Bacon Bit Sweet Potato Bisque

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Bacon Bit Sweet Potato Bisque! My pantry is sometimes filled with good intentions. I envision a nutritious meal and then get sidelined by other ingredients, especially in the Produce Department of the local grocery. I mean, just look at the bin overflowing with organic sweet potatoes. Medium-sized, smooth skin, pretty color, and screaming “Pick me. I’m healthy.” Soon after I get home, I store them out of sight in a cool, dark area only to discover them three weeks later. Thank goodness, sweet potatoes are very forgiving. Their shelf life is easily 5 weeks. If you ever wondered how to tell if it’s time to toss them out, press the skin. If it’s soft, discolored, or has an unpleasant odor, throw them out and promise yourself you’ll do better next time.

BACON BIT SWEET POTATO BISQUE

Ingredients:

2 large sweet potatoes, cut in half

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup yellow onion, diced

1/4 cup celery, diced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

Green onion snips, for garnish

Bacon bits, for garnish

Dollop Greek yogurt, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Brush olive oil over the skins of the sweet potatoes. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Scoop the sweet potatoes into a bowl and thoroughly mash. Discard peels. Warm butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Do not scorch. Add diced onion and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with garlic powder, oregano, ground ginger, cumin powder, sea salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for one minute longer. Add chicken broth; reduce heat to simmer. Transfer sweet potatoes to a food processor and Pulse until consistency is smooth. Whisk sweet potatoes into broth until heated through. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with green onion snips, bacon bits, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Fabulous Fruit Dip

Experience the Holidays: Fabulous Fruit Dip! Recently I served a delightful fruit cup for breakfast when family came to visit. Because it is made with Greek yogurt and nutmeg, it’s an impressive alternative to ordinary yogurt. Think of it as Summer-in-a-Cup. Whether you decide to arrange a generous fruit platter for a crowd or scale it down to individual portions, the results are the same: heavenly delicious!

FABULOUS FRUIT DIP

Ingredients:

1 large orange*

8 ounces of Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

4 ounces marshmallow Creme

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon orange extract

1/8 teaspoon orange zest

Smidgen nutmeg

Assorted fresh fruits

Mint Sprig for Garnish

Instructions:

Cut 1/3 off the top of the orange to create a “bowl”. Carefully run a sharp knife around the inside. Do not cut through the peel. Gently scoop out the fruit. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mix together Neufchâtel cheese and marshmallow creme. Beat until smooth. Fold in Greek yogurt. Make the zest by using the top portion of the orange peel. Add orange extract, zest, and nutmeg. Blend thoroughly. Chill one hour. Scoop into the orange “bowl” before serving. Garnish with fresh mint sprig. Place on a serving platter surrounded by fresh fruit.

* For individual servings, choose four small navel oranges.

Tzatziki Ranch Chip Dip

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Tzatziki Ranch Chip Dip! When you shop the produce department of the grocery store, pay close attention to the different kinds of cucumbers. The fancy ones, wrapped in plastic wrap, are known as English cucumbers. There’s a reason for their madness. The skin is extremely thin and tender. The plastic wrap actually serves a purpose of protection against bruising, punctures, and dehydration. Hmmm. The seeds are much smaller, too. Because the skin is thinner and tender, there is no need to peel the tubular vegetable before proceeding with the recipe. I think you’ll be impressed. The English cucumber is less bitter, making it almost sweet and wonderful for transforming into a fabulous party dip. Be kind to others. No double-dipping.

TZATZIKI RANCH CHIP DIP

Ingredients:

1 English cucumber, seeded, coarsely grated, and squeezed dry

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 envelope ranch seasoning mix

1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons light cream

2 tablespoons olive oil

Fresh dill, for garnish

Instructions:

In a bowl, combine grated cucumber, kosher salt, mayonnaise, ranch seasoning mix, Greek yogurt, and light cream. Stir well. Cover and chill one hour, or until ready to serve. Before serving, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with a sprig of fresh dill. Serve with crinkle-cut potato chips.

Cereal Milk Smoothie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Cereal Milk Smoothie! After yesterday’s post, it’s only fair to give the kids equal time on a delicious treat. Grown-ups, simply tap your heels together to be transported back to a time where you started your day at the kitchen table with a bowl of your favorite cereal. Remember how the sugary sweet morsels crunched their way to mushy softness leaving the milk at the bottom of the bowl tasting like syrup? At that point my brother would put down his spoon and lift the bowl to his mouth to slurp up the remaining goodness. Of course Mother never saw it, as she was usually standing at the counter buttering toast with her back to us. Well nowadays, the nostalgic flavor of cereal milk smoothies are a thing. Anyone with a sugar addiction is jumping for joy. And why shouldn’t they? It brings out the inner child in all of us.

CEREAL MILK SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

1 cup Crispix* cereal

1/2 cup skim milk

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 banana, sliced and frozen

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons agave nectar, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sprinkles, for garnish

Instructions:

In a blender, combine cereal, skim milk, Greek yogurt, frozen banana slices, cinnamon, nutmeg, and one tablespoon agave nectar. Pulse until smooth. On a sheet of waxed paper, crush a few cereal pieces until almost fine. Add sprinkles; mix together. With the remaining agave nectar, apply to the rim of a glass. Dip the glass into the topping to coat the rim. Fill with cereal milk smoothie. Add a paper straw. Serve immediately.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Donut Strawberry Shortcake

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Elevated Edibles: Donut Strawberry Shortcake! Whether you celebrate your own version of “Doughnut Day” or stick to the declared ones on the national calendar twice a year, here is one more reason to indulge yourself. Transform an ordinary glazed donut into a strawberry shortcake. Begin with a delicious deep-fried glazed doughnut, bakery-fresh. Slice it horizontally to remove the top. Ladle on the ripe and juicy strawberries. The fruit filling is nothing but fresh strawberries mixed with a little sugar. For a thicker sauce simply warm a spoonful or two of strawberry jam and stir. Cover the strawberry layer with a luscious blanket of whipped cream. Replace the top and add more berries, if desired. Perhaps now you, like me, see no reason to wait until the declared holidays roll around.

DONUT STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

Ingredients:

4 glazed cake donuts, split lengthwise

1 pound fresh strawberries, chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1-2 tablespoons strawberry jam, warmed

1 cup heavy cream, cold

1/2 cup Greek yogurt, cold

1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

In a bowl, combine chopped strawberries, sugar, lemon zest, and warmed jam. Partially mash some of the berries. Gently stir; rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a stand mixer, make whipped cream. Combine heavy cream and Greek yogurt. Whip 4-5 minutes until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Whip 1 minute longer until fluffy. Place each donut on a dessert plate. Remove top. Fill with strawberry mixture, then whipped cream. Replace top; spoon additional strawberries over donut hole. Serve immediately.

Papaya Banana Boat

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Clean Eating: Papaya Banana Boat! When my son and daughter-in-law visited us in Kauai, I wanted to treat them to a special island breakfast. It was a perfect portion for them after greeting the sunrise sipping on macadamia nut coffee. Ripe papaya has such a naturally sweet flavor. It practically melts in your mouth with its creamy, butter-like texture. If you like cantaloupe, I promise you this: Papaya will take you “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. You may even hear the magical sounds of a ukulele strumming in the background.

PAPAYA BANANA BOAT

Ingredients:

1 ripe papaya, cut in half with seeds removed

1 banana, sliced

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

2 dollops Greek yogurt

2 teaspoons granola

Drizzle of agave nectar

Instructions:

Split the papaya between two plates. Fill half the cavity with sliced bananas. Sprinkle cinnamon over banana slices. Fill the other half of the papaya with a generous dollop of Greek yogurt. Sprinkle granola over top of yogurt. Drizzle entire papaya boat with agave nectar.

Yogurt Black Raspberry Smoothie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Yogurt Black Raspberry Smoothie! Blackberries and black raspberries. They’re both the same, right? Guess again. Blackberries are the larger of the two, in cell structure as well as actual size of a single berry. They also have a glossy finish. Blackberries are seen more often at grocery stores as well. Black raspberries, on the other hand, are as coveted as morel mushrooms. Growers typically save them for themselves and very close friends. Their flavor is more unique, not nearly as tart and very fruity. Some consider them the healthiest berries on the planet with three times the antioxidants as other berries. You can recognize black raspberries by their tiny protective hairs. The centers are hollow making them effortless for picking. Black raspberries are popular for cobblers, pies, jams, ice cream toppings, and of course smoothies. Is it any wonder I love you more.

YOGURT BLACK RASPBERRY SMOOTHIE

Ingredients:

3/4 cup black raspberries

3/4 cup blueberries, frozen

1 banana, sliced and frozen

1 teaspoon natural honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 cup skim milk

Fresh mint

Instructions:

In a blender, combine black raspberries, frozen blueberries, frozen banana slices, natural honey, vanilla extract, Greek yogurt, and skim milk. Pulse for one minute to chop fruit. Stir, purée until smooth and creamy. Pour into glasses. Garnish with fresh mint. Serve immediately.

Jalapeño Cherry Smoothie Bowl

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Talking Points: Jalapeño Cherry Smoothie Bowl! Get ready to eat well. This morning’s smoothie bowl will energize your body as well as your mind. Feel the easygoing ingredients stimulate your senses with a kick of sass right between the eyes. I mean, just look at the brightness real cherries can make. Begin with frozen fruit. Did you know if you freeze a cut-up banana it doesn’t turn brown? Truth. Each ziplock bag contains an entire sliced banana. Make sure they freeze in a single layer, though. When it’s time to blend the frozen fruit, the smoothie is chilled so there’s no need to add ice cubes. Now to address the elephant in the room, so to speak. Jalapeños. Don’t worry. Their bold flavor is invigorating. It actually adds a nice balance between the sweet and creamy, not to mention the extra vitamins. But don’t take my word for it.

JALAPEÑO CHERRY SMOOTHIE BOWL

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen cherries

1 sliced and frozen banana

3-5 slices of pickled jalapeño peppers, seeds removed and finely chopped

1/4 cup pistachios, chopped

1 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 tablespoon coconut sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt

Cherries, pistachios, and jalapeños for garnish

Instructions:

In a blender combine frozen cherries, frozen banana, chopped jalapeños, chopped pistachios, orange juice, sherry vinegar, and Greek yogurt. Pulse to process. Add coconut sugar, vanilla extract, and Himalayan pink salt. Blend until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Transfer smoothie to a bowl. Garnish with cherries, pistachios, and jalapeños.

Yogurt-Dipped Waffles

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Waste Not, Want Not: Yogurt-Dipped Waffles! How many of you were told, as a child, not to play with your food? I know I was, especially when I was supposed to clean my plate of something I didn’t want to eat. But that’s a lot different than finger food. Now you are allowed to take slightly toasted waffles and dip them in flavored yogurt. Since my tastes change from day to day, I prefer to add flavors to Greek yogurt, but you may certainly purchase flavored yogurts to save time. In addition, I make extra waffles on the weekend to serve during the week. If you have toaster waffles on hand, you’re in good shape.

YOGURT-DIPPED WAFFLES

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 teaspoon coconut syrup

2-3 prepared waffles, separated into wedges

Fresh strawberries, sliced

Fresh blueberries

Fresh black raspberries

Nutmeg, for sprinkling

Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

Powdered sugar, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine Greek yogurt and coconut syrup. Mix well. Set aside. Using a toaster on low setting, warm waffle wedges. Remove waffles to a plate. In a bowl, combine strawberries, blueberries, and black raspberries. Gently toss. To serve, dip waffle wedges into Greek yogurt. Spoon fresh fruit over yogurt. Sprinkle with nutmeg and powdered sugar. Garnish with mint leaves. Enjoy!