Crockpot Mac ‘n Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Crockpot Mac ‘n Cheese! I find this is seriously the best way to make macaroni and cheese for a crowd without all the fuss. It is so kid-friendly, in fact, you may discover you have an extra pair of helping hands without even asking. When using a slow cooker, the pasta softens as the sauce thickens into a hot, creamy, extra-cheesy youthful delight. Top it off with crushed potato chips for a heart-warming side dish.

CROCKPOT MAC ‘N CHEESE

Ingredients:

1 pound cellentani pasta, also known as cavatappi, uncooked

4 tablespoons butter, cut into tablespoon pieces

4 ounces cream cheese, cut into cubes

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded

1 cup potato chips, crushed

Instructions:

Spray the crockpot with nonstick oil. Pour the uncooked pasta into the bottom of the slow cooker. Layer the butter and cream cheese chunks over the pasta. In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper, milk, and cream. Mix well. Pour over pasta. Stir to blend. Spread pasta into an even layer, being sure to coat everything in sauce. Cover and cook on LOW for 1-2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Be sure to spread macaroni into one layer after stirring to keep pasta coated with sauce. When pasta is done, sprinkle shredded cheddar and pepper jack over all. Stir to combine. Replace cover and cook 10 minutes until cheese is creamy and melted. Sprinkle with crushed potato chips before serving.

Bacon Bit Sweet Potato Bisque

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Bacon Bit Sweet Potato Bisque! My pantry is sometimes filled with good intentions. I envision a nutritious meal and then get sidelined by other ingredients, especially in the Produce Department of the local grocery. I mean, just look at the bin overflowing with organic sweet potatoes. Medium-sized, smooth skin, pretty color, and screaming “Pick me. I’m healthy.” Soon after I get home, I store them out of sight in a cool, dark area only to discover them three weeks later. Thank goodness, sweet potatoes are very forgiving. Their shelf life is easily 5 weeks. If you ever wondered how to tell if it’s time to toss them out, press the skin. If it’s soft, discolored, or has an unpleasant odor, throw them out and promise yourself you’ll do better next time.

BACON BIT SWEET POTATO BISQUE

Ingredients:

2 large sweet potatoes, cut in half

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup yellow onion, diced

1/4 cup celery, diced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Green onion snips, for garnish

Bacon bits, for garnish

Dollop Greek yogurt, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush olive oil over the skins of the sweet potatoes. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Scoop the sweet potatoes into a bowl and thoroughly mash. Discard peels. Warm butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not scorch. Add diced onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with garlic powder, oregano, ground ginger, cumin powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute longer. Add chicken broth; reduce heat to simmer. Transfer sweet potatoes to a food processor and Pulse until consistency is smooth. Whisk sweet potatoes into broth until heated through. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with green onion snips, bacon bits, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Tzatziki Ranch Chip Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Tzatziki Ranch Chip Dip! When you shop the produce department of the grocery store, pay close attention to the different kinds of cucumbers. The fancy ones, wrapped in plastic wrap, are known as English cucumbers. There’s a reason for their madness. The skin is extremely thin and tender. The plastic wrap actually serves a purpose of protection against bruising, punctures, and dehydration. Hmmm. The seeds are much smaller, too. Because the skin is thinner and tender, there is no need to peel the tubular vegetable before proceeding with the recipe. I think you’ll be impressed. The English cucumber is less bitter, making it almost sweet and wonderful for transforming into a fabulous party dip. Be kind to others. No double-dipping.

TZATZIKI RANCH CHIP DIP

Ingredients:

1 English cucumber, seeded, coarsely grated, and squeezed dry

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 envelope ranch seasoning mix

1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons light cream

2 tablespoons olive oil

Fresh dill, for garnish

Instructions:

In a bowl, combine grated cucumber, kosher salt, mayonnaise, ranch seasoning mix, Greek yogurt, and light cream. Stir well. Cover and chill one hour, or until ready to serve. Before serving, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill. Serve with crinkle-cut potato chips.

Sour Cream ‘n Onion Deviled Eggs

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Sour Cream ‘n Onion Deviled Eggs! Every once in awhile I crave something a little bit salty. To satisfy that urge, I whip up a batch of egg salad to scoop with potato chips or crackers. It’s pretty tasty, too. But what happens if all you have on hand are the crumbs at the bottom of the potato chip bag, hmmm? I’ve got an idea. Go one step further and make deviled eggs. By adding crumbled onion straws to the filling, it adds zing. Then sprinkle the potato chip crumbs on top for a salty finish. It works.

SOUR CREAM ‘N ONION DEVILED EGGS

Ingredients:

6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

2 tablespoons ranch salad dressing

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1 tablespoon sour cream

2 tablespoons onion straw pieces

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

2 tablespoons sour cream and onion potato chips, crushed

Fresh chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Slice eggs in half horizontally and carefully transfer yolks to a bowl. Place the empty whites on a platter. Mix ranch salad dressing, mayonnaise, and sour cream with the egg yolks. Stir until smooth. Fold in onion straw pieces and chopped chives. Fill the egg whites. Garnish with crushed sour cream and onion potato chips sprinkled with fresh chives.

April’s Potato Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: April’s Potato Salad! For years whenever I made a six-hour road trip to visit my best friend, April, I would request her famous potato salad. Upon arrival, between hugs and laughter, we’d eventually meander to the front porch with a couple of ham sandwiches and a plate of homemade potato salad. As we’d sit there gazing out over cornfields at sunset, I’d inhale the intoxicating scent of juicy sweet corn, the pleasant odor of dewy stalks, humid green earth, and maybe even a touch of honey from waning wildflowers. I probably said the same thing over and over every year, “Life doesn’t get any better than this.”

