Instant Mac ‘n Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Instant Mac ‘n Cheese! Face it. Every once in awhile the craving hits us to settle into a comfy chair with a warm bowl of Mac ‘n Cheese. Most pantries have all the ingredients you need to make it at home in a flash. Pasta, butter, milk, cheese, and seasonings. If you don’t have elbow macaroni, substitute ziti. If you’re low on cheddar cheese, use a couple slices of Velveeta instead. It’s all good. Sprinkle the gooey Mac ‘n Cheese with Cajun seasoning for extra zest. Oh, yeah!

INSTANT MAC ‘N CHEESE

Ingredients:

4 ounces pasta

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup milk

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Dash of Cajun seasoning

Instructions:

Cook pasta according to package directions. In medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add flour and sea salt. Stir until smooth. Raise heat to medium. Slowly add milk, stirring occasionally. Cook until bubbly. Add cheese and stir well until melted. Drain pasta. Blend with cheese sauce stirring to coat. Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning.

Vermicelli Pasta Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Vermicelli Pasta Salad! A little advance planning goes a long way whether you choose to make this a side dish or a main course. Plus, you get bonus points if it becomes your Midweek Meatless Meal. It’s easy, it’s versatile, and it’s made with fiber-filled veggies for extra crunch and flavor. Substitute ingredients to match your family’s personal cravings. On the go? Pack it in single serving jars for fuss-free options.

VERMICELLI PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

1 pound vermicelli

1 1/2 tablespoons Accent seasoning

2 tablespoons seasoned salt

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup green pepper, chopped

3/4 cup onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups broccoli/carrot/red cabbage slaw

1 cup black olives, sliced

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 cup mayonnaise

Instructions:

Cook vermicelli as directed on package. Rinse in cold water. Drain. Place in large bowl. Make a marinade of Accent seasoning, seasoned salt, lemon juice, and vegetable oil. Pour over vermicelli; mix well. Cover and marinate for two days, stirring once or twice. Add green pepper, onion, cut-up broccoli/carrot/cabbage slaw, black olives, poppy seeds, and mayonnaise. Mix well. Marinate overnight. Serve chilled.

Solunto Restaurant & Bakery in San Diego, California

Dining Outside the Home: Solunto Restaurant & Bakery in San Diego, California. You may as well throw any semblance of willpower out the window when you cross the threshold into Solunto’s Ristorante in the heart of Little Italy. Especially if you’re hungry. Close your eyes for a moment. Inhale. The aromas alone of handcrafted breads, decadent pastries, napoletana pizzas, flavorful gelatos, and artisan coffees can mean only one thing. You’re going to be here awhile. But that’s okay. Solunto is all about family and friends socializing over a meal. Savor every bite; just leave room for more. The crisp Italian dessert shells, known as Cannolis, are filled with sweet, creamy filling. But don’t take my word for it. The pastry case is a feast for the eyes. Try one of everything. Solunto’s Bakery has “to-go” boxes.

La Spezia Restaurant and Wine Bar in Koloa, Kauai

Dining Outside the Home: La Spezia Restaurant and Wine Bar in Koloa, Kauai. An Old World Italian dinner is as priceless as the family recipes that brave the test of time. At La Spezia, the customer becomes the guest of honor with classics “like Grandma used to make” that include house-made pastas, rich creamy sauces, and seafood specialties. They also understand the importance of island heritage to include local land and sea favorites. Put down the cell phone, sit back, and sip on a citrus Aperol Spritz. Taste the Prosecco? Now that’s refreshing. Nibble on focaccia bread and linger over conversation. This is a long-established Italian tradition and one you won’t want to miss.

Lively Calypso Mac ‘n Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Lively Calypso Mac ‘n Cheese! When I needed a quick side dish to serve with the Xtreme Sloppy Joes, I turned to my pantry for a flavorful inspiration from Pappardelle’s*. The multicolored shapes alone are conversation starters. Picture this: Lime gnocchi shells, mango-peach sea shells, and red southwestern chile lumache. The natural flavors explode when cooked and mixed with cheese, butter, and milk. It’s macaroni and cheese with a Caribbean twist. Well done!

LIVELY CALYPSO MAC ‘N CHEESE

Ingredients:

8 ounces Pappardelle’s Calypso Blend pasta

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup butter

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup milk

Crushed croutons for garnish

Instructions:

Bring a 2-quart pan of salted water to a rolling boil on high heat. Add 8 ounces of Pappardelle’s Calypso Blend pasta. Stir for the first 15 seconds. As the water returns to a slow simmer, reduce heat to medium and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Drain pasta. Melt butter in pan on low heat. Add cheddar cheese and milk. Stir to blend until cheese is melted. Return pasta to pan and stir to coat evenly. Do not burn. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with crushed croutons.

