Island Sweet Potato Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Island Sweet Potato Salad! There is nothing wrong with your smart phone screen. The colors of Hawaiian sweet potatoes range from orange to green to purple. Notice the creamy texture. The slightly sweet taste may remind you more of a piece of fruit than a root vegetable. Sure it’s popular among the Asian markets, and it can be a little drier than its American cousin, but didn’t someone once say, “Variety is the spice of life”? Go ahead, add your version of seasonings. The results will amaze you.

ISLAND SWEET POTATO SALAD

Ingredients:

3 sweet potatoes, Hawaiian assortment, cooked with skin on and cubed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt

3 strips bacon, crumbled

2 green onions, chopped

Instructions:

In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, black pepper, and Himalayan sea salt. Place cubed sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Coat with mayonnaise mixture. Fold in bacon crumbles and green onion. Chill for one hour. Serve.

Hungry Man Potato Skins

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Hungry Man Potato Skins! Shrug off that old myth about ditching potato skins because they’re high in carbohydrates and low in nutrition. My grandma used to say “if you’re gonna eat the skin, you may as well eat a handful of dirt!”. Thank goodness times have changed and we’ve learned that the skin of the potato is loaded with calcium, iron, and fiber. When baking instead of frying, the nutritional value gets kicked up a notch. Now that you’re on a roll, go ahead and add toppings like fresh broccoli, bacon, and cheese. Whaaat? Hear me out. By choosing small russet potatoes, the calories are drastically reduced. One piece of bacon is divided over four skins, just enough for flavor. And reduced-fat cheddar cheese is a good choice, one you’ll barely notice in taste. When it’s all said and done, two potato skins are about 200 calories. Not bad.

HUNGRY MAN POTATO SKINS

Ingredients:

2 small russet potatoes, washed and patted dry

1/2 cup broccoli florets

1 strip thick bacon, precooked

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup panko crumbs

Ranch dressing, for dipping sauce

Green onion, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Pierce each potato for steam to escape during baking. Lightly spray potatoes with nonstick oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Place them directly on the oven rack. Bake until tender, about one hour. Remove potatoes from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Place broccoli florets into a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle with droplets of water, and microwave on High for one minute. Set aside. If you need to cook bacon, place one strip of bacon on a paper towel-lined plate. Cover with another paper towel. Microwave on High for two minutes. Remove and set aside. When cool enough to handle, crumble into small pieces. For potato skins, cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out flesh leaving a shell 1/4” thick. Reserve potato flesh for another use. Brush around the rim of potato shells with olive oil. Place skins upright on a baking sheet. Broil in oven on High for one minute. Remove to fill. In a bowl, combine broccoli florets, cheddar cheese, and bacon crumbles. Divide broccoli mixture evenly between potato shells. In a small pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add panko crumbs, stirring often until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle over loaded potato skins. Return to oven and bake at 400° until cheese is bubbly and topping is crisp, about 15 minutes. Serve with ranch dressing garnished with green onion snips.

Potato Chip Potluck

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food Junkie Favorites: Potato Chip Potluck! This one-dish wonder is so yummy, it can be packed in a picnic basket and taken along on your next adventure. With the double crunch of water chestnuts and potato chips, it almost seems like a party dip. Wrap it in foil and you’re good-to-go. Kids love the salty chips and adults appreciate the herbed chicken chunks.

POTATO CHIP POTLUCK

Ingredients:

3 cups chicken, cooked and cubed

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3 green onions, snipped

8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon celery seeds

2 tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves

Sea salt to taste

Dash of pepper

1 cup extra sharp cheese, sliced or shredded

1-2 tomatoes, sliced

1 cup potato chips, crushed

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine chicken, mayonnaise, onions, water chestnuts, lemon juice, celery seed, tarragon leaves, salt, pepper, and half the cheese. Mix lightly. Spoon into a casserole dish. Layer with sliced tomatoes. Bake for 20 minutes. Top with remaining cheese and potato chips. Bake another 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

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.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter S

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Daily Special: Shish Kabobs! It’s dinner-on-a-stick! Each skewer provides a vibrant color wheel of your favorite edible combinations. Warm or cool, dark or light. All you need to do is assemble a combination that will have your family singing your praises! Grab the apron, fire up the grill, and let the serious eating begin.

SHISH KABOBS

Ingredients:

1-pound smoked sausage, cut up into 8 pieces

2 ears corn, cut into thirds

2 red potatoes, quartered

1 Vidalia onion, cut into wedges

1 green pepper, cut up and seeds removed

1 zucchini, sliced 1/2″ thick with skin on

Seasoned salt to taste

Cracked blacked pepper to taste

Mrs Dash Garlic & Herb seasoning to taste

Instructions:

Wash, cut-up, and prepare meat and vegetables. Thread pieces of smoked sausage, corn, potatoes, onion, green pepper, and zucchini onto metal skewers alternating color for variation and eye-appeal. Repeat until all ingredients are skewered. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Lightly spray each skewer of meat and vegetables with non-stick oil. Sprinkle with seasonings. Grill 5-6 minutes per side. The natural flavors will burst forth with a touch of smokiness. The edges of the sausage will char. Avoid excess charring. Keep turning for even grilling. Watch for slight blistering to indicate when done.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter P

