Hot and Saucy Meatballs

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Hot and Saucy Meatballs! For an amazing appetizer or afternoon snack, simply throw everything together for quick work. Bake in the oven or simmer in the crockpot on a low setting. Obviously, if you prefer to make the meatballs from scratch, be my guest. I opted for a simpler method today. Either way, once the meatballs are cooking, you can get on to other things. Such as the latest episode of “The Voice” on DVR. Don’t judge me.

HOT AND SAUCY MEATBALLS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown sugar

2/3 honey

1 cup ketchup

4 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds

26 ounces Italian meatballs, fully cooked

Fresh chives for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 250°. In a medium bowl combine brown sugar, honey, ketchup, soy sauce, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes. Mix well. Add Italian meatballs. Coat evenly. Transfer to a covered casserole dish. Bake for 4 hours, stirring occasionally. Garnish with roasted sesame seeds and fresh chives before serving.

Gluten-Free Crustless Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Gluten-Free Crustless Pizza! Are you ever tempted to just eat the toppings off a pizza? For those who require a gluten-free lifestyle or simply desire fewer carbs, here is a healthy alternative on pizza night. Eliminate the crust altogether. By substituting eggs and cheese for bread dough, it’s surprising how this turns into a delicious deep dish pizza.

GLUTEN-FREE CRUSTLESS PIZZA

Ingredients:

8-ounce cream cheese

2 eggs

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

1/2 cup pizza sauce

1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

4 ounces pepperoni, sliced

1/3 cup ham, chopped

1/3 cup chorizo sausage, cooked and crumbled

2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 10”-12” iron skillet with nonstick oil. Set aside. Combine cream cheese, eggs, black pepper, garlic powder, and parmesan cheese. Spread in a single layer in the prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes until light brown. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes. Spread pizza sauce over crust. Top with mozzarella cheese. Arrange pepperoni, ham, chorizo sausage, bacon, mushrooms, and chopped onion. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, and marjoram. Bake 15 minutes longer until cheese is melted. Cool 5 minutes before cutting into pizza slices.

Zingy Weeknight Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Zingy Weeknight Pasta! Don’t you love it when everything you need for a quick meal is right at your fingertips? Well, I do. This was one of those nights when everything in the fridge “must-go” simply because we were leaving on a trip the next day. I already had a jar of homemade marinara sauce, but feel free to substitute a store bought variety you probably keep in your pantry, next to the package of spaghetti. The chicken strips are frozen, grilled, and precooked. Don’t judge me. It works. Oh, and I actually served freshly grated parmesan cheese as a garnish, but we sprinkled it on at the table.

ZINGY WEEKNIGHT PASTA

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 green pepper, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

3 cups prepared marinara

2 cups precooked grilled chicken strips, cut into chunks

1/2 pound sliced salami, cut into pieces

4 ounces spaghetti, cooked

Parmesan cheese for garnish

Instructions:

In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped green pepper, chopped onion, and minced garlic. Sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to simmer and add marinara sauce. Meanwhile, microwave frozen chicken to thaw. Cut into chunks. Add chicken and salami to sauce. Stir to mix. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, but remove the pasta 4 minutes earlier than directed since we are going to add the spaghetti to the sauce to finish cooking. Once the spaghetti is prepared to that point, ladle some of the pasta water into the sauce, about 1/3 cup. This will add wonderful flavor and help thicken the sauce nicely. Now drain the spaghetti and add it to the sauce mixture, without rinsing. Let the spaghetti finish cooking until it is al dente. Serve in pasta bowls. Garnish with parmesan cheese. (Freeze any leftovers to serve when you return from a day of travel.)

Savory Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Savory Bourbon Barbecue Sauce! Take a deep breath and try not to drool as you look at this tender slab of pork ribs. Focus instead on the incredible homemade bourbon barbecue sauce. It is so good you may want to slurp it with a spoon. Go ahead, permission granted. Swirl the tangy goodness around in your mouth so you can appreciate the savory sweet thick sauce with a surprising kick of red pepper. Underlying all this magnificence are hints of oak, toffee, dark fruit, and anise from bourbon whiskey. Well done.

SAVORY BOURBON BARBECUE SAUCE

Ingredients:

1 cup ketchup

1/2 cup Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey*

3 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons dark molasses

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, combine ketchup, bourbon, brown sugar, dark molasses, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, liquid smoke, onion powder, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Stir until thoroughly blended. Transfer bourbon barbecue sauce to a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for two minutes. Reduce heat. Simmer until sauce is reduced to about half and thickened, approximately 10-15 minutes. Stir often. Do not scorch. Remove from heat. Carefully pour sauce into a jar. Refrigerate until ready to use.

*I receive no recompense from recommending Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Italian Stewed Tomatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Italian Stewed Tomatoes! Before the weather turns chilly, grab up all those garden tomatoes at the peak of ripeness. You’ll appreciate a little extra effort now for that rich intense flavor in the middle of winter. Slow-cooked and simmered to perfection, stewed tomatoes are the secret ingredient for tailgating chili, flavorful stews, and Italian pasta dishes. Go ahead, score big with the best-tasting slightly sweet firm texture of harvest stewed tomatoes.