*I receive no recompense for promoting this product.

Angel Hair Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Angel Hair Pasta Partners! When you’re short on time and need things at your fingertips, turn to this quick weeknight dinner option. You’ll appreciate the convenience without sacrificing flavor. The texture is pleasing and the presentation is reward enough. Make this and you’ll be able to put your feet up and enjoy the evening.

ANGEL HAIR PASTA

Ingredients:

6 ounces angel hair pasta, uncooked

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

4-6 Roma tomatoes, quartered

1 green pepper, cut up chunks

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

16 Italian-style meatballs, fully cooked

Parmesan cheese for garnish

Instructions:

Cook and drain pasta per package directions. As pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and green peppers. Cook 2 minutes until tender; remove from heat. Stir in Roma tomatoes and meatballs. Return to low heat and warm through. Add drained pasta and gently toss with basil, marjoram, salt, and pepper. Serve pasta meal sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Add a side of crusty garlic toast.

Manicotti Pasta Bowl

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Manicotti Pasta Bowl! Comfort food. We all have our favorites. Some include melted cheese, rich chocolate, home made soups, or peanut butter sandwiches. And then there’s pasta; guardian of the energy boost. Not only is pasta a healthy option, it satisfies by keeping hunger pangs at bay. Being affordable, versatile, and nutritious make it even more enjoyable. And a little pasta goes a long way. We all know that. Sure, pasta is a carb…but in a good way. It partners well with low fat protein and veggies. Go, Team Pasta!

MANICOTTI PASTA BOWL

Ingredients:

6 manicotti shells

3/4 pound lean ground beef

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

3 cups prepared spaghetti sauce, chunky

1 ounce cream cheese, softened

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh basil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook manicotti shells according to package directions. Drain shells; rinse in cold water. Set aside. In a large skillet, brown ground beef until cooked and crumbled. Remove from heat. Drain liquid. Add sea salt, oregano, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder. Pour prepared spaghetti sauce over meat. Mix well. Spoon 1/3 of meat mixture into the bottom of two single-serving casserole dishes. Add softened creamed cheese and mozzarella cheese to the remaining meat mixture. Stuff each shell with filling. Arrange three filled manicotti shells in a row over sauce. Repeat in second casserole dish. Spread remaining filling over the tops of the stuffed shells. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 minutes longer until cheese is melted. Remove from oven; serve in casserole dish. Garnish with fresh basil.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter A

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Alphabet Soup! Remember when you were a kid and your mom placed a steaming bowl of alphabet soup in front of you? The first thing I did was grab the spoon and search for the letters in my name. My mother, in her wisdom, would say, “Begin by eating the letters you know don’t count.” Not only was it a lesson in letter recognition, but I ultimately ended up finishing my soup before it got cold. Smart lady. How do you eat Alphabet Soup?

ALPHABET SOUP

Ingredients:

8 cups chicken broth

1 pound boneless chicken tenders

1 cup yellow onion, chopped

1 cup mixed vegetables, frozen

3/4 cup celery, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 cup dried parsley

3 bay leaves

1/4 cup butter

1 cup alphabet pasta

Instructions:

In a slow cooker, combine chicken broth, boneless chicken tenders, yellow onion, mixed vegetables, celery, seasoned salt, black pepper, dried thyme, dried parsley, and bay leaves. Cook on high for 4 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Return it back to the slow cooker. Add alphabet pasta and butter. Gently stir to combine. Cook 30 minutes longer. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter N

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Daily Special: Noodle Rigatoni! When time is of the essence, and you need a fulfilling meal, this dish can be made in minutes. While the wine is slightly chilling, and you wish to keep the kitchen cool, everything works together between stovetop and microwave. Your tastebuds will be satisfied without salad or bread as well since this meal-in-a-bowl hits the spot.

NOODLE RIGATONI

Ingredients:

1 pound Italian sausage, ground

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon fennel

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1 8-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, cut-up

2 cups of Italian Roma tomatoes in sauce, cut-up

1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

16 ounces rigatoni noodles

Instructions:

In a large skillet, brown Italian sausage until crumbled and cooked through. Drain and add garlic powder, pepper, salt, fennel, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, and marjoram. Keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally. Warm separately the cut up tomatoes and the marinated artichoke hearts. Keep warm. Meanwhile, bring a 4-quart pan of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until tender; about 10 minutes. Stir often. It should be firm. Drain pasta. Place portions of rigatoni in individual serving bowls. Spoon tomatoes in sauce over noodles. Arrange artichoke hearts around edges. Lastly add crumbled Italian sausage over top. Garnish with feta cheese.