X-traordinary Pesto Pepperoni Pita

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: X-traordinary Pesto Pepperoni Pita! When there’s nothing in the house for lunch, take stock of leftovers in your refrigerator. Transform that last pita pocket into a personal pizza with basil pesto, sliced pepperoni, a dollop of tomato sauce, and a handful of mozzarella cheese. That’s what I did. Suddenly, it’s an appealing alternative to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

X-TRAORDINARY PESTO PEPPERONI PITA

Ingredients:

1 pita bread

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons tomato sauce

2 tablespoons basil pesto

3-5 slices pepperoni

1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 tablespoon black olives

1 teaspoon pimento

Instructions:

Spread olive oil evenly over one side of pita bread. Warm pita bread in an iron skillet over medium heat for one minute. Press to flatten. Next build the pizza. Spread with tomato sauce and basil pesto. Layer pepperoni over sauces. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Top with black olives and pimento. Reduce heat to low. Cover skillet to allow cheese to melt. For a crispy crust, remove lid and raise the heat back to medium. Do not burn. Serve whole with salad greens.

Unbelievable Cheesy Pimento Spread

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Appetizers to Desserts: Unbelievable Cheesy Pimiento Spread! If you’re a cheese lover, this is a “must-do” appetizer. It is guaranteed to bring big raves at the next holiday gathering. The smokey-peppery version is sure to test your willpower. Should it just be slathered on crackers or bagel chips? What about apple slices? Or will you take it one step further and build a grilled cheese sandwich on sourdough bread? Whatever you choose, create all sorts of ideas for enhancing this nostalgic Southern favorite.

UNBELIEVABLE CHEESY PIMENTO SPREAD

Ingredients:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons French Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

4-ounce jar of diced pimientos, drained

2 green onions, snipped

8 ounces extra sharp yellow cheddar cheese, finely shredded

10 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, medium shredded

1 teaspoon sriracha hot chili sauce (optional)

Instructions:

In a large bowl, stir together mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, seasoned salt, and pepper. Mix well. Fold in pimientos and onions. Stir in both cheeses until blended. Add sriracha for a kick of heat. Chill one hour or overnight.

Serving Suggestion: Serve as an Appetizer with crackers or assorted vegetables. Also excellent as finger sandwiches.

*For block cheeses, grate one kind with small holes and the other with medium holes on a box grater or using food processor blades.

Xtreme Sloppy Joes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Xtreme Sloppy Joes! Some days you crave a sweet and savory warm sandwich over a lunchbox ham and cheese on wheat. Sure, it can be a little messy, but pile it high anyway and add a mound of shredded cheese. Then watch things melt together.

XTREME SLOPPY JOES

Ingredients:

2 pounds lean ground beef

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1/3 cup green pepper, chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons pimento, diced

1/4 cup vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon mustard

2 cups ketchup

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef, onion, and green pepper seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Cook until meat is in crumbles. Reduce heat. Add diced pimento. Stir in vinegar, lemon juice, brown sugar, mustard, and ketchup. Mix well. Transfer to an ovenproof covered dish and bake in the oven for one hour.

Vegetarian Bruschetta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Vegetarian Bruschetta! There’s something about sharing an appetizer for dinner. It feels sinful and tastes shamefully delicious. The rustic combination of artisan bread, savory veggies, and warm cheese conjure up images of the Italian landscape. Transcend yourself to a country villa in the hills of Tuscany. Lend a little romance to dinner with finger food that melts in your mouth with a slightly salty finish.

VEGETARIAN BRUSCHETTA

Ingredients:

1 baguette, sliced horizontal

1/2 cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

12-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

1 cup mozzarella cheese

2 green onions, snipped

1 tablespoon pimento, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Slice baguette horizontally and place open face on baking sheet. Spread olive oil on top of baguette. Sprinkle with garlic powder, marjoram, salt, and pepper. Drain artichoke hearts, reserving liquid. Cut artichokes into bite size pieces and add back into the liquid. Add mushrooms to liquid. Mix well to coat. Divide artichoke/mushroom mixture between the baguette halves. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and bread is crunchy. Cut into diagonal slices. Garnish with green onion and pimento.

Incredible Ham Potato Casserole

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Incredible Ham Potato Casserole! As the days grow shorter and the night chill sets in, gather around the table for this hearty harvest meal. It can be made ahead and popped in the oven at a moment’s notice. When it comes out with the cheese bubbly and the topping crisp, serve it in the same vessel to keep it hot. By adding smoky Virginia ham chunks and chopped vegetables, this main dish is easy-to-follow and goes a long way. The crunchy topping gives it a nice finish. Plus, leftovers are a bonus!

