Vegetable Enriched Pasta Meatballs

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Vegetable Enriched Pasta Meatballs! For a clever way to increase vegetables into your diet, think pasta. The next trip you make to the grocery store could reveal the variety of homemade pasta noodles made with puréed tomatoes, carrots, spinach, and zucchini. Many are cholesterol-free and all-natural, if that sort of thing is important to you. Read the labels carefully. The last thing you want is food coloring instead of the real deal. Chop up fresh onions, green peppers, and garlic, as you normally would. By the time you add marinara sauce and meatballs, I guarantee you the family will be asking for seconds.

VEGETABLE ENRICHED PASTA MEATBALLS

Ingredients:

14 ounces vegetable mix homemade noodles

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

24-ounce jar pasta sauce, prepared

26-ounce bag frozen Italian-style meatballs, thawed

Instructions:

Bring 3-4 quarts of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the bag of vegetable in homemade noodles. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until tender. Rinse and drain. Set aside. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions, green peppers, and minced garlic. Sauté until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add prepared pasta sauce and Italian-style meatballs. Reduce heat and cover. Cook until heated thoroughly, 15-20 minutes. Add drained vegetable pasta. Toss to coat. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Umami Bomb Chorizo Grits

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Umami Bomb Chorizo Grits! Say whaaat? Somebody needs to tell me what that word means. Umami. Evidently it is the taste bud beyond the famous four: sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Oh yeah, taste buds we’ve been familiar with since we first began to put food in our mouths. This “umami” envelopes earthy, meaty, and savory. Examples of foods that reflect this are soy sauce, tomatoes, cheeses, anchovies, and cured pork products. Chorizo falls into the latter category, you probably concluded. Sooo, are we good?

UMAMI BOMB CHORIZO GRITS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup grits, uncooked

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2 chorizo sausage links, casing removed

1 tablespoon red pepper, diced

1 tablespoon green pepper, diced

1 tablespoon red onion, sliced

1 tablespoon frozen corn, thawed

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, crumbled

1 hard-boiled egg

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Prepare grits according to package directions. Stir in cheddar cheese. Set aside. Remove the casing of the chorizo. Spray a skillet with nonstick oil. Add chorizo. Sauté over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. Crumble the meat with a fork as it cooks. Add red pepper, green pepper, red onion, and corn. Continue cooking until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. To serve, transfer cheesy grits to a shallow dish. Add chorizo and sautéed vegetables. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve with a hard-boiled egg. Garnish with cayenne pepper, to taste.

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.

Zippy Olive Pesto

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Zippy Olive Pesto! Your last visit to the doctor may have been one where you received a good report, yet were advised to lean more toward a Mediterranean diet. What does that mean exactly, you wonder. In layman’s terms it simply suggests making a couple of substitutions in food choices to maintain a healthy weight, prevent heart disease, live longer, and travel often. “The healthy fats in olives are extracted to produce olive oil, one of the key components of the incredibly healthy Mediterranean diet”, according to Healthline, a provider of health information.* For many this may not be the advice you wish to hear, but for an olive-lover, like me, it is the Best.News.Ever.

ZIPPY OLIVE PESTO

Ingredients:

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 bunch parsley, leaves only

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

5 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup organic green olives, chopped

3 tablespoons water (optional)

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions:

In a skillet over medium-high heat, toast pine nuts turning occasionally until slightly golden, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a food processor, combine parsley leaves, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until almost smooth. Add toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Pulse slightly. With the machine running on low, drizzle in the olive oil until combined. Transfer pesto to a bowl. Fold in the chopped green olives. Add water, if needed. Season with kosher salt. Serve over toasted bread.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this website.

French Fried Onion ‘n Pork Flatbread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: French Fried Onion and Pork Flatbread! Don’t wait all year to sink your teeth into those crispy onion toppers sprinkled over holiday green bean casserole. Be creative. The onion crunch can be added to soups, salads, burgers, and pizza, too. Simply use your imagination and I guarantee you can talk yourself into something delicious. Barbecue pork, with its sweet and tangy sauce, had me longing for a side order of onion rings. Social distancing and restrictions meant that wasn’t going to happen. So, I opened the pantry door and there on the shelf was a can of the next best thing. French Fried Onions saved the day. Set your wheels in motion, then fork it over.

FRENCH FRIED ONION ‘N PORK FLATBREAD

Ingredients:

1 prepared flatbread

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/3 cup sweet and tangy barbecue sauce, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish

1 cup seasoned pork, cooked and shredded

2 tablespoons green pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons red pepper, chopped

2 tablespoons yellow onion, chopped

1 cup mozzarella cheese, finely shredded

1/2 cup French fried onions

1 tablespoon ranch dressing, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush bottom of flatbread with olive oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal and garlic powder. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread the barbecue sauce over the flatbread. Layer the shredded pork on top. Add the green pepper, red pepper, and yellow onion. Top flatbread with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 8 minutes, then top with French fried onions. Bake 2-3 minutes longer. Remove from oven, slice accordingly, then drizzle reserve barbecue sauce and ranch dressing over all. Serve immediately.

