What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Salad on a Fork! Try something different the next time you throw a party. Instead of serving an ordinary relish tray, choose interesting veggies to spear on a salad fork. Your guests will be so intrigued, they won’t realize they’ve chosen a salad bite over a brownie. Cherry tomatoes, crunchy romaine, and garden green beans make preparation easy. Offer two or three salad dressings for topping things off. Portions are bite-sized to avoid waste. Forks stand upended in a bowl or a pitcher. I happened to have an antique ice bucket that worked out nicely. Variety creates a beautiful presentation, so include baby carrots, snow peas, and perhaps a piece of bacon. Just think of it as a “conversation starter”.
SALAD ON A FORK
1 bunch romaine lettuce
1 head iceberg lettuce
10.5 ounces cherry tomatoes
1/2 pound fresh green beans
Prepared salad dressings
Wash and pat dry lettuce, tomatoes, and green beans. Tear or cut lettuce leaves into bite-sized portions. Spear several leaves onto a salad fork. Add a green bean. Crown with a cherry tomato. Stand the forks upright in a bowl. Repeat steps until all the forks are used and the bowl is filled. Squeeze bottles of 2-3 prepared salad dressings make self-serve options available and entertaining.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Keto Midday Snack! The funny thing about the Keto diet is discovering I ate that way, but didn’t know it was a “thing”. I’d pack a lunch in the morning because I was one of those people who ate at my desk. Hence, finger food seemed the logical choice. Hard-boiled egg, cheese wrapped in meat, nuts, veggies, and fruit. It was easy to nibble on and never got cold when a phone call or visitor interrupted my break. I wonder how many other people go through the same thing. Now, by choice, I still like finger foods to nibble on. Imagine that.
KETO MIDDAY SNACK
3 slices smoked ham
3 slices Swiss cheese
Garlic and onion chives
3 cherry tomatoes
2 dill pickle spears
1/4 cup walnut halves
Place the ham on a flat surface. Add a slice of Swiss cheese. Lay garlic chives horizontally over cheese. Roll the pieces tightly into a spiral. Wrap two or three strands of onion chives around each ham roll and tie in a knot. Repeat two more times. Serve with cherry tomatoes, pickle spears, and walnut halves.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Fifteen-Bean Ham Bone Stew! This time of year the nights are chilly and the days can still be warm. A slow-cooker makes preparing a satisfying meal pretty simple. Throw everything together and let it “stew” for awhile. Nowadays you can get an assortment of 15 beans ranging from pinto, garbanzo, and northern to split pea, navy, and lentil in the same package. Add that ham bone you stored in the freezer during the holidays and you’re on your way. By adding sweet onion, diced tomatoes, and bay leaves, you’ll make this a classic favorite every time.
FIFTEEN-BEAN HAM BONE STEW
20-ounce package of 15 Bean Soup assortment
1 pound ham bone with ham chunks
32 ounces vegetable broth
32 ounces water
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
4-5 bay leaves
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Rinse beans. Place in a large pot filled with 8 cups of water. Allow beans to soak overnight. After soaking, drain water. Transfer beans to a slow-cooker. Add ham bone with meat. Cover with vegetable broth and water. Add chopped onion, chili powder, garlic powder, and bay leaves. Cook on High setting for 5 hours (or Low setting for 7-8 hours) or until beans are tender. Remove the ham bone. Let the excess meat fall off into the stew or cut it off the bone and put the meat chunks back into the crockpot. Stir in diced tomatoes, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes. Cook 30 minutes longer on Low setting. Before serving, remove bay leaves. Serve with crusty bread.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Egg Veggie Tart! Take ordinary ingredients and spread them over a prepared puff pastry crust and I promise you, your family will eat anything you serve. It’s that good. I always keep a box of frozen puff pastry on hand because it is so versatile. From main courses to desserts, they all turn out like a culinary masterpiece. For everyone to take you seriously though, be sure to wear an apron. It makes you look like a chef who means business. I think I have at least five different styles, some with pockets, some without. And I’m always open for more. Today’s version of a breakfast tart incorporates vegetables and prosciutto that not only add color, but eye appeal. Without regrets, add this recipe to your list of easy-to-assemble meals.
