Vichyssoise Cold Creamier Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Vichyssoise Cold Creamier Soup! Just hearing the word “soup” during the summer months can make someone rolls their eyes enough to make people pay no attention to what is being said. But hear me out. Let me remind you that the silky consistency of melted ice cream actually brings out the flavor more than its frozen counterpart. Right? Well, “vichyssoise” is a French word for velvety smooth potato and leek soup, usually served chilled. When eaten slightly cold, the sheer creaminess is truly divine. Leeks are mild fancy onions, so if you prefer to use yellow sweet onions, permission granted. Personally, for this recipe, I went all out and used both. I also chose Yukon potatoes for their sweet flavor and moist flesh making them fluffy in texture. Make sense? Obviously you can make modifications to suit your palate. Be creative and send me your thoughts.

VICHYSSOISE COLD CREAMIER SOUP

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 sweet onion, chopped

3 leeks, thoroughly rinsed and sliced; green and white parts only

2 Yukon potatoes, peeled and diced

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

14 ounces chicken broth

1/2 cup light cream

Fresh chives, for garnish

Instructions:

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm olive oil and butter over medium heat. Sauté the yellow onion for 2 minutes until translucent. Add the leeks and sauté 5 minutes longer until soft. Add the diced potatoes and sauté for 2-3 minutes longer. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to Simmer for 30 minutes until potatoes are tender. Carefully transfer small batches of soup to a blender. Purée until smooth. Repeat process until no lumps remain. Pour the smooth texture back into the saucepan. Heat to medium. Add light cream and stir. Soup will thicken within 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool to room temperature and then chill for one hour before serving. Pour into bowls and garnish with chopped chives. Serve.

Leeks and Ham Gnocchi

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Leeks and Ham Gnocchi! Leeks are nothing more than giant green onions. They add a mild onion-like taste to any dish and seem to be more flavorful when cooked. By combining them with gnocchi and ham, the leeks turn these little dumplings into a gourmet Mac ‘n Cheese alternative that is pleasing to the palate. The biggest challenge lies in preparing leeks for eating. After all, like an onion or shallot, they have a small bulb and a long stalk of green tightly-wrapped leaves. First I trimmed the tops and cut off the roots. Then I found that when filling the sink with water and submerging them, what little dirt that collected near the leaves fell to the bottom. Once rinsed, they were easy to slice and fun to separate the rings. Use what you need and freeze the rest for soups, casseroles, or other dishes later on. Isn’t it fun to try new things?

LEEKS AND HAM GNOCCHI

Ingredients:

1 leek, sliced into rings

1 cup chopped ham

1 16-ounce package gnocchi

8 ounces Havarti cheese, shredded

1 1/4 cups light cream

3 tablespoons flour

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 slices Hawaiian bread, torn

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Fresh chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to. 350°. Grease lightly 3 individual casserole dishes. In a medium bowl, combine ham, gnocchi, and Havarti cheese. Divide evenly between casseroles. Whisk together light cream, flour, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and black pepper until smooth and flour is dissolved. Pour over gnocchi, dividing equally. In a bowl, place bread and leeks. Pour melted butter over all to coat. Gently toss. Sprinkle over gnocchi casseroles. Bake 35 minutes until golden and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh chives. Serve warm.

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.