Kielbasa Grilled Romaine

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Kielbasa Grilled Romaine! When the sun comes out and the wind dies down, it’s not unusual to see Northerners uncover the gas grill for a momentary glimpse of Summer. Everyone needs a reprieve from the winter doldrums, right? Nothing works better than a protein-rich complex carbohydrate meal, in my opinion. And grilled foods definitely lift the mood like a breath of fresh air. Sound painless? It pretty much is. Even the birds are chirping louder than usual.

KIELBASA GRILLED ROMAINE

Ingredients:

1 pound kielbasa sausage link

2 romaine hearts

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

4 ounces parmesan cheese, crumbled

Instructions:

Remove kielbasa sausage link from package. Rinse and pat dry. Transfer to a platter. Rinse romaine lettuce hearts. Pat dry. Trim the end stalks, leaving enough to keep the bunches intact. Transfer to a platter. In a small dish, combine olive oil, seasoned salt, garlic and herb seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Using a silicone brush, coat the leaves of the romaine hearts, inside and out with the olive mixture. Halve the cherry tomatoes; place in a serving bowl. Preheat the outdoor grill on High setting. Using tongs, transfer the seasoned romaine lettuce hearts directly to the grill. Repeat with kielbasa sausage link. Grill for 3 minutes. Flip the romaine lettuce and grill 2 minutes longer. Rotate the kielbasa sausage for even browning. Remove all to clean platters. To serve, place charred romaine lettuce hearts on a dinner plate. Divide the kielbasa sausage between plates. Add cherry tomato halves. Top with crumbled parmesan cheese. Drizzle with remaining olive oil mixture. Serve immediately.

Half-Baked Skillet Pizza Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Half-Baked Skillet Pizza Dip! Who likes bread dough? I do, I do. Who keeps a bag of frozen bread dough rolls in their freezer? Me, too. Whether you’re making this amazing pizza dip as an afternoon snack, midday appetizer, or late-night dinner, you will impress yourself with the chewy bread dough base. That is, until the mouthwatering moment you feast your eyes on the gooey strands of pizza cheese. Melted mozzarella cheese pulls can stretch from the iron skillet to your mouth like a tightrope stretched across Niagara Falls. Either snap it off in one bite or twirl it around your index finger for satisfying nibbling. Did I fail to mention the layers of deliciousness? Read on to see what I mean.

HALF-BAKED SKILLET PIZZA DIP

Ingredients for Crust:

12 frozen dinner roll dough balls

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

Ingredients for Dip:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon zesty Italian salad dressing mix

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup provolone cheese, shredded

2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup prepared pizza sauce

5 slices deli-style hard salami, cut into triangles (or mini pepperoni slices)

Fresh Parsley, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray an iron skillet with nonstick oil. Remove frozen bread dough rolls from the freezer. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, garlic powder, black pepper, sea salt, red pepper flakes, and parsley flakes. Mix well. Coat each frozen bread dough roll with butter mixture and arrange around the outside edge of the iron skillet. Cover pan with a tea towel, place in a warm area, and allow the dough to rise for 20 minutes for a half-baked doughy crust. Meanwhile, to prepare dip filling, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, Italian seasoning, and grated parmesan cheese. Mix well. Fold in shredded provolone cheese and 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese. Spoon half the filling into the center of the iron skillet. Add a layer of pizza sauce. Spoon the remaining cheese filling on top. Sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella cheese over all. Arrange with salami or pepperoni slices. Place the iron skillet in the preheated oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and pizza dip is bubbly. Remove from oven. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve warm.

Yarrow Bowtie Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Yarrow Bowtie Pasta! Every time I passed by my front porch, I got a pleasant whiff of licorice. It seemed to come and go, but I couldn’t figure out which plant produced it. Imagine my delight when I discovered the previous owners had planted the decorative flowering herb, Yarrow. I pinched off a fern-like leaf, rubbed it between my fingers, and bingo, that was the familiar scent. When it comes to cooking, a little yarrow goes a long way. Because the leaves are feathery and soft, high heat will destroy the flavor. It is very important to wait until the dish is prepared before utilizing the essence of yarrow. The taste is so distinct, it must be used sparingly.

YARROW BOWTIE PASTA

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon yarrow leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 ounce dried bowtie pasta

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon truffle oil

2 tablespoons garlic, chopped

2 anchovy fillets in oil, rinsed and chopped

2 tablespoons dry white wine

Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine yarrow leaves and red pepper flakes. Mince together. Set aside. Cook bowtie pasta in salt water, according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, warm olive oil and truffle in a skillet on low heat. Add chopped garlic and anchovies; cook until fragrant and lightly browned. Do not burn. Remove pan from heat; swirl to cool. Add dry white wine to pan. When pasta is done, drain well. Add pasta to skillet. Toss to coat, cooking on low heat for one minute. Remove from heat; add yarrow mixture. Toss to incorporate. Transfer pasta to individual serving bowls. Garnish with fresh parmesan cheese. Serve with a tossed garden salad.

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.