EGG VEGGIE TART
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
4 ounces Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin
3 ounces prosciutto, cut into strips
1/4 pound green beans, cleaned and trimmed
3 eggs plus 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup baby peas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons green onion snips
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place puff pastry on prepared baking sheet. Using a fork, pierce the dough evenly across surface, stopping about 1/2” from the edge. At the edges, roll dough once to form a crust. This will keep the ingredients from overflowing. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove pan from oven to assemble remaining ingredients. Layer the Swiss cheese on the bottom of the crust. Arrange tomatoes, prosciutto, and green beans. Crack 3 eggs onto the dough. Try to place the eggs where the vegetables will “hold” them into place. Sprinkle tart with baby peas. Drizzle with olive oil. Divide grated parmesan cheese over all. Brush the crust all the way around the tart with the egg/water mixture. This gives the crust that beautiful golden color when baked. Bake 30 minutes, or until pastry is cooked through. Garnish with green onion snips. Cut into squares. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Grilled Avocado Bowls! Now you have a reason to eat more than mashed avocados in guacamole. Anyone can become a grill master with this perfect side dish. By grilling these sumptuous half moons, you not only get a portion all to yourself, the protein-packed morsels will give you energy enough to tackle whatever else is on your list. The touch of lime compliments the earthy hint of outdoor smoke. Top them off with farm fresh sweet corn niblets, chopped Roma tomatoes, and leafy cilantro snips. See what you’ve been missing.
GRILLED AVOCADO BOWLS
2 avocados, halved and pitted
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Italian salad dressing dry mix
1/2 cup sweet corn
1 tablespoon pimento, diced
1 slices Roma tomato, chopped
Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat. Drizzle each avocado half with lime juice. Use a pastry brush to coat the cut side of the avocados with olive oil. Avoid surplus in the well; it may cause a flare up. Sprinkle on garlic powder. Divide the Italian dry mix over all. Place the avocados on the hot grill, cut side directly on the grate. Cook for 3 minutes or until grill marks and slight charring is visible. Meanwhile, combine sweet corn, diced pimento, chopped tomato, and cilantro leaves in a bowl. Gently toss. Using a tongs, carefully transfer avocado bowls to a platter. Fill the centers with a scoop of the sweet corn mixture. Before serving, squeeze lime juice over all.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Desperado Dinner Nachos! The title says it all. I had been running all day long from this to that when I finally returned home to realize I had made no plans for supper. Going back out was not an option. So things got a little desperate. Thank goodness I had some leftover roasted turkey (chicken would work just fine) plus a half a bag of tortilla chips. The rest of the toppings were a given. So you see, sometimes making mediocre effort will suffice, especially if you make it look downright delicious!
DESPERADO DINNER NACHOS
1/2 bag corn tortilla chips
2 cups roasted turkey or rotisserie chicken, shredded
2 cups Mexican-blend cheese, shredded
1 tomato, chopped
1/3 cup pickled jalapeños, sliced
2-3 green onions, snipped
Greek yogurt or Sour cream
Preheat the oven to 400°. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. In a single layer, line the baking sheet with tortilla chips, covering every space. Sprinkle on shredded cheese, reserving a little as a final sprinkling. Arrange roasted meat over cheese layer. Top with chopped tomatoes, sliced jalapeños, and green onion snips. Toss on the remaining cheese. Bake for 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve nachos with yogurt and salsa to taste.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Yogurt Tomato Bisque! Before you turn up your nose at the sound of yogurt, hear me out. Here’s a couple of facts you may not have heard about yogurt. Number One, it’s healthy. Number Two, it makes the soup creamier, which is always a plus in my opinion. Number Three, Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as regular yogurt. And, Number Four, it has about half as many carbs, if that’s something that is important to you. All together, that makes it a Superfood. Yada-yada-yada. In the end, what it all comes down to is flavor. Tomatoes can be sweet, so the yogurt adds a little tang, which goes well with a dab of butter. Add herbs and cheese with a slice of garlic toast and you have the “pièce de résistance”. Nicely done.
