Jarcuterie Jumbles

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Palatable Possibilities: Jarcuterie Jumbles! How’s this for a “Wow!” factor? Instead of preparing an entire platter full of goodies, create a personal jarcuterie allowing mobility for every party guest to mingle. By assembling jars containing fresh fruits, crudités, whole olives, cubed cheese, sea salt crackers, cured meats, and pretzel sticks, people can nibble at their leisure. Choose jars you may already have on hand to keep it interesting. I went one step further and made cheese ball minis rolled in Everything But Bagel seasoning. The results were worth the advanced planning. Simply keep the jars chilled until you wish to serve them. Place baskets of extra crackers and pretzels for those who crave more. Leftover jarcuteries can be refrigerated for the next day. Guests may simply attach the lid and take it with them or leave them behind for you to recycle for your next gathering.

JARCUTERIE JUMBLES

Ingredients:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

2-3 tablespoons Everything But Bagel seasoning

8 ounces Sharp Cheddar Cheese, cubed

8 ounces Monterey Jack Cheese, cubed

8 ounces hard salami, sliced thin

3 ounces whole manzanilla olives

6 ounces red raspberries, fresh

6 ounces blackberries, fresh

1 stalk celery, fresh

16 ounces green seedless grapes, fresh

8 ounces pretzel rods

5 ounces sea salt pita crackers

Party Picks, for assembly

Assorted Jars, sterilized

Celery Sprigs, for garnish

Instructions:

To prepare mini cheese balls, take a teaspoon of softened cream cheese, roll into a ball. Set aside. Repeat until the block of cream cheese is used. Sprinkle Everything But Bagel seasoning onto a sheet of waxed paper. Roll each mini cheese ball in the seasoning. Transfer to a plate. When finished, refrigerate to chill. Meanwhile, fill the base of each jar with green grapes. Skewer cheddar cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, hard salami, and olive as preferred. Skewer red raspberry, green grape, and blackberry together. Arrange skewers, pretzel rod, and celery stick into the jar. Finish with a fresh sprig of celery leaves. Refrigerate jars until ready to serve. Cover with plastic wrap.

Scoop Chili Cheese Nachos

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Scoop Chili Cheese Nachos! Before you sit down to watch your favorite sports team or series on Netflix, throw together a sheet pan of nachos to snack on. It’s the perfect food for grazing because everyone seems to like them. First of all, nachos are finger food. They’re also snackable ( is that a made-up word?) They feel like a treat or a party’s going on. And there’s enough for everyone. Add some sour cream, guacamole, and sliced jalapeños, if you choose. On second thought, better double the recipe if you’re expecting more than two or four. Be forewarned.

SCOOP CHILI CHEESE NACHOS

Ingredients:

9.25 ounce bag Scoops® corn chips*

15-ounce can chili, any brand

15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2-3 tomatoes, diced

2 green onions, snipped

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Sriracha sauce, for drizzling

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick oil. Set aside. In a glass mixing bowl, combine chili with black beans. Warm slightly in the microwave. Fill each corn chip with a tablespoon of filling. Place chili chip on the prepared baking sheet, forming a single layer. Repeat until the tray is full. Layer the shredded cheese over all. Place diced tomatoes onto cheese. Finish with green onion snips and red pepper flakes. Bake 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve with sriracha sauce for extra zing.

*I receive no recompense for mentioning this product.

Bleu Cheese Ball

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Bright Ideas: Bleu Cheese Ball! I’ll never forget my first taste of bleu cheese. I was having dinner with my father in a charming restaurant nestled along the Mississippi River in the heart of Nauvoo, Illinois. The waiter came over and offered us a complimentary tasting of their claim to fame, bleu cheese. It was aged in the local wine cellars, he boasted, while pouring a taste of wine for the perfect pairing. One bite, one sip and I was in love. My father, on the other hand, wrinkled his nose and said the cheese tasted like old socks. Needless to say, I finished his portion.

BLEU CHEESE BALL

Ingredients:

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened

4 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Green onion snips

Instructions:

In a mixing bowl, combine Neufchâtel cheese, bleu cheese crumbles, shredded cheddar cheese, and Worcestershire sauce. Form into a ball. Roll in green onion snips. Refrigerate for one hour. Serve with crackers, pretzel sticks, and smoked almonds.

Quiche From the Hen House

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Quiche From the Hen House! Certain foods are like time-travel. Take quiche, for instance. Elsewhere it’s no big deal, popular even. But in America, guys couldn’t stand it back in the ‘80s. Too sissy. Never mind that it was economical and the ingredients were pretty much on hand when the grocery budget was stretched to the max. But then came bacon, and everything changed. Suddenly quiche was raised to the level of deep dish pizza.

