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
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
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.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Kale Chips! Mention the word “kale” and you can see the noses wrinkle. But, seriously, if you eat leafy vegetables anyway…what’s the big deal? I find kale quite versatile. Its rich dark leaves hold up well in salads, pasta dishes, and snacks. Once baked, with the right seasonings, they turn into a spicy guilt-free alternative.
2 cups baby Kale leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 300°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Break off the stems of the kale leaves and discard. Gently wash each leaf and dry on a paper towel to eliminate all moisture. One by one, using your fingers, rub both sides of each leaf with olive oil. Place the kale on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer without overlapping. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake 10 minutes longer. The kale leaves will shrink and begin to curl. Do not over-bake! Remove baking sheet from oven and cool for 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Food Whisperer: Garlic Roasted Thyme Tomatoes! Turn ordinary tomatoes into a savory side dish with earthy vigor. Have you experienced roasted garlic lately? Don’t hate me if I describe it as smooth and sweet as a dab of butter. Having said that, I can tell by the look in your eye, you’re gonna roast more garlic cloves than I pictured here. Go for it. By quick-roasting vegetables on high heat in the oven, you’ll notice a natural hint of smokiness that satisfies the palate. Although they turn from shiny smooth to a dull luster when finished, the taste is what will win you over. I promise you this, here’s a down-home recipe that will not disappoint.
GARLIC ROASTED THYME TOMATOES
6 medium tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, peeled
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 cup olive oil
Cracked black pepper
Preheat oven to 425°. Rub tomatoes with olive oil and place in a baking pan. Add garlic cloves and thyme sprigs. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Season, to taste, with kosher salt and cracked black pepper. Bake 25-30 minutes, occasionally brushing tomatoes with olive oil from the pan. Skins may split. Remove from oven. Spoon tomatoes, garlic, and thyme into serving bowls. Drizzle with pan juices. Serve warm.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Wonton Nachos! Sounds strange, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought the first time I glanced around the restaurant where couples sat munching away on the mountain of gooey cheese and triangular chips. Fusion foods combine different cultures. There are no rules and this proves it. Take Asian wonton wrappers and blend them with Mexican seasonings and salsa for a perfect pairing. Because wonton wrappers are paper thin dough, they bake up in a matter of minutes. Don’t forget the sprinkling of sea salt. By the time the margaritas are mixed, everything is ready to be assembled onto a platter of spicy Wonton Nachos that encourage conversation. Now put down your cell phones and eat!
12-ounce package of wonton wrappers
8-ounce package Mexican-style cheese, shredded
Toppings of choice
Salsa for dipping
Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside. Cut each wonton wrapper in half diagonally, or quarters if you desire smaller chips. Place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Coat the tops with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake 10 minutes, or until crispy. Turn for even browning. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Repeat until all chips have been made. To make nachos, arrange chips in an ovenproof dish. Add Mexican cheese and toppings of choice. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with salsa.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Pretzel Nuggets! Anyone who has been to an outlet mall, movie theater complex, or shopping center may have been seduced by the tantalizing aroma of freshly baked pretzels. How about those wonderful travel cups of soft buttery nuggets speared with a wooden pick? Who can resist? Especially with a side of gooey molten cheese? Here’s a shortcut to making a batch at home in your own kitchen. It’s all about portion control to keep it real. The next time you’re at the grocery, pick up a tube of refrigerated biscuit dough. You can thank me later.
1 tube refrigerated biscuit dough, 8-count
1/4 cup baking soda
1 egg, beaten
1-2 teaspoons Everything But Bagel Seasoning*
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut each biscuit slice into quarters. Roll each quarter into a ball. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a 2 1/2 quart pan. Slowly stir in baking soda. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Drop the biscuit dough rounds into the water. Avoid overcrowding by working in batches. Cook dough for one minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg to assist browning. Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Finish with coarse sea salt. Bake 15-20 minutes until pretzel nuggets are golden brown. Repeat with remaining dough. Cool pretzel nuggets on a wire rack. Serve with cheese dip.
*To make your own Everything But Bagel Seasoning, click the link below.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Everything But Bagel Seasoning! Anyone who has trekked to a coffeehouse for their morning cuppa joe has, at one time or another, nibbled on a bakery fresh bagel. That special blend of garlic flakes, minced onions, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and pretzel salt is a coveted secret in some kitchens. Not mine, simply because you probably already have all these spices in your pantry at home. DIY to begin a journey of inspiration on foods beyond the bagel. For example, sprinkle it on everything from mac‘n cheese, avocados, and eggs to chicken, veggies, and popcorn. It’s genius!
EVERYTHING BUT BAGEL SEASONING
1 tablespoon fried garlic
1 tablespoon dried minced onion
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
Using a mortar and pestle, slightly crush fried garlic and dried minced onion. Add poppy seeds, white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, and coarse sea salt. Mix well. Store in a spice jar.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Yam Sticks! Here is a nice alternative when craving French fries. Substitute the Idaho potatoes for yams and bake them instead of frying. You’ll feel better about making a healthy choice while mixing up the menu a bit. Give your taste buds a real surprise as you go from hum-drum to WOW!
6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into sticks
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat oven to 425°. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Mix well until yam sticks are evenly coated. Marinate in the refrigerator for one hour. Meanwhile, place a baking sheet in the oven so it is already hot before adding the yams. Being careful when removing it from the oven, lightly spray the baking sheet with non-stick oil. Spread yam sticks into single layer. They crisp up better when they’re not touching. Bake about 40 minutes or until tender and slightly browned. Turn halfway through baking, using kitchen tongs. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? A Burst of Flavor: Five-Minute Grilled Steak! In the time it takes to caramelize the onions, you can have a no-fuss mouth-watering T-bone steak. Make sure the steak is Choice beef from the loin and rib so it will taste tender and juicy. It has a little less marbling, but is well-suited for the dry heat of a gas grill. I gave my sliced onions a head-start by microwaving them for 2 minutes on high while the grill was preheating.
FIVE-MINUTE GRILLED STEAK
1 pound USDA Choice T-bone steak, 1/2″ thick at room temperature
Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
Pinch of garlic powder
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, sliced
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 tablespoon butter
Instructions for Grilling Steak:
First of all, let me clarify that my husband and I prefer steak to be cooked Medium Rare, which is seared on the outside and pink in the middle.
Salt and pepper both sides of the steak while the gas grill is preheating from 450°-500°. At this time sprinkle the steak with garlic powder as well. The salt begins to draw out a little bit of moisture which makes the steak sizzle when it hits the grill grate, sealing in the flavor. For accuracy in grilling, my husband sets the timer on his cell phone, which is quite handy. Grill the T-bone steak for 2 1/2 minutes on one side before flipping over for the remaining 2 1/2 minutes. The finished steak will be medium-rare. Now this is the most difficult part. Let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving. The juice will reabsorb back into the steak to give you that moist and meaty taste.
Meanwhile, in Gail’s Kitchen the microwaved onion slices have been transferred to a medium skillet on the stove. They continue to sauté on medium high heat in the olive oil and seasoned salt. Turn and coat the onions without allowing them to burn. If necessary, reduce the heat. The onions will brown as they cook down. The rich flavor and caramelized color are the results of allowing the onions to breathe and have room to finish. When this happens, I add a tablespoon of butter for additional flavor.
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.
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
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.