What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Timeless Classics: Elegant Chicken! Rummage through your collection of “fundraiser cookbooks” and you’re sure to find this hidden gem. By baking it ahead, you save hours preparing the meal. It transforms an ordinary chicken dinner into a crowd-pleaser, especially with its thick creamy sauce and hint of hickory-smoked bacon. Serve Elegant Chicken over wild rice or buttered noodles. Either way, you’ll wonder how you lived without this classic dish so long.
8 5-ounce chicken breasts, boneless and skinless
8 slices bacon, uncooked
4 ounces dried beef, chopped
10-ounce can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
8 ounces Greek yogurt
Paprika to garnish
Preheat oven to 275°. Grease a 9″x13″ casserole dish. Layer the bottom of the casserole dish with dried beef. Wrap each chicken breast with one strip of bacon. Arrange chicken over dried beef. Blend cream of mushroom soup with Greek yogurt. Spoon over chicken breasts. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Bake uncovered for 3 hours until chicken is cooked.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Cheese-Stuffed Jalapeño Piggies! Sooo, when you’re looking at a bounty of jalapeños and you’ve already pickled several jars, what’s next? Jalapeño poppers, with a bacon twist! These fiery devils will awaken your taste buds, so it’s a good idea to cool things down a bit with dairy products. Hence the need for a melted cheese filling and a yogurt-ranch dipping sauce. My husband and I feasted on a plate of these one night, so you can too—-if you dare!
CHEESE-STUFFED JALAPEÑO PIGGIES
12-14 jalapeño peppers, red or green
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3-4 mozzarella string cheese sticks
2 slices bacon, precooked and crumbled
Crushed tortilla chips
Cilantro for garnish
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray a wire rack with nonstick oil and place on the baking sheet. Set aside. Wash the jalapeño peppers. Pat dry. Wearing gloves, slice the top of each jalapeño vertically, removing a small section to create a well. Remove seeds and ribs. Discard. Brush each jalapeño pepper with olive oil. Sprinkle on seasonings. Place jalapeños on the wire rack with cut side down. Bake 10 minutes; then set broiler to High and broil 2-3 minutes until peppers are slightly charred. Remove from oven. Cool slightly. Using a tongs, flip them over. Divide the cheddar cheese between the jalapeño peppers. Using a kitchen shears, cut the string cheese into strips. Layer over cheddar cheese. Sprinkle the bacon crumbles over the cheese-filled jalapeños. Top with crushed tortilla chips. Broil stuffed “piggies” on High another 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove pan from oven and let cool slightly before transferring stuffed jalapeños to a platter. Serve with ranch salad dressing that has a dollop of Greek yogurt mixed in. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Ranch Deviled Eggs! Behold the egg. It serves many options from breakfast omelets to afternoon appetizers, light snacks to mealtime casseroles. And who doesn’t love deviled eggs? Talk about versatility. This version implements the tangy creaminess of ranch flavor so popular in salad dressing. Add a garnish of applewood smoked honey ham crumbles for a superb finish. Make a dozen and watch them disappear.
RANCH DEVILED EGGS
3 teaspoons dry ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced chives
1/2 pound applewood-smoked honey ham or bacon, crumbled
In a 4-quart pan, place eggs in a single layer. Add enough water to cover eggs. Heat to boiling. Remove from heat; cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain; rinse with cold water. To remove eggshell, crack it by tapping gently all over; roll between hands to loosen it. Peel, beginning at the large end. Cut eggs lengthwise in half. Transfer to a platter. Remove yolks. In a medium bowl, mash the egg yolks with a fork. Sprinkle with dry ranch dressing mix. Add mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and minced chives. Stir well. Spoon yolk mixture into egg white halves. Garnish with applewood-smoked honey ham crumbles. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes before serving. May be prepared a full day in advance.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Fab Foodstuff: Quesadilla Apple Bacon Cheese! Your “go-to” snack just got even better. Take a hayride through the apple orchard where farm-to-table treats are as common as animal cloud shapes in the sky. Choose a nice juicy red apple; something to sink your teeth into like Gala, Fuji, or Delicious. The cheese could be American, but I prefer extra sharp cheddar. Go meatless or go crazy and add a couple slices of Applewood Smoked Bacon, with enough crunch to match the crispy tartness of sliced apples. Get the picture? Nibble, nibble.
QUESADILLA APPLE BACON CHEESE
1 apple, cored and thinly sliced
2 flour tortillas
4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4 strips Applewood Smoked Bacon, cooked until crisp
Sprinkle cheese on half a tortilla. Layer apple slices over cheese. Add more cheese. Lay two strips of bacon on top. Fold tortilla in half. Repeat process for second tortilla. Microwave quesadilla for 20 seconds on High setting, or until cheese is melted. Transfer quesadilla to a toaster oven for a crunchy crust that is golden brown. Serve immediately.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Eat More: Iceberg Lettuce 7-Layer Salad in a Jar! I don’t know about you, but I think this is a perfect idea for taking a salad-on-the-go. Use whatever jars you have on hand, such as quart or pint canning jars or even jelly jars. You decide the portion size. As a “do-ahead” recipe, it’s also a time-saver. Simply layer all the ingredients, top them off with the yummy homemade dressing, and then pack a couple jars in your lunchbox or picnic basket. It’s ideal for sharing. Choose healthy!