QUICHE FROM THE HEN HOUSE

Ingredients:

1 prepared pie crust

1 broccoli crown, cut into bite-size pieces

1/3 sweet onion, chopped

3 eggs

1 cup light cream

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a pie plate with nonstick oil. Place prepared pie crust in the pie plate. Crimp edges. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese over bottom. Set aside. In a microwave-safe covered dish, steam broccoli for 2 minutes; drain. Set aside. Place chopped onion in a microwave-safe dish. Cook 2 minutes on High setting. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, light cream, seasoned salt, and black pepper. Arrange broccoli pieces and chopped onion in the pie crust. Pour egg mixture over the vegetables. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. Bake, uncovered, for 45-50 minutes. Quiche is done when center is set and a knife inserted comes out clean. Serve warm.

Dang Good Mac & Cheese

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Enjoyable Eats: Dang Good Mac & Cheese! I just cranked up this all-time favorite dish a notch, maybe two. Cheddar cheesy? It’s in there. Mozzarella madness? Oh, yeah. Palatable parmesan? Absolutely. Sooo, what’s the big deal, you wonder. Well…I kinda switched out the macaroni pasta noodles for gnocchi’s pillow-like tender dumplings that swaddle themselves in a blanket of creamy cheese sauce. Hold on. Then I topped it all with a buttery crunch topping of panko and Italian bread crumbs. Mmmwah! Life doesn’t get any better that this.

DANG GOOD MAC & CHEESE

Ingredients:

1-pound package gnocchi

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 cup milk, warmed

3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup panko and Italian bread crumbs

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Parsley, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a casserole dish with nonstick oil. Set aside. Cook the gnocchi, according to package directions. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, and set aside. Whisk together cornstarch and chicken broth in a measuring cup until completely dissolved. Set aside. Warm olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic. Sauté 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Slowly add cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly to make a light brown roux. Add warm milk, stirring until smooth as the mixture reaches a low boil. Remove pan from heat; stir in mozzarella, cheddar, and parmesan cheeses until melted and smooth. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Pour the cheese sauce over the gnocchi until evenly coated. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Combine panko and Italian seasoned breadcrumbs with the melted butter. Sprinkle over the cheesy gnocchi. Bake 15 minutes to brown the topping. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

Zucchini Zoup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Zucchini Zoup! Here’s a delicious way to warm your tummy as the days turn cooler and leaves begin to fall. Try this savory thick and hearty soup made with zucchini. It’s a one-pot meal filled with nutrition. But that’s not all. It can be made from scratch in a matter of minutes. You have the option of a smooth flavorful finish, or allowing chunks of vegetables here and there. I puréed about 3/4 of it so I could still spoon bits of zucchini, onions, and garlic in my mouth to savor. If you like to crumble crackers in the soup, be my guest. From time to time, that’s the only way that’ll do.

ZUCCHINI ZOUP

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 sweet onion, finely chopped

1 jalapeño pepper, stem removed and roughly chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large zucchini squash, ends cut but skin on, then chopped

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1/4-1/2 cup light cream

Colby Jack cheese, grated for garnish

Instructions:

In a large saucepan, warm olive oil. Sauté sweet onion, jalapeño pepper, garlic cloves, and zucchini squash over medium heat. Reduce heat to simmer. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Cover and allow vegetables to cook down until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Using a mini chopper, purée mixture in batches, returning soup to the pan. Over low heat, add chopped cilantro and light cream, stirring constantly until heated through. For a thinner soup, add more light cream. Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle with grated Colby Jack cheese. Serve immediately.

Vine-Ripened Tomato Pie

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Start Smart: Vine-Ripened Tomato Pie! Oddly enough, I’ve had a couple people tell me they’ve never heard of tomato pie. It may be more of a southern dish, or perhaps its more familiar to those of us who live in the country and can’t figure out what to do with the abundance of garden tomatoes. Who knows? I must admit there is a secret ingredient that I discovered from the Savannah restauranteur and popular chef, Paula Deen. Maybe you can pick it out, too.

VINE-RIPENED TOMATO PIE

Ingredients:

1 prepared deep-dish pie shell

4-6 Roma tomatoes, sliced

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon oregano

1/8 teaspoon marjoram

1/8 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

3/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

1 cup mayonnaise

Cherry tomatoes, for garnish

Basil leaves, for garnish

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake the pie shell according to package directions. Remove from oven and set aside. In a bowl, combine sliced tomatoes, kosher salt, oregano, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder. Allow tomatoes to “weep” for 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer seasoned tomatoes to the pie shell. Layer sweet onion over tomatoes. In another bowl, combine mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, pepper jack cheese, and parmesan cheese with mayonnaise. Mix well. Spread cheese mixture over top of tomatoes and onions. Bake 30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Garnish with cherry tomatoes and basil leaves.

Cheese-Stuffed Jalapeño Piggies

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:

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.

Quesadilla Apple Bacon Cheese

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

Ingredients:

1 apple, cored and thinly sliced

2 flour tortillas

4 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

4 strips Applewood Smoked Bacon, cooked until crisp

Instructions:

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.