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.

Risotto Tomato Basil

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Risotto Tomato Basil! When the rice cooker is on the fritz, and you’re still craving risotto, try the next best thing. There’s no shame in using a boxed version as a foundation for a meal in-a-bowl. After all, these tried and true products are on the shelf for a reason. Most have perfected the art of imitation to the point where one might ask which is better. True, the homemade version does involve a certain finesse for stirring at a crucial time, exerting more energy than otherwise, but who’s the wiser? In the end, let your stomach be the judge.

RISOTTO TOMATO BASIL

Ingredients:

5.5 ounce box Garlic Primavera Risotto, gluten-free

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

2 1/2 cups water

1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated

8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 teaspoon oregano

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, sauté rice in olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add water and contents of seasoning packet. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender. Stir in grated parmesan cheese. Transfer to bowls. Arrange cut tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with crushed oregano. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately.

Quinoa Cheese Melt

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Quinoa Cheese Melt! Few things can take the place of the classic grilled cheese sandwich, in my opinion. Yet, in a world of imagination, anything goes. As long as the bread is crispy with a satisfying crunch, be inventive. Think about multigrain, brioche, sourdough, bagel, or baguette. Once that decision is made, take a look at the cheese options: cheddar, American, gouda, provolone, gruyère, or Swiss. Sometimes a mixture is the perfect choice. Layering extras can be just as mind boggling. Do you choose bacon or beef? Lettuce or sprouts? Tomatoes or onions? I can see your eyes darting in several different directions casting a puzzled look on your face. So the next time someone asks, “Should we have grilled cheese?”, simply throw your arms up in the air and say, “Sure! It’s easy for you to say!”

QUINOA CHEESE MELT

Ingredients:

2 slices quinoa multigrain bread

2-3 tablespoons butter

4 slices American cheese

2 slices thick applewood smoked bacon, cooked

1 tomato, sliced

1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts

Instructions:

Preheat skillet over medium heat. Butter one side of quinoa multigrain bread. Place butter side down onto skillet bottom. Add four slices American cheese, stacked two high, to cover surface of bread. Arrange cooked bacon over all. Butter a second slice of quinoa multigrain bread on one side. Place butter side up on top of sandwich. Grill until lightly browned, then flip over. Continue grilling until cheese is melted. Remove to a plate. Stuff with sliced tomatoes and alfalfa sprouts. Cut in half. Serve immediately.

Hot Sauce Tex-Mex Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Hot Sauce Tex-Mex Dip! Nothing screams “party” like a flavorful Mexican dip loaded with cheese, beans, chorizo, and chips. This do-ahead recipe is perfect for advance planners. Pull it all together and refrigerate overnight. When you’re ready, simply allow it to stand at room temperature half an hour before you need to bake it. Add 10 minutes to the time it is covered in the oven for melting the ooey gooey cheese. If you’re going to make this Tex-Mex Dip, may as well get lost in the tug-of-war between chili lime seasoning and garlicky hot sauce. It’s everything you love. Just add cocktails.

HOT SAUCE TEX-MEX DIP

Ingredients:

4-ounces cream cheese, room temperature

15-ounce can black-eyed peas, rinsed, drained, and divided

3/4 tablespoon fresh lime juice, divided

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/2 cup chorizo, cooked and crumbled

2 tablespoons scallions, finely chopped

2 tablespoons red pepper, finely chopped

1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix

4 ounces Mexican Cheese Blend, shredded and divided

1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

1/2 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons pickled jalapeño, diced

Tortilla chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. In a food processor, combine cream cheese, 1/2 cup black-eyed peas, 1 teaspoon lime juice, hot sauce, and 1/8 teaspoon sea salt. Pulse until smooth and creamy. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir remaining black-eyed peas, chorizo, scallions, red pepper, taco seasoning mix, and 1/2 cup Mexican Cheese Blend into the cream cheese mixture. Mix thoroughly. Spread into the bottom of a lightly greased deep dish pie plate. Sprinkle with remaining Mexican Cheese Blend. Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil, and bake 15 minutes longer until hot and bubbly. Let stand 10 minutes. Stir together in a bowl chopped tomatoes, chopped cilantro, olive oil, diced jalapeño, remaining lime juice, and remaining sea salt. Using a slotted spoon, top dip with tomato mixture. Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Caesar Cilantro Steak Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Caesar Cilantro Steak Salad! Salads can be a good thing or a sinkhole of weight-gain. If you’ve ever gone through a salad bar, you know exactly what I’m talking about. When thinking of lettuce or greens, begin small, as in “fewer”. Otherwise, in the process of adding ingredients, suddenly what started out as a manageable portion can transform into an enormous bowl-of-plenty. Trust me, I know. Sometimes I get so carried away, my husband has to dump everything into a larger bowl just to toss the salad. And it really doesn’t do me any good to start fresh with the larger bowl because…well, I think you’ve got me figured out. Creature of habit.

