Roma Tomato Marinara

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Roma Tomato Marinara! Now here is a sauce that is as versatile as your food cravings. I like to make up a jar to keep on hand in the refrigerator. You never know when you’ll want it. Roma tomatoes have a texture that leaves your mouth yearning for yet another spoonful. Slather it on flatbread and add cheese for a late-night snack. Or use it as a base in a skillet lasagna. The balance of thick tomatoes, rich olive oil, and hint of basil make it my favorite for dunking buttery breadsticks. For kid-pleasing families as well as empty nesters, say “Yes” to homemade marinara.

ROMA TOMATO MARINARA

Ingredients:

1 sweet onion, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

28-ounce can Italian tomatoes, whole and peeled in basil sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder*

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/4 teaspoon Herbs de Provence

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon olive oil

Instructions:

In an iron skillet over medium heat, warm two tablespoons olive oil. Add chopped onions and sauté until soft, approximately 5 minutes. Add Italian tomatoes. Gently, using the back of a wooden spoon, press the tomatoes to crush. Sprinkle with garlic powder, oregano, marjoram, basil, Herbes de Provence, sea salt, cracked black pepper, agave nectar, and one teaspoon olive oil. Stir to blend. Bring to a boil; reduce to simmer. Cook for 20 minutes on Simmer or until sauce becomes thicker. Spoon over pasta, chicken, meatballs, or bread. Top with cheese of choice.

*Four minced garlic cloves may be substituted for garlic powder.

Mediterranean Summertime Tomatoes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Mediterranean Summertime Tomatoes! Do you say “to-may-toe” or “to-mah-toe”? Like it really matters when you sink your teeth into its meaty flesh as the juice runs down your chin. Face it, summer is all about the luscious tomato. Gardeners go crazy planting, watering, weeding, and coaxing the plants’ climbing tendrils to wind within the wire baskets so when the vine becomes heavy with fruit (yes, actually the tomato IS a fruit) you’ll reap the harvest. After all, everyone loves a neighbor who grows, and shares, garden tomatoes.

MEDITERRANEAN SUMMERTIME TOMATOES

Ingredients:

3 Roma tomatoes, sliced

2 Campari tomatoes, sliced

1 cup yellow mini tomatoes, halved

1 red onion, chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, crushed

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Sea salt to taste

Anchovy-stuffed olives (optional)

Fresh basil for garnish

1 loaf French bread

Instructions:

Core and slice tomatoes. Arrange on a serving platter. Sprinkle red onion over the tomatoes. Whisk together the olive oil, Herbes de Provence, garlic powder, and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over the tomatoes and onions. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with anchovy-stuffed green olives and fresh basil. Dip French bread in the marinade and eat with the tomatoes.*

*Serving Suggestion: Begin with a bed of baby spinach leaves for a complete meal.

Hand-Packed Burgers

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Hand-Packed Burgers! For a hamburger worthy of a gourmet chef, begin with a low-fat lean meat. Divide the ground beef or sirloin into four equal portions. Form each one a little wider than the bottom bun to allow for shrinkage during grilling. Press your thumb into the center to create a small well, or dimple. If you’re a perfectionist, choose a jar lid slightly larger than the hamburger bun. Line the lid with plastic wrap, press the meat into the shape, flip the patty, and continue on to the next one. That’s way cheaper than buying a hamburger press. The secret’s out. Now you choose.

HAND-PACKED BURGERS

Ingredients:

1 pound ground sirloin or lean ground beef

1 beef bouillon cube

1-2 tablespoons water

1/8 teaspoon steak seasoning mix

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sesame Seed Buns

Cheese of choice

Toppings

Condiments

Instructions:

Heat water to boiling. Add beef bouillon cube. Stir to dissolve. Fold into ground beef. Sprinkle steak seasoning into meat. With clean hands, mix gently until all ingredients are combined. Divide into quarter-pounders. Hand-pack ground beef into equal size patties. Rub both sides with olive oil. Refrigerate one hour before grilling. To cook, preheat gas grill on High heat. Place burgers directly on grate; cook for 4-5 minutes; flip and cook 4 minutes longer for medium doneness. Do not press on burger to flatten because it will release all those flavorful juices. Transfer to a platter. Immediately top with cheese of choice. Add sliced onions, tomatoes, and romaine lettuce leaves. Dress up with ketchup, mustard, and mayo. You’ve just made the best backyard burger!

Drunken Chicken Tenders

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Drunken Chicken Tenders! For those who hate to drink alone, here’s a recipe even Julia Child would approve. Just kidding. Actually, when cooking with wine, the alcohol evaporates as the food cooks, leaving behind an incredible flavor loaded with natural moisture. There’s nothing worse than dry chicken, in my opinion. And we’ve all been there. If you think of wine as a fat substitute in recipes, it all begins to make sense why the French eat the way they do and still maintain a healthy weight. Give it a try.

DRUNKEN CHICKEN TENDERS

Ingredients:

16 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons butter, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup dry Marsala wine

1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken tenders

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/3 cup flour

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1-2 cups cherry tomatoes

Fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions:

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms. Sauté for 10 minutes. Add minced garlic and wine. Simmer gently to reduce the wine, stirring occasionally. After 15 minutes, add cornstarch, cream, and sea salt. Stir as it thickens. Set aside. To prepare the chicken, combine flour, Herbes de Provence, and black pepper on waxed paper. Toss the chicken until coated on both sides. Shake off excess. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Pan-fry the chicken tenders for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown and cooked through. Add sauce and mushrooms to the skillet with the chicken tenders. Top with cherry tomatoes. Simmer until the tomatoes are soft. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Antipasto Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Antipasto Salad! This recipe is for those of you, like me, who choose a zesty salad every time they visit a Deli. In a few simple steps, you can throw this together and let it marinate in your own refrigerator. Make it the night before, or first thing in the morning. By the time you’re ready for the next meal, it’s done. The flavors blend so well when refrigerated, you’ll think it was store-bought instead. Be kind to yourself. Permission granted.

