Organic Red Lentil Pasta Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Organic Red Lentil Pasta Salad! Every once in awhile it’s a good idea to serve up gluten-free meals. This one, in particular, is packed with protein and fiber, plus non-GMO red lentils. You don’t need to have allergic restrictions to appreciate its natural goodness. The texture is firm while providing an amazing taste sensation. Eat it cold or warmed up a bit. You decide. Either way, the health benefits will have you patting yourself on the back for making such a healthy choice.

ORGANIC RED LENTIL PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

8 ounces organic red lentil pasta

1 cup broccoli florets

1 cup cauliflower florets

1/3 cup red onions, sliced

1 tablespoon pimento, diced

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon dry Italian dressing and seasoning mix

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon natural honey

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Cook red lentil pasta 8-10 minutes, according to package directions. Water will turn cloudy and foam up, so be sure to use enough water. Remove from heat. Drain, rinse, and set aside. To make dressing, combine garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, Italian seasoning mix, Dijon mustard, and natural honey. Whisk together until nicely blended. Fill a large bowl with pasta, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, red onion slices, diced pimento, and Kalamata olives. Pour dressing over all. Toss gently to coat ingredients. Serve cold.

Yam Streusel Boats

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Yam Streusel Boats! Root vegetables are our friends. Yams, also known as sweet potatoes, contain more healthy fiber and Vitamin A than white potatoes. Plus they are lower in calories. Granted today’s recipe has a streusel topping, but think about it. When you eat a baked (white) potato, do you add butter, sour cream, and crumbled bacon? I know, right! Obviously portion-control is part of the equation in making healthy choices. With the holidays on the horizon, think warm, comfort foods containing root vegetables.

YAM STREUSEL BOATS

Ingredients for Yams:

2 medium sweet potatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1 pinch cinnamon

1 pinch chipotle chili powder

Ingredients for Chipotle Pumpkin Seeds:

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8 teaspoon raspberry chipotle rub

3/4 cup pumpkin seeds

Ingredients for Streusel Topping:

1 tablespoon flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1/4 cup chipotle pumpkin seeds, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Rub sweet potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Pierce the top with a knife. Place potatoes directly on the oven rack. Bake one hour. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop the flesh into a mixing bowl. Place potato shells on a baking sheet. Slightly mash the sweet potato flesh. Add butter, maple syrup, cinnamon, and chipotle chili powder. Whisk until smooth. Spoon mixture equally into yam shells. For seasoned pumpkin seeds, combine butter, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, and raspberry chipotle rub. Whisk well. Put pumpkin seeds in a ziplock bag. Pour butter mixture over all. Seal and shake to coat. Transfer seeds to a baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Toss and bake 5 minutes longer. Cool. Chop 1/4 cup of seasoned pumpkin seeds for topping. For streusel topping, use a medium bowl. Combine flour, brown sugar, and butter. Mix well. Topping should be crumbly. Fold in chopped pumpkin seeds. Sprinkle streusel topping over mashed sweet potatoes. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.

Shrimp-Cargot

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Shrimp-Cargot! Not everyone is a fan of the traditional escargot, especially when you mention the word “snails”. By substituting today’s version of that classic French dish with shrimp, it appeals to a more conservative palate. Not only will it satisfy the shrimp-lover in your family, but it’s a little easier on the pocketbook as well. Face it, shrimp is readily available and pretty economical. Combine it with gooey melted cheese and it can make children finish their chores or hypnotize a husband into tackling that “Honey-Do List”. Hurray for shrimp!

SHRIMP-CARGOT

Ingredients:

12 frozen precooked shrimp, thawed

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon seafood spice blend

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 cup Havarti cheese with dill, shaved

Garnish with fresh chives

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and butter. Do not scorch. Transfer shrimp to skillet in a single layer. Sprinkle with garlic powder, seafood spice blend, red pepper flakes, sea salt, and pepper. Brown shrimp 1 minute, turn and brown 1 minute longer. Add white wine, scraping brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat. Transfer mixture to a shallow ovenproof dish. Cover shrimp with shaved Havarti cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes until hot and cheese is melted. Remove from oven. Garnish with fresh chives. Serve with crusty bread or toast points.