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Positively Popular Poutine! While traveling to Canada recently, I was taken aback by a friendly waitress who recommended a very popular dish on the menu made with crispy French fries, fresh cheese curds, and rich brown gravy. She called it Poutine. Like a deer in the headlights, I was completely frozen at the thought. So I shook my head no, thanked her, and ordered my fries plain. By the end of the meal I was convinced I had missed out on something spectacular. Practically every restaurant listed Poutine as their specialty. Some Poutine platters were loaded with bacon, others chunk lobster, beef brisket, jerk chicken, or sautéed veggies. One place even boasted “Award Winning Poutine” and stayed open til 4:00 a.m. just to meet the late-night cravings of college students. Maybe this dish will catch on, after all. 
POSITIVELY POPULAR POUTINE 
Ingredients:

2 pound bag of frozen extra crispy seasoned crinkle fries

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

2 cups cheddar cheese curds, white and yellow 

1-2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons cornstarch 

1/4 cup cold water

2 cups beef broth 

Fresh parsley to garnish 
Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Arrange frozen French fries in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Season with sea salt and black pepper, to taste. For the gravy, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not scorch. Whisk together cornstarch and cold water until no lumps remain. Add cornstarch mixture to melted butter, stirring constantly. Gradually add beef broth, continuing to stir until all broth is used. Bring gravy to a boil, as you stir. Allow gravy to boil at least one minute to dissolve thickener. Reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally. Divide the crinkle fries among serving bowls. Cover each bowl with cheese curds. Ladle rich brown gravy over each portion. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter O

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Simple Sensations: Over-the-Border Spicy Chicken Ranch Soup! That’s a mouthful, to be sure. I start with my classic potato soup recipe and spice things up a bit. As you can imagine, one thing leads to another and within minutes, you’ve got a meal in a bowl. 
OVER-THE-BORDER SPICY CHICKEN RANCH SOUP
Ingredients:

2 cups water

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut up

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 small onion, chopped

1 packet of dry Ranch seasoning mix

2 cups milk

1 cup pre-cooked grilled chicken strips, cut into cubes

1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables (corn, peas, carrots, and green beans)

4 ounces Velvetta cheese, sliced

Instant potatoes to thicken, if needed

Parmesan cheese, shaved
Instructions:

In a 2-quart pan, add water, potatoes, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, onion, and butter. Bring to boil and cook until tender. Do not drain. Stir in Ranch seasoning mix until blended. Add milk, chicken, vegetables, and cheese. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. To thicken, sprinkle instant potatoes into soup using a tablespoon at a time. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter K

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Kielbasa Sausage Stew! As the outside temperatures continue to rise and fall, there’s comfort in bringing a hearty meal to the dinner table. This is what I call Food for the Soul. Warm up a side of artisan bread from the local bakery, smear on a dab of sweet, creamy butter, and sink your teeth into a heart-warming meal that is sure to please. Rainy days and chilly nights make this an extra-satisfying dish, especially when the sun refuses to shine. 
KIELBASA SAUSAGE STEW
Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 ounces smoked Kielbasa sausage, sliced into circles

1/2 onion, diced

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/8 teaspoon paprika 

1/8 teaspoon black pepper 

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder 

2 cups chicken broth

1 carrot, pealed and diced

2 ribs celery, diced

1 small potato, peeled and cubed

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubes

1 cup kale, chopped

1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and sliced Kielbasa sausage rounds. Brown on both sides. Do not burn. Reduce heat and add diced onion. Sauté together 3 minutes until golden. Add Italian seasoning, paprika, black pepper, seasoned salt, and garlic powder. Stir to combine. Set aside. In a 2-quart pan, combine chicken broth, diced carrots, diced celery potato cubes, and sweet potato cubes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Add contents of skillet. Allow to simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes longer to enhance flavors. Remove from heat. Add kale and chopped parsley. Stir a couple minutes to wilt. Serve immediately. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter B

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Boursin Garlic Bisque! Have you been to a restaurant where the main course is served with a side of garlic smashed potatoes? The texture is incredibly smooth and the flavor is bursting with fresh herbs and garlic. Gourmet Boursin cheese may be their secret ingredient. Its airy-light texture is a marriage between spreadable cream cheese and whipped butterfat. You can find this French icon wrapped in foil in the cheese department of your favorite grocery store. Serve it with crackers, pita chips, or go all out and make this simple potato bisque. 
BOURSIN GARLIC BISQUE 
Ingredients:

2 cups chicken broth 

2 cups Yukon potatoes, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup sweet onions, chopped

3/4 cup light cream

5.3 ounce Garlic Boursin Cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup frozen baby peas, thawed

5 slices crisp bacon, pieces and crumbles

Fresh Garlic Chives

Ground Smoked Almonds
Instructions:

Combine chicken broth and chopped potatoes in a 2-quart pan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender, 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, sauté garlic clove and sweet onions in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add to potato mixture. After potatoes are tender, partially smash the potatoes to thicken, leaving some potato chunks for texture. Add light cream and Boursin cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Add baby peas and bacon pieces. Simmer 15 minutes. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with bacon crumbles, garlic chives, and smoked almonds.