Zesty Citrus Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Zesty Citrus Salad! “If you build it, they will come.” That familiar quote may spark a flicker of remembrance from a popular movie years ago, Field of Dreams. Kevin Costner was the actor who had an idea and went with it. Cooking is like that, in my opinion. For example, build a better salad. It’s pretty simple, actually. Choose garden greens for the foundation, layer on fruits or vegetables for flavor, toss in some crunchy nuts, and slather on the sauce to dress it up. Of course, you can include cheese, meat, and eggs to bulk it up into a meal if you’d like. May as well go ahead and make your own salad dressings. There’s no comparison; being naturally better than bottled, they serve nicely as dips if you have any leftover. No promises on that note, because they’re that good.

ZESTY CITRUS SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups lettuce, gently torn

1/4 cup celery leaves

1 naval orange, segments cut into thirds

6 strawberries, quartered

2 tablespoons red onion, sliced

2 tablespoons almonds, sliced

Ingredients for Dressing:

1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons Tupelo honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Dash sriracha

Instructions:

Place torn lettuce into salad bowls. Divide celery leaves between them. Arrange the orange segments, quartered strawberries, and red onion slices. Scatter almonds over all. Set aside to chill in the refrigerator. To combine dressing, whisk together garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, Tupelo honey, Dijon mustard, toasted sesame seeds, and dash of sriracha sauce. Mix well. Drizzle over salad before serving.

Butternut Squash Bisque

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Food for Sharing: Butternut Squash Bisque! You’ll know this squash by its half-dumbbell cylindrical shape. Its tan skin can be tough to peel, so exert caution in preparation. This is nothing like peeling potatoes. I worked in small sections. Once the hard rind has been removed, cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. From there, cutting into chunks is a breeze. As with anything, the first time can seem challenging, but once you’ve experienced the taste of the sweet buttery orange flesh, you’ll find yourself wanting more.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH BISQUE

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut in 1″ chunks

1 onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

4-6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/2 teaspoon thyme

14 ounces chicken broth

2 tablespoons dry roasted sunflower seeds

Fresh thyme

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. In a large bowl, combine butternut squash, onion, and green pepper. Add olive oil and garlic. Season with kosher salt, seasoned salt, and cracked black pepper. Gently toss to coat evenly. Transfer to the baking sheet. Arrange in a single layer. Bake 15 minutes, turn over and bake 15 minutes longer until tender. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels. Set aside. Working in batches, transfer cooked vegetables to a food processor. Pulse to puréed consistency. Transfer to a heavy bottomed 4-quart pan. Add thyme and chicken broth. Blend well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately. Garnish with bacon crumbles, sunflower seeds, and fresh thyme.

Tahini Paste

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Tahini Paste! If you really like making homemade hummus, you already know that it’s practically impossible to find tahini paste in the local grocery stores. At least that has been my experience. When I take my inquiry to a store clerk, I get a puzzled look as they shrug their shoulders and walk away. Now I simply make it at home with ingredients that are readily available. You can, too!

TAHINI PASTE

Ingredients:

1 cup toasted sesame seeds

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon olive oil

Instructions:

In an electric mini chopper, place the sesame seeds. Pulse the seeds a few seconds to make them ground. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon lemon olive oil. Grind to mix into a paste. It will be necessary to scrape down the sides. Gradually add more olive oil to make the consistency pourable. You can do this by testing with a teaspoon. Pour contents into a jar that will hold up to 8 ounces. Store tahini paste in the refrigerator up to three months.

Ravishing Radish Sandwich

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Joy of Eating: Ravishing Radish Sandwich! There’s something a little French about nibbling on a radish sandwich. And you can pull it off without raising your pinky finger into the air. Choose an artisan bread such as a crusty baguette or toasted sesame loaf. All you really need is a little butter and sea salt. However, I went one step further and used a creamy Neufchâtel cheese blended with pimento-filled green olives. Can you say, “Oooh, La La”?

RAVISHING RADISH SANDWICH

Ingredients:

1 bunch of radishes, washed, stalks removed, and thinly sliced

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1/4 cup green olives, chopped

1 loaf artisan bread

1/4 teaspoon Chia seeds

Instructions:

In a small bowl, mix Neufchâtel cheese and green olives until combined. Slice bread evenly on a cutting board and then toast lightly. Slather each slice of bread with cheese spread. Layer radishes on top, randomly squeezing on as many pieces as possible. Sprinkle with chia seeds to garnish. Voilá!

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter Y

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. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter O

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Onion Broccoli Florets! Sweet onions, whether they are Vidalias grown in Georgia or Walla Wallas grown in Washington, are mild-tasting onions that fans wait all year to magically appear in the produce aisle. Combine them with the natural sweetness of raisins, the crunch of honey-roasted sunflower seeds, the earthiness of broccoli florets, and the smoky taste of bacon. Then watch it totally disappear at the next family reunion.
ONION BROCCOLI FLORETS
Ingredients: 

1 stalk broccoli 

2.5 ounce package real bacon bits

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1/2 cup raisins 

3/4 cup honey roasted sunflower seeds

1 cup mayonnaise 

2 tablespoons vinegar 

1/2 cup sugar
Instructions:

Cut the stalk off a head of broccoli high enough so the florets fall away. Discard stalk. Cut each floret in half or quarters. In a large bowl, combine florets, real bacon bits, sweet onion, raisins, and honey-roasted sunflower seeds. Mix well. In a small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, and sugar until blended. Add dressing to broccoli salad one hour before serving. 

Eating My Way Through the Holidays: Special Edition 

Eating My Way Through the Holidays! What’s cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Home For the Holidays: Precious Pomegranate Arils! Never mind the antioxidants, vitamins A or C, or it’s antiviral benefits; these seeds are amazingly sweet. Add lime zest for zing and pizzazz. Did you know there are over a hundred juicy gem-like seeds in every pomegranate? Another reason to choose this powerfully magnetic mythological mystery. 
PRECIOUS POMEGRANATE ARILS
Ingredients:

1 ripe pomegranate 

1 fresh lime
Instructions:

Make sure the pomegranate’s skin is hard to the touch. No dark spots or blemishes which indicate bruising. There’s more than one way to open a pomegranate. For me, the underwater technique wins my vote. It’s less messy without staining my fingers red and can be done in a few minutes. Fill a large bowl with cool water. Cut the end that looks like a small crown. Then score the skin as though you were going to quarter the fruit. Basically this gives you a line where you can separate it into four sections. Now place one section under water. Turn the skin inside out. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the membrane will float. Remove the membrane pieces and repeat with the remaining three sections. When finished pour the bowl of water through a strainer to rinse the pomegranate arils. Transfer them back to the empty bowl. Take a fresh lime and zest the entire skin. Quarter the lime squeezing the juice over all. Use the ruby red seeds to garnish beverages, top yogurt, embellish a smoothie, or as a simple indulgence.