Wonton Nachos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Wonton Nachos! Sounds strange, doesn’t it? That’s what I thought the first time I glanced around the restaurant where couples sat munching away on the mountain of gooey cheese and triangular chips. Fusion foods combine different cultures. There are no rules and this proves it. Take Asian wonton wrappers and blend them with Mexican seasonings and salsa for a perfect pairing. Because wonton wrappers are paper thin dough, they bake up in a matter of minutes. Don’t forget the sprinkling of sea salt. By the time the margaritas are mixed, everything is ready to be assembled onto a platter of spicy Wonton Nachos that encourage conversation. Now put down your cell phones and eat!

WONTON NACHOS

Ingredients:

12-ounce package of wonton wrappers

Nonstick oil

Sea salt

8-ounce package Mexican-style cheese, shredded

Toppings of choice

Salsa for dipping

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside. Cut each wonton wrapper in half diagonally, or quarters if you desire smaller chips. Place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Coat the tops with nonstick oil. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake 10 minutes, or until crispy. Turn for even browning. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Repeat until all chips have been made. To make nachos, arrange chips in an ovenproof dish. Add Mexican cheese and toppings of choice. Bake 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with salsa.

Veggie Burger

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Veggie Burger! For a quarter-pounder without all the fat, substitute red meat for black beans instead. Sound crazy? Actually, I conducted a little taste test on my husband recently. By using mashed black beans, onion, green pepper, egg, and bread crumbs, it seemed more like a meatloaf than a burger. It kinda did. The texture was the same and they fried up real nice in the iron skillet. By the time we added lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle, we practically did a double-take on the finished product. Go all out and slide it between a brioche bun. The veggie burger definitely crossed the finish line at the dinner table. Now that’s delicious.

VEGGIE BURGER

Ingredients:

16-ounce can organic black beans, drained and rinsed well

1/2 green pepper

1/2 yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon cumin

3 drops sriracha sauce

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs

Butter for frying

Brioche hamburger buns

Condiments, per taste

Instructions:

Using a food processor set on Pulse, mash black beans until thick and chunky. Transfer to a bowl. Next, combine green pepper, yellow onion, and minced garlic in the food processor. Chop into small pieces. Stir into the black beans. Add egg, chili powder, cumin, and sriracha sauce. Mix well. Add bread crumbs. Mix together with gloved hands until consistency is dense enough to form into patties. Melt butter in an iron skillet over medium heat. Place patties into skillet and cook about 7-8 minutes until a crispy outer edge is present. Flip and cook 7-8 minutes longer. Serve with condiments of choice on a brioche bun.

Upside Down Tomato Tart

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Upside Down Tomato Tart! If I were a fairy princess, in the Land of Make Believe, I would wrap myself in puff pastry and nibble my way out. Just so you know…puff pastry is paper-thin layers of buttery dough. It’s like a chef’s all-time secret never-fail pastry dough that practically makes everything look and taste gourmet. When baked, the layers of butter release steam that turns the dough light and flaky. Thank goodness it is sold prepackaged in the freezer section of most grocery stores. All you need to do is let it thaw for about 45 minutes and it’s ready to be transformed into your latest craving. I’ve heard it makes an incredible pizza dough, so I see that on my list of recipes soon. In the meantime, take advantage of tomato season. This recipe can slay dragons.

UPSIDE DOWN TOMATO TART

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 cup yellow sun gold tomatoes, cut in half

4 small green tomatoes, quartered

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon basil

6 ounces provolone cheese, shredded

1 sheet puff pastry, room temperature

1 teaspoon Everything But Bagel seasoning

Basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Reduce to simmer. Add cherry tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, green tomatoes, oregano, marjoram, garlic powder, and basil. Coat well. Cover and cook until tomatoes are slightly softened, about 10 minutes. Set aside. Spray an iron skillet with nonstick oil. Transfer tomato mixture to skillet. Layer with shredded provolone cheese. Place puff pastry on top. Trim extra dough with kitchen knife. Bake 25-30 minutes or until dough is golden brown. Let cool 5-7 minutes. Invert tart onto a plate or pizza stone.* Sprinkle with Everything But Bagel seasoning. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve warm.

*Once inverted onto a pizza stone, I wanted the dough a little charred. I set the oven to Broil, placed it back inside, and let the edges of the tart darken further. Watch carefully!

Turtle Cheesecake Cupcakes

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Turtle Cheesecake Cupcakes! Every so often I succumb to my sweet tooth. At those times I admit, I throw caution to the wind. If I’m going to splurge on something sweet, I pull out all the stops. Hence, today’s feature includes a caramel pecan cookie dough crust, a sensuously satisfying vanilla cheesecake center, and a spectacular topping of sea salt caramel, chocolate chips, and sugared pecans that says, “Go all the way, you’re worth it!” Now you can be pampered as well.

TURTLE CHEESECAKE CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

16-ounce package refrigerated Pecan Turtle Cookie Dough, room temperature

16 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate morsels

1/2 cup sugared pecans, chopped

1/3 cup caramel butterscotch ice cream topping

Coarse sea salt, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Line muffin tins with cupcake papers to make 24 cupcakes. Cut each square portion of cookie in half. Place one section of dough in the bottom of each paper-lined muffin cup. Bake 12 minutes. Meanwhile, using a hand mixer and a medium-sized bowl, beat the Neufchâtel cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, vanilla extract, and sea salt for 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides as needed. Spoon 3 tablespoons of cheesecake mixture over each cookie crust. Bake 18 minutes longer. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack. Refrigerate Turtle Cheesecake Cupcakes for one hour. Before serving, top each with mini chocolate chips and sugared pecans. Drizzle caramel butterscotch sauce over all. Garnish with a sprinkling of coarse sea salt.

Sweet Potato Stacks

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Sweet Potato Stacks! Bring gourmet taste, with a quirk of presentation, to the dinner table tonight. It’s not rocket science. In fact, you may find yourself giggling at how ridiculously simple this is to make. When I pierced each stack with a rosemary sprig, my husband nearly fell out of his chair in amusement. (It’s not at all necessary. The sweet potato stacks stand upright on their own.) Roasted in a muffin tin, and drizzled with pure maple syrup are two trade secrets you can share with others. Or keep to yourself. Either way, it’s a tower of Yum.

SWEET POTATO STACKS

Ingredients:

3 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 400°. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick oil. In a bowl, mix together olive oil, rosemary leaves, and garlic powder. Coat slices of sweet potatoes. Place a slice of sweet potato in each muffin cup. Top with parmesan cheese between layers of potato slices. Continue until the muffin cup is filled. Going above the top is okay since the cooked sweet potatoes will shrink a little. Repeat with remaining sweet potato slices. Drizzle maple syrup over each stack. Sprinkle extra parmesan cheese over all. Bake stacks 35-40 minutes until tender. Transfer to a serving plate. Spoon reserve maple syrup mixture over top. Garnish with fresh rosemary.

Farmhouse Restaurant in Fair Oaks, Indiana

Dining Outside the Home: Farmhouse Restaurant in Fair Oaks, Indiana! The best-kept secret of this rural farmstead is The Pub, situated on what is known as the back forty of the family-owned restaurant. Chrissy serves up a mean Baja Mule with just the right amount of tequila, lime, and ginger beer. It goes down smooth and easy as you nibble on the Cowboy Bites. Never heard of them, you say? It’s a savory appetizer of sweet corn, cream cheese, jalapeños, and bacon nestled in a lightly fried breaded nugget. Dip it in chipotle aioli for added spice. Watch out, these can be addictive. Choose a burger and share it with your partner. The half-pounder dry aged ribeye, topped with fresh arugula and Havarti habanero pepper cheese, will leave you with a mental note to stop over to the Cowfé to snag a pound of this diablo cheese for later on. Take your time. There’s no hurry. This is what country living is all about.

Ramen Noodle Shrimp and Egg

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Equal Measures: Ramen Noodle Shrimp and Egg! So often, in college, a regular diet may consist of ramen noodles in lieu of the standardized meal plan. I remember buying ramen noodles by the case for my son during his freshman and sophomore years. Sure, it stretches the budget for other essentials, but in the long run if you can ditch the salt-laden seasoning packet and add a few veggies, it’ll hike the nutritional value with a burst of flavor as well. Try sautéed shrimp and leeks. (Frozen vegetables are also a cheap option because a little goes a long way.) Add red pepper flakes for spice and toasted sesame seeds for crunch. It transforms the dish into a main course meal.

RAMEN NOODLE SHRIMP AND EGG

Ingredients:

6-10 frozen precooked jumbo shrimp, thawed

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon ginger, minced

1/2 cup leeks, sliced

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 package ramen noodles, discard seasoning packet

2 eggs, soft-boiled and cut in half

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Sesame oil, to taste

Garlic and onion chives, for garnish

Instructions:

Warm one tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add jumbo shrimp. Sprinkle with seasoned salt, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Turn to coat both sides. Sauté shrimp 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Warm one more tablespoon olive oil in skillet. Add minced garlic, minced ginger, and sliced leeks. Stir for one minute. Add chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add ramen noodles. Using a fork, break noodles apart after 2 minutes. When done, transfer noodles to two soup bowls. Divide the broth mixture between them. Add sautéed shrimp and sift-boiled eggs. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Drizzle with sesame oil. Garnish with garlic and onion chives. Serve immediately.