ANTIPASTO SALAD

Ingredients for Pasta:

1 cup dry rigatoni

1 Roma tomatoes, quartered

6 slices Italian salami, quartered

2 orange sweet mini-peppers, seeded and sliced

1/3 cup pimento-stuffed olives

4 pepperoncini, whole stemmed

3 basil leaves, chopped

For Dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning dry mix

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Bibb lettuce leaves

Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water, according to package directions. Drain pasta; rinse with cold water and set aside. Combine pasta, Roma tomatoes, Italian salami, sweet mini peppers, olives, pepperoncini, and basil. Toss to mix. In a measuring bowl, whisk together olive oil, Italian seasoning mix, grated Parmesan cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over pasta mixture. Spoon into Bibb lettuce leaves. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese.

Vegan Charcuterie Board

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Vegan Charcuterie Board! Here’s your solution to what to serve with grilled meats this summer. Choose popular garden veggies, distinct to the season. Arrange them on a charcuterie board with nuts and flavorful dips. Peruse the local farmers’ market or produce section of your nearest grocers. With a little effort, the Vegan Charcuterie Board can be the star attraction for holidays and picnic outings. Check it out!

VEGAN CHARCUTERIE BOARD

Ingredients:

Carrot sticks

Asparagus spears

Celery sticks

Cherry tomatoes

Mini cucumbers, sliced

Radishes, quartered

Yellow sweet peppers, sliced Green olives, stuffed

Kalamata olives, pitted

Pistachios in shell

Assorted crackers

Ingredients for Hummus:

15-ounce can chickpeas, drained

1/2 cup tahini paste

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon lemon olive oil

1 tablespoon capers

Using a food processor, pulse chickpeas until smooth. Add tahini paste, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder, cumin powder, and sea salt. Process until mixed. Transfer hummus to a shallow bowl. Drizzle with lemon olive oil. Garnish with capers.

Ingredients for Dill Dip:

4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

1 tablespoon prepared horseradish

1 tablespoon dill weed

1 teaspoon capers

1 tablespoon chives, chopped

Combine Neufchâtel cheese and prepared horseradish. Stir until smooth. Fold in dill weed, capers, and chives. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

Urban Taco Pizza

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Urban Taco Pizza! If you’re caught between the Taco/Pizza dilemma of what to have for dinner, simply combine the two for a taste extravaganza. Everyone wins. By using a prepared crust, taco seasoning packet, and bottled salsa, dinner can be ready in as fast as 30 minutes. For the cooking enthusiast, I know you already have all the homemade ingredients on hand. Either way, time is valuable in a life of constant motion. Do yourself a favor and prepare a healthy option at home. It’s easy, delicious, and most of all kid-friendly!

URBAN TACO PIZZA

Ingredients:

1 prepared pizza crust, any variety

1 tablespoon cornmeal

1 pound lean ground beef

1-ounce packet taco seasoning mix

1 cup salsa plus more for topping

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 cup Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup Spring Mix salad greens

1-2 tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup slices black olives

Crushed tortilla chips

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a pizza pan with nonstick oil. Sprinkle cornmeal on pan. Cover with pizza dough. Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside. In a skillet, cook ground beef until crumbly. Add taco seasoning mix. Mix well. Cover pizza dough with 1 cup salsa. Layer ground beef mixture, spreading almost to the edge. Top with both cheeses. Bake 15-18 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is completely melted. Remove from oven. Top with mixed salad greens, chopped tomatoes, and sliced black olives. Spoon on more salsa, to taste.

Restaurant-Style Salsa

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Restaurant-Style Salsa! Everyone goes crazy over the slightly chunky and spicy kicked salsa served in your favorite Mexican restaurant. Now you can make it yourself and enjoy it at home. With a few key (and secret) ingredients, you’ll find yourself doing a “Mexican Hat Dance” just like a pro. Combine everything in a food processor, press a button, and GO! Do it now. You can thank me later.

RESTAURANT-STYLE SALSA

Ingredients:

14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

10 ounce can diced tomatoes and green chilies

1/4 cup onion

1 carrot, peeled

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

1 jalapeño, stem removed

1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

Instructions:

Combine diced tomatoes, tomatoes and green chilies, onion, carrot, cilantro, and jalapeño in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is smooth, but still slightly thick. Add lime juice, kosher salt, garlic powder, and cumin powder. Pulse until completely mixed and consistency looks desirable. Pour into a sealed container. Refrigerate one hour to enhance flavors. Serve with warm tortilla chips.

El Toreo Mexican Restaurant in Valdosta, Georgia

Dining Outside the Home: El Toreo Mexican Restaurant in Valdosta, Georgia! You know you’ve hit the jackpot when it’s BOGO on a Saturday night. That translates to buy one margarita, get one free, no matter what brand of tequila you choose. A nice Mexican tequila that is 100% pure de agave goes down smooth and perfect. The cocktail was crisp and citrusy from a squeeze of fresh lime, rather than green and sugar-laden. Perhaps that’s their secret. Being in the mood for a salad did not disappoint. The Grilled Shrimp Salad was, without a doubt, the best I’ve ever had. There must have been at least a dozen perfectly-seasoned grilled shrimp served in a crispy flour tortilla shell. Refried beans, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, sliced avocado, cheese and sour cream turned this simple salad into a meal-in-a-bowl. Our waitress, Jasmin, was very accommodating in meeting our needs. Great food is a must, but customer service makes it memorable.