Okinawan Sweet Potato Medley

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Okinawan Sweet Potato Medley! Way back when I was in middle school, my home economics teacher actually graded us on how colorful the foods looked on the plate. Her thoughts were “If it tempts your eyes, your stomach will want it.” I never forgot that message. She was pretty adamant about food presentation. So having mashed potatoes, rolls, and cauliflower was kind of a no-no when meal planning. That’s one of the reasons I was intrigued by Okinawan sweet potatoes when visiting Kauai. They are buff-skinned on the outside with a violet-purple flesh inside. It’s not as sweet as the orange variety I’m accustomed to, but nonetheless, it’s pretty tasty. And as you can see, it passes the color test.

OKINAWAN SWEET POTATO MEDLEY

Ingredients:

1 large Okinawan sweet potato, skin on, washed and sliced

1 medium sweet onion, sliced

2 each of mini sweet peppers in red, yellow, and orange; stems and seeds removed, cut in wedges

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

4 tablespoons butter

Instructions:

Spray a sheet of heavy aluminum foil with nonstick oil. Arrange Okinawan sweet potatoes on foil. Add sweet onion slices and mini sweet pepper wedges. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, oregano, and cinnamon. Dot with pats of butter. Place another sheet of heavy aluminum foil over top of vegetables. Fold sides twice to seal. Fold ends twice to seal. Avoid puncturing foil. Place packet on a 425° preheated grill. Close lid. Cook 25 minutes, or until vegetables are fork tender. Remove from grill. Carefully open one corner of foil packet to release steam. Then remove top layer of foil. Transfer sweet potatoes and vegetables in the herbed butter to a platter. Serve immediately.

Fajita Tortilla Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Fajita Tortilla Soup! Last summer when my garden was at its peak, I spent what felt like hours preparing veggies for the freezer. Among them were poblano, bell, and jalapeño peppers. Poblanos were cut into strips, bell peppers were chopped, and jalapeño peppers were sliced. It turns out, they are ideal for using in stir fry, cooked, or baked recipes. By storing the peppers in ziplock bags, I can take out what I need and reseal the rest for later. I also roasted a turkey and froze the surplus in manageable portions, which kept us from getting tired of eating it several days in a row. Now I get to reap the rewards.

FAJITA TORTILLA SOUP

Ingredients:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 poblano peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into strips

1 green bell pepper, chopped with stem and seeds removed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

32 ounces chicken broth

2 Roma tomatoes, diced

2 cups shredded turkey, precooked

14-ounce can black beans, drained

14-ounce can refried beans (optional)

2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Tortilla chips

Jalapeño peppers, sliced

Instructions:

In a deep large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Sauté yellow onion slices, poblano pepper slices, green peppers, and minced garlic. After five minutes, sprinkle oregano and red pepper flakes over all. Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, shredded turkey, and black beans. Stir well to combine ingredients. Lower heat, cover, and simmer soup for 20 minutes. For a thicker consistency, gradually stir in refried beans. You may not need an entire can. If the soup becomes too thick, add a little water. Continue warming soup until heated through. Top with Monterey Jack shredded cheese. Place the lid over the pan to melt the cheese. Spoon into bowls. Serve immediately with tortilla chips and sliced jalapeño peppers.

BBQ Pork Nachos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: BBQ Pork Nachos! Mealtime can be hectic for this reason or that. I admit, some days I am not in the mood for a lavish meal. Perhaps you feel the same way and need a shortcut now and then. That’s when I go to the freezer to pull out fully cooked products, like smoked barbecue pork. When buying, always check the ingredient list for additives. From my experience, it’s the sauce that makes the dish.

BBQ PORK NACHOS

Ingredients:

11-ounce bag tortilla corn chips

1 pound container bbq pork, fully cooked

1/2 cup Queso cheese dip, store-bought

1 tomato, chopped

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

6 sprigs cilantro, leaves removed

1 bottle Heinz Hawaii sweet and fruity bbq sauce, to taste*

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Places tortilla chips in a single layer on the baking sheet. Randomly drop bbq pork onto chips using a fork. Next spoon prepared queso dip around the pork. It will melt as it bakes. Scatter chopped tomatoes over all. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, to taste. Bake nachos for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Drizzle barbecue sauce over top. Serve immediately.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Something to Savor: Vietnamese Dipping Sauce! Like any good dish, the sauce can make or break it. Some like it sweet and mild, others prefer hot and tangy. As you pull everything together, don’t be shy about taking a taste test. If you prefer less sweetness, adjust accordingly. Do the same to crank up the heat a notch or two. I took the advice from a friend of mine who puts this sauce on everything from spring rolls to noodles to salads to fish. It’s amazing!

VIETNAMESE DIPPING SAUCE

Ingredients:

1 cup water

1 cup rice vinegar

1 cup fish sauce

2 cups sugar

10 red chili peppers, chopped fine

1 clove garlic, crushed

Instructions:

Combine water, rice vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, chili peppers, and garlic in a pan over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.