add to marinara sauce. Transfer mixture to a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add spaghetti; stir. Reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes or until spaghetti is cooked. Stir occasionally to separate pasta. In a microwave-safe dish, add the Italian-style meatballs. Cook on High setting, according to package directions. When cooked, add to the spaghetti mixture. Gently stir. Simmer 5 minutes longer to combine flavors, or keep warm until ready-to-serve. Spoon into bowls and garnish with parmesan cheese.

Caesar Cilantro Steak Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Caesar Cilantro Steak Salad! Salads can be a good thing or a sinkhole of weight-gain. If you’ve ever gone through a salad bar, you know exactly what I’m talking about. When thinking of lettuce or greens, begin small, as in “fewer”. Otherwise, in the process of adding ingredients, suddenly what started out as a manageable portion can transform into an enormous bowl-of-plenty. Trust me, I know. Sometimes I get so carried away, my husband has to dump everything into a larger bowl just to toss the salad. And it really doesn’t do me any good to start fresh with the larger bowl because…well, I think you’ve got me figured out. Creature of habit.

CAESAR CILANTRO STEAK SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups lettuce leaves, gently torn

1 Roma tomato, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

6 ounces grilled steak, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 tablespoons Caesar dressing, bottled

2 teaspoons parmesan cheese, grated

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Begin with two salad plates. Divide the lettuce between them. Arrange tomato chunks and chopped green onions over top. Warm the grilled steak in the microwave for 30 seconds on 50% power. Repeat, if necessary. Divide steak between the two salads. Drizzle with Caesar salad dressing. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, oregano, and sea salt. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Vegetarian Bread ‘n Butter Pudding

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Vegetarian Bread ‘n Butter Pudding! If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times. One of the privileges of being part of the blogosphere is benefiting from the vast friendships beyond my little corner of the world. Not only is it a creative outlet for expressing my love of food, it also challenges me to stretch my palate and try new things. Today’s recipe comes from Corrie, a Brit, who thrives on a vegetarian diet. She has a fabulous blog entitled http://corriesrabbitfood.com where food looks so amazing it makes you forget about being a meat-lover. To clear up any confusion, “bread pudding” is more commonly known as a dessert. But “bread and butter pudding” is made by buttering the bread before adding any liquid. Now you see the difference, which is why this makes a fabulous breakfast dish. Are you ready to eat more? Then let’s get started.

VEGETARIAN BREAD ‘N BUTTER PUDDING

Ingredients:

1/2 loaf baguette bread, sliced

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup red onion, sliced

3 gloves garlic, sliced

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

1/3 cup gruyère cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, shredded

3 eggs

1 cup skim milk

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, shredded

Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Butter a 5”x7” baking dish with softened butter. Set aside. Lightly butter both sides of a baguette slice, then place in the baking dish. Repeat until all pieces of baguette are buttered. When placing them in the baking dish, arrange in a zigzag pattern. This leaves room for the spaces to be filled in with ingredients. Next evenly divide the red onion slices and garlic pieces between the bread. Generously sprinkle the entire loaf with shredded parmesan, gruyère, and 2 tablespoons of cheddar cheese, with attention given to lightly packing the cheese in areas where spaces exist. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, skim milk, seasoned salt, basil, marjoram, and oregano. Slowly pour over the pudding, soaking each slice of bread. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven for 25-30, or until set Remove from oven. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs. Serve warm.

Bored With Cheese?

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Bored With Cheese? Anyone who has perused a deli market understands how confusing the cheese categories have become. The choices appear endless. Cheese can be aged for months, hand-rubbed with robust Italian spices, shelf-cured for optimal quality, or made with passion from a local dairy. Who knew? I recently picked up a “cheese flight” of three Wisconsin varieties. I loved the description detailing the best pairing options for fruits, nuts, and beverages. Not only is it a great way to try mild or robust cheeses, it turns a charcuterie board into a win, win for the night.

BORED WITH CHEESE?

Ingredients:

3.5-ounce wedge Tuscan-rubbed fontina cheese

3-ounce wedge parmesan cheese

1.5-ounce edge bleu cheese

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and sliced

1/2 cup walnut halves

Crackers and baguette slices

Instructions:

Arrange cheeses, apple slices, and walnut halves on a cutting board. Serve with crackers, sliced baguette, beer, and wine.

Iceberg Lettuce Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Iceberg Lettuce Salad! Generally speaking, we all become pretty accustomed to grocery prices in our home town. We know, when it comes to produce, we can expect to pay a little more for berries than bananas. Just like the many varieties of leafy greens. Typically, spinach, kale, and romaine are always way more than iceberg lettuce. Right? So recently while visiting Kauai, knowing that a lot of food is imported, I made the decision to make some compromises. I picked up a head of iceberg lettuce listed at $3.99. In the States it’s around $1.49 a head. Okay. When I checked out, the register rung up $6.00. Imagine the sticker shock. Come to find out, the sign actually said iceberg lettuce was $3.99 a pound. Let me tell you, I stretched that head of lettuce over many meals and savored every bite.

ICEBERG LETTUCE SALAD

Ingredients:

3 leaves of lettuce, gently torn

1 Roma tomato, chopped

1 green onion, snipped

2 tablespoons Caesar dressing, prepared

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

1/8 teaspoon oregano

Instructions:

Divide the gently torn lettuce leaves between two salad plates. Arrange chopped tomatoes over lettuce. Using a kitchen shears, snip the green onion pieces over top. Drizzle with salad dressing. Sprinkle on parmesan cheese and oregano. Serve chilled.

Ingenious Bakery Bread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Ingenious Bakery Bread! Some days are just made for shortcuts. The fact is, everyone needs a timesaving tip now and then. For starters, buying frozen bread dinner roll dough takes the guesswork out of measuring ingredients, which is why I keep a bag on hand. The other day I made homemade chicken noodle soup and wanted freshly-baked bread instead of saltine crackers. While the aromatic flavors of the soup were blending in the slow-cooker, the bread was rising to perfection. Together they pulled off a meal like a pro.

INGENIOUS BAKERY BREAD

Ingredients:

8 pieces frozen yeast dinner roll dough

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon dill weed

1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Spray a loaf pan with nonstick oil. Place the 8 frozen rolls into the pan in a single layer with edges touching. Cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Cover entire pan with a tea towel. Place pan in a warm area, free of drafts. Let the dough rise at room temperature until it doubles in size, between 2 and 4 hours. Remove tea towel and plastic wrap. The raised dough will resemble a single loaf. Brush top of dough with olive oil. Sprinkle with dill weed and Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes. Immediately remove from loaf pan and cool on a wire rack. Brush with melted sea salt butter. Serve warm.