Nested Scrambled Eggs

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Nested Scrambled Eggs! Tired of the same old breakfast all week long? This grab-and-go option can be yours by investing a little effort on the weekend. Believe me, it’s worth it. By creating a “nest” of cheesy hash browns, the outer edge satisfies the salty crunch before your teeth sink into a creamy middle of scrambled eggs and veggies. The size of a muffin makes it a guilt-free pleasure. Try some. There’s actually a lot to crow about.

NESTED SCRAMBLED EGGS

Ingredients:

20-ounce package refrigerated hash brown potatoes

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

4 eggs

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1-2 tablespoons bacon drippings

7 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1/2 bell green pepper, diced

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded, divided

2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 tomato, diced

Fresh basil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Combine hash brown potatoes, seasoned salt, black pepper, olive oil, and cheddar cheese. Mix well. Divide mixture between the 12 cups in a prepared muffin tin. Press potato mixture into sides and bottom of each cup leaving the center hollow. Bake 15-20 minutes until hashbrowns are golden and crispy. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, milk, and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside. Remove “nests” from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350°. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add bacon drippings. Sauté mushrooms, green pepper, and sweet onion. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add egg mixture, stirring constantly, until eggs are set. This will take about 4 minutes. Turn off heat. Fold in 1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese. Fill “nests” with egg mixture. Sprinkle with remaining Monterey Jack cheese, bacon crumbles, and diced tomatoes. Bake 3-4 minutes until the cheese is melted. Garnish with fresh basil before serving.

Mountainous Meatball

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Mountainous Meatball! It doesn’t have to be National Meatball Day to indulge in authentic cuisine found in Little Italy. By using everyday ingredients, mix and shape a giant meatball with your own two hands to feel like a gourmet chef. Smother the meatballs in a jar of marinara sauce, store-bought or made-from-scratch for perfection. And my secret, you ask? Tucked in the top of the meatball, like snow on a mountaintop, is a creamy mozzarella ball. Bet you can’t wait to bite into that!

MOUNTAINOUS MEATBALL

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup Italian bread, soaked in milk and squeezed out

1 pound ground sirloin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 eggs

1/4 cup dry Italian breadcrumbs

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

3 sprigs Italian parsley, chopped

3 Ciliegine mozzarella balls (cherry size)

2 cups marinara sauce

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

3/4 cup ricotta

Fresh basil for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat. Set aside. Tear Italian bread into chunks. Add enough milk to cover. Set aside. In a medium bowl, combine ground sirloin, garlic powder, eggs, dry Italian breadcrumbs, sea salt, black pepper, Italian parsley, and the milk-soaked breadcrumbs (with the liquid squeezed out). Mix well. Form into three meatballs the size of a tennis ball. Make an indentation in the top of each meatball. Stuff with a Ciliegine mozzarella ball. Press meat around the cheese leaving only a small bit visible. Place meatballs on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake 30 minutes until brown and firm. Remove from oven and place each meatball in an individual oven-proof serving dish. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Spoon marinara sauce over meatballs, dividing it equally between the serving dishes. Top with 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, between the three dishes. Bake 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven. Sprinkle on the remaining parmesan cheese. Add a dollop of ricotta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh basil. Serve with garlic toast.

Yummy Spud Fries

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Yummy Spud Fries! Choose a healthier way to have your fries and eat them, too. Take regular potatoes, preferably russet, cut them into thick strips leaving the skin on, and bake until crispy before adding a mound of toppings. I use both grated and shaved Parmesan cheese. You’ll know perfection when the outside is a lovely sunset golden color. One bite reveals a fluffy potato within. Now dunk them in sour cream and chives or slather on thick tomato ketchup. Mmmmm.

YUMMY SPUD FRIES

Ingredients:

4 russet potatoes, washed and cut into thick strips

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

Garnish with bacon crumbles

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Put potato strips in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat. Season with garlic powder, thyme, and seasoned salt. Coat well. Transfer potatoes to a nonstick baking sheet. Spread into a single layer. Reserve oil in bowl. Bake 15 minutes. Turn potatoes and bake 15 minutes longer. Transfer potatoes back into the bowl with reserved olive oil. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. Coat well. Layer fries onto baking sheet. Return to oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Before serving sprinkle spud fries with shaved Parmesan cheese and bacon crumbles. Serve immediately.