ITALIAN STEWED TOMATOES

Ingredients:

19-20 Roma tomatoes

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon parsley

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 green pepper, chopped

Instructions:

Make a small X in the stem end of each Roma tomato. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for one minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of ice water for an ice bath. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and discard. Chop the tomatoes, removing the core, and place tomatoes in a large skillet. Add kosher salt, agave nectar, parsley, oregano, basil, marjoram, garlic powder, and green pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve fresh or freeze for later.

Harvest Snap Beans

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Harvest Snap Beans! If you’ve ever planted a garden, you already know how easily and quickly green beans are to grow. They produce so well, even a novice takes pride in their bounty. When it’s time to harvest, choose smooth green (or yellow) pods. Lumps are a sign of an overripe bean, which means it could be dried out or damaged inside. Be particular. You can always tell how fresh it is by the “snap” sound it makes when broken. Perhaps that’s why my aunt on the farm used to call them “snap beans”. Taste is everything.

HARVEST SNAP BEANS

Ingredients:

1 pound frozen yellow wax and green beans, thawed

6 slices bacon; cooked and broken into chunks

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Arrange yellow wax beans and green beans in an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle bacon pieces over beans. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, melted butter, soy sauce, garlic powder, and agave nectar. Mix well. Pour over green beans and bacon. Bake uncovered 40 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds before serving.

Thai Peanut Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Thai Peanut Sauce! Known as a popular condiment for skewered meat or seafood in East Asian cuisine, peanut dipping sauce gets all the attention. Homemade Pad Thai is one example. After all, it’s no secret anyone can get addicted to peanut butter. Think about it. We add spicy chili peppers for heat, exotic curry for an earthy taste, coconut milk for authenticity. And depending on the day, there is no substitute for peanut butter and chocolate. Just saying.

THAI PEANUT SAUCE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup natural peanut butter, creamy

3/4 cup coconut milk, unsweetened

1/4 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions:

In a food processor, combine peanut butter, coconut milk, agave nectar, fresh lime juice, soy sauce, garlic powder, ground ginger, kosher salt, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour into a jar. Store in the refrigerator.

*Serving Suggestion: Skewered Shrimp with orange wedges and cilantro.

Roma Tomato Marinara

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Roma Tomato Marinara! Now here is a sauce that is as versatile as your food cravings. I like to make up a jar to keep on hand in the refrigerator. You never know when you’ll want it. Roma tomatoes have a texture that leaves your mouth yearning for yet another spoonful. Slather it on flatbread and add cheese for a late-night snack. Or use it as a base in a skillet lasagna. The balance of thick tomatoes, rich olive oil, and hint of basil make it my favorite for dunking buttery breadsticks. For kid-pleasing families as well as empty nesters, say “Yes” to homemade marinara.

ROMA TOMATO MARINARA

Ingredients:

1 sweet onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

28-ounce can Italian tomatoes, whole and peeled in basil sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder*

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon olive oil

Instructions:

In an iron skillet over medium heat, warm two tablespoons olive oil. Add chopped onions and sauté until soft, approximately 5 minutes. Add Italian tomatoes. Gently, using the back of a wooden spoon, press the tomatoes to crush. Sprinkle with garlic powder, oregano, marjoram, basil, Herbes de Provence, sea salt, cracked black pepper, agave nectar, and one teaspoon olive oil. Stir to blend. Bring to a boil; reduce to simmer. Cook for 20 minutes on Simmer or until sauce becomes thicker. Spoon over pasta, chicken, meatballs, or bread. Top with cheese of choice.

*Four minced garlic cloves may be substituted for garlic powder.

Picnic Pork and Beans

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Picnic Pork and Beans! Tradition speaks loud and clear at family gatherings and picnics, especially in the summer. No matter the cookout, barbecue, or pitch-in, certain foods are expected on the buffet table. One of them is the coveted baked beans. Usually the unmarried auntie or the matriarch is the keeper of the cherished recipes. The “grande dame” knows all the ingredients, especially the heavily-guarded secret ones. It might be a dab of this or a pinch of that. My advice? Time, patience, and integrity. After all, there’s a lot of responsibility in carrying on the Secret Family Recipes. In the end, it’s all worth it!

PICNIC PORK AND BEANS

Ingredients:

3 slices uncured bacon, thick

1/4 cup sweet onion, sliced

1 tablespoon bacon drippings

28-ounce can pork and beans

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons pimento, diced

1/4 cup barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Fry bacon in a large skillet until partially cooked. Remove bacon from pan and dab on paper towels. Let cool and then break into pieces. Discard all but one tablespoon bacon drippings. Add sweet onion to pan; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Combine sweet onion, pork and beans, seasoned salt, red pepper flakes, diced pimento, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard. Mix well. Transfer to an ovenproof dish. Top with bacon pieces. Bake uncovered for one hour, or until beans are bubbly and sauce is thick. Let stand 10 minutes for sauce to thicken slightly. Serve warm.