YOGURT TOMATO BISQUE
10-12 plum tomatoes, cut in half
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup Greek yogurt
Dab of butter
Colby cheese, finely shredded
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
Preheat oven to 400°. Place plum tomatoes and chopped onions in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with black pepper, sea salt, basil, oregano, and garlic powder. Spread onto a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick oil. Roast 30 minutes until browned. Remove from oven. Cool slightly. Transfer roasted vegetables to a food processor to purée. In a stock pot, combine vegetable broth and puréed tomatoes. Stir well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Gently fold in Greek yogurt. Divide into soup bowls. Garnish with a dab of butter and finely shredded Colby cheese. Sprinkle with marjoram. Serve with garlic toast.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Nature’s Tomato Naan. Who likes ooey gooey melted mozzarella cheese? I do, I do! Now add nature’s juicy ripened tomatoes for fresh garden flavor that will have you wiping your chin after the first bite. Be careful of those cheese pulls, though. Steam may be trapped between the naan crust and the pizza stone. Besides, there’s nothing worse than burning the roof of your mouth from lack of patience. Let your eyes create desire. After all, everyone wants eating to be an enjoyable experience.
NATURE’S TOMATO NAAN
One prepared naan crust
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 Campari tomatoes, sliced
5 grape tomatoes, sliced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon basil
1/8 teaspoon marjoram
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shaved
Preheat oven to 400°. Spread olive oil on both sides of naan bread. Sprinkle cornmeal over bottom crust. Sprinkle garlic powder over top crust. Place cornmeal side down on a pizza stone. Bake for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, slice tomatoes on a cutting board. Sprinkle tomatoes with sea salt, oregano, basil, and marjoram. Remove naan from oven. Carefully layer mozzarella cheese over crust. Then arrange sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Bake 15 minutes longer or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with parmesan cheese before serving.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Cheerful Choices: Wheat Brioche Burgers! Why brioche buns, you’re thinking. First of all, you must admit a hamburger bun that crumbles into your hands is very frustrating. After the first bite, you’re afraid to put it down in case it turns into a heaping mess on your plate. From that point on, a fork is your only option. Amirite? Brioche buns are rich, chewier, and a little more dense. The golden texture alone is soft and buttery while leaving you with an element of light consistency. Now that’s a way to compliment a savory, grilled burger. Wouldn’t you agree?
WHEAT BRIOCHE BURGERS
1 pound ground chuck beef
2 beef bouillon cubes
2 tablespoons water, boiling
2 eggs, beaten
6 Ritz crackers, crushed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 gourmet wheat brioche hamburger buns
4 tablespoons butter, softened
4 leaves romaine lettuce
1 large tomato, sliced into 8 rings
1/3 cup mayonnaise
In a small bowl, dissolve bouillon cubes in boiling water. Stir. In another bowl, combine ground chuck, bouillon water, and beaten eggs. Fold in crushed crackers. Divide beef into four portions. Form into patties about 1/2” thick and 1” wider than the burger buns. Indent with a thumbprint in the center of the patty. Sprinkle with black pepper. Chill for one hour. Preheat grill on high heat to 400°. Grill patties, indented side up, for 6 minutes. Juices will accumulate on top of burgers causing them to sear. Do not smash down. Flip; reduce grill temperature to 325° for another 6 minutes. Turn grill off, leaving burgers on grill for 4 minutes longer. At this time, spread the cut sides of the brioche buns with softened butter. Place buttered sides down on grill for a couple minutes to toast until golden brown. Meanwhile, coat romaine lettuce leaves with mayonnaise, gently turning. To assemble burgers, transfer buns to a platter. Add more mayonnaise, if desired. Layer hamburgers with grilled meat, romaine leaves, and tomato slices. Top with toasted buns. Serve immediately.