CAESAR CILANTRO STEAK SALAD

Ingredients:

2 cups lettuce leaves, gently torn

1 Roma tomato, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

6 ounces grilled steak, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 tablespoons Caesar dressing, bottled

2 teaspoons parmesan cheese, grated

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Cilantro leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Begin with two salad plates. Divide the lettuce between them. Arrange tomato chunks and chopped green onions over top. Warm the grilled steak in the microwave for 30 seconds on 50% power. Repeat, if necessary. Divide steak between the two salads. Drizzle with Caesar salad dressing. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, oregano, and sea salt. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

Turkey Burrito Bowl

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Turkey Burrito Bowl! If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times…freeze leftover meat for another day. I’m still working on that 22-pound turkey I baked some time ago. You’d certainly never know it by the variety of meals we’ve eaten. Soups, sliders, hash, and the daily special are among the numerous ways we reduce food waste while saving money. By adding fresh produce and grains, using leftover turkey simply becomes a brilliant time saving option. You probably utilize leftovers yourself without even giving it a second thought. I’m thinking stir-fry, casseroles, omelets, and basic sammies. See how easy it is? Just don’t tell the kids.

TURKEY BURRITO BOWL

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked turkey, shredded

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup vinegar

2 tablespoons butter

Sides: Avocado, lettuce, red onion, tomato, rice, yogurt, and tortilla corn chips

Cilantro, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine shredded turkey, garlic powder, kosher salt, orange juice, vinegar, and butter. Transfer to an ovenproof covered dish. Bake 30 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. If necessary, remove lid after 30 minutes to allow the juices to breathe. Serve seasoned turkey with instant rice, tortilla chips, and fresh produce.

Kumquat Cilantro Salsa

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Kumquat Cilantro Salsa! For those of you who love the taste of oranges, but hate the idea of peeling the skin, let me introduce you its distant cousin. The Kumquat; native to Southeast Asia. It’s about the size of an olive and can be either round or oblong. But here’s the best part: you can eat the outer skin. No peeling required. The kumquat has a sugary sweet citrus flavor that makes your taste buds boomerang between sour and tangy. Please note, there are tiny seeds, much like those in a grape, so you can either eat them or remove them.

KUMQUAT CILANTRO SALSA

Ingredients:

1 pound kumquats, washed and sliced with seeds removed

1 Roma tomato, diced

1/2 cup sweet onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

Tortilla Corn Chips

Instructions:

Make sure the skin of the kumquat is blemish-free and not dimpled. Discard if necessary. In a bowl, combine sliced kumquats, diced tomato, sweet onion slices, and chopped cilantro. Gently toss. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and sea salt. Drizzle over kumquat mixture. Refrigerate for one hour. Serve with tortilla corn chips.

Iceberg Lettuce Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Iceberg Lettuce Salad! Generally speaking, we all become pretty accustomed to grocery prices in our home town. We know, when it comes to produce, we can expect to pay a little more for berries than bananas. Just like the many varieties of leafy greens. Typically, spinach, kale, and romaine are always way more than iceberg lettuce. Right? So recently while visiting Kauai, knowing that a lot of food is imported, I made the decision to make some compromises. I picked up a head of iceberg lettuce listed at $3.99. In the States it’s around $1.49 a head. Okay. When I checked out, the register rung up $6.00. Imagine the sticker shock. Come to find out, the sign actually said iceberg lettuce was $3.99 a pound. Let me tell you, I stretched that head of lettuce over many meals and savored every bite.

ICEBERG LETTUCE SALAD

Ingredients:

3 leaves of lettuce, gently torn

1 Roma tomato, chopped

1 green onion, snipped

2 tablespoons Caesar dressing, prepared

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

1/8 teaspoon oregano

Instructions:

Divide the gently torn lettuce leaves between two salad plates. Arrange chopped tomatoes over lettuce. Using a kitchen shears, snip the green onion pieces over top. Drizzle with salad dressing. Sprinkle on parmesan cheese and oregano. Serve chilled.