Xanadu Pasta Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Xanadu Pasta Salad! At first glance, this may appear as a five-minute throw-together meal. Think again. In actuality, the magic begins once half the ingredients are combined and tucked away in the refrigerator for a couple days to marinate. At this point, the pasta actually transforms into a gourmet dish you are likely to have tasted at a family-owned sandwich shoppe or small town deli. One forkful may leave you wondering if this is all a dream. Is that music I hear in the background? Xanadu. Quickly, store those thoughts in your memory bank. I have no doubt you’ll return there for more.

XANADU PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

16 ounces vermicelli spaghetti pasta

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons seasoned salt

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 pint red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

8 ounces small mozzarella balls, halved

1 teaspoon crushed oregano

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Cook vermicelli according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Combine cooked pasta, kosher salt, seasoned salt, lemon juice, and vegetable oil. Pour mixture into a gallon ziplock bag. Refrigerate for two days, turning a couple times to marinate flavors. Then pour seasoned pasta into a large bowl. Spoon in red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Add small mozzarella balls. Sprinkle with crushed oregano. Gently toss. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.

Turkey Taquitos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Turkey Taquitos! Small rolled-up tortillas that are filled with seasoned meat, shredded cheese, and Mexican spices might be the best alternative to a taco or a burrito. In lieu of deep frying, crispy crunchy results can happen in the oven. The smaller size tortilla makes the turkey taquito easy to hold and handy for dipping into red or green salsa. Some foodies make a meal out of these little corn tacos, while others find them perfect as a party snack. Better make a batch for yourself before you decide.

TURKEY TAQUITOS

Ingredients:

1/2 cup salsa

3 cups turkey, precooked and shredded

1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded

1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix

1/2 teaspoon oregano, crushed

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

12 corn tortillas

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Tomatoes, jalapeños, cilantro, and ranch dressing, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425°. Pour salsa into a strainer. Allow juices to drip away. In a large bowl, combine shredded turkey, cheddar cheese, taco seasoning mix, crushed oregano, cumin powder, and garlic powder. Mix well. Warm vegetable oil in an iron skillet over medium heat. Dip each tortilla into the oil and place on a plate. This makes the shell pliable. Reduce heat to low. Place 2 tablespoons filling on each tortilla. Roll tightly. Place in the iron skillet to “seal” for a few seconds. Then transfer taquito to a baking sheet, with seam facing down. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until crisp. Garnish with chopped tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, and fresh cilantro. Drizzle with ranch dressing. Serve warm.

Neufchâtel Nibblets

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Neufchâtel Nibblets! Instead of serving the traditional large cheese ball at your next group gathering, think about individual portions. As a centerpiece on a buffet table, a cheeseball makes a great focal point until someone digs in. Then it immediately loses its form. On the other hand, nibblets remain appealing. Finger food is always a good idea, in my opinion. Not only are they fun to eat, they make things easier for walking around the edge of a party. Grab a few crackers and nibble away.

NEUFCHÂTEL NIBBLETS

Ingredients:

8 tablespoons Neufchâtel cheese, softened

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/3 cup Swiss cheese, shredded

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

Carrot sticks, cut 3 inches long

Celery sticks, cut 3 inches long

Instructions:

Line a baking sheet with wax paper. In a mixing bowl combine Neufchâtel cheese, softened butter, Swiss cheese, cheddar cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt, and smoked paprika. Mix well. Using a cookie scoop, form mixture into balls, transfer to prepared baking sheet, and refrigerate one hour or until balls are firm. In a shallow dish, combine fresh chives and chopped pecans. Gently press chilled cheeseballs in nut mixture. Insert vegetable stick into each cheeseball. Arrange a platter and serve.

Kickin’ Leg of Lamb

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Kickin’ Leg of Lamb! Autumn is a popular time to take advantage of the availability of lamb as a meat option. Most farmers raise lambs in their natural environment, simply because it is economically feasible. Think about it. Whenever you come across a bucolic scene, a herd of sheep are casually grazing along the rugged hillside feasting on grass. They are one of the original foragers. They appear to roam free in the fresh air without a care in the world. My husband used to laugh when he’d say, “I think I’m going to get a couple lambs so I no longer need to mow the grounds.” I’d simply look him in the eye and respond, “I’m sure the wildlife predators would like that, too.”

KICKIN’ LEG OF LAMB

Ingredients:

1 pound leg of lamb steak

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup orange marmalade

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Rosemary sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Season the leg of lamb steak with sea salt, black pepper, and rosemary leaves. Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the lamb. Cook for 4 minutes per side. Remove the lamb and transfer to a platter. Wipe the oil from the skillet. Add butter, orange marmalade, Dijon mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and cayenne pepper. Mix thoroughly over medium heat. Place the leg of lamb steak back into the skillet. Cover with the orange glaze. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Rest for 3 minutes before transferring lamb and glaze to a serving platter. Garnish with rosemary sprigs.

Jollof Spaghetti

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Jollof Spaghetti! Just when you thought you’ve heard of everything, along comes another version of spaghetti night that just made your life a little easier. Gone is the method of boiling water to cook the pasta, worrying about how to keep the starch from building up, or the fact that oil makes the sauce slide right off. Sound familiar? Been there, done that. With this technique, the spaghetti cooks slowly in the marinara sauce. No advanced parboiling required. The results are moist, definitely al dente, and paired with the meatballs…out of this world. I see this in your future.

JOLLOF SPAGHETTI

Ingredients:

28-ounce can Roma tomatoes in basil sauce, cut-up

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped

8 ounces spaghetti

1 pound frozen large Italian-style meatballs, precooked and thawed

Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Instructions:

In a large bowl, combine Roma tomatoes in sauce, oregano, garlic powder, basil, marjoram, olive oil, agave nectar, kosher salt, and red pepper flakes. Mix well. In a microwave-safe dish, combine sweet onion and green peppers. Microwave on High for 2 minutes. Add to marinara sauce. Transfer mixture to a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add spaghetti; stir. Reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes or until spaghetti is cooked. Stir occasionally to separate pasta. In a microwave-safe dish, add the Italian-style meatballs. Cook on High setting, according to package directions. When cooked, add to the spaghetti mixture. Gently stir. Simmer 5 minutes longer to combine flavors, or keep warm until ready-to-serve. Spoon into bowls and garnish with parmesan cheese.

DIY Barbecue Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: DIY Barbecue Sauce! Have you ever began preparations for a recipe and realized you were short one ingredient? It happens to me all the time. Since I live in the country, it’s easier for me to peruse my pantry for a do-it-yourself recipe than to run into town. Perhaps you feel the same way. For example, instead of tomato sauce and tomato paste, I substituted a jar of cocktail sauce. When I checked the ingredient list, the cocktail sauce contained both items plus a touch of horseradish. I love the zing that horseradish provides. Once you realize cooking is all about the flavors you like, the rest is a breeze.

DIY BARBECUE SAUCE

Ingredients:

12-ounces cocktail sauce

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup raw honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/4 cup molasses

2 tablespoons agave nectar

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons liquid smoke

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon smoky sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Instructions:

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cocktail sauce, apple cider vinegar, raw honey, Dijon mustard, molasses, agave nectar, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, smoky sea salt, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Sauce will slightly thicken. Transfer to a sealed container. Refrigerate up to one week.

Black Beans ‘n Rice Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Black Beans ‘n Rice Soup! At first glance, this appears to be a meatless meal. It can be with one minor change. Just don’t add meat. And yet, if you appreciate a dish you can sink your teeth into, I invite you to read on. This flavorsome recipe gets down to earth as a stick-to-the-ribs dinner. We all know brown rice is a good source of fiber as well as an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Black beans support good heart health and could help lower cholesterol. Pork provides protein. Last time I checked, 1+1+1=3. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

BLACK BEANS ‘N RICE SOUP

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon red chili garlic sauce

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon oregano

10.5-ounce can beef consommé

1/2 cup instant brown rice

15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup seasoned pork, precooked and shredded

1/2 cup water, if needed

2 tablespoons red pepper, diced

Cilantro, for garnish

Instructions:

Warm olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and minced garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes until onions are soft and clear. Add red chili garlic sauce, cumin, and oregano. Cook 2 minutes longer. Add beef consommé and brown rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add black beans and seasoned pork. Stir to combine. Add water, if needed to ensure everything is covered. Replace lid and simmer for 10 minutes longer. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with diced red peppers and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Zippy Olive Pesto

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Zippy Olive Pesto! Your last visit to the doctor may have been one where you received a good report, yet were advised to lean more toward a Mediterranean diet. What does that mean exactly, you wonder. In layman’s terms it simply suggests making a couple of substitutions in food choices to maintain a healthy weight, prevent heart disease, live longer, and travel often. “The healthy fats in olives are extracted to produce olive oil, one of the key components of the incredibly healthy Mediterranean diet”, according to Healthline, a provider of health information.* For many this may not be the advice you wish to hear, but for an olive-lover, like me, it is the Best.News.Ever.

ZIPPY OLIVE PESTO

Ingredients:

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 bunch parsley, leaves only

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated

5 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup organic green olives, chopped

3 tablespoons water (optional)

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions:

In a skillet over medium-high heat, toast pine nuts turning occasionally until slightly golden, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool. In a food processor, combine parsley leaves, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes. Pulse until almost smooth. Add toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese. Pulse slightly. With the machine running on low, drizzle in the olive oil until combined. Transfer pesto to a bowl. Fold in the chopped green olives. Add water, if needed. Season with kosher salt. Serve over toasted bread.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this website.

Vegetarian Bread ‘n Butter Pudding

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Vegetarian Bread ‘n Butter Pudding! If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times. One of the privileges of being part of the blogosphere is benefiting from the vast friendships beyond my little corner of the world. Not only is it a creative outlet for expressing my love of food, it also challenges me to stretch my palate and try new things. Today’s recipe comes from Corrie, a Brit, who thrives on a vegetarian diet. She has a fabulous blog entitled http://corriesrabbitfood.com where food looks so amazing it makes you forget about being a meat-lover. To clear up any confusion, “bread pudding” is more commonly known as a dessert. But “bread and butter pudding” is made by buttering the bread before adding any liquid. Now you see the difference, which is why this makes a fabulous breakfast dish. Are you ready to eat more? Then let’s get started.

VEGETARIAN BREAD ‘N BUTTER PUDDING

Ingredients:

1/2 loaf baguette bread, sliced

4 tablespoons butter, softened

1/2 cup red onion, sliced

3 gloves garlic, sliced

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

1/3 cup gruyère cheese, shredded

2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, shredded

3 eggs

1 cup skim milk

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon oregano

2 tablespoons cheddar cheese, shredded

Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Butter a 5”x7” baking dish with softened butter. Set aside. Lightly butter both sides of a baguette slice, then place in the baking dish. Repeat until all pieces of baguette are buttered. When placing them in the baking dish, arrange in a zigzag pattern. This leaves room for the spaces to be filled in with ingredients. Next evenly divide the red onion slices and garlic pieces between the bread. Generously sprinkle the entire loaf with shredded parmesan, gruyère, and 2 tablespoons of cheddar cheese, with attention given to lightly packing the cheese in areas where spaces exist. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, skim milk, seasoned salt, basil, marjoram, and oregano. Slowly pour over the pudding, soaking each slice of bread. Top with remaining 2 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven for 25-30, or until set Remove from oven. Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs. Serve warm.