APRIL’S POTATO SALAD

Ingredients:

7 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

5 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup celery, chopped

1/2 cup onion, chopped

Instructions:

Boil potatoes in salted water for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Set aside. Combine mayonnaise, vinegar, yellow mustard, sea salt, and black pepper. Mix well. In a large bowl, add cooked potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, chopped celery, and chopped onions. Toss to combine. Pour mayonnaise mixture over all. Coat well. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Yellow Cheddar Potato Rounds

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Yellow Cheddar Potato Rounds! Who likes potatoes? I do, I do. Buy a bag of potatoes and you’ll never go hungry, I always say. The versatile potato is a chef’s marvel. It can be baked, fried, mashed, hashed, creamed into soups, stirred into casseroles, and even eaten raw. Add a sharper-flavored cheese and you can reach a perfect combination that will make a strong soul swoon. This is why we cook at home, we remind ourselves. It’s simply rich and made fresh. Enjoy, my peeps.

YELLOW CHEDDAR POTATO ROUNDS

Ingredients:

1/2 pound russet potatoes, skin on, washed, and sliced 1/2” thick

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon rosemary leaves

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2 slices cooked bacon, crumbled

3 chives, snipped

Rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss sliced potatoes with melted butter. Coat well. Arrange buttered potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with garlic and herb seasoning, sea salt, and rosemary leaves. Bake potatoes 20 minutes; flip and bake 10 minutes longer. Top potato rounds with shredded cheddar cheese and crumbled bacon. Bake 5 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly. Garnish with fresh chives and rosemary sprigs.

Unforgettable Wild Ramp Bacon Chowder

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Unforgettable Wild Ramp Bacon Chowder! For American hunter-gatherers, as well as European foragers of gourmet plants, wild ramps are as coveted as the elusive morel mushrooms. Since the leafy garlic bulbs are popular with curiosity seekers, in addition to critters of the woods, the quest for a fragrant “bouquet” becomes a challenge between man and beast. Who will get there first to reap the wild-growing delicacy? Perhaps both have their secret stomping grounds. I invite you to stick around awhile to sample the wide variety of ways to enjoy wild ramps.

UNFORGETTABLE WILD RAMP BACON CHOWDER

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

1/2 cup ramps roughly chopped, bulbs and greens

1 potato, skin on and diced

1 3/4 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon garlic and herb seasoning

1 1/4 cups coconut milk

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Crumbled bacon, for garnish

Charred ramp greens, for garnish

Instructions:

In a Dutch oven, over medium heat, sauté ramps in bacon drippings until soft. Add diced potatoes, chicken broth, seasoned salt, and garlic and herb seasoning. Simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked thoroughly. Reduce heat to low. Add coconut milk, cheddar cheese, and red pepper flakes. Stir well to combine. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, but do not boil. Gently heat for 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 10 minutes to thicken. Ladle into soup bowls; garnish with crumbled bacon and charred ramp greens.

Oregano Hasselback Sweet Potato

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Oregano Hasselback Sweet Potato! Have you ever stepped foot in a grocery store and been greeted by a warmer filled with foil-wrapped oven-baked sweet potatoes? The naturally sweet, earthy aromas trigger the tastebuds the same way rotisserie chicken and sizzling bacon do. You want it and gotta have it. Wait until you bite into the creamy texture infused with oregano and cinnamon. Sounds like a sensual adventure, doesn’t it?

OREGANO HASSELBACK SWEET POTATO

Ingredients:

2 sweet potatoes, skin on

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon oregano, crushed

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Leaving skin on potatoes, wash thoroughly and pat dry. Put one potato on a cutting board. Beginning at one end, slice in strips, being careful to stop before slicing the bottom skin. Transfer to a shallow baking dish. Continue until both potatoes are sliced. In a small bowl, mix olive oil, crushed oregano, seasoned salt, and cinnamon. Brush each potato with olive oil mixture, separating slices to coat both sides. Drizzle remaining oil over all. Bake potatoes one hour until crispy, basting occasionally. Serve immediately.

Sea Salt-Rubbed Baked Potato

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Sea Salt-Rubbed Baked Potato! When my sister-in-law worked in a fine dining restaurant years ago, she shared with me an amazing secret for perfectly seasoned baked potatoes. “Wash the skins, then butter them up before sprinkling with sea salt,” she instructed. The skins become as tasty as a savory cracker. I thanked her and with enthusiasm have been making them that way ever since. It’s pretty much fool-proof. There’s no need for extra butter or salt since they are baked into the skin. She went on to share another tidbit of information with me. “Leftover baked potatoes prepared this way become the best shredded hash browns.” Bonus!

SEA SALT-RUBBED BAKED POTATOES

2 russet potatoes, washed and pierced

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 teaspoon sea salt

Dollop of sour cream

Green onions, for garnish

Sprinkling of crushed oregano

Instructions;

Preheat oven to 350°. Wash potatoes and pat dry. Pierce the top with a paring knife. Holding the potato in one hand, apply softened butter all over the outer skin. Then sprinkle with sea salt. Place the potatoes on a stone, or directly on the oven rack, in the preheated oven. Be sure the pierce mark is facing up. Bake one hour, or until tender. To serve, split the potato open on a plate. Dollop with a generous spoonful of sour cream. Garnish with green onions and sprinkle with crushed oregano.