Xavier Grilled Steak

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Xavier Grilled Steak! Just when you thought a juicy New York Strip steak couldn’t get any better, here you go. Grilled to taste, smothered in gooey Swiss cheese and crowned with fresh asparagus spears is a meal-in-one guaranteed to make anyone feel like royalty. For those who love onions, take it one step further. Sprinkle crispy French-fried onions over all before serving. Looks good, doesn’t it? Try not to stare.

XAVIER GRILLED STEAK

Ingredients:

2 New York Strip steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

10 asparagus spears, ends trimmed

4 slices Swiss cheese

1/4 cup French-fried onions

Instructions:

Rub both sides of the New York Strip steak with olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place in a shallow dish. Marinate steak for 45 minutes in the refrigerator, turning once. Remove from refrigerator to allow meat to come to room temperature, approximately 15 minutes. Preheat outdoor grill. Cook steaks over medium heat 4-5 minutes until slightly charred. Turn the steaks over and grill 3 minutes longer for medium-rare, 5 minutes longer for medium, or 8 minutes longer for medium-well. Meanwhile to steam asparagus spears, bring water to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Place asparagus spears into the steamer basket. Cover and steam approximately 3-5 minutes until asparagus turns bright green, but is still tender. Remove from steamer. When steaks are cooked to perfection, place them on a platter to rest so the juices are absorbed. (This is the secret to juicy steak.) While the meat is resting, place two slices of Swiss cheese on each. Divide asparagus spears between them. Tent with foil. Let rest 5-7 minutes. Top with crispy French-fried onions before serving.

Watermelon Salsa

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Watermelon Salsa! Want a conversation-starter? The next time you’re in a group, pose the simple question: “Do you eat watermelon WITH or WITHOUT a sprinkling of salt?” Then stand clear and let the debate begin. Some insist that a pinch of salt awakens the taste buds. Others believe it interferes with the natural sweetness. Me? I gotta tell you, I kinda prefer the whole sweet & salty thing. Like mixing buttered movie popcorn with kettle corn. But that’s another story.

WATERMELON SALSA

Ingredients:

1/4 pound seedless watermelon, rind removed and cut into chunks

1 ripe peach, peeled, pit removed, and cut into chunks

1/4 cup red onion, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1-2 jalapeño peppers, stem removed, finely diced

Juice of 1 fresh lime

Raspberry Chipotle seasoned salt (optional)

Instructions:

Combine watermelon, peach, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeño peppers. Gently toss all ingredients together. Squeeze fresh lime juice over all. Chill one hour. Before serving add a sprinkling of raspberry chipotle seasoned salt or have the shaker available as an option.

Grilled Corn-on-the-Cob

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Grilled Corn-on-the-Cob! Here’s an alternative to stovetop corn on the cob or microwave cooking. Throw the corn on the grill while the burgers are on their way to being well-done. You won’t believe the incredible taste. Or will you? If the results are slightly blackened or charred in spots, so much the better. That’s what makes it taste so good. By leaving the corn in the husk, natural steaming keeps the corn moist rather than dry and brittle. And if it rains? By all means, get out the kitchen torch and improvise. Toppings still apply.

GRILLED CORN ON THE COB

Ingredients:

4 ears corn, in husks

1 teaspoon sea salt

Butter to taste

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning*

Salt to taste

Instructions:

Peel the husks without removing at the base. Strip away the corn silk. Fold the husks back into place. Fill a bowl with cold water. Add sea salt. Submerge the corn for 10 minutes. Heat the grill to medium-high. Remove corn and let drain. Place on the grill for 15 minutes. Cover. Turn the corn occasionally. Allow the corn to get slightly charred in places. When done, transfer corn cobs to a serving platter. Slather with butter. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, and Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning. Add sea salt to taste. Serve immediately.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning.