Garlic Clove Little Smokies

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Garlic Clove Little Smokies! I know people often wait for the holidays to serve this spicy little appetizer, but I recently discovered its popularity as a picnic basket companion. By making it ahead of time and storing it in a jar, it travels well. Add dill pickle chunks, bite-size cheese cubes, vegetable skewers, fresh fruit, chips, salsa, and double chocolate brownies. You’ll have the perfect portable picnic. Doesn’t everyone love finger foods?

GARLIC CLOVE LITTLE SMOKIES

Ingredients:

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup catsup

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon roasted sesame seeds

14 ounces little smokies cocktail wieners

Fresh chives for garnish

Instructions:

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

Broccoli Florets in Cashew Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Be Our Guest: Broccoli Florets in Cashew Sauce! Are you one of those siblings who used to roll your eyes at the idea of being told to “eat your vegetables”? Isn’t it amazing how we outgrow childhood perceptions and turn them into a food-lover’s paradise? I know, right! Take broccoli, for instance. I remember sitting at the table until every tender green floret had been pushed around my plate, refusing to eat another bite. Nowadays, I practically cheer when the waitress says I can substitute broccoli in place of french fries.

BROCCOLI FLORETS IN CASHEW SAUCE

Ingredients:

1 pound broccoli, cut up and stems removed

1/3 cup unsalted butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

3 tablespoons Golden Mountain sauce

2 teaspoons garlic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon Mrs. Dash Herb and Garlic Blend

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup cashews, chopped

Instructions:

Cut the stalk off a head of broccoli with a sharp knife. As you cut through the thickness, the individual florets will fall away into smaller pieces. The crowns will feel tight and springy with the appearance of tight closed buds. Discard stems. Place the florets in a microwave safe covered dish. Add 2 tablespoons water. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Carefully remove from microwave oven; drain. In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar, Golden Mountain sauce, garlic vinegar, Mrs. Dash spices, and garlic cloves. Bring to a boil; stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat. Mix in the cashews. Ladle cashew sauce over broccoli florets and serve.

Furikake Party Mix

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Furikake Party Mix! Popular in the Hawaiian Islands, furikake is a seasoning with leanings toward seaweed, sesame seeds, sea salt, and a pinch of sugar. It can be sprinkled on anything from popcorn to tuna. By taking a classic snack mix and adding a candied Japanese twist, you may leave the former far behind for awhile. To prove a point, I gave out jars of Furikake Party Mix to some friends of mine for taste-testing. After one bite, they eagerly devoured its contents within a couple days and then asked for more. Proof positive as far as I’m concerned.

FURIKAKE PARTY MIX

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons organic soy sauce

6 cups Crispix cereal

5 cups gluten-free pretzel twists

2 cups honey roasted peanuts

2 cups wasabi peas

1/2 cup furikake seasoning

2 tablespoons red pepper flakes

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 225°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. Melt the butter and sugar over medium-low heat, about 3 minutes. When the sugar is melted, remove pan from stove and add vegetable oil, pure maple syrup, and organic soy sauce. Mix well. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine Crispix cereal, gluten-free pretzel twists, honey roasted peanuts, and wasabi peas. Slowly pour the butter mixture over all; gently turning the ingredients to coat well. Sprinkle on the furikake seasoning and red pepper flakes. Toss again to mix things up equally. Divide the cereal mixture between the two baking sheets. Bake for one hour, turning every 15 minutes to keep from scorching. (It may be necessary to alternate the pans between upper and lower oven racks for even browning.) The cereal will begin to dry as it bakes. After one hour, allow the Furikake Party Mix to cool before storing in airtight jars or containers.

Zestful Ahi Poke

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Zestful Ahi Poke! Have you noticed all the rage about eating raw tuna? Whether it’s an appetizer or poke bowl, ahi seems to be the star attraction. If you’ve never tried it, perhaps it takes some getting used to. After all, the texture is totally different from cooked fish. When saturated in a spicy sesame soy marinade, I found it absolutely irresistible. Then served with crunchy wonton crisps, taro chips (my fav), or corn tortilla chips it evolves from a curiosity to a craving. Just so you know, premium ahi tuna steaks are now available in the freezer aisle for those, like me, who are landlocked part of the year.

ZESTFUL AHI POKE

Ingredients:

2 ahi tuna steaks, premium grade

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1/2 cup green onion, chopped

Wonton Crisps, Taro Chips, or Corn Tortilla Chips

Instructions:

Pat ahi tuna steaks dry with a paper towel. Cut into 1/2” cubes. Transfer to a bowl. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce, toasted sesame seeds, and chopped green onions. Gently toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate one hour. Serve as an appetizer with choice of chips.

Wasabi Furikake Aioli

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Take a Seat at the Table: Wasabi Furikake Aioli! For a homemade sauce that can be spread on fish and poultry or used as a spicy dip for vegetable crudités, this one is spot on. The “kick” of wasabi is a distant cousin to horseradish making its intensity a roller coaster ride for the palate. Wasabi lovers know all about the health benefits. Sushi bars offer it as a regular condiment. I find this superfood absolutely delicious.

