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.

Mole Sesame Chicken

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Mole Sesame Chicken! One of my longtime friends introduced me to this dish after spending some time in the Dominican Republic. The unique mole sauce contains chili pepper, aromatic spices, and dark Mexican chocolate making it a savory sauce over turkey or chicken. It creates a fabulous meal when you have leftover meat. Simply add plain or Spanish rice along with soft flour tortillas for the perfect pairings. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds for a nutty finish.

MOLE SESAME CHICKEN

Ingredients:

8.25 ounce jar Doña Maria Mole*

28 ounces chicken broth

1-2 pound rotisserie chicken

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Shred rotisserie chicken, removing skin and bones. Transfer chicken to a large bowl. Empty contents of mole paste into a blender. Add half the chicken broth. Blend until smooth. Add remaining broth. Repeat. Pour mole sauce over chicken. Stir to incorporate. Transfer to a covered casserole dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Sauce will thicken. Serve with sticky rice or Spanish rice. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

*I receive no recompense for recommending Doña Maria Mole, Mexican Condiment.

Fondue Pizza Party

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Fondue Pizza Party! Revitalize the 1970s by throwing a fondue party. Gather up the dipping forks, where everyone chooses their favorite color. Remember, these forks are for spearing and dipping only. Never allow your guests to eat from the sharp pointed ends. Another reason eating from the fondue forks is a no-no is to avoid adding germs to the fondue sauce. So, set the table and let the fun begin!

FONDUE PIZZA PARTY

Ingredients:

1 pound Italian meatballs, pre-cooked and ready-to-serve

8 ounces bite size dry salami or pepperoni slices

1 green pepper, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1 pound cherry tomatoes

8 ounces mozzarella sticks, cut into chunks

28-30 ounce jar pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce

Breadsticks

Bagel chips

Rosemary sprigs

Instructions:

Heat pizza sauce to boiling, then reduce to simmer, stirring constantly. Keep warm. Transfer to a fondue pot when ready to serve. Set on low heat to maintain a constant temperature. Arrange meatballs, pepperoni slices, green pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes, and cheese chunks on one or two serving platters. Include breadsticks, crostini, or bagel chips as another option. Spear dippers with fondue forks or rosemary sprigs. Dip ingredients into the fondue sauce for pizza party magic.

Deveined Shrimp Queso

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Deveined Shrimp Queso! As the nights turn cool, cozy up around the fire with warm appetizers that are sure to please. Save prep time by beginning with precooked shrimp. It takes all the worry out of wondering if the shrimp is cooked through. I find the convenience of having frozen shrimp on hand an advantage. You will, too.

DEVEINED SHRIMP QUESO

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons lemon olive oil

1 pound jumbo shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon seafood seasoning

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup tequila

1/4 cup margarita mix, liquid

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

3/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1/4 cup Romano cheese, shaved

Fresh dill

Tortilla chips

Crostini

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, shrimp, seasoned salt, seafood seasoning, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Cook 5 minutes; turn and cook 2 minutes longer. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover shrimp with tequila and liquid margarita mixture. Add butter. Cook 5 minutes. Transfer shrimp to an ovenproof casserole dish. Arrange in single layer. Mix the cornstarch and water until smooth. Bring pan drippings to a boil. Gradually add cornstarch mixture. Stir constantly as sauce thickens. If necessary, add more water. Pour sauce over shrimp. Cover with Monterey Jack cheese, spreading evenly. Top with shaved Romano cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly. Garnish with fresh dill. Serve warm with tortilla chips or crostini.