ICEBERG LETTUCE 7-LAYER SALAD IN A JAR
1 head lettuce, shredded
2-3 green onions, snipped
5 eggs, hard-boiled and chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 pound thick bacon, pan-fried and crumbled
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
3/4 cup frozen baby sweet peas, thawed and uncooked
2 cups mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sugar
Prepare each ingredient, as indicated. Set aside. This is the order the jars will be assembled beginning at the bottom: Lettuce, green onion, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, bacon, cheddar cheese, and peas. To keep the layers even in the jar, use the handle of a wooden spoon to gently press the salad as you complete each layer. Mix together the mayonnaise and sugar. Divide evenly between the jars. Garnish with a few sprinkles of shredded cheese and crumbled bacon bits. Place a lid on each jar to secure. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. To serve, empty the jar onto a plate; mix in the dressing to moisten. Enjoy!
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Vermont Cheddar Multigrain Toast! Just because you hit the snooze button on the alarm clock does not mean you lose out on a healthy breakfast. Grab a slice of multigrain bread, a hard-boiled egg, and a wedge of white cheddar cheese. Why white, you ask? Um, because I like the deeper flavors of the older extra-sharp varieties. The longer a cheese ages naturally, the more pronounced the flavor. Besides, it tastes incredibly delish with the slightly salty applewood-smoked bacon as its companion. So, while the coffee’s brewing and the toast is browning, get slicing.
VERMONT CHEDDAR MULTIGRAIN TOAST
1-2 slices multigrain toast
1-2 tablespoons sea salt butter
3-4 slices Vermont White Cheddar cheese
1-2 slices applewood-smoked bacon, precooked
1 hard boiled egg, sliced
Snipped chives for garnish
Chia seeds for garnish
Toast multigrain bread on desired setting. Remove from toaster; place on a plate. Spread sea salt butter over toast. Next, layer with Vermont cheddar cheese, thick bacon, and sliced egg. Top with snippets of fresh chives. Sprinkle chia seeds over all.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Island Sweet Potato Salad! There is nothing wrong with your smart phone screen. The colors of Hawaiian sweet potatoes range from orange to green to purple. Notice the creamy texture. The slightly sweet taste may remind you more of a piece of fruit than a root vegetable. Sure it’s popular among the Asian markets, and it can be a little drier than its American cousin, but didn’t someone once say, “Variety is the spice of life”? Go ahead, add your version of seasonings. The results will amaze you.
ISLAND SWEET POTATO SALAD
3 sweet potatoes, Hawaiian assortment, cooked with skin on and cubed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
3 strips bacon, crumbled
2 green onions, chopped
In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, black pepper, and Himalayan sea salt. Place cubed sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Coat with mayonnaise mixture. Fold in bacon crumbles and green onion. Chill for one hour. Serve.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Next Step: Hungry Man Potato Skins! Shrug off that old myth about ditching potato skins because they’re high in carbohydrates and low in nutrition. My grandma used to say “if you’re gonna eat the skin, you may as well eat a handful of dirt!”. Thank goodness times have changed and we’ve learned that the skin of the potato is loaded with calcium, iron, and fiber. When baking instead of frying, the nutritional value gets kicked up a notch. Now that you’re on a roll, go ahead and add toppings like fresh broccoli, bacon, and cheese. Whaaat? Hear me out. By choosing small russet potatoes, the calories are drastically reduced. One piece of bacon is divided over four skins, just enough for flavor. And reduced-fat cheddar cheese is a good choice, one you’ll barely notice in taste. When it’s all said and done, two potato skins are about 200 calories. Not bad.
HUNGRY MAN POTATO SKINS
2 small russet potatoes, washed and patted dry
1/2 cup broccoli florets
1 strip thick bacon, precooked
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup panko crumbs
Ranch dressing, for dipping sauce
Green onion, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Pierce each potato for steam to escape during baking. Lightly spray potatoes with nonstick oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Place them directly on the oven rack. Bake until tender, about one hour. Remove potatoes from oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Place broccoli florets into a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle with droplets of water, and microwave on High for one minute. Set aside. If you need to cook bacon, place one strip of bacon on a paper towel-lined plate. Cover with another paper towel. Microwave on High for two minutes. Remove and set aside. When cool enough to handle, crumble into small pieces. For potato skins, cut each potato in half lengthwise. Scoop out flesh leaving a shell 1/4” thick. Reserve potato flesh for another use. Brush around the rim of potato shells with olive oil. Place skins upright on a baking sheet. Broil in oven on High for one minute. Remove to fill. In a bowl, combine broccoli florets, cheddar cheese, and bacon crumbles. Divide broccoli mixture evenly between potato shells. In a small pan, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add panko crumbs, stirring often until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle over loaded potato skins. Return to oven and bake at 400° until cheese is bubbly and topping is crisp, about 15 minutes. Serve with ranch dressing garnished with green onion snips.
What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? All the Buzz: Sweet Strawberry Salad! Whenever you feel the need to change things up a bit from your ordinary salad, think strawberries! Did you know the strawberry is actually a cousin to the rose family? Truth. In history, they represent love, purity, and perfection. Hmmm. And of course, everyone knows how deliciously sweet they are. Okay, I’m in. Serve a strawberry salad and watch everyone’s face break into a smile. Think strawberries! 🍓
SWEET STRAWBERRY SALAD
1 pound Spring Mix, gently torn
1 quart strawberries, caps removed and halved
4 green onions, snipped
1 cup harvarti cheese, grated
1/2 cup sugared pecans, chopped
1/3 cup bacon pieces
1/2 cup lemon olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic reduction
Combine Spring Mix salad greens, strawberries, and green onion snips in a large bowl. Gently add cheese to mix. Top with sugared pecans and bacon. Toss with lemon olive oil to coat. Drizzle balsamic reduction over all.