WASABI FURIKAKE AIOLI

Ingredients:

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon furikake seasoning (sesame seed and green seaweed)

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons wasabi powder

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon water

Instructions:

Combine all ingredients and mix until well blended. Cover and refrigerate one hour before serving.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter K

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Korean Pork Tacos! Once you get a taste for spicy food, the cravings thrive. That doesn’t mean dinner has to be boring, to say the least. Be creative. I like corn tortillas so I transformed an ordinary pork loin into slightly hot Korean tacos. Forego the kimchi and traditional greens by substituting with crispy broccoli strips and shredded carrots. Fresh cilantro and green onions add zest, not heat. Trust me, this recipe is not “burn your lips off” hot, it’s just more balanced between flavor and spice.

KOREAN PORK TACOS

Ingredients:

1 pound pork loin, cut into chunks

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 cup ground fresh chili paste

1 tablespoon dried garlic

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

2 green onions, snipped

1/4 yellow onion, chopped

Corn tortillas, warmed

10-ounce bag broccoli and carrot slaw

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

Fresh cilantro

Instructions:

Combine rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, chili paste, dried garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, black pepper, sugar, green onions, and yellow onions in a bowl. Add pork chunks, mixing well to coat. Transfer to a ziplock bag, seal, and marinate for 2-4 hours. Heat vegetable oil in an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook pork 5 minutes, or until lightly browned. Be sure the meat is no longer pink in the center. Lower heat and shred pork with two forks. Simmer to absorb liquid to enhance flavor. For coleslaw, mix broccoli and carrot blend with mayonnaise. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. Fill bottom half of corn tortillas with coleslaw. Top with shredded pork. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter J

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Front-Runner Favs: Jamaican Jerk Chicken! I admit, I tend to take the path of least resistance. By the time I decided I was making this dish for dinner, all I had on hand was frozen chicken. Solution: Slow-cooker to the rescue. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my crockpot? Honestly, some days I’d be lost without it. Not only is the chicken tender and moist, but the citrusy-sweet-spicy glaze made it a perfect accompaniment for steamed sticky rice. Win! Win!
JAMAICAN JERK CHICKEN
Ingredients:

2-3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks 

12 ounces nonalcoholic beer

2 tablespoons orange juice

2 tablespoons lime juice

1/4 cup puréed Habanero peppers

2 teaspoons cinnamon 

2 teaspoons allspice 

2 teaspoons thyme

1 teaspoon garlic powder 

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoons agave nectar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons natural honey

2 tablespoons olive oil, for frying
Instructions:

Place frozen chicken in crockpot. In a measuring cup add nonalcoholic beer, orange juice, lime juice, and Habanero purée. Stir to combine. Pour over chicken. Sprinkle with cinnamon, allspice, thyme, and garlic powder. Add soy sauce, agave nectar, kosher salt, and olive oil. Pour over meat. Cover and cook 4 hours on High setting. After chicken is cooked, using a tongs, carefully transfer meat to a platter. Chicken will be very tender. Transfer drippings to a heatproof bowl. Add red pepper flakes and honey. Mix well. On the stovetop, heat an iron skillet on medium-high. Add olive oil. Transfer the chicken to the skillet. Add half the marinade to the skillet. Cook until the skin is crispy and deep brown or charred in places. Turn chicken over and repeat, adding more marinade. Reduce heat and simmer the sauce to thicken, about 5 minutes longer. Brush over the chicken as it thickens. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter H

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. 

Eating My Way Through the Alphabet: Letter J

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Jasmine Rice Pilaf! If you can boil water, you can master the art of restaurant-style rice pilaf. It’s that simple. By using your favorite herbs and spices, the air is filled with an aromatic essence that draws everyone to the kitchen. Keep in mind, Patience is key. Follow this step-by-step recipe for a be-all and end-all gourmet fluffy rice pilaf that can be eaten as a main meal or partnered with a meat portion. I served it with Nugget Sesame Chicken, which you’ll be seeing a little later on. Stay tuned. 
JASMINE RICE PILAF
Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1 cup long-grain jasmine rice

1 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup white wine

1-2 tablespoons butter

4 ounces prosciutto, cubed

1/2 cup sweet baby peas

1 egg, beaten

1-2 tablespoons soy sauce

Fresh chives, snipped
Instructions:

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine olive oil, onion, garlic cloves, seasoned salt, and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring often, approximately 45 seconds. Sprinkle in cumin powder. Add jasmine rice; stir to coat. Cook 3 minutes until grains turn toasty. This prevents clumping later on. Add low-sodium chicken broth and wine. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed, approximately 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with fork. Take a cotton tea towel and cover the pan. Place the lid over the towel to absorb the steam; let rice rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat butter on low. Add cubed prosciutto, peas, and beaten egg. Stir while cooking until egg is scrambled. Add soy sauce to taste. Before serving the rice, fold in the prosciutto mixture. To complete the pilaf, garnish with fresh chive snips.