INCREDIBLE HAM POTATO CASSEROLE

Ingredients:

3 cups ham chunks

1 green pepper, chopped

1 sweet onion, chopped

1 tablespoon pimento, diced

30-32 ounces frozen southern-style hash brown potatoes, thawed

2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup cream of chicken soup, condensed

16 ounces sour cream

1/2 cup butter, melted

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine all ingredients. Mix well and pour into a greased 9″x13″ casserole dish. Add topping.

Topping Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 cups corn flakes

Instructions:

Gently mix corn flakes with butter and spread over top of casserole. Bake in oven for one hour. Serve family-style.

Cornbread Cornucopia

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Cornbread Cornucopia! This is the perfect accompaniment to any bean dish. It’s delicious hot and savory when eaten later warmed up in the microwave.

CORNBREAD CORNUCOPIA

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 cups wheat flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/4 cups milk

1/4 pound smoked sausage link, pre-cooked and diced

1 cup extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

1/4 cup pickled jalapeño peppers, sliced

1 tablespoon pimento, diced

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Sift cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sea salt, and sugar into a mixing bowl. Blend beaten eggs and oil; add milk. Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients stirring until just blended. Fold in meat, cheese, peppers, and pimento. Pour into an 8″x8″ pan that has been sprayed with a non-stick oil. Bake for 30 minutes. Serve warm with butter.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter K

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Kid-Friendly Pizza Toast! If it’s one food item that catches a kid’s attention on the cafeteria menu, it’s pizza. After all, Pizza checks the right boxes in the following food group categories: grain, milk, meat, and vegetable. What I like about this kid-friendly recipe is the fact that adults control the quality of ingredients. Plus, by involving the youngsters you’re feeding, they can feel good about making healthy choices. For instance, substitute plain white bread with crusty artisan varieties. Choose 90% lean meat. Nix the high fructose corn syrup brand of ketchup for the organic one. Try pimentos for natural sweetness. The opportunities are endless.

KID-FRIENDLY PIZZA TOAST

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef sirloin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup tomato ketchup

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped

1/4 cup diced pimentos

6 slices artisan bread

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown ground beef until cooked and crumbled. Drain excess liquid. Reduce heat to low. Add sea salt, ketchup, lemon juice, vinegar, brown sugar, and mustard. Stir well. Add chopped yellow onions, green peppers, and diced pimentos. Mix well. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°. Butter one side of artisan bread. Place buttered side down on a baking sheet. Top with spoonfuls of pizza mixture. Sprinkle on mozzarella cheese. Bake 15 minutes until cheese melts and toast is crunchy. Bada-bing-bada-boom!

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter O

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Organic Red Lentil Pasta Salad! Every once in awhile it’s a good idea to serve up gluten-free meals. This one, in particular, is packed with protein and fiber, plus non-GMO red lentils. You don’t need to have allergic restrictions to appreciate its natural goodness. The texture is firm while providing an amazing taste sensation. Eat it cold or warmed up a bit. You decide. Either way, the health benefits will have you patting yourself on the back for making such a healthy choice. 
ORGANIC RED LENTIL PASTA SALAD
Ingredients:

8 ounces organic red lentil pasta

1 cup broccoli florets

1 cup cauliflower florets 

1/3 cup red onions, sliced

1 tablespoon pimento, diced

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar 

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon dry Italian dressing and seasoning mix

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 

1 tablespoon natural honey 

Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions:

Cook red lentil pasta 8-10 minutes, according to package directions. Water will turn cloudy and foam up, so be sure to use enough water. Remove from heat. Drain, rinse, and set aside. To make dressing, combine garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, Italian seasoning mix, Dijon mustard, and natural honey. Whisk together until nicely blended. Fill a large bowl with pasta, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, red onion slices, diced pimento, and Kalamata olives. Pour dressing over all. Toss gently to coat ingredients. Serve cold. 

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Special Edition: Olive Tapenade 

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! Special Edition: Olive Tapenade! Here’s a nice prelude to an evening meal. Forego the usual focaccia bread and herbed olive oil for a southern France hors d’oeuvre instead. By using an exotic mixture of olives and spices, it creates a versatile condiment for crackers, bread, cheese, and vegetables. Later on, serve it over pasta or fish as another option. Whatever you choose, seek adventure. You won’t be disappointed in the mellow salty garlic flavor lingering long into the night. 
OLIVE TAPENADE 
Ingredients:

1/2 cup green olives with pimentos 

1/2 cup black olives, pitted 

1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted

2 tablespoons capers

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper 
Instructions:

Combine all ingredients. Pulse in a food processor for several minutes. Scrape sides and repeat. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for one hour. Serve with crusty artisan bread or pita chips. Tastes great spread over cream cheese for party flavor.